Sunday, April 20, 2014

REVIEW: TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE by Solomon Northup & Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Title: Twelve Years a Slave
Authors: Solomon Northup & Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: September 4, 2013
Genres: Non-fiction, Biography, History
Reviewed by: Angie Edwards
Source: Purchased
My rating: 5/5


First published in 1853, Twelve Years a Slave is the narrative of Solomon Northup’s experience as a free man sold into slavery. Northup’s memoir reveals unimaginable details about the slave markets, the horrors of life on a plantation, and the dreadful day-to-day treatment of the slaves from the perspective of a man who lived more than thirty years as a free man before being forcibly enslaved.


I purchased this book on a whim, following the Oscars, without knowing anything about the book or the movie except that the movie version was awarded the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Drama. Because I am fascinated by the history of slavery, and because it was made into a much talked about movie in which one of my favorite actors, Brad Pitt, has a role, I took a chance on Twelve Years a Slave, and have not regretted it once. In many ways it’s not an easy book to read and took me several weeks to finish, but once I got used to the narrative, it was nearly impossible to put down.

What would become of me? Who would befriend me? Wither should I fly? Oh, God! Thou who gavest me life, and implanted in my bosom the love of life who filled it with emotions such as other men, thy creatures, have, do not forsake me. Have pity on the poor slave­ - let me not perish. If thou cost not protect me, I am lost - lost! Such supplications, silently and unuttered, ascended from my inmost heart to Heaven.

As you can tell from the quoted text, Twelve Years a Slave isn’t a book you read in a rush. This type of narrative is the exact reason why I don’t read works by Shakespeare and other such classics of this kind. English is my second language, and this type of narrative is foreign to me and tends to deter me from reading such books. Yet, this novel, once I got used to the narrative, appealed to my humanity and I felt the suffering of Northup and others of his kind as clearly as though it was being done to me personally. 

The second thing that made this book really hard for me to read was the injustices done to the slaves. The mere fact that they were treated and considered not as human beings, but as lowly, yet slightly more intelligent than wild animals, made me cry buckets of tears. I was appalled and alarmed at the horrific treatment, and the unjust and severe punishments bestowed upon these people. They were ridiculed, beaten to an inch of their lives, mistreated, underfed, tortured, oppressed, and weren’t even granted the most basic of possessions such as eating utensils. The last book I read about slavery in the American south was Sue Monk Kidd’s, The Invention of Wings, and as horrified as I was by her in-depth portrayal of slavery, the characters of that novel lived a fairly easy life compared to the one described by Solomon Northup.

To compound my feelings of horror at the inhumane treatment endured by slaves at the hands of their malicious owners, was the realization that all of what Northup was describing really happened. To him, and thousands of others, this was real life. It made it so much worse. They lived a life I can’t imagine, but Northup, with understanding, gentle honestly, and fairness towards his enslavers, takes the reader into a world which, luckily for the reader, can be escaped by closing the book when the harsh reality of it all becomes too much, whilst, for the unfortunate slaves, there was no escaping their merciless and painful journey through life.

As a final thought, Twelve Years a Slave made me appreciate the freedom I have. Many times I’ve considered the fact that we are all slaves in one form or another. We aren’t one-hundred-percent free to do exactly as we please. We all have to conform to rules, regulations, or laws of some sort. Yet nothing, in my opinion, takes away our freedom of choice in the manner slavery did. Northup’s story touched me deeply, and my heart ached for every slave in this novel, and every slave that had to endure brutality in any form. This novel contains many scenes of heartbreaking cruelty, but it also makes it clear that not all slave owners were malicious and unjust, and that there were thousands of slaves who lived a good life with generous and kind owners. Still, this is not a book I’ll recommend to just anyone, but it’s definitely worth the time for those brave, compassionate, and open-minded enough to bear witness to the plight of the ill-treated masses on whose blood and sorrows the foundation of a prospering country was built.



DOLEN PERKINS-VALDEZ, PhD, is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel, Wench. In 2011, she was a finalist for two NAACP Image Awards and the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for fiction. She was also awarded the First Novelist Award by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. Dr. Perkins-Valdez teaches in the Stonecoast (Maine) MFA program and lives in Washington, DC, with her family.

SOLOMON NORTHUP (1808c. 1864-75) was a free-born African American from New York State who was kidnapped into slavery in 1841. After his escape, he became an abolitionist and published his memoir, Twelve Years a Slave, (1853). He spoke on behalf of the abolitionist movement and helped fugitive slaves on the Underground Railroad.

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Saturday, April 19, 2014


Title: Paper Valentine
Author: Brenna Yovanoff
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: January 8, 2013
Genres: YA, Mystery, Fantasy, Romance
Reviewed by: Ellen Fritz
Ellen’s rating: 5/5


The city of Ludlow is gripped by the hottest July on record. The asphalt is melting, the birds are dying, petty crime is on the rise, and someone in Hannah Wagnor’s peaceful suburban community is killing girls.

For Hannah, the summer is a complicated one. Her best friend Lillian died six months ago, and Hannah just wants her life to go back to normal. But how can things be normal when Lillian’s ghost is haunting her bedroom, pushing her to investigate the mysterious string of murders? Hannah’s just trying to understand why her friend self-destructed, and where she fits now that Lillian isn’t there to save her a place among the social elite. And she must stop thinking about Finny Boone, the big, enigmatic delinquent whose main hobbies seem to include petty larceny and surprising acts of kindness.

With the entire city in a panic, Hannah soon finds herself drawn into a world of ghost girls and horrifying secrets. She realizes that only by confronting the Valentine Killer will she be able move on with her life—and it’s up to her to put together the pieces before he strikes again.


Paper Valentine is a lovely clean, yet refreshing, relaxing and thrilling read. Hanna, the main character, still stuck in the sadness and horror of Lillian's self-destructive illness and death, is trying to enjoy a normal summer with her and Lillian's old group of friends. While Hanna still has Lillian's ghost with her, this isn't working out very well and the friendship is kind of forced and artificial. Lillian, however, is determined to help Hanna solve the string of murders committed in their town.

At the beginning of the book I thought Hanna didn't have the strength of character I like to see in a young adult female lead. This changes as Hanna is forced into dangerous situations and has to make difficult choices.

Lillian, with her fascination for the horrific and the macabre, helps Hanna to remain focused on the murders. Her judgment is, unfortunately, not always as sound when it comes to judging the characters of some of the boys in Hanna's life.

Although comfortably paced, the story moves along in such a way that it became difficult to put the book down. If there are any lengthy, dull moments in the earlier part of Paper Valentine, the extremely suspenseful, action packed end certainly makes up for that. For those who are afraid of ghosts and hauntings, this book will hold an extra thrill.

If I had teenage children, Paper Valentine is the kind of book I would gladly advise them to read. Not only is this captivating paranormal murder mystery a suspenseful and thrilling read, it is also about growing up, personal growth and moving on.

The gentle, heartwarming romance in this book just makes the story that much richer. I happily recommend Paper Valentine as a tale filled with excellent prose, lots of excitement, and a healthy dose of depth and wisdom.



Brenna Yovanoff is one third of the Merry Sisters of Fate along with Maggie Stiefvater and Tessa Gratton, whose flash fiction can be found here. She lives in Denver, Colorado. THE REPLACEMENT is her first novel.

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BOOK BLITZ & $50 GIVEAWAY: SHADOW FIRE by Kimber Leigh Wheaton

Shadow fire

Shadow Fire

Ashlyn – a free-spirited teenager whose peaceful life is shattered when the village elders honor her with a perilous quest to recover a stolen relic.

Zane – a jaded mercenary, torn by his undeniable desire for Ashlyn and the dark secret that could make her hate him forever.

Delistaire – a malevolent sorcerer driven by an insatiable lust for power.
All three are bound together by an ancient relic supposedly infused with the power of a Goddess.

