REVIEW: American Honey by Nancy Scrofano

American Honey Book Cover American Honey
Nancy Scrofano
Young Adult

After graduating high school, Olivia “Ollie” McKenna leaves her small town roots in Summerville, Georgia, to pursue her dream of becoming a professional singer. With her best friend and older sister in tow, wholesome Ollie travels to the big city to compete in singing contest Atlanta Idol. There she meets nineteen-year-old Jack Bradley, a fellow country singer who quickly becomes a close friend. The connection between them is magnetic and an opportunity to sing together could change their lives forever. But what about Ollie's mama's fear of the music business? She's been burned by the lures of the bright lights before and doesn't want Ollie anywhere near that world. And Ollie's growing feelings for Jack as more than just a pal could ruin everything. Despite her own doubts, Ollie is determined to win. Can she make her dream come true or will she return to her hometown empty-handed and brokenhearted?

I received a copy of American Honey by Nancy Scrofano in exchange for a review and my honest opinion.

I prefer to jump into books without much idea of what to expect, so that (hopefully) I can be pleasantly surprised! This book was definitely unexpected.

The main character, eighteen year old Ollie, has big dreams of becoming a music star. The book follows her as she attempts to break into the music business and make it to the country music mecca that is Nashville, Tennessee.

I liked the plot; it wasn’t particularly unexpected, drawing on shows like American Idol for inspiration, but I always enjoy these kind of journey-stories, and particularly liked the music aspect. The addition of some cute boys helped, too.

What was surprising, however, was the overall tone of the book. Scrofano chose to write a young, naive character who was extremely religious; throughout the book she (and other characters) regularly pray and consider the morality of their actions. Combined with the extremely Southern mannerisms of the characters – there were lots of ‘ma’am”s, and ‘mama”s – this did at times make the story saccharine sweet. That said, from what I know, this is a pretty realistic representation of the South, so while unfamiliar to me, it didn’t feel fake.

Scrofano’s aim was to write a book for young adults that was more age-appropriate than many of the other, far more explicit, books in the same genre. Personally, I think this was an admirable aim, and fairly well executed. It’s extremely difficult to write a relatively sex-free book aimed at Young Adults, and keep young readers interested. As far as Christian Fiction is concerned, I’d consider this one of the better examples. In a more general Young Adult category, I suspect that many readers might be startled by the restraint showed by Scrofano in holding off on throwing her main characters into bed. That said, the Ollie’s best friend and older sister were less reserved, so perhaps it all balances out.

My main issue with the book was with the relationship between the two main characters. In practically the first page, Ollie introduces herself to Jack (the boy who will take centre stage in her life for the rest of the book), and immediately decides that they  are connected – with scarcely a dozen words exchanged. This felt very unrealistic, and I wasn’t sure why Scrofano rushed the connection. Ollie goes on to flip between saying that she’s falling for him and that she just thinks of him as a friend, which got a little frustrating, as it was obvious that she’d fallen for him in that first conversation, regardless of what she later said… That aside, as the book progressed, their interactions became more authentic.

Personally, knowing that Scrofano plans for this to be the first book in a series of at least three, I wasn’t too upset that Ollie and Jack didn’t race into a physical relationship. I’m of the mind that young people these days grow up too quickly, and believe that it’s normal to be sexually active from a young age. I know, that makes me sound like a Grandma. But I think if you’re not mature enough to understand the consequences of something, then you shouldn’t be doing it! I liked that this book portrayed a different way of growing up; if there were more books for like this for maturing readers, then maybe they’d feel like there are more options than just sleeping around because it’s ‘what everyone does’.

So, you see, this relatively simple book raised a whole set of issues about society, that really set me thinking. I definitely recommend giving it a try, and seeing what you think. It’s available from Amazon here. I’d be interested in knowing what you think!

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REVIEW: Merry & Bright Christmas Anthology

Merry & Bright Book Cover Merry & Bright
Lauren Clark, Libby Mercer, Cindy Arora, Nancy Scrofano, Laura Chapman, Isabella Louise Anderson
Chick Lit

Sip your eggnog, linger under the mistletoe, and make a Christmas wish. Merry & Bright brings you six tales of Christmas cheer, featuring stories of budding romances, Southern charm, lost loves, heaps of humour, and lots of pie by authors Isabella Louise Anderson, Cindy Arora, Laura Chapman, Lauren Clark, Libby Mercer, and Nancy Scrofano. From sunny Los Angeles to the Rocky Mountains to the Deep South, Merry & Bright will take you on a heartwarming adventure you’ll love to visit again and again. Wrap yourself in holiday mirth and prepare to be swept off your feet.

I received a copy of this e-book in exchange for a review and my honest opinion. 

Merry Christmas Blogosphere! I hope you’re all enjoying some freedom. family, and friends over the Christmas/New Years break! If you’re suffering from some holiday blues, however, then I suggest picking up a copy of Merry & Bright for a cheer-up. These six stories are full of Christmas cheer, romance, family drama, mistletoe and fresh-baked goodies.

Each story was based on a different female character’s experiences in the holidays. Personally, my favourite was the first story in the anthology; “A Very Dixie Christmas” by Lauren Clark. Perhaps this had something to do with it being the longest story in the anthology, or perhaps it was the skill with which Clark immediately pulled us into the warm world of the Ella Rae Bakery. Had this story been turned into a full length novel, I think I could have easily devoured it. I’ll be keeping an eye out for her future works!

In “Christmas at Mulberry Inn” Cindy Arora quickly set the scene of her Christmas tale with some interesting characters and a festive holiday setting. These characters were surprisingly well developed for such a short story, and I was again left wanting more. I did feel that the story was wrapped up a little quickly, considering the details in the first half of it, but it was fun and engaging. I’d be happy to return to the Mulberry Inn anytime!

I found “Ice Dating” by Nancy Scrofano and “Secret Santa” by Libby Mercy a little cliché… In part, I blame the length. It’s hard to describe four failed engagements in 30 pages, as Scrofano tried to do in “Ice Dating”, which meant that the story seemed a little far-fetched, and hard to relate to. Similarly, in “Secret Santa”, I picked the ‘twist’ early on and found the story quite un-engaging; perhaps there just wasn’t the time to hook me.

“Twelve Drummers Drumming” by Laura Chapman was a feel good love story, about finding a good man and trusting your instincts – jumping to conclusions can be a bad idea! The idyllic snowy setting and little Christmas miracle brought a smile to my face.

For those looking for a more racy read, “Meet Me Under the Mistletoe” (Isabella Louise Anderson) held tinges of what I imagine “50 Shades of Grey” to hold – though I refuse to read the latter for the sake of my literary integrity. While things can’t get too spicy under the mistletoe in less than 35 pages, Anderson manages to write a love-at-first-sight romance.

All in all, I think this anthology had a little something for everyone. The stories were short, and perfect to read in one sitting in between the crazy running around of Christmas, or when you’re feeling a little of the Christmas blues. I did catch a few spelling mistakes, enough to drive a grammar nut a little crazy, but not enough to turn me off the book.

Christmas may be over for 2013, but you can grab a copy on Amazon here for a few dollars and keep it on your bookshelf ready for next year! Merry Christmas!

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