Review: Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose

The Deets:

Audience: YA
Genre: Nonfiction, journal
Publisher:  April 1st 2014 by Sourcebooks Fire
ISBN: 9781402287589
Source: eARC from Netgalley


Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary RoseGo Ask Alice was a hoax. But Dear Nobody is a true teen diary so raw and so edgy its authenticity rings off every page

"I am a freak."

The words and drawings of Mary Rose present a gritty, powerful, no-holds-barred true experience of a teen girl so desperate to be loved, so eager to fit in that she'll go to extremes that could cost her her life.

This is not a story about addiction. Or sexual promiscuity. Or cystic fibrosis. It's the story of a young woman with a powerful will to live, who more than anything wants to be heard...and loved.

This compelling, emotional account ensures her voice will not be forgotten.





I don't even know where to begin with this book. The array of emotions I felt after finishing Mary Rose's diary ranged from utter sadness to anger. I was sad because there is no cure for the illness that ultimately took her, but I was most upset because her story is too common.

This poor child was let down by everyone she knew, whether she realized it or not. I just cannot begin to imagine what her life was life. It's hard to review a book that is made up of diary entries. They aren't fabricated or altered; you're reading her history. I can't comment on character development, because people aren't characters. I'd like to say that certain relationships were touching and left me with goosebumps, but I'd be lying. Within Dear Nobody is a history with a list of sore spots for me. 

First, let me start with the dirt bag mother. I am sorry to call her that without knowing her personally, but I know this type. I've worked with kids in similar home situations. But if you cannot respect yourself enough to leave an abusive and deadly relationship with a loser of a man, you are an idiot. It just floors me to know what this kid went through because of her mother's selfishness. I've seen it too many times! So Mary Rose's long list of problems begins with her mother and the lack of a strong, female role model. But I think what really got me was the Acknowledgement at the end, written by the mother. It did not match what Mary Rose wrote about. Do I think her mother loved her? Yes.  Even the most apathetic mother loves their child to some degree. What gets me, though, is the number of times I read about the mother disappearing at night to be with her abusive boyfriend, or some other loser man. Or the mom not being around at all to feed her kids. Oh! My personal favorite-- the number of times she got high with her daughter. Yes, mother of the year material right there. But yet, in her Acknowledgement she looks like a saint. Of course, she has to point out that her daughter exaggerated some in her diary and that she knew she was loved. ** tangent-- IF Mary Rose exaggerated like her mother claimed, I'm going to point out the hole in that claim. Her biological father would not agree to the diary's publishing because he was worried of what was said about him.It took months of tracking him down to get him to agree to it. But that was only after reassuring him that nothing would be said about him in the book. To me, that says that this child was speaking the horrible ugly truth of her life. You can't hide or cover some things, and people don't want their shortcomings brought to light. So I don't think she exaggerated at all. I think she was perceptive and called her mom out on a lot of her BS. ** But if you read this book and the synopsis, you'll realize this child did not know love at all. She knew some horribly distorted idea of what love might be.

So this idea of love... How would Mary Rose know what love it? Her father was absent. The man she thought of as a father threw her mom on the bathroom floor when she was pregnant with a child, beat the crap out of Mary Rose, and eventually threw them out on the street. Then her mom shacks up with another psycho that threatens to cut their throats. They escape him but she keeps going back. It was an endless cycle. If this is the only vision of a loving relationship with a male that she knows, no wonder she runs into the arms of the first moocher she finds.

Enter Geoff. Ugh. Young love is so hard to understand. The boy is older, so he's mysterious. He has similar interests (partying and drugs). He's elusive, so that makes him poetic and dreamy. But really he takes advantage of her too. He uses her for money and drugs. He verbally abused her. It was her mother's relationship with men all over again, and you couldn't blame the child for being in it. She didn't know any better.  

