Review: What We Left Behind by Robin Talley

Title: What We Left Behind
Author: Robin Talley
Publisher: MIRA Ink
Publication Date: October 22nd 2015
Part of A Series?: Standalone
I Got A Copy Through: Guardian Children's Books

Blurb Description: From the critically acclaimed author of Lies We Tell Ourselves comes an emotional, empowering story of what happens when love may not be enough to conquer all.

Toni and Gretchen are the couple everyone envied in high school. They've been together forever. They never fight. They’re deeply, hopelessly in love. When they separate for their first year at college—Toni to Harvard and Gretchen to NYU—they’re sure they’ll be fine. Where other long-distance relationships have fallen apart, theirs is bound to stay rock-solid.

The reality of being apart, though, is very different than they expected. Toni, who identifies as genderqueer, meets a group of transgender upperclassmen and immediately finds a sense of belonging that has always been missing, but Gretchen struggles to remember who she is outside their relationship.

While Toni worries that Gretchen won’t understand Toni’s new world, Gretchen begins to wonder where she fits in Toni's life. As distance and Toni’s shifting gender identity begins to wear on their relationship, the couple must decide—have they grown apart for good, or is love enough to keep them together?

**MY REVIEW**
I’ve never given much importance to gender, or sexuality or gender orientation on a personal level. I’m all for not following the standard norms of whom society says you should be, and if someone who was born male feels more comfortable female, who am I to judge them? If someone female is attracted to females, great for them, right? Like I said, I’ve always accepted that nobody is alike, and I have always been the Live and Let Live kind of person, but until What We Left Behind popped into my life, I never really understood how important all of it really is.

Neither the words ‘discovering a new gender identity’ nor the various combinations of the standard gender symbols on the cover clued me in onto what this book is really about, which I will get to later. What I was expecting, however, was a standard college separation story with peer pressure and new friends and trying to figure out how your significant other fits into the new world you’re a part of and the person you’re evolving into. Which is going to be my life very soon, as I go off to college and half my friends travel half the world away, and I felt like What We Left Behind would be a brilliant book to read at this point.

What I got however, was everything I expected and SO SO SO much more.

Meet Toni/ Tony/ Anatonia. Sexuality: Genderqueer. College: Harvard.
Meet Gretchen. Sexuality: Female. College: NYU (Previously, Boston University, but that’s not the point.)

They’re that high school couple. The ones most likely to make it, and make it together. They never fight, they’re perfect for each other, and they’re gorgeous, smart, and going to the same city. Most of all, they’re crazy for each other.

But college is a whole new life, and only the strongest survive.

“I hate pronouns. Why do we even need he and she? Neither one feels right. Why can’t everyone just use the same pronouns? Or if they have to be separated into categories – if our language absolutely needs multiple pronouns – why divide them up by gender? It’s so arbitrary. We might as well have different pronouns based on how old you are, or what your favourite colour is, or your astrological sign.”

Told in dual viewpoints, get ready to feel. Get ready to feel how terrible Gretchen feels as she changes their plan and heads off to New York. Get ready to feel what it feels like when the most important person in your life feels like you can’t understand what you’re going through. Get ready to feel the workload of college, get ready to make new friends.

Most of all, however, get ready to really feel what it’s like to not know who you are; to not be able to define who you are, gender oriented and otherwise, even if you already know who you are. Because that’s what reading Robin Talley’s What We Left Behind will do to you. Make you question, make you feel, and help you take your first step in understanding what it’s really like to not be black and white like society initially defined us to be.


What We Left Behind is the most beautiful coming of age novel I have ever read, filled with some of the most important questions our generation has to answer for themselves. I couldn’t recommend it more! – 5 stars!

REVIEW: The Prophecy of Shadows (Elementals, #1) by Michelle Madow

Title: The Prophecy of Shadows
Author: Michelle Madow
Publisher: Barclay Publishing
Publication Date: January 26th 2016
Part of A Series?: Yes! Elementals Trilogy, #1
I Got A Copy Through: NetGalley

Blurb Description: Filled with magic, thrilling adventure, and sweet romance, Elementals is the first in a new series that fans of Percy Jackson and The Secret Circle will love! 

