Review: The Other Side (Kim Holden)

The Other Side
Author: Kim Holden
Publication Date: June 5, 2019
Publisher: Do Epic LLC
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Mental Health, Historical Fiction, Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Denver, Colorado
1987

There are two sides to every story.
The surface reality that’s presented to the world.
And then there’s the other side.
The real one.
The one that matters.

Seventeen-year-old, self-proclaimed asshole, Toby Page, is alone.
No friends.
No family.
He trades maintenance work in exchange for room and board.
Every day he fights demons no one else can see.
Every day he wants to give up.
But he can’t.
Not yet.

When Alice Eliot moves in downstairs, she offers Toby some light in his dark world.
At a crossroads and barely hanging on, it’s hard to have perspective.
It’s difficult to see your own worth when you’re the villain in your story.
Luckily for Toby, Alice brings things out in him that no one else ever has.

As the two sides of Toby’s story are revealed, and the full reality comes into view, truth is gained.
Improbable alliances prove that kindness is fundamentally human.
Unlikely heroes emerge.

The question is, Will it all be enough to save him?


When I have to answer the dreaded “What’s your favorite book?” question, I always respond with Bright Side by Kim Holden. There hasn’t been a book since I read Bright Side that has affected me as much. I’m telling you this for a couple of reasons. One, so you know how brilliant of a writer Kim Holden is. Two, because while The Other Side wasn’t exactly another Bright Side, it just as impactful and even more important.

The Other Side is a story about a young man living with suicidal thoughts. I am not going to go anymore into the plot because it’s one of those books you have to read for yourself. (There are some amazing surprises in store!) What I will say is that I was impressed with the story Kim Holden told and the way it was delivered. It definitely made me think about my daily actions, the people around me, and the people I come in contact with. It’s truly one of those stories that young adults (and adults) need to read. I loved what this book gave to me, and I want it to give even more to others.

Review: Serious Moonlight (Jenn Bennett)

Serious Moonlight
Author: Jenn Bennett
Publication Date: April 16, 2019
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

After an awkward first encounter, Birdie and Daniel are forced to work together in a Seattle hotel where a famous author leads a mysterious and secluded life in this romantic contemporary novel from the author of Alex, Approximately.

Mystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.

In her new job, Birdie hopes to blossom from introverted dreamer to brave pioneer, and gregarious Daniel Aoki volunteers to be her guide. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel.

To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell…discovering that the most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.


Serious Moonlight is a really hard book for me to review. I wanted to love it, but I didn’t. It started with my having a hard time getting into the story and connecting with the main character, Birdie. I didn’t liker her all that much in the beginning. Birdie was big on avoidance and self-centered. Both are understandable teenage traits, it was just hard to for me to read about over and over again. Plus, it took a longer time that I expected for Birdie and Daniel to connect and get the story really going. I didn’t feel connected to Birdie, Daniel, or the story until about half way through.

Why didn’t connect as quickly as I would have liked? I’m going to blame it on the setting of Seattle. I can tell from both this book and her author’s note that Jenn Bennett has a big love for the city of Seattle. I love that, but Seattle was a character and not a setting in this book. Serious Moonlight felt more like a random tour through Seattle than a story set there. I feel qualified to say this since I have lived in a suburb in between Seattle and Tacoma pretty much my entire life. It’s not that I don’t like reading about the Space Needle, Benaroya Hall, or Safeco Field (which no one in Seattle calls “the Safe” other than the newscasters and is now T-Mobile Park). I do. It just felt like there was a lot of name dropping of sites that took away from what was actually happening. 18 year-old Bridie, who was supposed to be sheltered and lived on Bainbridge Island, knew a lot more about the hidden parts of Seattle than I knew at that age. I also had issue with Birdie  referencing something like June Gloom. I don’t ever remembering hearing that term before. I had to Google it to make sure it was a thing. Washingtonians don’t talk about June Gloom. We just know that the rain and cloudy weather starts the end of October and we don’t expect sun until after the Fourth of July. Maybe someone with less Seattle knowledge wouldn’t be as bothered by it all as I was. (I know I am not the only one who has felt this way. I have read reviews by other people who have lived in WA, and they felt the same about some of this stuff.)

I started connecting more with the characters and their story when they started connecting. When Birdie stopped avoiding Daniel and they developed a friendship, I became interested. It’s then that I found the mystery they were on the quest to solve interesting. It was then that I started caring about Birdie and her narcolepsy, Daniel and his secrets, Birdie’s relationships with Mona… I could go on and on. Everything interested me after that. I ended up enjoying the second half of the book rather than wanting to abandon it. I’m happy I stuck with it and kept reading because there were a lot of good things in it.

Would I recommend reading Serious Moonlight? Yes. It wasn’t my favorite Jenn Bennett book, but there is a story worth reading in its pages.

Release Day Review: Saving Me by Sadie Allen

Title: Saving Me
Author: Sadie Allen
Genre: Mature YA Romance
Release Date: February 21, 2018
On the outside, Ally has everything any teenager could want. She’s beautiful, popular, and athletic. She has the right friends, an adoring boyfriend, and the picture-perfect family. 

Too bad it’s all a lie.

Every day she’s dying a little on the inside, drowning in everyone’s expectations and opinions, the weight of it all pulling her under. 

She wants to do the unthinkable … until a boy with shaggy hair, unusual eyes, and a lip ring changes her plans.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Ally has always been the best. She’s popular. She’s the best hurdler on the track team. She has the the boyfriend every girl desires. Life should be easy, but it’s not. Her life is driven by the pressure of her peers and parents — until an injury sidelines her from the track team. The carefully crafted life she was living falls apart in one big swoop. Tired of living a life she doesn’t want, Ally makes some desperate decisions.

I was impressed when I read Sadie Allen’s début novel. I am even more impressed by her second novel, Saving Me. It was beautifully written and packed with emotion. Being a teenager is hard. Sadie Allen showed just how hard it can be. She also showed how the kindness of others can change the course of a life, and how important having supportive  friends (and family) is.

The only thing I would have liked to have seen in Saving Me was a greater focus on the feelings Ally felt at the beginning of the book. She was being so drastic, but those feelings seemed to greatly lessen so quickly.

Overall, Saving Me was a great YA novel. It was so much more than just another contemporary romance. I would recommend it to readers who enjoy books by Tijan, Ginger Scott or other authors who tackle deep issues.

“Wow, I love this book! A beautifully uplifting coming-of-age story with a vulnerable yet strong heroine that you cannot help but love, and an absolutely gorgeous YA romance that had my heart pounding, and a huge smile on my face.
Ally’s story captivated me from start to finish. I loved her as a character, and I thought this was a beautifully written story of family, friendship and love, of learning who you are and fighting for what you truly want.
Absolutely beautiful – 5 stars!” – The Escapist Book Blog

 

“You know that you have found the perfect book when you find that you can relate to the story and characters in such a way that it feels like the author could be retelling your own story. We are allowed access to the very soul of Ally, and we can feel her emotional despair, her hopes, desires and what will ultimately be life changing moments. I wept for her, felt anger for her, but I also felt moments of extreme happiness for her. The reflective message contained within the pages of this book will stay with readers of all ages.” – YA Book Divas
“This book was hella melodramatic “to the nth degree”—the amount of drama in this book could have kept a teenage soap/drama from The CW spoon-fed for a complete season.” – Goodreads Reviewer 
“SAVING ME by Sadie Allen is a beautiful story of finding strength, trusting in others and learning what love truly is, whether it is romantic or familial. Prepare to have your emotions twisted, to become angry, to smile and to have hope for the future of these characters.” – Tome Tender Book Blog
“This is a gorgeously written mature YA book – an emotional, dramatic and romantic story that deals with some pretty heavy themes, but that is also sweet, funny and uplifting. This book captivated me from start to finish, and I loved it!” – The Escapist Book Blog

Sadie Allen lives in Texas with her husband and three young children. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, catching up on her favorite shows, or chasing her family around the house.

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