Friday, September 30, 2011

Book Review: CHOICES by Kate Buckley

Family secrets, binge drinking, and teen pregnancy clash then erupt in Choices, a compelling coming-of-age journey for fifteen-year-old Kara MacNeil. A sophomore at an all-girls Catholic academy in Colorado, Kara finds herself crossing the line into womanhood far sooner than expected. Panic, fear, and confusion enclose her as she grapples, seemingly alone, with life-altering decisions. Facing a major confrontation with her conservative Catholic parents, Kara discovers her own inner strength and opens to allies that help her heal and move forward with confidence. Choices is the powerful story of a teenage girl who learns to think for herself, takes responsibility for her choices, and uncovers her solid sense of self, emerging from pain different yet strong and secure.

Description: The words in Choices were well chosen.  I didn't feel overwhelmed with details or lost in the scene.  Everything was set right to my preference, clean and simple. Some settings were a little vague, but I found it left more room for the story. I'd have to say for the story, it fit just right. (Score: 7.5/10)

Narrative:  Kate Buckley chose first person point of view (POV) to tell the story of Kara MacNeill.  This style tends to require quite a bit of narrative to move the story along. Inner thought and views are limited only to the main character. Despite a few minor issues, first POV works really well.  The story itself is fast paced and very intense. I think it's a good break for the reader that the narrative is simple, concise and easy to read. Also, I think the way Choices is written widens the reader level, meaning younger, as well as older teens/adults can appreciate this book. (Score: 7.5/10)

Dialogue:  I found the dialogue to be a little distracting.  The main character Kara is fifteen and a sophomore, yet her language is a little young for today's teens, at least in my opinion. Some of the exchanges seem a little forced.  And yet, I found I could overlook it because it was consistent with the voice of Kara.  As a sheltered, protected Catholic schoolgirl, it kind of makes sense that the story feels innocent.  (Score: 7/10)

Characterization:  There's a moderate number of characters in Choices and some of them are a little less defined than others.  Also, it's interesting to note that one character, rather significant to the resolution was introduced very late in the book.  In real life, this actually happens, so though it goes against the "rules" of novels, I think it added to the realism of the story.  As far as the main character, Kara, she was sympathetic to me as a reader. But as a writer, I wanted more.  She did show excellent character growth, but something was missing.  I'm not quite sure what that something is. (Score: 7/10)

Resolution:  Kate Buckley stuck to an authentic, realistic ending that I adore.  The growth of Kara was slow, well defined and then BAM, it all came together.  The character changed, but the reader wasn't told what to think or how to feel.  I found some predictability, but it was a comfort in the heavy content of the novel.  Overall, I liked the resolution and how it left me feeling after I put the book down.  (Score: 8.5/10)

I was nervous about reviewing this book, for a number of reasons.  Mostly, I feared the fact that Choices was self-published. It's not that I'm prejudiced against it; I've just read some substandard books that could have been so much better if only edited more.  BUT, when I did my research on Book Publishers Network and saw they offered editing services, I felt more confident.  And I'm glad I reviewed this book.  Kate Buckley tackles some very serious issues in Choices and does it well.  I know that even as a married woman with two kids, I STILL blame myself for situations when I shouldn't. As a matter of fact, LOTS of people blame me for being "too sexy" or "asking" men to hit on me.  But, that's our culture, I guess.  And I'm thankful for this book, because it puts the truth out there-why girls and women feel pressured in so many ways.  I'd recommend this book to anyone who has ever felt less than precious because she or he had to say no.  Be prepared to feel, because Choices is heavy with emotions.  I give this novel 3 out of 5 stars. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

I Love It....

It's one of those songs.

It meets all the requirements I have to include it on my playlist.

This song is familiar: I know it. I've lived it.

Instantly, I cranked it, because I had to. I loved it from the first word.

And then I was inspired.  I can survive it, because I can sing the lyrics when I need to.

So what song is it?  Mr. Know It All by Kelly Clarkson.  And you can play it below.

Monday, September 19, 2011


Photo property of Lerner Publishing Group

When you’re sixteen and no one understands who you are, sometimes the only choice left is to run. If you’re lucky, you find a place that accepts you, no questions asked. And if you’re really lucky, that place has a drum set, a place to practice, and a place to sleep. For Kid, the streets of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, are that place. Over the course of two scorching summers, Kid falls hopelessly in love and then loses nearly everything and everyone worth caring about. But as summer draws to a close, Kid finally finds someone who can last beyond the sunset.

Description:  I am not from Brooklyn, but I've been there once.  That said, Steve Brezonff did an amazing job of putting me right in the heart of the borough without boring me.  I loved his use of description all throughout Brooklyn Burning.  It feels weird to say, but his description was conversational. What I mean: is I felt spoken to, part of the story, drawn in.  Often description makes me stop and think to figure out what I'm supposed to know.  But not in this book.  I felt in the story right from the start. (Score 8.5/10) 

Narrative:  Brooklyn Burning was written from first person Point of View (POV).  There's quite a large amount of narrative, which works really well for this story.  Yet, my very favorite and most amazing aspect of the story is when the main character, Kid, has inner thoughts in SECOND person POV.  At first, it's startling, but not in a bad way-it's attention grabbing.  And it held me.  But not only that, I felt hugged by it-meaning it gave the book a VERY intimate feeling.  In ALL I've learned about writing, second person is difficult to use and generally frowned upon.  BUT, Steve Brezenoff makes it work beautifully. If you are considering writing using second person POV, I recommend you take at look at this book for direction.  (Score: 9/10)

