The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

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Family members left behind after a suicide face deep pain. Resources offering real help are included in this book! Thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for the opportunity to read and review The Astonishing Color of After! The main character saw her mother’s suicide and believes that her mother has visited her as a bird. No one believes her even though she has physical evidence. Her and her father visit her maternal grandparents in Taiwan and even though they don’t speak much English, they believe that the bird is true. This book is difficult to categorize into a genre, but even though it has supernatural happenings throughout the story, I feel that this is still, above all, a realistic fiction tale. The deep pain that survivors of suicidal family members face is a real problem and an intense struggle that hasn’t been addressed as much as it’s needed. The Astonishing Color of After helps! Resources are included towards the end of the book for various needs of those dealing with depression, loss, suicide and/or suicidal thoughts. The resources are categorized under the following headings: Suicide Prevention, For Suicide Loss Survivors and Understanding Mental Illness. The cultural education and coping skills made the story more interesting and I love Axel and the great friend that he is to Leigh and I appreciate the author’s honesty about her own experiences of being a suicide survivor. 4 stars!

Chalk Houses by Tracy Clark

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Chalk houses by Tracy Clark tells the story of Talon who lives with her single mother that always seems to have a new boyfriend, drinks and is involved with drugs. The story begins on Talon’s sixteenth birthday and her mother doesn’t even remember what day it is. Talon’s goals are to educate herself and receive a degree in psychology and child development so she will be equipped to help neglected children and never be like her mother. She begins receiving emails from Aunt T, who supposedly wants to get to know Talon. They create a circle journal of communication with their emails. Talon has one true friend, Karalyn, who always gives Talon moral support. Gabby, Talon’s younger next door neighbor that lives with an aunt and uncle and is pretty much neglected by them, is under Talon’s wing of protection. Talon spreads out and tests relationship waters with others as she expands her social circle. She makes some dumb decisions and struggles with the consequences and in the meantime she discovers much more about her mother than she could have ever guessed at before. Chalk Houses is a coming of age, coming into your own work of literary art with its beautiful, dynamic characters and other characters that are horrific in their actions. The story comes full circle and is a real tear-jerker full of disappointment, hurt and hope. 5 heart expanding stars!

Sweet Revenge by Heather Kim

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Thanks to NetGalley and Capstone, Switch Press for the opportunity to read and review Sweet Revenge by Heather Kim. The subtitle “Passive-Aggressive Desserts for your Exes and Enemies” says it all! Cleverly named recipes for all the different reasons you could possibly have a need to rid yourself of relationship frustrations. Creatively named sections classify each recipe and the author states “revenge is best served warm” and “ kindness is rare” so the goodness will come back around. The concept of taking your frustrations, hurt and anger out while creating yummy goodness is refreshing and therapeutic. Imaginative and laced with humor and fun visuals will make even the most down-day humorous. Two Thumbs up and 5 stars for a sumptuous, creative book full of yumminess!

 

This Heart of Mine by C.C. Hunter

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Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the opportunity to read and review This Heart of Mine by C.C. Hunter. Leah is awaiting a heart transplant and in the meantime she’s being tutored and doing her schoolwork at home with her teachers’ help. Leah’s story (first person point of view) alternates with the (third person point of view) story of twins, Matt and Eric, who are still reeling from the loss of their father. One of the twins tutors Leah for extra credit on a day that the math teacher cannot make it. Leah is unsure which twin it is and confesses that she’s had a crush on Matt for years. I’m not sure how much time passes before Eric ends up dying in the hospital from a gunshot wound. Leah’s family receives a call from the hospital letting them know a heart is available for her transplant. She discovers that she’s received Eric’s heart and she keeps this information to herself. Eventually Leah and Matt talk about the transplant and how they’ve both been having dreams about Eric’s death and believe that it wasn’t suicide. In the dreams, they hear a voice other than Eric’s and they also see how Eric was running from something before he was shot. The mystery progresses and finally Detective Henderson sees proof of foul play. The main point of the book is to experience the process of needing a transplant, receiving one and learning to embrace life all over again. The author shares her family’s experiences with transplants at the end of the book. These experiences brought this story to life. 4 stars for the strength and perseverance shown by the main characters!

