July 13, 2017

Book Review: What It Takes by Shannon Stacey

Book:  What It takes: A Kowalski Reunion Novel #10
Author:  Shannon Stacey
Genre:  Contemporary Romance; Women’s Fiction
Publisher:  Carina Press
Blurb via Goodreads:
Revisit all of your Kowalski favorites while falling in love with a brand-new romance in this reunion novel from New York Times bestselling author Shannon Stacey 
Laney Caswell is looking for a change. A decade's worth of less-than-happy matrimony behind her, she wants peace—movies, books and, best of all, a new job at the Northern Star Lodge in Whitford, Maine. Spending the summer living in a camper is her chance to rediscover what makes her happy, and a perfect transition to her new life. 
Being a paramedic in Whitford is nothing like Ben Rivers's city life, but when Josh Kowalski offers him the job, the lure of his hometown is too much to resist. Also too much to resist: Laney Caswell. Ben always thought he'd have a wife and kids, a happy family like the Kowalskis have all built, but he never made time in his life. Now he's found a woman who draws him like no other and helps him dream again—and the last thing she wants is a husband. 
When the annual Kowalski family camping trip is moved to the Northern Star, both Ben and Laney are surrounded by the kind of happiness they've always wanted but never had. It just might be theirs—if they can put aside the past and reach for it together. 
My Review:
I have read all the books in the Kowalski series and of the ten, I still love the first five the most.
Technically, the protagonist in this story is no Kowalski, so this is not so much a Kowalski story as it is that of the neighbor and close friend of the family.  However, the Kowalskis are still prominently represented as the setting of the romance takes place in the family owned Northern Star Lodge.
Ben has moved back to Whitford where he grew up to serve as a much needed paramedic.  He often goes to the lodge to visit and help around, especially after he meets Laney, the newly hired extra hand.  Laney has been through one hell of a divorce from a husband who loved being in control of everything and everyone.  She had lost herself and is now in the process of finding who she once was and who she wants to be again.  Falling in love wasn’t part of the plan, but then again, it never is.
The plot is something we have all read a lot I’m sure and with books like this, it’s really all about the execution.  Stacey’s storytelling is good, however for some reason, I didn’t feel connected to the characters as much as I expected to be.  Maybe because I was overwhelmed by the number of characters in the book that I was sometimes confused.  But then again that’s WHY it’s called a Kowalski reunion.  All the main characters in the previous books are here plus their offsprings…. That’s a lot of names and stories to look back on. 
It did thrill me to, in a way, reconnect with those whose stories I fell in love with before, but it also distracted me from the love story of Ben and Laney.  And at some points, it felt like I was being hurried through the book, as if Stacey just wanted to get it over and done with.  Despite this, I did like the book and would still recommend it especially to those who have missed the crazy family that is the Kowalskis.

April 11, 2017

Book Review: ON SECOND THOUGHT by Kristan Higgins

Book:  On Second Thought
Author:  Kristan Higgins
Genre:  Women’s Fiction
Publisher:  HQN Books
Ainsley O'Leary is so ready to get married—she's even found the engagement ring her boyfriend has stashed away. What she doesn't anticipate is being blindsided by a breakup he chronicles in a blog…which (of course) goes viral. Devastated and humiliated, Ainsley turns to her older half sister, Kate, who's struggling with a sudden loss of her own.
Kate's always been the poised, self-assured sister, but becoming a newlywed—and a widow—in the space of four months overwhelms her. Though the sisters were never close, she starts to confide in Ainsley, especially when she learns her late husband was keeping a secret from her.  
Despite the murky blended-family dynamic that's always separated them, Ainsley's and Kate's heartaches bind their summer together when they come to terms with the inevitable imperfection of relationships and family—and the possibility of one day finding love again.
My Review:
Life is never what we expect them to be.  More often than not, we fight against change especially when it means leaving what’s comfortable and familiar to us.
All her life, Ainsley has only ever loved one man.  Blindly supportive of Eric no matter what, she is just waiting to marry and start a family with him. 
After 40 years of singlehood, Kate is finally in love and married to the perfect man.  All they need now is to conceive the child both have always dreamed of.
After 4 short months of wedded bliss, Nathan dies in a freak accident and Kate, the always poised and together Kate, can’t get past her shock to grieve.  Enter Ainsley who needs to stay with Kate as she had been kicked out of her conjugal home by her almost fiancĂ© Eric who decided that he had to get rid of the “corpses of his old life”…… by that he means Ainsley, his job and everything else that mattered.
Kate and Ainsley have never been close.  Their age difference and the fact that they are stepsisters with parents who obviously preferred one over the other damaged what could have been a close relationship.  But now they are forced to be together and help each other heal and move on as they navigate a life they never expected, but would, if faced together, be even better than what they had.
I have always loved novels by Kristan Higgins.   Ever since I read Just One of The Guys and the Blue Heron series, I knew I would keep coming back to read and reread all the books that she would put out.
This is heavier than most of her other books as it deals with grief in much of the chapters in quite a slow pace.  So much so that I didn’t feel the pull to keep reading until about halfway through, but once I did though, it was hard to put down. 
An interesting point is that Higgins used a two character narration so it’s so much clearer for the reader what exactly these two main characters are going through.  Both Kate and Ainsley are grieving for different reasons that they are dealing with in such different ways, and we as readers go through this slow and painful journey with them.
Heartbreaks aside, the buildup of their sisterly relationship and their new appreciation for each other comes across clearly.  And it is wonderful to see their realization that no matter what, it is family that ultimately helps you through everything that life throws your way.
Of course there is romance in this book.  It is a Kristan Higgins novel after all. The romance that both sisters develop is an important part of why this book works so well, however, it is NOT the main point of their healing and moving forward.  It does add so much humor and lightness to the book itself though.  And I love the extra storyline that is Jonathan’s life.

This is not as funny nor as romantic as other Kristan Higgins’ books but it is as well written.  And if you want to take a breather from heavy romance and instead read something about family, then pick up this book.

March 05, 2017

Book Review: ANY TIME, ANY PLACE by Jennifer Probst

Book:  Any Time, Any Place (Billionaire Builders #2)
Author:  Jennifer Probst
Genre:  Contemporary Romance, Women’s Fiction
Publisher:  Gallery Books
Blurb Via Goodreads:
HGTV’s Property Brothers meets The Marriage Bargain in this second volume in the Billionaire Builders series, an all-new heart-wrenching and sexy contemporary romance from New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Probst.
When she was a teen, Raven Bella Stratton’s father was killed in a horrible car crash. The bigger shock was the discovery of a woman with him—Diana Pierce—and their two fully packed suitcases with airline tickets to Paris. Devastated by her father’s betrayal, Raven went to live with her aunt, never truly overcoming the traumatic event. When she discovers that the mysterious woman had a family with a husband and three boys, Raven vows to leave the memory of her father behind.

Until Dalton Pierce visits one night and suddenly her past challenges her future...

