YA Review: In Too Deep by Eliza Jane

In too deep coverIn Too Deep by Eliza Jane

Format: Uncorrected review ARC

Self-published

Review by: Onnica

Genre: YA

Score: 8/10

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Even More Top Picks of 2012!

Shhh! Don’t tell Ellen: I’m back with even more Top Picks of 2012! I can’t stand that I had to leave out a few books from my Top 3. It’s been eating away at me for the last day. I mean, have you ever had to narrow dozens of great things down to just three? It’s tough work! But I did it and now I’m regretting the fact that I couldn’t include these amazing books:

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Reason To Breathe by Rebecca Donovan

Reason To Breathe by Rebecca Donovan

Publisher: self-published

Format:Kindle Edition

Judith here: this review is courtesy of our ever ready, always fabulous guest reviewer, Richelle. Thanks to her for pulling through when we can’t! And btw, god! I hate books about rampant and flagrant child abuse. Should I read it or not?

—–

So, I’ve created a monster! I now have another friend who reads a lot of YA books and loves them. I don’t know if we will ever have enough time to read all of the books we recommend to each other, but this is one she told me about that I actually decided to read and I’m glad I did!

Plot: After Emma’s father died and her mother could no longer take care of her, she has to move in with her father’s brother, his wife, and their 2 kids. Unfortunately, her aunt, or as I like to call her, the Psycho Witch, is very abusive. Emma keeps very quiet at school so no one finds out about what is happening at home. If someone were to find out, she is worried that her aunt and uncle will lose their kids, and she loves the kids! She only has one friend, Sarah, who sort of knows what is going on, but helps Emma by keeping her secret. Emma’s goal is to concentrate on her grades and sports so she can get out of the Psycho’s house and go away to college. But, of course, she meets Evan, hottie extraordinaire.
Evan and Emma (cute or vomit?) become friends and start dating, which makes Emma happy. Of course, Aunt Witchy cannot stand it that Emma is happy and gets more and more crazy as the days go by. Evan and Sarah continuously grow concerned, but are not sure what to do, especially because Emma will not tell them how bad it really is. Oh, and it’s bad, especially the end.

Review: I have to admit, that I knew I was going to like this book! Not that I don’t trust my new reading buddy, but I checked with my book-a-day friend also and she told me she loved it, so I had to read it!
This story was interesting from the beginning. In the opening scene, you find out that Emma wakes up sore and realizes that she will have to wear long sleeves all week (to cover the bruises). You learn how close she is to her 2 cousins and how much she cares about them. It is very easy to be sympathetic to her situation because it really is lose/lose. Right from the start, you see how controlling her abusive aunt is with Emma completing her chores and how she is not even allowed to take a granola bar if it is not on her “list”. The abuse just keeps getting worse and worse. This book really tugs at your heart strings from beginning to end.
The relationship between Emma and Evan was sweet. I love that Evan basically makes Emma be friends with him, no matter how rude she is to him and how much she tries to push him away. He really is good for her and, duh, they start dating. And as predicted, things get hot, or as hot as they can get with a nut job for a guardian!
I was really starting to get aggravated that everyone was basically ignoring what was happening! Do people seriously do this? She had at least 3 people that knew something was happening and no one said or did anything. And this crazy aunt even convinces the idiot uncle that Emma is the problem, so of course he believes his wife because he doesn’t witness any of the abuse until almost the end. People finally start

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taking a stand for Emma, but she keeps convincing people to just let her deal with it or she just blows up at them to avoid the confrontation. And they listen to her! Why? I bet they are sorry now!
There is a lot more to this book than I can put in this review. After all, I don’t want to give away the entire story. So, read it! You won’t be sorry! But… You will be sucked in to read the second book, and THIRD book (when it comes out)!

Based on the following criteria:

How much did I like the heroine: 9 Emma reacts the way a lot of people in this situation would act. She hides, acts like nothing is wrong, and does everything she is supposed to do at home and in school, in hopes of escaping this abuse eventually. She also acts the way most teenagers act, Stupid!! Especially when dealing with the opposite sex, teenagers (and many adults I know) don’t really think about the consequences of their actions while they are “in the moment”. The only issue I had with Emma was that someone in her situation probably wouldn’t do some of the things she decided to do, but I guess who knows? YOLO, at least that’s what the kids are saying now, so I’m cool, right?

