Tag: Contemporary

Birthday by Meredith Russo

Author: Meredith Russo
To Be Published: May 21, 2019
336 Pages

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: May 7-12, 2019
Jessica’s Rating: 5 stars

Book Description:

Boyhood meets The Sun Is Also a Star in this unconventional love story about two teens bonded for life when they are born on the same day at the same time by award-winning author Meredith Russo!

Two kids, Morgan and Eric, are bonded for life after being born on the same day at the same time. We meet them once a year on their shared birthday as they grow and change: as Eric figures out who he is and how he fits into the world, and as Morgan makes the difficult choice to live as her true self. Over the years, they will drift apart, come together, fight, make up, and break up—and ultimately, realize how inextricably they are a part of each other.

Jessica’s Review:

Morgan and Eric are born on the same day in the same hospital during a freak September snowstorm, thus beginning their bond for life. Birthday is told from both Morgan and Eric’s point of view every year on their birthday from ages 13-18.  Neither boy has had an easy life for various reasons, and Birthday shows both Morgan and Eric coming into who they will become, with Morgan coming to terms in finding her true self. 

You can’t help but adore and root for both Morgan and Eric as they discover who they are. They face various individual challenges, including living in small town Tennessee where the only way you may get to leave is through a football scholarship and Morgan’s dad is the high school football coach. Everything about Birthday including Morgan’s anguish and Eric’s confusion felt real.  The characters are so well written, yet Birthday is a very easy and quick read.

Meredith Russo brings these characters to life in a way she knows as she is transgender. As with reading If I Was Your Girl, I felt Russo put herself in the character of Morgan.  Some of Morgan’s emotions must have been hers as she went through her transition. Thank you for bringing these stories to the page. They are important stories that those who are transgender may need and will help those of us who are not transgender understand what it is like.

There are some tough scenes in Birthday including a suicide attempt but the ending is a good one.  There are touching moments throughout dealing with Morgan’s mom.  I actually finished reading Birthday on Mother’s Day and that was perfect timing on my part!  I would love to read continuing stories for Morgan and Eric.

I feel I can’t give the book a good enough review, this book is that important and powerful. Give Birthday a chance and read it on May 21st.

Many thanks to the publisher Flatiron Books for sending me an arc copy.

Pre-order Links:
Amazon US 
Amazon UK 

After the Fire by Will Hill

Author: Will Hill
Published: October 2, 2018
464 Pages

Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 stars

Book Description:

The things I’ve seen are burned into me, like scars that refuse to fade.

Before, she lived inside the fence. Before, she was never allowed to leave the property, never allowed to talk to Outsiders, never allowed to speak her mind. Because Father John controlled everything—and Father John liked rules. Disobeying Father John came with terrible consequences.

But there are lies behind Father John’s words. Outside, there are different truths.

Then came the fire.

Kim’s Review:

Well, this book caused me to have an epiphany. But first, I’ll say that the only reason I gave this book 4 stars, is because I already read Minnow Bly and it’s so similar, that it took a little out of the reading. But I still loved this book so much! Now, back to my epiphany: I was raised in a cult. I don’t mean to make every review about myself, but part of the review process seems to be “how did this book affect me?” The main difference I saw between After the Fire and Minnow Bly was the realism factor. Minnow Bly was far more imagined, whereas After the Fire was based far more on real life events. It was easy to write off Minnow Bly as purely fiction. After the Fire was based on the Waco standoff, therefore it felt more based in reality.

Due to said realism, it was much harder to shrug off the similarities that kept popping up. Mostly, it was the manipulation. The tactics used by the Lord’s Legion were very similar to the tactics used by Bob Jones University. The idea of belonging and merit based on personal belief is the same. At BJU, your “spirituality” affected your status within the social and professional structure. If any perceived wrongdoing or disbelief was detected, it was dealt with swiftly and with no real winning on your part. I wasn’t allowed to go forward during any invitations at the end of services because my parents knew that if we confessed anything, it would stick to us throughout the rest of our BJU careers, however long that would be. It would also affect my parents professional standing. And that was the main similarity: our entire lives were so wrapped up in BJU, that if anything happened, if for whatever reason, my parents lost their jobs or we had to leave, our entire lives would be completely uprooted. Housing, education, childcare, jobs, insurance, social standing, church membership, everything. True, the Lord’s Legion used threat of violence to keep people in line, but they called into question one’s spiritual state, overall morality, and their place in the afterlife. Thankfully, BJU didn’t use violence, but they sure did love questioning spirituality and Christlikeness based on their own interpretations and opinions.

What made After the Fire unique and interesting, was the look into the coping and mental states of the survivors. The whole book was about Moonbeam and how she was “deprogrammed” and psychologically cleared after surviving the cult. Her experience during the fire was actually pretty predictable, which is another reason for the 4 stars. But the process she went through with Dr. Hernandez and Agent Carlyle was fascinating and in depth. And I loved the rapport that Moonbeam had with both men. I liked their father like roles. I also liked how Will Hill dealt with the elephant in the room in his Author’s Note: this book was not a condemnation of religion. I learned so long ago to separate Christ from Christians, so I never had to abandon my faith. He tried to focus on the psychological aspects and he went into good detail in the Author’s Note, enough that I felt very good about it. Overall, this was an interesting read and one that I would definitely give to older teens.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK


Two Can Keep a Secret

Author: Karen M. McManus
Published: January 8, 2019

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: April 1-8, 2019
Jessica’s Rating: 3 stars

Book Description:

Echo Ridge is small-town America. Ellery’s never been there, but she’s heard all about it. Her aunt went missing there at age seventeen. And only five years ago, a homecoming queen put the town on the map when she was killed. Now Ellery has to move there to live with a grandmother she barely knows.

The town is picture-perfect, but it’s hiding secrets. And before school even begins for Ellery, someone’s declared open season on homecoming, promising to make it as dangerous as it was five years ago. Then, almost as if to prove it, another girl goes missing.

Ellery knows all about secrets. Her mother has them; her grandmother does too. And the longer she’s in Echo Ridge, the clearer it becomes that everyone there is hiding something. The thing is, secrets are dangerous–and most people aren’t good at keeping them. Which is why in Echo Ridge, it’s safest to keep your secrets to yourself.

Jessica’s Review:

I absolutely loved McManus’ debut Novel One of Us is Lying, so I was looking forward to Two Can Keep a Secret. The covers match perfectly and with similar titles, you think Two is a sequel to One, but it is not. But we do have the sequel to look forward to: It is supposed to be released next year! 

Unfortunately, Two was is not up to the expectations that One set. Yes, we have another murder mystery and have many unknowns, but I was not attached to the characters. I was curious with what was going to happen as the description of the novel is intriguing, but it fell flat for me.  We even have two narrators, which by now you know I love multiple povs.  Our two narrators are Ellery and Malcolm, and Ellery even has a twin brother! And all of these characters are connected in some way.  Usually those things all put together equals a guaranteed enjoyable read. I continued the story as I wanted to know the ending, but by the time I got to the end I really didn’t care about it. 

Maybe reading One first set me up with failure for Two as my expectations were very high.  If you want to give both books a try, I say read Two then One. **Remember the books are NOT connected so they can be read either way.  I would read McManus again and I am still looking forward to the sequel to One

My review to One of Us is Lying is here.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK