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Book Review: Smoke & Summons (Numina Trilogy #1)

Smoke & Summons Book Cover

Rating: 3.5 stars

As a human vessel for an ancient spirit, Sandis lives no ordinary life. At the command of her master, she can be transformed against her will into his weapon—a raging monster summoned to do his bidding. Unlike other vessels, Sandis can host extremely powerful spirits, but hosting such creatures can be fatal. To stay alive, she must run. And in a city fueled by smoke and corruption, she finds a surprising ally.

A cunning thief for hire, Rone owns a rare device that grants him immortality for one minute every day—a unique advantage that will come in handy in Sandis’s fight for freedom. But Sandis’s master knows how powerful she is. He’s determined to get her back, and he has the manpower to find her, wherever she runs.

Now, to outwit her pursuers, Sandis must put all her trust in Rone and his immortal device. For her master has summoned more than mere men to hunt her down…

I’m having a hard time deciding on what rating to give this story. I overall enjoyed reading it because I found the story and world-building interesting. The author does a wonderful job creating an immersive world to pull us into with a story and unique characters that you as a reader can get behind. I especially enjoyed reading from Sandis’s perspective and learning more about her abilities as she runs away from the man trying to capture and control her.

But at the same time, I personally sometimes found the story itself to move at a very slow pace. Not because I didn’t find the story interesting or wasn’t enjoying what I was reading. It just felt at times like the plot was moving too slow for me like I was always waiting for something to happen to Sandis and Rone. Even during the moments when they were just resting and had successfully managed to avoid capture.

What I enjoyed with regards to Smoke & Summons is the world our protagonists are in. I wouldn’t necessarily call it grim, but it’s not exactly what one would call one of the safest universes to be immersed in. Especially for someone like Sandis who had no choice in the matter in being able to control an ancient spirit. In their universe, her abilities are considered something to be feared. So, she’s not only on the run from the man who’s controlled her powers but the authorities in their world.

I also enjoyed reading about her powers. Especially since you as the reader discover that Sandis has started forming a connection with the ancient spirit she’s been a vessel for. I found learning about her abilities interesting because it’s a power I haven’t read too many stories about before. It’s also very interesting to read about too because her abilities with this ancient spirit aren’t like all the other vessels her master Kazen has control over. She has more control over summoning this spirit than any of the other vessels does and has a memory of what the spirit does whenever it takes over her body. None of the other characters in the story with her abilities have that type of control so I found that interesting to see.

What I enjoyed the most when reading Smoke & Summons was there was no forced romance between the two protagonists. Yes, it’s clear that they both have feelings for each other. However, Charlie N. Holmberg never forced romance into the story with Sandis and Rone. Most books of this genre always try to include romance into the story in some form or another. So, it was nice to see that not occur in this book.

But while I enjoyed this world and the overall storyline, the biggest criticism I have I already mentioned earlier, with regards to the pacing of the story. I found there were some moments when reading that the story just moved too slow. Most of this book I noticed involved Sandis and Rone on the run from Kazen and the numerous Numen and people he used to help catch them. There really wasn’t too much plot that moved the story forward involving Sandis discovering her connection with the ancient spirit that controlled her body. While I overall didn’t mind because when reading the story, you understand why that’s the case, it sometimes made the story drag on a little too much when you wanted to know more about Sandis and her abilities.

I overall enjoyed reading Smoke & Summons and am definitely planning on reading the next book in the trilogy Myths and Mortals. I just hope the next book improves in the pacing of the story so that this trilogy continues to interest me enough to want to read the next book to see what happens to our protagonists.

Book Review: Noughts & Crosses (Noughts and Crosses #1)

Noughts and Crosses Book Cover

Rating: 4 stars

Sephy and Callum have been friends since early childhood. And that’s as far as it can go. Because theirs is a world full of prejudice, racism, distrust and mounting terrorist violence.

Despite all this, a romance builds between the two friends.

But this is a love that could lead them both into terrible danger…

The summary on the back of Noughts & Crosses doesn’t do it any justice. From the beginning, this book had me hooked, wanting to know how this story would go. It was an emotional rollercoaster that while in the moment didn’t produce any tears from me, it made me have an array of emotions when I was finished.

It tells the tragic story of Sephy and Callum, best friends since childhood who over the years of their lives fall in love with each other. But they can’t be together because of racism and terrorist violence which threatens to tear their lives apart.

I received this book through Blind Date With a Book Club, a website where for the next six months, you get a mystery book based on the genres you’ve chosen. This is the first book of the six I received, and I couldn’t be more pleased with it.