How much did I like the love interest: 9 Evan sounds really cute and like a really good guy. He is interested in Emma right away, regardless of her basically hiding in school and being totally bitchy to him right away. (I get it, it’s a defense mechanism for her, but that was pretty cool of him to keep talking to her). He plays soccer, interested in photography, he’s hot, he’s rich and more. Like Emma says at one point, “Is there anything you aren’t good at?” He really cares about her more and more throughout the story. The one issue I had with him is that he doesn’t ever step up to defend her until it is too late!

How believable is the plot: 9 This could definitely happen, I’m sure it has happened unfortunately. I hate hearing about people being abused or killed in the news, yet I love to read about them in FICTION books, figure that one out! It was disconcerting to me that Sarah, Evan, Sarah’s mom, and Emma’s uncle all basically knew what was going on, but no one would do anything. I get it that there is more to think about than how much Emma is getting hurt, but it sure was getting bad before anyone stepped up.

How much did I like the writing style / editing / etc: 10 It was a well written story, told from Emma’s point of view. This was essential to the story in my opinion because you were able to really see what Emma was dealing with in the confines of her Aunt Crazy Person’s home.

How much did I want to keep reading: 10 I really did want to keep reading! What was Aunt Lunatic going to do next? Why was she flipping out this time? Where is Emma’s mom? Are Emma and Evan together? Is someone going to stop this abuse from happening? No?! And then I read the last few pages and crap!!!!! What the hell just happened?! Oh, yes, there is a sequel…

Final Score: 9/10 Aside from the unspoken agreement of everyone to ignore the abuse, this book really kept my interest. I would recommend it for sure, just beware, there are some graphic abuse scenes.

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April 16th: Monday Roundup!!!

Hey hey, everybody! Per usual, it’s been a little light on posts around here–busy busy, family in town, visiting exotic places, grad school mayhem, too much booze, yada yada–you know the drill and our list of excuses…so, how telling is this?!  As I was typing the subject line of this post,  I began to write, “March” which means  my head is stuck in the past, people, cause today is April 16th! More than half the month of April is gone and I didn’t even see it.  Sigh. Well, this week there’s not a whole lot to round up because Ellen and I have been a whole lot of lazy.  There is some awesome CONTEST news (think big, big prizes like a Kindle Fire, Amazon gift cards, a free book), a review or two (but that’s just figurative because there’s only just the one review), and my reading list. Yes, you can ooh and ahh to your heart’s content.

So to get this party started right:

Jillian Dodd, author of That Boy and That Wedding and lover of all that is beefcake and sexy, is the final judge in our Dream Wedding writing contest!! Entering 1000 words or less on your perfect wedding day will earn you a chance to have your prose judged by the lovely Jillian and could win you a Kindle Fire, Amazon Gift Card, or e-copy of That Wedding. If I could enter, you know I would because Judith loves a good wedding (especially hearing about them from all of our readers).  Click here for all the details!

We reviewed:

The Fine Art of Truth or Dare by Melissa Jensen (not to be confused with the stupidly titled, The Truth about Truth or Dare, which admittedly is a title of my own invention. Yikes!): Emotionally and physically scarred Ella begins a friendship with Willing School’s resident popular hottie, Alex, and must learn to battle her own inner demons in order to take their relationship to the next step. 9/10 for blanket awesomeness!

My current reading list in no particular order:

Life on the Edge by Jennifer Comeaux: ice skating, a hot young coach named Sergei, and two separate recommendations to read this have finally convinced me to do just that!

Struck by Jennifer Bosworth: A dystopian novel involving a girl who can harness lightening written by one of our guest bloggers shot this bad boy to the top of my list. Plus I feel uber-cool reading an ARC and can’t stop saying things to my husband like,”Do you like my ARC?” and “Did you see this ARC? This is a book no one else has, baby. Boo-yah!”

