Review: A Messy, Beautiful Life

A Messy, Beautiful Life by Sara Jade Alan

Series: No

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary

Release Date: October 2, 2017

Format: eARC

Source: Entangled Teen

Find it here: GoodReads | Amazon

Life is funny sometimes.

And not always the ha, ha kind. Like that one time where a hot guy tried to kiss me and I fell. Down. Hard. And then found out I had cancer.

I’m trying to be strong for my friends and my mom.

And I’m trying so hard to be “just friends” with that hot guy, even though he seems to want so much more. But I won’t do that to him. He’s been through this before with his family, and I’m not going to let him watch me die.

So, I tell myself: Smile Ellie. Be funny Ellie. Don’t cry Ellie, because once I start, I might not stop.

“I wondered how it was possible that my life was at its very best
and its very worst simultaneously. Messy and beautiful.”

I admit I was a bit wary of this one. Novels that tackle serious illness can easily fall into mawkishness. I’m happy to report A Messy, Beautiful Life is not one of them. Yes, main character Ellie is diagnosed with cancer, but whereas some stories would then veer into saccharine clichés and overly sentimental tropes, Sara Jade Alan managed to avoid those traps and instead deliver a story that is funny, honest and equal parts heart-breaking and heart-warming.

High school senior Ellie is co-captain of an improv group and it’s during a performance that she meets Jason. The chemistry is immediate and when Ellie sees him again at a party the sparks fly and she’s pretty sure the feeling is mutual. But the night is derailed when a fall lands her in the hospital and all of a sudden doctors are throwing around words like scans, MRI and biopsy. And then the diagnosis: cancer.

Ellie was a character that was easy to admire. Even before her diagnosis I appreciated her can-do attitude and her close relationships with her friends and her mom. And after the diagnosis I admired her even more. Yes, she usually tried to be strong for her mom and friends but Ellie was no martyr. She was afraid, she cried, she questioned ‘why me?’ and railed against the unfairness of it. She struggled with her relationship with her father as well as her growing feelings for Jason. She liked him and felt better when he was around, but was it fair to ask him to see her through such a difficult time?

Ellie was surrounded by an amazing support group and I loved the encouragement and comfort they each provided. Her mother was present and involved and I appreciated how they seemed to be very much a team while still maintaining their mother-daughter roles. Her girlfriends were priceless (not a mean girl in sight!) and always there to lend a shoulder to cry on, make her laugh, and just generally be some of the best friends ever. I also loved seeing the relationship between Ellie and her step-brother Craig develop into a truly caring and supportive bond.

My quibbles are few. First, there were times when the dialogue between Ellie and her friends didn’t ring true for me. Their banter sometimes felt forced and not realistic given their ages (do seventeen year olds actually know what Toastmasters is?). Secondly, the school yoga teacher/counselor seemed a bit over the top New Age-y and had I been sent to see her as a high school student I think she would have seemed more oddball than helpful.

A Messy, Beautiful Life was filled with humor and heart and brought me to tears more than once, not only with empathy for what Ellie was facing but also when my heart was warmed by the show of love and support. I encourage readers to pick this one up and experience Ellie’s resilience and humor for themselves.

Note: I received an advance copy of this title from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way changes my opinion of the book or the content of this review.


Top 5 Wednesday: A Blogger Made Me Read It

Top 5 Wednesday was created by Lainey at GingerReadsLainey.
Click HERE for a complete list of participants and future topics.
This week's Top 5 Wednesday topic:
Books You've Read Because of Blogging

The Serpent King | Jeff Zentner
Shannon at It Starts at Midnight gets the blame credit for this one. She luuuurves this book and seeing her mention it in every other post (LOL) convinced me to give it a try. While I didn't love it as much as Shannon, and had a couple issues with it, I will say this was a story that made an impact on me and had a heart-wrenching scene that has stuck with me and haunted me ever since.

I was aware of Him when it released but it wasn't really on my radar until my friend Brittany at This is the Story of My (Reading) Life started DM'ing me on Twitter insisting that I HAD to read this book. I think she was days away from showing up on my doorstep and forcing me to read it when I finally picked it up. And so began my love for Wes and Jamie. This has become one of my favorite books and I've read (and listened to) it multiple times.  

I was visiting a blog that was part of the blog tour for this one. I liked the sound of it and decided to enter the giveaway. Color me surprised when the author contacted me that I had won! I ended up loving this book, and the rest of the trilogy, and as an unexpected bonus made a friend in Samatha. :)

I have followed Katy's blog for several years and I remember her going through the process of finding an agent, of sending out query letters and the excitement when she sold Kissing Max Holden. Finally being able to read this wonderful YA novel was so exciting! Had I not followed Katy's blog all those years ago I might not ever have known about this one.

I can't recall on which blog I saw A List of Cages. I wish I could so I could say thank you! I was intrigued enough by the review to pick this one up and, while this wasn't a particularly happy read, it held me completely in its thrall and I was an emotional mess. This one hurt my heart and is one I won't forget.

What book have you read because of blogging?

Review: We Now Return to Regular Life by Martin Wilson

We Now Return to Regular Life by Martin Wilson

Series: No

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary

Release Date: August 1, 2017

Format: Hardcover

Source: Library Loan

Find it here: GoodReads | Amazon

A ripped-from-the-headlines novel that explores the power of being an ally—and a friend—when a kidnapped boy returns to his hometown.

Sam Walsh had been missing for three years. His older sister, Beth, thought he was dead. His childhood friend Josh thought it was all his fault. They were the last two people to see him alive.

Until now. Because Sam has been found, and he’s coming home. Beth desperately wants to understand what happened to her brother, but her family refuses to talk about it—even though Sam is clearly still affected by the abuse he faced at the hands of his captor.

And as Sam starts to confide in Josh about his past, Josh can’t admit the truths he’s hidden deep within himself: that he’s gay, and developing feelings for Sam. And, even bigger: that he never told the police everything he saw the day Sam disappeared.

As Beth and Josh struggle with their own issues, their friends and neighbors slowly turn on Sam, until one night when everything explodes. Beth can’t live in silence. Josh can’t live with his secrets. And Sam can’t continue on until the whole truth of what happened to him is out in the open.

For fans of thought-provoking stories like The Face on the Milk Carton, this is a book about learning to be an ally—even when the community around you doesn’t want you to be.

We Now Return to Regular Life is one of those books that didn’t have a lot of feel-good moments. In fact, it was often difficult to read, caused many tears, and generally hurt my heart. But it was also incredibly impactful and one of the better books I’ve read this year.

Sam Walsh (a nod to Adam Walsh?) was abducted three years ago at the age of eleven. Now Sam has been found… alive… and is back at home. The media swarms, there’s a televised interview, and everyone asks, “How is Sam?” But this isn’t completely Sam’s story. It’s Beth’s story, Sam’s older sister. And it’s Josh’s story, Sam’s childhood friend.

We Now Return to Regular Life is narrated from the points of view of Beth and Josh. For the first half of the book I struggled as to whether that was working for me or not. Then I realized that 1) I probably wouldn’t be able to handle the story from Sam’s point of view and 2) the story being told this way drove home the point that Sam’s kidnapping, and the aftermath, had far-reaching effects beyond his own experience.

I turn and look at him and he’s smiling. But something about it is weird. It’s not at all how he used to smile. It hits me that he’s only telling her what she wants to hear. What we all want to hear. That he’s just fine and dandy.

Sam is lying to all of us.

Beth imagined Sam was dead, largely because it was easier than imagining what he might be going through otherwise. The knowledge that Sam is alive, and envisioning what he may have endured, is torturing Beth. It’s obvious Sam is changed. It’s obvious he needs to talk. But Beth finds herself pulling away – unable to bear whatever Sam might share. She views school as her escape, the place where things still feel normal. But that changes quickly when she becomes “the girl with the kidnapped brother” and she pulls away from friends as well, anything to avoid the feelings that are pulling her under.

Josh is riddled with guilt and feels responsible for Sam’s kidnapping. There’s information about that day that he never shared with anyone – not his parent’s, not the police, no one. Suddenly Sam is back and obviously in need of a friend. When Josh’s friends refuse to have anything to do with Sam, he has to decide between doing what’s easy and what’s right.

Get on with our lives. I want to laugh, or scream, something. Because it’s like Mom thinks our lives are like some TV show that got interrupted, like when something big happens and the news cuts in and once they’re done the announcer says, “We now return to regular programming.”

Sam was gone and now he’s back. We now return to regular life.

Like I mentioned previously, this wasn’t a happy-go-lucky tale and didn’t have a lot of feel-good moments. But what it did have was complex characters who were so flawed and human and empathetic. Wilson masterfully crafted a family going through what no family should ever have to – the horror of the abduction, the joy of the reunion, and the slow realization that life does not magically return to normal. Their struggle to come to terms with what happened and create a new normal was heart wrenching. Sam’s desperate need to talk about what happened was in direct conflict with those closest to him who couldn’t bear to hear it. Watching as Sam was haunted by his experience but was unwilling to burden his family with his pain absolutely broke my heart.

We Now Return to Regular Life isn’t always an easy read but it is an unforgettable read. Beautifully written and packed with emotion, it is a story of survival, of family, of friendship, of redemption and of love. I cannot recommend this one highly enough.

4.5/5 STARS

The Sunday Post #74

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
It's a chance to share news - a post to recap the past week on your blog, 
showcase books and things we have received, and share news about what is
coming up on your blog in the week ahead. You can find the info here:

  • For someone who typically has no sweet tooth, I've certainly had my fair share of desserts this week. Monday night at Bonefish The Husband and I shared a crème brûlée. (If I had to pick a favorite dessert, crème brûlée is it.) And last night when I saw that Dairy Queen had pumpkin pie Blizzards... yep, I indulged in that, too. I think I'm good for the next several months. LOL
  • I had another TJ Maxx shopping spree. I swear, that store is like my kryptonite. It's totally their fault for having awesome stuff at ridiculous prices.  


  • Lastly, for anyone who is into skin care, allow me to sing the praises of this facial mask by Origins. It left my skin feeling fantastic - soft and smooth and refreshed. I already know I'll be re-purchasing this one.

Monday, September 18
Release Day:
Dear Bridget, I Want You by Penelope Ward & Vi Keeland

Wednesday, September 20
Cover Reveal + Giveaway:
Brave by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Friday, September 22
Breathe by Abbi Glines


We Now Return to Regular Life - Martin Wilson
Bossman (AUDIO) - Vi Keeland
A Messy, Beautiful Life - Sara Jade Alan

Top Ten - Katie Cotugno

If There's No Tomorrow - Jennifer L. Armentrout
Gifted from my sister - thank you, Terri-san!

The Hating Game - Sally Thorne
Gifted from Brittany at This is the Story of My (Reading) Life. Thank you, Brittany!

Elliott Redeemed - Scarlett Cole
Dark Heart of the Sun - S.K. Ryder
Unforgettable - Shannon Richard

How was your week? Any new books? Any news to share? 
You know I want to hear about it! :)

Review: Breathe by Abbi Glines

Breathe by Abbi Glines

Series: Sea Breeze #1

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary

Release Date: June 4, 2013

Format: Trade Paperback

Source: Purchased

Find it here: GoodReads | Amazon

Sadie White's summer job is at the beach, but she won't be working as a lifeguard. Since her mom is pregnant and refuses to work, Sadie will be taking over as a domestic servant for a wealthy family on a nearby island.

When the family arrives at their summer getaway, Sadie is surprised to learn that the owner of the house is Jax Stone, one of the hottest teen rockers in the world. If Sadie were normal - if she hadn't spent her life raising her mother and taking care of the house - maybe she'd be excited about working for a rock star. But she's not.

Even though Sadie isn't impressed by Jax's fame, he is drawn to her. Everything about Sadie fascinates Jax, but he fights his attraction: relationships never work in his world, and as badly as he wants Sadie, he believes she deserves more. Yet as the summer stretches on, Jax's passion leaves him breathless - and Sadie feels like his only source of oxygen.

Can their love overcome the disparity of their lifestyles? One breath at a time, they're going to find out.

Breathe had me rolling my eyes (a lot) but when it comes to Abbi Glines I just can't help myself.

Sadie is sweet, beautiful, and the acting adult in her house since her mother is a child-like flake who can't be bothered to be a grown-up and do things like hold down a job. Sadie is expected to work her mom's domestic help job all summer long while mom kicks back at home because she's pregnant and it's hot and miserable. So naturally I already can't stand the mother.

Sadie quickly learns she's working at the summer getaway home of teen heart throb Jax Stone. For a million and one reasons a relationship between them would never work but obviously it happens anyway. The insta-love is strong and the cheese factor is right up there with Velveeta. Sadie falls in line with the typical Glines female lead: drop dead gorgeous but is completely oblivious to that fact, innocent and naive, and Every. Single. Guy. is crazy in love with her. But she doesn't know it. Of course.

Jax was the typical Glines guy: caveman tendencies, beat his chest anytime someone showed interest in what was "his" (even before he and Sadie were together), and prone to grand declarations of love and how she was the very air he breathed.

But (and I say this every time), I'm still complete trash for Abbi Glines. I simply can't help myself. Yes, I recognize the writing is often crap. Yes, I recognize the formula she uses over and over. Yes, the drama and the cheesiness can be sooo overdone.. But that never seems to stop me. 

Despite it all, Sadie and Jax were both likable characters. Marcus, Sadie's friend/co-worker/side love interest, was a super nice guy (even though he ever stood a chance). And Ms. Mary, head of the household staff at Jax's house, was the kind motherly figure that Sadie never had. 