Leaving his life in California behind to run Pierce Construction with his two older brothers, Dalton Pierce has enjoyed returning home and studying his passion of woodworking. But when he visits the local bar with his brothers one evening, he’s immediately drawn to the smart-mouthed, badass, sexy bartender who sets his body on fire. Unfortunately, she doesn’t seem as intrigued by him, and his multiple advances are met with rejection. When he offers to restore the bar back to its original glory, he begins to work with her on a daily basis, and falls harder. His plan of seduction slowly weaves a web around them both, until they are caught up in the spell. But Dalton doesn’t know the secret that can either destroy them both...or finally mend two broken hearts.
My Review:
I am always on the lookout for Jennifer Probst books.  After reading The Billionaire Marriage series and the Searching For series, I am confident that whatever she writes won’t just be romantic but also heartbreaking and heart pounding in its intensity.
This book is the 2nd in the Billionaire Builders series though it can also be read as a standalone (I haven’t read the 1st one…..yet). 
The plot is deeper than Probst’s usual as it deals with tragedy, death and betrayal that touch the lives of both protagonists.
Raven was devastated by her father’s sudden death.  Her heartbreak was made worse by the fact that her father was on his way to Paris, abandoning her for a woman she had never met, Diana Pierce.  She hated what her father did, but she hated the sons of the woman more as they destroyed the reputation of her father in the aftermath.
After years of losing and eventually finding herself and her purpose, she goes back home and starts a business where her talent behind the bar gets noticed by everyone, including the Pierce brothers, particularly Dalton.
Dalton is the youngest of Diana’s 3 sons.  Of the boys, Dalton was the one closest to his mother and her death caused a wound that never quite healed through the years.  His trust issues are deeply rooted, and as a result, he has never had a real relationship in his entire adult life.
Both Raven and Dalton aren’t looking for a relationship, but one look at each other proves an immediate attraction that’s hard to resist.  Dalton pursues Raven, not knowing her past intertwines with that of his.  And much as Raven runs the other way, Dalton pushes his way into her life and into her heart. 
What I love most about Any Time, Any Place is that though there is that instant attraction between the two, the time frame is more realistic.  We’re talking weeks and months of pursuit, relationship development and emotional roller coaster before the happy ending (yes of course a happy ending….i’m a sucker for it……it’s Jennifer Probst after all).  It’s not the usual instalove that seems to proliferate in romance fiction nowadays and I appreciate it.  It’s more relatable because of this, as if Raven really could be a friend of mine whose tears I would wipe and Dalton whose ass I would lick..…I mean kick. Seriously!  
The characters are developed well, including those of the support characters.  And since I’m a fan of the first two series, I liked that there is someone familiar here.  Izzy.  Probst interconnects her books by putting one or two characters from old series into new ones, something which makes me personally more invested since the familiarity is already there.  Brilliant move. 
And because it’s Probst, lock this book away from your teenage kids.  The sex scenes are fiery HOT that can give Fifty Shades a run for it's money, with no need for the extra tools (if you know what I mean).   Sexy, seductive yet romantic…..this book is an enjoyable read.

February 19, 2017

Book Review: THREE DARK CROWNS by Kendare Blake

Book:  Three Dark Crowns
Author:  Kendare Blake
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Publisher:  Harper Teen
Blurb via Goodreads:
When kingdom come, there will be one.
In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born—three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.
But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.
The last queen standing gets the crown.
My Review:
Dark. Twisted.
Two words that best describes the first book that was able to drag me out of my reading slump of 6 months. It's not my usual cup of "happy ever afters" but that's what made reading it fun. 
This is about three sisters, triplets, who are also queens. One is a poisoner (a master of poisons and is immune from it), a naturalist (one with the power to make things grow and is able to bond with an animal) and an elementalist (one in control of the elements: fire, air, water). They are separated as children to be raised by others like them knowing full well that in time, only one of three can survive and ascend as THE Queen. 
Among them, Katharine has had the hardest life. She is raised by poisoners and has had to endure years of pain and poison to strengthen her tolerance against them, to no avail. With the ascension year fast approaching, she has to learn fast or fake her way to winning the crown to ensure that the throne will remain with the poisoners, as it has been for many years. 
Arsinoe fares better. Living among naturalists has given her much freedom to roam about and develop close relationships, especially with Jules who also happens to be an exceptionally gifted naturalist. But no matter how closely attached they are, or the many hours they train each day, Jules' talent can not rub off on her queen. For all intents and purposes, Arsinoe is giftless still, just like Katharine. 
Mirabella is blessed the most in that her elemental gifts came early. There was never a question of her gift or her beauty. So among the 3, she was judged early as the Probable next queen.
Book 2 comes out in September 
They have been trained to believe that it is essential they kill their sisters as it is the will of the goddesses but Mirabella has the hardest time accepting it. She still remembers her sisters, their childhood and how much they loved and protected each other. 
So the question is, will Mirabella be able to convince her sisters to reconcile and rule together, if it is even possible, before she gets killed? Or will Katharine, the one most manipulated and broken, be too beaten to even recognize the possibilities? Will Arsinoe?
The story shifts in different perspectives every chapter so as a reader, I understood well enough each of the three queens. They have differing personalities and circumstances so I do not have a favorite. I can't root for one to live while the other two die. And though Katharine rubs me off as cold and desperate, she is also the most tortured of all. She is a product of her miseducation and so deserves the benefit of expanded patience and understanding. Arsinoe seems strong and weak at the same time but is kind at the root of it. Mirabella strength is her time honed power but her weakness lies in the simple fact that she loves her sisters and it could very well lead to her death in the next book..... though I certainly hope not.
I do like love stories and all three queens have one..... sort of.  Most intriguing is the friendship between Arsinoe and the suitor Billy.... But that's a toss up with Joseph's triangle with Mirabella and Jules.... Then again the cruel end to Pietyr's and Katharine's relationship is one to watch too.... Did it push her over the edge literally and figuratively?
The author created an intriguing world and the writing is smooth save for some moments of slowness plus a number of unexplained matters like what exactly is a war gift? How do naturalists bond with their familiars? Are poisoners born or made etc....
Like I said, this book is dark and it is twisted. And though there are no graphic sex scenes, they are more than implied. Add that to the violence peppered in the book, I say be cautious about recommending this to readers younger than 15. 
The cliffhanger ending book 1 is a gift. I can't say it didn't cross my mind throughout the book since it seemed impossible that two out of three are giftless. All the same it leaves one more than curious for the follow up book.
 Happy reading!