Legend by Marie Lu: Another dystopian novel featuring districts and a faceless republic. I liked the simplicity of the cover and the cat and mouse game that the two main characters are sure to play.

What a Boy Wants by Nyrae Dawn: The main character goes by the moniker, The Hook-Up Doctor, and tries to help girls land the guys of their dreams–for a fee. The premise alone is hilarious enough to snag my attention, now let’s hope the prose keeps me hooked.

Night Sky by Jolene Perry: Ridiculous covers and odd Native American penchants aside, this book was recommended by several of our amazing twitter followers so I thought I would give it a shot. As long as there’s a hot guy (there is) and some sort of brave, spunky girl (also there, natch), I am set.

Well, that’s it for the roundup this week, folks.  It’s slim pickin’s but hey slim is better than non-existent.  So for now, let me leave you with this:

Knock, Knock.
Who’s there?
Repeat.
Repeat who?
Who Who!

Ha! Gets me every time!

xoxo

Judith

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Meet Guest Blogger Richelle Steinmetz!

We have the best readers. For serious. When Ellen left me stranded and alone in a desert of bad YA books so she could go on some pleasure trip to Africa, well, I had no idea what I was going to do. I asked our writing-inclined readers if anyone would be willing to pitch in

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for a review or two and luckily, this lovely lady did:

Say hi to Richelle, everybody! Nice glasses! And FYI I’m digging the hairstyle. I think we’re style twins cause my hair and my glasses look eerily similar to yours…

Let’s find out a little bit more about Richelle in her own words, shall we?

Hi! I’m Richelle, AKA, Rikki. My parents named me after the, ahem, wonderful song “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” by Steely Dan (yes, I’m showing my age here!). I am part-time mom (to an almost 3 year old who thinks she’s 13), part-time substitute teacher (for actual teenagers – yikes!), and part-time reader extraordinaire (bow, curtsy, wave, smile). And, yes I LOVE young adult fiction books! Hopefully I can suggest some great books for everyone to read!

1 – My favorite YA author is… Drumroll please… There are so many! I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve read from Rick Riordan, Ellen Hopkins, and Ann Brashares.

2 – My favorite YA book is (no pressure here!) Hunger Games or Hollowland.

3 – The 3 items I would have to have if I was stranded in Boise – but who would do that to me?! – would be my Kindle, my iPad, and my iPhone.

4 – My biggest pet peeve in a book is when the ending is awful! I seriously read all of the book for that?! No thanks!

5 – If I could be doing anything right now? I would be living in Hawaii, sitting on a beach, reading a book, and drinking a cocktail.

Good call with the cocktail, Richelle. I think we’re all gonna get along just fine…except for the fact that you’ve managed to get Rikki Don’t You Lose My Number firmly entrenched in my mind! ARGH!

Be on the look out tomorrow for her review of Almost by Anne Elliot.

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If I Can’t Have You by Lauren Hammond

If I Can’t Have You by Lauren Hammond

Publisher: S.B. Addison Books (January 31, 2012)

Format: Kindle Edition

My internal monologue as I get ready to write this review: Gah! What was I thinking?! That cover alone should have warned me to stay far, far away from this book and yet I didn’t listen to what was right in front of me.  Oh no, I bought this and now have only myself to blame because it really is as bad as the cover suggests.  Seriously though, what’s wrong with her arms? Am I the only reader who’s noticed that? Maybe I really am the only reader and that accounts for the fact that no one noticed she has Gumby arms! Sigh. Why do I do this to myself? At least the guy pawing at Gumby has a passably good body…and what is that they’re lying in? An ocean of rocks? Isn’t this set at the beach? Where’s all the water?

Plot:

Robin Mason has been infatuated with lifeguard, Drake Robertson, since he saved her from drowning when she was 15.  Now that’s she’s off to college, she thinks this summer is the one where he will truly notice her. She and best friend, Whitney, make it their goal to ensnare the gorgeous Drake and when Robin does so almost immediately, she begins envisioning a picture-perfect relationship with him. But Drake has no desire to be attached and breaks Robin’s heart when she catches him rolling around in the bushes buck naked with her neighbor.  Her heart wounded, Robin attempts to pick up the pieces while Drake’s younger brother, Elliott, attempts to woo her.  At first she can’t see past Drake’s deception but eventually gives in to Elliott and realizes that maybe picking the wrong brother is all that she needed to find the right one.

