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Review: Cam Girl by Leah Raeder

camgirl cover Cam Girl, the third book by author Leah Raeder, was published on November 3 by Atria.

I’ve been an unabashed “Raeder Reader” since her first novel, Unteachable, and I’ve been lucky enough to snag her second and third novels as ARCs so I can share my reviews with you. (Thank you, Atria and NetGalley!)

Read more about the book below, along with my review, and then follow the link for a chance to win one of five signed copies of Cam Girl!

ABOUT CAM GIRL:

Vada Bergen is broke, the black sheep of her family, and moving a thousand miles away from home for grad school, but she’s got the two things she loves most: her art and her best friend—and sometimes more—Ellis Carraway. Ellis and Vada have a friendship so consuming it’s hard to tell where one girl ends and the other begins. It’s intense. It’s a little codependent. And nothing can tear them apart. Until an accident on an icy winter road changes everything.

Vada is left deeply scarred, both emotionally and physically. Her once-promising art career is cut short. And Ellis pulls away, unwilling to talk about that night. Everything Vada loved is gone. She’s got nothing left to lose.
So when she meets some smooth-talking entrepreneurs who offer to set her up as a cam girl, she can’t say no. All Vada has to do is spend a couple hours each night stripping on webcam, and the “tips” come pouring in.

It’s just a kinky escape from reality until a client gets serious. “Blue” is mysterious, alluring, and more interested in Vada’s life than her body. Online, they chat intimately. Blue helps her heal. And he pays well, but he wants her all to himself. No more cam shows. It’s an easy decision: she’s starting to fall for him. But the steamier it gets, the more she craves the real man behind the keyboard. So Vada pops the question: Can we meet IRL?

Blue agrees, on one condition. A condition that will bring back a ghost from her past.

Now Vada must confront what she’s been running from. A past full of devastating secrets—those of others and those she’s been keeping from herself…

My Review:

Like Raeder’s previous heroines, Maise and Laney, I may not have been able to relate to Vada Bergen at first glance. Our circumstances are different, and I’m lucky to have never experienced the kind of suffering Vada has experienced. The narrative voice in Cam Girl is so clear; I found myself falling into Vada’s mindset with ease. Her feelings are beautifully described in stark images and vibrant colors (she is an artist, even at her most broken), and with Raeder’s expert attention to detail, I found myself thinking like Vada, too. The ordinary becomes extraordinary. The juxtaposition of darkness and light is awe-inspiring. Even pain, for all its hellish-ness, is beautiful in Vada’s voice.

Unlike the more conventional romance plot of UnteachableCam Girl‘s plot focuses on Vada’s personal journey as well as her relationships with the important figures in her life.

At the center of Vada’s world is Ellis, her best friend and sometimes-lover, a partner that Vada cannot commit to because she’s always imagined herself ending up with a man.

There is Max: a broken man who entangled himself in Vada’s life after the accident. What they mean to each other is unclear. Their relationship is precarious, balancing on the edge of a cliff.

Finally, there is Blue: a stranger that Vada begins chatting with during her cam girl sessions. There is something that the mysterious Blue awakens in Vada, and she cannot deny the attraction she feels for him. But how can she be in love with someone whose face she’s never seen? How can she fall in love with a screen name, when there are flesh-and-blood people in her life?

Cam Girl is a book that forces you to think about things that have not often been explored in new adult books. The camming industry is presented in raw, unapologetic terms, but all of the workers are strong and completely in control of their situations. They are not victims of their occupations, which is incredibly refreshing.  Cam Girl raises many questions about gender, gender identity, and sexuality which I haven’t seen addressed in many other new adult books.

At its core, Cam Girl is a book about relationships, identity, and finding strength even in the most dire of circumstances. It is not a book about miraculous healing. The characters feel pain that is real, and raw, and it cannot be fixed easily – if at all. But Cam Girl is a book about fighting, and a book about love. Readers of new adult books will not be disappointed with this complex, emotionally-charged novel.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Leah Raeder is a writer and unabashed nerd. She is also the USA Today bestselling author of Unteachable andBlack Iris. Aside from reading her brains out, she enjoys graphic design, video games, fine whiskey, and the art of self-deprecation. She lives with her very own manic pixie dream boy in Chicago. Visit her at www.leahraeder.com.

CAM GIRL by Leah Raeder

 Atria Books Paperback | ISBN: 9781501114991 | On sale: November 3, 2015 | 432 pages | US $16.00 |

eBook: Atria Books | ISBN: 9781501115004 | On sale: November 3, 2015 | 432 pages | US $5.99

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY FOR 1 OF 5 SIGNED COPIES OF CAM GIRL!

Danielle Villano is the editor of BiblioSmiles, and she is really glad you’re here. Learn more on the About page.  Tweet @daniellevillano.

Cover Reveal: Cam Girl by Leah Raeder

I’m pleased to announce that BiblioSmiles is taking part in the cover reveal for Leah Raeder’s third novel, Cam Girl! Raeder’s writing is very near and dear to my heart (did you read my piece on her book, Unteachable, being my book soul mate? How about my review of Black Iris?), and I’m happy to have the opportunity to spread the word on her newest novel!  Cam Girl is set to publish on November 3, 2015, and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. Read about it below and check out the gorgeous, colorful cover!

Raeder_Cam Girl cover final

Vada Bergen is broke, the black sheep of her family, and moving a thousand miles away from home for grad school, but she’s got the two things she loves most: her art, and her best friend and soulmate, Ellis Carraway. Elle and Vada have a friendship so consuming it’s hard to tell where one girl ends and the other begins. It’s intense. It’s a little codependent. And nothing can tear them apart.

Until an accident on an icy winter road changes everything.

Vada is left deeply scarred, both emotionally and physically. Her once-promising art career is cut short. And Ellis pulls away, unwilling to talk about that night. Everything Vada loved is gone.

She’s got nothing left to lose.

So when she meets a smooth-talking lothario who offers to set her up as a cam girl, she can’t say no. All Vada has to do is spend a couple hours each night taking off her clothes on webcam, and the “tips” come pouring in.

It’s all just kinky fun till a client gets serious. “Blue” is mysterious, alluring, and more interested in Vada’s life than her body. Online, they open up to each other intimately. Blue helps her heal. And he pays well, but he wants her all to himself. No more cam shows. She agrees, because she’s starting to fall for him. And when he asks to meet, she says yes. Because she’s dying to know the real man behind the keyboard.

Even if one of his conditions is to bring Ellis. The girl who wants nothing to do with her anymore.

Now Vada must confront the past she’s been running from. A past full of devastating secrets—those of others, and those she’s been keeping from herself…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Leah Raeder is a writer and unabashed nerd. Aside from reading her brains out, she enjoys graphic design, video games, fine whiskey, and the art of self-deprecation. She lives with her very own manic pixie dream boy in Chicago. Visit her at LeahRaeder.com.

PRE-ORDER LINKS:

AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-a-MillionIndieBoundAppleBlioGoogleKobo

UK PRE-ORDER LINKS:

AmazonWaterstonesWHSmithAppleBarnes & NobleKobo

AUS PRE-ORDER LINKS:

BookworldBooktopiaAppleAmazon

Will you be picking up Leah Raeder’s Cam Girl? What do you think of that description? So compelling! And isn’t the cover just beautiful?

Many thanks to Atria Books for allowing me the opportunity to help spread the word!

Review: Black Iris by Leah Raeder

blackirisIt’s easy to wax poetic about a favorite author or book. That’s even more true today, when showing your approval of something is as easy as clicking “Like” or posting relevant GIFs of swoony faces or crying Tobey Maguire.

But if there is a 2015 new adult novel that deserves all the hype and GIFs and five-star ratings, it’s Black Iris by Leah Raeder. Black Iris, set to release on April 28th, is a welcomed departure from a more conventional new adult story. It’s no secret I loved Raeder’s debut novel, Unteachable (I wrote about the book being my “book soul mate” here), but Raeder has really branched out with this unique second novel. You can tell right away – a book with a dedication page that reads “To all the girls I’ve loved” is sure to be an emotional roller coaster. And not in the weepy Nicholas Sparks’ way, either.

The protagonist – and self-proclaimed unreliable narrator – of Black Iris is Laney Keating. She wants you to understand something right off the bat:

I am not the heroine of this story.

And I’m not trying to be cute. It’s the truth. I’m diagnosed borderline and seriously fucked-up. I hold grudges. I bottle my hate until it ferments into poison, and then I get high off the fumes. I’m completely dysfunctional and that’s the way I like it, so don’t expect a character arc where I finally find Redemption, Growth, and Change, or learn How to Forgive Myself and Others.

Laney Keating feels a darkness inside of her, planted at birth by her mother. She struggles with this darkness, but she loves it, too. She describes her actions in violent terms: she bites, she draws blood. She is fierce, and unapologetic, and I became addicted to her manner of storytelling.

Laney befriends two enchanting figures: strong, serious Armin and flirtatious, temperamental Blythe – and the three of them enter into an intense friendship. Bonds are formed, lines are crossed, and all along, Laney nurses her desire for revenge against the people who have harmed her. When Armin and Blythe, loyal and both a little bit in love with her, offer to help her carry out her plans, it alters their relationships and their lives forever.

Girls love each other like animals. There is something ferocious and unself-conscious about it. We don’t guard ourselves like we do with boys. No one trains us to shield our hearts from each other. With girls, it’s total vulnerability from the beginning. Our skin is bare and soft. We love with claws and teeth and the blood is just proof of how much. It’s feral.

And it’s relentless.

