A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

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A Spark of Light will be released on October 2, 2018.

A Spark of Light is packed with fact-based research on both sides of the abortion debate. Readers will be absorbed into the impossible situations the characters on both side of the hotly debated issue are facing. This novel is thought-provoking and beautifully written. It really made me stop to consider both sides of the issue, even if I have always had my own personal opinion.

The book is written in a unique format, starting with the hostage standoff in terrifying full-swing and then each chapter thereafter going backward an hour in time, as readers see what each person in the abortion clinic at the time it was attacked was doing prior to coming to the clinic for various reasons. The Center is the only abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi, so many women drive for hours just to make their choice. Some (receptionists, nurses, doctor) were there working; some had come for mandated abortion counseling before their surgery.  Fifteen -year old, Wren, was taken there by her Aunt Bex to get on birth control without having to tell her single father, hostage negotiator Hugh McElroy. Olive, an older woman with stage 4 cervical cancer, was there for support, so that she wouldn’t have to receive the diagnosis alone before she went home to tell her beloved wife, Peg.

On his 40th birthday, Hugh McElroy, receives a call of an active shooter at The Center, the abortion clinic known for controversial and tense situations with protesters. He thinks its just another typical day on the job, until he checks his cell phone to find text messages from his panicked 15 year old daughter, Wren, who is inside the clinic with Hugh’s older sister, Bex. Hugh should take himself off the case, but he knows he won’t be able to trust the safety of the two people he loves the most to anyone else. So, he begins speaking to the gunman, George Goddard.

The point of view switches between Hugh, Bex, Wren, Olive, Joy (who has just had an abortion), Janine (a protestor who came to the clinic to spy), Izzy (a nurse who is pregnant and considering abortion), and the doctor who performs the abortions safely and responsibly, all the while comforting the young mothers in unthinkable situations, even though he considers himself pro-life. As the hours wind down, the characters are humanized with their many faults, but also highlighted by their bravery and love in the face of a terrifying situation.

Readers will encounter a few surprises by the end of the book which I didn’t see coming. I flew through this book and loved every page. Jodi Picoult never lets me down with her stories. They always have a hotly debated issue at their core, and she does a fabulous job of giving information for both sides and remaining unbiased. I very highly recommend this novel, as I do with all of Picoult’s novels. Can’t wait for her next one!

Thanks for reading! Be well.

Librarian Laura

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Little Big Love by Katy Regan

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Originally published in Library Journal, March 2018

A modern family drama unfolds in alternating points of view of authentic voices between a 10 year old named Zac who likes to collect facts and cook, his single mother, Juliet, and her father, Mick.  Juliet and Zac live on Harlequin Estate in Grimsby, a seaside town in England which was a major fishing port. Zac’s father, Liam, left under mysterious circumstances after the tragic death of Juliet’s brother, Jamie, ten years ago. Only Mick, a recovering alcoholic and retired fisherman, knows the truth, but he hides behind grief, guilt, and his opinionated wife. Juliet drowns her sorrow with alcohol and food, and she and Zac have become overweight, causing Zac to be bullied. When the bullying at school escalates, Juliet is determined to get Zac healthy and happy. Convinced it will please his mom, Zac’s mission, a secret with best friend Teagan, is to find Liam. Soon, finding Liam becomes Zac’s top priority, but when the truth is revealed, there’s no going back, no matter the pain it brings. VERDICT: Fans of Jane Green and Susan Wiggs will enjoy Regan’s debut novel with strong family bond that explores the age-old question of what if and the aftermath of one poor decision.

 

Always, Forever, Maybe by Anna Mrose Ricci

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Originally published in School Library Journal, March 2018.

Gr. 9 & Up: High school senior, Bee, has been living in the shadow of her best friends, popular twins Jo and Eric, counting the days until she can move away from her demanding parents. When Bee begins dating Aiden, her relationship with Jo becomes strained, which further increases as she starts keeping secrets involving Aiden from Jo. The tone starts off lightheartedly, but quickly turns serious as Aiden’s true character is revealed. Bee is convinced that Aiden is the one, and she remains in the relationship as he becomes jealous, irrational, and violent. Her parents forbid the relationship, causing her to want Aiden even more. Readers will sense Bee’s fear, and the pressure of trying to please everyone but herself. When sudden tragedy strikes, Bee finally realizes she must leave Aiden before it’s too late. Rissi’s first YA novel gives an accurate, but heartbreaking picture of teenage relationships. Recommended for additional purchase, the story has mature language and sexual scenes, as well as real-life situations which teen readers will appreciate. VERDICT: Fans of Colleen Hoover will enjoy this modern day realistic fiction story, full of diverse characters and the important message that abusive relationships are never acceptable.

 

 

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

51yzVoK9UiLI probably wouldn’t have picked up this book to read, but I was assigned to read it for a state high school book award committee on which I serve. I’m SO glad that I read it. It’s an awesome book about finding yourself in spite of pressure from your family, your peers, and the closed-minded views of the world around you. It’s a lighthearted, quick read with plenty of hilarious banter and adorable first love moments.

When Dimple meets Rishi, it’s certainly nothing like either of them would have planned! Told in alternating points of view between Dimple and Rishi, both in their final summer before starting college, the story is engaging and refreshingly unexpected.

Dimple Shah is determined to be successful, choosing a college and career path where she can get the best education, rather than her very traditional mother’s plan for her to find the I.I.H. (Ideal Indian Husband).  Dimple is pleasantly surprised when her parents agree to send her to a summer program for web developers called Insomnia Con at SFSU where she plans to attend college in the Fall. She plans to code an app and win first place in order to have the chance to work with her idol, developer and past Insomnia Con winner, Jenny Lindt. She has no clue that her parents are planning for her to go so she can meet and then marry the son of their friends, Rishi Patel.

Rishi Patel, a romantic at heart, believes in tradition and is thrilled when his parents tell him of their plan to send him to Insomnia Con in order to meet his future wife, Dimple. He is under the impression that Dimple has been included in the plans. Though his very successful, wealthy father plans for him to study engineering and follow in his footsteps, Rishi’s dream is to pursue a career in creative arts with comics, in which he has substantial talent and interest. Sadly, knowing that his father will never approve, he has agreed to follow the path chosen for him.

You can probably imagine what their first meet-up will be like, but its likely much more comical than your imagination suggests. I found myself laughing out loud while reading many times. Again, I loved this book and would recommend it for both teens and adults. The characters are unique and easy to love. They say opposites attract…but whoever “they” are haven’t met Dimple and Rishi! Read it; you won’t be sorry.

My Name is Venus Black by Heather Lloyd

9780399592188_1bf94Originally published in Library Journal, February 2018.

Readers meet Venus Black, age 13, in 1980 Washington state, as she is locked up in juvenile detention after a horrific event involving her stepfather Raymond. Her father died when she was 5, and soon after Inez, her self-absorbed mother, married Ray. The only positive aspect of their union is her developmentally disabled step-brother Leo, whom Venus loves fiercely. Later details emerge that Venus shot Ray who had been peeping into her bedroom for years. Inez refused to help, forcing Venus to ensure Leo’s and her own safety from Ray the only way she could. Leo is then kidnapped by Ray’s estranged brother, Tinker, who feels he is doing Leo a favor, rescuing him from Inez and Venus. Tinker rents a room from tattoo artist, Tony, and his 11 year-old daughter Tessa. Tessa cares for and loves Leo like a brother. At age 19, Venus is released, rents a room from Mike, and begrudgingly agrees to babysit his precocious 9 year-old niece, Piper. Venus eventually adores Piper like a sister, but when Piper moves away, Venus decides to find Leo, no matter the cost to herself or Inez. In the aftermath of finding Leo, Venus and Inez find forgiveness and hope for a loving future where Leo is loved by two families. While searching for Leo, Venus meets Danny, a determined cop who loves her despite her troubled past. At the end, Venus decides to start college and write her memoir as a way to heal and move forward. VERDICT: Fans of realistic fiction will enjoy Lloyd’s fast-paced, debut novel for the unique characters, captivating story-line, and beautiful tribute to the healing power of love.