What I love about this book is that it emotionally hooked me into the story. As a reader, this story really pulled me in, made me root for Sephy and Callum to be together despite the many obstacles that stood in their way. I wanted so badly for their love story to work out even though I knew the chances were slim because of how dark this story became.

I also appreciate the honesty in which this story portrays heavy topics such as racism. This book gets seriously dark in the way it shows you as the reader how much racism can affect the world around you. How hatred for someone because of the color of their skin can really cause harm to the people that hatred is turned towards. This book does a spectacular job of showing you as the reader how this hatred can really hurt people, especially those you love. I’m not scared to admit that this dystopia world sometimes frightened me because it felt so real and it wasn’t that long ago that the world we live in acted the way the Crosses do towards the Noughts.

But experiencing that fear helped me because as someone with privilege, I know I’ll never understand what the Noughts went through. Though in this dystopia world, the author turns racism on its head, since Noughts in the story are white people experiencing racism from black people. I thought that was an interesting dynamic because it made me think and I feel like it helped me understand racism better. Especially since Malorie Blackman used a lot of experiences to show how terrible racism can truly be. Before reading this book, I felt like I understood racism, but I truly believe this book really showed me how dark it can get, and that people tend to take it way too far.

I felt like this book really spoke to me too. My partner and I aren’t the typical relationship you expect to see so I feel like I can relate to this story because of it. It made me think about our relationship and made me realize how much I truly appreciate my partner. Our relationship isn’t always easy, but I truly feel like we’re meant to be together despite the obstacles we’ve faced. So, in many ways, I feel like I can relate to Sephy and Callum’s relationship because they both went through some hurdles to be together.

My biggest criticism with Noughts & Crosses is that while I was rooting for Sephy and Callum to be together, there were moments where I didn’t understand why they still cared for each other. Throughout the book, their relationship is put through the ringer. Yet, both Sephy and Callum still end up caring about each other despite the many situations their put in during their romance. Situations that would typically result in one or both people involved wanting to separate from each other. The best example that comes to mind happens close to the end of the story and is the result of the way their romance ends. I won’t go too much into it because I don’t want to spoil this book for anyone, but I really don’t understand why these two characters chose that moment to do that. It was the worst timing on their part and I knew as soon as it happened it would cause the end of their relationship. It also just didn’t make sense to me because the situation they both were in wasn’t an ideal moment for them to give into impulses.

Like I said, I can relate to their relationship, so I do overall understand why they wanted to be together. But there were moments in the story where for their own safety, they shouldn’t have been. Or where they both made rash decisions that they shouldn’t have, which impacted not only them but those closest to them.

Another criticism I had while reading was that while I loved that this story was told from two points of view (Sephy and Callum), there were times I didn’t overall like the writing from their perspectives. I know both these characters are young, so I get that what they said or did sounded childish, but there were times for me when it was a bit too much. I especially noticed this a lot when the story was being told from Sephy’s perspective. Maybe part of that in the story is that Blackman wanted to showcase with Sephy her privilege through the way she acted during certain moments in the story. Either way, it was something I wasn’t too fond of despite liking that this story is told from two different perspectives.

But overall, Noughts & Crosses was a really gripping, emotional read for me to complete and I enjoyed every minute of it. I’m also happy that this was the first book I was given with Blind Date With a Book Club and can’t wait to see what book I’ll receive from them next.

 

Book Review: Good Me Bad Me

Good Me Bad Me Book Cover

Rating: 3 stars

Good Me Bad Me is dark, compelling, voice-driven psychological suspense by debut author Ali Land.

How far does the apple really fall from the tree? 

Milly’s mother is a serial killer. Though Milly loves her mother, the only way to make her stop is to turn her in to the police. Milly is given a fresh start: a new identity, a home with an affluent foster family, and a spot at an exclusive private school. 

But Milly has secrets, and life at her new home becomes complicated. As her mother’s trial looms, with Milly as the star witness, Milly starts to wonder how much of her is nature, how much of her is nurture, and whether she is doomed to turn out like her mother after all. 

When tensions rise, and Milly feels trapped by her shiny new life, she has to decide: Will she be good? Or is she bad? She is, after all, her mother’s daughter.

I enjoyed reading this book but was also disappointed with it at the same time. There are a lot of aspects of the book I really enjoyed. However, there was a lot left to be desired too.