Black Iris is actually one of the first books I’ve read that centrally focuses on a girl/girl relationship, and it’s certainly one of the first new adult books that I’ve come across. I thought the connection between Laney and Blythe was perfect. Throughout the novel Laney struggles with her identity – sexual and otherwise – and I am so glad to see that there are books entering the mainstream that tackle these themes. Leah Raeder wrote a great post on her blog about sexuality in Black Iris, so I’ll let her do the talking here. I know the new adult market (which is, let’s face it, new) is still just starting to see diversity in its characters and topics – but I know with books like Black Iris and authors like Leah Raeder, things are finally getting interesting – and it’s beautiful and inspiring and very, very cool. But I don’t just want to praise the relationships in the story for being “different” from other new adult relationships – the author makes the connections between people so intriguing and intoxicating, it’s easy to understand the attraction. I found myself falling for Armin and Blythe along with Laney. They are physically beautiful; Leah Raeder describes bodies in such a stunning way. They are intelligent, and their dialogue is razor-sharp.

Black Iris woke me up as a reader and forced me to focus and think and feel, and I struggled along with Laney on her journey. It was an intense, emotional reading experience, and it took me a long time to process my feelings. I’d say that’s the mark of a good book, wouldn’t you?

On a final note: if you’re looking for a book with dreamy landscapes and startling, colorful imagery: Black Iris is totally for you. You may think that the sky’s been described in just about every way it can be described, but here’s Leah Raeder, shaking things up again. And thank goodness for that.

Danielle Villano is the editor of BiblioSmiles, and she is really glad you’re here. Learn more on the About page.  Tweet @daniellevillano.

It’s Cover Reveal Time: Black Iris by Leah Raeder

I’m so thrilled to be taking part in the cover reveal for Leah Raeder’s new novel, Black Iris. If you couldn’t tell from my post entitled “My Book Soul Mate: Unteachable,” I am very fond of Raeder’s first novel. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of Black Iris! Here’s a description of the book, which releases on April 28, 2015:

It only took one moment of weakness for Laney Keating’s world to fall apart. One stupid gesture for a hopeless crush. Then the rumors began. Slut, they called her. Queer. Psycho. Mentally ill, messed up, so messed up even her own mother decided she wasn’t worth sticking around for. If Laney could erase that whole year, she would. College is her chance to start with a clean slate. She’s not looking for new friends, but they find her: charming, handsome Armin, the only guy patient enough to work through her thorny defenses—and fiery, filterless Blythe, the bad girl and partner in crime who has thorns of her own. But Laney knows nothing good ever lasts. When a ghost from her past resurfaces—the bully who broke her down completely—she decides it’s time to live up to her own legend. And Armin and Blythe are going to help. Which was the plan all along. Because the rumors are true. Every single one. And Laney is going to show them just how true. She’s going to show them all.

And now, the part you’ve all been waiting for: the cover reveal!

blackiris

BOOK DETAILS:

Atria Books | 384 pages | ISBN: 9781476786421 | On sale: April 28, 2015 | List price: $15.00 | eBook ISBN: 9781476786438 | eBook list price: $5.99

Isn’t it gorgeous? So bold! I know I’d pick it up off the shelf based on just the cover alone. What do you think of the cover reveal? And I have one more surprise for you! Leah Raeder and the folks at Atria Books have decided to share an excerpt from the first chapter. Between this cover reveal and a sneak peak – I’ll be dreaming of this book until April 28th!

BLACK IRIS by Leah Raeder

April is the cruelest month, T.S. Eliot said, and that’s because it kills. It’s the month with the highest suicide rate. You’d think December, or even January—the holidays and all that forced cheer and agonized smiling pushing fragile people to the edge—but actually it’s spring, when the world wakes from frostbound sleep and something cruel and final stirs inside those of us who are broken. Like Eliot said: mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain. In the deepest throes of depression, when sunlight is anguish and the sky throbs like one big raw migraine and you just want to sleep until you or everything else dies, you’re less likely to commit suicide than someone coming out of a depressive episode. Drug companies know this. That’s why antidepressants have to be marked with the warning MAY CAUSE SUICIDAL THOUGHTS.

Because what brings you back to life also gives you the means to destroy yourself.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Leah Raeder is a writer and unabashed nerd. Aside from reading her brains out, she enjoys graphic design, video games, fine whiskey, and the art of self-deprecation. She lives with her very own manic pixie dream boy in Chicago. Visit her at LeahRaeder.com.

(You can also follow Leah on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I do all of these things, because I am an unabashed fangirl.)

Has your curiosity been piqued? You can pre-order Black Iris at the following websites: AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-a-MillionIndieBoundUK LINKS: AmazonBarnes & NobleWaterstonesFoylesKoboAppleGoogleAUS LINKS: AppleAmazonGoogle. (Don’t worry… we have all you readers covered!)

Are you looking forward to reading Black Iris? I think it sounds like an incredibly unique addition to the new adult genre. I’d love to hear your thoughts below. I also want to give a huge thanks to the people at Atria Books for allowing me the opportunity to be a part of the cover reveal for one of my most anticipated books of 2015!