Breathe was typical Abbi Glines fare (and I actually mean that in a good way) that puts a Cinderella-ish spin on this girl with hard life falls in love with rich and famous celebrity tale. And obviously I'll be inhaling the entire series. 


Do you have a certain author you love - even though 
you may have issues with their writing style?

Cover Reveal + Giveaway! Brave by Jennifer L. Armentrout

If you've been around here any time at all you know how much I love Jennifer L. Armentrout. She's one of my favorite authors and one of my *very* few auto-buy authors. I tend to inhale (and love) everything she writes and the Wicked Trilogy is no exception. 

BRAVE, the final book in the trilogy, is set to release this December but we get our first look at the cover today. Take a look at this beauty...

Ivy Morgan hasn't been feeling like herself lately. Not like anyone can blame her. After all, being held captive by a psychotic fae prince hell-bent on permanently opening the gates to the Otherworld is bound to leave some mental scars.

It’s more than that, though. Something dark and insidious is spreading throughout Ivy, more powerful than she could ever imagine... and it’s coming between her and the man she’s fallen deeply in love with, elite Order member Ren Owens.

Ren would do anything to keep Ivy safe. Anything. But when he makes a life altering choice for her, the fallout of his act has far reaching consequences that threaten to tear their lives apart.
If Ivy is going to have any hope of surviving this, she must put aside the hurt and betrayal she feels, and work with not only those she loves, but with an enemy she would rather kill than ever trust. War is coming, and it soon becomes clear that what Ivy and Ren thought they knew about the Order, themselves, and even their enemies, has been nothing but a cluster of dangerous, deadly lies. Ivy knows she must be more than just brave to save those she loves--and, ultimately, to save herself.

Because behind ever evil fae Prince, there’s a Queen

The Wicked Trilogy, Book #3
Releases December 11, 2017
Available formats: Paperback (U.S./Canada) and E-book

*Amazon is the only retailer with a pre-order link at this time.
To celebrate the upcoming release of BRAVE (book 3 in the Wicked Saga), Jennifer is offering an exclusive virtual signing! Through this virtual signing, you will be able to order SIGNED & PERSONALIZED copies of WICKED, TORN, and BRAVE!
And best of all -- This is OPEN INTERNATIONALLY! 

Virtual Signing opens 9/21/2017 at 11 AM (EST)
Virtual Signing ends 11/17/2017
Open Internationally

Use this link for more information and to submit your order:


# 1 NEW YORK TIMES Bestselling author Jennifer lives in Martinsburg, West Virginia. All the rumors you’ve heard about her state aren’t true. When she’s not hard at work writing. She spends her time reading, working out, watching really bad zombie movies, pretending to write, and hanging out with her husband and her Jack Russell Loki.

Release Day! Dear, Bridget by Penelope Ward and Vi Keeland



Amazon iBooks | B&N | Kobo | 

Google Play Amazon paperback

Dear Bridget,

I’m writing this letter because it’s highly doubtful I’ll ever garner the courage to say this to your face.

So, here goes.

We’re totally wrong for each other. You’re the proper single mum with a good head on your shoulders. I’m just the carefree British doctor passing through town and temporarily living in your converted garage until I head back to England.

But here’s the thing… for some bloody reason, I can’t stop thinking about you in very inappropriate ways.
I want you.

The only reason I’m even admitting all of this to you right now is because I don’t believe it’s one-sided. I notice your eyes when you look at me, too. And as crass as I appear when we’re joking around about sex, my attraction to you is not a joke.

So, what’s the purpose of this note? I guess it’s a reminder that we’re adults, that sex is healthy and natural, and that you can find me just through the door past the kitchen. More specifically, it’s to let you know that I’m leaving said door cracked open from now on in case you’d like to visit me in the middle of the night sometime.

No questions asked.

Think about it.

Or don’t.

Whatever you choose.

It’s doubtful I’ll even end up sliding this letter under your door anyway.




Penelope Ward is a New York Times, USA Today, and #1 Wall Street Journal Bestselling author of thirteen novels. With over a million books sold, her titles have placed on the New York Times Bestseller list seventeen times. She is the proud mother of a beautiful 12-year-old girl with autism (the inspiration for the character Callie in Gemini) and a 10-year-old boy. Penelope, her husband, and kids reside in Rhode Island. Facebook Fan Group Facebook | Website |Twitter | Instagram 

Vi Keeland is a #1 New York Times Bestselling author. With more than a million and a half books sold, her titles have appeared in over eighty Bestseller lists and are currently translated in seventeen languages. She lives in New York with her husband and their three children where she is living out her own happily ever after with the boy she met at age six. 
Website | Facebook Fan Group | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram