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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: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before #1)

to all the boys i've loved before book cover

Rating: 3 stars

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

I found this book to be an enjoyable read for me because it was easy to get through. What made the story so simple to me is that it mostly centered around one character’s daily life and the challenges she was experiencing. It was the story of an ordinary girl, her relationship with her family and how she navigated high school when she discovered that the letters she’d secretly written about the boys she once loved were sent to them without her knowledge. I found this premise interesting, which allowed me to continue turning the page to find out what happened next with Lara Jean.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was also a good read for me because I loved seeing the relationship Lara Jean had with her two sisters Margot and Kitty, her friend Chris, and one of the guys she once cared for Peter. While the story overall doesn’t have too much character development, I feel like you as the reader truly see how Lara Jean interacts with the people she’s close to. You see this in her treatment of her two sisters who she’s been close to over the years due to their mother’s sudden death. I really appreciate this close-knit sibling relationship in this young adult book because you don’t often see these types of relationships with family in this genre. I also enjoyed her relationship with both Chris and Peter because I feel like you get to see Lara Jean’s character come out a little whenever she’s around these two in the story. And that was nice to me because there’s very little of her character that you truly see.

That’s one of my biggest criticisms of this book, not feeling like we as readers get to know Lara Jean. Even though this book is from her perspective, I still feel like I don’t truly understand her character and why she reacts the way she does in the story. In a lot of ways, it made it hard for me to like her character, even though I can relate to her a little bit. She just seemed way too standoffish, to the point where she couldn’t handle normal everyday things. But at the same time, I found myself sympathetic to her most of the time because I felt truly sorry for her.

However, my biggest complaint of this book is that I don’t really feel like it followed the central plot: Lara Jean’s letters that were sent to the guys she loved. The story doesn’t really focus on the letters all too much other than her reaction to finding out they were sent out and her freaking out about one particular person getting a letter. Other than that, the story continues on, as if the letters were never sent out in the first place. Then again, I honestly believe the feelings she had for these guys wasn’t actual love, but feelings a girl gets when she has a big crush on someone. Maybe that’s what made it difficult for me to believe the way the guys reacted to the letters and how Lara Jean handled the whole situation. I guess I’m just surprised these letters didn’t play more of a role in the overall story arc, which made me like the book a little less. What also didn’t help was that it was fairly obvious from the beginning who sent them out in the first place.

But despite my two main criticisms with this book, I still enjoyed reading To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. It was such an easy read and I wanted to see how Lara Jean’s relationships continued to evolve that I couldn’t help but turn the page to see what happened next. I hope that P.S. I Still Love You gives me a better chance to learn more about Lara Jean’s character and is just as easy of a read.

Book Review: To Kill A Kingdom

To Kill A Kingdom Book Cover

Rating: 4 stars

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?

I originally heard about this book after reading Tiana’s book review on her blog The Book Raven. The premise of the book sounded really interesting to me so I decided to give it a read. And I enjoyed it so much.

I found To Kill A Kingdom to be quite an engaging story. What made me so interested in this story was reading it from the perspective of two characters who have a lot more in common than they know. While Lira and Elian both were fighting the same war on two different sides, it becomes obviously clear that they are more similar to each other than different. When Lira and Elian meet each other for the first time, you as the reader can see that both characters want the same thing: for the war between the sirens and humans to end. You can also tell that they’ll both do whatever it takes to achieve that goal even if that results in their own death. I found seeing this story being told from both of their perspectives to be interesting, but also enjoyable because I found both characters delightful. I found Lira’s perspective especially enjoyable for me because I’ve never read a book where the point of view in the story was told from the perspective of a siren. But at the same time, I enjoyed reading the story from Elian’s perspective too as a siren hunter/pirate.

Another reason I’ve enjoyed reading this book so much is because I love stories featuring mythical creatures such as mermaids and sirens. I especially love the way sirens were portrayed in this story because it made you sympathetic to Lira’s character. As a reader, you originally recall sirens from stories as being creatures who would sing to lure their victims to their death. While that origin story is an important part of the plot in the book, you find out that there’s more to sirens because of Lira. She gives you a better understanding of why sirens kill people to begin with and does her best as the story progresses to work on bringing peace between humans and sirens. She isn’t your typical siren and I love her for it.

