Review + Giveaway: Normalish by Margaret Lesh

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Normalish by Margaret Lesh
Publication: October, 2012
Rating: Beam-worthy
Source: Copy from the author


Fifteen-year-old Stacy questions the strange world of high school, love, her role in a harsh universe, and life, in Normalish.

People tell you high school’s so great and wonderful, but they’re lying. It’s mostly horrible and full of disappointment. It sucks. Your best friend abandons you. The jerk you’re in love with pretends to be into you, and then the big dump. The boy you’ve really clicked with as a friend decides to go all crushy over you, so you break his heart just like yours was — smashed into little pieces. Your sister goes mental, and you get involved with a guy who’s even crazier than she is (who you know is a very bad idea, but you do it anyway). Math only adds another stink of failure to the whole thing.

High school blows. Just ask freshman Stacy. She’d want you to know.

My Review

Normalish is a sweet, funny, poignant coming-of-age story that I highly enjoyed.  It follows teenager Stacy through her various trials, triumphs, and heartbreaks.  And while at times, Margaret Lesh’s story seemed like more fluff than substance, just when I thought so, something deeper came along to surprise me during this quick, enjoyable read.  

Stacy read like an authentic teenager.  Just like me when I was her age, everything was the end of the world, and she didn’t always understand the gravity of certain situations.  I sympathized with her tattered home life, and wanted to hug her at times.  Despite the cracks in her family, they all really cared about one another, and that was heart-warming to read.  Some of the more serious issues in Normalish were glossed over – like mental illness – in a way that was almost offensive, but I think it was just the author trying to be “in character,” as Stacy. I also didn’t like the format of most of the dialogue. 

Normalish is a really quick read that made me smile more than once.  (I literally read it in one sitting, in about an hour and a half.)  Stacy learned a great deal over the course of this novel, and grew as a character.  I liked the glimpse into her life; Margaret Lesh told an engaging story.  However, the issues with Normalish, and the fluff aspect kept me from truly enjoying this one more than I did.

About Margaret

California girl Margaret Lesh lives with her husband Steve and son Andrew in a quiet suburb near Los Angeles. Co-creator of, she writes middle grade, young adult, and women’s fiction. When she’s not writing, she’s thinking about baked goods, especially donuts, far too often. She believes tacos are magic.

Visit Margaret at: her website | her twitter  

Shop for Normalish at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble  

Once Upon a Book Haul – #25 (Stacking the Shelves)

Inspired by all the book-haul memes I’ve seen floating around (and mostly accredited to Stacking the Shelves) Once Upon A Book Haul is my own version of a book haul/round-up here at Once Upon A Prologue.  It’s a fun way for me to show off the books I’ve begged, borrowed, or stolen – and in a rare case, actually bought!  I love showing off my pretty new books, be they ARCS I’ll pass on or books I’ll keep just as much as I do seeing what y’all have added to YOUR collection, so be sure to leave me a link to YOUR haul in the comments so we can squee together over our new books!  (It’s totally not embarrassing if we’re squee’ing together in case y’all didn’t know…)
This is my Stacking the Shelves for December and January, so far!

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler { Add on GoodReads }
I’m Not Her by Janet Gurtler { Add on GoodReads }

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare { Add it on GoodReads }
(Confession: I don’t want to read her Mortal Instruments series but THIS one?  Looks fantastic!)
For Review:
Apollyon by Jennifer L Armentrout { Add it on GoodReads }
(If you aren’t reading this series…we need to talk.)

For Review:
Mila 2.0 by Debra Driza { Add it on GoodReads

For Review:
Vortex by Julie Cross { Add it on GoodReads }
(Also pictured: Audiobook from MacMillan Audio) 
The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab { Add it on GoodReads
(I sent my hardcover to my girlfriend, and needed a new copy!)
Bared to You by Sylvia Day { Add it on GoodReads
Signed by V Rossi and Roar!!!
Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi { Add it on GoodReads }
 What’s Left of Me by Kat Zhang { Add it on GoodReads }  
Not pictured, for review:
 The Murmurings by Carly Anne West { Add it on GoodReads
(e-galley through Edelweiss)  
What new lovely additions did YOU add to your shelves?  Leave me a link to YOUR STS/book haul post, so I can show you some comment love!

Shelved – #2: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Shelved is an original feature at Once Upon a Prologue where I talk about a book that has meant a great deal to me, whether because of the issues it dealt with, the romance, or relationships, or the emotions it conveyed.  Sometimes this will be a book I feel hasn’t gotten enough attention; sometimes it will be a book we all know and love.  The purpose is to draw more attention to these relevant, amazing books.

The focus of this edition of Shelved is the amazing BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver.  


Discussion: Has something ever happened to you that totally changed your life, made you resolve to do things differently?  Has a book touched you like BEFORE I FALL did me?  Have you read BEFORE I FALL and could you identify with Sam?
Add/buy BEFORE I FALL: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository
Visit Lauren online at: her twitter | her website    
What do you think of SHELVED?  Want to see me continue?  Recommend a book I should profile, or tell me about one of the books that moved YOU! 