August 05, 2016

Book Review: THE BEAUTY OF DARKNESS by Mary E. Pearson

Book:  The Beauty of Darkness (The Remnant Chronicles Book 3)
Author:  Mary E. Pearson
Publisher:  Henry Holt and Co.
Genre:  Science Fiction, Dystopian, YA Fiction, Romance

Blurb via Amazon:

Lia and Rafe have escaped Venda and the path before them is winding and dangerous - what will happen now? This third and final book in The Remnant Chronicles is not to be missed.

My Summary:

WARNING:  DO NOT READ unless you have read Books 1 & 2 of the Remnant Chronicles or are VERY curious about the book.  SPOILER ALERT!!! SPOILER ALERT!!!  SPOILER ALERT!!!

Last we saw them, Lia had been gravely wounded after barely escaping Venda.  Rafe found her by the bank almost lifeless yet he believes that they would both survive and return to his kingdom of Dalbreck.

This book begins with Rafe’s friends and fellow soldiers Sven, Orrin, Tavish and Jeb finding Lia and Rafe.  They then make their slow (due to Lia’s injuries) trek back to Dalbreck, on the way capturing two unexpected eventual allies, Kaden and Griz. 

The animosity between Kaden and Rafe is still very much alive.  And though Rafe knows Lia loves him, he still has doubts as to what exactly Lia feels for Kaden the assassin and what happened between them in her captivity. 

Lia’s gift of sight grows strong with more frequent whispers and messages from beyond.  Her fate is set it seems and she believes strongly that the Komizar, if not stopped by her, will destroy her home, Morrighan.  Rafe fears for her life as the Morrighan court has been infiltrated by traitors who have placed a bounty on Lia’s head.  One of these is a high ranking official whose connection to Kaden is one he loathes. 

On Rafe’s shoulders now lie the burden of running the kingdom of Dalbreck as in his absence, his parents passed away.  And since he spent months trying to save Lia from the Komizar and the vipers in the Vendan sanctum, the people of Dalbreck do not know whether he lived, died or has abdicated.  His position is in jeopardy.  He has to fight not just to make Lia stay with him, but also for his birthright, his throne.

So what weighs more for Rafe?  Is it love for Lia or love for his people and his kingdom of Dalbreck?  And what is Lia prepared to sacrifice?  Her Prince or Morrighan?

