Tag: mental-health

Book Review and Blog Tour: Breath Like Water, by Anna Jarzab

Breath Like Water Blog Tour Banner

Breath Like Water
Image belongs to Harlequin Teen/Inkyard Press.

Title:  Breath Like Water
AuthorAnna Jarzab
Genre:  YA
Rating:  5 out of 5

Susannah Ramos has always loved the water. A swimmer whose early talent made her a world champion, Susannah was poised for greatness in a sport that demands so much of its young. But an inexplicable slowdown has put her Olympic dream in jeopardy, and Susannah is fighting to keep her career afloat when two important people enter her life: a new coach with a revolutionary training strategy, and a charming fellow swimmer named Harry Matthews.

As Susannah begins her long and painful climb back to the top, her friendship with Harry blossoms into passionate and supportive love. But Harry is facing challenges of his own, and even as their bond draws them closer together, other forces work to tear them apart. As she struggles to balance her needs with those of the people who matter most to her, Susannah will learn the cost–and the beauty–of trying to achieve something extraordinary.

This was a fantastic read! Susannah is strong and determined, but she’s struggling.  The walls she’s built around her emotions are impenetrable—until she meets Harry, who sees her, not an elite swimmer struggling to recapture former glory. Susannah has to be truly broken before she can rise again, and this novel captures all the anguish of her struggles and her search to find what she truly wants.

Then there’s Harry. He’s got walls of his own, walls he tries to hide behind humor and pranks, but he’s just as vulnerable as Susannah is—and he’s struggling with things that are just as overwhelming as Susannah’s opponents.

Anna Jarzab is a Midwesterner turned New Yorker. Breath Like Water is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin Teen/Inkyard Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Blog Tour and Book Review: Truths I Never Told You, by Kelly Rimmer

truths I never told you
Image belongs to Graydon House.

Title:  Truths I Never Told You
AuthorKelly Rimmer
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

After finding disturbing journal pages that suggest her late mother didn’t die in a car accident as her father had always maintained, Beth Walsh begins a search for answers to the question — what really happened to their mother? With the power and relevance of Jodi Picoult and Lisa Jewell, Rimmer pens a provocative novel told by two women a generation apart, the struggles they unwittingly shared, and a family mystery that may unravel everything they believed to be true. 

With her father recently moved to a care facility because of worsening signs of dementia, Beth Walsh volunteers to clear out the family home to prepare it for sale. Why shouldn’t she be the one, after all? Her three siblings are all busy with their families and successful careers, and Beth is on maternity leave after giving birth to Noah, their miracle baby. It took her and her husband Hunter years to get pregnant, but now that they have Noah, Beth can only feel panic. And leaving Noah with her in-laws while she pokes about in their father’s house gives her a perfect excuse not to have to deal with motherhood.

 Beth is surprised to discover the door to their old attic playroom padlocked, and even more shocked to see what’s behind it – a hoarder’s mess of her father’s paintings, mounds of discarded papers, and miscellaneous junk. Her father was the most fastidious, everything-in-its-place man, and this chaos makes no sense. As she picks through the clutter, she finds a handwritten note attached to one of the paintings, in what appears to be in her late mother’s handwriting. Beth and her siblings grew up believing Grace Walsh died in a car accident when they were little more than toddlers, but this note suggests something much darker may be true. A frantic search uncovers more notes, seemingly a series of loose journal entries that paint a very disturbing portrait of a woman in profound distress, and of a husband that bears very little resemblance to the father Beth and her siblings know.

Sometimes it’s hard to pull off narratives with dual timelines, but Rimmer manages to do so and keeps the reader guessing as to what’s actually going on. The characters deal with a lot of underlying issues:  postpartum depression, terminal illness of a parent, women’s rights, suicide… there’s a lot going on here, and some of it is deeply emotional and traumatic, but the reader is drawn into the stories and concerns of the characters and experiences their emotions right along with them. This isn’t a light or funny read, but it is engrossing and sure to captivate readers.

Kelly Rimmer is the worldwide and USA TODAY bestselling author of Before I Let You Go, Me Without You, and The Secret Daughter. She lives in rural Australia with her husband, two children and fantastically naughty dogs, Sully and Basil. Her novels have been translated into more than twenty languages.

 (Galley courtesy of Graydon House in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me, by Gae Polisner

jack kerouac
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press/Wednesday Books.

Title:  Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me
AuthorGae Polisner
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4.5 out of 5 

Fifteen-year-old JL Markham’s life used to be filled with carnival nights and hot summer days spent giggling with her forever best friend Aubrey about their families and boys. Together, they were unstoppable. But they aren’t the friends they once were.

With JL’s father gone on long term business, and her mother struggling with her mental illness, JL takes solace in the tropical butterflies she raises, and in her new, older boyfriend, Max Gordon. Max may be rough on the outside, but he has the soul of a poet (something Aubrey will never understand). Only, Max is about to graduate, and he’s going to hit the road – with or without JL.

JL can’t bear being left behind again. But what if devoting herself to Max not only means betraying her parents, but permanently losing the love of her best friend? What becomes of loyalty, when no one is loyal to you?

This book. Seriously. I am not even sure what to say about it. It broke my heart—not because it was bad, but because it was so good! I felt for JL so much. She’s lost her best friend to whatever came between them, she’s lost her dad to business, her mom to dissociative disorder, her grandmother who seems to be in denial…she’s basically lost everyone in her life. Except Max, her new, older boyfriend…that everyone at school says horrible things about, including her in the rumors, too.

JL is on the verge of growing up. She wants to grow up—at least she thinks so—but she has no one to show her the way. She can’t even sort out what she wants in her own mind, she just knows she wants more. I was right there with her, experiencing everything—even the horrible stuff—and I loved every page. Even when it broke my heart.

GAE POLISNER is the award-winning author of In Sight of Stars, The Memory of Things, The Summer of Letting Go, The Pull of Gravity, and Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me. She lives on Long Island with her husband, two sons, and a suspiciously-fictional looking dog. When Gae isn’t writing, you can find her in a pool or the open waters off Long Island. She’s still hoping that one day her wetsuit will turn her into a superhero.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: All That’s Bright and Gone, by Eliza Nellums

all that's bright and gone
Image belongs to Crooked Lane Books.

Title:  All That’s Bright and Gone
AuthorEliza Nellums
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

There’s a lot that six-year-old Aoife doesn’t know. She doesn’t know why it’s not okay to talk to her friend Teddy around other people—Mama says he’s imaginary, but he’s not. She doesn’t know why Momma stopped the car in the middle of an intersection crying and screaming and talking to Aoife’s brother Theo—he’s dead, even Aoife knows that. She doesn’t know if Momma will be home from the hospital in time for the Fourth of July fireworks. But Aoife does know that if she can figure out who killed Theo, Momma will come home.

Uncle Donny takes Aoife home and says he’ll stay with her until Momma comes home, but she’s not sure she believes him. She has to figure out who killed Theo, but no one will even talk to her about him, so the only help she has is her eight-year-old neighbor. And Teddy—but sometimes he’s more interested in getting Aoife in trouble than anything. Finding out who killed Theo will bring Momma home, so Aoife is determined—even if she has to do it all by herself.

All That’s Bright and Gone was an interesting read. I’m not sure I’ve read anything from a six-year-old’s point-of-view, so that was novel. And Aoife is definitely special. The way she sees the world is both charming and terrifying, but her determination to save her family is inspiring. I actually saw things as Aoife saw them—not an adult looking through a child’s eyes—and the writing brought her world to life.

Eliza Nellums Lives in Washington D.C. All That’s Bright and Gone is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Crooked Lane Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Library of Lost Things, by Laura Taylor Namey

the library of lost things
Image belongs to Harlequin TEEN/Inkyard Press.

Title:  The Library of Lost Things
Author:    Laura Taylor Namey
Genre:  YA
Rating:  5 out of 5

Darcy Wells is a literary genius. Her name is Darcy, after all. As long as she can remember, she’s found comfort and solace between the covers of her beloved books—and escape from her mom’s hoarding. But when a new property manager starts making changes at their apartment complex, Darcy is afraid the complex balancing act of her life will topple.

Darcy’s vibrant best friend is the only one she lets in—to her secrets, her life, and her apartment. But when Archer Fleet walks into the bookstore where Darcy works, she finds herself drawn to the wounded guy. He’s experienced a life-altering accident, and he’s struggling to make sense of his new reality, but he truly sees Darcy—who is, for once in her life, at a loss for words.

Darcy wants to let him in—but can she overcome her fears to take a chance on life and love?

I loved this book from the first page! Darcy is a wonderful character:  flawed, struggling, and so strong it breaks my heart. Marisol’s and Darcy’s friendship made this book, but the rest of the characters were fantastic, too. From Mr. Winston (the bookstore owner) to Tess, Darcy’s mom, Archer’s best friend…I loved all these characters, and though the book’s portrayal of mental illness was spot-on. I could not put this book down!

Laura Taylor Ramey is a former teacher who writes young adult novels. The Library of Lost Things is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin TEEN/Inkyard Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Coming Home for Christmas, by RaeAnne Thayne

coming home for christmas
Image belongs to Harlequin/HQN.

Title:  Coming Home for Christmas
Author:    RaeAnne Thayne
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

Seven years ago, when Luke Hamilton woke up one morning, his wife, Elizabeth, was gone. She’d struggled with postpartum depression after the births of their two children and the loss of her parents, and she’d never found her way out of that darkness. Luke thought she was dead when she disappeared. Until a few months ago, when his sister’s fiancée tracked her down, living in a different state under a different name. Now Luke is about to be charged with her murder, so he goes to get her, knowing she is the only one who can prevent it.

Depression and grief weighed down Elizabeth’s very soul, then a car accident stole her memories and who she was. It took years for her to remember her children and her husband. Now she wants to mend those fences, but she’s been gone so long and done so much damage she’s not sure she can ever repair the damage.

I’ve only read one of the other Haven Point books, but these are linked standalone novels, so that’s no problem. Elizabeth has been through horrible difficulties, and this book explores what postpartum depression can look like and feel like. I enjoyed seeing things through her eyes and through Luke’s eyes, and the strength of both characters was a joy to read.

RaeAnne Thayne is the author of the Haven Point series. Coming Home for Christmas is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/HQN via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Woman 99, by Greer Macallister

woman 99
Image belongs to SOURCEBOOKS Landmark.

Title:  Woman 99
Author:  Greer Macallister
Genre:  historical fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Charlotte Smith’s family is wealthy, and she is expected to marry well and improve the family’s fortunes. She and her sister are to never do anything to embarrass the family. So, when Charlotte’ sister, Phoebe does embarrass the family with her behavior, she’s sent to the notorious Goldengrove Asylum.

Charlotte knows it’s her fault Phoebe was sent away, but she’s determined to make it right, so she disguises herself as a destitute woman with mental health issues and becomes Woman 99 at the asylum.

It’s not what she expected. Some of the women desperately need the help the asylum could provide—if it weren’t twisted by greed and power—but some of the women are there because they are merely inconvenient to their families. As Charlotte searches for Phoebe in the asylum, she realizes there are deeper wrongs to be righted.

I found Woman 99 engrossing from the first page. I love a good historical, and I thought this one was extremely well-done. Charlotte’s growth through the book is wonderful to see:  from a compliant, agreeable young woman to a strong and forthright woman who is not afraid to challenge the status quo. Definitely worth reading!

Greer Macallister is a USA Today-bestselling author. Woman 99 is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of SOURCEBOOKS Landmark via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: A Danger to Herself and Others, by Alyssa Sheinmel

a danger to herself
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire

Title:  A Danger to Herself and Others
Author:  Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4 out of 5

Hannah should not be institutionalized. Her roommate at an intensive study program, Agnes, fell out a window and was severely injured, but Hannah had nothing to do with it. She and Agnes were friends—best friends—even though Hannah was hooking up with Josh, Agnes’s boyfriend, on the side. But she’d never hurt Agnes.

Her parents are off to Europe, as usual, so Hannah decides to play along with Dr. Lightfoot so she can get out of here and back to her life. School’s about to start, and she can’t afford to be late with her college applications. Hannah is on her best behavior—but nothing seems to make an impact on the doctor until Hannah’s roommate, Lucy, arrives.

With Lucy’s help, Hannah can prove to Dr. Lightfoot that there’s nothing wrong with her, nothing at all, but Lucy will show her truths she never imagined.

Hannah is an unreliable narrator at best, but her story and the way her mind worked drew me in immediately. I knew there was something else going on here, but only started getting glimpses of what that was about halfway through. In the end, the book wasn’t what I expected at all, but I was enthralled.

Alyssa B. Sheinmel was born in California and grew up in New York. A Danger to Herself and Others is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Sourcebooks Fire via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

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Book Review: When Elephants Fly by Nancy Richardson Fischer

when elephants fly
Image belongs to Harlequin Teen.

Title:   When Elephants Fly
Author:   Nancy Richardson Fischer
Genre:   YA
Rating:   5 out of 5

Lily Decker is a senior with a 12-year-plan that includes college, no caffeine, no stress, and no boys, except her best friend Sawyer. Her plan is geared towards fending off the schizophrenia that runs in her family—and that caused her mother to try to kill her when she was seven years old.

Her dad wants her to sit home and do nothing, but Lily can’t forget that he reached for her mother and not her on that fateful day, so she keeps quiet about her internship with a newspaper. Until Lily’s story about naming the zoo’s elephant calf leads to Lily being present when the calf is born—and also there when the mother rejects the baby and attacks her.

With the baby elephant, Swifty, grieving, Lily is desperate to help in whatever way she can. That turns out to be traveling with Swifty to the circus when the zoo loses custody of her. But everything at the circus is not as perfect as the owners pretend, and Lily will risk everything—including her mental health—to keep Swifty safe.

This well-written novel takes a sensitive subject—mental health—and treats it with respect, dignity, and understanding. Lily is desperate to avoid schizophrenia, but she’s also realistic about her chances and her symptoms. The bond between her and Swifty is sweet and heartbreaking, and I flew through the pages to find out what happens.

Nancy Richardson Fischer graduated from Cornell University and used to work for the circus. When Elephants Fly is her new novel.

(Galley provided by Harlequin Teen in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Rosie Colored Glasses, by Brianna Wolfson

rosie colored glasses
Image belongs to MIRA.

Title:  Rosie Colored Glasses
Author:  Brianna Wolfson
Genre:  Fiction (not quite YA).
Rating:  3/5

Eleven-year-old Willow hates that her parents are divorced. She hates that she and her brother have two separate lives:  one filled with rules and sternness when they’re with their father, Rex; and one filled with laughter and crazy rituals when they’re with their mother, Rosie.

Willow knows how much her mother loves her. Every Spaghetti Sunday, late-night room-painting endeavor, or costumed reenactment of Rocky Horror Picture Show proves it. Her father just yells or gives her more lists to follow. Why can’t she live with her mother all the time?

Then her mother’s behavior changes, and Willow finds herself waking up at her father’s house when she’d fallen asleep at her mother’s. Her mother no longer wants to paint or sing or dance. Her father grows sterner. Willow has no idea what’s wrong, she just wants her old life back.

I wanted to love this book. It takes a heavy topic and explores it from the viewpoint of child who doesn’t know what’s going on. Rosie is a vibrant character, full of music and color and life, while Rex is rigid and rule-bound. The characters are very black-and-white, and the moments when they act out-of-character aren’t explained, just glossed-over. Perhaps the child’s viewpoint made this hard to relate to, but I kept stumbling over the wording and how everyone left Willow so clueless as to what was really going on.

Brianna Wolfson lives in San Francisco. Rosie Colored Glasses is her debut novel.

(Galley provided by MIRA in exchange for an honest review.)