I also love this book because I haven’t read too many books that feature sirens as a main character, especially ones like Lira who start questioning their upbringing. She and many of the other characters in this story go through a tremendous amount of character development that allows them to question their morals. The two characters who face development the most are the two protagonists, Lira and Elian. Lira has grown up her whole life believing humans to be her enemy and taking the hearts of princes to prove her worth as the next Sea Queen. Whenever she becomes human, however, she begins questioning her choices and realizes that everything she’s grown up believing about humans is wrong. Elian, the prince of Midas turned siren hunter/pirate, discovers siren hunting as being his true calling in life despite being heir to one of the most powerful kingdoms. Then one day he saves a mysterious woman from drowning in the ocean after he’s already plotting on finding an item that’s said to destroy sirenkind for good. This woman he barely knows agrees to help him and while he’s reluctant to trust her to begin with, he starts warming up to her as they get closer to what he’s searching for. As the plot of the story continues and he realizes who the woman really is, he still trusts her when the plot reaches its climax. It’s when he trusts Lira with his life despite her being a siren that he starts realizing that maybe not all sirens are bad and that if they work together, they can kill the Sea Queen and create peace between humans and sirens. Both of these characters overcome their initial beliefs about each other’s kind which allows them as characters to develop and do exactly what they need to make things right between humans and sirens.

What I’ve found I love the most about To Kill A Kingdom is the references to The Little Mermaid you can see throughout the book. First, there’s Lira and Elian who both are very similar to the main characters in The Little Mermaid. While Lira isn’t a mermaid, there are definitely quite a bit of similarities between her and Ariel, such as both of them being princesses and getting turned into a human. Elian is like Prince Eric in that he’s also a prince who also seems to love traveling in the sea. Then there’s the Sea Queen who punishes her daughter by turning her into a human who’s robbed of her siren song, just like Ursula turns Ariel into a human without a voice. The Sea Queen is also a lot like Ursula too in that she wants to make sure she gets what she wants but also does the best she can to destroy both Lira and Elian once her original plan is thwarted. While the overall plot in To Kill A Kingdom isn’t at all like The Little Mermaid and there are some obvious differences between the characters, you can still see similarities between the two stories and I really enjoyed seeing them while I was reading this book.

The only thing I didn’t enjoy when reading To Kill A Kingdom was when I finally finished reading the book. I really loved reading this story so when I was finally done with it, I was sad to see it all end. It was a book I was enjoying immensely so I didn’t want to leave the tale behind.

Other than being sad when this book ended, I overall loved reading To Kill A Kingdom. The story as a whole was interesting because of the two unique perspectives of the characters telling it. I loved hearing this book from Lira’s perspective who let us know that not all sirens are bad, which allowed us to see these mythical creatures in a different light. I appreciated that both of the main characters had character development that made them realize that they could work together to bring peace to their world. And I really loved seeing the references to The Little Mermaid story that I love so much, but was glad to see that this book didn’t follow that plot completely. I believe this book along with The Night Circus are my two favorite reads of this year so far, and I highly recommend giving this book a try.

 

Book Review: Girls Like Me

Girls Like Me Book Cover

Rating: 3 stars

Fifteen-year-old Shay Summers is trying to cope with the death of her father, being overweight, and threats from a girl bully in school.  When she falls in love with Blake, a mysterious boy online, insecure Shay doesn’t want to tell him who she is.   But with the help of her two best friends, as well as an assist by Kermit and Miss Piggy, ultimately Shay and Blake’s love prevails. 
     

Girls Like Me is a fun and fresh poetic take on teen angst, social media and online anonymity, and high school romance.

This book was such a delight for me to read. It was quirky, had a diverse set of characters and the writing style was different from any of the young adult literature I’ve been reading recently. I enjoyed it a whole lot more than I thought I would and was sad when it ended. However, there were some things in the book that were a complete cliché that made the book a little less enjoyable for me to read.

For those who haven’t read this book before, Girls Like Me tells the story of Shay Summers, a teenager who struggles with her weight and trying to fit in at school. After the death of her father, Shay is stuck living with her stepmother Kara and tries to cope with her life by eating. She also makes two good friends who don’t fit in at school just like her. Then one day while online, she chats with a mysterious boy who gives her butterflies and knows how to make her laugh. What she doesn’t know is that this boy is actually the guy she’s had a crush on at school. He wants to meet her, but she’s so insecure about herself that she keeps pushing him away. Their relationship gets put to the test, but will their love prevail? Or are they not meant to be?

What drew me into reading this book was the cover and title. The cover is beautifully illustrated, making the reader want to pick up the book and read it. The title caught my eye too because it made me think this book would be relatable to me and that I’d understand the characters within its pages. While I don’t at all understand what it’s like being considered overweight, I feel like I can relate to Shay’s character anyway. I can relate to her because I love food too and I was bullied in school quite a bit myself, which made me lack a lot of self-confidence.

