Tuesday, January 21, 2014

LOVING CARA by Kristen Proby Release Day Feature and Win A Copy!

I'm excited to feature LOVING CARA by Kristen Proby today! 
Today is Release Day for this one - I've read it already and trust me when I say
There are cowboys, horses, and a ranch. 

Loving Cara by Kristen Proby
Series: Love Under the Big Sky #1
Publish Date: January 21, 2014
Find It: Goodreads / Amazon / B&N 

In this new Love Under the Big Sky series from a USA TODAY bestselling author, Cara agrees to tutor her former classmate's nephew—and learns some lessons in love!

Josh King is an expert at running his family’s multi-million dollar ranch in Montana. (And all that outside manual labor has done wonders for sculpting his six-foot-three body, too.) But as sure footed as he is when it comes to the ranch, Josh doesn’t know anything about how to deal with an adolescent boy—so when his twelve-year-old nephew, Seth, is dropped off on his doorstep, looking scared and acting surly as hell, Josh knows he needs help in straightening him out.

Cara Donovan loves her quiet life as a teacher in her sleepy hometown, so she jumps at the chance to make a little money over the summer as a tutor. But when she learns she’ll be teaching Josh King’s nephew, Cara’s sweet summer job gets a little bit hotter. Cara tries to focus all her attention on tutoring Seth, but Josh proves to be a delicious distraction, while Josh’s memories of the shy girl he once teased in high school are nothing like the beautiful woman he’s facing now. Can he persuade her that there’s more between them than a summer fling?



KRISTEN PROBY is the USA Today bestselling author of the popular With Me in Seattle series. She has a passion for a good love story and strong characters who love humor and have a strong sense of loyalty and family. Her men are the alpha type—fiercely protective and a bit bossy—and her ladies are fun, strong, and not afraid to stand up for themselves. Kristen spends her days with her muse in the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys coffee, chocolate, and sunshine. And naps. Visit her at KristenProby.com.

Links:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads 


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Monday, January 20, 2014

True by Erin McCarthy Review

True by Erin McCarthy
Series: True Believers #1
Published by 
Penguin Publishing
Publish Date: May 7, 2013

235 Pages
Source: Publisher
Find it here:  Goodreads / Amazon / B&N

When Rory Macintosh’s roommates find out that their studious and shy friend has never been with a guy, they decide that, as an act of kindness they’ll help her lose her virginity by hiring confident, tattooed bad boy Tyler Mann to do the job…unbeknownst to Rory.

Tyler knows he’s not good enough for Rory. She’s smart, doctor smart, while he’s barely scraping by at his EMT program, hoping to pull his younger brothers out of the hell their druggy mother has left them in. But he can’t resist taking up her roommates on an opportunity to get to know her better. There’s something about her honesty that keeps him coming back when he knows he shouldn’t…

Torn between common sense and desire, the two find themselves caught up in a passionate relationship. But when Tyler’s broken family threatens to destroy his future, and hers, Rory will need to decide whether to cut her ties to his risky world or follow her heart, no matter what the cost… (from Goodreads)

True by Erin McCarthy 

My Thoughts:  When your book opens with your female main character admitting that she never meant to get drunk nor admit to her roommates that she is still a virgin - well, let's just say, I wasn't quite expecting that right away! I picked this book because I read a ton of books in the New Adult category and I really like this cover - and after having finished the story I have to admit that there are things that I liked and things I'm not too crazy about. 


As the book opens, Rory Macintosh is waiting, waiting, waiting out in the living area of a friend's apartment as her two roommates are, um, busy back in the bedrooms with guy friends. Rory isn't alone out there - there is another unattached friend - Grant - who Rory is kind of talking herself into liking as she is sitting there drinking beer, one after the other. Rory's mind is just racing about how Grant is a little awkward and skinny, but cute, and how she has a kind-of crush on him because there is sort-of "possibility" with him. Rory mind is thinking back on how nobody has ever really liked her before, wanted to date her before, wanted to sleep with her before, and suddenly she decides that she wants Grant to kiss her. YES, SHE DECIDES SUDDENLY THAT SHE WANTS TO KISS GRANT. Right in the middle of all of her thinking and drinking. Just like *snap* THAT! her thinking changes to how perfect she and Grant are for one another because they are both quiet, pale, and sensitive.* 

*I'm not making this up. 

