BeachReads · Book Reviews · Fiction · RomCom · YAbooks

Book Review: ‘The Mall’ by Megan McCafferty (7/28)

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Thank you @wednesdaybooks (partner) for my gifted copy of “The Mall” by Megan McCafferty! (pub 7/28)

New York Times bestselling author Megan McCafferty returns to her roots with this YA coming of age story set in a New Jersey mall.

The year is 1991. Scrunchies, mixtapes & ‘90210’ are, like, totally fresh. Cassie Worthy is psyched to spend the summer after graduation working at the Parkway Center Mall. In six weeks, she & her boyfriend head off to college in NYC to fulfill The Plan: higher education & happily ever after.
But you know what they say about the best laid plans…

Set entirely in a classic “monument to consumerism,” the novel follows Cassie as she finds friendship, love, & ultimately herself, in the most unexpected of places.

Megan McCafferty, beloved author of the Jessica Darling series, takes readers on an epic trip back in time to The Mall.

Ok, by show of hands, who here still has a mall in their city or one nearby that you may or may not frequent? I kinda remember when my local mall was built in 1977. Every store slot was filled & the anchor stores were JCPenney, Elder Beermans, May Co & Montgomery Ward (later that became a Sears. (The only one of those still there [barely hanging on] is JCP.)

My first job was at The Gap at our mall & I also worked at The Limited, Deb & Sam Goody (which is a major part in this book in a couple ways.) Even though this is geared towards the YA gen, I feel those of us that were teens (or maybe young 20’s) in the early 90’s will appreciate & relate to the name drops, fashion style & pop culture references even more.

From Bath & Body Works (hello, cucumber melon) to Spencer’s Gifts (STILL at my mall), to Cabbage Patch dolls (who have a co-starring role in this story), McCafferty’s ‘The Mall‘ was a true blast from my past & I really liked it. It’s a pretty quick read, laugh out-loud at times, atmospheric, & also touches on a couple heavier subjects.

The Mall‘ is a coming of age, nostalgia-filled, journey back in time, with a fun, mall based treasure hunt (like ‘The Goonies’ minus the gangsters & murder).

(Oh, & remember when Mark Wahlberg was dancing around with his Calvin Klein underwear showing & singing about ‘Good Vibrations’ w/ his Funky Bunch before becoming a huge actor??) Yes, that’s right, fellow Gen X’ers…Marky Mark is almost 50 now!

Click HERE to add ‘The Mall’ to your Goodreads TBR list.
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What others are saying about Megan McCafferty’s ‘The Mall‘:

“With wit and more than a little hairspray, McCafferty dives into the 1990s with this snappily written self-empowerment novel set beneath the fluorescent lights of a suburban New Jersey mall.” – Publishers Weekly

“Megan McCafferty departs from her best-selling Jessica Darling series to conjure this charming throwback.” – Columbia Magazine

“Complete with Orange Julius, Cabbage Patch Kids, and Sam Goody, this book is a blast to the past!” – Manhattan Book Review

“The Mall was to 1991 teenagers what the iPhone is to today’s generation: EVERYTHING. This delightful novel about that particular time and place is loaded with fun, warmth, intelligence, big hair and an even bigger heart. I loved it.” — New York Times bestselling author Rachel Cohn

“Both a laugh-out-loud pean to those bygone cathedrals of the 1990s, and a zippy coming-of-age tale, THE MALL is a delightful read for any generation. So tease your hair, grab your hotdog on a stick and prepare to have a freaking blast!” — Gayle Forman, New York Times bestselling author of If I Stay and I Have Lost My Way

“What a pleasure it is to spend time in a McCafferty universe. Her writing is sharp, smart, sexy and oh-so-real. I’ll read her forever.” — Rebecca Serle, New York Times bestselling author of In Five Years

“Totally rad! This former 1990s mall teen loved The Mall, an ode to tall bangs, boys with good taste in music, and female friendship, set in the only place that mattered. What a joy to have a new book from Megan McCafferty, who knows exactly how to make us laugh, cry, and fall in love with her characters.” — Amy Spalding, author of The Summer of Jordi Perez and The New Guy

“A delightful, funny, sweet and affecting real life adventure with such a big heart, it’ll make you cry the happiest tears. The Mall is something special.” — Courtney Summers, New York Times bestselling author of Sadie

Megan McCafferty writes fiction for tweens, teens and teens-at-heart of all ages. The author of several novels, she’s best known for Sloppy Firsts and four more books in the New York Times bestselling Jessica Darling series.

Described in her first review as “Judy Blume meets Dorothy Parker” (Wall Street Journal), she’s been trying to live up to that high standard ever since.

Audiobooks · Book Reviews · LibroFm

Audio Book Review: “The Voting Booth” by Brandy Colbert

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Thank you @dreamscape_media @disneyhyperiondesign & @librofm for my gifted audio copy of ‘The Voting Booth’ by Brandy Colbert! (pub 7/7)

From Stonewall Award-winning author Brandy Colbert comes an all-in-one-day love story perfect for fans of The Sun is Also A Star.

Marva Sheridan was born ready for this day. She’s always been driven to make a difference in the world, & what better way than to vote in her first election?Duke Crenshaw is so done with this election. He just wants to get voting over with so he can prepare for his band’s first paying gig tonight. Only problem? Duke can’t vote.
When Marva sees Duke turned away from their polling place, she takes it upon herself to make sure his vote is counted. She hasn’t spent months doorbelling & registering voters just to see someone denied their right. And that’s how their whirlwind day begins, rushing from precinct to precinct, cutting school, waiting in endless lines, turned away time & again, trying to do one simple thing: vote.
They may have started out as strangers, but as Duke and Marva team up to beat a rigged system (& find Marva’s missing cat), it’s clear that there’s more to their connection than a shared mission for democracy.
Romantic & triumphant, ‘The Voting Booth’ is proof that you can’t sit around waiting for the world to change & some things are just meant to be.

I listened to this book in one afternoon. When it started I thought it would be a light read basically talking about the importance of voting starting as soon as you are legally allowed to. But it became so much more than that!

‘The Voting Booth’ touches on so many important subjects, not just for teens, but especially for teens of color, all POC…ALL people in general. It’s a YA romance meets voter activism & the harsh realities of voter suppression. Some subjects included: the importance of voting, knowing if & where you are registered, loss of a loved one to gang violence, interracial relationships, the pressure teens put on themselves to be perfect & get into the best college, anxiety, standing up for what you believe in w/ peaceful protests & the challenges/obstacles POC of color face in this world, including a sort of intense scene towards the end involving being pulled over by the police.

No sex scenes in it, but some language. Basically your typical teen talk when parents aren’t around. There’s also some fun stuff like “Eartha Kitty” (aka: Selma) the cat, who has a huge following on Instagram. (see pic above) The story takes place in a single day, we meet several side characters along the way & as for politics, there is bias & no mention of names or parties. Overall, the book pleasantly surprised me & I really liked it.

To get a 2-for-1 audiobook deal from Librofm, use my code MOMLOVESREADING. They support indie bookstores w/ our audiobook sales. You choose the indie bookstore to support from their list of affiliated stores, too. I love using Libro.fm! When a new release comes out, it may be 3-6 mos before it is available to borrow using my library audiobook app, so luckily, I have my Libro.fm subscription. No holds, no waiting, & the audiobook stays in your Libro.fm. You only need to download the book you are listening to on your phone or device, so you won’t even have to use data when you listen to it because you aren’t streaming.

Be sure to check out Brandy Colbert’s other recent new release for middle schoolers, ‘The Only Black Girls in Town’. Click HERE to read more about it on Goodreads.
Click HERE to add ‘The Voting Booth’ to your Goodreads TBR.
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Book Reviews · Fiction

Book Review: “What Unbreakable Looks Like” by Kate McLaughlin

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Happy Pub Day & Thank you @wednesdaybooks for my gifted copy of “What Unbreakable Looks Like” by Kate McLaughlin! Available today, 6/23!

Lex was taken –trafficked– & now she’s Poppy. Kept in a hotel with other girls, her old life is a distant memory. But when the girls are rescued, she doesn’t quite know how to be Lex again.

After she moves in with her aunt & uncle, for the first time in a long time, she knows what it is to feel truly safe. Except, she doesn’t trust it. Doesn’t trust her new home. Doesn’t trust her new friend. Doesn’t trust her new life. Instead she trusts what she shouldn’t because that’s what feels right. She doesn’t deserve good things.

