Friday, March 27, 2015

Review: Kissing in America by Margo Rabb

            Date Read – March 27th, 2015
            Publication Date – May 26th, 2015 – HarperCollins       


Sixteen year old Eva is still reeling from her father’s sudden death. In her grief, she finds solace in romance novels, hoping that just like the characters in those novels she can find her own true love. Eva gets that chance when she meets Will, who knows all too well what grief feels like. Eva and Will begin a romance that seems to flow within the same direction as of the heroes and heroines of her collection of novels, even sharing a kiss. Of course there is a sudden twist in Eva’s story when Will leaves without warning to California. Together with her best friend Annie, they set out on a road trip to see Will again. Along the way, Eva will discover the many faces of love, coming to terms with her loses, and gaining many things in
            Kissing in America is very similar to Margo’s previous novel Cures for Heartbreak (I highly recommended it) which is also about a young girl who loses her mother. Mia and Sasha (The Cancer Guy) are one of my favorite YA couples. The details of the locations are well written, but at times the story slugged, as if the bus the girls were traveling had engine trouble. However the story picked up soon after. I understand grief and I found myself crying for Eva, an endearing heroine that readers will fall in love with.
            The cliché of it’s not about the destination, it’s the journey rings true for Kissing in America. A heartbreaking, hilarious and ultimately joyful novel that will resonate with lots of girls. It is a multifaceted story of the different kinds of love and will serve as comfort for those who grieve for the people they've lost.

  For more about Margo and her novels visit her website.

While reading Kissing in America, I couldn’t help but think about the song True Love by Coldplay. A haunting song of finding ones true love. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Review: The Anger Meridian by Kaylie Jones

Date Read – January 18th, 2015
Publication Date- July 7th, 2015 – Akashic Press
Source - Publisher

     Merryn Huntley’s life has been turned upside down after her husband Beau is killed in a car accident. In order to protect herself and Tenney, her nine year old daughter, they both flee to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico to Bibi. Since Merryn was young Bibi told her “When you tell a lie, make sure you keep it as close to the truth as possible, because it will be easier to remember.” Merryn has taken this belief way too heart. Merryn will witness her life fall apart as lie after lie is exposed from her husband’s so-called business to unearthing Bibi’s ruthless reign and the isolation she subjected Merryn to. That is if Merryn decides to not only fight for the truth but for her very life.
     I have always known Kaylie as a first rate novelist with reading Celeste Ascending, Speak Now and her memoir Lies My Mother Never Told Me. She vividly captures the landscape with intricate details that left me in awe. At times, I was annoyed with Merryn and her refusal to face reality. As for Bibi, she’s a great case study of the nightmare that no mother should subject their children to.
The title is an interesting choice. Merryn’s yoga instructor explains that the anger meridian is the time in the twenty four hour cycle when anger is at its strongest.
     This isn’t the first time that I read The Anger Meridian with Kaylie being so kind enough to letting me read the draft last year. I was instantly hooked and it was impossible to put my kindle down.
     Kaylie has outdone herself with The Anger Meridian a thrilling and suspenseful novel that will have you hopelessly hooked from page one and will refuse to relinquish your eyes to every page, regardless of sleep deprivation.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Book Review: The In Between by Olivia Pierce

Date Read - January 11th, 2014

Date Published - November 26th, 2014

Source - NetGalley

 Since they were children Tara Jenkins has always lad a close friendship with Justin Westcroft. In high school, Tara admires Justin from afar with him being a part of the ruling "Awesome-Nots". Their relationship becomes deeper when Tara saves Justin's life when he almost drowns. Tara's dream becomes a reality of Justin falling in love with her. They are destined for their happy ending.
     On a rainy night, Tara and Justin are involved in a horrible car accident. Justin isn't lucky and is killed. As Tara struggles with her grief, Justin himself is trapped in "The In Between" as he is given a mission to letting Tara go. To forget and gain access to Heaven. Justin is determined to keep his love for Tara as she refuses to relinquish her love for Justin. But it will come at a price.
     I have read a few books about the afterlife. A favorite is "I Heart You, You Haunt Me" by Lisa Schroeder. This book was at times cheesy and I wasn't that in too the author's idea of the afterlife. But I will confess that the story picks up and I wasn't able to put it down by the end, which is one I wasn't expecting.
     Whatever your interpretations of the afterlife are, "The In-Between" is a nice love story on how it can transcends from beyond.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Good Morning Mr. Mandela: A Memoir by Zelda la Grange

Date Read – July, 30 2014
Date Published – June 24, 2014 – Viking Adult
Source – NetGalley

Zelda grew up in apartheid era South Africa, which her family believed and supported the racist government. When Nelson Mandela was released from prison, Zelda was hired as a secretary for the president’s office. Little would she realize that she go from being a lowly secretary to being President Mandela’s loyal confidant, traveling the world with him and destroying her life-long beliefs of segregation and racism.
 The book was technical with the narrative of “He said this”, “I did this”, “I went here” which sometimes made for a tedious read. What lacks with writing style, it made up with the deep love and passion she had for her job and for Madiba, who she became extremely close to, up until the end. At times, I shed a few tears as she told stories of his love for her and the raw grief she experienced after his death last year.

 This memoir is a wonderful tribute to Madiba, his life and his work to bring a nation together and changing the world for the better. You will be moved to tears, feeling the love and loyalty radiating from the book. You will be left in awe of both Madiba and of Zelda who opened her heart to the world and sharing the love she will always have for him. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Review: Melt by Selene Castrovilla

Date read-May 16, 2014
Date published-November 6, 2014 

Dorothy is a new comer to Highland Park, where all the cool kids congregate Muchkinland (a.k.a. Dunkin Donuts). There, she meets Joey, the resident ‘bad boy’ who everyone fears and stays away from. But Dorothy is not deterred by his bad rep, for she sees a wounded person, from the pain of abuse and battling his own demons. Both have an instant connection and their love is not just tested by peer pressure, but of Joey’s home life and a devastating encounter threatens to tear them apart.
 The story is told through a dual perspective, with Joey’s voice as gritty and heartbreaking as anything I’ve ever read. There is a slight variation to “The Wizard of Oz”, but I hardly found any of it in the book. Dorothy’s sweetness balances out Joey’s sharp prose. Some of you might have heard about Selene’s other novels, including “Saved by the Music” and “The Girl Next Door”, a novel that is also heartbreaking. However, you take that novel and ratchet up a billion volts, and that’s enough to not only break hearts but haunt them as well. I re-read the novel twice, which I was not able to put down. The writing is a sucker punch to the very heart and maybe some readers might not have the heart to continue. That will serve as a challenge since the story itself will grip the reader until the last page.

 Selene Castrovilla is indeed a writer worth watching for (the blurb from Jacqueline Woodson on the cover). And “Melt” is a story that is worthy of comparison to Ellen Hopkins. I cannot highly recommend this novel enough.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Review: "Rumble" by Ellen Hopkins
Date read-April 8, 2014
Date published-August, 26 2014-Simon and Schuster

Eighteen year old Matthew Turner has no belief in anything. Not of his brother's suicide, his parent's crumbling marriage, his former friends who turned their backs on him. But his strongest belief, and one that he feels strongly about, is of the non-existence of God or any higher being, despite the fact that his girlfriend Hayden's deep religious faith. Matt chooses to live it up, without the intention of being responsible. That is before a horrific accident that will question everything he has doubted.
 I have always been a fan of Ellen's books, from her debut "Crank" to finally re-reading "Identical" (my favorite). In this latest one, she uses her talents of raw story-telling and organizing the prose, as she always does. Despite Matt's flaws, I liked him right away, who is someone who tries to hide the pain and abandonment, behind the facade of bad-ass. The story moved fast, and by the end, I was breathless, in awe of the story.
 It doesn't surprise me, or anyone, why Ellen Hopkins's novel are so well-liked and has a huge fan-base. I had the pleasure of meeting her twice. This latest novel will shock and awe the reader. A book I recommend.  

"What I've Done" perfectly describes Matt's struggles with the mistakes and the past that has haunted him.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Book Review: "Inside the Hotel Rwanda" By Edouard Kayihura and Kerry Zukus

Date Read – March 31st 2014
Date Published – April 1st, 2014 – BenBella Books
Source: Publisher

For most people who know about the Rwandan genocide in 1994, they first learned about it by the Academy Award nominated 2004 film Hotel Rwanda staring Don Cheadle—who was nominated for Best Actor—portrays Paul Rusesabagina, the manager of the Hotel Milles Collines who single handily saved over 1500 people who sought refuge inside the luxury hotel. He was named the Oskar Schindler of Africa and dubbed a hero by the world. But as the cliché goes, you can’t believe everything you see, especially a Hollywood film. Edouard Kayihura escaped the Hutu extremists and made his way to the hotel. What he saw and experienced was the complete opposite from the film with Rusesabagina threatening to kick out anyone who didn’t pay and drinking with the men responsible for orchestrating the genocide. The hundreds of people, both Hutu and Tutsis alike, have to survive the killings and terror from both the outside and within.
 When I began reading Inside the Hotel Rwanda, I wasn’t able to put it down. The harrowing stories of survival from within the hotel were heart wrenching as survivors struggled day after day for food and drinking the chlorine pool water while Rusesabagina drank the day away with the money he extorted from the people themselves. It was confusing at times while I read and sometimes, I had to go back and re-read the passages. That being said, it not only made me furious, but it was also deeply moving to read about the real heroes of the story, from the UN peacekeepers keeping guard, to the ordinary individuals who risked their lives in bringing people to the hotel, and the camaraderie built regardless of ethnicity. Right after I read Shake Hands with the Devil, written by Romeo Dallaire, commander of the UN mission during the genocide in Rwanda, (A book I highly recommend) I saw the film and was able to point out the inaccuracies of the events and misrepresentation of characters. I do owe some credit to the film in first learning about Rwanda, but still.  
  Inside the Hotel Rwanda is a riveting expose of a so-called hero that Hollywood created and an examination of how it came to be. It is also a deeply moving tribute for the million or so Rwandans killed, the survivors who endured the horror of the genocide, and the brave individuals who risked their lives for the very sake of humanity and who are finally getting their own long-overdue recognition.

To learn more about the book, go to their website

A film I recommend watching, and a great counter-piece to "Hotel Rwanda" is "Shake Hands with the Devil" a Canadian film from 2007, based on the book. It stars Roy Dupuis as Gen. Dallaire and it's a powerful and soul-stirring performance. Not to mention, filmed entirely in Rwanda and in the actual locations where the events took place. Watch the trailer.