Book Reviews

REVIEW: HISTORY IS ALL YOU LEFT ME

History Is All You Left Me – Adam Silvera

Available: January 17, 2017 from Soho Teen

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I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Adam at BEA this year. He was by far my favorite signing. He’s personable, humble, and so SO kind. If you ever have a chance to meet him or go to a signing, DO IT. He’s SO GREAT.

I should note that out of the 140 ARCs I picked up from BEA, History Is All You Left Me is the one I chose to read first. Because, it’s Adam Silvera guys. And his writing is gold.

History Is All You Left Me follows Griffin, a seventeen-year-old boy from NYC who has just lost the love of his life. Twice. Theo was Griffin’s first. First love, first sexual encounter, first everything. The early stages of their relationship is remarkably sweet and will leave the reader full of butterfly feelings.

You know from line one that this book will rip your heart out in the best possible Adam-Silvera-imagined way. The writing is raw, gritty, and impossibly real. The characters are written so beautifully flawed that they could be anyone. I’ll admit it, I wanted to cry from page 13 on.

Take Griffin, for example, our OCD narrator. He suffers from compulsions that force him to count things (in even numbers) and always walk or sit to the left of someone. What I like about him is that he’s imperfect, but through the other characters, we see how loveable he is. This seems to be a direct representation of life that anyone (especially those with low self-esteem) can appreciate. Though we are flawed, we still deserve to be loved. Throughout the book Griffin struggles to overcome his compulsions which leads to tons of anxiety. I loved the patience and concern the other characters displayed for him, even though sometimes their well-intentioned actions were not at all what he needed.

The characters make mistakes. Many, MANY mistakes. Sometimes I found myself hoping they’d make more, just because I knew I’d do the same thing in the same situation. Adam Silvera is remarkable in that way. He can boil down every human emotion and infuse it in the tiniest details until it’s powerful…almost a character in its own right. It will leave the reader with a profound sensation of being understood, something I’ve never really experienced in books until Adam Silvera took my reader heart by storm.

History Is All You Left Me is not a happy story, but it is a hopeful one. Silvera doesn’t shy away from anything—not sex, not mental health, not socioeconomic issues. He writes dangerously, which is perhaps why we love him and exactly what the contemporary YA genre has needed all along.

5 GIANT stars for History Is All You Left Me.

MY BEST BOOKS OF 2014!

I set out to read 60 books this year, but fell short at 50. If I add in all the times I read my own manuscripts, I’ve read at least 100 books, so I’ll let it slide. I’ve compiled my favorite books of 2014 for your perusal. (Some of them were published before 2014. Whatever. Books don’t suddenly lose their readability because of their age!) A lot of them were continuations of a series (or the final books, SADNESS!). A lot of the books appear more than once on my list. What can I say? I like what I like.

I’ve got a pile started for 2015. What’s on your favorites list? Leave me a comment!

Top 5 Reads


1. City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare
2. The Retribution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin (Review HERE.)
3. Third Degree by Julie Cross (Loved, loved, loved this book! Review HERE.)
4. The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson (Review HERE.)
5. Where She Went by Gayle Forman

Romance (The kind with a plot. Don’t be crazy.)


1. Third Degree by Julie Cross
2. Whatever Life Throws at You by Julie Cross (Cross writes non-skanky romance, and I love her for it.)
3. Making Faces by Amy Harmon (This book was SO good. Review HERE.)

Kick Ass Heroines


1. City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare (Clary. I ❤ Clary.)
2. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi (This book surprised me. The writing was AH-MAZING)
3. The Retribution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Books with Boys I Love


1. City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare (Jace. Magnus. Simon. I love boys.)
2. The Retribution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin (Noah. Sigh. I need more of him.)
3. Where She Went by Gayle Forman (Adam. Boys. In bands. Always bad news, haha.)

Books that Wrecked Me


1. Love and Other Unknown Variables by Shannon Lee Alexander (Review HERE.)
2. How We Deal with Gravity by Ginger Scott (Review HERE.)
3. Searching for Sky by Jillian Cantor (Heartbreaking! Review HERE.)

Something a Little Different


1. Lovely Vicious by Sara Wolf (Talk about snark! I loved the MC’s voice!)
2. The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff (Dark, beautiful writing.)
3. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson (Not your typical YA about a snowflake girl. Nice deviation from the norm.)

REFLECTION POND BUZZ

Reflection-Pond-ebook-1-VanReflection Pond

Ebook $2.99 (Kindle, Nook, Kobo)

Paperback $9.99 (Amazon)

Reflection Pond has been out for a little over 2 months now, and I have been crazy busy with promotions and advertising and trying to get Reflection Pond where it belongs, in the hands of readers. The response has been encouragingly positive and I’m so grateful to my readers who have taken the time to write a review – good or bad, authors NEED feedback on their work. How will we ever improve if no one tells us what we’re doing right and wrong?

Yesterday I visited a local bookstore, The Book Shelf in Lapeer, Michigan. Antithesis, Reflection Pond, and Sucker Literary Volume 3 are on their shelves. I’m still amazed at how helpful people can be, even when they get very little out of it in return. It’s one thing that baffles me about the writing world, how helpful, how encouraging authors and other literary peeps can be. I can only hope that in the ever changing publishing world, with its monopolies and divisions and fights for rights, that the people involved can remain true to what’s really important – feeding readers great books, of course.

Behind the scenes, I’ve been hard at work on the sequel to Reflection Pond, Poison Tree (which you can add on Goodreads). I’m about halfway finished with the first draft. It’s starts and stops at this point. Sometimes I feel like a brilliant author, and other times, I’m just a girl hidden in the dark with her laptop. I think we all have those moments – famous, infamous, anonymous. Still, I press on, wanting so badly to bring my words to life.

The main point behind this post is to share some of the incredible reviews Reflection Pond has gotten. I’m grateful, I know I’ve said that before, but I’m also humbled. No matter how many things I create, there’s always a giddy sense of terror waiting for reviews, and when people relate to what I write, find humor, joy, any emotion really, it’s the best feeling. I’ll quit my babbling and get to the goods.

The Reviews- Click the name to read the full review.

Vanderkarr writes with power. Her narrative sucks you in, and doesn’t let you go. Connie J Jasperson, Best in Fantasy

Kacey Vanderkarr may be a young author but has proved herself to be extremely accomplished and I hope to read all her past and future work. If the sequel -‘Poison Tree’- is half as good as this then we are in for a real treat! I would recommend this book to anyone and give it a thoroughly deserved 5/5! Sophie David

“The romance was only a small part in the book, but it was definitely strong. I loved the chemistry between Callie and Rowan. It really came alive and I could just feel the sexual tension between the two. Their witty banter was cute and made the relationship seem more real. And Rowan wasn’t this perfect bad boy. He had his own fears and problems, his own complex past. He certainly wasn’t perfect, but neither was Callie.” -Nikki Austin

“Reflection Pond was wonderfully written with Kacey Vanderkarr detailing a very riveting world with sensational characters. Racing towards an exciting ending that opens up a brand new chapter to the story; I’m beyond excitedly looking forward to the next book to continue Callie and Rowen’s journey!”-Rachel, The Rest is Still UnWritten

“I was pulled in from the very beginning and was glued to my kindle throughout the entire book. As I got closer the end of the book I realized that I didn’t want it to end.” -Shannan Lee Williams

There are lots of reviews on Goodreads and Amazon if you want to read more. This is just a small selection.

So, thanks readers, for being so great and for taking the time to read my words and reviewing them. It means so much to me.

Later this week, as a thanks, I will post an excerpt from Chapter 1 of Poison Tree, which I hope to publish December 2, 2014. Not much longer to wait, friends!

All the best,

Kacey

 

 

 

 

NEW REVIEW / INTERVIEW / EXCERPT SITE

Book Image Large (2)I’m fresh off a blog tour for Reflection Pond. And while it went well, and all of the sites were welcoming and helpful, I’m left with the feeling that nobody cares about cookie cutter posts. So what do I do? I start a blog for readers and writers with the promise that there will not be any cookie cutter book blasts. Every post will have substance, a little behind the scenes action to tell the reader that this is the book for them. I will cater to authors, both indie and traditionally published, because after all, the fiction world is all about getting the right book in the hands of the right reader.

So I encourage you to PLEASE PLEASE follow Read My Dang Book.

Are you an author? I want to INTERVIEW YOU and post an EXCERPT from your book. I’m also accepting REVIEW requests. I want to participate in book tours and giveaways. Send me all your books!

Read my Dang Book is about authors. It’s about readers. It’s about that magical moment when you lose yourself inside another world. I hope you’ll join me on this journey!

All the best,

Kacey

 

REVIEW – SEARCHING FOR SKY BY JILLIAN CANTOR

Searching for Sky by Jillian Cantor

Available May 13, 2014 from Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Goodreads

Amazon

Sky and River have always lived on Island, the only world they’ve ever known. Until the day River spots a boat. Across Ocean, in a place called California, Sky is separated from River and forced to live with a grandmother she’s just met. Here the rules for survival are different. People rely on strange things like cars and cell phones. They keep secrets from one another. And without River, nothing makes sense. Sky yearns for her old life where she was strong and capable, not lost and confused. She must find River so they can return to Island, but the truth behind how they ended up there in the first place will come as the biggest shock of all.

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I received a digital copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I am in no way compensated for my opinion.

Sometimes you come across a book that makes you question everything you believe. Searching for Sky was that book. The premise of “reverse dystopian” hooked me right away, especially because it seems every YA book is dystopian now. It was refreshing to look at the world from a different angle.

The concept is simple. Sky and River grew up on a remote island with Sky’s mother and River’s father. When I say remote, I mean, they literally have made do with only what’s on Island. They eat fish from Ocean, they made Shelter out of things on Island. There are no other people. There’s no technology. There’s nothing but their parents and them and what Island provides.

The story unfolds beautifully, in layers, in such a way that feeds the reader’s hunger for knowledge.

When Sky and River’s parents die, River breaks his father’s rules and lights a fire on the beach. They’re rescued by a boat the next day. What follows is a complex attempt at assimilation in modern society. Sky and River were originally from California, but it’s nothing like they’ve ever known. Sky, whose real name is Megan, is still a minor, and is claimed by her maternal grandmother. River, technically an adult, is released into the modern world with nothing.

Searching for Sky makes you ask questions. What makes an evil person? Is it being a murderer, or is it taking happiness away from a child who doesn’t know any better? What is truly right and what is truly wrong? What determines the right to have a voice? Is it book knowledge, or is it life itself?

The writing itself is poetic. Sky and River don’t view the world the same as everyone else. They don’t have words for things, they don’t understand technology, money, evil. Watching them try to interact in a world they can’t fathom was heartbreaking. It made me question what is important in life and what things I could do without. It made me question morality and how far someone would go to protect their child.

This book will take you on an emotional roller coaster. I read it “cover to cover” in one sitting. It’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you cry, it’ll make you think. Beautifully written, with rich nuance and attention to detail, Searching for Sky is a book that will haunt me long into the future.

4 STARS

REFLECTION POND BLOG TOUR

Reflection Pond is going on tour with Irresistible Reads Tours. At the bottom you will find the tour schedule where you can get in on the action.

Reflection Pond for PrintPDF6_page1_image1Have you picked up your copy of Reflection Pond yet? Here’s what other people are saying –

“This book was definitely original.”

“I could not put this book down.

“I loved the chemistry between Callie and Rowan. It really came alive and I could just feel the sexual tension between the two.”

-Nikki

Full review HERE.

“The book offered everything. Romance, intrigue, murder, some minor violence.”

-Heather

Full review HERE.

“I loved this book!

“This is a story you don’t want to miss.”

-Iris

Full review HERE.

TOUR SCHEDULE

Monday, April 28:

Margay Leah Justice – Promotional Post

Tuesday, April 29:

Coffee Books & Art – Book Excerpt

Wednesday, April 30:

Endless Reading – Book Excerpt

Thursday, May 1:

Zili In The Sky – Guest Post

Friday, May 2:

Library Mosaic – Promotional Post

Monday, May 5:

The Phantom Paragrapher – Book Excerpt

Tuesday, May 6:

CJ Mckenzie @ Goodreads – Review

Wednesday, May 7:

Chelsea’s Reading Adventures – Review

Thursday, May 8:

Library Mosaic – Book Excerpt

Friday, May 9:

YA Bookaddict – Book Excerpt

Monday, May 12:

Readsalot – Book Excerpt

Tuesday, May 13:

Chelsea’s Reading Adventures – Book Excerpt

Wednesday, May 14:

Whispered Thoughts – Review

Literary Meandering – Interview

Thursday, May 15:

Paradise of Pages – Review

Kristy Centeno – Promotional Post

Friday, May 16:

Margay Leah Justice – Book Excerpt

Monday, May 19:

The Rest Is Still Unwritten – Promotional Post

Tuesday, May 20:

The Rest Is Still Unwritten – Review

Wednesday, May 21:

All Things YA and NA – Guest Post

Thursday, May 22:

Lekeisha The Booknerd – Review

Friday, May 23:

Monday, May 26:

Ladybug Literature – Book Excerpt

Tuesday, May 27:

Coffee Books & Art – Promotional Post

Wednesday, May 28:

Wrap-Up

REVIEW – SECOND STAR BY ALYSSA B. SHEINMEL

Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Available: May 13, 2014 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Goodreads

Amazon

A twisty story about love, loss, and lies, this contemporary oceanside adventure is tinged with a touch of dark magic as it follows seventeen-year-old Wendy Darling on a search for her missing surfer brothers. Wendy’s journey leads her to a mysterious hidden cove inhabited by a tribe of young renegade surfers, most of them runaways like her brothers. Wendy is instantly drawn to the cove’s charismatic leader, Pete, but her search also points her toward Pete’s nemesis, the drug-dealing Jas. Enigmatic, dangerous, and handsome, Jas pulls Wendy in even as she’s falling hard for Pete. A radical reinvention of a classic, Second Star is an irresistible summer romance about two young men who have yet to grow up–and the troubled beauty trapped between them.

I keep wavering between 3 and 4 stars on this book. There were parts of it I really enjoyed, while others seemed rushed and not as thought out.

The story is based around recent high school graduate, Wendy. She had her life waiting just beyond the summer, with an acceptance to Stanford and the promise of a perfect life. Except, she can’t let go of her twin brothers, who went missing just before she started her senior year of high school. As surfers, her brothers lived a beach life, waking before the sun to catch the best waves, sometimes disappearing for days, and finally for good. The police write them off as dead, drowned in a swell too big for them to handle. Their boards wash up, but the boys never do. Her parents accept their deaths, moving on with their lives in a fog of disbelief, not really seeing anything anymore.

Wendy isn’t ready to let them go, and as her summer begins, she throws herself into one final search for them, which leads her to Kensington, part beach, part wasteland of what could’ve been. It’s there, amongst abandoned houses perched precariously over the ocean, that she meets Pete. He’s a surfer, and even better, he may be able to lead her to her brothers. Surely they’d surfed Kensington, with its powder perfect beach surrounded by waves. But Pete’s life isn’t just beaches and fun. As a squatter, he has to steal to eat, to survive, to care for the other life refugees he’s taken in. But Wendy can’t help herself. As she weaves her way into the surfers’ lives, she begins asking questions. Her brothers are out there. She knows it.

But Pete isn’t the only secret hiding in Kensington. On the other side of the beach lives Jas. Surfer by day, renowned drug dealer by night. And he has history with Pete.

What ensues is a complicated of exploration of what it means to live and what you must let go when you grow up.

The strongest part of this book was probably the setting. It was California rich, sand and sun and boys, I could practically smell the suntan lotion. There was a lot of symbolic reference to sand, which I liked. It seemed to me that the sand was Wendy’s memories, but by the end of the story, the sand was her future. It was a nice arc from what was to what could be.

The characters themselves were not that well depicted. It’s like the novel just scratched the surface of the whole story. While I enjoyed reading it, I never felt connected to Wendy. Though it was written in first person, I never became Wendy, she always seemed separate from her body, and at times, from the story, like she carried to much of a narrator’s voice. Pete, who was probably the best fleshed out character, still fell a little flat. Jas, who I wanted to like the most, was supposed to be the bad boy, but we only ever got one impression of him actually being “bad.” I wanted more. I wanted to truly and thoroughly hate him before Wendy made me fall in love with him.

There were lots of things I liked. There was romance, but it wasn’t overdone. There were two love interests and I liked both of them and didn’t hate Wendy for being conflicted. I loved the setting and learning more about surfing. I liked the twisting of plot. It definitely keeps you guessing until almost the very end, and then, throws you for another loop.

Overall, this was a quick, enjoyable read, I just wish there was more substance for me to sink my teeth into.