Sweet Sixteen by Brenda Rothert

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It is my pleasure to be a tour stop for the blog tour of Sweet Sixteen by Brenda Rothert.

Sweet Sixteen by Brenda Rothert is a young adult contemporary romance novel with very mature themes and language. I would not recommend it for readers under the age of 18. I would place it in the New Adult Romance genre, even though the main characters are high school seniors.

Gin (unfortunately named Ginger for her fiery red locks) prefers to lessen the constant taunting from classmates, so she dyes her hair black and keeps to herself. For this, she gets called a lesbian and has only two real friends that she can count on to help her get through her senior year. Her only goal is to graduate and get as far away from Roper, Missouri as humanly possible, hopefully to New York to study art. In her free time, she swims, designs sets for the drama club, and volunteers to teach swimming lessons to kids. Though she has always harbored a crush for star football quarterback and town golden boy, Chase Matthews, Gin doesn’t act on it,  knowing she doesn’t even have a chance because he is way out of her league. And even if he would pay any attention to her, it would not be the kind of attention she needed to help her graduate and leave Roper as soon as possible. Gin knows all about Chase and the horrifying, disgusting “elite Sweet Sixteen” parties held by the football team after each game. In Roper, football is and always has been everything to the town, and Gin doesn’t want any part of it. When Gin sees an underclassman about to get beat up by bad girl, Ronnie, she steps in to defend her and gets beat up in her place. It’s just her luck that the girl she defended is one of Chase’s little sisters, bringing Chase closer to Gin than he’s ever been before. How can someone who looks at her so kindly and speaks to her as an equal be the same monster who lures young girls to parties to be victimized by the football team?

Chase Matthews could have any girl he wants. He has a choice of several full-ride scholarships to play football after graduation. But he is anything but happy, walking on eggshells at home around his abusive father. When he is thrown into close quarters with Gin Fielding after she bravely stands up for his little sister, Chase realizes that she isn’t the girl he thought she was. Thinking he is doing her a favor, he convinces the team to give her the next rose, allowing her to join the Sweet Sixteen. Little does he know, this is the worst decision he would possibly make, one that will ultimately lead to misery for both of them. How can Chase stop his bad behavior and prove to Gin that is he is sorry before its too late?

Sweet Sixteen is a quick read full of real characters and sweet moments. I would recommend it for fans of YA and NA contemporary romance. Again, it is very mature in nature and is recommended for readers age 18 and over.

 

BLURB:
They say roses are the most beautiful…

Gin Fielding is counting the days until she escapes the small-town life of Roper, Missouri for college at NYU. She prefers to blend in, though she’s far from invisible. But when she protects a younger student from a bully, the spotlight turns on her in ways she never imagined.

I say that every rose has its thorn…

The Friday night lights shine bright on Chase Matthews. Roper’s golden boy, Chase can do no wrong, enjoying the small-town celebrity being the star quarterback brings. When Gin defends his little sister against a bully, he decides to lend her his star power and change her senior year in ways she never imagined.

But maybe the thorns are part of their beauty.

When Gin declines Chase’s invitation to be part of the elite Sweet Sixteen, the repercussions turn both their lives upside down. But amidst the chaos, Gin and Chase find solace in one another. Together, they confront the ugly truth– that sometimes glory has a dark side.

***Warning–Sweet Sixteen is an upper YA book with mature themes and is intended for readers 18+.

 

About Brenda
Brenda Rothert is an Illinois native who was a print journalist for nine years. She made the jump from fact to fiction in 2013 and never looked back. From new adult to steamy contemporary romance, Brenda creates fresh characters in every story she tells. She’s a lover of Diet Coke, chocolate, lazy weekends and happily ever afters.

These days Brenda writes New Adult Romance in the Contemporary and Dystopian genres. She loves to hear from readers by email at bjrothert@sbcglobal.net. Her website is http://brendarothert.com/.

Thank you to InkSlinger PR for providing me with a review copy of this book.