Shadow Fire – adventure, passion, secrets, and betrayal
As Ashlyn and Zane race to stay one step ahead of the evil lurking in the shadows, their passions are ignited and their bond strengthens. But will they find the relic before Delistaire? Or has their entire quest been orchestrated from the very beginning by a madman in pursuit of ultimate power?

Each installment of The Light Chronicles is a stand-alone story.

Praise for Shadow Fire

"This book contains monsters, magic, majestic creatures, and a evil guy that wants to destroy the world. If you love hot guys.....Zane is all that plus a few tricks up his sleeve. Just read it!" Venture ~Amazon Reviewer

"Adventure, magical creatures, fun characters, and romance make this book a perfect read for all ages." James ~Amazon Reviewer

"I thought the writing was strong; it had me turning the pages quickly to see what would happen next. The characters were engaging and the dialogue well-written." Lisa Temple ~ Goodreads

"Oh, I truly loved this one! Shadow Fire, by Kimber Leigh Wheaton, is a snappy, sassy, sweet, all-that-kind-of-awesome-and-then-some YA read. I couldn't put it down." ~Sasha Hibbs ~ Amazon Reviewer

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When we reach the deck, everyone stops to stare at me. Trying to ignore the blatant curiosity, I follow Hanna down the aft stairs to the brig. Zane and Taranis occupy cells across from each other. They're both sitting on the floor glaring daggers at each other. Hanna hands the key to me and slips away. Inching closer, I'm careful to remain out of reach of the two prisoners. As soon as they see me, both men jump up and start talking over each other.

"Ashlyn! How are you feeling, Love?" Zane asks.

"Ashlyn, my fiery angel, you are a ray of sunshine in this dank prison!" Taranis says.

"I'm gonna let you both out, if, and only if, you promise to behave," I threaten. Both men nod their agreement. "That means no fighting. It also means we never, and I mean never, speak of what happened last night." When I get no argument, I free Zane first and then Taranis.

"Do you even know what happened last night?" Zane asks, taking me into his arms. I stand rigid in his embrace, not sure if I'm ready to forgive him quite yet.

"Only what Hanna told me," I snap at him.

"I saved your virtue from this raving lunatic," Taranis says, pointing at Zane.

"Then you decided to take it for yourself!" Zane yells back at him.

"Did you not hear me?" I shout. Pulling myself from Zane's embrace, I back up and glare at both men. "No speaking of last night. Period. End of discussion."

"Yes, Love," Zane replies.

"Yes, virtuous virgin," Taranis replies.

"Taranis!" I release a menacing growl, and wince when my right eye starts to tic. "Yes?" he asks, eyes full of mock innocence.

"Run," Zane says.

Taranis listens to Zane's advice and takes off up the stairs to the deck with me hot on his heels.

KimberAuthor Kimber Leigh Wheaton

Kimber Leigh Wheaton is a YA/NA author with a soft spot for sweet romance and is a member of Romance Writers of America.

She is married to her soul mate, has a teenage son, and shares her home with three dogs and four cats. No, she doesn’t live on a farm, she just loves animals. Her house is filled with dragons, though she does lament that they are the porcelain, non-flying variety.

Kimber Leigh is addicted to romance, videogames, superheroes, villains, and chocolate—not necessarily in that order. (If she has to choose, she’ll take a chocolate covered superhero!)

Her debut novel, Shadow Fire, is the first book in The Light Chronicles series. Watch for book two, Stolen Moon, a stand-alone sequel, coming soon.

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Blast Giveaway

$50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash

Ends 5/15/14

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Friday, April 18, 2014


Title: The Accidental Socialite
Author: Stephanie Wahlstrom
Publisher: Swoon Romance
Publication Date: April 15, 2014
Genres: Chick Lit, Romantic Comedy
Reviewed by: Angie Edwards
Source: From publisher for review
My rating: 5/5


Quirky and clumsy twenty-two-year-old Paige Crawford arrives in London on a cold Saturday in January. Just when Paige starts to think that moving thousands of miles away from home with no real plan was a bad idea, Jason Frost appears. Confident and classy, Jason is the complete opposite of Paige and just what she needs in her life, or so she thinks. 

