ARC Review of Something Like Gravity by Amber Smith

Disclaimer: I received an eARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

A year ago, Chris was badly beaten by group of males who hated Chris for being trans.

A year ago, Maia lost her sister Mallory due to an undetected heart defect.

Now, Chris finds himself in a small town in North Carolina, ten hours away from his home in Buffalo, spending the summer with his aunt after his parents decide that they need some time separate from him.

Maia finds herself avoiding all of her friends, wallowing in grief, unable to live for herself.

But on the day that Chris moves in with his aunt, they unexpectedly meet after Chris almost hits Maia with his car. The two then slowly become friends while considering the possibility of a romance.

Something Like Gravity is an honest look at what can happen when two people, left broken in different ways (Chris with his possible parental rejection and trauma from being beaten, Maia with losing her sister), find each other.

While this read can be heavy at times, it feels real. While I cannot speak on the accuracy of the trans rep, it doesn’t feel exploitative, and the author appears to have done her research. The grief from Maia and her family feels extremely real as well.

This is a solid read, and it’s one that I recommend. Something Like Gravity releases June 18.

ARC Review of We Were Beautiful by Heather Hepler

Disclaimer: I received an eARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

On Mia’s 15th birthday, her sister took her to a party. After that party, a car accident occurred, leaving her sister dead and Mia ruined. Mia was driving, despite not having a license, and her injuries left her unable to remember most of the details from that day, including the accident itself.

Now, nearly a year later, her family has pretty much dissolved. Her mom left first, and then her dad sends her on a train to New York to go live with a grandmother, Veronica, that she has never met.

While Mia wants to be consumed with her own guilt and grief, Veronica gets Mia a job at another family’s restaurant where on the first day of work, she is “adopted” by Fig, a person with her own broken past. Mia must learn what it means to live with knowing what happened, her role in it, and how to live in the present moment.

We Were Beautiful takes a serious lok at what it looks like to live with the guilt and grief of something that is a complex issue while also looking at how it is survivable.  Despite the heaviness of the subject matter, I found this book heavily readable with a very good mix of emotional moments so the reader never stays in a dark emotional place for too long. (I have no objection to those books that do; this is just a mention because some readers may initially shy away for that reason.)

Because I was approved for this ARC shortly before the release date, the book is available to buy now. Check it out.


ARC Review of Again, But Better by Christine Riccio

Disclaimer: I received an eARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Shane is unhappy with her college experience. She’s pretty much friendless, and she hates her major. However, her parents won’t support her if she changes her major so she concocts a plan to start over by studying abroad in London with a creative program track and internship at a travel magazine.

On the first day there, she meets Pilot, and she’s immediately smitten with him. There’s a problem though; he has a girlfriend. However, he may be interested in her too.

However, trying to start over is hard when the past cannot be changed. Or can it?

I struggled with this book. First, I question why it’s classified as YA when the main character is 20 from the beginning. However, because that has no merit on the overall writing quality, I gave that a pass.

The writing quality, however, was rough. Throughout the first half of the book, set in 2011, I questioned what the point was. Shane writes, goes off to other countries seemingly every weekend, and pines after a guy who doesn’t want to break up with his girlfriend. The writing drags, and some of the descriptions just feel forced and get in the way of the story itself. It almost reads like it’s someone’s first draft, and it was painful to read at times.

The second half of the story provides a unique twist, but at that point, the writing had already lost me. It felt like the first half dragged on too long, and most readers will give up there before the story actually becomes interesting.

ARC Review of Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim

Disclaimer: I received an eARC through the First Reads program in exchange for an honest review.

One day, the birds begin singing a familiar song. Natalie, recognizing it, knows immediately that her mother is dead. She buys a ticket, and she returns home to San Francisco for the first time since leaving over a disagreement about her future with her mother.

At home, Natalie begins to regret that she missed her mother’s last years, and she begins to feel a sense of obligation to her neighborhood which is dying. Gentrification is a real threat to her neighborhood in Chinatown, and while she hadn’t been heavily rooted here, she doesn’t want to see that happen.

With her love for cooking, the very thing that tore apart her relationship with her mother, she decides to reopen her grandmother’s long-closed restaurant. She decides to consult one of the neighbors for spiritual guidance about what she must do to be successful. The neighbor tells her that she must cook three recipes from her grandmother’s old book to help three struggling neighbors before she opens her restaurant.

With her grandmother’s cookbook providing advice about which recipes to cook. Natalie thinks that she has this in the bag–until everything starts to fall apart, and she’s left with the decision: stay or run.

