ARC REVIEW: Ginny Moon – by Benjamin Ludwig

Title: Ginny Moon
Author: Benjamin Ludwig

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: May 2nd 2017
Publisher: Park Row Books
Finished reading: April 22nd 2017
Pages: 368

“No one can hear what I say inside my head because that’s where my brain is. It helps me do things when no one is looking.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Park Row Books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I’ve seen so many raving reviews about this book around the blogosphere that I just HAD to request a copy so I wouldn’t have to wait until the publish date to read it. It’s easy to say I was really looking forward to (The Original) Ginny Moon… And I kind of feel bad that I ended up having mixed feelings about the story instead. I can’t deny it’s a well written, unique story with one of the most intriguing main characters I’ve encountered this year. The author did a more than excellent job of describing and portraying the autistic Ginny and it has been truly fascinating to be able to have a glimpse inside her head. It really shows that Benjamin Ludwig has personal experience with autism and both the character development and behavior feel authentic. That said, it took me longer than expected to get used to the voice of the autistic Ginny and I found myself a bit confused in the beginning. Like I said before, the author did an excellent job of describing autism and what it is like to live and interact with someone autistic, but I did understand why her ‘Forever’ parent got so frustrated with her at times. I felt the same frustation as well and it made me enjoy the story slightly less than I thought I would, although this has nothing to do with the story itself and I want to stress that the author did a brilliant job of putting autism in the spotlight it deserves. And there is no doubt Ginny Moon will leave her mark and will stay with you for a long time…

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Ginny Moon has been in foster care for years, and she is currently living with her fourth forever family. Everybody keeps saying she sound feel happy that she has finally found parents who will love her… But Ginny has never forgotten what happened all that time ago, something she feels she will have to put right no matter what. But it is kind of hard to explain things to the rest of the world when you can’t find the right words to express yourself… Or people don’t seem to understand what she has been trying to tell them all this time.

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First of all, I want to stress that my slightly lower rating has nothing to do with the excellence of this book, but more with my feelings of frustration as I was reading it. Ginny’s character will provoke strong emotions, and while mine weren’t completely positive, there is no doubt she will still stay with me for a long time. I don’t think I’ve ever read a story with an autistic main character before (even though it’s such an important topic), and the author did a brilliant job of accurately describing what it’s like living with autism. Ginny Moon: A very important and truly unique story and character!


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ARC REVIEW: Goodbye Days – by Jeff Zentner @jeffzentner

Title: Goodbye Days
Author: Jeff Zentner

Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary
First published: March 7th 2017
Publisher: Penguin Random House UK Children’s / Andersen
Finished reading: March 14th 2017
Pages: 416

“For the most part, you don’t hold the people you love in your heart because they rescued you from drowning or pulled you from a burning house. Mostly you hold them in your heart because they save you, in a million quiet and perfect ways, from being alone.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Penguin Random House UK Children’s/ Andersen in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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Birthday review! 😀 Because reading Goodbye Days this week was basically an early birthday present in the first place.

I absolutely loved reading Jeff Zentner‘s other novel The Serpent King earlier this year and I added Goodbye Days to my list of most anticipated releases as soon as I finished it. You can imagine my reaction when my Netgalley request was actually approved… I didn’t want to set my expectations too high after such a fantastic debut, and I kept telling myself it would be hard for Goodbye Days to outshine it. But I guess I shouldn’t have worried, because I think I have just found my new favorite Zentner novel. Basically, this story took my feelings, put them on the middle of the road and ran them over repeatedly with a bulldozer. It doesn’t happen often that a book actually manages to make me cry, but Goodbye Days managed to break my heart more than once. Brilliant prose, excellent characters and those feels!! I literally flew through the pages of this story and the characters were easy to love. And this isn’t just another YA contemporary story either; it also touches a very important topic. Thank you Goodbye Days for raising awareness to the dangers of using your phone while driving; is more dangerous than drunk driving and causes so many unnecessary accidents… Hopefully an eyeopener as well as a brilliant read! Recommended to any contempory/realistic fiction fan who doesn’t mind sad stories.

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Carver Briggs never thought something so simple as a text message could end the lives of his three best friends Mars, Eli and Blake. He didn’t think about possible consequences when he sent the text as they were driving to meet him, and while Mars was trying to answer the three friends ended up in a fatal car crash. Carver cannot stop blaming himself for the accident and it seems like he isn’t the only one… The authorities are looking into the accident to try and determine if they can press charges against him. Blake’s grandmother doesn’t blame him, and asks Carver to help remember her grandson with a ‘goodbye day’ together. That leads to the idea to have memorial days for his other friends as well, but not everyone is willing to forgive… Can the goodbye days really help?