But before their romance has time to blossom, Paige trips and falls into the arms of a mysterious man on a drunken night out. She’s snapped by paparazzi, and newspaper headlines the next day suggest that she’s having an affair with a married footballer. 

Paige finds herself instantly elevated to tabloid celebrity status which isn’t exactly a picnic, particularly when trying to juggle her new job at Fashionista magazine, a catalog of dating disasters and a nagging doubt that she maybe she can’t conquer London after all. 

When a trip back to Canada for Christmas reminds Paige why she left her old life behind, she returns to London with renewed vigor realizing that while jobs, flats and men may come and go, friends in London are forever.


Oh my goodness! I’m guessing the one scene that will stick with me forever when thinking about this book will be the scene almost at the beginning with the transvestite and the vodka bottle. Oh. My. Word. But then again, the encounter with Prince William in a posh nightclub had me in hysterics, so that might actually be the most memorable part of this story. Or no, wait, the advanced pilates class scenario was what really cracked me up! Whichever way, The Accidental Socialite ended up being a laugh a minute.

Paige Crawford, the British tabloids’ new darling, is literally a walking disaster. However sorry I felt for her on all her catastrophic romantic and non-romantic outings, I just...I couldn’t stop laughing! I don’t think that much bad luck can befall a person in real life, which just made it even more entertaining. At the same time my heart also went out to her, because she didn’t bring any of it on herself and she just wants to have fun. OK, maybe some of it is her own fault but geez, give a girl a break!

Oh heavens no, now that stupid Cindy Lauper song is on repeat in my head.


The plot and pacing reminded me a lot of Sophie Kinsella’s writing. It was, in one word: excellent! The only difference is that Paige isn’t as much of a ditzy airheaded protagonist as those Kinsella has in her books. Also Carlos, the gay friend, isn’t the stereotypical gay friend you find in most YA and women’s literature. I felt his character was toned down a lot, but even so he was just adorable. Definitely a memorable character. I also liked Lucinda, the bff Paige made the minute she got to London. I think I liked her mainly because she’s South African and reference was made to “biltong”. I’m a South African, so of course that just tickled me pink.

Paige has four flatmates, and although they’re secondary characters, they all play a small, but significant, role in Paige’s first year in London, with their magnificently varied and peculiar personalities. She lists them as follows (this is her third revised edition):

1. Sleeps with nut jobs on wet crack house mattresses, Gemma
2. Takes suitcases shopping, Philip
3. I’m not gay but I get BJs from dudes, Guillermo
4. Learns English via Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn (Wedding Crashers), Natalie

One of the big plusses for me in this book was that I got to travel to London, Paris, Rome, and Verona, and even spend a weekend at the Oktoberfest in Munich. This book is all about sisters doing it for themselves as Paige experience the high life of a social butterfly while trying her best to get away from the paparazzi. She goes to great parties and events, makes drunken decisions, and meets every Mr Wrong imaginable. The ending was a pleasant surprise, and I applaud Wahlstrom for concluding the story with a positive message to young women about relationships. Remember what I said about sisters doing it for themselves?

Who would enjoy this? Fans of books by Sophie Kinsella, and anyone who loved the book or movie version of The Devil Wears Prada and/or Bridget Jones’s Diary.  This is chick lit at its best! It contains a little profanity and a few hilarious over-eighteen descriptions, but overall The Accidental Socialite is a fun, funny, and one hundred percent unforgettable read!



Growing up in Edmonton, Canada, a significant amount of Stephanie’s time was spent making up and acting out stories. She was studying to be an actress when she realized there weren’t any parts for women being written. So, Stephanie wrote herself a short screenplay just to be in it and quickly realized that writing was her true passion. She graduated from the University of Alberta with an English and Sociology degree and she also has a Bachelor of Motion Picture Arts from Red Deer College. She moved to New York on a whim after University and has written a variety of TV shows including an environmentally friendly lifestyle series and a tween magazine style show about celebrities. Stephanie moved to London in 2008 and aside from being obsessed with Eggs Benedict, shoes, Fruit Roll Ups and travelling, she also works in Children’s Television.

