ARC Review: I Am Here Now by Barbara Bottner

I Am Here Now by Barbara Bottner
Published: 04 August 2020 by Imprint

Set in the 1960s, Barbara Bottner’s I Am Here Now is a beautiful novel in verse about one artist’s coming of age. It’s a heartbreaking, powerful and inspiring depiction of what it’s like to shatter your life―and piece it all back together.

You can’t trust Life to give you decent parents, or beautiful eyes, a fine French accent or an outstanding flair for fashion. No, Life does what it wants. It’s sneaky as a thief.

Maisie’s first day of High school should be exciting, but all she wants is to escape.

Her world is lonely and chaotic, with an abusive mother and a father who’s rarely there to help.

So when Maisie, who finds refuge in her art, meets the spirited Rachel and her mother, a painter, she catches a glimpse of a very different world―one full of life, creativity, and love―and latches on.

But as she discovers her strengths through Rachel’s family, Maisie, increasingly desperate, finds herself risking new friendships, and the very future she’s searching for.

*ARC Kindly provided by Macmillan/Imprint in exchange for an honest review*

I Am Here Now is the first free verse book I’ve read after such a long time (it’s been years!). I forgot how it feels so easy and quick to finish a book in this format.

Set in the 60’s, this book tells us the story of Maisie. An upcoming high school student who’s starting to discover her passion for arts while also threading the hardships of adulthood and familial conflicts. She should be excited to start high school – it was a new start. A new stage of her life – but she’s far from excited. Her father is leaving them, her mother is succumbing to that lost and her younger brother is not entirely opening to her. Really nothing to be excited about those things.  But when she met the vibrant and lively Rachel, she was welcomed in a new world full of art and possibilities.

Maisie is your typical teenager with an insightful mind yet sarcastic and angry voice. The story has given me enough idea as to how she’s come this way. There’s no stability in her family. She doesn’t have a great support system. She’s lonely. I feel bad for her for the first half of the book but I also felt disappointed with her ways and actions on the latter part. But I wouldn’t hold that to her because for me, she’s a young adult and is just slowly learning the ropes of life. I enjoy reading about Maisie’s passion for art. There are also a lot of references to artists and museums and NYC and made me wonder how the place looks like in the 60’s.

The premise of the story was interesting. The emotions are there but I just really didn’t connect with the characters and the story itself. I feel like I’m just an outsider lurking. The story was moderately phased and if not for the verse format I think it would’ve taken me awhile to finish. I was also glad that the story had a somewhat happy ending. I wouldn’t wish for anything else for Maise and her brother.

2/5 Flower Rating

Have you recently read any stories in free verse format ? How was it for you? Would you be interested to read I Am Here Now? I would love to hear your thoughts!💚

ARC Review: Break in Case of Emergency by Brian Francis

Break in Case of Emergency by Brian Francis
Published: 04 February 2020 by Inkyard Press
Originally Published: 17 September 2020 by Harper Collins

Set in a small town in the 1990s, this is the story of a girl on the edge–of a breakdown, of family secrets, of learning who she really is.

Life has been a struggle for Toby Goodman. Her mother died by suicide five years ago, and her father left before Toby was born. Now a teenager living on her grandparents’ dairy farm, Toby has trouble letting people in. Convinced that she is destined to follow her mother’s path, she creates a plan to escape her pain.

But with the news that her father is coming home and finally wants to meet her, Toby learns the truth of her parents’ story. Her father is gay and a world-famous female impersonator–in a time when these facts are a source of small-town whispers and secrets, and not something anyone had dared talk with her about before.

As her careful plans go awry, Toby must rebuild her life from the ground up. While she might not follow an expected path, with the support of a quirky but lovable circle of friends and family, Toby will finally put together the many different pieces that make up her past, her present and her future.

*e-ARC Kindly provided by Inkyard Press thru Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review*

**Trigger Warnings: Depression, Suicide, Mental Illness, Alcohol

“No amount of pain was going to cover everything. Some cracks always push through, no matter how many coats you apply.”

At a young age, Toby have experienced a great deal of trauma: her mother suffers from a mental illness and committed suicide, absentee father and grandparents who love her dearly but had a hard time communicating about it. Break In Case of Emergency takes an in-depth view about the topics of mental illness, depression and suicide. The representation of these topics was handled carefully and well delved as well.

