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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: 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: Mama Flora’s Family

Mama Flora's Family Book Cover

Rating: 4 stars

In the tradition of “Roots” and “Queen,” Mama Flora’s Family” is a sweeping epic of contemporary American history, culled from the unpublished works of award-winning writer Alex Haley. It is the poignant story of three generations of an African-American family who start out as destitute sharecroppers in Tennessee. Mama Flora is the heart and strength of the family, shepherding her children through hard times after the murder of her husband by white landholders. She has passionate ambitions for her son Willie, but he dashes her dreams by abandoning his church-going roots and moving to Chicago. After fighting in the Second World War, he marries his childhood sweetheart and struggles to build a new urban life for his family.

Flora’s dreams are realized by Ruthana, her sister’s child, whom Mama Flora adopts. Ruthana graduates from college, and as a social worker in Harlem, counsels underprivileged women. Through her love for the radical poet Ben, Ruthana begins to understand her heritage, and after a sojourn in Africa comes to a redemptive understanding of herself.

In Chicago, Willie’s twin son and daughter embrace Muslim militancy and Black Power, and eventually, drugs on their rocky road through the 1960s. Mama Flora struggles to maintain her family, but she also is caught up in the turbulent times. “Mama Flora’s Family” is an American tale as dramatic and touching as anything Alex Haley ever wrote.

Highly recommended read by the love of my life, Mama Flora’s Family tells the story of three generations in one African American family. It’s a story that makes you reflect on America’s past, about a time that isn’t that long ago. For me, it made me feel sympathetic to Mama Flora and her family because I know I’ll never understand what it’s like to face such strong racism because of the color of my skin. But reading this story from her family’s perspective and the different conflicts they had to endure made me briefly feel like I could understand what they were going through and wish things were different during that time for them.

What I especially enjoyed about reading this book was that the story wasn’t just told from Mama Flora’s perspective. You as the reader had different family members sharing their own stories, talking about their own struggles and challenges they are enduring during this time. I especially enjoyed reading the chapters that were told from Ruthana and Willie’s perspective because they both had interesting lives that I enjoyed reading about. I also loved it too because I loved all of these characters, which made me enjoy reading this book, even more, to see what happened to this family.

I also enjoyed reading Mama Flora’s Family because I found myself learning more about America during this time. Especially because I learned more about black history, something that’s never fully taught in school. I especially loved learning about black culture, reading about the different styles of clothing and hair that changed as time went on and how Mama Flora and her family reacted to these changes. As someone who typically doesn’t read historical fiction of any kind because it doesn’t interest me all that much, I found the story of this family to be a fantastic read and it made me interested in wanting to learn more.

The only criticism I have with this book is that I sometimes found the story at times to be a little too preachy. While I completely understand the reasoning behind this, since Mama Flora herself was very strong in her faith and it was such a big part of her life that she raised her family to have a strong faith foundation. I don’t personally have a problem with that, even though I myself am still working on my own beliefs and what I personally believe to be true when it comes to faith and religion. I just think at times there was just too much of it in the story.

But overall, I really enjoyed reading Mama Flora’s Family. Mama Flora and her family dealt with quite a lot during that time and it was nice to see how they handled those difficult moments. I also enjoyed reading this book because I learned so much from it despite historical fiction not being something I personally enjoy reading. It made me as a reader consider reading more stories like this because I love learning and enjoy reading about real struggles people deal with in life.

I really appreciate my partner recommending this read to me and highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn more about black history. For those wanting to read about what black families go through when it comes to racism. It opened my eyes further to issues I know I myself will never have to deal with.

Book Review: Always and Forever, Lara Jean (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before #3)

always and forever lara jean

Rating: 4 stars

Lara Jean is having the best senior year a girl could ever hope for. She is head over heels in love with her boyfriend, Peter; her dad’s finally getting remarried to their next door neighbor, Ms. Rothschild; and Margot’s coming home for the summer just in time for the wedding.

But change is looming on the horizon. And while Lara Jean is having fun and keeping busy helping plan her father’s wedding, she can’t ignore the big life decisions she has to make. Most pressingly, where she wants to go to college and what that means for her relationship with Peter. She watched her sister Margot go through these growing pains. Now Lara Jean’s the one who’ll be graduating high school and leaving for college and leaving her family—and possibly the boy she loves—behind.

When your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

I really enjoyed reading this concluding book in this series just as much as I enjoyed P.S. I Still Love You, but for different reasons. While I didn’t want this book to end, I felt like this book was the perfect way to end the series because of it being Lara Jean’s last year of high school before she goes off to college.

It continues to tell the story of Lara Jean’s relationship with Peter, but also focuses a whole lot more on the pressure of getting into college and what comes with that. When Lara Jean doesn’t get into the college of her dreams, she faces a dilemma she didn’t expect. I enjoyed seeing that conflict with her because I felt like it was a realistic problem that I’m sure other teens applying to colleges experience. Part of senior year of high school is beginning the journey of adulthood and I felt like with Always and Forever, Lara Jean, Jenny Han tackled the subject very well when it came to Lara Jean’s beginning journey into adulthood.

