Showing posts with label NA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NA. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

"Queen of Corona" by Esterhazy

Queen of Corona
by Esterhazy

Queen of Corona by Esterhazy

Queen of Corona by Esterhazy is currently on tour with Xpresso Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my review, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Roza Esterhazy is a mixed-up kid. Eighteen years old and on the threshold of adulthood, she feels powerless in the face of a world that hasn’t adequately prepared her for adult life. She is riddled with anxiety about the world’s problems, the problems of her classmates at an inner-city high school in Corona, Queens. As an American of multicultural heritage (Polish-Jewish on her mother’s side, Venezuelan on her father’s) she struggles to find her place in society where the odds are stacked against people like her.
At the outset, she is on an airplane heading to Warsaw – the city of her ancestors, a city she’d never been to before. The city her mother had fled from in the 1980s because of an article she’d written that had offended the authorities. Roza’s voyage is a kind of reverse immigration – she’s escaping from America back to Poland because of a student protest that ended in tragedy. She alludes to the protest and its bloody end throughout the novel, with flashbacks tormenting her traumatized mind to the very end. When she arrives in Warsaw, she struggles to come to terms with what happened and what part she played in the tragedy. She grapples with the concept of guilt and blame – were the students to blame for what happened or was it the fault of overzealous police? She weighs how fear quells courage in an oppressive society. She confronts the grey reality of post-war Warsaw and realizes that there’s very little of it that she can identify with. She retraces history’s steps through the Polish capital and the former ghetto of WW2.
Her longing for home is visceral, reflected in the flashbacks of school and relationships that are woven through her daily existence. Flashbacks that reflect the absurdity of the inner-city high school experience, where kids are meant to learn an inimical thread of history that has little to do with their own reality, that places many of them in the position of the conquered and exploited.
Queen of Corona is a look into the inner life of the inner city. A foray into the mind and heart of a young woman on the cusp of adulthood, torn from her destiny because she dared to stand up and speak up for those who don't have a voice. A glimpse inside the hopeless hallways of New York City's failing public schools. It is a coming-of-age novel in a tumultuous time. It is a lesson on how fear is the most dangerous aspect of our Trumped-up existence.

There comes a day when you go looking for your roots and you realize they’re all gone.
You grope about in the dark and find nothing. Nothing but bits and pieces of a legacy gone astray like a dog that was never loved in the first place. No matter where you come from, the day you become an American is the day you lost it all. No matter if you were born here or made it over by plane, train, bus or banana boat. Just like that, thousands of years of memory vaporize like the plane that hit the Pentagon. You forfeit miles of spindly roots planted into the earth by your ancestors from way back when. Slowly, painfully, you squander your family recipes and all them heirlooms, memories, traditions go slipping through your fingers. You figure you’re living the dream, but something’s off. Something’s missing.
Something you didn’t even know you needed. You lose track. You lose your ground. The connection with the earth that made you. That dust that hardened into your bones and softened into your skin. You think you can go on making the tamales, the pierogis, the same old samosas your grannies made for generations but they’re not the same at all. The flour here is different. The water is different. The proportions are all out of wack. And you know it’s just a dumpling and dumplings don’t always come out right, but for some reason you’re bawling your eyes out. Because you know it’s not just a fluke. It doesn’t come out right no matter how many times you try. Because it just ain’t in you no more.
A sourness that tastes like shame comes up in your throat. Shame that flips on itself, turning on the past, turning on your parents because they’re the ones who made you and brought you here. Your loving parents are now the bullseye for your shame. Their accents and their crazy foods. It was their brilliant idea to ship you all the way across the ocean before you had anything to say about it. So now you do all you can to keep them at home, hidden behind closed doors. You never invite anyone over. You do what you can to become like everyone else. You want to look like the girls in the videos. The selfie-stick chicks on the gram. Then you start dressing like the guys in the videos so the dudes round the way no longer feel obliged to tell you that your ass is too big or your ass is too flat. You convince yourself that you’ve been here all along.
That there is no motherland. No Poland, Ukraine, Honduras, Philippines, Bangladesh. The past fades like the last wisp of smoke after a dumpster fire. But the stench of it lingers, you know. There’s nothing you can do to make it disappear for good. It’s a blemish that won’t go away. An ugly little blackhead of guilt. Because you denied your ancestors, denied your heritage. When you denied them, you denied yourself. You denied your very existence.
This is the tragedy of assimilation. The old folks give up trying to talk sense into you. They throw their hands up and let you be what you always thought you wanted to be. An apple-pie-eating, base-ball-bat swinging shiksa like all those other girls in the hood. You try telling them that shit ain’t really you at all. So they ask you, who is you then? And you try to tell them but it’s like snakes crawling up your throat. You can’t spit out a syllable. So, you figure maybe they’re right. You start grasping at straws, the frayed threads of history, shreds of a native realm.
There comes a day when you finally realize you have no idea who you is or even who you are, and where you came from. So maybe you get on a plane and try to take a good hard look at things from a distance. Try to take in the bigger picture and all. Back to the future. Though the truth is I’m not really doing it for the right reasons. My story ain’t all high and mighty like that. There’s more dirt I’ll have to dig up at some point, for sure. I’ll get to it when the time is right. No point in rushing things. We have all the time in the world.
[Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
“I highly recommend this novel to anyone that like biography like novels that have anger, disappointment, romance illusions and every other even that teens face as growing up” ~ Steph Destiny
“I loved Roza as much as I wanted to scream at her. […] kudos to Esterhazy for writing such a believable and antagonizing protagonist. […] The ending made me so angry, I actually screamed at my Ol' Man when I was done. I can't say much without spoiling it, but I wanted to cry. It's possible that what upset me the most was how realistic it was. It hits ya right in the feels because you know it's real.” ~ Ms. J
“… it brings up a lot of critical issues that need to be discussed, that people need to stop sweeping under the rug, issues that privileged need to stop blaming the others for. It's not an easy read, but maybe that's what makes it so important. It doesn't glorify the ugly, it leaves it all there for you to see.” ~ Maxine

My Review
I received this book in return for an honest review.

By Lynda Dickson
At the beginning of the book, Roza is on a plane to Warsaw to escape the fallout from an incident at her high school graduation ceremony, which spirals out of control. We are left to piece her story together through her stream of consciousness ramblings, often lacking in punctuation. Her current situation is interspersed with reminiscences of her life in Corona, Queens, where she makes some wrong choices and ends up in an impossible situation. In Poland, Roza struggles to make sense of life and loses herself along the way. However, after receiving news from home she determines to turn her life around.
The author channels her teenage narrator perfectly, giving her an authentic voice and personality. However, some of the other characters come across as more intellectual than you would expect from their circumstances. Through Roza, the author provides keen observations on several topics, including friendship, family, religion, society, race, prejudice, discrimination, politics, history, education, poverty, single parenthood, abortion, love, war, and slut shaming. The narrative is given even more authenticity by including references to real-life victims of the system.
Be warned, this is not an easy read and includes some confronting issues.
Warnings: coarse language, drug use, excessive alcohol consumption, sexual references, sex scenes.

About the Author
Esterhazy is a journalist, writer, and translator. A native New Yorker, she holds degrees in Comparative Literature from New York University and American Studies from the University of Warsaw. Queen of Corona is her debut novel.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a print copy of Queen of Corona by Esterhazy (US/Canada only).


Thursday, March 1, 2018

"Things You Can’t Take" by Erin Lockwood

Things You Can’t Take
by Erin Lockwood

Things You Can’t Take by Erin Lockwood

Things You Can’t Take by Erin Lockwood is currently on tour with Silver Dagger Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my review, an excerpt and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

For more books by this author, please check out my blog post on Angles: Part 1 and my blog post on All of the Rogers.

How far would you go for your best friend?
Abigail and Kessia shared a childhood bond that couldn't be broken. Challenged, yes - but never broken.
Born into Hollywood lineage, Kessia understood the risks and pressures of celebrity life and willingly dedicated hers to serving and protecting her best friend’s rise to stardom. But when Abigail learns of Kessia’s own behind-the-scenes battles with a predator, her sense of friendship drives her down a path that blurs the lines between loyalty and revenge at all costs.

We’re belting out a song from Abigail’s playlist when Barry pulls into the studio lot.
“Okay, turn it down!” Abigail shouts over the music.
“No, keep it up!” I yell. “I love this song.”
Barry, of course, listens to Abigail.
“I can’t,” she starts to yell but realizes she’s shouting when the music has been turned off. “I can’t let them hear me singing a promiscuous song. It’s irresponsible. I’m a role model,” she says softer. “Child actors have a higher rate of getting into trouble instead of moving onto bigger careers as adults.”
I roll my eyes a little. “We’re just having fun,” I mumble to myself. “It’s just a song.”
I throw my badge lanyard over my head before getting out of the car. Abigail hoists her Louis Vuitton purse over her shoulder, and we walk into the studio. It looks like a big airplane hangar.
“I’m gonna miss this,” Abigail says to me.
I hook my arm through hers. “I know, but we have Paris to look forward to.”
She smiles and perks up. We say hello to people as we walk by, making our way to her dressing room.
As soon as the door closes behind us, there’s a knock.
“Come in!” Abigail shouts.
“How’s my favorite star?” Pete Hallman’s head pops out from behind the door.
With my back to him, I make a face as if I were gonna throw up. He pushes the door all the way open and steps in, closing it behind him. I feel as if the air has been sucked out of the room.
At least Abigail is here. I panic inside whenever I’m alone with him. I always try to find an excuse to leave as soon as possible.
Abigail moves to him and reaches her arms out to hug him. “Hi, Pete. How are you?”
“I’m very well, thanks,” he says to her. Then, he looks my way. “How about you, Kessia? Where’s my love?” He puts his arms out and expects me to touch him.
I’ve never told Abigail the extent of how uncomfortable he makes me because I can tell she doesn’t feel the same way. It’s also partly because of how I was raised. My mom insists that producers, and directors are like gods and goddesses. I always have to use my absolute best manners.
Abigail and I have known Pete since we were seven when Abigail joined the cast of Heart of the Family, playing the youngest daughter. Now, she’ll be filming the final episodes in Paris soon.
“Of course. Hi, Pete,” I say to him and move closer to hug him.
When his arms wrap around me, he lets his fingers fall under the top of my jean shorts, touching my bare skin on my backside. His hand almost goes so far down that he could cup my butt cheek with his palm, but he stops and pulls his hand out before Abigail notices anything.
Pete stands up and backs away, as if nothing ever happened. It makes me feel crazy for thinking that something did happen.
His hand touched my butt.
I just wish someone could see what he does so that I don’t have to be the one who says something.
It’s not just Abigail. Nobody ever seems to notice. If they did, they might not say anything anyway since he’s the studio’s most successful and awarded producer. “Walking Gold,” is what Entertainment Weekly once referred to him as. “Unstoppable,” was in another publication.
I step back, giving myself even more distance from Pete, and pretend to organize Abigail’s vanity.
“So, Pete, what’s up?” Abigail asks.
He leans back on his heels and rubs his round belly. “I thought I’d pop in and watch the final studio taping. We might have a project for you.”
Abigail looks surprised. “Really? That would be great. I’ll have Tammy call you.”
Pete’s eyes dart to me before looking at Abigail again.
“All right. You go get ’em, kid.” He puts his arm around Abigail and taps her lower back. He takes a step toward me and does the same thing, except his hand lands a little lower.
Too low.
When he leaves the room, I feel like I can finally take a breath again.
“This is great news,” Abigail says to herself, grabbing her phone. “Hey”—she excitedly looks up at me—“did I ever tell you that Pete—”
“You should probably call Tammy,” I quickly interrupt her. I do not want to hear anything about Pete.
“Right,” she says, putting the phone to her ear, calling her agent.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
“It's a timely novel, given all that is happening with #metoo and the Women's March 2018; so many of my conversations with moms swirl around what it means to raise our daughters with awareness, and how we can best keep them safe. While it's difficult to describe this as an "easy read" given the topic, I was caught up in the storyline and characters, and found that I finished reading the book all too quickly. Probably the most meaningful novel from Erin Lockwood yet!!” ~ Sara Banchard
“I strongly recommend reading this book as it can be very enlightening both with regards to sexual predators hiding their behavior just enough to not get caught and as a reminder that help is always available if we just know to look for it and aren’t afraid to ask for help.” ~ Katinka
“I hope with all my heart y’all read this book. It is worth reading. I honestly can’t tell y’all how much I loved it. It’ll steal a piece of your heart and hopefully it changes you and makes you want to create more awareness.” ~ Diana Laura (The Bookish Sisters)
“Last night I purchased this novel at Erin’s book signing, and within 24 hours I was done! It’s almost like I NEEDED it to be done (content) yet I was NOT wanting it to be over (so into it I couldn’t put it down). I’m so proud of Erin’s 4th book and the tough topic it dug into. Her passion and energy was felt through each page and this is worth the emotion it evokes in the reader. Well done Erin Lockwood.” ~ Jilayne Smith

My Review
I received this book in return for an honest review.