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Goodbye Days is without doubt one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. I don’t think I can find something negative about it, other than that it basically broke my heart and left me nursing a book hangover. The writing style is brilliant and will have you flying through the pages as you ride the emotional rollercoaster. The characters will win over your heart and the plot is both wonderful, sad and has an important lesson. If you like the genre, Goodbye Days is a must-read!


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ARC REVIEW: The Impossible Fortress – by Jason Rekulak

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Title: The Impossible Fortress
Author: Jason Rekulak

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Fiction
First published: February 7th 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Finished reading: February 3rd 2017
Pages: 304
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“So we stood up there for a long while, watching the sunset and discussing how it was one of those things you could never truly capture in 8-bit, not with the simplistic definition of violet (CHR$(156)), orange (CHR$(129)), and yellow (CHR$(158)). There were too many other colors, thousands of colors. The hardware could never do justice to it.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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The Impossible Fortress caught my attention the very first time I laid my eyes on it, and not just because of the colorful cover. I love feel-good stories and this debut by Jason Rekulak promised to be chock full of 80s nostalgia and flashbacks. I’m a 90s child myself, but I guess I was born close enough to the the year the story was set in (I was only minus one!) to be able to connect to the story instantly. It’s simply such a brilliant read! I completely fell in love with the writing style, plot and characters and it’s just such a great feel-good story… I loved the computer/nerd talk and it definitely brought back memories of my childhood where I taped radio songs, had to use floppy disks and didn’t have internet access to write quick messages. I loved all characters, although Billy and Mary have just a little extra magic about them… And the plot of The Impossible Fortress is almost endearing as the three boys mess up again and again during their ‘mission’ to get a copy of the Playboy. I had so much fun reading this coming of age story and I can recommend it to any contemporary fan! A huge bonus: you can actually play the game that is created by the main characters at jasonrekulak.com!

shortsummary1reviewqqqIt’s 1987 and the Playboy has just published photos of Vanna White, popular for her role in the TV game show Wheel Of Fortune. The three teenage friends Billy, Alf and Clark don’t know a thing about women and the Playboy is almost like a Holy Grail for them: they are desperate to get their hands on a copy of the Vanna White photos and decide to create a plan to steal a copy of that month’s Playboy. But stealing a copy isn’t all that easy and the boys fail and fail again… Then they think up a new masterplan: swipe the security code to Zelinsky’s convenience story by seducing the owner’s daughter Mary. It’s up to Billy to become close to the girl and get the information they need, but Billy might need Mary for other skills instead. She loves computers and is actually a way better coder than Billy is… Mary might be able to save the game Billy is creating, but he is soon faced with the tough choice to either deceive Mary or break a promis to his best friends.

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If you are looking for a well written coming of age story that will bury you under a crate full of nostalgic feelings and 80s flashbacks, you have found your next read. The Impossible Fortress is basically a time machine in book form and will make you feel as if you went thirty years back in time… I was hooked right from the first page and both the writing style and main characters were simply lovely. I had so much fun reading this story!


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BOOK REVIEW: Rubyfruit Jungle – by Rita Mae Brown

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Title: Rubyfruit Jungle
Author: Rita Mae Brown

Genre: Classics, Fiction, Glbt
First published: 1973
Publisher: Bantam
Finished reading: December 28th 2016
Pages: 240
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“Oh great, you too. So now I wear this label ‘Queer’ emblazoned across my chest. Or I could always carve a scarlet ‘L’ on my forehead. Why does everyone have to put you in a box and nail the lid on it? I don’t know what I am—polymorphous and perverse. Shit. I don’t even know if I’m white. I’m me. That’s all I am and all I want to be. Do I have to be something?”

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I confess I came across this book by accident, but I was immediately intrigued by both the cover and the blurb. The fact that Rubyfruit Jungle is a coming of age story written back in 1973 and talks about the glbt theme so openly is both impressive and inspiring. I can see why so many people seem to find Rita Mae Brown‘s book that powerful… Because as we follow the main character Molly Bolt, basically every cliche involving the glbt community is included and talked about.  It’s so interesting to read about how the situation was back then and compare them to our current one! The prose is both refreshing and entertaining to read, and I was able to finish this modern classic in no time at all. Molly Bolt isn’t exactly the most ‘perfect’ character out there, but it is so easy to like her with all her flaws. She says and does exactly how she thinks and I can really appreciate that. There is some swearing involved in Rubyfruit Jungle, but in this case it is basically part of the character building. All in all a very interesting read!

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Molly Bolt is the adoptive daughter of a dirt-poor Southern couple who stubbornly decided to find a way to improve her current life. She has been determined not to have other people stop her from reaching her goals and dreams, even if she wants things other people might find odd. That includes Molly finding women more attractive than men, and she refuses to apologize for loving them. But will she be able to succeed in life?

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If you enjoy reading a good glbt coming of age story where the main character doesn’t shy away from saying the painful truth and you don’t mind a bit of colorful prose, I can strongly suggest reading Rubyfruit Jungle. I personally loved the unorthodox prose and I had so much fun reading this story. Molly Bolt is such an intriguing and well developed character and it was really interesting to follow her difficult journey to adulthood. It’s a very original and powerful story and even more impressive if you think about the time when Rubyfruit Jungle was first published.

BOOK REVIEW: The Hired Girl – by Laura Amy Schlitz

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Title: The Hired Girl
Author: Laura Amy Schlitz
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Religion
First published: September 8th 2015
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Finished reading: July 23rd 2016
Pages: 400
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“But I think the most important thing those books gave me was a kind of faith. My books promised me that life wasn’t just made up of workaday tasks and prosaic things. The world is bigger and more colorful and more important than that.”

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The Hired Girl was my latest TBR jar choice and quite a fortunate pick, since I already planned to read it for the When Are You Reading? Challenge anyway because of its historical 1910s setting. I normally really enjoy reading historical fiction, but unfortunately I wasn’t impressed by this story by Laura Amy Schlitz. Most people seem to love The Hired Girl though, so I guess this will be yet another unpopular opinion review… First things first, I can’t deny the historical setting is well executed and I liked that the prose matched the era. The descriptions and prose in general show that the author has investigated the era thoroughly and used the terms appropriate for the 1910s. This was probably the strongest feature of The Hired Girl, because the rest didn’t manage to convince me. While the first part is interesting enough (even though the first chapters are a bit dull) and the descriptions are great, the story takes a strong religious turn later on. I don’t mind religion in a story as long as it doesn’t have a strong presence, but in The Hired Girl it was just too much for me to enjoy. The fact that I didn’t like the main character in general didn’t really help either. I know a lot of people seem to love Joan, but she was too naive and later on even whiny for me to grow closer to her despite her love for books. During most of the book this unlikeable character still wasn’t too much of a problem, mostly because of the interesting historical setting. Unfortunately the last part of this story was full of strongly religious dialogue and cheesy romance; ending up ruining the reading experience for me. I know I’m in the minority for not enjoying The Hired Girl though, so you might enjoy this historical fiction story a lot better than I did.

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After her father decided that his fourteen-year-old daughter Joan can attend school no longer because she is needed at home, Joan has no longer an escape from the hard work at Steeple Farm. Her mother died years ago and her father and brothers don’t exactly treat her well; the dreams of her mother (and Joan herself) for her to become a teacher seem to have evaporated. How will she ever escape the neverending and dull work at the farm? Miss Chandler used to be a teacher and gave her a diary, telling her she should write to practice. Joan pours her heart out into the diary and decided to seek a new and better life for herself despite better judgement. Maybe escaping the farm, traveling to the city and working as a hired girl cleaning and cooking for a family will finally help her improve her chances of a better future?

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The historical setting and well researched descriptions and prose are without doubt the best feature of The Hired Girl. I especially liked the Rosenbachs and what they added to the story; the descriptions of their household were really intriguing. I can’t say I liked the main character Joan though. I understand she is still really young, but instead of endearing I found Joan mostly annoying, naive and even whiny at points. And then I’m not even talking about the romantic blabbering and strongly religious dialogue in the last part… I really wanted to enjoy The Hired Girl, but this novel just wasn’t for me.

BOOK REVIEW: The Opposite Of Loneliness – by Marina Keegan

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Title: The Opposite Of Loneliness
Author: Marina Keegan
Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir, Short Stories
First published: April 8th 2014
Finished reading: June 11th 2016
Pages: 208
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“What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over.”

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Those who follow my blog know I like to read a non fiction book or memoir every now and then, so I was excited when The Opposite Of Loneliness came up as one of my TBR jar picks. The story behind this memoir is actually quite tragic: the author Marina Keegan sadly passed away in 2012 after a car accident, and this collection has been created afterwards in her honor. Reading about the actual details is truly heartbreaking, but it doesn’t mean that this memoir gets a free pass to a full 5 star rating. Because if I have to be honest, I expected something better/different out of this short story and essay collection. First of all, I didn’t realize that part of this book is actually a collection of short fictional stories. I don’t mind reading fiction, but it wasn’t what I expected and most stories were a bit too cheesy, romantic or awkward for me. Especially since knowing about the author’s tragic end makes you read some stories under a different light (for example: in Cold Pastoral I felt awkward reading about a main character where her boyfriend dies, while her own boyfriend had to go through a similar situation.) Another story I found slightly disturbing is Reading Aloud, where an older woman reads aloud to a blind young man while she is completely naked. I know it’s fiction and all, but I think I could have gone without that mental image. My favorite of the fiction stories would probably be The Emerald City, since it’s not the typical contemporary romance story. It’s about an officer in Afghanistan who tells about his daily life and concerns to a girl back home. Challenger Deep was also really good. The non fiction section of this memoir is a little too short if you ask me, but provides some very interesting essays and is a satisfying ending to this read. In fact, I would probably have given The Opposite Of Loneliness a higher rating if it would have been just the non fiction essays… This memoir is without doubt still worth reading though.

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The young Yale graduate Marina Keegan was without doubt talented and it shows in this collection of essays and stories. Her essay The Opposite Of Loneliness is probably one of the most famous ones and is without doubt inspiring.

“Nobody wakes up when they want to. Nobody did all of their reading (except maybe the crazy people who win the prizes…). We have these impossibly high standards and we’ll probably never live up to our perfect fantasies of our future selves. But I feel like that’s okay.”

Only five days after she graduate magna cum laude from Yale, Marina died in a car crash. The people close to hear joined together to create this collection of her best short stories and essays. They are a mix of fiction and non fiction and explore different genres and writing methods.

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Like I said above, I really wanted to like this memoir even better, but there were quite a few fiction short stories I can’t say I enjoyed. Some were a bit disturbing, others made me feel awkward or were too much like a typical cheesy romance story (one even with a love triangle!). There were some exceptions though: especially The Emerald City and Challenger Deep stood out from the rest. The non fiction essays were excellent as well, and most likely ended up improving the rating. I would definitely recommend reading The Opposite Of Loneliness, just make sure to remember it’s not actually just a memoir and also included fictional short stories. That may avoid a similar reaction to the one I had when I was reading the fiction section….

BOOK REVIEW: Love Letters Of The Dead – by Ava Dellaira

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Title: Love Letters To The Dead
Author: Ava Dellaira
Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary
First published: April 1st 2014
Finished reading: May 10th 2016
Pages: 336
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“There are a lot of human experiences that challenge the limits of our language,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons that we have poetry.”

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I’ve heard a lot of mixed things about this book ever since it first came out, so it’s easy to say I was a bit hesitant to read it myself. To be honest I wasn’t sure whether to read this book at all… But since I already had an e-copy and it came up as one of my TBR jar picks, I decided to just give it a go and see how things turn out. Love Letters To The Dead didn’t end up being a particularly bad read, but I wasn’t blown away by it either. While the whole ‘chapters in the form of letters’ idea seems rather original, it does look quite similar to The Perks of Being A Wallflower. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but as always with a comparison there is a winner and a loser and things aren’t looking good for this Love Letters To The Dead. What I did enjoy is that the main character Laurel writes her letters to famous deceased people that are related to whatever happens in the story: Kurt Cobain, E.E. Cummings, Janis Joplin, Amelia Earhart, Amy Winehouse… Those elements (especially the music and poetry references) were a nice touch to an otherwise quite repetitive story. Because that is what the rest of the plot basically is: a repetition of the same letter idea where Laurel is trying to figure out how to deal with the death of her sister. Laurel blames herself for her death, although she takes a long time revealing why that is. This was actually quite annoying, both because it made the story drag and the actual plot twist was not that great either. (Why did she never tell anyone before?!) In short, while I liked some things of the story, there were other elements that made me enjoy this story a lot less than I would have hoped.

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Laurel has been struggling to deal with the death of her sister May, and even decided to go to a different high school to avoid the stares full of pity. Laurel blames herself for May’s death, but isn’t ready to tell the truth about what happened yet as much as she doesn’t really know how to grieve for May either. An English assignment marks the beginning of a journey where she starts writing letters to famous dead people about both her feelings and what happens to her during her days. Slowly Laurel starts to accept the past and how life can go on without May… Starting high school, new friendships, learning to live with the new family situation, falling in love; life does go on even after such a terrible experience. But how do you really mourn for someone you haven’t forgiven yet? Can Laurel finally make peace with what happened?

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I was almost afraid to read Love Letters To The Dead after hearing so many mixed opinions. And while I didn’t think it was a particularly bad read, I wasn’t blown away by it either… Some elements like the music and poetry references were really interesting, but others (repetitive plot, ‘big secret’ plot twist) made me enjoy this story a lot less than I thought I would. Would I recommend this novel by Ava Dellaira? With all those mixed reviews out there, I guess I would leave that up to your own decision.