Review: Catherine by April Lindner

Catherine by April Lindner
Publication: January 2, 2013 (Poppy)
Source: ARC from the publisher
Rating: Beam-worthy


A forbidden romance. A modern mystery. Wuthering Heights as you’ve never seen it before.

Catherine is tired of struggling musicians befriending her just so they can get a gig at her Dad’s famous Manhattan club, The Underground. Then she meets mysterious Hence, an unbelievably passionate and talented musician on the brink of success. As their relationship grows, both are swept away in a fiery romance. But when their love is tested by a cruel whim of fate, will pride keep them apart?

Chelsea has always believed that her mom died of a sudden illness, until she finds a letter her dad has kept from her for years—a letter from her mom, Catherine, who didn’t die: She disappeared. Driven by unanswered questions, Chelsea sets out to look for her—starting with the return address on the letter: The Underground.

Told in two voices, twenty years apart, Catherine interweaves a timeless forbidden romance with a compelling modern mystery.

My Review

Catherine was on my radar from the moment I read the synopsis, but I’m of two minds after finishing it.  On one hand, since I knew it was a modern day re-telling of Wuthering Heights, I expected it to be tragic, but I found so little hope within the pages that I was left bereft as I read the final pages.  April Lindner has a genuinely clear writing style that I enjoyed, but there were very few uplifting moments in this romantic tragedy.  That, along with a few other quibbles I had, made it an overall enjoyable read, but one that could have used a dose of hope.

I should state that I haven’t read Wuthering Heights; while I’ve always wanted to, I haven’t made time.  After reading Catherine, I’m really curious to do so though, to examine the similarities and the differences, as well.  I think for the most part, Lindner created individualized, interesting characters, but a few, like Quentin, suffered from stereotypes, and their flaws felt poorly handled.  Issues were brushed off in order to focus on the star-crossed romance between Catherine and Hence, which, although it was intensely passionate, was also not as believable as I’d hoped.  Miscommunications and distrust between the two that should have been solved instead escalated the story, and the stakes.  Both characters were deeply flawed, and made poor decisions. 

Catherine has nice pacing, and the tension in the first half of the book is built nicely, although it suffers in the last third of the book, with a rushed climax. I found myself caring more about Chelsea than about Catherine, and wish Lindner had devoted another few chapters toward the end to Chelsea – she felt less like a valid character and more like a device used to tell her mother’s story.  Overall, this is a somewhat satisfying modern day Gothic. 

Other books by this author:


You’re sure to fall for:

The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

About April

Welcome to my web page.  I’m the author of Jane, a contemporary retelling of the classic novel Jane Eyre, published by Poppy, and of Catherine, a Wuthering Heights retelling, due out in early 2013.  I’m also a poet.  My new poetry collection, This Bed Our Bodies Shaped, was just published by Able Muse Press, and my first collection, Skin, will be coming back into print in early 2013.  I also write literary criticism and edit poetry anthologies.  Last but far from least, I’m a professor of English at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

Visit April at: her website | her blog

Shop for Catherine at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository

Waiting On Wednesday – #43: Shadow of the Mark by Leigh Fallon

Life for Megan Rosenberg just got a lot more complicated.

While she evoked the air element, and her feelings for Adam intensified, a web of lies, deceit, and betrayal was spun around her. With the Order tightening its hold, and the reinstatement of the Mark Knights, Megan has more questions than answers as the Marked Ones grow in strength.

New people arouse suspicion, the DeRises start behaving strangely, and Megan begins to unravel a destiny shrouded in mystery. It’s a destiny the Order has struggled to hide, and a destiny someone from the past… far in the past, has already laid claim to.

Alliances will be made, and friends will be lost, as the Order’s dark secrets are revealed by the very thing they sought to destroy.

Shadow of the Mark by Leigh Fallon
Publication: July 9, 2013 (Harper Teen)
Add it to your TBR!

Why It’s Worth Waiting On: Despite my issues with the first novel in this series, I really DID enjoy the story being told, and the characters, and I’m really excited to see what else Leigh Fallon has in store for Megan – who I REALLY quite liked in Carrier.  Plus it’s set in Ireland!  How awesome!  And the cover – while a bit too similar to Carrier – is still beautiful!

If you’d like to pre-order this book from The Book Depository, please use the following link; any and all proceeds from my affiliation with TBD will fund future giveaways for you! 

buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery

This weekly feature is graciously hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine. You know that feeling you get when you’re browsing upcoming books on Goodreads or Amazon and one strikes your fancy?  Maybe you squee.  Maybe you giggle to yourself.  Maybe you bounce in your seat. We all get excited (I do a combination of all three of the previous choices…) about new books, be it a favorite author you’re familiar with, or someone whose work you’ll be reading for the first time.  Jill’s meme gives us the chance to spotlight what we are anxiously awaiting this week.