When Nicole Cassidy moves from sunny Georgia to gloomy New England, the last thing she expects is to learn that her homeroom is a cover for a secret coven of witches. Even more surprisingly … she’s apparently a witch herself. Despite doubts about her newfound abilities, Nicole is welcomed into this ancient circle of witches and is bedazzled by their powers—and, to her dismay, by Blake—the school’s notorious bad-boy.

Girls who get close to Blake wind up hurt. His girlfriend Danielle will do anything to keep them away, even if she must resort to using dark magic. But the chemistry between Blake and Nicole is undeniable, and despite wanting to protect Nicole from Danielle’s wrath, he finds it impossible to keep his distance.

When the Olympian Comet shoots through the sky for the first time in three thousand years, Nicole, Blake, Danielle, and two others in their homeroom are gifted with mysterious powers. But the comet has another effect—it opens the portal to the prison world that has contained the Titans for centuries. After an ancient monster escapes and attacks Nicole and Blake, it’s up to them and the others to follow the clues from a cryptic prophecy so that they can save their town … and possibly the world.
 

**MY REVIEW**

Here’s the thing with name dropping* - don’t do it. I understand publicity techniques, but if the synopsis is catching enough I don’t need hints of it being like all these other books to convince me to read it. If I really really liked a series, and you name drop it on another book, I’m quite literally sitting there, expecting the same level from the new book!

*Name Dropping is what is done on the blurbs of books, to get readers to relate it to other books in their heads. For example, "Perfect for fans of Sarah J Maas and Leigh Bardugo,"

And for The Prophecy Of Shadows, compared to the Percy Jackson series, it didn’t work out too well. When I was in middle school, I got hooked onto the Percy Jackson series. After I finished all five novels, I proceeded onto the Heroes of Olympus series, which I religiously waited on for five years of my life, only to get an ending that was thoroughly unbelievable as equally disappointing. It was here I promised myself that I would go no more…

And then The Prophecy of Shadows came out. Practically in love with Michelle’s Secret Diamond Sisters’ Series, I decided that her new book would definitely be worth a try! And I can quite honestly say that if it hadn’t been compared to Percy Jackson, I would have liked this book a whole lot more than I did.

Starting off with a not so nice Harry Potter reference didn’t help too much, but at the beginning of the book, I could definitely see that I would get into this. All the energy channelling and colours and secrecy was something like my favourite Wicca novel, and everything was right in the world. The characters were introduced well, their motivations hazy, just like I like them and the protagonist denying that she could be so special, and going ahead and saving the day – all elements that I love.

And then came the forbidden bad boy, and the chemistry that not only could I not feel, but I later realized couldn’t feel because it simply WASN’T there altogether. Then the characters weren’t complicated at all, but just plain vanilla and boring. Their GRAND prophecy was printed out on a piece of paper, and then entire book seemed like one big treasure hunt rather than an actual quest. 
Everything was in one city, down one road, and the Five in the Prophecy got their part of it all too easily!

I don’t know what to say really, except that I was expecting something like Percy Jackson, and it didn’t really deliver!


BLOG TOUR: The Standout by Laurel Osterkamp - Review and Giveaway



Welcome to my tour stop for The Standout by Laurel Osterkamp! The Standout is a psychological thriller and is a stand alone. The tour runs January 25-29 with reviews only. Check out the tour page for the full schedule.

About the Book: First Robin gets the email with its simple demand: dump your fiancĂ© or else. Then someone puts up the slanderous Rotten Robin Website that threatens to crush her chances to win The Standout, a ballet-themed, fashion reality show. Surrounded by backstabbing co-contestants and haunted by mysterious ghosts from her past, Robin can't trust anyone, including herself.

This new psychological thriller by Laurel Osterkamp, author of The Holdout and The Next Breath, is Black Swan meets Project Runway.


Get ready for a breathtaking novel about love, betrayal, tall buildings, and finding the courage to jump.


About the Author:

Laurel Osterkamp becomes very attached to her characters. The Standout, The Holdout, The Next Breath, November Surprise, Blue State, and American Angst all feature the Bricker family, but these books can be read in any order. Laurel teaches English and Creative Writing in Minneapolis, where she tries to stay warm, hang out with her husband and two chatty children, and find the time to write. Her other novels are the award-winningFollowing My Toes and Starring in the Movie of My Life.