Toby is one tough character to read. I had a hard time gauging her. I ended up not really connecting with her, honestly. I feel bad for all the trauma that she’s been through at such a young age. I find her mother’s story interesting as well and I feel like learning more about her mother’s history would’ve helped get me to connect more to her.

Reading this book took quite an effort. I had a hard time getting into the time and place setting of the story. The year was 1992 in a small rural town of Tilden. For some reason, the flow of the story became as slow as the living situation pictured on this town and time.

I also find myself questioning the sudden appearance of Toby’s father. I feel like it was not explained well why he’s suddenly going back and wanted to meet her. Is it just on whim? After 15 years, he just remembered that he has a daughter whom he hasn’t met yet? How convenient as well that he arrived just when Toby is planning to pursue her plan. But despite those things, I give him the benefit of the doubt because in a short span of time, he did his best to at least communicate with his daughter, get to know her and reconcile.

The ending was too good to be true. Toby reached an extreme point in life and the severity of that situation was wrapped up too nicely. Don’t get me wrong, I was so glad she survived and is surviving but I would’ve accepted an open ending instead of it being too good to be true.

Break In Case of Emergency has a unique and interesting story. But overall, it was just okay for me.

“People will break your heart in all kinds of ways. But you have to learn how to go on. You grab hold of whatever pieces are left and hold on for dear life. Hold on so you don’t drown.”

2/5 Flower Rating

Have you read this book? How was it?  If not, would you be interested to read it too? I would love to hear from you!

ARC Review: Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith

Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith
Published: 28 January 2020 by Inkyard Press

Divya Sharma is a queen. Or she is when she’s playing Reclaim the Sun, the year’s hottest online game. Divya—better known as popular streaming gamer D1V—regularly leads her #AngstArmada on quests through the game’s vast and gorgeous virtual universe. But for Divya, this is more than just a game. Out in the real world, she’s trading her rising-star status for sponsorships to help her struggling single mom pay the rent.

Gaming is basically Aaron Jericho’s entire life. Much to his mother’s frustration, Aaron has zero interest in becoming a doctor like her, and spends his free time writing games for a local developer. At least he can escape into Reclaim the Sun—and with a trillion worlds to explore, disappearing should be easy. But to his surprise, he somehow ends up on the same remote planet as celebrity gamer D1V.

At home, Divya and Aaron grapple with their problems alone, but in the game, they have each other to face infinite new worlds…and the growing legion of trolls populating them. Soon the virtual harassment seeps into reality when a group called the Vox Populi begin launching real-world doxxing campaigns, threatening Aaron’s dreams and Divya’s actual life. The online trolls think they can drive her out of the game, but everything and everyone Divya cares about is on the line…

And she isn’t going down without a fight.

*e-ARC Kindly provided by Inkyard Press thru Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review*

Divya loves video games. She has thousands of followers on a gaming website where she plays Reclaim the Sun, a space exploration game. But playing video games is more than just a past time for Divya. Playing helps her financially – from streams and sponsors – to pay for rent and to support her mom through grad school after her father leaves them to fend for themselves.

“Even the internet can be a dangerous place.”

With her number of followers still growing, Divya is careful not to give/publish any of her personal information. She is aware that there’s a lot of haters and trolls all over the internet; the emails and messages from those people can be very cruel. But in some way, those trolls were able to find her information and begins to attack her – online and offline.

“The safe place for either of us has been online. In these games with beautiful strangers that make the world worth living.”

Virtual and Real Life intertwines when Divya met Aaron while playing. They find their characters in a remote planet both staking a claim over it but decided to just split whatever resources that planet has. From there, their friendship begins. Aaron is a gamer as well, but his dream is to write scripts for games. Both Divya and Aaron are dealing with home problems but while playing they begin to talk more about each other and felt like they have each other’s back virtually and in real life.

Honestly, the story started weak and slow for me. I’m not a huge video game fan or player so I was overwhelmed and became lost with all the video game talks and description when the story started. Around 30% into it, I see and feel a change. I’m starting to get really invested and excited with the story. It greatly helps that Divya and Aaron are awesome-sauce characters! The Dual-POV’s really helps a lot to me liking the main characters. Both of them have very distinct voices and it’s always good to hear and see the story on different sides. The story is intertwined greatly with their narration.

The story covers a lot of topics that are relevant nowadays. The talks of online safety play a huge role in the story. We are all aware that anyone and everyone can access the internet, so we must be very cautious of the information we put out there. We also cannot ignore the fact that someone out there may use the internet to attack us in some way. Those people are bolstered by the anonymity the internet gives them. There’s also the talk of racism and sexism because the attackers believe that Divya has no place on the streaming world because of her color and gender. There are also talks of attacks and harassment. For me, these topics were handled well and accurately with our situation nowadays. It greatly portrays how some people treat others differently because of their color and nationality.

Overall, it was a great reading experience! I loved it! Though, I could’ve wished for more information and closure as to what happened to Divya’s attackers and I’m also looking for an epilogue to one of Divya and Aaron’s dates (lol). But above all that, I’m all good!

So, if you love a story about gaming that also covers a whole of relevant topics that would surely open your eyes as well, you should pick up this book!

4/5 Flower Rating

Do you love online gaming? What are some of your favorite games?
Have you read this book? What do you think about it? Link me up to your reviews! I would also love to hear from you.💚

 

ARC Review: Verona Comics by Jennifer Dugan

Verona Comics by Jennifer Dugan
Published: 21 April 2020 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

From the author of Hot Dog Girl comes a fresh and funny queer YA contemporary novel about two teens who fall in love in an indie comic book shop.

Jubilee has it all together. She’s an elite cellist, and when she’s not working in her stepmom’s indie comic shop, she’s prepping for the biggest audition of her life.

Ridley is barely holding it together. His parents own the biggest comic-store chain in the country, and Ridley can’t stop disappointing them—that is, when they’re even paying attention.

They meet one fateful night at a comic convention prom, and the two can’t help falling for each other. Too bad their parents are at each other’s throats every chance they get, making a relationship between them nearly impossible…unless they manage to keep it a secret.

Then again, the feud between their families may be the least of their problems. As Ridley’s anxiety spirals, Jubilee tries to help but finds her focus torn between her fast-approaching audition and their intensifying relationship. What if love can’t conquer all? What if each of them needs more than the other can give?

*e-ARC Kindly provided by Penguin Random House International in exchange for an honest review*

Verona Comics is far from what I was expecting. What was I expecting? A cute and fluffy YA story. It starts all cute, fun and fluffy but the rest was just a real emotion hitter. A roller-coaster ride of emotions and situations.

“Music is never finished. Every piece change when you play it. It’s alive. It’s an action and reaction all at once.”

Jubilee is an elite cellist and preparing for the biggest audition of her life. Apart from this, she also works at her stepmom’s comic shop Verona Comics. Jubilee is easy to like. I admire her passion for music and loyalty to her friends. She also has a good relationship with both of her moms. But her goal-oriented world was a bit shaken when she met Ridley.

“It used to be I could tell the difference between excitement and anxiety. It used to be I could handle crowds and small talk. It used to be a lot of thing…but now it’s not.”

Ridley is the son of the biggest comic bookstore chain owners. He always feels insecure about his role and place on his family that left him desperate for approval and validation. He suffers from depression and anxiety and the sad thing about this is he has no one to lean on. Until he met Jubilee. She became Ridley’s confidant.

These two met at a comic convention they are both in. I immediately felt giddy because they are six thousand shades of cute!! The plot thickens when it was revealed that their parents are in feud and are usually in each other’s throat on/off conventions and cameras making it harder for them to pursue their budding romance.

But as I’ve mentioned from the start, Verona Comics is more than just romance and family feud. There’s a lot of different life aspects and representations that are tackled on this story. The diverse representation of both main characters was handled well. Jubilee’s friend Jayla is black, and Nikki is Asian – this diversity is present as well. Codependency and toxic family culture is there. But what really stood out for me was how mental illness (depression, anxiety and suicide) was carefully handled. This specific situation was addressed and treated. It was so good to see Ridley surpassing this.