Wrong in All the Right Ways by Tiffany Brownlee

Title: Wrong in All the Right Ways
Author: Tiffany Brownlee
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Henry Holt BYR/Macmillan
Pub. Date: July 17, 2018
Summary/Blurb:
An attraction between foster siblings sets fire to forbidden love in this contemporary reimagining of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. Emma’s life has always gone according to her very careful plans. But things take a turn toward the unexpected when she falls in love for the first time with the one person in the world who’s off-limits: her new foster brother, the gorgeous and tormented Dylan McAndrews. Meanwhile, Emma’s AP English class is reading Wuthering Heights, and she’s been assigned to echo Emily Bronte’s style in an epistolary format. With irrepressible feelings and no one to confide in, she’s got a lot to write about. Distraught by the escalating intensity of their mutual attraction, Emma and Dylan try to constrain their romance to the page―for fear of threatening Dylan’s chances at being adopted into a loving home. But the strength of first love is all-consuming, and they soon get enveloped in a passionate, secretive relationship with a very uncertain outcome.
Wrong in All the Right Ways marks the exciting debut of a fresh voice in contemporary teen fiction.
Pages: 341
About the Author
Tiffany Brownlee was born in San Diego, California, but currently lives in New Orleans, Louisiana, where she works as a 7th Grade English Teacher. Her debut novel, Wrong in All the Right Ways—a YA remix of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights—is set for publication in Summer 2018.

 

 

Librarian Laura’s Review 

Brownlee’s debut novel, a modern-day re-imagining of Bronte’s classic, Wuthering Heights, will have readers swooning over the forbidden romance and the tension between main characters Emma and Dylan.

Skipping two grades in high school, exceptionally smart 16 year old Emma is in her senior year at the top of her class. Emma is pretty much a loner, focusing all of her time and energy on studying, with the hope of getting away from Cedar Pointe to pursue a career in the publishing industry. An added bonus for going away to college in less than a year is that she’ll be out from under the roof of her overbearing, controlling father, a former baseball star who makes everything Emma does into a fiercely competitive endeavor.

Thrown for a loop by her parents, Emma is told that she is getting a foster sibling. Her little brother, Matthew, age 8, is excited, hoping to have a playmate. Emma, on the other hand, is concerned about losing more attention from her parents the last year she will be under their roof. Thinking she’ll get another kid brother or sister like Matthew, Emma is surprised to get Dylan, a very handsome, mysterious boy her age as the new foster sibling. Dylan is an artist and very talented, but his painful past has taken its toll on him, as he tries to keep things hidden and puts on a happy face around Emma’s parents and people at school.

In the midst of receiving a new foster sibling into her family, things start looking up a bit for Emma when Karmin, the hot, popular girl encourages her to join the dance team and befriends her.

Emma and Dylan first try to deny their immediate attraction to one another, but it soon becomes impossible. Knowing they are breaking a cardinal rule of foster care, even though they are in no way blood-related, they have to keep their attraction a secret, causing them to long for the small bits of alone time they get with one another.

As with all forbidden romance, there are some bumps in the road, the first being star baseball player, Keegan, Karmin’s twin brother, who is attracted to Emma. Keegan is undeniably cute, kind, and everything Emma’s parents want her to have in a boyfriend. Plus, the baseball thing is a major hit with her father. However, Emma only wants what she really can’t have – Dylan.

As Emma and Dylan fall harder for each other, the stress and worry of trying to hide and uncertainty of the future with Emma going away to college proves to be too much. When tragedy strikes, Emma is forced to reveal her secrets to try to heal the sudden loss of so many firsts – her first kiss, first relationship, and first love. The ending is hopeful, with just enough uncertainty to keep readers guessing what will be in store next for Emma and Dylan. You’ll have to read it to find out for yourselves. I’m not in the business of spoiling endings!

Wrong in All the Right Ways is well-written with many connections to the well-known love triangle of Catherine, Heathcliff, and Edgar of Wuthering Heights. I can’t wait to read Tiffany’s next novel because I loved this one! I would recommend it for teens and also adults who enjoy quality YA literature.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book.