I also enjoyed reading Girls Like Me because of the writing style. It was written in free verse, which reminded me a lot of author Ellen Hopkins’s books, but also stood out from her work because of the use of social media in the story. It was unique storytelling to me because I haven’t seen too many other books written like this. I also enjoyed this writing style because it made this book an easy read for me.

Girls Like Me Text Image
An example of the text from the book. Can be found on page 4.

Another reason I enjoyed reading this book is because of the diverse cast of characters. There’s not only Shay, who is considered overweight, but her two best friends Dash and Boots are also unique characters too. Dash is her male best friend who struggles with being gay because of his upbringing in a Christian household. He especially has a really rocky relationship with his father because of his sexuality so he tries to change himself in order to please his dad. Boots on the other hand has cancer and is trying the best she can to live each day like it’s her last. But she’s dying and wants really badly to have sex since she knows she doesn’t have too much time left to live. She tries the best she can not to worry Shay and Dash with her sickness by trying to hide how unwell she’s doing, but they both know something is wrong.

And of course there’s Shay who struggles to cope with the loss of her father and eats because it helps her deal with the pain. She’s bullied in school relentlessly because of her weight by a girl named Kelly who enjoys nothing more than seeing Shay miserable. Her relationship with her stepmother Kara isn’t too great because Shay feels like she’s body shaming her. It isn’t until later on in the story that you find out that Kara understands exactly what Shay is going through. I like that this story has all of these characters with different problems and you get to see how they are handled. I also like that this book has a character with body issues because I haven’t read too many books that center around a character like Shay.

However, I do have some criticisms with Girls Like Me. While I overall enjoyed the writing style Lola StVil used, there were times where I found being able to understand it a little confusing. This confusing typically occurred whenever StVil had the story being told from the perspective of Dash and Boots. I was usually confused when this happened because their text didn’t at all have a different style from Shay’s. The only reason I was even able to tell the difference between the three was because of the change in font. Otherwise, I would’ve thought the text was just Shay talking about Dash and Boots’ personal lives.

Another criticism I have for this book is that while the set of characters are diverse, they are pretty cliché too. All of the characters that are really close friends are all of the social outcasts at the school, and they just happen to become good friends because of their differences.

Then, there’s the relationship between Shay and Blake, two people on opposite sides of the social pool. Blake is the typical popular kid who doesn’t notice how popular he is because he only pays attention to Shay. To the point that he doesn’t at all understand why Shay is hesitant about their relationship being out in the open. He’s so clueless, especially close to the end when Shay finds out about the website students at the school made about her and she asks him if he knew about it. He doesn’t at all understand why it’s such a big deal to her, which bothers me since they are supposed to be a couple and he doesn’t at all see why her weight is an issue to her. Their whole relationship was just a big cliché to me and I didn’t really like it because it was too much insta-love.

I also wasn’t a big fan of the ending of Girls Like Me. I thought there’d be a big reveal where we found out why Kelly doesn’t like Shay. Instead, we get no sort of reason other than she just doesn’t want her to be happy, which isn’t really much of a reason at all. If anything, it just shows that Kelly isn’t a great person and she’s just a character in the story put in to cause Shay conflict. I also thought it was a little cheesy because even though I like the Muppets, I just thought the whole thing was a little corny. But at the same time, I also liked the ending because we finally see Shay stand up for herself and call Kelly out on her bullying. We also see her act confident in herself for once, which was something we didn’t see a whole lot of throughout the book. And I feel like Blake finally gets to see the real Shay and understand why she’s the person she is in the story.

Overall, Girls Like Me is such a fun, quirky read. It has a style unlike any other book I’ve read with a set of diverse, relatable characters and was such a delight to read. I definitely recommend this book to people with body issues and people who want to read a book with free verse poetry.

Book Review: Redemption (MILA 2.0 #3)

Redemption Book Cover

Rating: 4 stars

Mila has been running for her life for so long. But there might be nowhere left for her to go. Especially now that she’s an incredible danger to herself and anyone who dares get close to her.

That’s why Mila has gone into hiding with friend and tech expert Lucas. She can’t take the risk of hurting people worse than the way she hurt Hunter: the boy she’ll always love, the boy who might never forgive her for what she’s done.

But then Mila discovers that General Holland—her ultimate enemy—has plans that are an even bigger threat to humanity than she is. His quest to reclaim Mila is only part of a larger mysterious endgame that will put people’s lives at stake. Mila must make a choice: either push aside her fears and fight him with everything she’s got…or turn her back on the world forever.