My Review:

Months.  I have waited months for this book to come out.  I tore through the 1st two books over and over again in anticipation of the last in the series.  And though The Beauty of Darkness is quite long and does dwell on the political upheavals in both kingdoms of Morrighan and Dalbreck plus the visions of Lia a tad much, I still enjoyed the book.

I deeply love the relationship of Rafe and Lia.  For me it is the strongest point of this series.  And much as I like Kaden, it was always Rafe who had my heart.  The romance here is tempered but not necessarily lacking in that the few romantic scenes they did have were intense.  Heart pounding, squeal inducing intense.

I appreciate that the author played with Kaden’s character that as a reader, I vacillated between loving and loathing him every few chapters.  But in the end, there was no longer any doubt as with whom his loyalty lies, which is not the same as who he ultimately loves.
As for Rafe’s friends, I fell in love with each one’s strength and personality.  Their loyalty to Rafe as a fellow soldier, friend and Prince is solid.  I love that every one of the four characters, though minor in a sense, were fully developed and that each had their moment before the end came.

Mary E. Pearson has woven a tale so well thought out that all possible angles are covered and since, as I have said before, I am a sucker for happy endings, this was a good read for me.

That said…

For all the build up about the Komizar and his power, his last moments with Lia were lacking.  It was too sudden….too clean….too easy.  I felt a bit cheated.  Like the anticipation had been for nothing.  More heart pounding action between the Komizar and Lia would have been better. 

As for the ending, that scene with Lia and Rafe…much as I liked what ultimately happened between them, it was also too abrupt.  I wish that it was longer, more heart felt.  For all they have been through, I believe they deserve so much more than the short ending they got.  Perhaps this calls for an epilogue?  Or an e-novella?  I can definitely do with more Rafe and Lia in my life.

In all, I still highly recommend The Remnant Chronicles.  Of the three, the 1st book, the Kiss of Deception, remains my favorite.  Read and find out why.  Happy Reading!
For the curious, here is the link to my review of the first book, The Kiss of Deception

July 10, 2016

Book Review: IN THIS LIFE by Christine Brae

Book:  In This Life
Author:  Christine Brae
Publisher:  Christine Brae
Genre:  Adult Contemporary Romance

Blurb via Goodreads:

Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere,
They’re in each other all along.

It starts out so simply. Anna runs away to Thailand, drags her best friend Dante with her and spends a few weeks away, taking on other people’s problems while getting away from her own. She meets the enigmatic Jude Grayson, and for as long as it’s clear to both of them that it ends when they leave, she thinks she’s got the perfect fling planned out.

Or does she?

Anna returns home to find that her life is no longer the way it once was, and that she can’t stop thinking about him. She learns through tragedy that nothing she’s ever believed in has turned out to be true. The worst part? The people she loved were keeping a secret from her. And that no matter what she does, no matter how hard she fights against it, every path she takes keeps leading her back to Jude.

This is a story about love, found in a faraway place by two very unlikely people. It is also a story about friendship and loyalty and fighting for what you have despite the illogical mystery of fate. With the struggle between morality and guilt, faith and acceptance, there comes a learning that even the best-laid plans are powerless against the alignment of the universe.

From the beaches of Thailand to the streets of New York, three friends, Anna, Dante, and Jude will learn the hard way that once providence steps in, there is nothing in the world that can change what is truly meant to be.

My Review:

Fate.  Love.  Faith.

These are the three main points of the story played out by the three characters Anna, Jude and Dante.

Of them I felt for Dante the most because he is loving as he is loyal.  I have heard people describe love as blind, stupid, forgiving and impossible. Well, these are all Dante in the flesh.  He loves the impossible which for me is Anna because her character isn’t easy to love.  Imagine being caught between two beautiful men.  One readily available, the other missing in action.  A sensible woman would go for the first…. The readily available.  The loving.  The miraculously patient and kind.  But Anna loves the other one, Jude, with a passion and obsession I could not quite understand.  It bordered on crazy, at least for me.  Was it a case of loving the one you can’t have? The one who got away?  It certainly felt like that.  But then again, some people might say that it’s true love.  After all, some couples fall in love within a week and it could last a lifetime.  It could especially last in the make believe world of books where nothing is unimaginable.  Here, Love is Love.  It is raw.  It is painful.  But it is Anna’s truth.

The writing of Brae is lyrical.  It has a flow that reminds me of music that can soothe the soul.  The scenes are not hyper extended either so the pace is steady.

One point I can not fully appreciate is book’s take on religion.  Maybe it’s because I consciously stay away from books with religious themes.  Or maybe I just can’t consolidate the idea of religion and sex in one book….let alone in many conversations by the characters. But again, it may just be me.

The book is romantic, often melodramatic.  Some lines that come out of the “mouths” of Anna, Dante and Jude are ones I believe I could never utter in my entire life.  But that’s what romance is isn’t it?  Don’t we need drama sometimes?  I’d rather read drama than LIVE it.   So to have them in writing is more enjoyable than having to go around myself crying over a man who may or may not love me after 5 years of waiting, which is what Anna does. 

Do I like Anna?  I barely understand how she thinks.  But I certainly love Dante.  As for Jude, I will reserve my judgment until further notice. 

What wins for me in this book is its belief Fate.  I believe in fate.  I also believe that everything happens for a reason.  So many things happen to these characters that gives them a full circle ending.  There is peace.  There is love.

After all, Isn’t that what we romantics look for IN THIS LIFE?

Have a Good Read!

Read my conversation with author Christine Brae.

May 27, 2016

Spotlight on Author Jennifer Niven

Mental illness and suicide are not topics I usually associate with Young Adult Fiction.  Whenever I pick up a copy of my favorite genre, I expect to lose myself, relax and just delve into a world that is not my own, where there are a few tears, but none so devastating that it would affect me deeply.

Reading the blurb of Jennifer Niven’s book All The Bright Things, I already knew I had to prepare myself for something I possibly wouldn’t enjoy in the shallow way I often want to with YA books.  And so I only started reading it the day before my scheduled interview with the author.  Maybe I was afraid, or maybe I was trying to save myself from being devastated.

I will not lie.  All the bright Things is a heavy book.  It does leave the reader emotionally shaken and heartbroken.  But it also made me rethink my ideas on what mental illness can actually do to a person, slowly but inevitably, if left on their own. 

What is most interesting with the book is that it was written in a two person point of view and both these persons were suicidal.  One was Violet who suffered from guilt and depression.  The other was Finch who had an undiagnosed bipolar disorder.  Jennifer Niven was brave in articulating the thoughts and feelings of Finch because she herself had one.  A person she loved committed suicide not so long ago and this book she says, is in a way, her catharsis from that episode in her life.

This is my conversation with Jennifer Niven:

Lyn:  Jennifer, this is the first YA book you ever wrote and usually YA books are light and romantic with conflicts that are in the end resolved.  Yours was dark and very serious.  Why did you choose that?

Jennifer:  It was inspired by a real story and a real boy I knew.  I just wrote about the boy I knew.  There are many things that are different with Finch and Violet but at the core it’s the story that I lived.  Also dealing with mental health stories, I feel that there are so many issue books that kinda romanticize suicide or mental health issues and I didn’t wanna do that.  I wanted to just write it honestly and as truly as I could write it.

L:  What do you think is a big problem with Mental illness.  Is it the stigma?  The lack of support from families? Or the silence?

J:  I think it’s all of that.  When I lost the boy I loved in real life, I almost felt like I couldn’t talk about him or mourn him because of the way he died and it was a really horrible way to feel.  I remember thinking, if I felt this way, imagine how he felt and other people feel who are suffering from mental health issues and they feel like they can't speak out or say I need help because of the judgement or the silence or the lack of interest or support. 

L:  It’s also because you don’t see the signs.  I mean the characters Charlie and Brenda, did they even know about Finch’s problem? Or they just assumed he was being a freak because he takes on different personas and would disappear for long periods

J:  I think they just kinda came into it knowing him as they knew him like this is Finch, he is weird and he changes his clothes like he changes his personas.  So I think they didn’t have all the information.  And also Finch was very guarded about what he shared and that was part of it too.   He would only let people in so far.  Violet got the closest but even she, he didn’t want to put all that he was dealing with on her so he was very protective of her. 
I think Finch’s parents could have paid more attention and been more involved so I think they have to shoulder a lot of it.  But Finch also needed to speak up and say I need help.  And part of writing the book is to start these discussions of us needing to talk more about this and that we need to know that it is necessary to speak up if we need help and we need to be receptive as people being spoken to.

L:  How did you get into the head of Finch?  Or did you base Finch on the person you loved?

J:  That really formed him most of all and knowing him so well and seeing him up close and personal, everything he struggled with every single day.  And also the magic he created by just being him.  All of that formed Finch the most.  I also talked to experts and talked to people I know who are struggling with depression or have struggled with suicidal thoughts as well just to verify everything that I am putting into this character as I knew from this boy.

L:  Why didn’t Finch ask for help when he pretty much knew he was suffering through something?

J:  I think he knew what he had which is bipolar.  So when Embryo (the school counselor) brought that up, it just freaks him out because he always suspected his father had it and any idea of being anything like his dad…. It’s bad enough he was named after him but to have what his dad probably had but he was never diagnosed, with was just too much for Finch to deal with, and I think Finch was so worried about labels.  To him being labeled was dismissing everything else that he was and it was just categorizing him as bipolar

L:  Putting him in a box

J:  Putting him in a box and the thing is that when I think about Finch, I think about this wonderful person he became as I was writing him.

L:  Could it have been genetic then?  Or a result of bring abused by his dad? Or just having a dysfunctional family with a mother who has checked out?

J:  Bipolar disorder does tend to run in families so chances are he inherited it genetically from his dad, so triggers can come from stressful situations like his father’s abuse. As you see in the book every time Finch has an episode or he is considering suicide, it comes from some sort of a run in with his dad or with Roamer (a school bully and Finch’s former friend).  His mother is just checked out and shut down in her own way that she can't see what's happening with her kids.  But she feels like a better mother than she is.

L:  She is so selfish.  And she can’t get beyond the fact that her husband left her

J:  The sad part is that there are so many stories like that.  Unfortunately there are parents like that.  Some adults who have read the book say they take issue with it because they think that’s not realistic because the authority figures are not doing anything but in my high school, the counselors were not in tune with what kids were dealing with and we lost kids to suicide because counselors were not paying attention.  It's not the only reason but it was certainly a part of it.  And I hear from teens every single day say “my parents just say get over it, you’re just being emotional, you’re just a teenager  or they don’t wanna hear it at all because they're too busy and I just think why is that happening?

L:  You have said and you’ve written that you had your Finch but for a long time you didn’t want to talk about it.  Why did it take so long for you to open up about him?  Do people ask you about him now?

J:  They do.  And now it's so much easier to talk about it because I wrote this book and writing it was really difficult because I hadn’t talked about it that much except to one or two people.  So it was very scary because I didn’t even know if I could put all that out there when I haven't dealt with it myself fully.  The reason it took so long is because it was such a painful experience in so many ways.  But this let me go back to all the loveliness too because there was so much lovely stuff about the relationship and about him.  And I'm so glad that finally I was able to get in there and get this out.

L:  How old were you when THAT happened?

J:  I was not in high school, I was actually in my 20s.  we were both in our 20s when I knew him and one reason I wrote it as YA is, one, I just love reading young adult ,and two, I thought I needed a little bit of distance in terms of reality in order to write this because otherwise it's gonna be too much and I'm gonna freeze on the page.  So by giving it to these two characters in high school it just immediately broke that, it made me feel like okay these are two different people, but I can give them all the feelings that I had and that he had.

L:  How much of Violet is actually you?

J:  You know I say..

