Night Swimming: YA Review

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Night Swimming by Steph Bowe
Paperback, 311 pages
Publication: April 3rd 2017
Publisher: Text Publishing
Source: Review copy from publisher
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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥


Steph Bowe is back. Night Swimming is a love story with a twist, and a whole lot of heart.

Imagine being the only two seventeen-year-olds in a small town. That’s life for Kirby Arrow—named after the most dissenting judge in Australia’s history—and her best friend Clancy Lee, would-be musical star.

Clancy wants nothing more than to leave town and head for the big smoke, but Kirby is worried: her family has a history of leaving. She hasn’t heard from her father since he left when she was a baby. Shouldn’t she stay to help her mother with the goat’s-milk soap-making business, look after her grandfather who suffers from dementia, be an apprentice carpenter to old Mr Pool? And how could she leave her pet goat, Stanley, her dog Maude, and her cat Marianne?

But two things happen that change everything for Kirby. She finds an article in the newspaper about her father, and Iris arrives in town. Iris is beautiful, wears crazy clothes, plays the mandolin, and seems perfect, really, thinks Kirby. Clancy has his heart set on winning over Iris. Trouble is Kirby is also falling in love with Iris…


“In real life, there’s no such thing as happily ever after, there’s just life passing day by day. After you ride off into the sunset, then you’re just in the middle of nowhere on a horse at night, aren’t you?” – Oh Kirby, Kirby, Kirby, how I adored your Internal monologue.

The story follows 17-year-old Kirby Arrow, her bestie Clancy Lee and her pet goat Stanley as they navigate day to day life in the small town of Alberton. I read this book in one day! and that’s not the norm for me. It was delightful and easy to read. An adorable feel good romp about growing up, finding your inner strength and place in the world.

Kirby wants to stay in Alberton, much to her mother’s dismay. She is determined that nothing in her life will change. Kirby’s mother wants her to go off and explore the world, as she never had the opportunity to do so. Clancy wants to leave Alberton to pursue musical theatre, while his parents want him to work in the family restaurant. The besties may seem to be on different paths at first, but they are both just trying to balance their dreams with family expectations.

The arrival of Iris and her family, rising flood waters and the inevitability of growing up, all threaten Kirby and Clancy’s friendship. I really enjoyed the whole Kirby+Clancy+Iris dynamic. You know someone is going to get hurt, you know the ball is going to drop sooner or later, that the goat poo is going to hit the fan etc. etc.

There are plenty of high jinks between these pages but ultimately this is a heartwarming story about first love, true friendship and finding the courage to move forward.


Steph’s Links: Facebook | Goodreads | Website | Twitter

Buy Links: Booktopia | Bookdepository | Amazon AU | Amazon US

Night Swimming is a sweet story of coming of age, family and first requited love. There is a genuine-feeling desire in the story to see the good intentions in lightly sketched but complex characters, which gives the book a lot of heart. It will appeal to fans of realistic Australian YA and to readers searching for sweet and hopeful queer love stories.’ – Books + Publishing.

‘This bittersweet comedy of romantic misunderstanding, life management and family relations is poised at the emotional intersection between forgiveness and self-acceptance. Despite its whimsical tone, Night Swimming tackles serious themes of mental health, family upheaval and sexual coming-out with commendable delicacy and humanity.’ – Readings.

“The utterly charming story of two best friends, the small town they live in and the girl they both fall for. It is a tender and humorous tale of family ties, friendship and first love.” – Erin Gough.

“Night Swimming is a love-letter to outsiders, the kooky and complex – it’s an ode to first times and best friends…but above all else, it’s a reminder of how lucky we are to have a writer like Steph Bowe in our midst” – Danielle Binks, Alpha Reader.

Blog Tour: K My Name is Kendra

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kendra2017coverTitle: K My Name is Kendra

Author: Kamichi Jackson

Genre: Young Adult

Fifteen-year-old Kendra James’ life begins to spiral out of control with the return of her long-lost runaway sister Meisha, and the visit of a young celebrity uncle with questionable intentions. Things take a particular turn for the worse when that uncle exploits Kendra’s loneliness and untreated depression and makes a move on her that sends her world into a tailspin from which she’s not sure she’ll ever recover. Will she survive this tragedy…or will she hit rock-bottom before anyone even notices?

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Author Bio

In addition to K My Name Is Kendra, Kamichi Jackson is the author of an eBook entitled Where Present Meets Past (originally available as part of the now-defunct Amazon Shorts Program), the middle reader book You’re Too Much, Reggie Brown, a forthcoming adult novel entitled The Brownstone, two unproduced screenplays, and several short stories. KJ has made numerous appearances in support of her work, among them the Baltimore Book Festival. When not writing, Kamichi is likely off somewhere singing karaoke. The South Norwalk, Connecticut native currently resides in Northern Virginia with family.

