Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Blog Tour: Review of The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith + GIVEAWAY

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publish Date: March 22 2016
Page Amount: 367 pages
Price: $17.99 Hardback
ISBN: 1481449354 (ISBN13: 9781481449359)


In the tradition of Speak, this extraordinary debut novel shares the unforgettable story of a young woman as she struggles to find strength in the aftermath of an assault.

Eden was always good at being good. Starting high school didn’t change who she was. But the night her brother’s best friend rapes her, Eden’s world capsizes.

What was once simple, is now complex. What Eden once loved—who she once loved—she now hates. What she thought she knew to be true, is now lies. Nothing makes sense anymore, and she knows she’s supposed to tell someone what happened but she can’t. So she buries it instead. And she buries the way she used to be.

Told in four parts—freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year—this provocative debut reveals the deep cuts of trauma. But it also demonstrates one young woman’s strength as she navigates the disappointment and unbearable pains of adolescence, of first love and first heartbreak, of friendships broken and rebuilt, and while learning to embrace a power of survival she never knew she had hidden within her heart.


Amber Smith grew up in Buffalo, NY and now lives in Charlotte, NC with her two dogs. After graduating from art school with a BFA in Painting, she earned her MA in Art History. When she’s not writing, she is working as a curator and art consultant. She has also written on the topics of art history and modern and contemporary art. The Way I Used to Be is her first novel.

Note: This book tackles very, very serious topics and has very, very in depth discussions about them. This book involves flashbacks, sexual content/abuse, and drug use. This should not be read by younger readers due to the nature of the discussions in this book and the content within it. 

You will need a box of tissues for this one....or, maybe more than just a box. The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith was a whirlwind of emotions, a non-stop roller-coaster ride from start to finish. Smith tackles sensitive subjects with dignity and offers insightful discussions about the aftermath of sexual abuse, especially as pertains to teenage readers.

This being said, I really loved to read this story. Eden had my heart from the second I opened up the book. Eden is a freshman in high school when she is raped by her brother's best friend. After being verbally threatened with her life, Eden keeps this a secret, worried about both retaliation and reactions that she might get from her family members and friends.

The Way I Used to Be discusses the aftermath of sexual assault and the effects that it has way into the future. The book is told from Eden's point of view and as a reader, I liked being able to see her thought process and justifications for her actions. Even if they were not actions that I agreed with some of the time, seeing her justifications made it easier for me to support her and understand her not only as a character, but as if she was a person in real life.

I don't want to discuss too much of the plot within my review because it is such a sensitive topic and I also don't want to trigger anyone out there who might be reading this. If you are at all sensitive to sexual assaults/abuse, drug use or even bullying, this is likely not the book for you. But if you feel you are in a safe space now and would like to read it, by all means, go ahead. I think that The Way I Used to Be does a great job in communicating and addressing the stigma that we hold against victims of sexual assault and rape. 

I also loved how this book showed the aftermath while still having additional plot points. Eden was still a high school student, and still going through other dilemmas aside from the sexual assault. She is still a teenager and had other things to grapple with; which made it that much harder to continue to make the best decisions for her well-being.

I also like how this didn't shame anyone that doesn't speak up about an incident like this right away. People who don't report sexual assaults/harassment, rape or even violence are not cowards if they don't report it right away. Also, not reporting it doesn't mean it didn't happen. Whether an incident happened minutes ago or years ago, a person still has a right to report it and to be seen as telling the truth.

I liked how this book dealt with someone that didn't know when or how to report this, and was even scared to do so. Again, I liked seeing her thought process for this reason - this is not something that I have seen in a typical young adult book - and these kinds of sensitive topics need to be addressed more often. Amber Smith addresses these topics very well.

To wrap up, I just want to say that this book was an experience for me. My heart ached throughout the entire book and I wanted to do anything I could to help Eden out. I also want to say that I am very sorry in case any of my review comes across in a negative light in terms of sexual assault and otherwise. Especially because this is a sensitive topic, I tried my best to phrase my statements carefully as to not cause harm or offend anyone.

The Way I Used to Be can be seen as a taboo book by some, and sadly, will likely get banned in school districts and libraries because of the content within it. I will fight against this. We need more books like The Way I Used to Be, to help us speak out in support of sexual assault victims and to erase the stigma against them as well. 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Monday, March 21, 2016

Harper Summer 2016 Tour: Change Places With Me + MASSIVE GIVEAWAYS

Hi guys! Today I am posting on behalf of the Harper Summer 2016 tour, and I couldn't be more excited!

Wait, what is the Harper Spring 2016 tour? A bunch of book bloggers (including myself) joined together with Irish Banana Blog Tours and Harper to promote some of their books coming out in the summer publishing season this year! If you go through all of our posts (which you should do if you want to enter to win the massive giveaway at the bottom of this post), you will see summaries and other information about all of the books that are soon to come from Harper!

That being said....the book that I am covering for this tour is

Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publish Date: June 14 2016
Page Amount: 224 pages
Price: $17.99 Hardback
ISBN: 0062385534 (ISBN13: 9780062385536)

From Lois Metzger, acclaimed author of A Trick of the Light, comes a work of speculative fiction set in the near future about a teen girl who finds a new, mysterious perspective on her life.

Rose has changed. She still lives in the same neighborhood with her stepmother and goes to the same high school with the same group of kids, but when she woke up today, something was just a little different than it was before. The dogs who live upstairs are no longer a terror. Her hair and her clothes all feel brand-new. She wants to throw a party—this from a girl who hardly ever spoke to her classmates before. There is no more sadness in her life; she is bursting with happiness.

But something still feels wrong to Rose. Because, until very recently, Rose was an entirely different person—a person who is still there inside her, just beneath the thinnest layer of skin.

A bold and original work of speculative fiction set in a familiar future, Lois Metzger’s latest novel is a profoundly authentic and heartbreaking tale of the things we keep locked away inside us, even from ourselves.
"How I admire Lois Metzger's thoughtful and suspenseful novel—the pacing, the sympathetic characters, the emotional astuteness, the believable near-future setting. It captivated me from the first page to the last." —Gail Carson Levine, author of Ella Enchanted

"Change Places with Me is a vivid, beautiful novel, a particular evocation of a story many of us have lived and all of us know. Read this to see what I mean." —Kim Stanley Robinson, Hugo Award-winning author of Aurora

Are you interested in pre-ordering Change Places With Me after reading that amazing summary! Good news, you can do so at any of the sites below! 

My review for Change Places With Me will be live on the blog a little bit closer to the release date, but I wanted to have a discussion about this book now because I think it is extremely important in terms of the representation for mental illnesses.

That being said, I wanted to bring in the community a little more on my blog. I wanted people with mental illnesses to write about mental illnesses, and I want to make my blog a safe space where people can share their thoughts without being criticized.

So, I asked a few bloggers if they would be willing to write about mental illness, whether it is their own struggle or just some thoughts that they have on mental illness itself or the stigma against it. These posts will be going live in the next few days, but I wanted to give a brief introduction here so that it wasn't too surprising when they started showing up on the blog.

That being said, be on the look out for these posts. I encourage you to participate in the discussion by using the comments. If you have something to say or something you would like to address about mental health, please contact me (iamabookjunkie@gmail.com or @iamabookjunkie on Twitter) and I would be happy to let you guest post on the blog!

Information on the FB Chat. Over the course of February and March, Hannah from Irish Banana Blog Tours was so kind and put together a Facebook chat with some of the authors featured in the Summer tour! Sadly, these two chats have already passed. But, if you want to see some of the questions that were asked and the responses, you can click on the links below!

February Chat
March Chat
You read that right, giveaways. Harper has been so nice as to sponsor two AMAZING giveaways for the Harper Summer 2016 tour! Read down below to see some amazing prizes and enter to win them!

Giveaway #1 – A Harper Teen Summer 2016 Catalog prizepack of 45 books*.
*Titles not included: The Crown by Kiera Cass, Escape from Asylum by Madeline Roux, Sing by Vivi Greene, The Countdown by Kimberly Derting, & United As One by Pittacus Lore
In addition to the one massive prize winner, we will also have 4 winners who will be able to select 3 titles they want from the Summer 2016 Catalog. (US Only)

Giveaway #2 – 5 Finished Copies from the Harper Teen Winter 2016 Catalog

5 books are: Front Lines by Michael Grant, Revenge & the Wild by Michelle Modesto, The Lifeboat Clique by Kathy Parks, Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin, & The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig (US Only)

How to enter:
Collect the daily word from each blog stop during the Harper Summer 2016 Tour (a total of 50). Once you’ve collected them all, email the complete saying to: HarperTeenTour@gmail.com (mine was in pink!)

Prize Rules:
Winner must have a valid US mailing address to receive the prize
Winner must be over 13
Only one (1) entry per person for Prize #2 – duplicates will be deleted.
Only a completed phrase will be accepted as an entry – do not email each word/phrase daily. Wait until you have the complete saying and then email in.
All email submissions must be received by 11:59 PM EST 3/31/2016.
Winners will be selected 4/1/2016 and will have 48 hours to claim their prize before another is selected.
Participating blogs and bloggers are not responsible for unsent, damaged, and/or stolen prizes offered by the publisher.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Door By the Staircase Blog Tour: Q&A + GIVEAWAY

Hi guys! Today, I am happy to be posting on behalf of Irish Banana Blog Tours for The Door by the Staircase tour! When I saw this book and read the synopsis, I knew I wanted to read it right away! Why don't you read what it is about?

Twelve-year-old Mary Hayes can't stand her orphanage for another night. But when an attempted escape through the stove pipe doesn't go quite as well as she'd hoped, Mary fears she'll be stuck in the Buffalo Asylum for Young Ladies forever. 

The very next day, a mysterious woman named Madame Z appears at the orphanage requesting to adopt Mary, and the matron's all too happy to get the girl off her hands. Soon, Mary is fed a hearty meal, dressed in a clean, new nightgown and shown to a soft bed with blankets piled high. She can hardly believe she isn't dreaming!

But when Mary begins to explore the strange nearby town with the help of her new friend, Jacob, she learns a terrifying secret about Madame Z's true identity. If Mary's not careful, her new home might just turn into a nightmare.

Purchase a copy or read more on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Indiebound | The Book Depository

See? I told you it was going to be good. If you don't know this about me, I'm actually learning Russian right now and I really appreciate Russian culture, so to find a book that encapsulates a re-telling of Russian folklore was like a dream come true for me!

The stars definitely aligned for me, as I also have another special treat for all of you guys! Katherine Marsh (the author of this book) offered to answer a few questions that I had for her, AND she is sponsoring a giveaway that is at the bottom of this post! Isn't she nice? :)

I'm so happy that I had the opportunity to ask Ms. Marsh a few questions about herself and her story. I feel that it really helps me as a reader and a blogger to get to know the author a little bit better and to feel truly connected and invested in the story that they are writing. This was my first time conducting a Q&A for an author, and I could not have asked for better responses!

Without further adieu, here are her answers!

What made you so interested in Russian folklore? Why did you choose to write about it?
When I was five years old, my parents moved in with my Russian grandmother and I lived with her for the next twelve years. She was a wonderful cook, card player (she taught me a mean game of gin rummy) and storyteller. Most of her stories were from her own life—including her perilous journey to America as a young woman—but she loved to embellish them with magical touches.

When I started reading myself, I naturally became interested in Russian fairytales with their similar landscapes—forests and villages—and magical twists. Writing a story based on Russian folklore seemed like a way to honor my heritage and at the same time introduce a whole new generation of Western readers to these wonderful characters. By setting them in America (the book is set in the fictional town of Iris, NY), I was also able to explore some themes of the immigrant experience—particularly the yearning for acceptance and home.

Where do the names for your characters come from (Why did you name your characters what you did)?

I used the real fairytale names of several of the characters including Baba Yaga and Koshchey the Deathless, although Baba Yaga at first uses a pseudonym, Madame Zolotaya, which means “golden” in Russian and is reputed to be one of her secret nicknames.

Mary, the book’s American heroine, is named after two Russian folktale characters: the orphan Maryushka, who is turned into a Firebird by the evil sorcerer, Koshchey; and the warrior princess, Marya Morevna, who holds Koshchey captive in her castle. You’ll have to decide for yourself which character my Mary resembles more by the book’s end.

Who was the hardest character to write for in this book?

That’s a hard question. All my characters go through a revision process but probably Mary, my heroine, took the most effort. I had to give her just the right combination of neediness and spunk that would make it believable that she would try to share a home with a witch (a child-eating one, no less!).

Quick! Pick your five favorite songs from your iPod or music player! What are they?

Home, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros

Dreams, The Cranberries

Riptide, Vance Joy

Little Lion Man, Mumford and Sons

I Feel It All, Feist

If you had to give advice to aspiring writers, what would it be?

Find your story, the story you and you alone can tell.

If you had to come up with a superhero identity for yourself, what would your superhero name be, and what powers/magical abilities would you have?

Lingo-Girl. Perhaps because I live outside the United States at the moment and in a trilingual nation (Belgium), I would love to be able to speak every language that ever existed, including ancient ones, perfectly.

Is there a message that you want young readers/adults to take away from this book?

Yes. The greatest power comes from love.


Everyone, give a huge thank you to Katherine Marsh for stopping by the blog today! It was a pleasure to get to "interview" you and to learn more about you and your stories! I can't wait until I have The Door by the Staircase in my hands!

Wait....would you like your very own copy of The Door by the Staircase?! Today just might be your lucky day too, because there is a tour-wide giveaway for 3 finished copies of The Door by the Staircase! Just follow the steps linked below and you will be entered to win!

Now, I would like to talk to you guys. I'd like to know - because my blog post is themed around folklore today - do you have a favorite fairy-tale or piece of folklore? If so, tell me the story (or, at least where to find it!).

Thank you so much for stopping by the blog today!


PS: Do you want to learn even more about Katherine Marsh? You can visit her website, Twitter page, or Facebook page below!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Review: Longbow Girl by Linda Davies

Longbow Girl by Linda Davies


Publisher: The Chicken House
Publish Date: February 26 2016 (Published earlier outside of the US!)
Page Amount: 336 pages
Price: $17.99 Hardback
ISBN: 0545853451 (ISBN13: 9780545853453)
Longbow Girl follows Merry Owen, a girl living in the 21st century who still feels a strange connection to her past. She has a massive amount of talent with her longbow, which she has been training with since she was five years of age. After a horrific incident that left her with the use of only one of her eyes, she is now home-schooled and doesn’t have many friends, except for James, a boy her age that lives in the land next to hers. There is only one problem with that; James comes from the de Courcy family, and a feud has been brewing between the Owen and the de Courcy family for over 500 years. But when the two go on an adventure, and find something particularly interesting from their past, both Merry and James’ skills and friendship are put to the test.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. It definitely wasn’t the best book that I have ever read, but it wasn't the worst book either. I enjoyed reading the story and getting to know the characters, but there were moments when the story wasn't paced right- it was either going way too fast or it was dragging a bit too long.

I felt like I was being told information that I didn’t really need to know, or the plot was moving by so quickly that a lot of the characterization and development of the story was going over my head. This was more of an issue in the beginning 100 or so pages of the book, but after that, the pacing picks up and it is a much easier read!

I did enjoy getting to know the characters as well. I was worried when I began this book that, because Merry is involved in archery and loves to practice it, that the book would become very saturated with content about archery, and that I wouldn’t be able to relate to Merry as well. I don’t practice archery and I was worried that this would be a source of disconnect for me and the characters. On the contrary, I found that the book has tons of archery content but it was explained very well when it needed to be. I didn’t think that this interfered with my “relationship”, so to speak, with Merry.

James was the other main character in the book that I connected with. He is best friends with Merry, and, although he doesn’t share Merry’s interest in archery, has a lot of distinct characteristics that make him unique. In the book, he struggles with deciding whether or not he wants to side with his parents or make his own independent decisions for his own well-being. This is a struggle that I definitely relate to and I am happy to see a character struggling with this as well. For this reason I would also say that James is a very relatable character!

I also loved this book for the Welsh and historical knowledge that is tied into it. I liked the almost “folklore”-ish element of Merry’s story, and I like how the folklore within the book tied in with the rest of the story as a whole. I also love that King Henry was tied into the story too, and it offered a little bit of insight on that time period. I definitely would not call this book historical fiction, but I liked seeing that aspect. I think the historical knowledge and the presentation of it added depth to the story and the conflict itself.

I also loved that this book had elements from the 21st Century and elements of the past as well. I don’t want to say much more than that, because I think it is best to go into this book only slightly blind. I think it was nice to tie in history to today. I like that the characters were familiar with cellphones and computers, but Welsh history still played a massive part in the story.

I do think that this could have been done a little bit better. At least, I kept forgetting that these characters were in the 21st century, and also, I felt that this could have been made a little clearer in the beginning of the book that these characters were not leaving in an older century! With the descriptions of the castle, and Merry’s family history, I believed originally that this was not in the 21st century but was mainly set in a historical time period.

The book does help to clarify this in the second half of the book with numerous references. After looking at the first part of the book over again, it is mentioned but I think with all of the character history and other events happening in the first part of the book, it is very difficult (at least for me) to figure this out. Granted, the summary of the book didn’t mention that they were in the 21st century at the time of the ARC printing. I don’t think it was that big of a problem, it was just something I struggled with understanding. But, I really love the premise of having the 21st century and history intertwined, and I think it was done pretty well. I think it was more of a struggle in terms of me as an individual reader.

This book is for ages 12 and up, though there are some uses of explicit language within the book. The terminology in this book is very age appropriate and the historical references are explained very well. (This book does mention King Henry VIII and how he murdered his wives, but it does so very lightly and you can easily block out these details or screen them for young children if you deem it necessary.)

Overall I do have to say that I really enjoyed this read. I am not sure what the summary on the finished copy of the book looks like, but I would definitely go into this book blind if you want to be surprised! (In the press release for the ARC, there was a small piece of information that gave away a bit of the story itself. It didn’t completely spoil it but it took away a bit of the “aha moment”!)

I cannot wait to read the other two books in the trilogy when they come out!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

FTC Disclaimer: I received this ARC in exchange for review consideration. This does not affect my review of the book. All of my thoughts and opinions are honest and my own. I received this book from Miss Print’s ARC Adoption Webpage. Thank you so much!