You can find Laurel on Twitter but she needs to work on sending clever Tweets. A better idea is to follow her blog at www.laurelosterkamp.blogspot.com.

GIVEAWAY:
$25 Amazon gift card (INT)
Ends Feb. 4th
Prizing is provided by the author, hosts are not responsible. Must be 13 or older to enter and have parental permission if under 17. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary to win.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

**MY REVIEW**

I really liked Laurel Osterkamp's previous novel, 'Next Breath.'  And as I read the synopsis for The Standout, it seemed so different and exactly like something I needed to write at this point, and I couldn't help but sign up for the tour!

This is one part of a series of Robin Bricker novels, but all of them can be read as standalones. I haven't exactly read the others, but after The Standout, I will definitely be picking them up soon!

I'm going to keep this short and sweet, unlike my previous tirades...

I guess all I can say is that I'm SO glad that I tried to read this, because it was infinitely better!

I loved how, despite being told that cyber bullying was the main theme of the book, it wasn't all the book was about, but it also had personal growth journeys, which made it all the more enjoyable. I loved the fashion, the slander, Robin's personality - always strong inspite of everything that was being thrown at her, and that was pretty commendable.

All in all, a really good, expectation surpassing book, and I will definitely be looking out for more in the series!

This event was organized by CBB Book Promotions.

Cover Reveal: Love Me, Love Me Not by Alyxandra Harvey

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YA Fantasy / Fairytale retelling of The Swan Maiden with a blood feud twist like Romeo & Juliet? Say whaaaat?
Welcome to the cover reveal for
Love Me, Love Me Not by Alyxandra Harvey
presented by Entangled Teen Crave!
Who else is excited for this book???

LoveMeLoveMeNot_1600
Dating isn’t easy when you’re in the middle of a blood feud.
Anastasia Vila’s family can turn into swans, but just once she’d like them to turn into responsible adults.
After hundreds of years, they still cling to the blood feud with the Renard family. No one remembers how it started in the first place—but foxes and swans just don’t get along.
Vilas can only transform into their swan shape after they have fallen in love for the first time, but between balancing schoolwork, family obligations, and the escalating blood feud, Ana’s got no time for love. The only thing keeping her sane is her best friend, Pierce Kent.
But when Pierce kisses Ana, everything changes.
Is what Pierce feels for her real, or a byproduct of her magic? Can she risk everything for her best friend? And when the family feud spirals out of control, Ana must stop the fight before it takes away everything she loves.
Including, maybe...Pierce.
This Entangled Teen Crave book contains language, violence, and lots of kissing. Warning: it might induce strong feelings of undeniable attraction for your best friend.
add to goodreads
Love Me, Love Me Not by Alyxandra Harvey
Publication Date: February 22, 2016
Publisher: Entangled Teen Crave

About-the-Author2

alyxandra-harveyAlyxandra Harvey lives in a stone Victorian house in Ontario, Canada with a few resident ghosts who are allowed to stay as long as they keep company manners. She loves medieval dresses, used to be able to recite all of The Lady of Shalott by Tennyson, and has been accused, more than once, of being born in the wrong century. She believes this to be mostly true except for the fact that she really likes running water, women’s rights, and ice cream. Aside from the ghosts, she also lives with her husband and their dogs. She likes cinnamon lattes, tattoos and books.
Connect with the author: Website | Twitter | Tumblr | Goodreads



BOOK BLITZ: Illicit Desires by Rose B Marshal - Excerpt and Giveaway


Illicit Desires by Rose B. Mashal
Publication date: January 27th 2016
Genres: Romance
Blurb Description: Her smiles brought my own to life. Her beautiful face was what made me get out of bed every morning. Looking into her eyes was my favorite part of the day.
She was in my every thought, in every passing second.
My lips craved her lips, and my hands yearned to touch her beautiful skin. My heart called out her name with every beat, and I only had eyes for her.
Her. My life, my soul, my personal Heaven-on-Earth.
She was everything I had ever wanted, but everything I could never have.
She was my flesh and blood.
She was my sister.


Author Bio:
Rose is a loved mother, wife, and a stay at home lawyer. Writing is her passion, and reading is her obsession. Music is her best friend and sarcasm is her speaking trend. One of her joys is bringing happiness to others and her biggest wish is that they stay true to one another. Through her stories, she wants to spread nothing except understanding, peace and love.

Hosted by:
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BLOG TOUR: The Year We Fell Apart by Emily Martin - Review, Favourite Quotes and GIVEAWAY



The Year We Fell Apart by Emily Martin
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: January 26th 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Realistic Fiction
Rate: 5 STARS
Synopsis: In the tradition of Sarah Dessen, this powerful debut novel is a compelling portrait of a young girl coping with her mother’s cancer as she figures out how to learn from—and fix—her past.

Few things come as naturally to Harper as epic mistakes. In the past year she was kicked off the swim team, earned a reputation as Carson High’s easiest hook-up, and officially became the black sheep of her family. But her worst mistake was destroying her relationship with her best friend, Declan.

Now, after two semesters of silence, Declan is home from boarding school for the summer. Everything about him is different—he’s taller, stronger…more handsome. Harper has changed, too, especially in the wake of her mom’s cancer diagnosis.

While Declan wants nothing to do with Harper, he’s still Declan, her Declan, and the only person she wants to talk to about what’s really going on. But he’s also the one person she’s lost the right to seek comfort from.

As their mutual friends and shared histories draw them together again, Harper and Declan must decide which parts of their past are still salvageable, and which parts they’ll have to let go of once and for all.

In this honest and affecting tale of friendship and first love, Emily Martin brings to vivid life the trials and struggles of high school and the ability to learn from past mistakes over the course of one steamy North Carolina summer.

*Warning: Some Serious Fangirling and Gushing and Nonsensical Words Below. Please don’t blame me, it can’t be helped.*

First Sentence: Sometimes I think the White Oak tree was listening that night last August.

You use the name Sarah Dessen, and I will read the book. Most of the time, I’ll probably tell you that I was disappointed because not much can match up to Sarah Dessen, but, Emily Martin, you can take the cake. Or the prize. Or the award. Or anything you want, really, because after that book that made me root SO badly for a relationship I knew almost nothing about, you DESERVE everything you want!

“It was more than just state lined dividing us. I missed you and I missed her and I needed to feel something else. Something less.”

Declan and Harper, you guys, will be the first 2016 couple that I will never forget. They were perfect – they knew exactly what the other thought like, what the other person was like, their fears and insecurities and even exactly where to hit, so that the bruise would hurt the most. More than that, though, they had ALL this CHEMISTRY and this pining, and this love story that should have been written in the stars. And I loved it. Every moment – the good, the goofy, the moments that hurt even my heart, the pissed off ones, the worst, the drunk and the best. Emily Martin created this ideal non-ideal (and yet to me, ideal) couple that I could NOT get enough off!

Imma fangirl over the rest of the characters in order, now that I got that out of the way:

CORY: BEST BEST FRIEND EVER, coolest boyfriend, dork extraordinary.
Mackenzie and Gwen!
Graham!
Harper’s Mother!
HARPLAN! (Declan + Harper)

Okay. I don’t even know what I’m saying. These characters are all just swirling around in my head and I want them to stay there FOREVER.

Okay, I don’t know what I said – comprehensive thoughts are not forming in my head, due to serious sleep deprivation, economic exams, candy crush and this book. I’m not going to keep you here any longer – go down, enter the giveaway, tell me I’m a teeny bit crazy in the comments – but just one thing before you do: BUY THE BOOK. BUY IT NOW. YOU NEED IT. TRUST ME.

Also, COOL FACT: Emily Martin and Laurie Elizabeth Flynn who debuted with her AH-MAE-ZING novel, Firsts (REVIEWED HERE) are CRITIQUE PATRNERS! So, aspiring writers, all of your dreams will come true, and these two lovely ladies are proof. Of course, help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who need it, so you can always take it from there too!

POINTS FOR: Coolest, most realistic relationship, the above characters, swimming, practical jokes, that storyline. And just EVERYTHING!

