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Cut Me Free by J.R. Johansson • Magan Reviews

Cut Me Free by J.R. Johansson [twitter • website] Publication Date: January 27, 2015 Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) Pages: 304 Target Audience: Young Adult Fiction Keywords: child abuse, changing identities, escaping abuse, thriller Format Read: ARC from Publisher (Thank you!) Summary: Though Charlotte is able to escape her abusers (her parents) and relocate to another city, once she begins to settle she […]

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February 23, 2015 - 11:29 am

Magan - Yay, Lori! I’m so glad you’re interested. It’s insane and I think as a parent, it makes it even more intense to read. I hope you enjoy it!

February 23, 2015 - 11:29 am

Magan - Emma, yes! Definitely keep an eye out for more work from here. I checked out her author page on Goodreads and she seems to write a LOT of thriller/mystery. I will check out more of her work for sure. 😉

February 23, 2015 - 11:26 am

Magan - Brianna, you don’t have to love the writing of Room to love Cut Me Free. The same intensity, however, is what made me make the comparison. Emma Donoghue didn’t write Cut Me Free so I think that change alone would make CMF more appealing to you. 🙂

February 23, 2015 - 11:24 am

Magan - Alexa, uncomfortable to the MAX. I seriously wanted to just skip to the end so bad. (In fact: I don’t know how I had enough willpower to NOT.) I hope you give it a go. 🙂

February 15, 2015 - 12:24 am

Alexa S. - Oh man, oh man. Cut Me Free sounds so intense! It would be a read that would make me uncomfortable, but I also wouldn’t be able to stop myself from finding out what happens next. I feel like it would definitely make me think about a lot of things, and I can only imagine how you felt reading it!

February 14, 2015 - 1:54 pm

Brianna - I read Room, but didn’t love it. The premise was compelling, but I’m not a fan of Emma Donoghue’s writing. She mostly writes lesbian fiction, which is fine, but she’s got a very slow, slogging writing style, in my opinion.

February 12, 2015 - 1:23 pm

Emma @ Miss Print - Ah! This sounds way too intense for me (as I think maybe we discussed on Twitter?) but I’m glad it was worth the stressing for you. It sounds like this author is definitely one to keep my eye on.

February 12, 2015 - 12:15 pm

Lori - This is new to me! I’m adding it on Goodreads right now because you definitely have me intrigued!

Religion in YA Books • Dive Into Diversity

Each Sunday, I found myself driving down the back roads of our small town with my grandparents, headed to our tiny Catholic church. I was baptized there and participated as a reader, attended Sunday school, and in high school was confirmed, too. I didn’t really know anything other than Catholicism until my sophomore year in […]

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March 11, 2015 - 11:12 am

Magan - Crystal, that’s awesome! Thank you so much for sharing those book recommendations! I really appreciate it! 🙂

March 6, 2015 - 6:34 pm

Crystal - I found A Time to Dance to be a wonderful exploration of religion and spirituality. I reviewed it here http://richincolor.com/2014/07/review-a-time-to-dance/. Also, the new book Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein has more about religion than I expected. There is a contrast between the Ethiopian church (orthodox) and the Friends (Quakers) that the main characters have been part of in the past.

February 23, 2015 - 11:32 am

Magan - Jamie, thanks SO much for sharing your story and the great recommendations. I haven’t read either of the books you’ve mentioned so I’ll be adding them to my TBR right now. I’m so glad you shared! xoxox

February 23, 2015 - 11:31 am

Magan - Elizabeth, you know what — you’re so right. I definitely haven’t read a lot of books with Jehovah’s Witness. THANK YOU for letting us know about Brown Girl Dreaming! I enjoy how trilogies can explore religion by really making up their own as well. I think it’s a good way to get people thinking about things without being so explicit.