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Thursday, April 17, 2014


Title: Prisoner of Night and Fog
Series: Prisoner of Night and Fog, #1
Author: Anne Blankman
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: April 22, 2014
Genres: YA, Historical Fiction
Reviewed by: Angie Edwards
Source: From publisher for review
My rating: 4/5


In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her "uncle" Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf's, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.

Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler.

And Gretchen follows his every command.

Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can't stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can't help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she's been taught to believe about Jews.

As Gretchen investigates the very people she's always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed?

From debut author Anne Blankman comes this harrowing and evocative story about an ordinary girl faced with the extraordinary decision to give up everything she's ever believed . . . and to trust her own heart instead.


One thing that is crystal clear right from the start is that tremendous amounts of research, time, and effort went into creating this novel. Most of the ideas Hitler expresses in this book are based on things he said in real life. Certain themes he discussed in speeches early in his career are also touched upon in one of his talks. Most notably, the very apt title of the book is derived from the infamous “Night and Fog” decree of 1941, as well as the famous literary ballad by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Originality is this novel’s forte, and the author deserves a standing ovation for creating such a spectacular work of fiction while staying true to the facts.

I found Gretchen and Daniel’s story terribly hard-hitting because of the true historical background it is set against. The terror of Hitler’s rise to power, and the inevitable horrors suffered by the Jews, remained at the forefront of my mind the entire time I was reading this. At its core, this is a love-story between two people from completely different worlds and opposite political views. Their love just shouldn’t be. Yet, they brave the odds and take impossible risks to be together. I was afraid that the romance element might be the main focus of this story, but surprisingly it wasn’t. Gretchen and Daniel fall in love slowly and gradually, and amazingly the romance is more a sideline to the plot than the main theme. I was incredibly relieved to find that the author balanced the romance with the rest of the happenings in the book instead of using it as a backbone for the novel. The reason I wanted to read Prisoner of Night and Fog in the first place was to experience what it must’ve been like to be a youth during Hitler’s rise to power.

Geli Rauban (Hitler’s half-niece) and Eva Braun (who eventually became Hitler’s mistress) are included in this expertly written tale, and both feature a great deal in Gretchen’s life. Geli’s eventual suicide is also included. What I enjoyed most about this novel is how Gretchen and Daniel’s lives are intertwined with these historical characters and several historical events. The downside for me was that I didn’t really connect with the fictional characters, but the historical figures really stood out for me. For example, Geli is portrayed as lively, friendly, caring, and fun, while Gretchen seemed dull in comparison. The only fictional character that came to life for me – and not in a good way – is Gretchen’s psychopathic brother, Reinhard. He was simply terrifying, and his character added to the suspense in leaps and bounds.

In the first half of the book, Adolf Hitler is a bit of a gray character, meaning he seemed very flat. But a little more than halfway into the story, when the pacing picks up, he comes to life as the well-known narcissistic, hate-filled Fuhrer. Kudos to Blankman for sketching this Austria-born madman in a light where readers have to make up their own minds as to what drove him to do the things he did. The most memorable scene for me near the end was the epic and adrenaline-fueling showdown between Gretchen and Hitler when she confronts him with the truth. The last twenty-five percent or so of the book had me clinging to the edge of my seat.

Overall, this is a terrific read. I strongly advise readers to read the Author’s Note after finishing this excellent read (it contains spoilers), as it is quite insightful as to how she put all of this together. I can’t wait to read the next book, and if it’s as choc-full of historical figures, facts, and events as this first book, it will definitely be at the top of my book wishlist!



Anne Blankman may have been meant to be a writer because her parents named her for Anne of Green Gables. She grew up in an old house with gables (gray, unfortunately) in upstate New York. When she wasn't writing or reading, she was rowing on the crew team, taking ballet lessons, fencing and swimming. She graduated from Union College with degrees in English and history, which comes in handy when she writes historical fiction.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Title: A Time to Dance
Author: Padma Venkatraman
Expected Publication Date: May 1, 2014
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books


Padma Venkatraman’s inspiring story of a young girl’s struggle to regain her passion and find a new peace is told lyrically through verse that captures the beauty and mystery of India and the ancient bharatanatyam dance form. This is a stunning novel about spiritual awakening, the power of art, and above all, the courage and resilience of the human spirit.
Veda, a classical dance prodigy in India, lives and breathes dance—so when an accident leaves her a below-knee amputee, her dreams are shattered. For a girl who’s grown used to receiving applause for her dance prowess and flexibility, adjusting to a prosthetic leg is painful and humbling. But Veda refuses to let her disability rob her of her dreams, and she starts all over again, taking beginner classes with the youngest dancers. Then Veda meets Govinda, a young man who approaches dance as a spiritual pursuit. As their relationship deepens, Veda reconnects with the world around her, and begins to discover who she is and what dance truly means to her.

Title: Starbird Murphy and the World Outside
Author: Karen Finneyfrock
Expected Publication Date: June 12, 2014
Publisher: Viking Juvenile


In her sixteen years of life, Starbird has never touched a dollar bill. She’s never been in a car. She’s never used a cell phone.   That’s because Starbird has always lived on the Free Family Farm, a commune in the woods of Washington State.   But all that is about to change. When Starbird gets her "Calling" to be a waitress at the Free Family’s restaurant in Seattle, she decides to leave behind the only home she’s ever known.    

Nothing could have prepared Starbird for the World Outside, or for what it would teach her about the Family—and herself.   

From the author of The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door comes this hilarious and poignant story about finding your true calling in life.

Title: The Rain
Author: Virginia Bergin
Expected Publication Date: July 17, 2014
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books


One minute sixteen-year-old Ruby Morris is having her first proper snog with Caspar McCloud in a hot tub, and the next she’s being bundled inside the house, dripping wet, cold and in her underwear. Not cool. As she and Caspar shiver in the kitchen, it starts to rain. They turn on the radio to hear panicked voices – ‘It’s in the rain . . . it’s in the rain . . . ' That was two weeks ago, and now Ruby is totally alone. People weren’t prepared for the rain, got caught out in it, didn’t realize that you couldn’t drink water from the taps either. Even a drip of rain would infect your blood, and eat you from the inside out. Ruby knows she has to get to London to find her dad, but she just doesn’t know where to start . . . After rescuing all the neighbourhood dogs, Ruby sets off on a journey that will take her the length of the country – surviving in the only way she knows how.

Title: Push Girl
Authors: Chelsie Hill & Jessica Love
Expected Publication Date: June 3, 2014
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin


Kara is a high school junior who's loving life. She's popular, has a great group of friends and an amazing boyfriend, and she's a shoe-in for homecoming queen. Even though her parents can't stop fighting and her ex-boyfriend can't seem to leave her alone, Kara won't let anything get in the way of her perfect year. It's Friday night, and Kara arrives at a party, upset after hearing her parents having another one of their awful fights, and sees another girl with her hands all over her boyfriend. Furious, Kara leaves to take a drive, and, as she's crossing an intersection, a car comes out of nowhere and slams into the driver's side of Kara's car. 

When Kara wakes up, she has no memory of the night before. Where is she? Why are her parents crying? And, most importantly -- why can't she feel her legs? As Kara is forced to adjust to her new life, where her friends aren't who they seemed to be and her once-adoring boyfriend is mysteriously absent, she starts to realize that what matters in life isn't what happens to you -- it's the choices you make and the people you love.

Co-written by "Push Girls" star Chelsie Hill, whose real life closely mirrors Kara's experience, this novel will open the eyes of readers everywhere who have never met someone who lives with paralysis.

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