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review 2017-02-22 04:37
Review: The You I've Never Known by Ellen Hopkins
The You I've Never Known - Ellen Hopkins

Quick review for a quick read. As per usual, Ellen Hopkins' works tend to feel like I've ran a sheer emotional gauntlet. The experience leaves me winded in the aftermath (in a good way). How does someone describe the whirlwind that is this novel? It's hard not to be drawn into it because you get so connected to the emotional journeys of the character within, how complex and complicated they are, and even hoping that - in the end - things turn out the best . I'll admit I saw the twists in the relationship between these protagonists coming, but even with that the "Aha!" moment felt satisfying to watch as the stories came together.

So: "The You I've Never Known" is largely a story about identity and the process of coming to terms with it. This happens multi-fold in the case of Ariel, a young woman who's spent most of her life on the run with her father. She's 17 years old and has never stayed in one place for too long, been in the go-betweens of her father and his numerous relationships that seem to come and go as the need arises. When I say need - well, it means a roof, food, booze, and sex in the case of the father. Ariel's father is a horrible douche, and this novel doesn't flinch at showing his flaws, but also the complicated relationship Ariel has with him. There are many times when she loves him and stays, but others where he abuses and uses her and she wants nothing more than to go.

But Ariel finally finds a place where she feels wanted, between relationships as she is a bisexual woman exploring relationships with a boy (Gabe) and a Latina girl (Monica). So things quickly become complicated as Ariel realizes she wants to finally give herself a grounded place (a steady job, to be able to have a car on her own, etc.)

The narrative trades spaces with Maya's narrative (distinguished between Ariel's narrative in prose form. Ariel's narration is in the form of poetry.) Maya is a woman who's escaped an abusive mother in Scientology and seeks a relationship with a man who's in the miliary, but certain events play out that complicate the relationship between Maya, her husband, and the baby named Casey whom Maya writes to in her entries.

I won't spoil too much more in terms of the story's events, but it definitely felt like it packed a lot of events and conflict into one story (9/11, homophobia, struggles with bisexuality/sexual identity, abusive relationships, gaslighting, etc.). That not to say that the experience doesn't read smoothly, I read this in a matter of about 3 hours or so and didn't put down the book once. Yet, there were parts of the story that I definitely feel like could've used more distinct ties and resolutions and somehow that left a bit of a void and an aching for certain character ties to be more intimate (though the character connections and establishments were solid for the most part).

I think this is as strong of an addition to Hopkins's bibliography as any of her works and I enjoyed the experience. I also recognize how brave it was for her to write this narrative given that portions of it were based on true events. Overall, I'd certainly re-read this narrative and thought it was well worth the time spent.

Overall score: 4/5 stars.

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review 2017-02-20 04:11
Ghost Gifts - Laura Spinella

Nowadays, it's hard to find a book that will trump my favorite TV shows but this book did it. I kept thinking about it and would get this happy feeling when I sat down to read it. The subject is about an abused child and a murder mystery so for this book to make me happy to pick it up is a big deal. Fantastic book, I'm looking forward to reading the author's other books. 5 stars.


PS:  I think this should become a series.  

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review 2017-02-18 08:21
Review: Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
Redeeming Love - Francine Rivers

Quick review for a progressive read. I read this over the course of a week, and it feels like I finished a marathon (in a good way). "Redeeming Love" came as a recommended read to me and it's my first experience reading Francine Rivers. If there's something to be said about her writing, Rives really knows her characters, conflicts, and has a way of weaving the narrative to make the most of the emotional gravity contained in the story.

This is a romantic retelling of the story of Gomer and Hosea, set in the year of 1850 during the American Gold Rush. The story starts out showcasing the experiences of Sarah, a girl sold into sexual slavery at a very young age, ultimately being renamed "Angel" by those who exert control over her. She grows up leading a numbed life as a prostitute. While she has those she calls friends, her heart is closed, and she doesn't have a single male figure in her life that she trusts or respects given what happens to her mother and the way other people have treated her personally.

Michael (Hosea) is a farmer who falls in love with Angel as he's conducting business in the city and sees her passing by (by a guard/handler no less). While their initial encounters are tense, Hosea struggles to try to get to know Angel by buying her time with the wages he earns. He doesn't use the time for any intimacy, but rather talks to try to get to know her and break down her defenses and distrust. He ultimately rescues her by making her his wife and taking out of the abusive residence she's in. Despite his promises of love and seeing her for the person she is rather than her horrible experiences, Angel still doesn't trust him and thinks he'll end up hurting her. She flees from him many times, thinking she won't be able to escape the pain of her past and subjecting herself to what she believes she deserves. Ultimately it's a story of redemption and acknowledgement as Angel and Hosea's relationship progresses, not just between each other, but with the people they come to know - and the challenges they face in their communications and environment around them.

