Review: Roam by C.H. Armstrong

Most of us have never experienced being homeless. And if we’re very lucky, we never will. Not so for seventeen-year-old Abby.

Being in high school is hard. It’s even harder when you’re keeping a secret that could ruin your social standing. In Abby’s case, that secret is that she and her family are homeless. It wasn’t always this way. Once upon a time, not so long ago, they had everything. A nice house, good jobs, friends, all that a teenage girl could want.

But one mistake led to another, and one stroke of bad luck piled on top of another. And just like that, Abby finds herself living in the family’s van. Eating at soup kitchens, cleaning up in public bathrooms, trying to stay warm while sleeping in parking lots…it’s a lot for anyone to handle. Abby’s determined, however, to overcome this gigantic obstacle. With the help of some new friends, will she be able to do it?

I loved this story from beginning to end. It’s a reminder of how quickly things can change, of how everything can be gone in the blink of an eye. And it’s also a reminder that we never truly know what someone is going through.


Buy It Now: Roam

Review: The House at 758 by Kathryn Berla


A late-nighter for me.  That’s what this one was.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I finished it in less than a day.  It was that good.

Krista’s life isn’t going so well.  Still grieving the unexpected death of her mother, she’s also trying to cope with her dad’s new live-in girlfriend.  Her best friend is gone for the summer leaving Krista with nobody to confide in.  Rather than facing her problems head on, she escapes.  To a tent she’s pitched on her roof, to her car, anywhere but where her issues lie.

Her dad has tried to convince her to resume therapy but she’s not interested.  She’d rather, quite obsessively, watch the house at 758.  Why does this particular house hold her interest?   And what is she hoping to accomplish?

When she meets Jake, she begins to have a purpose.  Still, she has so many things she’s dealing with that having any kind of a romance proves difficult.  Then her grandpa comes for a visit.  He’s also mourning the loss of her mother, his daughter.  Can he help Krista find her way back to those she cares about?

Lots of things going on with this story, but they blend together seamlessly.  I loved reading Krista’s thoughts, especially in her self-imposed isolation on the roof.  She’s grieving but also avoiding grieving at the same time.  And the house at 758?  There’s a reason she can’t stay away.  It won’t take you long to connect the dots, but the full story doesn’t come until closer to the end.

Note:  Although this is the debut novel from this author, the Spanish version was released several years ago.  This new release is the English version.


Buy It Now:  The House at 758

Review: All the Ways the World Can End by Abby Sher


Funny.  Sad.  Relatable.  Unbelievable.  This book covers all this and more.  And then it goes back and repeats.

Lenny has a lot going on in her life.  A LOT.  Her dad is dying from cancer, mom is a busy attorney who uses her job to escape that harsh reality, and sister Emma is away at college. That leaves Lenny to deal with the day to day stuff.  Still, she’s in denial about how sick her dad actually is.  She copes by keeping a list of all the different ways there are for the world to end.  Oh and her crush on one of her dad’s doctors.

I went back and forth on how much I enjoyed this book, alternating between liking it very much and just liking it.  It’s good, heartbreakingly so at times.  But there are some underlying issues I didn’t feel good about.  Lenny’s behavior at times borders on mentally unstable.  Understandable with all she’s dealing with but still.  And her obsession with the doctor is over the top. Nevertheless it’s a good read, a realistic picture of life and dealing with death.


Buy It Now:  All the Ways the World Can End

Review: The Weight of Zero by Karen Fortunati


There’s something very refreshing about an author who prefaces their book with an explanation of exactly WHY their story is different from the others of the same genre.  That’s a rare find in today’s world.

Catherine knows that it’s coming.  As sure as the passage of time, she’s certain that eventually her debilitating depression/bipolar disorder will rear its ugly head again. And because she knows it’s unavoidable, she has an escape plan.  No way is she going to be caught unaware like the last time things went south.  So she finds comfort in a shoebox. It’s here that she’s stockpiling an arsenal of medication sure to take her away from the pain for good.  She doesn’t see what she’s planning as a selfish act.  In fact, it’s her sacrifice to everyone she loves.  Only when she’s out of their lives can they truly begin to live again.