Top Ten Tuesday – #44: 2012 Book-ish Resolutions

{ ++ } Hosted by the girls over at The Broke and the Bookish, this meme features a different theme every week, and hey, it’s Tuesday – we’ve got the rest of the week ahead of us.  We all need a little fun, and who doesn’t love the challenge of ranking their top 10 anything…especially when it comes to books?!  I know I do, hence why I thought it’d be fun to participate, and spice things up a little!
January 8, 2012: My 2012 Book-ish Resolutions
{1} To continue to visit my regular blogs, as well as visit blogs who comment here.
{2} To continue to keep my blog scheduled ahead of time so that I don’t revert to my last-minute ways. 😉
{3} To read at least 100 books, and that at least 20 of those be books from my TBR that I own.
{4} To host more authors on the blog with interviews and guest posts.
{5} To get to know my fellow bloggers even more, including meeting new bloggers.
{6} To continue my efforts to reach out to new bloggers in need of advice.
{7} To work on my own writing, and finish my WIP!
{8} To challenge myself to read widely – get back to the paranormal romance/urban fantasy I LOVE, while incorporating YA, and even add in some adult contemporary romance and the like!
{9} To continue to gain not just followers here, but readers, and friends!
{10} To continue to support as many indie authors as I can!
What resolutions made YOUR Top Ten this week?  Or if you don’t participate, what do you think about mine?  Be sure to link me to your post so I can check it out!


Review: Touching the Surface by Kimberly Sabatini

Touching the Surface by Kimberly Sabatini
Publication: October 30, 2012 (Simon Pulse)
Source: Finished copy from the publisher
Rating: Squee-worthy


Experience the afterlife in this lyrical, paranormal debut novel that will send your heart soaring.When Elliot finds herself dead for the third time, she knows she must have messed up, big-time. She doesn’t remember how she landed in the afterlife again, but she knows this is her last chance to get things right.

Elliot just wants to move on, but first she will be forced to face her past and delve into the painful memories she’d rather keep buried. Memories of people she’s hurt, people she’s betrayed…and people she’s killed.

As she pieces together the secrets and mistakes of her past, Elliot must find a way to earn the forgiveness of the person she’s hurt most, and reveal the truth about herself to the two boys she loves…even if it means losing them both forever.

Memorable Quote

The wind roared and the rain battered me.  The storm bellowed, but for the first time in what seemed like an eternity, i felt a pocket of peace inside my soul.  It was mine and no ones else could take it away.  I was the eye of the storm.  

My Review

Touching the Surface was one of my most anticipated books of 2012, and within the first few pages, I was psyched for this story.  I love afterlife novels like Dean Winchester loves pie.  With a lush, ephemeral setting that was described so vividly, and characters that felt real to me immediately, it was impossible not to fall for Touching the Surface.  By the end, I was genuinely moved by this wonderful novel about letting go of the past, in order to hold on to something new.  

I loved the setting; the Obmil is a fantastic, ethereal place. I was confused at first, because Sabatini’s afterlife is complex, and it took me a few chapters to really “get” everything – the levels, the rules.  Once that happened, I could appreciate the world-building, which was actually very well done.  I loved that Kimberly used the “Delves,” or flashbacks as a plot device to get me invested in who these characters were…characters I very quickly grew to love.  

I always enjoy character growth, and that was present in Touching the Surface.  Elliot changed so much from who she was when she arrived in the Obmil; I loved seeing her shed her selfishness and grow into a person who cared about others, and understood the impact of her actions in their lives.  This is a very character-driven strory, and I found myself connecting deeply to Elliot, Julia, Trevor, Owen, and even Mel.  Everyone added a bit to the overall message of Touching the Surface, and I liked how unexpectedly various characters ended up tangled in Elliot’s life.  

Along with the mysteries of the afterlife, and several things that weren’t what I thought them to be, I also fell hard for Trevor.  At first, I was prepared to hate him for his reactions to Elliot, but there was a reason, and I am so, so glad I stuck with Kimberly’s story, and got to know both Trevor, and Oliver.  These two boys play a huge part in Elliot’s life, in different ways; there’s no love triangle here, but there – is – a meaningful love story that blooms sweetly, slowly encompassing Elliot and Trevor.  

Touching the Surface is a story that lingered with me.  I found myself shedding a few tears as the climax swelled toward an ending that was more of a beginning.  Even now, days later, I’m still thinking of this beautiful story, and I urge everyone to read it!

You’re sure to fall for:

The Catastrophic History of You & Me by Jess Rothenberg
If I Lie by Corrine Jackson

About Kimberly

Kimberly Sabatini is a former Special Education Teacher who is now a stay-at-home mom and a part-time dance instructor for 3, 4 and 5 year olds. After her dad passed away in 2005, she used writing as a way to make sense of the experience and discovered that she’s full of questions that need to be answered. She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband and three boys.

Visit Kimberly at: her website | her twitter | her pinterest

Shop for Touching the Surface at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository