Review: Aftercare Instructions by Bonnie Pipkin

Aftercare Instructions
Author: Bonnie Pipkin
Publication Date: June 27, 2017
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Contemporary
Note: I received an ARC from the publisher via Goodreads in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Synopsis:

In the tradition of Jandy Nelson and Rainbow Rowell, a big-hearted journey of furious friendship, crazy love, and unexpected hope after a teen’s decision to end an unwanted pregnancy

“Troubled.” That’s seventeen-year-old Genesis according to her small New Jersey town. She finds refuge and stability in her relationship with her boyfriend, Peter—until he abandons her at a Planned Parenthood clinic during their appointment to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. The betrayal causes Gen to question everything.

As Gen pushes herself forward to find her new identity without Peter, she must also confront her most painful memories. Through the lens of an ongoing four act play within the novel, the fantasy of their undying love unravels line by line, scene by scene. Digging deeper into her past while exploring the underground theater world of New York City, she rediscovers a long-forgotten dream. But it’s when Gen lets go of her history, the one she thinks she knows, that she’s finally able to embrace the complicated, chaotic true story of her life, and take center stage.

This powerfully immersive and format-crushing début follows Gen from dorm rooms to diners to house parties to auditions—and ultimately, right into readers’ hearts.


Reading Aftercare Instructions was a bit of a weird experience for me. I entered a Goodreads giveaway for it without having read the blurb. I know that’s a little weird, but I do it sometimes. When I won and received the book, I still didn’t read the blurb. So when I started reading it, I had no idea what I was in store for. Aftercare Instructions was a really sad story. It wasn’t a bawling my eyes out sad, but more of a depressing sad.

Aftercare Instructions, as the blurb statesis about an almost eighteen-year-old girl who finds herself in the tough position of having an abortion. Gen knows having one is the right decision for herself and her boyfriend, Peter. But when Gen walks out into the waiting room after the procedure and finds Peter gone, she’s not so sure about anything anymore.

I’m going to jump right into my impression of Peter. I don’t care what his reasons for leaving Gen at the clinic by herself were, they weren’t good enough. No one should have to go through what Gen did, and then be left to suffer alone. I hated Peter and wished someone would have kicked the crap out of that kid. For someone who was supposed to be so good, he was pretty horrible. I understand his reasoning and beliefs, but Gen deserved better.

As for Gen, I understood her emotions and rationale. I didn’t always agree with the decisions she was making, but I didn’t fault her for them. She made a very tough, adult decision and the ramifications of it hurt. Gen had every right to be as broken as she was. She had every right to do anything she could to feel better.

One truly great thing about Aftercare Instructions was the bond between friends. Gen had a few people on her side that were willing to do everything they could to make sure Gen was in a safe emotional and physical state. They showed up when she wasn’t expecting and took charge. I applaud the author for showing how friends can support each other when a character can’t reach for a parent.

Another really great thing about this book was the way the title, chapter headings, chapters and story all meshed together. Obviously, the title Aftercare Instructions refers to the guidelines Gen needed to follow after her abortion. Each chapter is headed with one of those instructions. That instruction fit what Gen was going through physically and emotionally at the time. By the end of the book, we can see the way all of these instructions and Gen’s actions led to her moment(s) of healing. This was genius. I also really enjoyed the way the author used a play script as the method of delivering Gen and Peter’s past. That was so unique and cool.

Aftercare Instructions is an important book. Never before have I read a young adult novel that so honestly deals with the topic of abortion. Not only does it cover the emotional aspects of having one, but it details the physical. I’m not just talking what happens the moment of the procedure, but also in the week to come. It’s not romanticized. It’s not over and done. This is a good thing. It gives teenagers (and adults) down and dirty look at life after. I think that’s important. It gives girls/women who have gone through it a book they can identify with. Maybe it will give someone who might be making a similar decision peace or make them re-examine the decision they’re making. I don’t know. Like I said, I think it’s an important book.

I do have to admit I had some problems rating Aftercare Instructions — no matter how important I thought it was. I almost didn’t give it a rating at all. How do you rate a book that’s written so well, but wasn’t a fun experience? Honestly, this book depressed the hell out of me and made me so angry at Peter. Those aren’t fun emotions. I ended up giving it 4 stars because I think it deserves to be read.

Review: Bad Mommy by Tarryn Fisher

Bad Mommy
Author: Tarryn Fisher
Publication Date: December 24, 2016
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Fiction, Suspense

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

When Fig Coxbury buys a house on West Barrett Street, it’s not because she likes the neighborhood, or even because she likes the house. It’s because everything she desires is next door: The husband, the child, and the life that belongs to someone else.


Bad Mommy is a mind$#%^. I don’t know how else to explain it. It was everything I expected from Tarryn Fisher, but nothing like I expected. Every time I thought I had a grasp on what was going on, I would start a new section of the book and become completely disoriented. It was such a trip!

I want to go back and read Bad Mommy a second time. That’s high praise because it’s rare for me to re-read a book. I feel like I would grasp more from the story a second time, and enjoy it even more.

Anyone who loves a great psychologically suspenseful novel will enjoy Bad Mommy. It’s dark, deceitful and will keep you turning the pages long after you should have gone to bed.

And that’s all I’m saying because I’m not going to ruin this book for anyone. 😉

Review: Sweet Fall by Tillie Cole

Sweet Fall
Series: Sweet Home, #2
Author: Tillie Cole
Publication Date: August 25, 2014
Publisher: Tillie Cole LLC
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Sports Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

From the USA Today Best Selling Sweet Home Series, comes Sweet Fall; a tale of heartache, beating the odds and finding strength in the most unlikeliest of places.

We all have secrets.

Secrets well buried.

Until we find the one soul who makes the burden of such secrets just that little bit easier to bear.

Lexington “Lexi” Hart is a senior at the University of Alabama. Surrounded by her best friends, her loving family and having fulfilled her life-long dream of making the Crimson Tide cheer squad, everything is going exactly as she always dreamed it would. But beneath her happy exterior, demons lurk, threatening to jeopardize everything Lexi has worked to achieve. When events in her life become too much to cope with, Lexi finds herself spiraling down into the realm of her biggest fear. Lexi falls hard, victim once again to the only thing that can destroy her and, on the way, finds herself falling straight into the dangerous tattooed arms of a guy from the wrong side of the tracks.

Austin Carillo, starting Wide Receiver for the Alabama Crimson Tide, must get picked in this year’s NFL draft. He needs it. His brothers need it. Most importantly, his mother desperately needs it. Brought up in a world where the poor are forgotten, the sick are left to fend for themselves and no hero miraculously appears to pull you out of hell, Austin had no other choice but to make a living on the wrong side of the law—until football offered Austin the break to get his life back on track. But when a family tragedy drags him back into the clutches of the gang he believed he had left far behind, Austin finds himself falling. Falling back into criminal ways and falling deep into a suffocating darkness. Until a troubled yet kindred spirit stumbles across his path, where Austin quickly finds he is falling for a young woman, a young woman who might just have the power to save him from his worst enemy: himself.

Can two troubled souls find a lasting peace together? Or will they finally succumb to the demons threatening to destroy them?

New Adult/Contemporary Romance novel—contains adult content, sexual situations and mature topics. Suited for ages 18 and up.

Can be read as a stand-alone novel.


I was not expecting Sweet Fall to be the book it was after reading Sweet HomeSweet Home was an entertaining sports romance filled with over the top drama. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t quite fall in love with it. It didn’t touch me the way Sweet Fall did.

Sweet Fall was a very special book in my opinion. It took a couple of really tough topics, eating disorders and gang activity, and melded them together seamlessly. Each topic received the attention it was due along with some really great insight into what dealing with those issues involves. I was so impressed with the way Tillie Cole portrayed something she knew so much about. Her strength in sharing her innermost thoughts was commendable. Another thing I loved about Sweet Fall was its first person, dual point of view narration. So many insights were gained through the characters’ thoughts and actions.

Lexi was a girl trying to conquer her deepest fears and secrets. On the outside, she was a bright and bubbly goth cheerleader. On the inside, she was just trying to make it through the day. Lexi didn’t want anyone to discover what she was hiding and took lengths to make sure they didn’t. The only person she was able to share her true self with was the one person she knew she shouldn’t: Austin.

Austin’s football greatness may have him on the way to the NFL, but first he has to outrun his gangster past. He’s given up that lifestyle to play college ball, but the lifestyle is hard to escape when it had a hold of his family back home. There are so many pressures Austin’s dealing with, and shockingly, the only one he can find comfort in is the last person he should: Lexi.

I loved Lexi and Austen together. Both had battles to fight, and I loved the strength they gave each other. Their connection to each other was perfect. Everything Lexi and Austen shared with each other was special and their stories were inspiring. Every moment of their story felt important, and I can only imagine it touched a lot of readers.

Sweet Fall was a special novel that deserves high praise. It’s one I would recommend to readers who like a sweet love story filled with tough issues and a little bit of angst. Reading the first book in the series, Sweet Home, is not necessary, but it would be helpful because there are some spoilers to that book in this one.

Review: Cross Check by Kelly Jamieson

Cross Check
Series: Bayard Hockey, #2
Author: Kelly Jamieson
Publication Date: July 25, 2017
Publisher: Loveswept
Genre: New Adult, Sports Romance, Contemporary
Note: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

A party girl and a clean-cut college hockey player discover that they’re not so different in this sexy, soulful Bayard Hockey novel from the bestselling author of Shut Out and the Heller Brothers series.

Ella Verran has three goals this semester: get off academic probation, repair her relationship with her friend Skylar, and take some responsibility for her life. All of which are hard enough without hot, snobby hockey player Ben Buckingham around to distract her. Ella can’t stand Ben, and she knows the feeling is mutual. But he’s best friends with Skylar’s boyfriend, so he’s always around—taunting and tempting Ella in ways she never thought possible.

As the star forward of the Bayard College hockey team, Ben has goals too, like playing well enough to land a spot on an NHL roster. Ben is perfectly poised on the ice, so why can’t he keep his cool around Ella? Her wild behavior rubs him in all the wrong ways—and a few of the right ones. But as they skate around each other, Ben learns that there’s more to Ella than her bad reputation. And when the line between love and hate starts to blur, he can’t resist crossing over and sweeping her off her feet.


Last month I read my first Kelly Jamieson novel. It was one of her contemporary hockey romances and I was really impressed. I loved her writing style and couldn’t believe how well she pulled off third person dual point of view narration. I was excited to get another chance to read one of her upcoming novels, this time a new adult hockey romance. If I was impressed with the first book I read by Kelly Jamieson, Cross Check completely blew me away.

Cross Check was told in first person dual narration, and it was so much fun to read! I couldn’t get enough of this enemies to lovers romance. The sexual tension rolling off Ella and Ben was explosive. I loved every minute of their hate to love fest.

Ella was a good person who had made some poor choices recently. Those choices had given her a reputation she wanted to get away from. That was hard to do knowing people, like Ben, were judging her. I loved the strength she showed making changes and getting the help she needed. Ella was a great role model for young women out there. She proved there isn’t anything that can stand in your way of changing yourself if you want it bad enough. Ben had issues of his own. He thought he had moved past them, but really he was just hiding from them. I enjoyed the way he learned that he might have been judging Ella the way he didn’t want to be judged. The way they taught each other to move on from the past was very sweet. Oh, and that sexual tension I mentioned before? Well, it was HOT, HOT, HOT when they finally acted on it.

The only thing I wish I could have changed was not having read the first Bayard Hockey novel before reading Cross Check. I felt like I was missing was a little bit of both Ben and Ella’s past. They obviously had some deeply negative feelings about each other from what took place in the first book. I also would have liked to have a better understanding of what happened to make Ella who she was in this book. But all this is on me, not the author’s writing ability. I should have read the first book! I need to go back and read it now.