What I loved about Good Me Bad Me was getting to see into the mind of a serial killer’s daughter. Getting to see how this trauma of witnessing her mother murdering children affected Milly’s life in her new home. When the story begins, you as the reader can’t help feeling sympathetic to Milly. She’s just a young girl after all who lives alone with her mother, whose story really tugs at your heart and makes you want to cheer her on as she adjusts to a new life that is full of complications of its own. Especially since you get to see into her thoughts and how she reacts to being bullied by Phoebe and her friends while she’s just trying to make it through each day before the trial that’ll forever cement her into her new life. I found this aspect of the story interesting, though Milly’s thought process wasn’t at all what I expected from her, but I understood that because I knew she went through something most girls her age never have to deal with.

I also like that the story is told from her perspective because it becomes apparent in the story that she’s an unreliable narrator. This becomes obvious close to the end of the story when certain truths are later revealed to you. Its also apparent because as the reader you observe her omitting information from other characters in the story because she believes she’s lying to them for their own good, though you as the reader already know exactly what’s going on.

Another thing I like about this book is the different subject matters this book talks about, despite not fully talking about these things in the story. This story talks about things such as cutting, bullying, suicide, abuse, psychology, alcoholism, rape, trauma, and cheating. But somewhat does it in a way that as a reader makes you think about what’s happening in the story even though we’re only hearing about all these details from Milly’s perspective. These different topics add interesting layers to this story and make you as the reader deeply think about what’s happening. Make you question what you think you know and what you think will happen in the story.

But, there’s also a lot of fault that can be found in Good Me Bad Me too. For starters, there are a lot of characters that are hard to like. I especially had a hard time liking Phoebe because she’s such a bitch throughout and Phoebe’s mother Saskia wasn’t very likable either. In general, I didn’t like the whole family Milly stayed with because I felt like the parents were clueless to the bullying Milly endured and it seemed like despite the father Mike being an expert therapist, he seemed clueless about the problems going on in his own family. I liked Milly as a character because she had depth and was interesting to read about, but even she at times could be a little too whiny for my liking. Or acted in a way I didn’t expect her character to act. Even her mother who was a serial killer wasn’t much of a character in this story even though the whole book centered around her. You only get glimpses of her but we as readers never get to really see her character in the way Milly describes.

There were also parts of the plot I wasn’t overall pleased with either. I especially was disappointed with how the proceedings for the trial went. Milly made it out like there was going to be a showdown between her and her mother, but nothing of the sort happened. It was just a short court proceeding with very little conflict of significance. What happened in the trial with the one defense lawyer was the most interesting thing during the trial, but nothing became of it in a way that truly impacted Milly’s life or the outcome of the trial.

Another example with the plot that comes to mind for me has to do with Phoebe’s character and her treatment of Milly throughout the story. While I’m not fond of her character, I thought the way they made this conflict between the two of them go away didn’t add anything to the story. Yes, it was interesting and made me want to find out how this impacted their lives. But I felt like it was the easy way out instead of making the two of them have a conversation and attempt to resolve their differences. Or letting their conflict come to a head and seeing what exactly Phoebe was planning to do. Because while I hated Phoebe’s character and believe she got exactly what she deserved, I didn’t think that’s the way the story should’ve gone for her and Milly. I find that’s my biggest problem with the plot: there’s conflict, but its never talked about or fully resolved in a way I as a reader can appreciate. These two moments in the story, the trial and Phoebe, are two of many examples in this story that have conflict that gets solved in such a simple way it’s disappointing to me as a reader.

I also wasn’t fond of the decision Ali Land made with regards to the direction Milly’s character would go. I wouldn’t have minded it so much if Milly’s character overall acted that way throughout the book. But to me, I felt like her character did a complete turn in the opposite direction she was originally heading, and I wasn’t okay with it. While I understand why the story ended the way it did, I also felt like it wasn’t the right call because Milly’s character wasn’t like that through most of the story. I think part of my problem with it is because I was really rooting for Milly to be a better person, to make good decisions and not follow in her mother’s footsteps. This story made me believe she would turn her life around and do things for herself so that she could finally be happy and not have to deal with her mother’s shadow. It also doesn’t help that the story all a sudden ends and we never find out what happens next. We never get to find out whether Milly is going to stay with the family she considers home or if she’s going to be sent to a different home because of her problems.

So, while I enjoyed reading Good Me Bad Me, there’s a lot with this book I didn’t like too. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy reading it, I just can’t say I enjoyed everything about it because there’s a lot in the story for me not to love. It was an interesting read though because of Milly’s character and perspective and because I found the subject matter interesting. I just can’t say though that it didn’t have any problems because for me, it did.

Book Review: The Book of Speculation

The Book of Speculation Book Cover

Rating: 4 stars

A sweeping and captivating debut novel about a young librarian who is sent a mysterious old book, inscribed with his grandmother’s name. What is the book’s connection to his family?

Simon Watson, a young librarian, lives alone on the Long Island Sound in his family home, a house perched on the edge of a cliff that is slowly crumbling into the sea. His parents are long dead, his mother having drowned in the water his house overlooks.

One day, Simon receives a mysterious book from an antiquarian bookseller; it has been sent to him because it is inscribed with the name Verona Bonn, Simon’s grandmother. Simon must unlock the mysteries of the book, and decode his family history before fate deals its next deadly hand. 

The Book of Speculation is Erika Swyler’s gorgeous and moving debut, a wondrous novel about the power of books, family, and magic.

This book was quite a fantastical tale. It was exactly what I needed whenever I was reading it because it reminded me why I love reading so much. I particularly enjoyed reading about Simon and his family, their connection to the circus that’s also discussed in chapters throughout this book. I found it particularly interesting that he and his sister Enola both have the tenacity to hold their breath underwater for a long period of time and learning about their family history with that.

What I especially enjoyed with reading The Book of Speculation is the whole mystery surrounding Simon’s family. When he receives this book from Churchwarry, you as the reader watch as he puzzles over why Churchwarry sent this book to him, to begin with. As the story continues, however, and Simon begins to learn more about his family, he starts to understand what’s truly going on and what he needs to do to break the curse that seems to surround the women in his family he cares about. There’s just something about this aspect in the story that really intrigued me enough to continue reading. It was like I wanted to be involved in figuring out the mystery and what could be done to break the curse and I loved it.

I also loved reading about these characters too, especially Simon and his sister Enola. Like other characters in the book said, there’s something about their family that draws you to them and I found myself feeling that just from reading about them. I think part of the appeal was just feeling sympathetic to Simon and what he’s had to go through at this point in his life that I was rooting him on because I wanted things to get better for their family. I also found Doyle’s character interesting because he wasn’t someone I expected in the story and I wish we’d learned a little more about him while the story went on.

What made this book a fantastical read for me was the circus as a collective whole. I found learning about this circus and all the different people in it interesting and wanted to learn more about them. I especially loved learning about mermaids, the curse and tarot reading because all these aspects in the story played a crucial role in finding out how to break the curse. I also found it added an extra layer of magic to the story and I enjoyed every minute I spent learning about this world.

My biggest criticism for The Book of Speculation was not getting to read from the circus’s perspective about the tragedy that befell them and that caused the curse Simon had to break. I also wish that certain truths weren’t a part of the story because it took a little bit away from the main storyline. I don’t want to reveal too much because I don’t want to spoil this book, but reading that certain relationships happened when Simon and Enola were younger really made me dislike a character I was originally fond of, though it made me understand why he was so eager for Simon to not give up on the house. While this aspect of the story added an additional layer to everything else going on, I also felt like it wasn’t needed and would’ve preferred it being left out.

But overall, I enjoyed reading this book. It reminded me why I love the power of the written word so much and it was a delightful surprise I wasn’t expecting.

 

Book Review: Uprooted

Uprooted Book Review

Rating: 4 stars

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course, that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

Uprooted is one of many stories that reminds me of why I love reading fantasy so much. The amount of fantasy in this story was beautifully written, hooked me from the first page to the last. It was like I could feel the magic being told in this story all around me as I read, and I loved every minute of it. As someone who loves reading fantasy, this book took me on a magical journey that I never wanted to see the end of.

The story building Naomi Novik does to bring this world to life is very well done. You get a wonderful glimpse of the world Agnieszka grows up in and see how the dangerous Wood plays a pivotal role in events that shape up parts of her life. At first, you don’t understand why the Dragon chooses a new girl every ten years to live in his tower until you get further into the story and learn more about him as a character. I found learning about all these intricate details to create the world these characters live in fascinating and wanted to see more of this world with each page I turned. Her writing is very powerful because it sucks you as the reader into the story she’s telling and makes you want to go on this adventure, into this world along with them.

While the world and story in Uprooted really sucked me in because it was interesting and very magical, I do have some criticisms with this story too. For starters, it took me a little while to like the characters in the story Novik introduces the reader to and the decisions they made. This was especially true to me for the protagonist Agineszka because she made some very irrational decisions in the story because people she loved were in danger. While I could relate to her character overall because she somewhat reminds me of myself, there were moments I didn’t like her due to the decisions she made without thinking of the consequences her choices would cause. Not to say I didn’t understand why she made these choices, but I sometimes thought she needed to put in some more thought to the decisions she made and how her choices would impact the lives of others.