I also appreciated seeing how talking about college impacted Lara Jean’s relationship with Peter. Especially because they both wanted to go to college together since they were planning on continuing their relationship after high school. While Lara Jean didn’t handle her plans changing very well at first, when she discovered another college that was very similar to the school she originally wanted to attend, I thought it was wonderful that she made the decision to go to that school. For once in these books, she actually made a big decision for herself instead of taking the easy road to get what she wanted. Seeing Lara Jean struggle with her decision on where she was going to college when her original plans failed reminded me of what the pressure of choosing college was like for me. While I can’t say my experience was anything at all like Lara Jean’s (because it definitely wasn’t), I felt like I could relate to her character when it came to college because that’s a big decision for a person to make for themselves.

What I also liked when reading Always and Forever, Lara Jean was that you as a reader slowly saw Lara Jean make big decisions. While she’s still pretty far from acting like an adult, I felt like she was finally maturing a little bit in this book. For once, she was finally making decisions for herself, not because her family and friends wanted her to make those choices.

My biggest criticism for this book would have to be the lack of conflict in it. While I sometimes didn’t mind because it made this book a fun, light read like the others, I felt like there should’ve been something more. I mean, yes there was conflict when it came to Lara Jean going to college and how her final decision impacted her relationship with Peter, but that was really it when you actually think about it. There wasn’t really a whole lot else going on that really caused conflict in the story and that did bother me a little bit because it was like certain characters who were featured in the previous two books never existed.

But overall, I still enjoyed reading Always and Forever, Lara Jean. As a whole, I enjoyed reading all of these books in this series because they were a light and easy read for me to get through. I also enjoyed seeing Lara Jean’s family dynamics and how close she is to her two sisters as well as her relationship with her friend Chris and boyfriend Peter. I enjoyed reading them as well because they reminded me of what it was like when I fell in love for the very first time and reminded me of what choosing a college was like for me. My biggest criticism for this series as a whole is the lack of character development, especially in the main character Lara Jean. She still has a whole lot of growing up to do, but I still find myself liking her anyway.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed reading this series and recommend it to anyone looking for something light and easy to read. But I recommend caution to anyone who reads these books that’s just gotten out of a relationship and is still dealing with that heartbreak.

 

Book Review: P.S. I Still Love You (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before #2)

p.s. i still love you book cover

Rating: 4 stars

Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter. She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever. When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

In this charming and heartfelt sequel to the New York Times best seller To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, we see first love through the eyes of the unforgettable Lara Jean. Love is never easy, but maybe that’s part of what makes it so amazing.

I definitely enjoyed reading P.S. I Still Love You better than To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Like its predecessor, I found this book easy to read through. But I found myself even more invested in what’s going on because I found the story and plot itself more invigorating.

What I believe helps is that you continue to see Lara Jean coming more and more out of her shell as her relationship with Peter grows. It’s like their relationship really brings her to life and I enjoyed every minute of it. I think what helps for me as a reader is that I can relate to Lara Jean’s feelings because I’ve had those feelings myself. The first time you fall in love is one of the most wonderful feelings and this book reminded me of everything that comes along with it, including the most difficult moments of a relationship. While I’m no longer with the first guy I fell in love with, this book still allowed me to relate to it because of those feelings. It allowed me to reminisce without feeling sadness and regret over a relationship I’ve since moved on from and reminded me that you can find love again even after the heartbreak.

Like with To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, this book continues to portray good, realistic relationships. I continue to love seeing the bond Lara Jean has with her family, her relationship with her best friend Chris, and her relationship with her boyfriend Peter. I also love seeing the new relationship she begins to form with John, one of the recipients of her love letters even though it doesn’t turn out the way you as the reader expect. You finally get to see how the letters getting out really affects her relationships and I enjoyed it.

If I have any criticisms for P.S. I Still Love You it’s that you don’t really get to see her relationship with John go anywhere. You can tell as a reader that feelings are going on between the two of them, but you don’t really see it turn into anything. While I understand why that’s the case, I actually wouldn’t have minded too much to see more interactions between the two of them. While I love Lara Jean’s relationship with Peter a lot, I wouldn’t have minded seeing her give John a chance and seeing where that went. Because I honestly really like John’s character a lot. So, I think my biggest criticism is actually that I think both Peter and John are good guys for Lara Jean and am struggling with which guy I think is truly right for her.

So, I overall loved reading this book a lot more than To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before because you see her relationships with everyone she’s close to growing and you can truly see Lara Jean falling in love. But I also love that the story realistically portrays first love, which is something I can truly relate to because of my own experiences. I just didn’t like that both of the guys she ends up liking are both likeable because it makes me as a reader have a difficult time choosing which of the two guys she should end up with. I can’t wait to finish reading Always and Forever Lara Jean, even though I know I’ll be sad that I’ll be done reading this trilogy.

I definitely recommend reading P.S. I Still Love You because it’s such a good read. But if you’re just getting out of a relationship, then this book might not be for you.

 

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