After getting to the end of this book, I can definitely say I enjoyed reading Redemption. While the ending itself made me want to cry, the overall direction Debra Driza takes this last book in the trilogy was really enjoyable to read. I felt like we finally got the real answers we needed as to why Sarah (the person who Mila used to be) died in the fire and found out what Holland was planning on doing next.

I found the way the story developed to be quite surprising. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting, but I went with it because I wanted to see where this would all end up. I also enjoyed reading about Mila’s relationship with Lucas. You could tell there was a good connection there and I really wanted to see where it’d go. While I like Hunter’s character, I found that I actually like Lucas better because he’s understood Mila since the beginning and still wants to help her find out the truth. And at this point in the story, Hunter and Mila’s relationship is pretty much dead anyway.

One of my favorite things about Redemption is the amount of detective work the characters do to find out the truth about Holland and what he’s plotting. In particular, the last half of the book where they are in the school trying to find out what’s going on with the scholarship recipient students. It’s quite an interesting plot in the story I wasn’t at all expecting because then we realize how big of a threat Holland truly is.

I also enjoyed that redemption was a big part of the story too. It came into play with Mila gaining back the trust of some of Quinn’s members of the Vita Obscura and Holland at the end of the book. Because after the events in Renegade, a lot of the characters are still weary of Mila and whether she’s really someone who can be trusted. The same is said with Holland because he is given a choice to make at the end of the story, which I feel like I can’t really get into without ruining the end of this trilogy. But it’s definitely a big choice, I can say for sure.

As the last book in this trilogy that I’ve enjoyed reading, there were still some things I didn’t quite enjoy about this one. For starters, while I enjoyed seeing a connection blossom between Mila and Lucas, I hated that the beginning of Redemption was pretty much the same as Renegade, except that Lucas is the boy with Mila instead of Hunter. But the plot pretty much starts out the same there because they both look together to try and connect Sarah’s death with Holland and to find out what he’s planning on doing next.

I also wasn’t quite fond of the way Driza decided to end this trilogy. I hated it because I felt like Mila deserved so much better after everything she’s gone through and it actually made me want to cry. But it also didn’t really tell us much either because we don’t know what happens with the other characters afterwards. Mind you, I wasn’t exactly expecting this trilogy to have a super happy ending or anything. I was expecting it to have a neat resolution though, and I feel like that didn’t really happen.

I think as a trilogy though, I think that’s one of my biggest problems with it. Because while I’ve enjoyed reading this trilogy overall, I just feel like there’s something missing in the plot. I guess the best way to describe it would be to say that it’s rushed so certain things that happen in the trilogy don’t necessarily make sense to me. The best example that comes to mind for me right now is the Vita Obscura group as a whole. From the beginning of the trilogy, the author made this group sound like it was huge with a lot of members in it. However, the only members of the group that come to help Mila out with uncovering the truth about Holland are the ones she interacts with in Renegade. Then, there’s everything that happens with Holland in general that’s full of plot holes. I know that Mila as an android is supposed to be a secretive military operation that not too many people are supposed to know about. But besides Holland, Quinn, Nicole and Daniel, there weren’t too many other key players who knew about Mila. To me though, that just seemed too convenient because I feel like more people would’ve played a part in Mila’s creation, therefore they’d be playing a big part in the story.

And that’s one of my biggest problems with this trilogy. The story being told overall is unique, amazing and everything I want to read in a science fiction, young adult story. But there’s just so much with the plot that doesn’t add up, isn’t fully explained that makes it hard to wrap your head around and accept what’s been told to you.

However, I still enjoyed reading this trilogy and was sad to see it come to an end, even if the ending isn’t at all what I wanted for Mila. It left me feeling emotionally sad to be done with these books, but also looking forward to whatever book I decide to read next.

Book Review: Renegade (MILA 2.0 #2)

Renegade Book Cover

Rating: 4 stars

There is no one left for Mila to trust. Except for a boy she barely knows.

But Hunter has no idea who—and what—Mila really is. She can’t bear to reveal her secret, even though he’s unwittingly joined her search for Richard Grady, a man who may know more details of Mila’s complicated past.

Yet the road to the truth is more dangerous than ever. With General Holland and the Vita Obscura scouring the earth for her whereabouts, Mila must rely on her newfound android abilities to protect herself and Hunter from imminent harm. Still, embracing her identity as a machine leads her to question the state of her humanity—as well as Hunter’s real motives.

While I wasn’t completely sure what to make of MILA 2.0 when I started reading it, I know for sure that I enjoyed reading Renegade immensely. It was action packed, suspenseful, and ended with me wanting to find out more. Continuing where MILA 2.0 left off, Renegade shows us the journey Mila went on with Hunter to find out more about who she really is. But in doing so, her relationship with Hunter takes a turn for the dangerous as she contemplates whether she really can trust him with the truth or not.

I enjoyed Renegade more than its predecessor because the beginning didn’t start off quite as slow. You have Hunter and Mila interacting with each other, trying to find out what they’re going to do now. While I was frustrated with Mila for not telling Hunter the truth and hated that she kept bringing it up, I was fascinated by their journey into learning more about Mila’s identity. She learned more about who she is in this book, and I felt like it really explained everything that happened up to this point in the story. It explained why she was having memory flashbacks of a life she never truly lived, but also explained why even though she’s an android she has such strong emotions. I enjoyed this book better because I felt like I understood Mila better than before.

I also found this story to be more action packed, which helped too. Because while Mila is with Hunter, she’s still on the run from General Holland so she has to be careful who she trusts. So when she finds Grady, she starts becoming weary of the person she’s traveling with. She starts questioning her decisions and comes up with a plan for what to do next. While I was annoyed that she was continuously questioning Hunter’s motives throughout, I also understood her reasoning for it. I understood because I honestly didn’t understand why she even brought Hunter into this situation to begin with. Yes, he was one of the few people she felt like she could trust in Clearwater, but she barely knew him.

I also enjoyed finally being introduced to the leader of the Vita Obscura. I like how Driza made it seem like she was trustworthy at first, though I was suspicious of her character immediately. She just seemed too nice and it made me very weary of her character. It wasn’t until we see Mila make that terrible decision that her true nature really came out. While I completely understand her part in the story, it really put a twist in the story that I never saw coming.

However, there are some criticisms I do have with Renegade that I didn’t have with MILA 2.0. For starters, while I do overall like her connection with Hunter better than before (despite it being instant love), I found it to be too convenient that his family actually has a role in the story. I also hated that he decided to just come along with her on this trip without fully questioning what was going on and why she’d reached out to him. I also didn’t really understand why she wanted him around knowing that she was putting him in serious danger. I get she really likes him, but I feel like he shouldn’t have really been given a role in this story. Or that if she did talk to him it wasn’t until later after the events that transpired. Don’t get me wrong, I really do like his character and I do understand why he’s in the story. But I don’t know, I feel like romance shouldn’t even really be in this trilogy. And there’s a possibility that this trilogy will become a love triangle, which is something else I’m truly starting to hate in young adult novels. It’s starting to become a cliché in young adult literature for the female character to have two boys fighting for her affections, and I’m really starting to hate it because it’s very unrealistic.

But anyway, enough of that. Another part of the story I didn’t particularly like is when the Vita Obscura leader’s plans are finally revealed through the decision Mila makes. I’m not going to go too much into detail about this part of the story because I want to try the best I can not to spoil it. But basically, Mila makes a decision for herself that doesn’t go particularly well. It actually results in her briefly becoming less human and more android, which in turn leads to a discovery none of us find out about until the end of the story. In this part of the story, Mila makes terrible decisions that affect the lives of others. She also briefly looses the part of herself that made me like her character in order to not deal with the hurt and pain she’s experiencing. I hate that she made this decision because while I do completely understand why she did it, I knew something bad was going to come from it. I also knew that the end result of this decision would be her character being less human and making decisions she wouldn’t make herself. While I enjoyed seeing more of her android side in this moment, I overall hated this part of the story because she did something she would’ve never done. And that frustrated me because her character has been through a lot already and I feel like she didn’t deserve this.

However, despite these two parts of the story, I overall enjoyed reading Renegade.  I enjoyed reading this book because I learned the truth about Mila’s identity, the story was more action packed and fast paced, and we finally were introduced to the Vita Obscura and found out why their leader was interested in Mila. I really can’t wait to finish reading the final book in the trilogy Redemption to find out what happens next to Mila.

Book Review: MILA 2.0 (MILA 2.0 #1)

MILA 2.0 Book Review

Rating: 3 stars

Mila was never meant to learn the truth about her identity. She was a girl living with her mother in a small Minnesota town. She was supposed to forget her past—that she was built in a secret computer science lab and programmed to do things real people would never do.

Now she has no choice but to run—from the dangerous operatives who want her terminated because she knows too much and from a mysterious group that wants to capture her alive and unlock her advanced technology. However, what Mila’s becoming is beyond anyone’s imagination, including her own, and it just might save her life.

