Friday, February 26, 2016

Hope by Grier Cooper

This week I was privileged to read an advanced copy of the YA novel Hope by Grier Cooper. It's the second in her Indigo Ballet Series.

High-school student Indigo has landed her dream of studying at the New York School of Ballet, but she's homesick and feeling defeated. She's starting to realize that the dream may not be exactly as she pictured it in her head.

Having a background in ballet myself, I was excited when I was asked to review Hope. Grier Cooper, who studied at the School of American Ballet and performed all over the globe, writes in an easygoing and conversational way that brings the reader into Indigo's unique world.

This book is heavy with ballet terms which may be hard for non-dancers to follow at times. However, there is a glossary in the back to help anyone along. The story isn't really dependent on the ballet action, so I wouldn't discourage a reader who isn't familiar with the craft. Indigo's experiences go beyond just dancing. There's a colorful cast of side characters who are well-developed and easily distinguished from one another. They're typical teenagers who hang out together in coffee shops and have typical teenager angst, but who just happen to be preparing for careers in performing arts. For me it was a nostalgic journey back to the days of grueling rehearsals, stern teachers, and jealous (or just misunderstood) classmates. Cooper's picture of the ballet life is spot on.

Hope is a sequel, but I had no problem picking up the story. It's really a stand-alone novel with a little background peppered in when needed. I really enjoyed Hope and I highly recommend it.

The book will be released in April, but you can reserve your copy from Amazon by clicking here or the link below.

P.S. I learned a new insult that I plan to use in the right situation. "You can't chicken out now just because The Shrew decided to be a royal pube today," was my favorite line of the whole book.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Here with Me Now by Rebecca Markus

Is it unconventional to post a review of your own book on your own book blog? Well, I guess it's my blog so I can do whatever I want. Muuhahaha!

But I've very proud of my latest review, so I wanted to share. Note: This is not a review I wrote. That would be silly.

Reviewed by Lisa McCombs for Readers' Favorite

href=""Mallory was the typical teenager, wrapped up in self-doubt and a negative body image. Her daydreams led her into fantasies involving mysterious heroes who came to her rescue and improbable outcomes that fed her imagination in leaps and bounds, as she lay sprawled under the magnificent statue in her neighbor’s backyard. The neighbors didn’t mind that she used their backyard for her routine daydreaming. Until Kain arrived and no one could predict the illicit relationship that would grow between the twenty-something man who stole the young girl’s heart. She wasn’t concerned with the illegal ramifications of their romance, but Kain was determined to keep the truth behind locked doors.

Rebecca Markus weaves an alluring tale of unrequited love in her young adult, coming of age romance, Here with Me Now. I found the honesty of Mallory and Kain’s relationship brutal, yet extremely realistic. While Mallory endures the complexities of conflicting teen angst and mature emotions, Kain is caught in a mirrored situation. Markus has captured the very real condition of raw emotion in a remarkably well-written manner with which young girls will relate. I believe that the author’s command of the written word reflects her understanding of teenage love. A beautifully written coming of age story!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Always: A Love Story by Trevor Meldal-Johnsen

Because it's Valentine's Day...

Always: A Love Story was written by Trevor Meldal-Johnsen and originally published in 1979. It was well-received at the time and published in four countries in multiple languages. Always was recently republished by the author's widow Corinne Simon-Duneau who graciously gifted it to me for review. This new paperback version has been edited from the original and includes a foreword by Simon-Duneau and an extended biography of the author.

In Always: A Love Story, Gregory is an Oscar-nominated film writer who has developed a strong obsession for a long-dead actress. Brooke Ashley and her lover had tragically died together in a fire in the 1940s, but Gregory can't piece together how or why. Something about Brooke won't let him let it go.

Always is a romantic thriller that mixes old Hollywood with Hollywood of the late seventies. The story was written in the seventies, but for the most part it's not really obvious. It's mostly the absence of laptops and cell phones that calls out the period every once in a while. All the same, I love a good 20th century period novel.

The first half of the book is a little slow in its telling. There are chapters of researching and discovering and obsessing and arguing. However, the last hundred pages really picked up and I couldn't put it down from there. I thought the story was going in a predictable direction, but I was actually surprised at the outcome of events. Being as A Love Story is part of the title, I hadn't expected the elements of action and danger. But I got them. There were a few moments when I actually audibly gasped. That's not like me. People stared.

Always is a beloved book that many are getting the chance to rediscover. I didn't have as strong a reaction as other readers, but I did enjoy the story. The central theme of "love never really dies" was well executed. The suggestion that we may come back to this Earth multiple times settled heavy on my mind as I read Always. But, I felt the romance factor to be less prominent than the paranormal. I would probably re-title the book Always: A Mystery. But, if you love romance and mystery and nostalgia and the paranormal, this book satisfies all those categories.

I recommend Always: A Love Story to anyone looking for something beyond the usual themes that are out there today.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Pirate Train by Nicole Plyler Fisk

The Pirate Train is a cute story about a family of pirates who have to leave their pirate ship and find a new home because of the little boy's seasickness. It was written by Nicole Plyler Fisk with help from her pirate-loving son Jack. I received it in the mail from the author just the other day. The cover grabbed me and we had to read it immediately. 

This book spoke to my family in three ways. Number one, there are four of us. That's pretty easy. Number two, my son faces challenges including food allergies that cause us to adjust the way we live our lives, just like the seasick little boy. Number three, we're getting ready to move and even though we don't know exactly where we'll end up, we know that we'll be a family wherever we are. My son noted this at the end of the book. I was super proud of him.

Other than having a great life lesson about families and changes, The Pirate Train is a colorful and engaging work of art. Illustrated by Chad Vivas, every page had details that kept my kids' attention. I loved the imagining of the train as a home. For a minute I thought, "We should totally live on a train." Admit it, that would be pretty sweet.

I feel that The Pirate Train is a great read for kids. I had fun reading it, and my kids wanted to hear it again. I can't wait to see future books from this spunky family.