QUOTES:

“He’s heard it all. Everything I never wanted him to find out.”

“I’ve been waiting all summer to see that smile.”

“If you give someone the power to break your heart, you sure as hell won’t see it coming when they do.”

“My head falls into my hands and I slump down to the pavement. He’s sorry. And I’m sorry. And it isn’t enough to fix anything.

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Follow the The Year We Fell Apart by Emily Martin Blog Tour and don't miss anything! Click on the banner to see the tour schedule.
Emily Martin lives and writes in the Greater Boston area, though she will always call Michigan home. She has a penchant for impromptu dance parties, vintage clothing, and traveling to new places. When not writing, she can be found hiking New England’s peaks, searching for the perfect cup of hot chocolate, or baking something pumpkin-flavored.

Emily’s debut young adult novel, THE YEAR WE FELL APART, comes out January 26, 2016 from Simon Pulse.

Her work is represented by Lara Perkins of Andrea Brown Literary.

BLOG TOUR: Shallow Graves by Kalli Wallace - Review, Favourite Quotes and GIVEAWAY


Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: January 26th 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Horror, Zombies, Fantasy, Thriller, Contemporary, Fiction, Mystery, Supernatural
Rate: 3.75 Stars
Synopsis: For fans of Holly Black and Nova Ren Suma, a gripping, hauntingly atmospheric novel about murder, revenge, and a world where monsters—human and otherwise—lurk at the fringes.

When seventeen-year-old Breezy Lin wakes up in a shallow grave one year after her death, she doesn’t remember who killed her or why. All she knows is that she’s somehow conscious—and not only that, she’s able to sense who around her is hiding a murderous past. In life, Breezy was always drawn to the elegance of the universe and the mystery of the stars. Now she must set out to find answers and discover what is to become of her in the gritty, dangerous world to which she now belongs—where killers hide in plain sight and a sinister cult is hunting for strange creatures like her. What she finds is at once empowering, redemptive, and dangerous.

Tense, complex, and wholly engaging, Shallow Graves is a stunning first novel from Kali Wallace.

"I don't know," he said. "You live, I guess. Same as everybody else."
"I can't live. I'm dead."
"You're only kind of dead."

I think I can only accurately describe what I feel about Shallow Graves when I say my thoughts are torn in half. Split right down the middle, fifty percent of this book was extremely vague - not bad, per se -  but just out there, off the mark and not at all what I was expecting. The other fifty percent was basically the chemistry filled, family filled, or space related stuff that I did love about the book.

In all honesty, this book kept pushing itself down, and then redeeming itself and repeating the same cycle over and over, and it made for a pleasant, not so pleasant reading experience - one that I'm not sure I want to embark on again.

Let me explain in further detail: 

THE GOOD:

Zeke and Jake - The brothers, 'monsters', inappropriately funny monster humor such as "The first rule of mermaid cannibal club is don't talk about mermaid cannibal club,'' family moments in the past, Breezy's INABILITY TO DIE, that super strong beginning, the actual killing process (yes, I'm that morbid.) and just Breezy's over the top curiosity and need for answers.

THE BAD:

The monsters, the final fight with the Mother, the creep factor, Violet, Mr. Willow, Lyle, the entire congregation of anti monster people and Ingrid.

Sigh. If you were to ask me to sum this up though, I'd say that though this book had an AMAZING storyline, and this amazing set of characters, it sort of missed the mark on what I expected it to be.

QUOTES:

''The first time I killed a man, it was an accident."

"They didn't know what I was. They didn't know I didn't need to breathe."

"Dragons?" Rain repeater. "This might all be worth it if dragons were real."

"There was a little voice in the back of my head whispering, an angry stage whisper that said: I am human. I know how we are. But I knew the difference between a truth and a lie, even inside my own head."

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Follow the Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace Blog Tour and don't miss anything! Click on the banner to see the tour schedule.
Kali Wallace studied geology and geophysics before she decided she enjoyed inventing imaginary worlds as much as she liked researching the real one. Her short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, F&SF, Asimov's, Lightspeed Magazine, and Tor.com. Her first novel will be published by Katherine Tegen Books in 2016. She lives in southern California.
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