I really appreciated the entire cast of characters in this book - they were very well drawn and vivid. While Sarah/Angel/Amanda appears to be an insufferable character due to the way she treats many of the people in this novel, it was hard for me not to rally behind her because I understood her grief, I understood her pain and how twisted it made her perceptions and relationships. It was difficult not to get emotional for what she endures and how she lashes out at the people around her when they try to help her with the best intentions. Her vulnerabilities show in places where she's challenged and doesn't know how to reconcile them, giving her due dimension. The joy for me was watching her grow as a person through the thick of it all. I liked Hosea as well, though he also had his share of stubborn streaks and flaws through the course of the narrative. The side characters in the novel were easy to follow and identify with as well. It's a compulsively readable title that gives due investment and tribute to the narrative and matters it chooses to mirror. If there were one thing that slowed the experience down for me, it'd probably be the fact that the self-references of the narrative to the characters in the Bible probably weren't needed, because it was already clear in the retelling that Hosea's character was modeled after...Hosea. It seemed a little meta to have Hosea talk about Hosea as referenced in the Bible. (He's named after the character, for goodness sake. At first I was like "Maybe this was done just to make it clear that this was rooted from a Biblical story", but you kind of get that in the context of the narrative itself. )

It was one of the strongest Christian fiction titles I've read to date, though. It doesn't feel too overbearing (certain parts of the narrative drag their heels, but it was more towards the end than the beginning). I took the better part of a week reading this just to take in the writing and the narrative for what it was worth, and I would honestly revisit the story and more of Rivers' writing given the opportunity.

Overall score: 4/5 stars.

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text 2017-02-15 18:43
Review: Broken by Nicola Haken
Broken - Nicola Haken
“I, um…” I squeeze my eyes closed and rub my face to make sure I haven’t dreamt it. “I just got fucked by David Gandy.”

Great start, right? Cause who wouldn't want that?



So the visual for James, I could live with. :)

Right... Vocus.. Story...

This was a serious story, beautifully written about a broken man. James has been diagnosed with bi polar. His struggle felt so real and you just see the train wreck rolling....
His relationship with Theo was beautiful and I felt so happy for James for allowing himself to maybe be happy this time in his life. Theo was so encouraging, determined to help James.

"Stay with me, Theodore. No matter how hard I push, stay with me. Believe in me."


This story tore my heart out. I was rooting for James and crying for him, also for Theo when he really got confronted with this terrible desease. Feelings as not "why was I not enough" broke me.

But Theo never gave up on James.

I don't want to reveal much more of their journey without spoiling too much so I'll just end with these beautiful words from Theo about James;

"I fell in love with you at your worst. I've had some of the best times of my life with you at, as you say, your worst. So I can't even imagine how special life will be when I get to experience your BEST."

*Bless him

This book goes right to my favorite shelf and I'll definitely will be revisiting this book again.


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review 2017-02-12 16:43
Counting Daisies - Nicola Haken

Counting Daisies was the first book by this author I have read. It's been on my Kindle since last summer and it's been showing up in my feed again, recently, so I decided I had waited long enough. It was an intense read and I loved it.

Do heed the warning, though, because there are graphic depictions of heroin use and withdrawal, as well as a thorough tour of an addict's mind and it isn't pretty. I am glad that Nicola Haken didn't gloss over it, though, because the story would have lost some very important (to me, anyway) emotional impact.

Counting Daisies is more than a romance. It is a love story. And it is the story of Dylan coming back from the depths of hell.

Dylan Roberts and Cameron O’Neil were best friends growing up. Cameron's family had more money, but Dylan was loved and cared for and life was pretty good. Dylan and Cameron were well on their way to being more just friends and like any child, they had hopes and dreams of forever. Until Dylan's father was killed in a car accident. Until Dylan's grandmother died from a heart attack. Dylan was put into the foster system and was taken away from all he had known.

Dylan broke my heart. After the deaths of his father and grandmother, Dylan was angry. Angry that the people he loved kept dying. Angry that he was taken away from his best friend. Angry that he felt so powerless. What happened to Dylan could have happened to any one of us, I think, and that is what makes his story so chilling. Dylan made some bad choices, for sure, but he really didn't have the foundation he needed to see that he had worth to empower him to make better choices. And once he tried heroin, and experienced just how much that took his pain, his sorrow, and his fear away, that was that.

Cameron never forgot Dylan. Dylan was his best friend and first love and Cameron always hoped that Dylan had a good life. Cameron managed to achieve his dream of becoming a chef and now owns his own successful restaurant in London. He's done well for himself and he's worked very hard to get there. Life has been good. And sixteen years after being torn apart, Cameron finds Dylan outside his restaurant looking like he'd just been beaten up.

Cameron's and Dylan's lives could not have turned out more different. Dylan is stuck in a self destructive cycle that he doesn't know how to break. He feels shame for the things he has done to fund his addiction and though he wants Cameron in his life, Dylan is terrified of Cameron turning away once he sees what Dylan really is. And that is the crux of Dylan's issues.

Counting Daisies was an intense read, but I could not put it down. I read the whole thing in one sitting. Watching Dylan struggle with being clean, and ultimately failing was crushing. Cameron was ill equipped to help Dylan, but he tried. His friends Paul and Derek were there, too to help give Dylan a fighting chance, but in the end, it's Dylan that needed to see he could do it. And Dylan needed more help than Cameron could provide.

Fear not, though. Counting Daisies does have a -- well fought -- happy ending. Dylan does get the help he needs, but the journey there is rough, for sure. I'd definitely recommend Counting Daisies, with caution in regards to the warnings.

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