These things upset me about Dear Nobody. I really have a hard time getting beyond the mom and her role in her daughter's dysfunctional life. But what breaks my heart the most is how real this was. So many kids in America are dealing with what Mary Rose went through. She has given the voiceless a voice, and a painful one at that. The kids might not be living with cystic fibrosis, but they know what it's like to feel alone. They know first hand the ridicule of their peers. They can relate to feeling worthless, alone, and forgotten. The need to be loved by someone--even if that person is not good for them-- is alive in all their hearts. And I have to say, it absolutely breaks me to think of how many kids feel that kind of loneliness.

If you read Dear Nobody and you only take away one thing, please let it be that your words mean more than you will ever know. Don't ridicule and shame someone before understanding where they are coming from. Don't just assume you know, because you probably don't-- and being the one to step out could make all the difference in a life.






Review: Plus One (Elizabeth Fama)

The Deets: 

Audience: YA
Pages: 373
Publisher:  April 8th 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
ISBN: 9780374360078
Genre: sci-fi, dystopian
Source: eARC from Netgalley



Plus OneDivided by day and night and on the run from authorities, star-crossed young lovers unearth a sinister conspiracy in this compelling romantic thriller.

Seventeen-year-old Soleil Le Coeur is a Smudge—a night dweller prohibited by law from going out during the day. When she fakes an injury in order to get access to and kidnap her newborn niece—a day dweller, or Ray—she sets in motion a fast-paced adventure that will bring her into conflict with the powerful lawmakers who order her world, and draw her together with the boy she was destined to fall in love with, but who is also a Ray.

Set in a vivid alternate reality and peopled with complex, deeply human characters on both sides of the day-night divide, Plus One is a brilliantly imagined drama of individual liberty and civil rights, and a fast-paced romantic adventure story.




First, let me start by stating the obvious: this cover is beautiful! I have to say it is one of my favorites, and it perfectly captures Plus One.

I thought Plus One had a very original concept at its core. I do believe this is the first dystopian that I have read that doesn't take place far into the future after society collapses. Instead, it's an alternate reality with a very modern setting. For the most part, it was believable-- but there were a few gaps I had a hard time navigating. 

For starters, the romance between Day Boy and Sol baffled me. The progression I felt was too quick and depended on a memory far more than it should have. Sol was the first to profess her change of heart, which I admit, made me roll my eyes. I think the slow realization on Day Boy's behalf made his side of things more real for me. It might seem that I did not like their connection, but that's not true. It worked; it just needed a bit more developing.

There were also a lot of unanswered questions. I mean A LOT. Where did Gigi go? What happens to her? But most importantly, WHAT KIND OF ENDING WAS THAT?! Talk about an emotional cliffhanger. I do hope there is another book in the works because there are a lot of loose ends that need tending.

If you can't say anything else about Plus One, you will have to admit that the writing is phenomenal. Elizabeth Fama has a way with words. Even if the story does not suck you in from the start, you will find yourself continuing to read because the prose is flawless. It produces a picture in your mind. My heart raced, my emotions swelled, and I felt the despair Sol faced on so many pages. It was powerful stuff.


Twitter chat with Ann Brashares 4/17 at 5 pm

You know this name, but have you heard of her new book: The Here and Now?

The Here and Now was release on April 8, 2014. While there might be some time traveling involved, there are no magical pants in sight.

Ann Brashares is participating in a Twitter chat, Thursday (today), April 17th at 5 pm EST. Use the hashtag #THEHEREANDNOW to join the conversation. 


Other great news: The Here and Now is going to be a movie! Yep, that's right. Another YA novel turned Blockbuster hit is heading our way.

Ann Brashares will be on NPR's weekend edition on Saturday, April 19th to discuss The Here and Now.



The Here and NowAn unforgettable epic romantic thriller about a girl from the future who might be able to save the world . . . if she lets go of the one thing she’s found to hold on to.

Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.

This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins.

Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth.

But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves. 


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Have you heard of Mary Rose?

Have you heard about Dear Nobody yet? I'm sure you've heard of Go Ask Alice.

Dear Nobody is the real-life version of Go Ask Alice. It's being described as "gritty and powerful". It tells the story of Mary Rose, a 15-year-old girl that was desperate to be loved and accepted, but found a tragic end in the extremes she took to reach her goal.


You can read the first 30 or so pages HERE. You can also learn more about this book at  www.dearnobodydiary.com 


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Review: The Bravest Princess (Wide Awake Princess #3) by E. D. Baker

The Deets:

Audience: middle grades
Publisher: April 1st 2014 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
ISBN: 9781619631366
Pages: 272
Genre: fairy tale
Source: eARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review



The Bravest Princess: A Tale of the Wide-Awake Princess 



Sleeping Beauty's younger, non-magical sister, Annie, still can't rest while trouble in the kingdom threatens her good friend, Snow White. Snow White's evil stepmother has disappeared, and her father wants her married off right away--but who should she choose? How can she tell which prince is best? It's Annie and her good friend Liam to the rescue!









I've been a fan of E.D. Baker's books since I read the Frog Princess (and all of the following books) many years ago. They are cute and simple, and absolutely perfect for fans of fractured fairy tales. If you've been keeping up, you'll know that The Bravest Princess is the third book in the Wide-Awake Princess series.

Princess Annie is special. She is completely untouched by magic, and can alter magic with her touch. Pretty impressive if you live in a fully magical world. This time around she has to help Snow White while protecting herself from an evil witch that is determined to cause her harm.

While this probably isn't my favorite of the series so far, it was still fun to read. I enjoy reading about Annie's adventures. Adding in the banter between Annie and Liam is always a bonus, too. Unfortunately, this time around I didn't feel the magic between Liam and Annie. I wish there was more to the plot that included them together. It always felt like they were working together to reach the same solution, but doing it from across the room.

But don't fret. There is still plenty of the endearing elements that you expect from E.D. Baker's books in The Bravest Princess. The smoochy smoochy factor is low, but warm fuzzies are abundant.  You'll enjoy reading through the plot and picking out elements from favorite fairy tales. You'll also appreciate the surprise twist at the end. Geared toward younger readers, this is definitely a series perfect for 4th-6th grade girls.

Review: Falling Kingdoms (Morgan Rhodes)

The Deets: 
Audience: YA
pages: 412
Publisher: January 1, 2012 by Razorbill
ISBN: 9781595145840
Genre: epic fantasy
Source: Kindle daily deal



Falling Kingdoms (Falling Kingdoms, #1)The gripping New York Times bestseller that is Game of Thrones for teens

In a land where magic has been forgotten but peace has reigned for centuries, a deadly unrest is simmering. Three kingdoms grapple for power—brutally transforming their subjects' lives in the process. Amidst betrayals, bargains, and battles, four young people find their fates forever intertwined:

Cleo: A princess raised in luxury must embark on a rough and treacherous journey into enemy territory in search of a magic long thought extinct.

Jonas: Enraged at injustice, a rebel lashes out against the forces of oppression that have kept his country impoverished—and finds himself the leader of a people's revolution centuries in the making.

Lucia: A girl adopted at birth into a royal family discovers the truth about her past—and the supernatural legacy she is destined to wield.

Magnus: Bred for aggression and trained to conquer, a firstborn son begins to realize that the heart can be more lethal than the sword. . . .

The only outcome that's certain is that kingdoms will fall. Who will emerge triumphant when all they know has collapsed?



Believe me when I tell you this book is slap somebody good. Seriously. I loved every page. I usually find myself reading quickly through books, finishing them within a day or two. But I did not do that with Falling Kingdoms. I wanted to savor and digest every detail. This story is complicated.

I picked Falling Kingdoms as a book choice for May in my YA book club that I host. The cover was catchy and I thought the kids would like something that is boasted as "Game of Thrones for teens". One of my regulars beat me to reading it and couldn't stop singing its praises. So I figured I should read it during my vacation so we could discuss early. She'll be glad to know she was right.

I was worried that the alternating points of view would not seem fresh. I hate when the characters end up sounding the same and offer nothing new to the plot. There are 3 distinct characters (and a few extras thrown in the mix) with distinct voices. The tale they tell weaves itself nicely throughout the novel until everything falls into spectacular place in a very climatic ending.

If I had to pick a favorite character, it would be impossible. Each character is different and flawed in their own way. I can tell as this story continues in upcoming books that the plot will thicken and be delicious. Because if there was one lesson learned in Falling Kingdoms, it is that people are not always what they seem.

When you pick up Falling Kingdoms and begin your quest, be warned. There are not always happy endings and your heart will be ripped out of your chest at the most unexpected times. So far, there are no neat bows wrapping this box, and that's exactly what I like the most about the book!


Picture Book Saturday: A Bed for Fred

A Bed for FredReady for a nap, young Fred the Basset Hound goes to his room after a morning of play and the unthinkable happens: his comfy, red bed has disappeared! After a search through his house with a less-than-helpful mouse, Fred sets out on a journey outside to find his bed. Along the way he meets a sedentary frog, an enthusiastic cricket, and a sympathetic owl. The dilemma of his lost bed intensifies as Fred realizes he has strayed too far from home without telling his father that he left. A Bed for Fred is a delightful journey that any young child can relate to. Changing beds from cribs to toddler beds and toddler beds to "big boy" or "big girl" beds are huge steps. Discover how Fred handles this experience of complication and change with good communication and a willingness to explore Help your child figure out the world they live in!




In a word: cute. Who doesn't like books about animals? Always a hit with the little ones. A Bed for Fred was a bit long for my youngest child's short attention span, but he enjoyed the story. 

Just as the synopsis says, this is a great book to use to ease a young child's fears of moving to a new bed. Fred loves his old bed and is frightened when it disappears. His quest to find the comfort of his old bed leads him to a new discovery and a pleasant surprise.  

Review: Popping the Cherry (Aurelia B. Rowl)

The Deets:

Audience: YA
Pages: 250
Publisher: September 19th 2013 by Carina (Harlequin UK)
ISBN: 9781472018052
Genre: contemporary 
Source: my own copy


Popping the CherryYou only get one first time . . .

From driving tests to relationships, Valentina Bell thinks she’s a failure, with a big fat capital F. At this rate, she’s certain she’ll be a virgin for ever. So Lena’s friends plan Operation: Popping the Cherry to help her find the perfect man first time.

Yet somehow disastrous dates with bad-boy musicians and fabulous evenings with secretly in-the-closet guys aren’t quite working out how Lena planned.

Soon Lena’s avoiding Operation: Popping the Cherry to spend time with comforting, aloof Jake, her best friend’s older brother, who doesn’t make her feel self-conscious about still clinging to her V card. But could Jake show Lena that sometimes what you’re looking for most is right by your side?





It's not what you think. Sort of. It kind of what you think-- the title is obvious-- but it's not teenage smut. There is actually very little of that in the book (and it was handled tastefully). 

One of the major hangups I had with Popping the Cherry was the lack of good editing. I found so many punctuation and grammar errors throughout that it started to get on my nerves.

Then there is the matter of the characters themselves. Valentina is a major wuss. I just could not believe how spineless she was when it came to standing up to her friends' stupid ideas for her life. If you can't put your own needs first, you really can't expect anyone else to do it. It took an entire book of screw-ups for Valentina to finally decide she had had enough trouble and heartache. That's the only point in the story where so becomes assertive and tells the idiots to bug off.

If it's not clear yet, I have some issues with the "friends". Pains in the arse are a better term. They do a good job of depicting high school stupidity, I'll give them that. But they were also so horribly selfish without even realizing it. They practically forced Valentina into agreeing to a crazy scheme. They never said if she didn't comply they would end the friendship, but I certainly got that feeling.