When I first started reading this book, I wasn’t completely sure what to make of it. The pacing was slow, the characters you as the reader were introduced to were annoying, and the storyline didn’t flow together quite as smoothly as you’d expect. As you continue reading, however, the story gets more invigorating, the main character becomes much deeper, and the plot becomes even more intense. It’s as if Debra Driza’s writing became more focused and she knew exactly what direction she wanted to take her readers.

And for me, it worked. The story came together, started making sense and I liked what I was seeing overall. I enjoyed it because while it started off slow, I still found myself wanting to continue reading to find out what happened next. I wanted to see what happened to Mila, how she’d deal with learning the truth about herself and what she’d do next.

I gave this book a chance because my grandmother recommended it to me. And I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. What I enjoyed when reading MILO 2.0 is that it’s unlike any other book I’ve read. What I mean to say is this is the first book I’ve really read that’s focused on a character who isn’t quite human. She’s an android with unusual abilities who questions her humanity and what it means to be human. Yet, has the capacity to feel deep human emotions that makes it much more difficult for her to survive the tasks she encounters throughout the story. And I enjoyed every minute I learned more about her abilities.

What I also enjoyed when reading this book is how Mila’s character questions what it means to be human. She questions everything she’s dealing with in her life and refuses to do anything that’ll make her even less human. I like this aspect of her character because she wants to fight to be alive and free from what’ll happen to her when she’s caught.

MILA 2.0 Book Quote
Via Epic Reads.

I also like that MILO 2.0 is very action packed. As the story continues moving along, it gets even more intense with each page the reader turns. One minute, Mila is enjoying her normal life as a teenage girl. The next, she’s having to flee from those who are trying to catch her. She doesn’t completely understand what she’s running away from, just knows that if she gets caught, her life will get a whole lot worse than it was before.

However, there are a lot of things with this story I don’t completely like. For starters, the first half of the novel like I said before moved at too slow a pace. It was like Driza was struggling to write, figure out where she wanted the direction of this story to go. Everything was a complete mess that desperately needed to be changed. Especially the plot because I have a hard time believing they were found out because of an accident in a car.

Part of what made the first half of the story not as good as the rest were the characters. In particular, the girls Mila had become friends with when she moved to small town Minnesota. They were all just sort of snooty, rude, mean, not the type of people she should’ve been friends with when she moved there. I know part of the reason she was friends with them was because the leader of their group Kaylee welcomed her into the fold since she was new there, but overall, I didn’t see any other valid reasons for her to continue interacting with them, especially when Hunter came into town.

Speaking of which, I hated the instant attraction Driza made Hunter and Mila feel for each other. While I overall like Hunter’s character (what we see of it, I mean), I feel like their romance is completely rushed. They’ve only had a small amount of interactions with each other, yet they’ve almost kissed a couple times and Mila is constantly thinking about him while she’s on the run and when she gets captured. It feels like infatuation instead of love to me and I wish she’d given their interest with each other more room to grow. Or I would’ve been perfectly fine if there was no romance at all throughout the story. I know it’s in there to show that she’s capable of having human emotions, but I do feel like it doesn’t need to be there. And I don’t know, I have a feeling it could be the death of her at some point in the rest of the books to come.

However, I overall enjoyed reading MILA 2.0. Despite its flaws, it was a book unlike any other I’ve read and I can’t wait to continue reading the rest of the books in this trilogy to find out what happens next to Mila. I highly recommend this book to anyone who’s willing to push through a book to get to the juice of a story and to people who love young adult science fiction novels that center around a teenage android.

 

Book Review: Afterworlds

Afterworlds Scott Westerfeld Cover

Rating: 4 stars

BELIEVING IS DANGEROUS…

Darcy Patel is afraid to believe all the hype. But it’s really happening – her teen novel is getting published. Instead of heading to college, she’s living in New York City, where she’s welcomed into the dazzling world of YA publishing. That means book tours, parties with her favorite authors, and finding a place to live that won’t leave her penniless. It means sleepless nights rewriting her first draft and struggling to find the perfect ending… all while dealing with the intoxicating, terrifying experience of falling in love – with another writer.

Told in alternating chapters is Darcy’s novel, the thrilling story of Lizzie, who wills her way into the afterworld to survive a deadly terrorist attack. With survival comes the responsibility to guide the restless spirits that walk our world, including one ghost with whom she shares a surprising personal connection. But Lizzie’s not alone in her new calling – she has counsel from a fellow spirit guide, a very desirable one, who is torn between wanting Lizzie and warning her that…

BELIEVING IS DANGEROUS.

In a brilliant high-wire act of weaving two epic narratives – and two unforgettable heroines – into one novel, Scott Westerfeld’s latest work is a triumph of storytelling. 

The first time I read this book, I couldn’t put it down. It was about writing, and the world surrounding it, which fascinated me so much because I wanted to be a part of it. That was back in 2015, before I started writing here, before I graduated from college and was still doing my internship. I also loved reading the novel itself within the pages because Lizzie has such a fascinating story to tell.

Reading it again a second time, I’m just as enthralled with Darcy’s life as I was before. And I love Lizzie’s story just as much. To be honest, the way Westerfeld switches between worlds is one of my favorite things about Afterworlds. He does a good job of choosing when to end each chapter so that you’re hungry for more of what your leaving behind.

I also love this book because it’s a combination of young adult literature and paranormal romance. I love how the conflict Darcy goes through with her writing and her relationship with Imogen. You get to see her experience New York for the very first time, dealing with things writers deal with once a book is published while figuring out how relationships work. With Lizzie, I enjoy the paranormal aspects of her story like when she’s just back from the airport and truly realizes what’s happened to her and her learning more about the world she’s becoming a part of. I enjoyed learning about her mother’s childhood friend Mindy and seeing the flipside world.

Afterworlds is a good read for me because it talks about writing a lot.  I enjoy reading fictional stories that bring up real-life concepts, such as what it’s like being a writer and beginning the process of getting your book into the world. I enjoyed Darcy’s interactions with other authors as she struggled to figure out what she needed to do and she struggled with getting her second novel started.

However, there were a lot of things lacking overall in this book that I feel need to be addressed. For one, I felt like there wasn’t a whole lot of conflict when it came to Darcy’s new life and the characters just seemed a little flat to me. What I mean is that I feel like the biggest problems Darcy dealt with as soon as she arrived in New York was getting her novel completed and her relationship with Imogen. You didn’t really hear about too much else going on with her in the story except when problems with Imogen occurred, which mostly happened because of Darcy’s inexperience with relationships. Even the fact that she could barely afford to live in New York wasn’t really addressed, she just spent her money however she wanted anyway. It also just felt like her relationship with Imogen came out of nowhere because she never mentions having feelings for her until Imogen confessed the way she felt about Darcy.  The characters seemed flat to me because there wasn’t really any development as time went on, except with Lizzie, which wasn’t all that much either. Everyone pretty much stayed the same from the beginning to end, the only difference was that time moved forward in both stories.

I also didn’t particularly like the way Lizzie’s character developed when she was introduced into this new world. She gained this new ability to go into the flipside and see ghosts, yet immediately becomes attached to the first ghost she meets. She uses her new ability to cause bodily harm to another human being, but actually suffers no consequences for her actions. I understand why she hurts this person, but I still don’t think it’s the right way she could’ve done this and I feel like she hasn’t really learned much from the experience. I get she’s very curious about this new world she’s become a part of and wants to learn as much as she can about it. But I felt like that particular situation wasn’t necessary because there was no consequence for making that choice.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Afterworlds despite some of the problems I had with the overall plot and character development. Westerfeld’s writing really made this story enjoyable for me as I heard characters talk about writing and the two stories within made me interested in continuing to read to see what happened next. I look forward to reading more works by this author in the near future.

Book Review: Carry On

Carry On Book Cover

Rating: 3 stars

Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here — it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

Carry On – The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow is a ghost story, a love story and a mystery. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story – but far, far more monsters.

After reading Fangirl, I knew I needed to read this book to see if I’d enjoy it just as much. And I did, maybe even more so for several reasons. But I found I couldn’t give it a higher rating than Fangirl because I found a lot more things wrong with it that I’ll discuss shortly.

Carry On is about the universe Cath fantasizes about in Fangirl. It’s about the world of Watford, a school for those with magic. It centers on Simon Snow, a boy who’s supposed to be the greatest mage the World of Mages has ever seen. In this book, he returns to school for his last year at Watford and his biggest nemesis/roommate Baz doesn’t return until several weeks later. It centers around the death of Baz’s mom along with Simon stopping the evil Humdrum who’s face is very similar to his.

What I enjoyed so much when reading this book is that it’s unique. While the storyline, characters and everything else in it are supposed to be a play off of Harry Potter, you can tell when reading it that it’s a completely different universe. I like that this story is very similar to the world I already love because it made it that much easier for me to understand everything that happened. The universe was very similar to Harry Potter, but in a humorous way that I appreciated. It was like Rainbow Rowell was writing a one novel parody of the Harry Potter series, but twisting it into something else that is just as enjoyable.

