Review/Interview: Broken – C.J. Lyons

Review/Interview: Broken – C.J. LyonsBroken by CJ Lyons
Published by Sourcebooks, Inc.
Published: November 5th 2013
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three-stars

New York Times bestselling author CJ Lyons makes her YA debut with a fast-paced thriller sure to keep readers guessing to the very last page.

The only thing fifteen-year-old Scarlet Killian has ever wanted is a chance at a normal life. Diagnosed with a rare and untreatable heart condition, she has never taken the school bus. Or giggled with friends during lunch. Or spied on a crush out of the corner of her eye. So when her parents offer her three days to prove she can survive high school, Scarlet knows her time is now... or never. Scarlet can feel her heart beating out of control with every slammed locker and every sideways glance in the hallway. But this high school is far from normal. And finding out the truth might just kill Scarlet before her heart does.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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Broken is the story of 15 year old Scarlet Killian. Ever since Scarlet can remember she has been sick. She hasn’t been able to live a normal life like kids her age because she has Long QT and her heart can decide to kill her at any moment. Tired of being an outsider, different, Scarlet convinces her father and mother to let her prove herself and go to a normal high school for at least a week. Completely out of her element Scarlet is faced with bullying, friendships and crushes right off the bat. But she is also faced with the fact that her life may not be exactly what it seems and the further she digs the further she finds herself in possible serious trouble.

The thing about Broken is that I broke the cardinal rule of reading and I had an idea in my head as to what to expect. When I read the description I thought the book would go one way and when it went another it threw me off. But even thrown off I found comfort in a couple of things I didn’t expect, like the characters. Truthfully I loved the character of Scarlet. I normally get annoyed when the main character is as naive as Scarlet was, but for Broken it worked. I understood her naivety completely and it actually aids the story along. Here you have this girl that has been around sick kids and adults her whole life. She had no idea what she was in for when she entered high school. She knew what she saw on TV, but real life is totally different from TV and she learned that first hand. I loved seeing her stand up for herself and I loved seeing when she was afraid to. The friendships she made were kind of instant, but I understood that too based off the people she connected with as they were all just looking for a place in life. She was by far my favorite part of this book which helped as she was the focus.

I also enjoyed the character of Tony. He was just a sweet boy and exactly the kind of person Scarlet needed in her life. He was a little know it all like at times which was slightly annoying, but he was a smart kid so I kind of accepted it as a personality trait. But besides that, from his first meeting with Scarlet to his meeting with Scarlet’s mother, to his place in Scarlet’s life, I really just liked Tony in general. Like I said, he was smart, but he was sensitive too. And he didn’t shy away from awkward situations or doing the right thing even if it was the hard thing.

Even going into this book with a different idea in my head than the finished product Broken is a definitely a story of self-discovery, growing up and taking control of your own life. A true contemporary with a side of mystery thrown in and a hint of personal touch since the disease is something that is close to the author’s real life. It is a fast read that will definitely keep readers trying to figure out what is going on and with some very likable characters. I say give it a shot and go in with no expectations and see what you come out with.

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Interview:
1) A pediatric ER doctor to a writer is a big career change. What made you make the jump?
CJ: Actually I was a storyteller and writer long before I even dreamed of becoming a doctor. I wrote my first novel in high school and two more SF/F novels in med school. But I never seriously considered writing as a career until I made my first sale to a publisher. Then when I realized I had a chance to make a new dream come true, I took the leap of faith and left medicine to write full time. It was scary (terrifying, actually!) but so far, so good!

2) Broken is about a 15 year old girl with Long QT, a disease that hit close to home for you as your niece has it. How hard was it to write a book under those circumstances? Did you put personal experience aside or add it into the story?
CJ: It wasn’t hard to write—but it was very difficult to wait and see if my niece approved, lol! (She did, with the caveat that I tell everyone that she is nothing like Scarlet. Abby is almost the opposite, fiercely independent and refuses to let her heart condition hold her back from anything she wants.)

I included as much personal experience as possible—the characters and who they are always come first, but if I can infuse them with a little extra dose of reality, I don’t mind borrowing from my own life.

3) Broken is your first Young Adult(YA) novel. Did you find it different to write for a younger target audience? Was it easier or harder?
CJ: I can actually go a lot darker and edgier with the YA books—and be so much more emotionally honest than in my adult novels. Grownups usually read more for straight entertainment and escapism while kids also enjoy the vicarious thrills of facing the worst possible moment and surviving.

4) Sticking with the YA theme, do you plan to write anymore YA books in the future or was Broken a one time only plan?
CJ: I loved writing BROKEN so much that I’ve already written a second YA—this one much darker and aimed at a slightly older age range since it deals with the more mature theme of sexual coercion. Our working title is DAMAGED (that might change) and it’s due out next year.

5) And now a little book curiosity: What are you currently reading? What is on your to be read list” And what is your current favorite book?
CJ: I usually read several books at once, often a few nonfiction research books mixed with fiction. Right now I’m re-reading The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy; I just finished Endless, the fourth book in the Embrace series; and Straightling, a memoir recounting a girl’s time in a juvenile treatment facility.

6) Finally, since my blog also has a fashion aspect, I must ask: What is the one item in your closet that you couldn’t live without?
CJ: My Archipedia ankle boots—love, love, love them! Sexy yet comfortable and they go with anything—I’ve walked miles and miles in them and they’re as comfy as sneakers!

About CJ Lyons

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-one novels, former pediatric ER doctor CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge Thrillers with Heart.

Winner of the International Thriller Writers coveted Thriller Award, CJ has been called a "master within the genre" (Pittsburgh Magazine) and her work has been praised as "breathtakingly fast-paced" and "riveting" (Publishers Weekly) with "characters with beating hearts and three dimensions" (Newsday).

 

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Second Chance Sunday – I’m Not Her by Janet Gurtler

Second Chance Sunday – I’m Not Her by Janet GurtlerI'm Not Her by Janet Gurtler
Published by Sourcebooks, Inc.
Published: 2011
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four-stars

"For the first time in my life, I didn't feel envy..." Tess is the exact opposite of her beautiful, athletic sister. And that's okay. Kristina is the sporty one, Tess is the smart one, and they each have their place. Until Kristina is diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly Tess is the center of the popular crowd, everyone eager for updates. There are senior boys flirting with her. But, the smiles of her picture perfect family are cracking and her sister could be dying. Now Tess has to fill a new role: the strong one. Because if she doesn't hold it together, who will? Janet Gurtler tests the bonds of sisterhood in this moving debut that readers of Jodi Picoult and Sarah Dessen will savor.

Review
Okay, I’m going to admit to the thing you should never admit to. I waited to read this book because of the cover. I know right? I did the cliche thing and judged a book by its cover. Well shame on me because I’m Not Her was a story that should be read immediately and should be read often. The cover says nothing about the amazingness in the pages and the heartbreaking story of a family having to deal with something no family should have to be put through. This book made me smile and cry and smile again.

I’m Not Her is about Tess, an invisible freshman to her uber popular big sister Kristina. Kristina is everything Tess isn’t. She’s popular, she’s the start of the volleyball team, she’s lusted after by boys. She is the all around package. Tess on the other hand is an artist, has one friend, and wants to be in the National Honor Society. Kristina seems to have it all and then the unthinkable happens; she is diagnosed with cancer and Tess’s world does a complete 180. All of a sudden she is no longer invisible. The popular kids want to be around her. She is invited to parties. She has “friends”. And while things look to looking up at school, everything Tess knows is falling apart. Her family is hanging on by a thread, her sister is deteriorating right in front of her eyes and all of Tess’s dreams are vanishing with every trip to the hospital. All Tess wants is for her sister to get well and things to go back to normal. She wants people to realize she isn’t her sister and has her own dreams.

Can I just tell you Tess really got to me! She was by far the strongest person in this book. She was the only one that was holding her family together. I mean I can’t imagine what a parent would feel if they found out their seemingly perfectly healthy daughter had cancer, but Tess and Kristina’s parents just completely checked out. They didn’t check out on Kristina per say. They took her to her appointments and were by her side, but they weren’t really there. They ignored Tess except when they needed her and never listened to anything Tess, Kristina or even the doctors were saying. Tess was the only one that was emotionally supportive to her sister and it wasn’t in a way that was in your face. Actually it seemed to Tess that she couldn’t do anything right where Kristina was concerned, but I got the complete opposite out of it because Tess was the one that Kristina trusted. She was the one that she leaned on and unleashed her anger. She relied on her sister and Tess was there every step of the way, her dream be damned.

This book was really a powerful and moving story about family relationships and what happens when the unthinkable is brought in. It’s a story of loss and strength and survival. It isn’t a story about cancer, but a story about dealing with cancer and how it effects the lives of the people that don’t have it. It is a book that I’m glad I read and won’t soon forget.

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Second Chance Sunday – Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

In honor of Super Bowl Sunday Second Chance Sunday is brought to you by:

Second Chance Sunday – Catching Jordan by Miranda KenneallyCatching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally
Series: Hundred Oaks #1
Published by Sourcebooks Fire
Published: December 1, 2011
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five-stars

ONE OF THE BOYS

What girl doesn't want to be surrounded by gorgeous jocks day in and day out? Jordan Woods isn't just surrounded by hot guys, though-she leads them as the captain and quarterback of her high school football team. They all see her as one of the guys and that's just fine. As long as she gets her athletic scholarship to a powerhouse university.

But everything she's ever worked for is threatened when Ty Green moves to her school. Not only is he an amazing QB, but he's also amazingly hot. And for the first time, Jordan's feeling vulnerable. Can she keep her head in the game while her heart's on the line?

To say I was excited for this book is an understatement. A book about football and cute boys? Sign me up. I mean how could you go wrong with two of my favorite things! And Kenneally didn’t let me down. She took what could have been a typical story of finding out what you wanted may not be what you need and made it into more than that.

Jordan is a funny, sassy, tough QB of her high school football team. She has the respect of all the guys on her team and her coach. She isn’t a girly girl or a primper. She is a tomboy that loves the game of football and wants nothing more then to play college ball and to gain the support of her NFL pro father. She has worked hard for this, her spot in life and doesn’t want it to be taken away. And then comes Ty. Ty literally flips Jordan’s whole world around leaving her feeling like she was sacked in the end zone, changing everything she thought she knew and wanted and complicating things.

Complicating things even more is Henry. (And in a complete fan girl moment I must admit I am head over heels for him. LOL). Henry has been Jordan’s bestie for ten years. The two of them are closer then close and when he starts acting weird Jordan is left grasping for something to hold on to. He backs off and Jordan freaks out because Henry is everything and I can’t say I blame her.

I have to say my favorite part of this book was the friendship between Jordan and Henry.
I loved how they were with one another. It is very rare to find a friend that is your soulmate and I truly think these two were that for one another. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed every character in this book. From the other guys on the team to the cheerleaders, to Jordan’s parents. Every single one of them added to the story, but Henry and Jordan were the shining light.

Miranda Kennally’s debut was an amazing mix of smiles and tears and laughter and yearning. Add in a Tom Brady and a Nomar Garciaparra mention and this girl is sold! Awesome awesome book. Can’t wait for more from her.

 

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