Broken Beautiful Hearts by Kami Garcia

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Thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group for the opportunity to read and review Broken Beautiful Hearts by Kami Garcia! Peyton and her mom have lived alone since her father was killed during a military mission. Peyton’s boyfriend, Reed, has been acting differently and seems to have a quick temper and mood swings often when he used to never be that way. Reed’s sister Tess is also Peyton’s best friend and when Peyton tries to discuss the changes in Reed with Tess, she becomes defensive. When Peyton finds out Reed’s secret and confronts him, Reed loses his temper and pushes Peyton. She falls down cement stairs and hurts her leg. Now she’s mourning the possibility of losing her soccer scholarship and her ruined relationships with Reed and Tess. She moves to Tennessee and stays with her uncle and his two teenage twin boys so she can recuperate, attend physical therapy and hopefully repair her leg. She gains new friends and works hard to recover the strength in her leg while learning to deal with Reed and the difficulties he’s caused. I don’t want to give anything away from the rest of the story but I devoured Broken Beautiful Hearts and I highly recommend it for any reader that enjoys young adult realistic fiction, 5 stars!

Awakening Your Ikigai by Ken Mogi

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Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review Awakening Your Ikigai by Ken Mogi. A descriptive and instructional book of the Five Pillars of Ikigai. These five pillars involve starting small, releasing yourself, harmony and sustainability, the joy of small things and being in the here and now and can lead anyone into a more enjoyable, fulfilling life. The five pillars or principles of Ikigai remind us to begin at the beginning and don’t expect perfection immediately but continue to strive for perfection in all that we do. The principles also help us keep our focus on the joy of living in each and every day. Balance or harmony is also important and living each moment fully instead of rushing through our lives is a key to Ikigai. Peaceful and inspiring, Awakening Your Ikigai is easy to understand and follow to bring true and pure happiness into our lives. 4 stars.

Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp

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Thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the opportunity to read and review Before I Let Go by Marieki Nijkamp! Corey receives news of the drowning of her best friend, Kyra, and she travels back to Lost Creek to mourn her death and discover how she drowned in the middle of winter when the water is frozen several feet deep. Corey is treated like an outsider because she’s been attending a boarding school away from Lost Creek, so they disregard her questions and concerns. Corey’s determination reveals more than she ever wanted to know about the downward spiral of Kyra’s mental health and the ignorance and selfishness of the people of Lost Creek! 4 stars for a poignant look at bipolar disorder and the struggles of the sufferer and the coping mechanisms of the people closest to them.

The Black Notebook by Isabelle Snow

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Thanks to Ink Monster for the opportunity to read and review The Black Notebook by Isabelle Snow. For some reason, people are compelled to share their secrets with the main character, Seven. She’s kind and wants to be a confidant for others. She’s having trouble trying to remember everyone’s secrets and keeping them straight so she decides to write them in a black notebook. Colin, Seven’s crush, realizes the black notebook is important to her and so he takes it from her as a taunt. Seven goes to great lengths to retrieve her notebook full of other’s secrets, even sneaking into the boys’ locker room and into Colin’s bedroom. Humorous and entertaining, this book is cute and a clean read.
The story comes full circle as Seven and Colin get to know each other better, 4 stars!

Breaking the Ice by Julie Cross

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Thanks to Entangled Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review Breaking the Ice by Julie Cross! Fletcher seems to have many things he wants to hide and Haley has a good heart and great values. The two of them are working on a class project together and sometimes get along fairly well and at other times they can barely tolerate each other. I enjoyed Off the Ice (the first book in the Juniper Falls series) immensely and Breaking Ice is just as good, dealing with bullying, sexuality, family, learning disabilities and the stressful experience of intense allergies. Unique aspects of solitude and the consequences of social and parental pressures are addressed also. I love the dancing and the teacher who’s willing to work with and help her students based on their individual needs! The only drawback is the often used f-word, which I felt was unnecessary to the story being told. 4.5 stars for a thought provoking story!

Turtles All the Way Down

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Turtles All the Way Down by John Green opens with Aza as she struggles with self-confidence and feeling like she never belongs. Her best friend and support is Daisy and the two of them set out to earn a reward for finding a missing billionaire. This mystery brings more interest to the story and the dynamic characters are fun, humorous and entertaining as well deep thinking. The three main characters, Aza, Daisy and Davis all bring a lot of interest to the story plus the side characters add an extra depth. I appreciate how John Green portrays mental illness with realism and deeply detailed prose. The author’s note at the end offers insight into his own personal struggles and also help and hotline information. 5 stars for a great portrayal of the human mind and its struggles!