Then Grant, who is Rory's brand-new crush, has to be awesome and start talking about her roommate Jessica, which immediately kills it for Rory. OF COURSE he couldn't be interested in her, right? NOBODY ELSE IS, right? (This is Rory's mind talking.) And before too long and after too many beers, Rory finds herself being sexually assaulted by Grant. As in, real actual sexual assault. In the living area of their mutual friend's apartment. While four of their friends are, um, busy in other rooms. 

Now, it just so happens that one of the four "busy" friends, one Mr. Tyler Mann, happens to see part of this assault take place and he hears Rory tell Grand NO. And he sort of rescues Rory. He kicks Grant out of the apartment. And he offers to drive her back to her dorm. During the ride, they talk a little bit and Tyler seems a little bit interested in her, which is a little weird because he is with Rory's roommate Jessica. RIGHT? So Rory shakes it off and goes into her dorm and that's that. 


True by Erin McCarthy is way more than just this opening scene, although I believe that this first scene sets the book up very well. The first scene holds several things that I didn't love about this book. First of all, it was really awkward for me to read about Rory sitting in the living area of an apartment while she waited for her roommates to hook up with their respective guys. She knew what was going on there, so why subject herself to the torture of being a third wheel? And FINE if she wanted to hang out there - sure, OKAY - but all she ended up doing was spend an awful lot of time thinking about how nobody liked her when she was younger and even still, and how she is now twenty years old and still a virgin. (In other words, it's time to put the beer down, Rory.) I couldn't get over the overwhelming stench of "I feel inferior" coming off of the opening scene, but it's cool. I kept going because even though nobody really did anything to Grant after his illegal and degrading moves, I was interested in Tyler Mann and his intentions for Rory Macintosh (while he was with roommate Jessica). 

It turns out that Jessica and Tyler (as well as other roommate Kylie and other friend Nathan) all have very casual relationships. Which means that they're not really attached. And by that I mean that they're no-strings-attached hook-up friends. So, okay. Alright. Now that we've established that, let's move on. When Jessica and Kylie find out from drunken, just-having-been-sexually-assaulted Kylie that she is still a virgin, it doesn't bother Jessica in the least that Tyler is interested in her. Because Jessica isn't really interested in Tyler. They use each other - it is an understanding that they have. SO...Jessica and Kylie decide between themselves that Rory is awesome and smart and has so much to offer but people don't really know that because she shuts herself off from people. And if she would just finally open up physically, surely she would be able to open up emotionally as well. (HUH?) Being the best friends that they are, they offer Tyler money to sleep with Rory. 

Now let's switch gears a little bit on these thoughts, okay? 


I've already told you I felt Rory's awkwardness early on. When Tyler began to express interest in her, she had a really hard time believing it (after she found out Jessica wasn't really interested) because why on earth would someone so good-looking want anything to do with her? [I'm not gonna fault Rory for this, though, because what girl hasn't felt this way when some crush of theirs has finally started liking them? I know I have.] Rory has some self-esteem issues in the beginning that I personally chalk up to the loss of her mother at a young age. However, Rory is exceptionally smart - she is premed and an ace in her science and math classes. And she is beautiful. But I question her choice of "best friends." 

Jessica and Kylie are Rory's dorm roommates, so I understand the initial connection. However, the two are way more extroverted than Rory and are always trying to get her to go out with them and pushing guys onto her, things like that. While that may not seem like such a bad thing, it isn't Rory's thing, and she doesn't really like it. But she isn't firm enough in telling them so when she finally gets around to it, which is way too far into the story. When Rory is assaulted, their attitude and actions to her are strange for "best friends" - a huge hug and back rub, a few words, then it's back into the bedrooms with the boys! WHAT? Still not gonna judge them. But when they offered Tyler money to sleep with Rory behind her back? That's where I have to draw the line on what a friend is. Still, Rory KNOWS THIS and they all are three BFF'S FOREVER! So strange to me, but perhaps it is because I'm Southern? Or because I have friends that are different than this? I'm not sure. Moving on...

Thankfully, Tyler makes a good choice in dealing with the "please sleep with our roommate, here's some money" situation. See, he actually likes Rory for who she is. He sees her awkwardness, her blunt sense of humor, her true self, and he likes her for it. I love that he pursues her, respectfully, and I love that he is able to find a way into her life that doesn't involve sex: it turns out that Tyler is quite smart himself and is going to school to be an EMT. He is struggling with his Anatomy and Physiology classes, though. He knows that Rory is premed and a science whiz. Tyler is also an avid reader (he has a battered, beat up library card - y'all that is super sexy, I won't lie) and loves literature. When he finds that Rory is struggling in her literature classes, the two find that they can help one another out by studying together. THIS is where Tyler works his way into Rory's heart, and I loved it. 

Also making an appearance in True are the families of Tyler and Rory. Rory's family is of the slightly more traditional variety - father has a live-in girlfriend, both are supportive of Rory in school, helping her pay the part of her tuition that her scholarship does not cover. But it is Tyler's family that won over my heart. See, his mother is an addict after an accident left her with an injury requiring pain medication years ago and his father is in prison. Tyler has an older brother and two younger brothers. There is nothing but dysfunction in the home as far as parenting and normalcy goes, but the four brothers consider themselves a family without their parents (they have their own special tattoo to show their brotherly bond) and the older two brothers do the best they can to take care of the two younger ones with their mother throwing their money away on drugs, alcohol, and who knows what else. The conditions inside the Mann household are unbelievable. It is when Rory meets Tyler's family, particularly the younger two brothers, and learns what true family and real love is - it's then that she finds herself becoming stronger and learning to speak up for herself. In a way, she learns these behaviors from these four brothers. This is kind of unusual and also awesome because she eventually counts herself as part of Tyler's family and she loves them all so much. 

Then, OF COURSE, something bad happens and Tyler is involved and Rory's family isn't happy about it and their relationship is threatened...DRAMA!


True by Erin McCarthy is one of those New Adult books that I started on a whim and read quickly. I personally love a book like this thrown into my mix regularly. BUT I understand why some people read books like this and think that this category is filled with nothing but...books like this...if this is what they are always picking up. But that is not the case. True is just the story of Rory and Tyler. It is not a perfect story; it is flawed. I think that there are probably one or two too many things going on in here, honestly. I think that it starts out a bit odd and that it is an unusual choice to let Grant get away with what he did to Rory - RORY EVEN APOLOGIZED TO HIM later in the book. I think that Jessica and Kylie are an unusual, wild pair and perhaps I am not used to having friends like these two, and I think they are a horrible match for Rory - but that is Rory's problem if she is fine with them, perhaps I can learn to be too? 


I did like the romance between Rory and Tyler. It was just what I like in contemporary stories - romance + issues. It built slowly and oozed tension and that part of the story was really fun to read about. Just as great as the romance was the brother-relationship between Tyler and his three brothers. I absolutely love a great sibling bond and this is probably one of the better ones that I have read. And I like that both Rory and Tyler made some character growth over the course of the story. (Also YAY to Rory for not rushing into having sex just because her friends were pressuring her to. Way to go on that one, Rory. Peer pressure is basically bullying and is not cool.)

I honestly do not know what will happen in the future installments of this series, but I have to admit that I am curious. The next book features Jessica and Riley - Jessica the no-strings-attached roommate and Riley, Tyler's awesome older brother. So, yeah, I'm going to keep reading. 

I also need to admit that I'm going to be careful who I recommend this book to. There is such a negative association with the New Adult category out there and I think that this book could add to it if not read with an open mind. I recommend True by Erin McCarthy to fans of New Adult Contemporary Romance with Issues and strong sibling relationships. If you don't enjoy drama sometimes and are unable to enjoy a story without putting your own morals and beliefs onto the characters, this is most likely not the story for you. 


True will appeal to fans of:

New Adult Contemporary Romance
with some issues
Issues: Poverty, Drug Use, Social Issues
Romance: Slowly Developing. No Triangle.   
 Setting: College Setting, Cincinnati
Character Growth

True by Erin McCarthy
is currently available for purchase.