The characters weren't a total loss though. Jake and Nathan are probably the saving grace of the book, and thank goodness for that. Jake had a sense of mystery which made me keep reading. I really wanted to learn more about him, and that was about it. Nathan was a fun addition. I certainly enjoyed his perspective on things too. 

I picked Popping the Cherry up for a few bucks on Amazon. I'm a bit disappointed I paid for it, but it wasn't a whole lot. I probably wouldn't recommend it to anyone unless you're in the  market for a quick, slightly irritating read with good male characters.  The girls in this book will make you want to jump up and slap someone.

Review: Love Letters to the Dead (Ava Dellaira)

The Deets: 

Audience: YA
Pages: 323
Publisher:  April 1st 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN: 9780374346676
Genre: contemporary, mystery, coming of age
Source: eARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review


Love Letters to the DeadIt begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May did. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to people like Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and more; though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating new friendships, falling in love for the first time, learning to live with her splintering family. And, finally, about the abuse she suffered while May was supposed to be looking out for her. Only then, once Laurel has written down the truth about what happened to herself, can she truly begin to accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was; lovely and amazing and deeply flawed; can she begin to discover her own path. 



I have conflicting feelings for this book. Love Letters to the Dead was great while I was reading it, but now that some time has passed it has faded from my mind.This is going to be one of those books that either blows you away, or blows right passed you. 

One thing that did impress me was the amount of research that went into the content of the letters. I am a product of the 90s. I remember River Pheonix and Kurt Cobain. I remember my crushes on them both, and how crushed I felt to learn of their deaths. But because I was young in the 90s, I don't remember much about the mysteries surrounding those events. The author did a great job of digging around to find those details (like Cobain's suicide letter and Pheonix's very troubling childhood). Most of the "characters" Laurel writes to has a troubling past that is explored. 

Along the way, Laurel learns a good bit about herself and her new friends as well. The letters become very therapeutic. If you ever kept a diary when you were young, you'll know what I mean. Laurel's deepest thoughts and fears start pouring out onto the pages. Eventually, the pages cannot contain everything and she opens up to the world. There are so many things going on in this book that make it hard to sum up in a few short paragraphs. If I tried to box it in, I would not be doing this book justice. 

Even though I felt very passionately about this book while reading it, it didn't linger in my mind. There are some books that you just cannot move beyond. They echo in your soul. Love Letters to the Dead was not one of those books. I thought it would be. I went into this book expecting it to be the next "big thing" for me-- the book I would tell everyone about. But I have to be honest. I haven't given it much thought since finishing it. 

Do I think it's worth reading? Sure. It's a pretty good coming of age story. The plot is full of layers that slowly peel away. Laurel learns some tough life lessons too. Love Letters to the Dead really deals with the heavy hitters of YA fiction: divorce, suicide, relationships, depression.








Picture Book Saturday: The Mermaid and the Shoe by K.G. Campbell


Each of King Neptune's 50 mermaid daughters boasts a special talent, except for little Minnow, who seems to be good only?at asking questions. When she finds a strange object, Minnow follows her questions to a wondrous place and finds answers, including the answer to the most important question of all: Who am I? A gorgeously illustrated story about finding one's purpose.









The Mermaid and the Shoe is a simple tale about finding your inner talent.

Little Minnow isn't good at anything. That is, until she discovers a unique item floating in the sea. With the red shoe in tow, she sets of an adventure to discover where it came for and its purpose. In the process, she finds answers to many unanswered questions and her hidden talent as well.

The pictures in The Mermaid and the Shoe are so calming. They are not flashy and loud. Instead, there is a soft green tint to the pages that gives it the feeling of being underwater. When Minnow finds land, the contrast between the "upper world" and the "lower world" is highlighted. I also loved how the brush strokes gave the mermaid's a playfulness about them. Their hair seemed to be floating on some unseen current. The loopy font accented the whimsical tale well.

Mermaids typically appeal to young girls, and this one won't disappoint. It will also appeal to the hidden adventure inside of your little one. 

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