* * BOOK EXCERPT * *

I think someone is stalking me.

I say this, not because I’m paranoid, but because I’ve been seeing the same strange car outside my house almost every other day for the past two weeks. I haven’t told anyone but Nita about it. She thinks I should call the police or something, but what are they going to do? Whoever is inside the car hasn’t done or said anything to me, so what would I be reporting?

Of course that could change. I realize that today when I step outside onto the front steps of my school. This could be the afternoon that changes everything.

“What’s wrong?” Nita asks as I stop dead in my tracks, almost tripping this kid walking on my heels.

There it is again. The same black car with the tinted windows. I recognize it right away because it has two small dents in the back door and a bright red ball on the tip of the antenna. I still can’t see who is inside, and I can’t tell if the person is even looking my way, but it’s definitely the same car.

“What’s wrong?” Nita asks again. She looks across the street. “Is that it?” she asks and I nod.

“I need to know,” I say as I step down off the curb. The car starts to move forward and I wave and scream for it to stop. It does, and I keep running towards it, even though I hear Nita yelling behind me that I shouldn’t go. She catches up to me and pulls on my sleeve, yanking me back before I reach the car.

“Even three-year-olds know not to talk to strangers, Kendra!” she warns. “Come on, girl. Let’s go.”

I know she’s right and I sigh, letting her lead me away. There’s a buzzing noise behind us as we’re walking, and I can tell the driver is opening the window now.

“Keep going!” Nita whispers, her grip on me getting tighter.

All of a sudden I hear my name called out from behind me. Nita and I both stop. She looks at me. We turn at the same time and step forward a little bit towards the car. I hear ding ding ding as the door opens, and a lady’s leg—rockin’ the fiercest thigh-high boot I think I’ve ever seen in my life—hits the pavement, and then the rest of the woman slides out from behind the wheel.

“Who are you?” Nita asks her, not letting go of my arm.

“My name is Meisha,” the young woman replies to Nita, but she’s not looking at her. She’s looking straight at me.

“She’s my sister,” I add, my voice so low I can barely hear myself saying the words.

PRAISE FOR KENDRA

“This emotionally powerful novel gets right to the essence of what a young adult novel should be, empathetically exploring the experience of a teenage girl. Kendra is dealing with depression, the social dynamics of the black community, family problems, and abuse, yet holding on to a core of optimism that will help her become a strong and successful adult. Kendra is the first member of her family to reconnect with her missing sister, Meisha, who ran away a decade earlier. Meisha’s return puts a strain on the family when the reason behind her departure is finally revealed. Kendra’s talent and strong desire to be a writer bring the attention of her English teacher, but this also leaves her vulnerable to her famous sports announcer uncle, CJ. Desperate for attention, Kendra ignores the warning signs; CJ gains her confidence and offers her a laptop to use in his apartment. The abuse that follows is not described in detail and is not the only defining point for the character. An excellent read for any girl who feels misunderstood, or for readers that remember what it felt like to be confused and hurt, but hopeful as they moved toward adulthood.”

–Publishers Weekly (as part of the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition)

This book is for 15 year olds, parents of 15 year olds, friends of 15 year olds and for those who know a 15 year old. It touches on very real issues that young adults encounter and the conflict that ensues. This book is captivating and meaty yet an easy read. This is not your average, predictable young adult novel but a layered, well executed story that illicit illumination through the heavy darkness felt by depression. Well done!

–S. Jones (Amazon.com Customer Review)

Links: Website | Goodreads | Amazon US | Amazon AU

 

 

 

Review: The Limbo Tree by T.N. Suarez

32452755An accident. A secret. The truth.

Something is wrong with Samantha McCallister. Her baby brother is dead, and she has only one memory of the accident: the canned version her parents impressed upon her. But piece by piece, Sam struggles to make sense of it.

Cast aside by her self-involved family, Sam seeks out a friendship with the next-door neighbor, Hazel, until Hazel inexplicably goes missing, leaving nothing but a note and a jar of jam.

Determined to uncover the truth about Hazel’s disappearance, Sam finds out more than she bargained for. Bizarre episodes and nightmares consume her, vicious and unstoppable.

Meanwhile, an adolescent muse moves into Hazel’s abandoned home. Sam is immediately drawn to him—discovering the beginnings of true love—when the unthinkable occurs. Sam is alienated to a world in which she no longer feels she belongs. Try as she might, Sam cannot escape these nightmares or the truth behind them—the truth that lies in the Limbo Tree.

Brilliantly crafted, shimmering with uncertainty, The Limbo Tree is as mystical as it is moving.

Links: Goodreads | Website | Twitter | Facebook

My Thoughts: This book was nothing like I expected. It was spooky and made my skin crawl a little bit at times. If I had to sum the book up in one word I would say it was HAUNTING.

The first half of the book frustrated me. It all felt very creepy and I kept expecting something bad to happen. Early on I was confused as to whether Sam (Samantha, the fourteen-year-old main character) was dropping in and out of alternate realities or if she was hallucinating. The story irritated me and yet I couldn’t stop reading. With so much confusion and many unanswered questions I had to keep reading. I felt compelled to find out the truth behind Sam’s life.

I assumed early on that the story was set in the 1980’s with all the references to Madonna headbands, The Lost Boy’s, The Go-Go’s, KISS and The Cure. Indiana Jones the Last Crusade playing at a movie theatre later in the story verified it. I was born in the late 80’s and understood all the references, but I do worry that today’s teenagers won’t.

Sam spends nearly the entirety of the book not being able to remember what happened to her baby brother, just that her parents said his death was a tragic accident. Early in the story on one page she says she misses him and then the next she calls him a little beast. I found it very confusing and rather disturbing. Later, Sam even starts to suspect her mother of murdering her baby brother! We do finally learn the truth and the detail in which T.N. Suarez goes into is heart wrenching. I was internally screaming at the characters for the whole last chapter. Once I finished reading I went in and checked on both my boys, making sure they were both sleeping safe and sound.

Sam is an unreliable narrator and even she can’t trust her own version of events. You think you may have figured out what is going on and then everything twists again and you’re flailing around confused right alongside Sam.

The truth of Sam’s life and the ending of the book are rather sad and I think will continue to frustrate and haunt me for quite some time.star.3

Potions, Pills and Nightmare Chills OH MY!

  • I’ve been trying so hard to go pain killer free, but my body continues to argue with me about it. Pain radiates from my lower back into the base of my skull and I can’t handle it anymore. I’ve got an appointment with a Physio, so we’ll see what they say. I figured I should try and get back into yoga to stretch and strengthen my back. I had been going really well, off my Antidepressants and off painkillers, using only natural remedies. But earlier his week the darkness returned with the loss of our beloved Buster and set me back a bit. Interestingly enough the return of the darkness has coincided with my back flaring up again – hmmm linked much!

    On Monday I had a really bad day; I felt absolutely useless, was in physical pain and spent most of the day crying or screaming at my husband. I had a horrible nightmare about my son dying the night before and it just shut me down. I had never felt true fear until I became a mother! My f*#ked up brain always takes me ‘there’, when I get the slightest bit down and then I feel the need to smother Riley with kisses. But I love my brain anyway; I wouldn’t be me without it.

    I have been keeping up my essential oil routine of; Young Living “Joy” Essential Oil blend rubbed on my wrists in the morning and Young Living “Peace & Calming” Essential Oil blend rubbed on my writs at bed time along with Lavender on my temples and Progressence Phyto Plus on my feet.

    I’ve also been taking quality supplements; a Multi Vitamin, Zinc, B2 in the morning and Magnesium at night before bed. I’ve have been sleeping better than I can ever remember. I’ve felt more alert and clear headed than I ever did on antidepressants. It’s only been this week that things have taken a turn, but I’m positive I can get on track, fix the physical issues and continue on with my journey to good overall health.

    I recently read that Yoga means “Union” and as we all know it is supposed to bring the body, mind and spirit back into alignment. Sounds good huh? I’d love to get my shit together and be one with myself. I am definitely getting there; I’m much closer to feeling whole than I was a year and half ago, when I was at my worst. A Yoga Centre opened up a little while ago in the old library of my town. I was thinking it was a sign that I should get back into yoga (as well as my back being a little bitch). I haven’t been to a class or done any poses since before I was pregnant with Riley.

    So back to the Yoga Union thing: Well, I’ve always been down with My Spirit, I love that girl. My Mind and I have had a rough relationship. It took me 27 years to love her, she caused my all sorts of pain until I could except and love her for who she is. We’ve been sweet for the past six months and it’s been really nice. But My Body, that bitch is causing me all sorts of pain at the moment. From about the age of eight I’ve hated her. Having my son forced me to appreciate and respect her. I am thankful for and love the things she’s given me, but not her – but I am working on that.

    I have come to truly love the ‘me’ within and I am looking forward to the day I can love the outside ‘me’ and we can all salute the sun together.

Major Life Overhaul Pt.2

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Oils & Pain Relief: In my first Essential oils post on the 31st July I talked about starting my journey with oils to find natural remedies (focusing on Pain, Depression and Anxiety) and to create a happier and healthier home for myself and my family. I mentioned how I struggle with pain (headaches mostly) and at times find myself downing Panadeine Forte like tic tics.

