The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland

Thanks to my Amazon Prime membership (which is worth every penny I pay for it), I got to read my latest book a bit early. It was a Kindle First title for November, and I’m so glad I picked it. The book is The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland, and it will be released to the masses on December 1st.

The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland is being marketed as a YA romance, but it’s so much more than that. I would even say that the romantic stuff is secondary–even tertiary–to the other happenings in the book. At its core, I think this enthralling story is about coming to terms with one’s own brokenness and learning to open up and accept help when it’s needed.

Zander Osborne does not belong at Camp Padua. She’s here because her parents signed her up–or, more accurately, don’t know what to do with her. Zander may have her own secrets and problems, but she’s definitely not as crazy as the other campers around her, especially her cabin-mate, Cassie, an abrasive girl who’s also a self-diagnosed bipolar anorexic.

As days pass, Zander continues to keep her issues to herself, but she also forms connections with some other campers. There’s Grover Cleveland (not to be confused with the president), a charming guy who fears he will one day become schizophrenic like his dad. There’s also Bek, (short for Alex Trebek), who’s an extremely likable compulsive liar. Zander even forms an unlikely, tenuous bond with Cassie, who is dealing with much more than depression and an eating disorder.

Being part of this group helps Zander in ways that no share-apy sessions ever could. She’s finally feeling and caring about something again, and she finds herself opening up, divulging her most agonizing secrets, and wanting to find some measure of happiness. And maybe, just maybe, that happiness can be found in the arms of Grover Cleveland, a boy who fears his own future while Zander is dealing with her past.

Before Zander can be truly happy, though, she’ll have to confront some painful demons, both her own and those of her new friends. Can she accept the help she needs? Can she offer help to someone who, at every turn, seems to reject the smallest kindness? And can she be truly happy with Grover when so much is weighing on both of them?

Answer these questions and many more when you read The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland by Rebekah Crane.


Like I said at the beginning of this post, I think this book is much more than a YA romance, despite the somewhat light-hearted title, cover, and marketing. (Not that there’s anything wrong with YA romance.) There are moments of hilarity, sweetness, and fun, but there’s also a fair amount of grief, anger, and sadness. I’ll be perfectly honest here. I cried throughout the last quarter of the book. It hit me on nearly every emotional level.

The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland tackles some serious issues. Yes, it does so in a way that is often highly entertaining, but it’s also deliberate in addressing the problems of Zander, Cassie, Grover, and Bek. All four of these characters–and the supporting cast as well–reveal what led them to Camp Padua, and they all exhibit some measure of growth. The process is not always easy–and it’s by no means finished at the book’s conclusion–but the reader gets the clear sense that things are going to get better for the characters they’ve come to care about. That, in and of itself, is an important message.

If you’re wondering if this book is suitable for middle grade readers, I’d advise you to give it a read yourself before placing it on library or classroom shelves. It does have some mature themes and language, and some tween readers may not be ready for that. Others, on the other hand, may relate to the characters in this book and find that it is exactly what they need. As always, know your readers and use your best professional judgment.

For more information on The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland and other books by Rebekah Crane, visit the author’s website. You can also connect with the author on Twitter.

Happy reading!

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Vanishing Girls

I finished reading Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver about fifteen minutes ago, and I’m still processing what happened, so bear with me. I may end up working out my feelings on this book throughout the course of this post. (That happens quite frequently, to be honest.)

In Vanishing Girls, we meet sisters Nick and Dara. Their story, told in Before and After increments, details a rather tumultuous relationship. The sisters were once very close, but jealousy, fighting, relationships, self-destructive behaviors–and, eventually, a horrible accident–tear the girls apart.

Nothing is the same after the car accident that built an impenetrable wall between the sisters. Nick, who is moving back in with her mother for the summer, wants to repair her relationship with Dara, but her sister seems to excel in the art of avoidance. Their paths never cross, but Nick continues to look for a way back to her sister.

While Nick is searching for a way to reconnect with Dara, there’s another search underway in their town. Madeline Snow, a nine-year-old girl, has gone missing. Everyone is on alert, and as the hours and days pass, the story continues to grip the community. Where is this young girl? What happened to her? How could she have vanished without a trace? Surely someone knows something, but the girl is nowhere to be found.