But when she is sexually assaulted by her so-called boyfriend & his friends, Lex is forced to reckon with what happened to her & that just because she is used to it, doesn’t mean it is okay. She’s thrust into the limelight & realizes she has the power to help others. But first she’ll have to confront the monsters of her past with the help of her family, friends, & a new love.

Kate McLaughlin’s “What Unbreakable Looks Like is a gritty, ultimately hopeful novel about human trafficking through the lens of a girl who has escaped the life & learned to trust, not only others, but in herself.

I will warn you upfront, this is a very difficult book to read. I had to stop at least 3x & go back to it on a day where I could handle it better mentally. (Trigger warnings for graphic physical & sexual violence, rape, & human trafficking. And kudos to the publisher for noting this at the beginning of the book.)

I live in Ohio, which is 5th highest in human trafficking cases, & about 45 mins from Toledo, which is the 4th highest city in the US for cases. We often have reports of unmarked vans trolling through our area w/ people in them trying to get kids (& sometimes adults) to come to the van & help w/ directions or some other seemingly innocent problem. One girl I know had a car follow her & her friends one night, someone jumped out at a stoplight & slashed one of her tires, & then they continued to follow them. But the girls were smart & called 911 right away. There are more stories I could share, but let’s get to the book. (And just talking about the above freaks me out so much!)

Gut-wrenching, raw, relevant, & thought-provoking, Lex learns to allow herself to trust again, even while dealing w/ the aftermath of sexual assault, followed by cruel treatment & bullying by her peers, & coming to terms w/ her past & finding the courage to tell herself she is worthy of love & a future & happiness. It was often painful & emotional to read, but the overall message is hopefulness & strength. A really powerful read!

Click HERE to add this book to your Goodreads TBR.
Click HERE to get this on audiobook at Libro.fm & use my code MOMLOVESREADING for a BOGO.
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What others are saying about “What Unbreakable Looks Like“:

Book Riot, “The Ultimate Guide to Spring 2020 YA Books for Your TBR”

Culturess, “13 must-read June YA book releases to start your summer off right”

“This shines a light on a little-talked-about topic that involves teens.” – Booklist (Starred Review)

“This story of resilience and recovery is gritty and heavy but ultimately hopeful… A gut-punch story with an uplifting ending.” – Kirkus

“[A] beautiful insight into what it means to heal and have hope. …If you are wanting a heartwarming, heartbreaking, inspiring, and hard hitting story, I would definitely recommend you pick this book up.” – The Nerd Daily

“Gritty and moving, What Unbreakable Looks Like is a compelling story about recovery and the problem of human trafficking that persists today.” – Young Adult Books Central

“With unflinching honesty, What Unbreakable Looks Like exposes the injuries and scars we wear on our skins or in our souls. Hidden damage is tragically common, but helpful others who dared embrace hope invite Alexa to step onto the healing path. This novel may offer a springboard for a reader’s own healing or foster empathy for life’s walking wounded.” – Liz Coley, author of international bestseller Pretty Girl-13

“Raw, unflinching, and authentic, Kate McLaughlin’s thoughtful What Unbreakable Looks Like carefully crafts a story exposing the vulnerability of underage trafficked girls and what it takes to begin the process of healing from sexual trauma.” – Christa Desir, author, advocate, and founding member of The Voices and Faces Project

“This is a powerful book about a sobering topic that I found myself thinking about for days after I completed it. It is wonderfully poignant, painfully real, and even laugh out loud funny at times. Not everyone can truly wrap their minds around the trauma these victims endure and yet somehow, despite all of it, are still just regular kids. But Kate McLaughlin gets it. ‘Lex’ is truly what unbreakable looks like and you’ll fall in love with her spirit.” – Tanya Compagnone, Trooper First Class

“Sex trafficking continues to seep into all our communities. In this novel, Kate McLaughlin brings to life the trauma that transpires in youth who forced into the life of sex trafficking. Her novel is a reminder that each of us can make a difference in someone’s life.” – Dina R. St. George, MSW, Juvenile Re-Entry Unit OCPD

KATE McLAUGHLIN likes people, so much so that she spends her days making up her own. She likes writing about characters who are bent, but not broken – people who find their internal strength through friends, strife and sometimes humor. When she’s not writing, she likes studying people, both real and fictional. She also likes playing board games with friends, talking and discovering new music. A proud Nova Scotian, she’ll gladly tell you all about the highest tides in the world, the magical creation known as a donair, and people who have sofas in their kitchens. Currently, she lives in Connecticut with her husband and four cats.

Book Reviews

Book Review: “The New Girl Code: The Launch of a Fashion App” by Niki Smit

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Thank you @kaffienemedia & @thenewgirlcode for my gifted copy of the wonderful book, “The New Girl Code: The Launch of a Fashion App”!

Know of a young girl who loves technology and wants to become a programmer who wants to break the barriers to get into technology? Then this book will inspire her to take the necessary risks to follow her dreams.

“The New Girl Code” tells the story of 15 year old Charlie who discovers her love for coding and most importantly, herself, as she enters her Sophomore year. Charlie lives in Brooklyn. She is a little awkward and a lot uncertain — about her future, friendships, lack of relationships.

This all changes when she discovers, through her love of fashion and friendship, an idea for an app, The Fashionist. As Charlie and her friends grow the app to unimaginable heights of success, they learn to adapt to their new CEO roles. On the rise, Charlie encounters a catfish, betrayals, school gossip, bullying and more. Will she boss up and be the next level?

Click HERE to add it to your Goodreads list

What an absolutely inspiring book for STEM-minded or focused girls of any age! I took some website building classes in college & did a little coding, but this was before apps & smart phones became a thing, but it was really neat seeing my codes become something legible. My second oldest son is in IT & does coding & has worked on app creation. It’s so amazing how people takes their ideas & create something others want to download & use (ie: Instagram). 

“The New Girl Code” is female empowering, awe-inspiring, motivating, & insightful. It’s written in journal/diary entry style (which I always love!) & has some fun illustrations & inspirational quotes scattered throughout, which is fab! It’s only like $8 for the hardback on Amazon right now & for every book purchased the profits will go towards supporting underprivileged girls & provide them the book for free. Inspiring Fifty is a non-profit organization that aims to increase diversity in tech by making female role models in tech more visible..I highly recommend this book for the tweens, teens, & any reader in your life that is interested in coding & STEM!

Hope everyone is hanging in there during this self-isolation! Also, quick reminder to click HERE to go to my current Instagram giveaway (3 winners!). Here’s hoping this week is better than this past one for all of us!

Book Reviews

Book Review: “All Your Twisted Secrets” by Diana Urban

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📖Thank you @dianaurban for my gifted, autographed copy of your newly released YA thriller, ‘All Your Twisted Secrets’!
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💉A thrilling debut, reminiscent of new fan favorites like ‘One of Us Is Lying’ and the beloved classics by Agatha Christie, that will leave readers guessing until the explosive ending.
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🍽“Welcome to dinner, and again, congratulations on being selected. Now you must do the selecting.”
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💉What do the queen bee, star athlete, valedictorian, stoner, loner, & music geek all have in common? They were all invited to a scholarship dinner, only to discover it’s a trap. Someone has locked them into a room with a bomb, a syringe filled with poison, & a note saying they have an hour to pick someone to kill…or else everyone dies.
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💣Amber Prescott is determined to get her classmates & herself out of the room alive, but that might be easier said than done. No one knows how they’re all connected or who would want them dead. As they retrace the events over the past year that might have triggered their captor’s ultimatum, it becomes clear that everyone is hiding something.
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⏰And with the clock ticking down, confusion turns into fear, & fear morphs into panic as they race to answer the biggest question: Who will they choose to die?
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💉First off, “confusion turns into fear, & fear morphs into panic”…that about sums up the state of our nation lately, am I right? Moving on…
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💣With a pitch-perfect plot & well written characters, this book will have you guessing until the twisted, shocking ending! This is one pressure-cooker of a debut novel that practically turned me into a nail biter! Compelling, captivating, & utterly satisfying, this is a helluva debut novel! Kudo’s to you @dianaurban!!
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📖”All Your Twisted Secrets” is available now everywhere books are sold, but PLEASE check with your local, independent bookstores first to see if they have it or can get it for you. Many are even doing curbside service or home delivery & with the economy in decline due to Co-Vid, if you’re going to buy a book, support indie sellers. You can use BookStoreLink to look up the book(s) you want and find it at local indie bookstores or order it from one that has that option. They need us readers right now more than ever! (Amazon is doing just fine right now…)
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💉PS: The syringe in photo is real! (empty B12 syringe refilled w/ cherry juice!😉)

Click HERE to add it to your Goodreads list!