By Lynda Dickson
The book begins when Kessia and Abigail meet as six-year-olds on the set of a television commercial, where they gain each other’s trust and quickly become best friends. While Abigail loves acting, Kessia hates it. So, it’s no surprise when Kessia eventually quits acting and becomes Abigail’s assistant. We follow these two girls over the next two decades, through their highs and lows, their triumphs and tragedies.
The story is told alternately from the points-of-view of Kessia and Abigail. Unfortunately, their voices are so similar that I often forgot who was narrating. I’m not a fan of the writing style: the sentences are short and choppy, there is an overabundance of awkwardly used verb qualifiers, the main characters spend too much time pondering and not enough time doing, and the writing is lacking in emotion.
On top of that, the plot is predictable, repetitive, and full of clichĂ©s; the characters’ actions are hard to believe; and the author uses her narrative as a thinly veiled excuse to lecture us on sexual assault. Too bad she doesn’t lecture us on the use of guns.
Despite all of the above, this is a very timely story, which can be used to open up a dialogue with vulnerable teens about sexual assault committed by a person of power. It also conveys a nice message about being brave and speaking out, and it gives us the hope that even terrible events can result in happy endings.
There is a handy list of resources for victims of sexual assault at the end of the book.
Warnings: coarse language, sexual assault (not graphic).

About the Author
Erin Lockwood
Erin Lockwood grew up in Castro Valley, California and attended the University of Oregon, where she graduated in 2003 with a degree in journalism. From there she moved to Denver and spent the next seven years searching for the love of her life and building the family of her dreams.
It wasn’t long until, with children starting preschool and more time on her hands, Erin refocused on her career, beginning with a successful entry into the world of residential real estate as a Realtor. Free time was spent reading book after book (and binge-watching the subsequent films) in the New Adult genre. Feeling hopelessly in love with her husband, she wrote him a short story leading up to their fifth wedding anniversary. That’s when she discovered her tireless passion to share her experience of falling in love through fictional characters. That story evolved into the first novel in the Angles trilogy.
Erin still lives in Denver, Colorado, with her husband, Phil, and their three children.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card.


Friday, February 9, 2018

"Baby Girl" by C. M. Stunich

Baby Girl
by C. M. Stunich

Baby Girl by C. M. Stunich

Baby Girl by C. M. Stunich is currently on tour with Xpresso Book Tours. The tour stops here today for an excerpt and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well. You can also read my review.

He died that night, alone, in the rain, in the dark, the boy that called me baby girl. I was only seventeen; we were going to be together forever.
On his way to pick me up for prom, he swerved. I’ll never know what made him do it, what killed the boy I’d loved my whole life. With roses clutched in his hand, he bled out in icy wetness all alone.
His best friend is here though, and I’m pretty sure he loves me. But after the accident, I left for a year and didn’t look back.
Now I’m back in town and my heart is like shattered glass. Do I pick up the pieces and risk getting cut? And do I let another boy call me baby girl?

“Almost there in your terms or almost there in mine?” I ask and he chuckles again, the warm, low sound sliding across my skin like hot fingertips.
“Forty-five minutes thereabouts,” he says, and I breathe a sigh of relief.  “But we’ll have to venture off the road and into the water again.”  I groan but Phoenix bumps me playfully with his shoulder, scalding me with heat.  “It’s safe out dere, not like at the shop.”  His eyes darken and I can tell he thinks he made a mistake by letting me stay there.  “I’m sorry, Embry—”
I cut him off before he can keep going.
“Please don’t apologize.  The reason I stayed at the shop was to protect you.”
“You protect me?” he grumbles and then he’s licking his lips and glancing away sharply, curling his hands into fists.  “I’m such a fuckin’ idiot, getting you dragged into this shit.  I shouldn’t have let you stay there.  It occurred to me, yeah, that they might come looking for me, but not like that.  And I didn’t think they’d recognize you none or even care.  Girls don’t have to show back up as long as they keep dere mouths shut.”
He rubs a hand over his face.
“Do we have a plan for after we get to the cabin?” I ask and Phoenix gives me this … look that I don’t know how to interpret.  My breath catches and I glance away sharply.
“What kinda plan you thinkin’ about?” he asks me, and his voice is so rumbly and low that I feel this tightening in my lower belly, this primal pull that I could almost swear Phoenix is in control of.  He gives a metaphorical tug and my body responds like it’s on a string.
“Not that sort of plan,” I whisper back, touching my fingers absently to my lips.  Phoenix notices and laughs again, that warm easy chuckle that cuts through the night and swirls around me.  “I’m not having sex with you.”
“We’re both naked and wet and aroused and you don’t know think we gonna fuck?” he asks, stopping in the middle of the road and just staring at me with that heavy-lidded gaze of his.  Phoenix’s eyes are the color of starlight through clouds, a soft, muted gray that draws me in even when I don’t want it to.
“I chose him, not you, Phoenix,” I say, and then I hate myself as soon as the words leave my mouth.  My stomach clenches tight, and with the extensive bruises, it hurts.
“I know dat,” he tells me, voice husky and thick.  “But I don’t care.”
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
“I highly recommend this story. It’s a classic friends to lovers story, but with a slight twist. I don’t think you will regret reading this one bit. Just be prepared to cry.” ~ K.C. Pipkin
“Beautifully written story of loss, grieve, love and second chances that will have you glued to your kindle and not stop reading until the end.” ~ Kol79
“C.M does an outstanding job creating this world full of Raw emotions and forgiveness that just seeps into your very being. I just absolutely love the characters! They are broken, but manage to find that glimpse of peace to move forward. So much strength and depth. I love it!” ~ reggie367m
“If you have ever wondered what true grief felt like, all you have to do is read this story it was perfectly displayed in C.M's words! I love the gritty Cajun background and how it was prevalent through the whole story, and who doesn't love hot characters and MMA! So well done C.M.!!!!” ~ Stephanie D.
“Love the characters in this book, and the emotional connection between character and reader is absolutely fabulous. Another great book by this author.” ~ A. Muller