“There are still a lot of dark times; there’s no fix for that. But for the first time it feels like surviving them is an option-an option I really want.”

So why not give this book a higher rating, you might ask? It’s because despite me loving the characters and liking how the aspects and representations were made present, it feels overwhelming. It feels like there’s a lot that is happening all at once. There are some aspects/representations that I wished the story would’ve dived more into. More details and closure.

But overall, this was a great read! I would love to read more from the author because I enjoyed her narrative and writing!

3/5 Flower Rating

Would you read this book once released? What are you looking forward to in reading this book? I would love to hear your thoughts! 💚

Blog Tour & ARC Review: Sofa Surfer by Malcolm Duffy

Sofa Surfer by Malcolm Duffy

Published 06 February 2020 by Zephyr / Head of Zeus

‘A story with great heart, and wisdom, which shows the healing power of true friendship’ Ele Fountain, author of Boy 87.
Written with humour and heart, Sofa Surfer looks at what it means to be homeless.

Malcolm Duffy’s debut novel Me Mam. Me Dad. Me., about domestic violence, won the YA category of the Sheffield Children’s Book Award 2019, the Redbridge Children’s Book Award 2019, was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Prize 2019 and selected for World Book Night.

15-year-old Tyler’s teenage angst turns to outright rebellion when his family leave London for a new life in Yorkshire. He’s angry with his parents about the upheaval and furious at losing his home. With only the dog to confide in, Tyler has no idea that a chance meeting with a skinny girl called Spider will lead him into a world he never even knew existed. Spider is sofa surfing and Tyler finds himself spinning a tangled web of lies in his efforts to help her escape her world of fear and insecurity.

Sofa Surfer shows how empathy and action can help those without a home to go to. As with his widely praised debut Me Mam. Me Dad. Me., Malcolm Duffy finds humour and heart even in dire situations. Relevant, warm and rewarding Sofa Surfer is about what happens when going home isn’t an option.

*ARC kindly provided by Zephyr/Head of Zeus in exchange for an honest review*

“I’d thought it would be the most forgettable summer ever, but it turned into the most memorable.”

My first book by Malcolm Duffy and it surpassed my expectations! I so loved it! Sofa Surfer is one of the easiest and probably the quickest book I’ve read (so far) this year. I feel like it was just a breeze reading this book.

“But I didn’t want to give Yorkshire a chance. I didn’t want to give anywhere a chance.”

To say that Tyler was furious to leave his friends and home in London is an understatement. He’s manic, he’s angry. How could his parents decide to leave the bustling city and move to Yorkshire, an almost unknown place? Tyler had a hard time making friends and there really isn’t much that you can do on this new city. Until he met Spider. A girl at the local lido (this is like a community pool) who wanted to learn how to swim.

“It was a though Spider has taken her sleeping bag and moved in my head. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get rid of her.”

Things get a bit complicated when Tyler found out that Spider was thrown out of her cousin’s house where she is couch surfing. Tyler did his best to help Spider by bringing her food, some other supplies and even extending a place for her to stay at temporarily.

Sofa Surfer mainly tackles about the topic of homelessness. I will not bore you guys by giving statistics and such, but we are all aware that a number of people everywhere in the world in homeless. I believe that this book conveys such a good message that empathy and action goes hand in hand especially in helping people. Without the other, things would just not work out properly.

For such a heavy topic, homelessness was handled in such a light, poignant and thoughtful way. I especially like the lack of overdramatic effects! It was just light and touching. Simple as that. Especially viewed in the young eyes of the lead character Tyler. Reading this from his point of view has made a huge difference because everything feels simple but real. At such a young age, Tyler already has the heart to help. I like how he really stood up to his parents especially in helping Spider.  Spider on the other hand is such a strange character. I’m honestly hesitant about her character on the first few chapters of the book but at the end I kind of felt for her. For such a young age as well, she was given one of the hardest things to deal with – homelessness. I would’ve loved to know more of her backstory, I guess. It feels that there is the loss connection with her.

Overall, Sofa Surfer is such a relevant and great book! Definitely recommended for everyone!

4/5 Flower Rating

Have you heard about Sofa Surfer? I definitely recommend this book so please add it up on your tbr!  💚