**I received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest opinion and review. I received no compensation for my thoughts and they are totally and completely my own! Thank you Penguin! 


Has anyone else read this book? 

VERY CURIOUS about your thoughts? 
Will you be continuing the series? 

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick Review

She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick
Published by Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan

Publish Date: April 22, 2014

224 Pages
Source: Publisher
Find it here:  Goodreads / Amazon / B&N

Laureth Peak's father is a writer. For years he's been trying, and failing, to write a novel about coincidence. His wife thinks he's obsessed, Laureth thinks he's on the verge of a breakdown.He's supposed to be doing research in Austria, so when his notebook shows up in New York, Laureth knows something is wrong.

On impulse she steals her mother's credit card and heads for the States, taking her strange little brother Benjamin with her. Reunited with the notebook, they begin to follow clues inside, trying to find their wayward father. Ahead lie challenges and threats, all of which are that much tougher for Laureth than they would be for any other 16-year old. Because Laureth Peak is blind. (from Goodreads) 

She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick 

My Thoughts:  There are several maybe-coincidences about me picking up this book which is something very, very cool since coincidences play such a HUGE HUGE role in the story. MASSIVE. First of all, I love books with beautiful covers but until about ten minutes before writing these very words, I had never even seen a cover for this book. You guys know that I often choose a book based on its cover - judge me if you will - and HELLO ISN'T THIS ONE BEAUTIFUL? Also very interesting is the fact that I don't really tend to read thriller-y or mystery-ish books because they tend to tear my nerves to pieces and make me bite my fingernails and I don't like that nasty little habit. HOWEVER, in the case of this one, I did NOT read the synopsis when I made this choice - I had heard that this author was quite talented and that I should give his work a try. So I did.

In this book where the question over the existence of coincidence pops up a few times, what are the chances that I ended up picking up a book that is way outside of my norm THAT I INHALED and also with a cover that I would have spotted from miles away? (Because, once again, in case you didn't catch my enthusiasm the first time - I think it is really stunning.) I digress.

The first thing you need to know is this:
Jack Peak is a writer. 

He used to write funny books but he doesn't anymore.
Jack Peak wrote funny books earlier in his career but lately he has been researching an idea for a book that has him a bit consumed, you could say, almost to the point of obsession. He is constantly traveling off to this place or that place, interviewing or visiting someone that might be able to help him understand his topic: coincidences

Jack pays his daughter Laureth to help him out - an assistant of sorts. She checks his email, things like that. But her breath catches when she receives a bizarre email from someone in New York City claiming that he has found her father's notebook (containing notes for his upcoming novel) and that he is interested in claiming the reward mentioned on the inside cover if the notebook were to be found. This freaks Laureth out for several reasons, mainly: 1) he always has his notebook with him and 2) HE WASN'T IN NEW YORK. HE WASN'T EVEN IN AMERICA. After emailing back and forth with this guy a couple of times, Laureth arranges to meet him in New York City to pick up the notebook and pay him his reward, all the while hoping that she may also find her father. She has a horrible feeling that there is something horribly wrong. 

A couple of things to consider: 

  • Laureth mentions this to her mother, who seems completely unaffected by it and offers no words of comfort or hope for Laureth. 
  • Laureth is a young girl - a minor, actually - and she is legally blind. 
  • Laureth cannot travel to New York without the help of her younger brother Benjamin. 
  • Laureth goes anyway. 

The second thing you need to know is this:
Laureth and Benjamin travel internationally. 

It seems impossible, but they have it all worked out. 
Laureth prints off a note 'from her parents' giving her permission to travel without them, buys two plane tickets using her mother's credit card, and withdraws $500 cash - their mother is out for the day so she never noticed that they left. Laureth wears sunglasses so people do not notice that she is visually impaired and she relies on Benjamin's guidance by voice and hand-holding to maneuver throughout the airport - through lines, up and down stairs, when she has to hand people things and receive things by hand, things like that. They have it down to a science, almost. 

They board the plane and make the long flight and then have to make it through US Customs - these are tricky parts of the traveling for Laureth and Benjamin to navigate. With just a few hang-ups, though, they make it out and are able to meet the emailer, Michael Walker, at the agreed-upon location, which is Queens Library. 

When they meet Mr. Walker and he relays the story of how and where he found the notebook, there is a brief pause on Laureth's part - kind of like OKAY, I HAVE THE NOTEBOOK. NOW WHERE SHOULD I START? She's very determined to find her father, you see. But there is one clue inside the notebook that sets her on a path, and from there she doesn't stop. She pushes on and forward and ahead, constantly seeking out answers using whatever she has available to her - mainly Benjamin's sight along with her older and more mature thinking skills - to figure out where to go next. And next. And next...

The third thing you need to know is this:
 I forgot this was a mystery book. I forgot the thriller component. 
Right away, I was so wrapped up in Laureth as a character and the things about her that made her special to this story that I forgot that this was the type of story that I do not normally read. As I've mentioned before, I don't like mystery stories because they make me feel nervous and I don't like thrillers for the same reason. BUT THIS ONE didn't really feel that way to me. I never felt much more than a rise of anticipation for what was coming next and I really enjoyed that feeling more than I feared it. THAT IS HUGE, you guys, for me. 

I think this has so much to do Laureth, her adaptation to her visual (dis)ability, Benjamin and how he works well with Laureth, and the great setting of New York City. 


Okay, so WOW. WOW? WOW. 

This is my first experience with Mr. Sedgwick's work and I am really impressed with She Is Not Invisible. It is not a long book by any means, but this story is absolutely FULL of things. There is a ton of information in there and it is all important and none of it is wasted or filler. I love the way that the book began with a bang and didn't let up until the end. I love the way I forgot what the genre/category of this story is and I just enjoyed the story. I love the way I was trying to anticipate next moves and figure things out, but I never really could - it kept me on my toes the entire time. And I love the way the story's female main character used her sight to show that she was NOT weak, that she was NOT to be walked-upon, and that she was still every bit as awesome and kick-butt as girls that can see. 
Laureth begins the story by taking action to go and find her father after her mother sort of brushes her off. Now, to be honest and real, most of us cannot advise a young girl, blind or not, to take her seven-year-old brother and make a trans-Atlantic flight on her own because she feels like she can find her father OR because she wants to trade a reward for his notebook. SO right away there is a little bit of suspension of belief required. BUT! This is a fictional story SO JUST DO IT. Just allow Laureth to get on the plane with Benjamin and go to New York, okay? And enjoy the story. 
Okay, now that we've established that, as a character - Laureth is a very forward-thinking gal. She decided a long time ago that she did not like people treating her like she is this invisible person because she is blind - people talking to her parents instead of her, things like that. So Laureth adapts. She uses modern technology like her iPhone and her father's computer, she just adapts it to talk to her, and she gets along very well. She wears sunglasses so people do not realize that she may/may not be looking in the correct direction. And she uses her other senses to perceive what is going on around her. I love how Laureth is a lot like her father in that she sort of jumps-the-gun on things sometimes. Or, rather, she doesn't always make what would be considered the best or smartest decision in a pinch. It would have been pretty easy for Laureth to make some phonecalls to the United States with regard to the notebook and her father potentially being missing, but instead she just GOES TO THE UNITED STATES. As you read the book, it is evident that she is much like her father in this way - which is really kind of neat, really, because Laureth and her father have a really lovely parent-child relationship. No spoilers here, but after I finished the book I realized a few times when they both could have done things a little differently, a little better, and it made me smile a bit because of how much alike they are. 

Benjamin, just a child, is amused by things and filled with wonder at things and carries around a stuffed animal that he affectionately calls Stan. Benjamin treats Stan almost like an invisible friend. But Benjamin has this really great relationship with Laureth that is filled with mutual respect and a dependence on one another, and it is obvious in the reading that even at his young age, Benjamin understands this. Laureth feels guilt and a sort of regret at having to involve her younger brother because there is a point at which Laureth realizes that what she is doing is actually pretty dangerous and kind of/maybe stupid, but Benjamin just keeps up with her and hangs in there. AND he plays some pretty integral roles in the story whether he even realizes it or not. He is a great character and I loved the sibling relationship that these two have. 