February 23, 2015 - 11:23 am

Magan - Katie, I SO hope you check out the books! And I’m so thankful for your recommendation too. Going to head to Goodreads to check it out! I just don’t understand why there aren’t a ton of religious exploration books out there. I know a lot of teens are questioning this. It felt like SUCH a big deal to me in high school.

February 16, 2015 - 10:03 pm

Katie @ Bookish Illuminations - Magan,

I love this post! This is exactly the kind of discussion I love–religion and spirituality in literature, especially children’s and YA. I agree with you–there isn’t as much religion in YA as I think there should be, and I hope that publishing trend changes in the near future.

I haven’t read any of these books you mentioned, but knowing that they focus on characters struggling with questions of faith and religion makes me me want to check them out. I think being curious about these issues is healthy and reflects a more authentic spirituality.

I would so welcome more YA novels that reflected characters expressing their spirituality/religion or struggling with those big questions in life that we often associate with religion and spirituality.

I always try to tease out any spiritual dimensions I find in the books I review–in a very broad sense–but it’s rare that I find books engaging with religion and spirituality in a more specific way. One book that comes to mind with a clear spiritual dimension and that does engage with religion in a refreshing way is The Orphans of Race Point by Patry Francis. It’s not YA, but I think YA readers who are mature could read it.

February 15, 2015 - 12:20 am

Alexa S. - Honestly, I love reading about characters who have strong ideals or struggles with religion. It’s a quest that every individual goes through on their own at some point, trying to make sense of things and decide what to believe in. The books you’ve included, particularly Kenneally’s novels, are great examples of books that tackle religion in a way that feels organic, thoughtful and interesting. Would be awesome to read more books featuring all sorts of religion!

February 10, 2015 - 3:46 pm

Elizabeth - This is only fresh on my mind because I just finished Brown Girl Dreaming last night, but she talks a bit about growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness, which is something that I have not ever read about anywhere. It was an experience I appreciated reading about, even though I’m not particularly religious myself. I also enjoyed the role of religion in a couple of fantasy trilogies I’ve read– The Girl of Fire and Thorns series and His Fair Assassin series both features fairly pious main characters, though those religions were fictional ones. But on the whole, religion or spirituality are not very prominent in the books I read.

February 10, 2015 - 3:38 pm

Jamie - I grew up only going to church on Christmas and Easter and sometimes to sunday school with my neighbors and VBS in the summer. Then in 8th grade I started going to youth group at a baptist church with a friend (because of a boy and all the boys certainly made me keep going haha). I stayed and got really involved and then made the decision to go to a Christian college. Between my mom passing away and just my experience AT that college I walked away more confused than ever. So I love seeing religion explored in a way that isn’t like Christian fiction or trying to convert someone. Like truly I feel like wrestling with what you believe in or don’t believe in is a huge part of one’s life experience. Especially in the face of death when you really look at like “hey what do I believe in…will I see them again? Is there nothing after death??” I mean, I get panicky at night STILL wrestling with these things.

So yeah I really love seeing it! And not just Christianity. I love seeing all faiths though obviously Christianity is what I’m most familiar with and can relate to.

I recently read No Parking In The End Times and I thought it dealt with wrestling with your faith really well. The girl believes in God and grew up in the church and then her dad gets involved with this cult-like end time group and through this experience she really reevaluates her beliefs and struggles with if she believes in God at all. It was really thought-provoking though I think if people don’t like reading about people who have faith and are wrestling with it probably won’t enjoy it.

I also read Like No Other by Una LaMarche and that was SUCH a good book and the main character was a Hasidic Jew and I loved how it looked at her religion and her culture and how an event really made her question things!

February 10, 2015 - 1:35 pm

Magan - Valeria, every question you posed in your comment is EXAXTLY what I was thinking here. You are spot on. I really feel like I’m missing out on culturizing myself by not seeing this in my reading. It makes the books less unique, I think, and all of the characters a greater melting pot. I want to learn and grow and be pushed to encounter differences. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

February 10, 2015 - 1:30 pm

Magan - Thank you, Andi! I haven’t read that one by Terra, but fully intend to ass it to my TBR list! Thanks so much for contributing!