I’m happy to say that over the month of August, my intake of painkillers has significantly decreased. There have only been a handful of nights when I haven’t been able to cope and have reached for the dreaded paracetamol or ibuprofen and only one night when I needed the Forte version. I’ve been rubbing young living’s Lavender oil (diluted) on my temples for the headaches as well as at night rubbing young living’s Peace & Calming oil blend behind my ears and on my wrists. On the really bad nights I’ve also been putting it on the souls of my feet and inhaling it from the open bottle for a few moments before laying down to sleep. Yesterday my young living home diffuser turned up so last night I only rubbed on the lavender, then defused the Peace & Calming through the air. It was extremely tranquil and I was having a lovely time drifting in and out of sleep at first, then my son decided he wanted to have a whinge and break the spell. Never the less my routine of young living’s Lavender and Peace & Calming has definitely had a positive impact of my night’s sleep. I’m falling asleep faster and staying asleep longer (unless my son has other plans).

Oils & Well-being: I’ve made the decision to go off my antidepressants, now this is not a decision I made lightly, my husband and I talked about it and he agreed. I’m rather fed up with the side effects and have lost faith in them. I’ve never really been keen on antidepressants as I fear putting such mind altering chemicals into my body, BUT there have been times in my life where I could not function without them. So I am in no way ‘anti’ antidepressants as we do what we have to do to survive this bat shit crazy world we call home. Over the years I’ve been on six different types and in the end I’ve gotten fed up with the side effects of all of them.

My last lot has been a twelve month block of them from suffering post-natal depression big time after my son was born. At the time I felt they helped, I mean Yes they did help as I was no longer was driving along imagining myself purposely swerving to hit an oncoming car or a passing street light. So yes they did their job and I felt ok again. BUT while those bad boys were making it so could function and even enjoy a relationship with my son, they were also making my brain fuzzy, wreaking havoc on my memory and killing my sex drive. It got to the point where I just wanted my husband to fuck off and not come near me at night because it wasn’t worth it. Fuck you antidepressants. I’ve had the same problem in various degrees with all the different types i’ve been on. Lack of the sexy time = number one killer of marriage and happiness, well I reckon as much.

It wasn’t until I stopped taking this last lot that I realised how much else of myself they had been blocking. I really feel that they were killing my creativity; I didn’t write nearly as much poetry or even that many blog posts (excluding book reviews) while I was on them and I didn’t do one single drawing or painting. Yeah fuck you antidepressants. Hey, if they work for you than that is great as I said – we do what we have to do to survive this bat shit crazy world we call home. So I’m running on empty at the moment and it’s not pretty, but I’m going to go back to the naturopath I saw when I was drug free and trying to fall pregnant with my son for help with a beneficial diet and herbal supplement regime to support my body and mental health. Also I will have to ramp up my physical activity to help combat the chemical loss. On the oil side I’m going to start using Young Living’s NingXia Red in the mornings & Progessence Phyto Plus before bed (Info & Links below) to help promote well-being and balance for my body. I’m going to cart around my bottle of young living’s Stress Relief essential oil blend to inhale (along with stopping and focusing on my breathing) to help calm me when I feel myself getting wound up (cause I go BANG like a firecracker when I’m unmediated, hell I can go BANG when I’m medicated to the max, I feisty).

So I’ll let you know how I’m going in a months’ time.

ningared

Product summary: NingXia Red combines the extraordinary wolfberry superfruit with 100 percent pure essential oils in a powerful, whole-body nutrient infusion. The benefits of the legendary Ningxia wolfberry have been sought after for centuries, and ongoing research continues to yield exciting, new health-supporting properties. Enjoy its naturally delicious flavour daily to sustain energy and to replenish key nutrients for long-lasting health and wellness support. — I was given samples of this when I signed up, not enough to judge the products benefits, but enough to know it’s tasty 🙂 —  http://www.youngliving.com/en_AU/products/wellness/antioxidant-support/new-ningxia-red

YLplus

Product summary: Progessence Phyto Plus is a USP-grade wild yam extract infused with vitex and essential oils to help women find balance the way nature intended. Specially formulated by Gary Young, ND, and Dan Purser, MD, this essential oil-infused product enhances moisture absorption through the skin and contains pure frankincense, bergamot, and peppermint essential oils. The product’s clear bottle showcases the purity of this unique serum formulation. http://www.youngliving.com/en_AU/products/essential-oils/blends/progessence-phyto-plus-15ml

Info on Peace & Calming Essential Oil: http://www.youngliving.com/en_AU/products/essential-oils/blends/peace-calming-essential-oil

 

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