After Dara vanishes on her birthday, Nick is convinced that her disappearance is somehow linked to Madeline Snow’s. She goes on a hunt for clues into Dara’s life, and she’s shocked by what she finds. Apparently, Dara’s been involved in much more than the occasional experiments with drugs and alcohol. She gotten mixed up in a horrible situation, something with the power to ruin her entire life.

What drove Dara to something like this? Could Nick have done something to stop it? What does Dara have to do with Madeline Snow’s disappearance, and can Nick uncover the whole truth–including what really happened on the night of that fateful car accident–before she loses everything?

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Okay…after writing all of that, I’m still not sure how I feel about this book. It was good (as are Lauren Oliver’s other books), and it definitely kept me eager to turn each page, but I guess I simply wasn’t expecting the twist at the end. No, I’m not going to reveal anything major, but I will say that I now want to read the entire book again so that I can look for clues that I missed the first go-round.

Vanishing Girls isn’t a light and fluffy read that you can simply finish and forget. This book is sure to keep readers thinking long after the last page, and I think a lot of interesting discussions could result. (This would be a good pick for a YA book club.)

I do think this book is more suited to an older teen audience, mainly because of the frank depictions of alcohol and drug use and some sexual situations. As always, read the book yourself before adding it to any classroom or library collections. What works in one collection may not be a good fit for another.

If Vanishing Girls sounds like it might be your cup of tea, you can learn more about it on Lauren Oliver’s website. You can also connect with the author on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and YouTube. Enjoy!

Furiously Happy

After following Jenny Lawson, the Bloggess, on her blog and Twitter and reading her first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, I knew that I would absolutely read her second book, Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things, as soon as possible. (Also, who doesn’t want to read a book with a lovely, ecstatic, taxidermied raccoon on the cover? Who, I ask you?!) Well, “as soon as possible” turned out to be this week. (The book came out last week, so I guess I’m doing okay.)

Furiously Happy is a candid–and hilarious–look at Lawson’s own struggles with depression, anxiety, and a few other issues. As it turns out, I really needed that this week. Like this beautifully broken author, I also deal with depression and anxiety, and the depression hit me pretty hard this week. (And no, I cannot pinpoint why. That’s not really how depression works. At least, not for me.) This book was just what I needed to make me laugh until I cried and to let me know that I was not alone. I have a whole tribe of weirdos out there who are just like me. (Well, maybe not just like me. I don’t know of any other 36-year-old spinster librarians with depression and social anxiety who have a fondness for Star Wars, Doctor Who, and playing the tuba.)

If you have a somewhat twisted, irreverent sense of humor–or if you’re broken in your own particular way–I strongly suggest you read Furiously Happy. It’s crazy, uproariously funny, eye-opening, comforting, and just plain awesome. I love it.

For those who are still not convinced to read this amazing book, check out the video below. It brings me to tears–and gives me hope–each time I look at it.

*Note: Furiously Happy is NOT a YA book. I would not put it in a high school library or YA collection. This book, in my opinion, is meant for adult readers.*

Charm & Strange

Occasionally, I encounter books that make me extremely uncomfortable. A couple of those books are Identical by Ellen Hopkins and Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott. Well, I can now add another book to the list of uncomfortable, disturbing, and powerful reads. The book is Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn.

Charm & Strange, winner of the 2014 ALA William C. Morris YA Debut Award, came to me via Goodreads First Reads, and I’m so glad that it did. I may not have otherwise picked up this book, and, though it weirded me out a bit, I think the book is very well-written, and it keeps readers engrossed and eager to know more about the main character and his twisted past.

Charm & Strange tells the convoluted story of Andrew Winston Winters. Known as Win to his fellow students, he keeps to himself at his boarding school. He tries to keep everyone out…for their own safety. He knows he’s dangerous, and he’s always on the verge of letting his emotions get the best of him. If he ever truly lets go, he’s sure the consequences will be disastrous. After all, it’s happened before…

Years ago, Win was known as Drew, a young tennis star with serious anger issues. After letting his anger loose on another boy, his parents decided to send him to stay with his grandparents one fateful summer…and that’s when everything changed. That summer, Drew was forced to confront what really lead to his violent outbursts, and he and his siblings made a terrible decision that would end the cycle of destruction that had ruled their young lives.

In the end, though, Drew couldn’t take that final step, and that decision would haunt him and make him into Win, the lone wolf with no real connections to anyone or anything. He retreats into something of a fantasy world, a world that helps him to make sense of the horrors he faced as a child.

Win’s fantasy world is unraveling fast, and it soon becomes clear that something happened to him so awful that it colored every aspect of his existence. He’ll have to rely on two friends–friends he didn’t even know he had–to get him the help he so desperately needs. In the process, Win will come face-to-face with his childhood self, the memories that plague him, and the abuse that led him to this point.

Read Charm & Strange for a dark, unsettling, and intense look into the mind of a boy who is looking for answers–answers about his own nature and the haunting past that made him into the emotional powder keg he has become.

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When I first started reading this book, I thought I was dealing with a story about a young sociopath. Drew–and Win, his older self–seemed to have no real emotions, he acted impulsively, he didn’t connect with most people, and he had no remorse for this sometimes destructive actions. The more I read, though, the more I learned about this character. Yes, he still had some disturbing tendencies and thoughts, but I suspected that there was more going on below the surface. How right I was. Drew/Win was holding onto a secret so terrible that even he couldn’t face it, and that secret ultimately led to the worst events in this boy’s life and to his own view of himself as a monster.

I think Charm & Strange is an important YA novel because it takes a hard look at how abuse impacts boys. I’ve read loads of books that deal with abuse from the female perspective, but I can’t remember offhand any of them that look at abuse, especially sexual abuse, from a boy’s point of view. (If you know of any books with this perspective, let me know in the comments.) This book addresses the cyclical, catastrophic consequences of abuse and what some kids do to escape what happened to them.

If you’re thinking about picking up this book and/or adding it to your school/classroom/public library, I warn you that it is an intense book suitable for mature readers. There is frank talk of sexual situations, alcohol and drug use, and violence. There’s also a fair amount of adult language. Charm & Strange deals with mature themes, and that should be taken into consideration when recommending this book to readers.

For more about Charm & Strange and author Stephanie Kuehn, visit the author’s website, Twitter, or Goodreads.

Oblivion

Last night, I finally finished reading another book that came to me through NetGalley. This book, Oblivion by Sasha Dawn, came out on May 27th, and I honestly should have finished reading it before the release date, but I just couldn’t do it. It took me three weeks to get through this book, and that is rare. The premise of the book was interesting, but the book itself just didn’t hold my interest. It was very easy to put down.

Callie has been plagued by graphomania (an extreme need to write) for the past year, ever since her father, Reverend Palmer Prescott of the Church of the Holy Promise (a very cult-like “church”), disappeared with Hannah, a young girl from the church. Authorities–and even Callie herself–think Callie knows more about the supposed abduction than she’s told them. Buried somewhere in her memories are clues to what really happened. All Callie really knows is that she was found after the disappearance with the words “I killed him” scrawled on the walls of a shabby apartment. What really happened that night? And does Callie hold the keys to unlocking the truth of a young girl’s whereabouts?

The anniversary of this terrible event is fast approaching, and Callie’s graphomania is taking on a life of its own. The words are pouring out of her, but what do they mean? Callie seeks answers from her mentally disturbed mother, but it’s often difficult to separate lucidity from insanity with her mom.

A guy at school, though, may be able to help Callie. John has followed this case–and another related one–and he seems to be triggering some latent memories in Callie’s fragile mind. He’s helping her make sense of the words plaguing her, and Callie is growing closer to the truth of what really happened.

Is Callie ready for what the truth will reveal? What will it mean for her life now? And what will happen when it becomes clear that someone is willing to do anything to keep some secrets buried forever?

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Even though I wasn’t a huge fan of this book, I did like a couple of things about it. I found the entire concept of graphomania to be intriguing. It’s not a condition I’d ever heard of before, and I now find myself wanting to know more about it. Trying to decipher what Callie’s words really meant was both frustrating and engaging, and when things finally coalesced at the end, those words made a strange sort of sense.

Watching Callie and John work together to uncover the mystery surrounding Palmer and Hannah was interesting at times. They had a few setbacks, and Callie’s words led them on some wild chases for answers, but they persevered and eventually found the truth. Were they the answers the duo expected? Not always, but I think their relationship was strengthened by the journey together.

I think my biggest issues with this book had to do with pacing and characters. The story seemed to drag on and on until the big conclusion, when everything went at a frantic pace. The ending actually took me by surprise because it came on so suddenly. I was expecting a little more of a build-up, especially considering how slowly the rest of the book went. So, although I found the end to be exciting, disturbing, and fitting, I also found it to be rather abrupt.

As for the characters, I must say that I didn’t particularly like any of them. Even Callie, our protagonist, was kind of hard to like sometimes. Yes, I rooted for her and wanted her to uncover the truth, but I didn’t think she was very relatable, and she made some pretty bone-headed choices (which I know would be expected for someone in her situation, but a little common sense would have been nice). The character I disliked the most was probably Lindsay, Callie’s foster sister. That girl was horrible! I’m still trying to figure out why Callie put up with Lindsay’s wide array of crap (bullying, drug use, lying, etc.). There were a few other major characters in this book, and I’m sad to say that I found none of them–save maybe Hannah–to be especially sympathetic.

I read an uncorrected proof of Oblivion, so it’s possible that some changes were made to make the book a bit better before final publication. If you happen to read a final copy, please let me know what you think! I feel that this book had so much potential to be great, but, in my opinion, it just fell short.

Mad Love

Even though I think Valentine’s Day is a stupid non-holiday (yes, I’m single), I found myself reading a book with a big ol’ heart on it yesterday.  Purely coincidence, I assure you.  When I first started reading Mad Love by Suzanne Selfors, I was expecting standard chick-lit fare.  I was pleasantly surprised, though, by the depth of the main character, Alice, and how she approached issues that no teenager should have to deal with.  It also didn’t hurt that Mad Love threw in some mythology and supernatural goings-on.  That’s always fun.

Alice Amorous is the daughter of world-famous romance novelist Belinda Amorous. People probably think that being the Queen of Romance’s daughter is glamorous and full of flowers, hearts, and candy…but they couldn’t be more wrong. Alice is doing her best to hide the horrible truth from everyone. Her mother is battling a mental illness in a private psychiatric hospital, and she hasn’t written a word in three years. 

It’s up to Alice to make sure the bills get paid, books get autographed (or forged, as the case may be), and eager fans and publishers are kept at bay.  But it’s getting harder and harder to cope…especially when her mom’s publisher wants a completed manuscript or a return of the $100,000 advance for the next book, and the hospital needs payment for Belinda’s care and treatment.  Alice doesn’t have the money needed, and she doesn’t know how she’ll get it…until she gets the bright idea to write a romance novel herself…in her mother’s name, of course.  There are a few problems though:  1.  She’s not a writer.  2.  She’s never even been in love (and how can you write about romance if you’ve never experienced it?).  3.  The publisher needs the novel by the end of the summer, so she’s got about a month to come up with something.  What’s a girl to do?  Well, someone comes along who may just have the answer to all of Alice’s problems…

When Alice first meets Errol, she thinks he’s crazy.  Also, he reeks of clam juice.  After talking to him for a bit, she still thinks he’s crazy, but she’s willing to hear him out if it will ultimately help her mother.  See, Errol thinks he’s Eros, better known as Cupid, and he wants Alice to write the real story of Cupid and Psyche, the story that the gods wanted hushed up.  Alice has quite enough crazy in her life, but she agrees to help Errol–even though he’s wrecking her relationship with Tony, the new guy in town.  As Alice works on the book that she’s sure will fix everything, she learns a little about what a love story truly is and the power of love in all its forms.

Will Alice be able to tell Errol’s story before it’s too late?  Will it be enough to keep her mother’s illness a secret?  Is this guy really Cupid?  Will her mother ever get better?  And will Alice finally get her own love story with Tony?  Answer these questions and many more when you read Mad Love by Suzanne Selfors.

Mad Love is a quick, easy read that will definitely appeal to tween and teen girls.  (It will be a hard sell for most male readers.)  Despite the cover, this is an emotional read that highlights what children of depressed parents go through.  It also gives a new look at a story you might have encountered before.  Many mythology enthusiasts–like myself–know the story of Cupid and Psyche, but Mad Love presents it in a whole new way…without the “happy ending” that we’ve grown accustomed to.  Author Suzanne Selfors does a great job of showing readers how truly powerful love can be, whether it’s the love between parents and children, friends, romantic interests, or even total strangers.  Mad Love is a wonderful, heart-wrenching book that will leave you examining the love in your own life.  I know it did for me.

For more information about Suzanne Selfors and her books, visit http://www.suzanneselfors.com/index_flash.php.  (I’ve only read one of her other books, Saving Juliet, but it, too, was great, so I’ll probably check out a few more!)