But something happens as she’s just passively walking through life.  She starts to care again.  First in the form of Michael, her first boyfriend.  And then along comes Kristal, someone who’s dealing with just as much as she is.  Still, she’s bound and determined to follow through with her plan when, not if because she knows it’s inevitable, the darkness once again comes for her.

This book was so very good for too many reasons to list.  The characters are real, raw, and flawed.  Everyone has something they’re dealing with, even if it’s not apparent at first glance.  And Catherine’s journey is difficult.  It’s not all nice and neat and wrapped up in a pretty package by the last chapter.  Real life is very much like that, and to pretend otherwise is not fair.


Buy It Now:  The Weight of Zero


Review: Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz


Sometimes it’s hard, as we watch the evening news, to imagine the people behind the headlines.  We live in an era of such media overload that we often forget to stop and think.  So when a story comes along that personifies such a hotbed topic of debate such as illegal immigrants, it’s a must-read for me.

Jasmine was just a young girl when her family came to America.  She’s worked hard all her life to be the very best at everything she does.  Cheerleading, academics, she’s put her heart and soul into it all.  And when she receives a national scholar award, that’s just icing on the cake.  All her hard work is paying off.  Until she finds out that her family is in the U.S. illegally.  All these years she thought they had work visas, but it turns out they expired long ago.  Now, not only is she in danger of not being able to go to college, there’s a very real chance that her family could be deported.  Sure she feels like an American, but other people see it differently.

What’s the right answer on this controversial topic?  It’s different for each person, and my answer may not be yours. But regardless, it’s hard to not feel for Jasmine and her family.  This is an important book coming at a very important time!


Buy It Now:  Something in Between


Review: Detached by Christina Kilbourne


There’s  a game my fellow Muses & I like to play from time to time.  We call it “Guess the Muse” and it involves guessing which one of our brilliant reviewers has written a certain review.  Yes, we are that predictable at times.  And I’ve been known to gravitate towards books involving young people facing issues of all kinds.  So for this review,  I’m staying true to form.

Anna is in a very dark place.  She enjoys nothing, feels nothing, even tastes nothing.  Everything in her life is just there.  So she dreams of an escape route, even going so far as to make a list of possible ways to commit suicide.  And she makes a few attempts, although none of them come close to being successful.  Until the very last one.

Depression and suicide in teens are always difficult topics to read about. But they’re   important ones because they’re  very real. This book does a good job of telling the story of one such teen in a way that’s entirely believable. Another aspect of the book that I enjoyed was hearing Anna’s story told from three different perspectives: Anna herself, her mother, and her best friend. It’s a reminder that these are issues that don’t just affect one person but instead everyone around that person.


Buy It Now:  Detached

Review: Burn Girl by Mandy Mikulencak

25335399._UY470_SS470_So this is another one of those books, even though I read it as an advance copy, that had mixed reviews. Some readers really liked it while others were strongly in the opposite camp. Most people fell sort of in the middle. As I’ve stated before, I rarely pay attention to reviews unless they come from a trusted fellow book-lover. Most of the time it pays off, as in this case.

Arlie has seen and experienced too many things in her young life. As the child of a drug addict, she’s been forced to step into the parenting role. Arlie and her mom have been on the run for years, hiding from a stepdad/abuser/meth dealer. As if that wasn’t enough, she has to deal with standing out in a very obvious way. She carries a daily reminder of her traumatic early years in the form of a very large scar on her face. As if being a teenager isn’t already hard enough…

When Arlie’s mom overdoses, her chance at a somewhat normal life appears in the form of an uncle she’s never met. She’s been lucky enough to have a best friend who loves her no matter what. And then, of course, she meets a boy. The question then becomes, can she get over her past and have a chance at a normal life? There’s romance and friendship with a good dose of suspense thrown in as Arlie struggles to accept her new life.

Burn Girl is a young adult story about a teenager trying to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Sound familiar? But of course. So is the plot of most young adult books these days. Here’s where the author’s true gift for writing must come into play. Can she/he weave a story compelling enough to stand out from the others? Are the characters sufficiently developed to make the reader care? And, bottom line, is it a good story that makes ME want to keep reading? With this book, it’s a “yes” to all of the above.


Buy It Now: Burn Girl