I don’t frequently read adult fiction books that aren’t thrillers, but because this was not a romance, I decided to give it a try. I really enjoyed it. Sprinkled with recipes and bits of fantastical elements, this story is heart-warming.

Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune releases June 11, 2019.

ARC Review of The Silence Between Us by Alison Gervais

Disclaimer: I received an eARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Maya became deaf when she was 13 years old. For the past four years, she’s immersed herself into Deaf culture including going to the Pratt School for the Deaf. However, after her mom’s job transfers her to Colorado, Maya is faced with going to a public school–a hearing school.

For the first time since becoming deaf, Maya finds herself heavily immersed in a predominantly hearing culture. As a result of this, she faces conflict over the removal of being heavily immersed into a thriving Deaf culture scene. On a first day of school, the school assigns Nina to show Maya around the school, and while Maya initially resists this, Nina and Maya become quick friends. As a result of this, Maya meets Beau, and suddenly, her rule about not dating hearing boys is questioned.

While there’s a potential romance involved, this heavily deals with the cultural clash between hearing and Deaf because hearing people cannot truly understand the difficulties that those who are deaf (or Deaf) go through. Maya deals with this at school and at hospitals. The biggest conflict she has with this is the number of people who think she should have a cochlear implant–more on that shortly.

This story very frequently renders ASL signs into text. Because the author is Hard of Hearing and works actively within the Deaf community, this is done with understanding that I do not have. From a hearing reader perspective, for what it’s worth, it was done very well, and I could easily keep track of when a conversation was being signed versus being spoken versus being lip-read.

As a final note, as this book picks up steam (because I think this is going to be a very successful book), if you are a hearing reader, it’s extremely important to understand your place in the cochlear implant debate that happens within this story. Quite simply, it’s not your place to pick a side. Some hearing readers definitely won’t understand why there’s a debate, and for that, Alison Gervais does include information in the back of the book while there’s countless articles online about it as well. But as a reminder, Maya’s beliefs on this are her beliefs, and they’re valid beliefs.

With that off my chest, I strongly encourage you to read this book.

The Silence Between Us by Alison Gervais releases August 13, 2019.

ARC Review of Becoming Beatriz by Tami Charles

Disclaimer: I received an eARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

On Beatriz’s 15th birthday, she’s dancing, preparing for her quinceanera, when the shots start. In one quick moment, her life changes when her brother, the leader of a fictional gang, is killed by a rival gang in a revenge killing.

The story then picks up a few months later as Beatriz begins her freshmen year of high school. She initially views high school as unnecessary and just as a place to continue pushing the drug products that her gang is selling.

However, what she doesn’t expect is Nasser, a high school junior who encourages her to start dancing again.

But Beatriz is torn between her life in the gang and her life outside of it. Can both exist? Must she choose? And if so, how can she can get out of this gang?

Becoming Beatriz acts a companion novel to the upper middle grade Like Vanesssa. While some characters reappear, this does act as a stand alone as well. In this novel, we get a very serious look at some of the darker sides of Newark in 1984. While this is fictional, it is rooted heavily in historical facts. Throughout this novel, we never see the author preaching at us about the impact of gangs on communities; her story speaks for itself.

And what a story it is. It’s definitely one worth checking out.

Becoming Beatriz releases September 17, 2019.

DRC Review of The Voice in My Head by Dana L. Davis

Disclaimer: I received a DRC from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Indigo and Violet. Identical twins. However, one has a terminal illness. The other does not. Violet has pulmonary fibrosis and, having recently turned 18, has made the choice to die with dignity. On the day before Violet is scheduled to take the pills to die before her illness completely takes over, Indigo finds herself on the roof of a building under construction. She doesn’t know how to live without Violet, and she’s come here to make sure that she won’t have to.

But there’s a flaw in her plan. She actually wants to live. She cries out to God, and to her surprise, she hears a voice which leads to a fall.

Once in the hospital room, Indigo learns that Violet’s condition is worsening and that it’s time to say good bye. She checks out against medical advice.

But there’s a problem. That voice? It’s back. And communicating with her. And that voice claims to be God and is telling her that if she can get her sister to the Wave, her sister will live.

What follows is such a charming, often funny while bittersweet story of the lengths that families will go to save their loved ones.

I laughed several times throughout this story. The cast of characters that Davis created fly off of the page and are so unique.

This is story is so full of heart and charm, and it deals with sensitive situations very well.

I highly enjoyed this read, and I strongly recommend this.

The Voice in My Head releases May 28, 2019

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