My Review
I received this book in return for an honest review.

By Lynda Dickson
On the night of their senior prom, Embry’s fiancĂ© Codrick dies in a car crash. But he’s not the only one who dies that day. Unable to cope with her grief, Embry runs away to college, vowing to never return, while best friend Phoenix buries himself in his memories, his work, and in cleaning up his father's mess. Just over a year later, Embry comes home to visit her father in hospital. She struggles with her growing feelings for Phoenix, while he tries to keep his love for her hidden. Can you have more than one soulmate?
The story is told in alternating chapters from the points of view of Embry and Phoenix. In the prologue dealing with Codrick’s death, I didn’t feel anything, as I had never “met” him. The story could be improved by introducing the reader to Codrick while he is still alive, seeing his interactions with Embry, and getting a feel for this love that is so strong it leads two teenagers to get engaged. I struggled with the characters’ names: why the name Codrick, when he’s also referred to as Rick?; Embry’s name is way too close to “embryo” to be sexy; and Phoenix’s name just doesn’t suit him. His Cajun accent is also annoying, and he lapses out of it, especially when he is narrating. Other issues: too many descriptions of eye and hair color, using a different simile each time; numerous editing errors including punctuation, missing words, extra words, use of incorrect homonyms, mixture of past and present tenses; any excuse to get naked, it gets a bit tiresome; the crude dialogue is not sexy; overuse of the phrase “nipples pebbling”. And does Phoenix seriously start taking about Codrick when he’s having sex with Embry?
On the plus side, the story gives us a realistic depiction of the seven stages of grief: shock and denial, pain and guilt, anger and bargaining, depression/loneliness, the upward turn, reconstruction and working through, and acceptance and hope. Embry’s been counting the days since Codrick died but, now that she’s back in town, and especially when she’s with Phoenix, she’s starting to lose count; this shows that she’s moving on. She also manages to cry for the first time since Codrick’s death.
Not what I was expecting from the description.
Warnings: extremely coarse language, graphic sex scenes, violence.

About the Author
C. M. Stunich
C. M. Stunich is a self-admitted bibliophile with a love for exotic teas and a whole host of characters who live full time inside the strange, swirling vortex of her thoughts. Some folks might call this crazy, but Caitlin Morgan doesn’t mind – especially considering she has to write biographies in the third person. Oh, and half the host of characters in her head are searing hot bad boys with dirty mouths and skillful hands (among other things). If being crazy means hanging out with them every day, C. M. has decided to have herself committed.
She hates tapioca pudding, loves to binge on cheesy horror movies, and is a slave to many cats. When she’s not vacuuming fur off of her couch, C. M. can be found with her nose buried in a book or her eyes glued to a computer screen. She’s the author of over thirty novels – romance, new adult, fantasy, and young adult included. Please, come and join her inside her crazy. There’s a heck of a lot to do there.
Oh, and Caitlin loves to chat (incessantly), so feel free to email her, send her a Facebook message, or put up smoke signals. She’s already looking forward to it.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win one of five ebook copies of Baby Girl by C. M. Stunich.