I also wasn’t particularly fond of the romance Novik set up between two of the characters in the story. I honestly felt like it wasn’t necessary because it just didn’t make sense for these two people to be romantically involved with each other. They weren’t well suited for each other and it wasn’t something I was interested in seeing whenever I was reading this book. It just didn’t feel like it belonged in the story, so I was disappointed when I saw this romance occur between the two of them.

However, I really enjoyed reading this book because the world and the magical fantasy within its pages captivated my attention. This book reminds me so much of why I love reading fantasy books so much and I can’t wait to read Spinning Silver, even though it’s not a sequel but sounds like its very similar to Uprooted. I recommend this story to fantasy lovers like me and anyone who wants to read a story set in a wonderfully detailed world that’ll take you on a journey unlike any other. This book had a story that captivated my heart and that I know in the years to come I’ll be reading again.

Book Review: Shout

Shout Book Cover

Rating: 4 stars

A searing poetic memoir and call to action from the bestselling and award-winning author of Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson!

Bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson is known for the unflinching way she writes about, and advocates for, survivors of sexual assault. Now, inspired by her fans and enraged by how little in our culture has changed since her groundbreaking novel Speak was first published twenty years ago, she has written a poetry memoir that is as vulnerable as it is rallying, as timely as it is timeless. In free verse, Anderson shares reflections, rants, and calls to action woven between deeply personal stories from her life that she’s never written about before. Searing and soul-searching, this important memoir is a denouncement of our society’s failures and a love letter to all the people with the courage to say #metoo and #timesup, whether aloud, online, or only in their own hearts. Shout speaks truth to power in a loud, clear voice– and once you hear it, it is impossible to ignore.

This book was so beautifully written that I enjoyed every minute I spent reading it. The overall writing style in this book reminds me so much of Ellen Hopkins’s young adult, contemporary, poetry prose. Like her works, Shout does a wonderful job of telling Laurie Halse Anderson’s story in poetic format. The difference being though that her story is a memoir, based on her own life experiences that she had during her adolescence.

For me, that made this book that much more beautiful. I found her story from teenager to young adult relatable as she talks about her experience with sexual assault and how that helped shape her into the adult she is now. Her poetry style flowed very well and was easy for me as a reader to follow along. As a result, I found myself wanting to continue reading her story to see how she handled her life experiences.

Another element of this memoir I enjoy is the honesty with which Anderson talks about sexual assault. Not only with regards to how it affected her own life but also how she’s seen her writing about it impact the lives of others. I don’t recall if I’ve mentioned this in any of my blog posts before or not, but her book Speak is one of my favorite books. The first time I read it, I knew it was an important book that I’d always have on my bookshelf and it’s a story I’ve read countless times. With Shout, I find myself feeling the same way because the story being told within its pages is just as important.

I appreciate that this book brings up important topics such as sexual assault and censorship when it comes to allowing children to read certain books. Both topics need to be addressed, especially in books. It saddens me to see so little has changed when it comes to these topics and I appreciate Anderson’s words bringing this truth to light and letting us know she wants to continue being a voice of change.

There is very little with this memoir I didn’t enjoy, except maybe certain poems didn’t flow very well. Or that I found when reading certain parts of the overall story didn’t feel quite as strong as others. I overall loved each of the sections in this book, but I sometimes found the writing worked well in one section over the other. Not to say that I didn’t enjoy the content, I just didn’t find that section quite as enjoyable to read as the other. It was interesting and caught my attention but didn’t speak to me quite as much.

Either way, I overall enjoyed reading Shout. To the point where I’m at a loss of words to describe my thoughts on this book. It’s a good book, full of content that gets straight to the point and leaves quite the punch. If you haven’t read it already, I highly recommend it, especially to those who love poetry/prose and memoirs. It’s also good for young adult readers and those who enjoy reading books that deal with difficult topics.

Book Review: We Are Okay

We Are Okay Book Cover

Rating: 3.5 stars

“You go through life thinking there’s so much you need…

Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother.”

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit, and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.

We Are Okay is a book that leaves me with mixed feelings about what I think of it overall. I enjoyed reading it because I can relate to the content within its pages. But at the same time, I also struggled with the story because of the way Marin decided to handle her grief.

What I loved about this story was the subject matter, the shift between past and present in each chapter, and Marin’s relationship with her best friend Mabel. I found this story heavily relatable to me because I too have lost someone very close to me recently. So, I could understand the feelings Nina LaCour used with Marin to describe the overall grief she felt at her grandfather’s passing. I felt sympathetic to her character as she dealt with this loss while going through what’s supposed to be one of the most exciting moments in your life: going to college. I can’t imagine how tough it must’ve been for her being at that college, knowing she doesn’t have anyone left in her family that she could talk to about her first day of school and starting the road to becoming an adult. Just reading the story from Marin’s perspective, knowing how lonely she was feeling despite having other people who cared about her reminded me of the grief I’ve been dealing with since the passing of my best friend. Even though I know I have people who care about me and that are here for me, I completely understood Marin’s feelings in this story. So, for me, this story did a wonderful job of talking about grief, loss, depression, and loneliness when it comes to losing someone you deeply care about.

One of the aspects of We Are Okay that I loved is the shift LaCour does between Marin’s past from before her grandfather passed away and her life presently. I felt like this shift as readers allowed us to see more into Marin’s life from before everything changed for her. It also allowed us as readers to see the dynamic between Marin and grandfather, which gave us an even better understanding as to why she made the decisions she did. There’s a lot we don’t know about him when we’re first introduced to Marin so by having these different chapters, we as readers are given the chance to learn more about his character and about Marin too.

Seeing the relationship between Marin and her best friend Mabel was also something I really enjoyed when reading this book. You can tell with Marin that she really loved her best friend with all her heart. And while things with their relationship didn’t go the way you as the reader hoped, I was glad that despite everything that happened since Marin left California for college, Mabel still wanted to be there for Marin and be a part of her life. I found seeing that in their beautiful friendship wonderful. Reading about their friendship reminded me of my friendship with my best friend, even though our friendship was not like theirs at all. But I still found it relatable because my friendship with her was similar in that we were always there for each other whenever it really mattered, just like Mabel wanted to be there for Marin during this difficult moment in her life.

However, there are some things with We Are Okay that I didn’t like as well. For starters, I felt like the pacing of the story sometimes moved a little slow. While I understood why that was the case in that since she was dealing with this loss, Marin was experiencing a lot of feelings, such as depression, loneliness and isolation and LaCour wanted to show us, readers, how these feelings were affecting her. And while she did a good job showing us that, I felt like the story could’ve moved on a little bit more in showing us Mabel’s visit and the conversations they had while she was there.

While I understood Marin’s decision to leave California and everyone she knew there behind to go to college in New York, I felt like the way she handled it wasn’t the best. I get she wasn’t in the right state of mind when everything happened, so she was reacting in an irrational manner because of her grief and the anger she was feeling towards her grandfather. But she also had a circle of people left who cared about her that she could’ve confided in when this all happened so she wouldn’t have had to deal with her feelings alone. They were trying to reach out to her to make sure she was okay, and she ignored them all instead once she left. So, while I understood why she made this decision, at the same time, I still think she shouldn’t have too because these people that cared about her were worried about her and wanted to be there for her during this difficult moment in her life.

This is why I’m struggling with what I think about We Are Okay as a whole. Because I enjoyed reading this book, due to being able to relate to the subject matter and feeling empathetic with her character. But I also wasn’t okay with Marin’s decision to leave behind the people she had left that cared about her. So overall, I did enjoy it but have some criticisms with it too that I felt needed to be addressed. I definitely plan on reading more books by this author in the near future, such as Hold Still to see if she has any other books I’d enjoy.

 

Book Review: Born at Midnight (Shadow Falls #1)

Born at Midnight Book Cover

Rating: 3 stars

Don’t miss this spectacular new series that will steal your heart and haunt your dreams, Welcome to Shadow Falls camp, nestled deep in the woods of a town called Fallen…

One night Kylie Galen finds herself at the wrong party, with the wrong people, and it changes her life forever. Her mother ships her off to Shadow Falls—a camp for troubled teens, and within hours of arriving, it becomes painfully clear that her fellow campers aren’t just “troubled.” Here at Shadow Falls, vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, witches and fairies train side by side—learning to harness their powers, control their magic and live in the normal world.

Kylie’s never felt normal, but surely she doesn’t belong here with a bunch of paranormal freaks either. Or does she? They insist Kylie is one of them, and that she was brought here for a reason. As if life wasn’t complicated enough, enter Derek and Lucas. Derek’s a half-fae who’s determined to be her boyfriend, and Lucas is a smokin’ hot werewolf with whom Kylie shares a secret past. Both Derek and Lucas couldn’t be more different, but they both have a powerful hold on her heart. 

Even though Kylie feels deeply uncertain about everything, one thing is becoming painfully clear—Shadow Falls is exactly where she belongs…

Born at Midnight is an interesting read. However, it’s also a story that falls flat in a lot of areas too, making it a book series I’m still trying to decide if it’s worth investing time into.

The premise of the story centers on a young girl named Kylie who finds her life going wrong in every way. Her boyfriend breaks up with her, parents are getting divorced and her grandmother has recently passed away. To make things even more difficult, her parents send her off to camp for troubled teens after being arrested at a party even though she didn’t smoke or drink anything. But she soon discovers this camp isn’t for troubled teens like it’s made out to be, but for young teenagers who are supernaturals with abilities. Despite not knowing what she is, Kylie finds that for once in her life, she fits right in. But her life at camp isn’t quite so easy either with her attention shifted between discovering who she is, her feelings for two different boys, and the problems going on at camp that could result in it being shut down.

What made this book an interesting read for me was all the supernatural elements in the story and the characters themselves. While I feel like they didn’t highlight the supernatural parts of the story all that much, what I found of them in between the pages was interesting enough to make me continue reading. I found the idea of the camp to be interesting even though some aspects of it were poorly executed. It reminded me a little bit of Camp Half-Blood from the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series as well as the boarding school in the House of Night series. What I liked about the Shadows Falls camp that reminded me of both series was the one-hour session these teens had where they drew names and learned about the other person’s supernatural culture. While I felt like the way C.C. Hunter went about this wasn’t the best (aka, Kylie ended up most of the time getting the names of the two guys she’s debating between so I feel like most of the time was spent with her romantic interests), I still liked the idea and was intrigued to learn more about the different supernaturals in the story.

Another supernatural element in the story that interested me was learning about Kylie’s abilities. While during most of the story she tried the best she could to suppress her powers, I found that whenever Kylie did use them, it made the story that much more interesting to me. What intrigued me about her powers was that she didn’t have too much control over them, but also the way they were described in detail to the reader. It makes me interested in wanting to continue the story just to find out how as a character she grows into her supernatural identity, whatever that may be since that’s a mystery to us too.

While I enjoyed reading Born at Midnight, there are some flaws with this book too that need to be addressed. While I enjoyed learning more about the characters in the story and their different abilities, I wish there was more of a focus on character development. Yes, Kylie does undergo some changes because of where she’s at and her relationship with both of her parents completely shift. But at the same time, I still don’t see her character changing all that much. While she does seem to fully accept her powers and that she does belong at this camp, I still don’t see her fully coming into her own by the end of the story. Maybe that happens more so in the rest of the series, but I didn’t see that happening in this book. I know part of that struggle could be due to not knowing what type of supernatural she is, so I do applaud the author with having that struggle continue into the next book in the series. But for this book, it would’ve been nice to see her character develop more and see her fully come into her abilities.

Another criticism I have for this first book in the series is the love triangle between her, Derek and Lucas. It felt like with both boys there was an instant attraction, but for different reasons. Her feelings with Derek were due to him being a reminder of her ex while her attraction for Lucas seemed to stem from her past with him. But with both, it seemed like she was instantly attracted to them whenever she had some alone time to spend with them, which didn’t feel right to me. I also didn’t like this dynamic because I’m not fond of love triangles. I don’t like them because you as the reader get forced to choose between two different characters who both have an appeal but for different reasons. But in this book, I just didn’t see her having any chemistry with these two because it just felt like the author was forcing the romance when there wasn’t any.

Overall, I’ve enjoyed my reading experience with Born at Midnight. I loved all the supernatural elements included in the story because it made reading this book more enjoyable for me. I just wish there was a little more character development with Kylie and that she had some chemistry with her two love interests instead of the book forcing romance between them. Maybe the next book in the series Awake at Dawn will improve what’s missing from this first book and bring even more interesting details when it comes to the character’s supernatural abilities.

 

Book Review: Five Feet Apart

Five Feet Apart Book Cover

Rating: 4 stars

Can you love someone you can never touch?

Stella Grant likes to be in control—even though her totally out of control lungs have sent her in and out of the hospital most of her life. At this point, what Stella needs to control most is keeping herself away from anyone or anything that might pass along an infection and jeopardize the possibility of a lung transplant. Six feet apart. No exceptions.

The only thing Will Newman wants to be in control of is getting out of this hospital. He couldn’t care less about his treatments or a fancy new clinical drug trial. Soon, he’ll turn eighteen and then he’ll be able to unplug all these machines and actually go see the world, not just its hospitals.

Will’s exactly what Stella needs to stay away from. If he so much as breathes on Stella she could lose her spot on the transplant list. Either one of them could die. The only way to stay alive is to stay apart. But suddenly six feet doesn’t feel like safety. It feels like punishment.

What if they could steal back just a little bit of the space their broken lungs have stolen from them? Would five feet apart really be so dangerous if it stops their hearts from breaking too?

I read this book in memory of my best friend who passed away last month in her battle against cystic fibrosis, which I recently shared here on my blog. It’s based off a screenplay by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis and chronicles the story of Stella and Will, two teenagers struggling in their battle against cystic fibrosis but for different reasons. While Stella is doing everything she can to keep her health in order so that she can get a lung transplant, Will is tired of going from hospital to hospital and is doing the best he can to live his life to the fullest. They fall in love with each other, but they must stay six feet apart in order not to jeopardize each other’s health, which feels like punishment to them both.

What I loved about reading Five Feet Apart is that this story brings awareness to cystic fibrosis, a disease that affects so many people in the world and currently doesn’t have a cure. I especially love that the story brings up information about cystic fibrosis people who don’t have the disease might not know, such as that people with cystic fibrosis can’t get too close to each other because of the risk of catching bacterial infections. While I had a very good friend who had cystic fibrosis, there are still some things I myself don’t know about the disease and I felt like this book brought that information to my attention. For that reason alone, I appreciate this book because it brought about awareness for a terrible disease that deeply impacted the life of someone I truly cared for.

I also enjoyed reading this book because I love the characters and the shifting points of view between the two protagonists, Stella, and Will. What made the characters in this book so sympathetic and real to me was seeing how they each handled their current predicament. For Stella, she focused on being well for the sake of her two parents whose marriage crumbled due to a devastating loss that shook the foundation of their family. Will, on the other hand, was more focused on getting out of the hospital and being able to live his life to the fullest since he was dying anyway. He was tired of spending all of his days in the hospital and couldn’t wait to turn eighteen so he could be done with hospital stays for good. I felt myself cheering these two young teens on as they struggled with being together while keeping their own safety in mind.

What I especially loved about reading Five Feet Apart is that it had an emotional impact on me. I know part of that is due to what happened with my friend, and reading a story with characters dealing with the same disease brought those emotions to the forefront. But I also know it’s due too because the story itself moved me. It felt like it was the right book for me to read at the right time.

But at the same time, there are some issues I had with the story itself too that I do need to bring up. For starters, I wasn’t fond of the instant-love that happened between Stella and Will. It’s a common troupe you see in young adult literature that I feel gets overused too much and I was sad to see it in this book too. While I understand why the connection starts, I felt like it was a little unrealistic in this story because of what these characters are dealing with.

I also wonder slightly about the accuracy of cystic fibrosis in this book. While I personally knew someone with the disease so I already knew some of the information that was brought up in the story, there were some details I was unsure of. I don’t have cystic fibrosis so I know I can’t speak for those who do, but if there’s inaccuracy in this book, it would be nice to know for sure. Unfortunately, the person who I’d speak to about this is no longer here to talk to about this book with.

This brings up another separate issue itself that doesn’t necessarily have to do with the book but that I feel I need to talk about anyway. I honestly wish I’d read this book sooner before my friend passed away. Or that we both could read it so we could talk about it with each other. I know she probably would’ve loved to do that (especially since there’s a movie coming out later this month, and she’s the one who mentioned wanting to see it) and I would be able to pick her mind about the way those with cystic fibrosis are represented in the story. So for me reading this story was pretty bittersweet because it reminded me of my friend’s desire to go and see the movie, which I also plan on doing too.

Overall, I love this book as a whole and give it four stars despite several issues I had with it. I find that I can’t give this book a lower rating because awareness of cystic fibrosis is important to me and I appreciate that this book attempts to bring this illness to people’s attention. It might not be done correctly, but I appreciate the effort and the story had a strong emotional impact on me that I can’t simply ignore. This book will forever hold a special place in my heart because it reminds me of a dear friend. I also can’t wait to see the movie no matter how sad not getting to see it with her will make me.

I highly recommend this story to those interested in learning more about cystic fibrosis and anyone interested in health as a collective whole. I also recommend this book to those who enjoy a good young adult romance like I sometimes do and want to read a story with sympathetic characters.

I’ve included the trailer in this post below for those interested in going to see the movie like I am so you can have an even better idea of the story I just finished reading.

 

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