February 10, 2015 - 1:29 pm

Magan - Thanks for your comment, Jen! I agree – in mainstream YA I’m not seeing a lot of exploration of other faiths. I don’t temd to read actual targeted Christian fiction from a store like Lifeway. I guess I’m pretty surprised that religion is really skipped over in our young adult books. Even if it’s not the primary focus, couldn’t it play a minor role? I haven’t read those books you listed but I am so intrigued! Thanks for sharing!

February 10, 2015 - 1:25 pm

Magan - Bruna, that’s my point – I’m not seeing a lot of those other cultures and religions well-represented at all. I do understand your point of this not being in every book because some people just really don’t want to read about it. Out of curiosity, have you read any books with any religion aspects you’ve found did a good job incorporating it as part of the discussion without it being the sole focus?

February 10, 2015 - 1:20 pm

Magan - Rachel, you’re so right about HOW TO LOVE. I has forgotten that. Subtle, yes, but still a part of the story. Coming from a catholic background, I fully understood how she would have felt being pregnant and her parents reactions. The story would have felt less complete without that i think. Also, thanks for the sweet comment. I’m really glad you found this interesting!

February 10, 2015 - 1:18 pm

Magan - It really seems to be lacking, Brianna. You bring up a great point about the Holocaust. I haven’t read a book focusing on that time with a religious aspect either.

February 10, 2015 - 11:56 am

Brianna - I can’t think of a single book off the top of my head, YA or otherwise, where religion plays a prominent role (other than memoir). Even Holocaust literature doesn’t really talk about the religious aspects of those peoples’ lives.

February 10, 2015 - 11:55 am

Rachel @ Hello, Chelly - Magan, I love that you wrote about this! I was at a similar crossroads during college (I was brought up Catholic but some of my relatives belonged to a Baptist church). I agree this topic isn’t explored enough in books but I would like to see more of it. One book that did come to mind is HOW TO LOVE by Katie Cotugno. Religion/Catholicism plays a role but a subtle one. But I always find myself thinking of it when I look back on that book (which happens to be one of my all-time favorites). Great post!

February 10, 2015 - 11:30 am

Bruna - Interesting discussion. Religion is not something I see a lot in the books I read, and to be honest, I don’t think is something I would normally seek out. I have struggles with what I actually do believe in and I am already so surrounded by people in real life wanting to push their religions on me that I feel that books are a way to scape that. If is something completely different from my culture, like Islam or other non-Western religions I might be interested; or discussions on atheism or agnosticism. But as far catholicism goes, I just rather do without it.

February 10, 2015 - 10:28 am

Jen Ellision - I wish I had some from other faiths to add, but the only books I can think of that explore faith are of a Christian slant.

I read it a while ago and I believe it’s Christian fiction YA, but if I recall the Lisa Tawn Bergren’s River of Time series had some good exploration on faith… not heavy-handed at all, which has been my problem with some Christian fiction. Plus the series is adorable time travel historical romance YA.

Jackson Pearce’s Purity may have had a little exploration too, but I seem to recall it being more about the character’s relationship with her dad than church…

February 10, 2015 - 9:54 am

Andi - I loved reading Small Town Sinner. I was so intrigued by that kind of subject. One that I read that I really enjoyed was Pure by Terra Élan McVoy. Really interesting look at teens with purity rings, waiting until marriage to have sex and what happens when someone goes against that or you yourself thinks about going against it.

Great post Magan.

February 10, 2015 - 9:20 am

Valeria @ A Touch of Book Madness - I love that you raised these questions. I have to agree with you. Other than Christian fiction which, as the genre suggests, deals with a lot of religious issues, I don’t see it anywhere in YA. I would love to see it reflected, and much like you be able to learn about other beliefs and cultures. People tend to focus on other diversity issues, but religion always seems to be pushed aside. Why is that?