As far as the rest of the characters, there are some that come and go. Some are good guys and some are bad guys. But everyone has a place in the story and everything is important. While Laureth and Benjamin are searching for their father, they take moments in taxicabs and while sitting on benches or whatever to read excerpts from his notebook - it is in these times that they try and decide their next move. It was during these times that I also tried to figure out what happened to Jack Peak. I felt like I was looking for him too, but like I said earlier, not to the point that it felt like I was involved in a mystery. WHICH IS SO ODD because normally I'd be completely in panic-mode. (Weird, I know, but we all have our things.) Also, as an American, I almost always have trouble with BritSpeak but I had no trouble at all with this book. NONE. It took me like half of a second to realize that a "queue" meant a "line" - like when you're waiting in line at the airport, but other than that, I was good to go with this one. This is another huge thing for me, because I have often not read books that I am interested in before because I have trouble with the translation. This one felt seamless. 

And the setting! OH NEW YORK CITY. This book felt so very New York City that I could have been there. I don't even know what else to say about it except that this author NAILED IT. 

I'm just as impressed as I can be with She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick. I opened the book knowing pretty much nothing about it and became fully engrossed in it very, very early on. I love the little clues and the little details and the way it made me think. I love the setting and how visual it was - I was easily able to see this book play out in my head, which I LOVE. I love the way the book ended and I never would have figured it out - and I love the actual ENDING, like the END. Such a great surprise. If you are able to suspend the fact that in real life, Laureth and Benjamin probably would not have done what they did, I think you will likely love this one too. 

I recommend She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick to fans of Young Adult Contemporary with Realistic Fiction, strong female leading characters, strong family relationships, a great setting, and mystery stories. It's a fairly short read but there is so much in there and WOW I can't believe I loved it as much as I did. More Marcus Sedgwick for me, please and thank you.
Also, Sidenote:  High-five to the author for putting me in Laureth's shoes and making me understand a little bit, on a small scale, how it must be for a person with a visual disability to navigate life. I know not every visually impaired person uses the same methods that Laureth used, but I was amazed at how she did things that I take for granted, like tell which/remember which American dollar bills are which, etc. This was a definite bonus to the book, I think. 

She Is Not Invisible will appeal to fans of:

Young Adult Contemporary with Realistic Fiction
Romance: None.
Strong Female Lead
Great Setting - New York City
Mystery Stories
Family Relationships

She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick
will be available for purchase on April 22, 2014.

**I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest opinion and review. I received no compensation for my thoughts and they are mine, mine, mine! Thank you so much Macmillan! 


YEP. An early review. 
Y'all need to be aware of this one. 

Is this on your to-read list/wishlist? 

Can you recommend any other books by this author? 


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Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Moment Before by Suzy Vitello Review & International Giveaway

The Moment Before by Suzy Vitello
Published by 
Diversion Books
Publish Date: January 14, 2014

216 Pages
Source: Publisher
Find it here:  Goodreads / Amazon / B&N

"Don't get me wrong. I loved my sister. I never, not once, wished her dead."

Brady and Sabine Wilson are sisters born eleven months apart, but they couldn't be more different. Popular Sabine, the head cheerleader dating the high school hunk, seems to have all the luck, while her younger, artsy sister "Brady Brooder" is a loner who prefers the sidelines to the limelight.

After Sabine dies in a horrific cheerleading accident, grief unravels Brady and her family. Once recognized for her artistic talent, 17-year-old Brady finds herself questioning the value of everything she once held dear. Her best friend betrays her. Her parents' marriage is crumbling. And the boy everyone blames for the accident seems to be her only ally in the search for answers in the wake of her sister's death. As an unlikely friendship emerges, Brady learns more about Sabine - and love - than she bargained for. (from Goodreads) 

The Moment Before by Suzy Vitello 

My Thoughts:  I was initially attracted to this book because of the cover and the way it looked so-very-contemporary, because you guys know that I love contemporary stories. I found out quickly when I started that this book is largely based on a sister-relationship, and sibling relationships are another thing that I love in books. The thing about this one is that one sister is living and the other died about a month ago. One sister is grieving and trying to figure out how to live not only without her sister and best friend, but also in her shadow. 


As the story begins, Brady is sad as she walks to her bus stop and passes her sister Sabine's car just sitting there. Sabine died about a month ago, you see, and she is everywhere. She is in her mother's nonchalance about everything, in her father's new-found excessive drinking and slovenly appearance, she is in the halls of their school as Sabine's boyfriend Nick's locker is decorated with pictures and various memorials, and she is in the way everyone, everyone looks at Brady. Everyone saw her die while she was cheerleading, doing what she loved. Everyone saw her not land that cheerleading jump. Rather, everyone saw Connor Christopher not catch her like he was supposed to. 

Sabine's presence is even felt in the gymnatorium where Brady is being honored as recipient of a prestigious art award and scholarship - the entire family shows up to see Brady honored even though it is difficult to be in that same place - the very room - where the other daughter died. Interesting thing happens, though. Brady ends up not winning at the last minute, and for some very shady interesting reasons. Brady feels humiliated and devastated and sad that she brought her entire family to the one place that they weren't ready to face for no reason at all. 

When Brady feels down or alone or needs to hear her sister's voice, she calls Sabine's cellphone to listen to her voicemail prompt...BUT apparently someone else has been doing the same thing because Sabine's voicemail is full. Brady can't leave her a message or hear her voice or anything - who else has been talking to her sister? The phone company won't do anything to share Sabine's password even in these extenuating circumstances without parental permission, and Brady knows that her parents won't understand, so in desperation she goes to the one person she thinks can probably help her - Connor Christopher. YES, Conner Christopher, the boy that let her sister fall. The boy that "killed" her...because he was stoned when he was supposed to catch her that day

Except, is that really the truth? Is Connor responsible for Sabine's death? He's certainly the easy one to blame because it is widely known that he does smoke weed - and everyone needs someone to blame. Can Connor break into the phone Brady so desperately needs, that one lifeline she has to her sister, so she can find out who else has been calling her? And what will Brady find when/if she listens to Sabine's full message box? Is she ready to hear stuff from Sabine's life?

Sometimes people believe what they want to believe. Sometimes people let other people believe what they want to believe. And sometimes people have secrets that are so big, so very big...

What Brady learns on that phone changes her outlook on everything. Everything. And she has to decide whether or not she wants to let sleeping dogs lie or right some wrongs. Brady has a big decision to make and it is all because Sabine chose to keep some pretty big secrets. 


The Moment Before by Suzy Vitello is an interesting story that I thought was about grief. And in a way, it is. But it is more, I think, a study of a group of people connected to Sabine and their reaction to her death and the secrets she had. What I found most interesting about this book is that it is so incredibly character-driven without being too intensely wrapped up in grief, and I appreciated that so much because I think it allowed me to take time to figure out the characters rather than grieve the one character that was lost.

Brady is absolutely devastated over her sister being gone - that's a given. They are Irish twins, both born within the same year, and they are best friends. So close, so very close. Her parents are likewise devastated and yet they handle Sabine's death in very different ways, as do all of Sabine's friends. But it is her friends that intrigued me the most. 

Connor Christopher is by far the most interesting of the entire bunch. He is the one blamed by the entire student body and much of the community for not catching Sabine when she leapt into the air while cheerleading. People thought, assumed, claimed he was high - rumors were that he was high on weed, high on cocaine. How does one get out from under something like that? Brady's parents did not want her anywhere near "that boy." But Connor was in some of her classes - what was she supposed to do? It turns out that her parents' anger bled over into her and she claimed those feelings as her own until they dissolved when she began to converse with Connor here and there - and then they began to spend some time together. It seems that Brady and Connor have more in common than they once realized because they were both actually really close to Sabine and they both miss her terribly. And then Connor begins to share a few of Sabine's biggest secrets with Brady, things she cannot believe she didn't know, things she cannot believe that he would allow himself to shoulder alone...

Then there is Nick Avery, Sabine's boyfriend. With Sabine looking like perfection and being a cheerleader and way popular, it isn't a surprise that she would be paired up with Nick Avery. Nick was Class President, you see, and when she died, he was so overcome with grief that he nearly dropped out of school. Sabine and Nick had a Facebook fan page with over 1,200 followers, so popular was their romance! After she died, he wore black for days just like Johnny Cash. But Nick Avery has secrets too, just like Sabine apparently did, and even though he appears to be the school's Golden Boy, is he really?  

The book is set up, I think, so your mind immediately is supposed to not like Connor and you are supposed to feel awful for Nick. But my mind doesn't work that way - or it didn't this time - and I felt an odd connection to Connor and a weird repulsion to Nick. For a while I tried to fight it, but eventually I just couldn't any longer. And...you know what? Every class has people like Connor and Nick, you guys. Or mine did. Just, wow. 

Finally, there is Martha. Martha is the third gal, the non-sister in the group of three. Throughout the school years, it was Sabine, Brady, and Martha - but Martha would float in and out of the group. Brady mentioned that she would act like she wanted to be Sabine, and then she acted like she wanted to be Brady. Martha appears perfect but also like she has no identity of her own. Something pretty doggone HUGE happens and Martha steals Brady's thunder and WOW it really makes Brady upset. Martha's behavior is weird and strange at best (like, in real life there is no way that I could ever be friends with her, so I don't know how Sabine and Brady were) but she ends up getting caught up in something she doesn't realize isn't good for her. Brady, bless her, mad as she is, has to make some decisions on how far she is willing to go to help out this "friend" and at times it almost became thriller-y and I found myself holding my breath for a second while Brady repays Martha's (I call it) betrayal with goodness and kindness. 


I think what we have here in The Moment Before by Suzy Vitello is a genuine STORY. It begins after the main event has already occurred - I am calling Sabine's death the main event - and everything that happens in the book is like a series of events that just flat-out results from that death. People fall apart and are put back together, big secrets are revealed among the living and the no-longer-living, some healing takes place, some reputations are altered... The ending is left a bit open-ended BUT I was happy with the ending and felt comfortable with where my favorite characters ended up and even the characters that I didn't care for so much. 

If I could change anything at all, I would have made Brady a character that was less concerned with protecting all of Sabine's several secrets and more concerned with seeking justice for some pretty big wrongdoings that occurred because reputations among the living were tarnished and ruined, and some remain on the line. I also wish I could have seen a little bit more in the way of the romance/developing-relationship portion of the story even though I realize that this is not a romance-type of story - I felt like those few scenes were nice, light breaks in the rest of what was going on. However, I think The Moment Before shows how Brady, being a young girl, has to cope the best way she knows how and sometimes we aren't really sure what to do in situations that are sticky with big consequences like this one AND sometimes romance is not the first thing on our minds when we are grieving. I enjoyed this story. It was very readable and I think it is very discussable. I found myself not wanting to put it down. I recommend The Moment Before by Suzy Vitello to fans of YA Contemporary with issues (grief, death) and some very light romance. 


The Moment Before will appeal to fans of:

Young Adult Contemporary with Issues
Issues: Grief, Death
Romance: Very light. No triangle.  
Character Driven Plot
 Setting: Portland, Oregon
Fans of Art

The Moment Before by Suzy Vitello
is currently available for purchase.

**I received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest opinion and review. I received no compensation for my thoughts and they are totally and completely my own! Thank you Diversion Books! 


As a founding member of what the Oregonian has dubbed Portland’s “hottest writing group” (members include Chuck Palahniuk, Chelsea Cain, Lidia Yuknavitch, Monica Drake and Cheryl Strayed), Suzy’s name has graced the acknowledgement pages of many a book. Her own award-winning writing has appeared in a bunch of journals and anthologies. She holds an MFA from Antioch Los Angeles, and when she’s not writing novels, does freelance copywriting and editing. The Moment Before is her debut novel. Suzy lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, Kirk, and son, Carson. Find out more on suzyvitello.com.

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And now for the Giveaway!

Author Suzy Vitello & Diversion Books
 are offering an ebook copy of 
 to one lucky winner

This contest is open to Internationally. 
This contest ends January 24, 2014. 

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