Review:

For the love of all that is good and sweet, first that cover and now the book itself.  I promised myself since the last smaltzy love story I read that I would take a break. But of course I can’t resist a good romance and now, I’m paying for it. I don’t mean to be overly harsh but this book is just a big old mess. All of the relationships happen far too quickly and seem to be based on absolutely nothing. First Drake, a hot guy who has never shown Robin the slightest romantic interest, falls all over himself to be with her, then breaks her heart by fooling around with her neighbor, and then swings back around to attempt to win her back. Robin’s feelings for Drake are so flimsy yet all consuming that it just feels fake. Then there’s his equally gorgeous brother, Elliott, who claims he took one look at her (after bonking her in the head with a door no less) and knew she was the one for him. As in the one for him in a future that ends in marriage.  At 18 years old.  Now I have no qualms with love at first sight but I find it very hard to stomach an 18 year old boy claiming that he saw one shy girl and wanting her desperately for the rest of his life.  The speed of his confession and his pointed interested just feels completely forced and unreal. Likewise Robin’s reaction to both boys is wholly out of proportion to the length of time she spends with them. She seems almost manic and utterly dependent on their feelings. If she’s not deliriously happy basking in the glow of their gorgeous faces and bodies, she’s crying, sobbing, or running away from their confessions of love for her.  It’s Neediness 101 and Robin Mason deserves an A for all that effort. At its heart, there’s really not much substance to If I Can’t Have You.  It’s one girl stuck between two boys who seem to want her without knowing why.  It’s all pretty innocuous until the very end when it seems the author decided that her characters were better suited to erotica than YA fiction and all sort of sexy times come out of the woodwork.  But even those were peppered with neediness and tears and frankly they stopped being sexy right away. The premise of this book is great but the execution is sadly lacking. Add to it banal writing and poorly written sequences and you just have a mish mash that is quite dull.

Based on the following criteria:

How much did I like the heroine: 2. Robin was so whiny and so utterly dependent on whether Drake or Elliott loved her that I just disliked her immediately. Any girl that places all of her emotional eggs in one basket has deep seated issues and I didn’t really want to watch her fragile ego be destroyed by not one but two gorgeous love interests who happen to be related. Double ick btw.

How much did I like the love interest: Wait, wait. Is it Drake or is it Elliott? We don’t find out until about halfway through that Drake is a cad and by that time Elliott seems like such a prince in comparison that we immediately love him for not being a selfish, sex-obsessed teen like his brother.  I give him a 3 because I have a thing for blond surfer dudes but ones that become obsessed with a single girl and make some weird proclamation about all the girls they’ve been with before (at the age of 18 mind you) lose serious points.

How believable is the plot: 5. I’ve never met two brothers who happen to be gorgeous and fall in love with me simultaneously. Maybe there’s some jealousy there or something but I find that plot point highly suspect.  The young girl who becomes infatuated with the guy who rescued her years ago? Now that’s a premise I can get on board with.

How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 2. This writer needs an editor. Sometimes Robin would think the same thing in two separate paragraphs only using different words.  I remember thinking, “Now, wait, didn’t I already read this part?” But no, I hadn’t because she was just reiterating what she said three paragraphs earlier.  A good editor would clear that right up. There were lots of typos and grammatical issues as well as bad pacing and dialogue.

How much did I want to keep reading: 1. I didn’t. I didn’t believe that Elliott really wanted Robin. In fact, I kept waiting for the punchline where he turns out to be an even bigger cad than his brother who was just toying with Robin’s emotions. Only that didn’t happen and the book sank deep down into the depths of “Judith almost can’t finish this but will because the Kindle progress bar claims it’s almost over”.

Final Score: 2/10. This wasn’t one of my most enjoyable reading experiences. The overall story was subpar and the writing left a lot to be desired.  Sorry if this review feels a bit lackluster but I’m just reacting to what I’m given here, people.

 

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Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

Publisher: Jamie McGuire, LLC; 1 edition (May 26, 2011)

Format: Kindle Edition

I have so much to say about this book that would never, ever fit into a simple preface paragraph so I’m holding back until the real review. God, it hurts though because there are so many things wrong here that it physically pains me not to vomit them all onto this page. Right. This. Minute.

Plot: Abby Abernathy leaves Wichita, Kansas for Eastern University, the farthest school she can find from her drunk mother and deadbeat convict father. She and longtime best friend, America, hope to forget their pasts in Wichita and have a wonderfully anonymous college experience, enjoying parties and boys along with a modest bit of studying. When America convinces her to attend an underground fight club match, Abby meets fighter Travis Maddox and her world is turned upside down. Travis is a tattooed, motorcycle riding womanizer who just happens to be ridiculously charming and debonair. He convinces Abby to befriend him despite his outward roughness and they develop a fragile friendship. Travis and everyone around them is convinced that the two make the perfect couple but Abby sees too much of her father in Travis. Despite his best advances, she repeatedly tries to keep romance out of their relationship. However after losing a bet, she and Travis are forced to live together for a month and the constant closeness causes their mutual attraction to finally explode into romance. However a calculated visit on the part of Abby’s father, forces Abby to realize that Travis will never be the good guy who puts her first in his life and she breaks it off, cutting him out of her life for good. After a few miserable months they reconnect, realizing that their bond is stronger than everything life throws at them and decide that they would rather spend the rest of their lives together than apart.

Review: Remember how earlier I said that there were so many things wrong here? Well there are! The problems with this book are legion. Let me start with the most obvious: this is a book geared towards teens who are typically impressionable and maybe even vulnerable. And yet, it presents a form of co-dependence and abuse that is beyond shocking. Travis and Abby are a horrible couple. It takes a lot for me to say this but they have no redeeming qualities. Travis is jealous, violent, and a manic depressive whose constant highs and lows just scream volatile, potential domestic abuser. The guy is forever punching someone for looking at his girlfriend, hooking up with bimbos to prove a point to her, or prostrating himself before her if she finally came to her senses and ditches him. Maybe some girls find this brand of behavior macho or sexy or something, but no, it’s not. This is in no way romantic or swoonworthy. Travis could never just believe that Abby was trustworthy and was forever trying to prove his masculinity to her and everyone around her through aggressive PDA sessions. He might as well have just peed in a one mile radius around her to prove his ownership. It smacks of a person who is not at all self confident and has deep rooted commitment issues. And need I mention again, is probably a potential domestic abuser. But people, please! Abby is no better. She is weak willed, obnoxious, and forever getting angry at Travis for absolutely the wrong reasons. Case in point: one night they were at a club and an innocent guy tried to speak with her. When Travis saw their interaction, he went berserk, punching and kicking the would-be Romeo until he was a bloody mess on the dancefloor. Now Abby, for reasons unknown, was not upset about the violent display but about the fact that he started hitting the guy while she was in close proximity to him. WTF?! Shouldn’t she be worrying about her boyfriend’s anger management issues or his constant use of fists to express his emotions? But not once, anywhere in this mess does she ever once question his violence. His feelings for her, yes, but never his abusive behavior. Strike #1. Then there’s the crazy talk about marriage at 19 years old. Mr. Abuser decides on a particularly high day of his, that he loves Abby so much that he must remove all vestiges of his life before her by throwing away his couch, getting her a dog, and having her nickname permanently inked into his skin along with a Hebrew passage about love and belonging to one another. Again, WTF?! This is not normal. If I were dating a guy for a few weeks and he did this, it would be “so long,

crazy stalker!” In fact, I did kick a crazy to the curb once because he was being too needy and then he still showed up at my house with flowers crying and needily apologizing for being needy. Sometimes you gotta go with your gut and cut your losses. Abby however stuck with Travis even though she admits that his manic behavior and crazy tattoos creep her out. That’s strike #2. And Strike #3 comes when Abby finally breaks up with Travis but her reason is not his crazy behavior, his manic depressive ways, his fighting, mood swings, or possessiveness. No, it’s because he let a mob boss talk him into fighting for him in order to earn enough money to pay off Abby’s tuition and buy her a car and Abby feels like he’s placing more importance on money than her. Seriously!? That’s what she gets out of this little situation? This is beyond stupid. Doesn’t she worry about his fighting? No, it’s his focus on her and her misguided notion that she comes in 2nd place. One more time: WTF?! Everything about their relationship reads like a psychologist’s dictionary entry of co-dependence and narcissism. Both place and find their self worth in the other and in the end, we’re left with the most boring and poorly developed story. All of the plot devices felt contrived or as if the author were making them up on the spot. It was as if she couldn’t get certain points to move and that’s when she would have Abby and Travis fight or break up or get tattooed or drunk. It was hard to read not only for the subject matter but also for the lack of good writing and editing.

Based on the following criteria:

How much did I like the heroine: 2. Abby, girlfriend, we are staging an intervention. This Travis kid is a disaster for you. And it’s not beautiful. He’s co-dependent, abusive, rough, abrasive, manic, violent, and moody. What is there here that’s redeeming beyond the fact that he’s eye candy? Seriously I don’t get what you see in him. Maybe he has some bad boy mojo we have yet to experience but all I can say is, he’s bad news and you are an enabler of the worst sort. You need to stick to your guns when he acts crazy and kick him to the curb for real. No more yo-yo dating with him. If it doesn’t work once, it ain’t ever gonna work!

How much did I like the love interest: 0. Travis is psycho. For real. If my hypothetical daughter introduces me to a guy like him in 19 years, I will do everything in my power to keep them apart a la Romeo and Juliet. I will have no shame. This kid is horrible in all ways and even his motherless backstory does not make me feel sorry for him or make me condone his god-awful behavior.

How believable is the plot: 5. Sadly, I know a ton of girls, myself included, who have allowed guys like Travis to weasel their ways into their lives. Domestic violence is rampant and I can see why if stories like this one are propagating this sort of relationship. The whole gambling father/child gambler side story was completely unbelievable however. Abby doesn’t seem intelligent enough to be a good card shark.

How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 2. The editing is sub-par, the writing is atrocious with practically no descriptive phrasing, no adjectives, nothing beyond a contrived plot that goes on far too long and has grammatical and spelling mistakes everywhere. Plus the dialogue is ludicrous. There practically isn’t any and what does get said is so banal that it’s unnecessary to the action.

How much did I want to keep reading: 0. I wanted this to end so that I could finally see Travis go to jail for all his crazy behavior but you know that that never happens. Instead they get married and I want to bang my head against a wall.

Glasses of wine I drank while reading: Yes I’m stealing Ellen’s category here because this was so disastrous (fitting right? With the title and all. Get it, Beautiful Disasters, disastrous book. Hardy har har) that I required alcohol to finish it. Sorry, but it’s true.

Final Score: 2/10. I know that this will alienate a few of our readers who truly liked this book but I can’t condone this sort of material. I find it extremely irresponsible of a writer or editor to push this sort of co-dependence on impressionable kids and adults. Travis and Abby’s relationship is not acceptable. In fact, I find it frightening and worry about their fictional children should they ever come into existence. This book is everything wrong with society’s perceptions of a good relationship: violence does not mean a man loves you; manic highs and lows are not normal in a relationship and not a requirement to maintain love; love is not instantaneous or volatile. My list could go on but I’m stopping here because frankly, those few points are enough.

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The Hanged Man by Francesca Lia Block

The Hanged Man, by Francesca Lia Block

Publisher: HarperCollins

Format: Hardcover

Ellen’s got me feeling nostalgic with her old school reviews and her Christopher Pike books she first read while in high school, maybe even middle school. So this morning, I dug around to the very back of my bookshelves, and pulled out a dusty, hardcover copy of what was once my favorite book (look up there! Yes, that is my actual book). I was 17 and a bit of a chubby, friendless, nerdy kid (come on, who wasnt?!) and I remember picking up the Hanged Man by Francesca Lia Block on a lark. I have to be honest here: thank god I did because this book changed my life. I remember it being thrilling and lyrical and magical in a way that YA fiction books never were in the 90s. It made me dream and gave me the impetus to break away from my dull little life in order to do something bigger than I thought possible. And I remember dutifully writing out a postcard to the author herself thanking her for writing something so profound and moving and a few months later receiving a handwritten reply that I still have all these years later. Any writer who not only reads but answers fan mail goes beyond good and into great.

Plot:

Laurel lives in a magical house in Hollywood with her eccentric parents and a parrot named Zach. When her father dies unexpectedly, she and her mother are bereft and each deals with the grief of his passing in different ways. Laurel’s mother loses herself in friends and parties, eventually using cooking and baking as a release from the pain of his death. Laurel can’t seem to find any control of her life and battles with anorexia. She also loses all the desire she had to be an artist and begins spending her nights at Hollywood parties drinking and sleeping around. Eventually she meets Jack, an older man, who tries to make her come to terms with her father’s death, her anorexia, and a secret Laurel’s been hiding from the world. Through Jack’s gentle prodding, Laurel is finally able to release the pain and anger she has toward a father who was sexually abusing her and is reunited with a mother she thought she lost due to it. The end gives us hope that Laurel has begun to deal with the grief of her father’s death and is on the road to recovery from what she dealt with at his hands.

Review:

Oh you faint of heart readers, this book is not for you. Lush and lyrical The Hanged Man reads as a narrative poem making us itch to see Los Angeles for all its old world glamour while at the same time cautioning us to stay away from its decay. Because according to this book, only bad things can happen in the hills of Hollywood! The Hanged Man must feature every bad thing that could ever happen to a teenage girl: pedophilia, rape, heroin use, alcohol, anorexia, bulimia, teenage pregnancy, threesomes, public nudity, tattoos, moshing…the list is endless! Problem is, it’s written so beautifully, you wish it would all happen to you. Seriously! I distinctly remember at 17 wishing that Laurel’s cracked out life were my own and even now, after rereading at 29, I still wish that. Laurel has a head on her shoulders and regardless if she has a little anorexia, we see her deal admirably with her father’s passing. So she gets involved with a little bit of underage drinking and partying? Forgivable! Especially considering

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her mother seems to have gone crazy and thinks her dad’s spirit is appearing to her in the forms of white moths following her around the house. It’s wackadoodle but I realize now that she’s dealing with her own pain and guilt in her own way. The kicker with this book is that we assume throughout the entirety that the two main characters, Laurel and her mother, are only trying to deal with the loss of a loved one. That’s true but it comes as a shocker to learn that they are in fact mourning more than the loss of dear old dad. They’re mourning the loss of innocence and coming to grips with the fact that Laurel’s mother turned a blind eye to the sexual abuse running rampant in her own home. When we discover that Laurel was in fact raped, abused, and impregnated by her father, a man she still loves after death, it is heartbreaking. To have to deal with the loss of a father is devastating enough but to then be forced to deal with the ramifications of his abuse in addition to that loss? I can’t even comprehend what Laurel must be experiencing. Francesca Lia Block writes her subject matter with such finesse and such pitch perfect tenderness that we aren’t disgusted by Laurel’s confession. We’re uplifted as we watch her battle her inner demons and finally begin living again. When she reconciles with her mother and tells her that she had to know that her father was abusing her, it’s…like this perfect moment when you finally know that Laurel is going to get better and that she will conquer the pain and loss. It’s a beautiful thing to read and makes the whole story uplifting and worthwhile. The Hanged Man is both a cautionary tale and one of redemption and I can’t stress enough how much this lived up to the memory I have of it from my teens.

Based on the following criteria:

How much did I like the heroine: 8. Laurel seems so dreamy and mystical, always reading tarot cards and wearing vintage thrift store finds. She meets Jack, the man that ultimately helps her out of her downward spiral, and even as a teen, can speak to him like an adult. I want to be her and I am an adult! I wish I were mysterious and artsy like she is and also super skinny but not at the same cost she was forced to pay. Her character is amazingly strong, not at all whiny for all her horrible experiences, and someone who is empathetic to others even with her own problems. She would have been my high school bff if Nebraska grew ’em skinny, artsy, and cool.

How much did I like the love interest: 8. Jack was awesome. Sexy, gravelly voice, supportive, great in bed…the list goes on! Plus he forced Laurel to confront her problems and deal with the repercussions of her father’s passing and what he did to her head on. But after he did what needed to be done, he disappeared! Not sure if this means Laurel will never see him again or if it means that he’s done all he needed to do as a character but regardless, that lost some points in my book. Still he seems just as dreamy as she is and likes a little kink in his bedroom play.

How believable is the plot: 10. We’ve all read VC Andrews and we know that incest and abuse are rampant among families of teenagers! This book was extremely believable. It is mainly the story of dealing with grief and loss and how secrets in any family will divide it.

How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 10000000. Francesca Lia Block knows how to take simple phrases and turn them into poetry. The Hanged Man reads like a song in prose. It is enthralling and lyrical, the editing superb and the styling magical. Dialogue leaves a bit to be desired but there wasn’t much so who cares?

How much did I want to keep reading: 10. I wanted to see if Laurel and Jack could have a healthy relationship at one point; if Laurel and her mother reconcile and begin to trust one another; if Laurel can do something good with her life even though she has to deal with what happened to her for the rest of her life; if her best friend will ever realize that she’s on a path that will lead to destruction; who the father of the little girl Perdita is (we all know it’s Jack)…the list could go on and on.

Final Score: 9.2/10 There you go: this book rocks. It is dreamy and otherworldy while being grounded by events that are shocking and realistic. It’s the sort of book you never want your own teens to read but kinda hope they do since it will serve as an example of how to be a strong person and not lose your identity in a crisis. Read it if you want a good cry, something beautiful to make you feel artsy again, or just a simple story about grief and forgiveness.

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It’s…ehh, Tuesday, time for Tuesday Roundup!

Guys. I’m sorry. I dropped the ball last week and well into this one. I’ve been sick so not much of an excuse, but hopefully you can understand the lack of consistent reviews and roundups and posts in general. I’m almost back to normal so hopefully we’re back on track. To that end, it’s Tuesday Roundup! A make-up for this Monday’s Roundup.

Ellen discusses (read: rants) about Melanie Marks’ books as a whole in Caveat Emptor for sure: Melanie Marks. You get some fun reviews of four separate books.

Looking For Alaska by John Green: Newbie boarder Miles falls in with Chip and Alaska at his Alabama boarding school, learning the fundamentals of friendship and love, loss and betrayal as he comes to grips with a life-changing event involving Alaska.  9.8/10 GET IT.

Singularity by William Sleator: Twins Harry and Barry move into a creepy, gothic mansion which houses a time altering portal. Through this portal they learn the true value of family and the importance of having your own identity. 10/10 Read it for the cheesy cover alone!

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally: Female QB Jordan has to deal with the repercussions of the arrival of amazing QB Tyler and the changes it brings to her personally and amongst her team. 8/10 Ellen raves about it!

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler: Min and Ed’s disastrous relationship is told in reverse, via a letter from Min complete with pictures and all the details of why their relationship just didn’t work.  4.6 /10 It was exceptionally well written and actually very likable but I just didn’t like it.

Head Games: A PrettyTough Novel by Keri Mikulski: Female basketball star, Taylor is being pulled in far too many directions and all of the things she cares about suffer as a result.  She has to choose where to focus before everything she cares about is lost. 7.4/10

That’s it for book reviews! Bonus fun:

We did learn some very exciting news about a new series from Jennifer L Armentrout (author of Obsidian and Half-Blood)! It involves angels which we were on the fence about until she reassured us that we would most definitely enjoy it.

Knopf is having a contest centered around PD James’ latest, Death Comes to Pemberley.  Only 2 days left to enter to win a free copy of the book!  http://ow.ly/8HFrx

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