Perfect Girl by Michele Gorman • Magan Reviews

Perfect Girl by Michele Gorman [twitter • website] Publication Date: October 14, 2014 Publisher: Notting Hill Press Pages: 326 Target Audience: Adult Fiction Keywords: people pleasing, crappy boyfriends, controlling parents, shady jobs Format Read: ARC from Publisher (Thank you!) Summary: Carol is barely able to tread water or find time for herself because she’s constantly attending to everyone else’s needs before her own. Her […]

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February 23, 2015 - 11:25 am

Magan - Alexa, I can see you really enjoying this one. Definitely, definitely add it to your TBR!

February 15, 2015 - 12:12 am

Alexa S. - Being a people pleaser is rough, because you just want to make everyone happy and do right by all the people in your world. Perfect Girl actually sounds really interesting! Glad to see that you really enjoyed it, M.

February 4, 2015 - 1:35 pm

Magan - Oh, Elizabeth! Based on my two books by Michele, I’m a fan. I’ll be reading more books of hers for sure and I hope you’ll pick up one to try! Keep me posted on what you think when you read one!

February 4, 2015 - 1:34 pm

Magan - I agree, Brianna! Super cute cover. It was a great read that IS chick-lit but not super light and fluffy. Give it a go!

February 4, 2015 - 11:06 am

Elizabeth - I’m always looking for more chick lit authors to try… never heard of Michele Gorman before, so I will have to keep an eye out for her books! I like that this sounds like it has a lot of character development in it.

February 4, 2015 - 10:33 am

Brianna - This sounds like a fun read. The cover is very cute, too.

Geek Girl (#1) by Holly Smale • Magan Reviews

Geek Girl (#1) by Holly Smale [twitter • website] Publication Date: January 27, 2015 Publisher: Harper Teen Pages: 384 Target Audience: Young Adult Keywords: teenage modeling career, best friend drama, strong family ties Format Read: ARC from Publisher (Thank you!) Summary: Harriet Manners doesn’t fit in. She’s a geek. She can spout of random knowledge, but when it comes to standing up for […]

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April 14, 2015 - 8:00 am

Dive Into Diversity Family Series: Stepfamilies - […] Geek Girl. This book falls on the younger side of my reading, but it also seemed to explore the earlier days of Harriet’s stepmom being part of the family. I don’t recall how long it’s been since Harriet’s dad remarried, but I loved getting to see her develop such a strong affection for her stepmom and no longer seeing her as an outsider. […]

February 1, 2015 - 6:53 pm

Alexa S. - I agree about Geek Girl reading a little younger, M! I thought it was pretty fun, and definitely entertaining though, and I’m glad you felt similarly.

January 30, 2015 - 12:55 am

Kim - I definitely like books that make me laugh out loud! Great review, and I’ll be checking this out soon.
Kim @ Divergent Gryffindor: BLOG || VLOG

January 29, 2015 - 12:17 pm

Missie - I have seen this one around – I am glad you said it was on the younger side of YA so that I was prepared for that!
Missie @ A Flurry of Ponderings

January 29, 2015 - 10:56 am

Quinn @ Quinn's Book Nook - I really had a hard time getting into this one, and never finished it. It’s not that it is younger YA because I love books for all ages. I just wasn’t connecting to Harriet at all. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood frame.

I’m glad you enjoyed this for the most part, even though it wasn’t amazing.

January 28, 2015 - 9:04 pm

L.C. Spoering - This sounds pretty cute! And I can’t resist a teenage geek girl with glasses, in memory of the one I once was. 🙂

January 28, 2015 - 3:42 pm

Emma @ Miss Print - I hadn’t heard about this one until I saw your review but it sounds like a lot of fun. It sort of reminds me of the plots for Violet on the Runway and Love and Other Foreign Words–but if those two books were mashed together.

When You Relate to a Character You Don’t Like

We all occasionally read books with main characters that we just don’t connect with. Right? Maybe it’s that they’re really judgmental or they’ve done incomprehensible things that we would never do. But…what about those times we don’t particularly like the main character, but meanwhile we’re internally cringing because that person is just like me? I vowed to […]

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January 31, 2015 - 8:36 pm

It's a Wrap | January @ Rather Be Reading - […] Have and To Discard When You Relate to a Character You Dislike What If I Could | […]

January 23, 2015 - 3:28 pm

Alexa S. - I love this post so dang much, M! Thank you, first and foremost, for being willing to be so open and honest with all of us. And second, I can totally relate to what you’re saying! While book characters are never an exact reflection of who I am, I often find traits – likable and unlikable – in them that mirror my own. If I were to choose one character I feel like I could see myself in, it would be Allyson of Just One Day.

January 23, 2015 - 2:27 am

Gaby @ Bookish Broads - I love, love, love this post. I love when I find a book I can relate to on a personal level, both in a current “I’m still going through this” way and in “this happened to me/I could’ve used this book ages ago” way. And, the truth is, sometimes, when I read YA romance books, and also posts like this, I wish I had some sort of high school romance so I could have a love letter for a child to one day awkwardly find in a drawer – it just seems so precious and terrible and hilarious all at the same time. And who doesn’t love moments like that? I hope E has that moment and one day comes to cherish it. Thanks for sharing, Magan!

PS: Love that picture, love those bangs.

Love, Lucy by April Lindner • Magan Reviews

Love, Lucy by April Lindner [google+ • website] Publication Date: January 27, 2015 Publisher: Poppy Pages: 304 Target Audience: Young Adult Keywords: European travel, college, becoming your own person Format Read: ARC from Publisher (Thank you!) Summary: Lucy is on the vacation of her dreams, traveling around Europe. But it comes with a steep price. In exchange for her trip, her father […]

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January 31, 2015 - 8:35 pm

It's a Wrap | January @ Rather Be Reading - […] Picks: Love, Lucy by April Linder | All The Bright Places by Jennifer […]

January 23, 2015 - 3:36 pm

Alexa S. - Ooh, M, comparing it to Just One Day/Just One Year is a major draw for me because I loved that duo so very much. I haven’t heard all that much about Love, Lucy, but you can consider me intrigued after reading your review! I’m always partial to books that feature European countries, first of all, so that’s a big part of it. And then there’s the comp titles, which is another big draw. All in all, it sounds pretty cute. Might just have to check it out!

January 23, 2015 - 12:24 pm

Emma @ Miss Print - I think I can help explain the Charlene part! This book is a riff on/retelling of A Room with a View which was set at a time when young unmarried women were expected to travel with chaperones (not friends) which I think in the original was an older aunt.

I love the idea of this one but I have to admit the more I see about it, the more I just want to re-read A Room With a View. If you haven’t read it yet I’d say you should definitely check it out!

January 21, 2015 - 10:41 pm

Magan - Kim: Even if you didn’t enjoy JOD, I think you should give Love, Lucy a chance. It’s a different story with *similarities,* but I have to say the ending gave me a lot more peace than JOD did. They aren’t the same book, but I think readers could be fans of both books. 🙂

January 21, 2015 - 10:40 pm

Magan - Meg: “armchair traveling” — that is the best phrase EVER. Committing that to memory. I definitely hope you enjoy it! The more I think about it, the more I like it! <3

January 21, 2015 - 11:27 am

Meg - Oh, this sounds like so much fun! And I’m all for armchair traveling, especially in the dead of winter. Will have to keep my eyes peeled for it!

January 21, 2015 - 9:00 am

Kim - But, but.. I hated Just One Day! :'(
But anyway, great review! I’m a little hesitant to pick this up, but it’s definitely one of the interesting ones. 🙂
Kim @ Divergent Gryffindor: BLOG || VLOG