You Know You've Read a Good Book Paul Sweeney Quote
Via Popular Inspirational Quotes

I enjoyed reading Carry On so much that when I was finished, I was sad to see the story end. It felt like a piece of me had gone and went into Simon Snow’s world. And I know why I felt that way. This book has all of the elements I like in a story. It’s fantasy with a mixture of mystery, comedy, and its young adult literature that features LGBTQ characters. I like that the world Rowell portrays has magic in it, yet also has some real world elements mixed in that allow you as the reader to see magic alongside normal reality.

But most of all, one of my favorite features in this book is the relationship between Simon and Baz. Both characters are confused about their own identity, yet end up finding each other and connecting in a way you as the reader don’t expect: through the loss of a parent, aka, Baz’s mom who died many years ago at the hands of vampires. Simon could relate to what Baz was going through because of his own loss of not growing up with parents. So Simon did what he thought was right: to help Baz find out who really orchestrated the attack on the nursery that resulted in her death. This connection resulted in showing us their relationship continue to grow, from being roommates who hated each other to lovers. I loved seeing it come together because it was fun to watch the commentary between both of them as they uncovered the truth. It was entertaining, a breath of fresh air that I didn’t realize I needed. And it made moments in the story when things were turning weird more enjoyable for me. I could see the love for each other with each page I read and just couldn’t wait to watch their relationship continue to grow.

Carry On Simon Snow and Baz Pitch Because We Match Picture
Via Pinterest 

What also made Carry On an enjoyable read for me was the different points of view. I enjoyed reading this story from all of the character’s perspectives. It allowed me a better understanding of what was going on, gave me a clue about things I didn’t know before. It also made this book even more interesting because we were given access to these character’s thoughts and feelings, given an understanding as to what they were doing and why. I liked having access to all of the characters in this way because it allowed me to immerse myself even further into the story. It’s also different from any other fantasy novel I’ve read because there’s usually only one perspective that you have access to.

While Carry On is definitely a page turner, there were some elements when it came to the story that I disliked. For one, I thought the names of the spells in this world was ridiculous. I don’t know what Rowell was thinking when she came up with that idea, but it didn’t make sense to me. Especially because it wasn’t at all realistic to what magic is normally like in books. While this allows her world to be uniquely different, I don’t see how these different incantations would even be justified for someone with magic to say. I don’t know if she thought of this as a way to make fun of magic or something, but I just don’t see why magic wielders would have incantations that are nursery rhymes or common sayings that someone normal could say. That sounds like it could potentially lead to an accident, an incident that very easily could’ve been prevented.

I also wasn’t particularly fond of Agatha’s character. I felt like she acted throughout the story like she was above everyone else and just didn’t seem to care about the people she had called friends for the past seven years. Throughout Carry On, she was completely selfish, focusing only on the things that affected her life. She didn’t seem at all remotely interested in keeping up a friendship with Simon and Penelope, yet felt like she could criticize both of them for working with Baz to uncover the truth about his mother’s death. I felt like her character just existed in the story, but didn’t really belong. She was just in the story, wasting space that could’ve been better spent on other characters that played a crucial role in the overall plot.  I just didn’t like Agatha and wish she wasn’t a part of the story at all.

While this book was definitely a page turner for me, another criticism I have is that the overall plot was okay. It definitely had quite a chunk of holes in it that made it difficult to enjoy it as much as I’d have liked. I think part of the problem for me is that Simon Snow’s story is rushed. The whole plot structure in this story runs a little too fast, leaving very little room for making sure nothings being left out. I think part of the reason this is even a problem is because I feel like this story should’ve been spread out into multiple books. That would’ve given Rowell the chance to get the structure and story together and figure out how to end it. Instead, this story is at the final chapter of Simon Snow’s whole story. You learn most of what Carry On is about if you’ve read Fangirl, but I don’t think it’s enough because we miss out on all of the other years Simon Snow is at Watford. You get bits and pieces of some of the important details, but it’s not enough for us to just jump to the finale and see how everything will end for Simon Snow, which by the way is actually pretty disappointing too. With the plot, it feels like you’re missing something, yet not missing anything at all. It would for me be like only reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in the Harry Potter series and expecting to know every detail of the whole series without reading any of the other books. I feel like we miss too much and that the details we are given aren’t enough and have holes in them that don’t really connect the story.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Carry On much more than Fangirl. But because of the amount of criticisms I found myself having about it, it would’ve been unfair to give it a higher rating. But that doesn’t make it any less of a good read for those who want to be taken away to a magical world or for people who want to read about two boys falling in love.

 

 

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