Dialogue:  When I think about conversation in Brooklyn Burning I realize I barely noticed it.  The characters speaking to each other flowed in a natural and easy way.  Steve Brezenoff's writing style is very conversational so the dialogue matched it well.  I didn't feel as if I were an outsider looking in-I felt involved. I really think the use of second person POV added to that feeling. It also added to the mystery/tension of the story. Sorry, no spoilers here.  You'll have to read it to see what I mean.  (Score: 9/10) 

Characterization:  Brooklin Burning contains a cast of diverse characters.  The main character, Kid, felt very real, down to earth and not at all stereotyped. Actually, I felt very free, as the reader, to apply my own interpretation of the characters and THAT is hard to find in literature. Kid clearly had issues but the story wasn't overtly "dark" or"sexual" and I loved the themes it enveloped.  There was one point where I found myself confused, but that was close to the beginning.  There are two characters: Jonny and Konny.  The similarities in their names led me to believe, at first, this was a typo (it happens sometimes in Advanced Reader Copies/ARCs), but over time, I saw realized they were different people.  It worked, but I really wished for a little more variety in name choices.  Personalities, however, were a very different story.  Each character was unique, multi-dimensional and real feeling. By the end, I felt I knew everyone and cared enough to be sad the book was ending. (Score: 8/10)

Resolution:  I really liked the way Steve Brezenoff told Kid's story of Brooklyn Burning.  The back story unfolded alongside the current events which led to a build up of tension and release as the resolution.  And to be honest, I most definitely prefer reading this type of novel.  It feels more real to life and less contrived.  I also believe this time of resolution is the hardest to achieve because the writer only has reality on his side...and we ALL know, reality never really ends or resolves.  S0-YES!  I loved the resolution. (Score: 9/10)

One of the last things I'd ever want to do is spoil this book for the readers.  I despise telling people what to think or how to feel.  So, I'm going to make this section short and vague.  Brooklyn Burning is a coming of age story about a teen on the streets of NYC.  To be honest, I really didn't know what to expect when I started reading the ARC I received via  But once I got started, I was pleasantly surprised.  I read the book in one day.  Brooklyn Burning, for me, was a little about self-discovery, love, friendship, trust, and finally self-acceptance.  It has a component of romance, but I wouldn't call it a love story. It's so much more.  And to categorize it as anything other than a very readable Young Adult Novel would go against, what I believe, the author would want.  I'd rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Photo property of Milkweed Editions

Publisher:Milkweed Editions

Pub Date:09/13/2011

Author:Jessica Lee Anderson
Category:FICTION - ADULT: Literary

Calli has almost everything she could want in life—two loving moms, a good-looking boyfriend, and a best friend who has always been there for support. An only child, Calli is excited when her parents announce that they want to foster a girl her own age. But Cherish is not at all what Calli expected. Cherish lies, steals, kisses Calli’s boyfriend, and seems to get away with just about everything. Tired of being pushed around and determined to get even, Calli decides to take matters into her own hands. But her plan for revenge goes horribly awry. Calli ends up on the wrong side of her moms, her boyfriend, and even her best friend, while she wrestles with her guilt. She is desperate for a chance to make amends, but what if Calli doesn’t get another chance to say she’s sorry?

Description:  There's not a ton of description in Calli, so there's not a lot to say.  Scenes are set well.  I know what I needed to know to get by.  And details didn't overwhelm or bore me.  For me, as a reader, if I don't notice description, then it's done well. (Score: 6/10)

Narrative: Jessica Lee Anderson wrote Calli's story in first person, so the tale is told right from inside her head.  There's a lot of narrative.  Sometimes too much, I think.  I really liked knowing the facts revealed in this fashion, but I thought it lacked a little in the creativity department.  Some areas were a little dry and drawn out.  Overall, though, I enjoyed the concept of the novel. (Score: 5/10)

Dialogue:  Again, here, I was a little disappointed.  Most of the time, the dialogue was rather predictable. It lacked the flair that I think makes Young Adult Authors really stand out.  It wasn't bad or annoying, so that's good.    All in all, the dialogue in Calli just sort of was-if you know what I mean. (Score: 5/10)

Characterization:  (Now I'm starting to feel bad about writing this review, but hang in there, there are some redeeming qualities I'll describe later.)  My blunt and honest truth is that the characters were not multi-dimensional the way I like them.  They didn't pop off the page and pull me into the book.  Yes, each character was unique and definitely an individual within the story, but there was nothing that rose them above the general population.  (Score: 4/10)

Resolution:  Well, here I can honestly say this is a resolution that surprised me.  And that's hard to do.  There wasn't a far fetched twist or a predictable ending.  The book wrapped up and ended.  I liked that.  There were no cliff hangers or spoilers.  (Score: 6/10)

Calli overall was a book I liked, but didn't love.  I'm disappointed because I really, really wanted to love it.  The concept was sort of interesting to me: two moms and a teen with a foster sister.  What a great idea!  But, overall, I felt the novel really lacked the magic it needed to make me fall in love with it.  On the plus side, I didn't hate it.  I think maybe it could be enjoyed by many. I'd especially recommend it to the younger side of YA or readers who aren't as character driven as I am.  The story itself is clean cut with none of the "darkness" critics keep talking about.  It simple and easy to follow with some real thought provoking pieces to it.  Overall, I'd rate this book:  2.5 out of 5 stars.