L:  Because she’s a writer too

J:  She is a writer too and she grew up in Indiana which I did, I'm an only child which she became.  The two things we have most in common are that if things are crumbling in my world I tend to smile through them and she loved the boy Finch and I loved a boy like Finch.  But I always say she was more popular than I was in high school

L:  Not with this face! (referring to Jennifer of course)

J:  Thank you but this hair was very big back in the 80s…..so…. there are more differences than similarities between us I think.  But the heart of the story is what's true and a few of the circumstances

L:  You called yourself a Survivor of Suicide.  What was it like for you moving from that point?

J:  I did a lot of denial I think.  I would try to write some of it out but it was….i was not ready to face certain things.  I knew him in Los Angeles and I lived there for a long time and not long after he died, I had to move back to the East Coast where I grew up because I just had to get away from it and I ended up coming back a few years ago to LA.  And it's only since I've written the book for instance that I've been able to drive by the street where I found him. 

L:  So it’s now just a part of your past.  You have cleansed yourself of it?

J:  That’s a great way to put it

L:  Your catharsis is already the book

J:  Exactly.  And it's not why I wrote it, but it's certainly the result of writing it.  This has helped me find bright places out of that experience and what that is is reaching readers through telling the story about this boy.  Reaching readers before they might do something similar or helping them realize that they're not alone and that there is help out there for them and they don’t have to choose that path

L:  What reactions have you gotten from readers?  Has someone reached out with their personal experience?

J:  Absolutely.  It has been overwhelming.  I have heard from thousands of readers across the world saying… the main message I hear is thank you so much for writing this book.  You have made me know that I am not alone and that I am gonna get help, I am going to tell someone how I feel, I don’t wanna end up like Finch, I want to find the bright places in my life, I want to wander, I want to make the world lovely and that is just the best feeling hearing that.  I heard from one girl who actually went to her local Target and she was buying sleeping pills.  She’s 17 years old, she was gonna end it that day.  And my book for some reason was shelved by the sleeping pills so she picked the book up because it was so strange that it was there.  She opened it and saw the first line Is today a good day to die? And she just thought I need to read this.  So she took it home, read it, forgot about the sleeping pills and the next day she told her parents and she is in counseling now.  It's that kind of thing that I am hearing and it is powerful.

L:  What got me most is the song that your loved one left you.  And in two weeks we’ll fly again.  Perhaps a Chinese dinner then.  You make me happy, you make me smile”.  Is there ever a day that you don’t sing it in your head?

J:  I don’t think so.  Especially since I’m now back in LA which is where it happened and also we would wander LA.  So many places in LA just because, and so I think about that when I'm driving around.  It's a good feeling now.  And now I can think about that song, which I do almost daily, and it's a good thing and it makes me smile too.

L:  Does it make you sing it?

J:  It does make me sing it.  The sad thing is he sang it to me one time and so I have the melody but it's such a fragment of the melody and it's so fragile, I try to keep it.  So I think about it all the time because I don’t ever wanna let go of that melody.

L:  Do you ever go back to where you wandered with him?

J:  Yeah…at first it was difficult, but now it has become a bright place.

L:  What is your favorite line from the book?  Because mine is You make me lovely and it's so lovely to be lovely to the one I love

J:  Obviously I have a soft spot for the song for a good reason so that’s probably my favorite.  In terms of lines that I came up with and it surprises me how much readers love this line is You are all the colors in one at full brightness.  That’s one of those lines that you don’t even remember writing so you think it kinda came from somewhere else but that’s the line I see the most from readers

L: what would you want your readers to take away from ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES?

J:  I want them to take away the fact that they aren’t alone and that they are very important and necessary.  I would say you’re the only you in this world.  And that even in the darkest times, there are bright places around us and that WE could be bright places also.

You can catch Jennifer Niven at her book signing events on the following dates:
May 28.  1pm at the Northwing Atrium, SM City cebu
May 29.  2pm at the Mega Atrium, SM Megamall
Registration starts at 10am for both events.  Only books purchased from The National Book Store, National Book Store Express and Powerbooks will be accommodated.

A special thanks to Mr. JB Roperos of the National Book Store for arranging my interview with the author.