Cross Check was a fun college hockey romance with some intense issues built into it. I loved every moment of it. I respected the way Kelly Jamieson made a fiery romance educational as well. I highly recommend this book to new adult fans out there.

Review: We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

We Are the Ants
Author: Shaun David Hutchinson
Publication Date: January 19, 2016
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, GLBT, Contemporary

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

There are a few things Henry Denton knows, and a few things he doesn’t.

Henry knows that his mom is struggling to keep the family together, and coping by chain-smoking cigarettes. He knows that his older brother is a college dropout with a pregnant girlfriend. He knows that he is slowly losing his grandmother to Alzheimer’s. And he knows that his boyfriend committed suicide last year.

What Henry doesn’t know is why the aliens chose to abduct him when he was thirteen, and he doesn’t know why they continue to steal him from his bed and take him aboard their ship. He doesn’t know why the world is going to end or why the aliens have offered him the opportunity to avert the impending disaster by pressing a big red button.

But they have. And they’ve only given him 144 days to make up his mind.

The question is whether Henry thinks the world is worth saving. That is, until he meets Diego Vega, an artist with a secret past who forces Henry to question his beliefs, his place in the universe, and whether any of it really matters. But before Henry can save the world, he’s got to figure out how to save himself, and the aliens haven’t given him a button for that.


Before I start this review, I must thank Kelly @ Here’s to Happy Endings for sharing her ARC of We Are the Ants with me. If she hadn’t passed this book onto me, I might not have read it and that would have been a travesty.

When I began reading We Are the Ants, I was immediately confused and unsure if this book was going to be for me. Science fiction isn’t normally my preferred reading genre, and there were some pretty big science fiction-y things happening right away. Normally, that probably would have bored me, but it didn’t. We Are the Ants enthralled me the entire time I was reading it. The author’s writing and storytelling were brilliant. I read it in one evening. That’s how good this book was. A non-science fiction reader couldn’t put it down.

I absolutely loved the cast of characters. Henry was a boy on the brink of manhood. Life was tough for him to begin with and being abducted by aliens didn’t help. The added pressure of trying to decide whether to save the world or not compounded his already stressful existence.

Henry’s relationship with his family a big part of this story. His family wasn’t as easy to love as Henry was, but the more I got to know them the more they grew on me. It took me a long time to understand their motivations and opinions. Their lack of support for Henry at times frustrated me, especially his mother. I wanted to give her a good shake a couple of times.

The other characters that had a large part in this story were Henry’s classmates. I had a love-hate relationship with them. I loved what they brought to the story, but I hated pretty much all of them. They were a true representation of what kids can be like when presented with someone who doesn’t fit the mold.

We Are the Ants was a beautiful and thought-provoking coming of age novel. It touched on so many issues that will resonate with today’s youth and adults alike. If you haven’t already read it, I would highly recommend doing so.

Blog Tour Review: Seared on My Soul by Cole Gibson

Seared On My Soul Tour BannerSeared on My Soul
By: Cole Gibsen
Publication Date: June 27, 2016
Genres: New Adult, Entangled Embrace, Contemporary Romance

Seared on My Soul CoverPurchase: Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | B&N | Kobo | iBooks

Synopsis:

She’s so young, so full of life…

I couldn’t let her die…

Even if she made the world’s worst coffee.

Emily Garret never asked to be rescued, let alone by a walking JCrew ad whose idea of fun is probably managing his stock portfolio and watching the nightly news. Then again, she never thought she would wind upside-down in a ditch after a night having a little too much fun.

Reece Montgomery never planned on being anyone’s hero, especially the foul-mouthed, bleach-blonde barista from the local coffee shop. He thinks there’s more to Emily than her tattoos, and lip ring, but getting close means letting her into his past and meeting his ghosts.

And he’s not sure she’s ready for that battlefield.

goodreads-badge-add-38pxReview:

  ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Emily may be a strong woman who looks like she doesn’t care what people think on the outside, but on the inside she’s a little lost. While her friends have found their loves and paths in life, Emily is stuck with one night stands and a dead-end barista job. She’s completely happy with her lifestyle until one drunken hookup leads to almost losing her life.

Reece is barely keeping himself together after suffering the loss of his friend and fellow soldier. He may have a teaching job, a place to live and an amazing motorcycle, but he’s constantly on the brink of his next anxiety attack.

After Reece saves the barista from his local coffee shop from a fiery car crash, he can’t stop thinking about her. Even though he’s never really talked to Emily, he feels a connection with her. As he gets to know Emily, he realizes she’s rough around the edges, but she gets him in a way no one else has.

Seared on My Soul started out a little rough for me. It’s told in dual point of view and starts with Emily’s perspective. That first chapter just didn’t pull me in like I hoped it would. I can’t put my finger on what exactly I didn’t care for, but there was just something a little off-putting about Emily’s point of view in that initial introduction. I didn’t think I was going to like her character at all.

Luckily, it was just that first chapter that I didn’t connect with because the I really enjoyed the rest of the book! I immediately felt a connection with Reece’s character. He was a war veteran dealing with the loss of his friend. He felt responsible and was dealing with PTSD symptoms. He was fighting so hard to make it through each day. It was actually the way Emily connected with Reece that helped me connect with her.

Emily was a very mixed up character. Her brash personality helped hide her insecurities. It made her appear stronger than she really was. Emily used alcohol to numb her pain and it was slowly consuming her. But even though she had her own issues, she easily identified Reece’s and was able to give him the safety he needed. Emily was actually a very sweet person once you got past what she was trying to portray to everyone.

Emily and Reece were pretty darn perfect together. They heated up the sheets spectacularly, but more importantly, they were a support system for each other. Their relationship had bumps along the way, but those bumps lead them to better themselves and grow a stronger connection to each other.

Seared on My Sole was a great romance filled with friendship, love and healing.

**I received this book from IndieSage PR via NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

Excerpt:

My world becomes nothing but pain.
Every breath is a mixture of blood, smoke, and gasoline.

From far away, I hear sirens and muf ed voices that can’t quite penetrate the darkness I’ve fallen into. Blood, tasting of copper, trickles down my throat. A searing ache, like barbed wire, rips into every inch of my body.

Am I dying?

Terror coils around my gut and I ail in the darkness inside my mind, desperate for anything to hold onto, an object to keep me grounded so I won’t fall away. My ngers brush against something soft and I grab hold, twisting the fabric into my st.

It doesn’t take me long to realize the fabric is attached to something—or rather someone—because seconds later a pair of muscular arms snake around my shoulders and press

me against an equally rm chest.
It doesn’t make sense. I haven’t been held this way since

Daddy died nearly a decade ago.
“Can you hear me?” The unfamiliar voice sounds

distant, echoing inside my head like a cavern.
I try to answer, but my throat is tight and blood coats my

tongue. Instead, I hold tighter, pressing my knotted ngers against his chest. His warmth bleeds into my skin, loosening the fear twisted around my ribs just enough for me to breathe— only it comes as a gasp. “I don’t want to die.” The words are a surprise, but I realize they’re the truest words I’ve ever spoken.

Unconsciousness tugs at me with velvety ngers, pulling me deeper inside myself. I clutch the fabric in my hands, suddenly terri ed that if I’m pulled away, I might not be able to nd my way back.

The darkness presses against me, smashing me beneath a wall of endless satin. My ngers lose their grip on the man’s shirt, and I can feel myself slipping. Fear rises inside my throat, a jagged lump I can barely breathe around. “Don’t,” I manage to choke. My voice sounds far away—almost as if it were coming from outside my body. Or maybe I’m the one outside my body.

The thought sends an icy wave of terror crashing over me.

“Don’t what?” the man asks, sounding farther away than before. Even so, the panic in his voice is unmistakable.

The darkness grows heavier, and I am too weak to ght. Even my fear ebbs under the crushing weight of exhaustion. It takes all my remaining strength, but I manage to breathe life into the words tangled on my tongue before

unconsciousness consumes me.

“Don’t let me go.”

ABOUT COLE GIBSEN

Cole Gibsen

At seventeen Cole found herself homeless with only a beat-up Volkswagen Jetta and a bag of Goodwill clothing to her name. The only things that got her through the nights she spent parked in truck stops and cornfields were the stacks of books she checked out from the library along with her trusty flashlight. Because of the reprieve these books gave her from her troubles, Cole vowed to become a writer so she could provide the same escape to readers who needed a break the reality of their own lives.

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Review: Shame by Rachel Van Dyken

Shame
Series:
Ruin, #3
Author: Rachel Van Dyken
Publication Date: October 4, 2014
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance

Synopsis:

Everything done in darkness will eventually be brought into the light. I ran, but all it did was keep me one step ahead of my past. I tried to start over; new name, new identity. But you can’t change your soul. A fresh start at college was just what I needed. For a while, it worked. I was the party girl, the one who seemed confident, but it was a lie. When guys kissed me – I felt only pain. When they touched me – nothing but fear. Deep inside, every girl wants to be the beauty in the story, to find someone who will see you as their world. But the truth? I was the beast. And as much as I wanted redemption, I wasn’t fool enough to think I’d ever get it.

Until he walked into my life. I wasn’t prepared to fall for someone. My scars were too deep, the wounds too raw. But he offered me peace, he offered me security. I should have known it was just another lie – I should have known that falling in love with my professor was a bad idea. But I was powerless to stop myself from falling. And he was powerless to catch me. Because the darkness finally caught up to me, and as fate would have it, a cruel twist almost bled me dry. But I’m stronger than I knew. I’m stronger than you think. You think you know my story, but you don’t – after all everyone has Shame in their lives – and I’m no longer afraid to show you mine.


  ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Wow. Shame was freakin’ crazy. After reading Toxic, the second book in the Ruin series, I knew there was more to party girl Lisa than met the eye. She had a hidden past that I was looking forward to exploring. What I wasn’t expecting was the crazy ride Shame took me on. I feel like I can’t even really tell you much about the book because I would be giving too much away. It’s definitely a book you have to read for yourself.

In Shame, Lisa is trying to out run her past. It’s a past filled with pain and hurt — both her own and that which she caused others. Lisa’s created a new, better version of herself and she’s doing everything she can to make a brighter future at the UW.

Sophomore year of college isn’t starting out very well for Lisa, though. Her past has come back to haunt her through anonymous letters in her mailbox. Lisa’s starting to get scared. Her new psychology professor isn’t helping either. He may be hot as hell, but he seems to have a grudge against Lisa. One minute, Lisa thinks there might be something between them. The next, he’s insulting her. The stress of it all is almost too much to handle.

Student/teacher relationships are one of my least favorite relationship tropes, but it didn’t really bother me in this book. While I was a little worried about Lisa and Tristan getting caught and in trouble, I could also see where the story was going. That helped make their relationship more enjoyable to read.

I loved Lisa’s character. She was just as complex as the storyline. Her past was so interesting. I loved reading about it through Taylor’s journal entries.

Tristan won’t be making my book boyfriend list. I had a love/hate relationship with him, but that’s okay. His character and role made him perfect for Lisa.

The real gem in this story for me was Taylor, or more accurately, his journals. He was such an interesting and dark character! He created some twists and turns I didn’t see coming. His part in the story made this more a thriller than a romance.

Shame was a really cool book. It wasn’t what I expected at all and I loved that. I think other readers will, too.

I would highly suggest reading the first two books in the Ruin series prior to reading Shame, as the stories build upon each other. I would recommend the entire series to New Adult readers. I’ve truly enjoyed reading them.