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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.

 

 

Book Review: Fangirl

Fangirl Book Cover

Rating: 4 stars

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan…

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

I remember getting this book as a Christmas gift from my grandmother a couple years ago and when I read it feeling disappointed because it wasn’t as good of a read as I was expecting. But I decided to read it once again before starting to read Carry On and found myself enjoying it much better the second time around.

I don’t remember what exactly I disliked about Fangirl the first time I read it, but I can definitely tell you what I’ve enjoyed from this reading experience. One of the things I enjoyed reading this book a second time is how much I can relate to the main character. I don’t know if part of the reason I didn’t enjoy this book the first time was because I couldn’t relate to Cath, but after reading it again, I realize I can relate to her very well. For one, she’s an introvert like me. I can also relate to her because my own college experience involved me spending a lot of time in my room more than going out and socializing with friends. When I come to think of it, I didn’t really have a lot of friends in college anyway due to focusing so much on schoolwork and working at my job that I didn’t really make as much time to spend with friends as I probably should’ve. I also share Cath’s love of the written word and reading. I know most of her love for it is due to one book series in particular, but I still appreciate how Rainbow Rowell makes Cath so relatable to me. That she’s so relatable to me that I feel almost as if this book was written specifically about me. Even her sister Wren’s first year experience at college reminds me of my own sister even though we aren’t twins.

I also appreciate Rowell incorporating fanfiction into the mix. When talking about reading and writing, fanfiction is rarely incorporated into a story. I like how she includes fanfiction in Fangirl by having the main character be so in love with a series that she writes a story of her own with the characters, making them almost as if they are her own. It’s nice to see a story center around the world of fanfiction, something which I don’t really see too often when reading young adult literature. I like it too because the book series Cath is obsessed with sounds very similar to my favorite book series of all time Harry Potter.  Yes, there are obviously some striking differences between the two, but it makes it that much more enjoyable of a read for me because I feel like I can also escape into that world too. It also makes me even more curious about that world, wanting to understand why Cath likes that series so much.

What else I like about Fangirl is Rowell’s writing style. Her writing is very fluid, easy to read and makes reading this story that much more enjoyable to me. She writes like she’s a young adult herself, going through college and trying to survive the outside world. Every piece of dialogue between characters flows naturally, like it has its own unique place in the story. It’s almost as if she’s bringing all of these characters to life with each word written. It makes me feel as if I’m with Cath, following her journey as she experiences her first year of college.

But what I like the most with this book is seeing some of what Cath’s character writes and her relationship with Levi. I like that we get a little snippet of what Cath has written in the past as her Simon Snow fiction increases in popularity so we can see for ourselves how good of a writer her character is. It not only allows us to see her character write, but we are also given a glimpse into that world so we can see for ourselves why Cath loves it so much. I like her relationship with Levi so much because they go so well together. He’s someone when she first started going to college she got along with so well. He’s easygoing, friendly and you can tell he wants nothing more than to make Cath happy. The way the two of them interact together is great because it’s very relaxed and easygoing. To give a good example is whenever Levi becomes curious about Cath’s fanfiction and wants her to read some of it to him. She’s at first surprised that Levi wants to learn more about the world she writes about so much. But she does it anyway because she can see that he really wants her to read it. He’s just one of the characters in the story who seems to get her and they just seem really good together. So I like seeing their relationship grow.

While I overall enjoyed reading Fangirl, there are some criticisms I have about the book that I’m sure others have with it too. For while I like Cath’s character because I can relate to her, there are times when I feel like she’s too unrealistic or acts completely stupid. I feel like Rowell made her too antisocial in this book, almost as if she was trying to create a nerdy character that fits the typical nerd stereotype. To the point where she was avoiding going to the dining hall because of the amount of people that would be in there. To me, all of those moments she refused to interact with people was ridiculous because all the times she did interact with people she seemed completely fine, not at all like she was dealing with any social anxiety. I also think the way she reacted to Professor Piper accusing her of plagiarism was ridiculous. While I get that Simon Snow is a huge part of her life, I think she sometimes forgets she’s in college and that fanfiction doesn’t play a role in academics. This part of the story made me realize that while I do relate to Cath in some ways, she still has a lot of growing up she has to do and that Rowell didn’t really progress her character all too much throughout. While I do get where Cath is coming from, I do also think it would’ve been nice to see Cath have some sort of character development in the story.

Another criticism I have with this book is the lack of fandom in the actual story. We hear that Cath is such a great writer of fanfiction that she gets thousands of hits every time she posts a new chapter, yet we don’t really see her interact with other Simon Snow fans. It’s like she lives in this bubble with just her sister when it comes to Simon Snow that she won’t really let others be a part of. I at least expected her to act like she’s more involved in the fandom since she has such high amounts of followers. But we really don’t get to see too much of that in Fangirl, we just hear about it.  We also don’t really get an understanding of why Cath loves Simon Snow so much. I understand that she and Wren grew up with reading the books and watching the movies, but she never talks about why she loves this series so much that she feels like she has to write a work of her own about it. Again, we just hear about all of this but never get an understanding of why Cath loves this series so much. To me it’s frustrating because I feel like we are reading this story from her point of view, but aren’t being clued into important details that would really make this book shine.

I also have a problem with the ending. It feels like all of a sudden the story comes to a halt with no real conclusion or anything. Cath goes to the bookstore for the release of the last Simon Snow book, is reading it and then the story ends. I’m frustrated that this is how Rowell chose to end this story because I figured we’d at least see what Cath thinks and feels about the final book in her favorite series. Instead, the story ends with no thought provoking conclusion and we are left wondering what’s going through Cath’s mind as she finishes the last book. While it was an interesting way to end, it wasn’t the ending I’d have chosen.

Despite these criticisms I have for Fangirl, I definitely enjoyed giving this book another chance. It was definitely a much better read for me this time around than the first and can’t wait to finish reading Carry On.

Book Review: Before I Fall

Before I Fall Book Cover

Rating: 3 stars

With this stunning debut novel, New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver emerged as one of today’s foremost authors of young adult fiction. Like Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why and Gayle Forman’s If I StayBefore I Fall raises thought-provoking questions about love, death, and how one person’s life can affect so many others.

For popular high school senior Samantha Kingston, February 12—”Cupid Day”—should be one big party, a day of valentines and roses and the privileges that come with being at the top of the social pyramid. And it is…until she dies in a terrible accident that night.

However, she still wakes up the next morning. In fact, Sam lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she ever imagined.

I both enjoyed this book immensely and was frustrated with certain things about it all at the same time. But I really appreciated Samantha’s character growth throughout the story. In the beginning, she starts off as this mean girl who nobody can touch or hurt. She’s mean to everyone else who isn’t a part of her clique, and she doesn’t feel bad about it. But it isn’t until she dies and has to repeat the day of her death over and over again that she begins to realize how much harm she’s unintentionally inflicted on others. While I honestly feel like it’s too late for her to fix the problems she’s caused, it was nice to see her realize how much she hurt people and try the best she could with what she was given. Seeing her character go from being a total bitch to everyone around her to trying to set things right made me appreciate the way her character was written. While my dislike of her doesn’t improve, I’m glad Lauren Oliver gives her some much needed character development.

But at the same time, I feel like her actions are more selfish in nature despite how much her life has changed. I say this because most of the story she doesn’t focus on making things right with people. She spends most of the other days screwing around with other people because she knows it won’t really change anything. It takes her awhile to realize what she’s supposed to be doing, but she still manages to mess things up. Then, on her last day, she pretty much talks about how it’ll be the last time she sees her family and gets pretty emotional over the whole thing. While I know these things are a part of her character development, it still frustrates me because a lot of time in the story could’ve been saved for her to do something to further her along. I also believe this though because if the car accident hadn’t happened, she would still be the same character she was in the beginning of the story.

However, I appreciate this story’s message, which is that every action you take has an effect on everyone else in some small way. You see this throughout the story with the choices Samantha makes with each of these days. Some of her decisions result in a ripple effect that we are able to see when Oliver has her make certain choices on that day. I also like that each of these same days are handled differently and that we learn more about the other characters. I appreciate this aspect in the story because it allows us better understanding of these character’s actions, and gives us a better glimpse into their everyday life. You learn something new about each of the characters the further along you get into the story, and I really appreciate how that’s tackled.

I also like how realistic this story is about the high school experience. For some people, high school is one of the best times of their life while others really hate it. I appreciate that this story covers that experience really well by going into topics such as bullying, cliques, drinking, rape, sex and suicide. These are not only topics that need to be talked about, but are things high school teenagers experience during those years of their life. It made me feel like I was at their high school on that day, meeting all of these people and dealing with everything Samantha was going through. It made me better understand her group of friends and their choices as well as what some of the other characters were going through. I liked learning more about these characters because it gave you as the reader a better idea of what happened and the role Samantha plays in their lives.

I would have to say my favorite thing about Before I Fall is the writing. I like the way the story is written with each of these seven days as a chapter that Samantha explains what she did on that particular day. I also like the writing because I think Oliver’s writing flows really smoothly and has a poetic feeling to it. She gets really descriptive at certain points in the story which makes you want to continue reading to find out what happens next.

However, I also have quite a few criticisms for Before I Fall. While I think Oliver is a beautiful writer, I also believe she made this story a little too fluffy. You see this with the repetition of this particular day when certain aspects of the day aren’t changed, such as the party at Kent’s house. It’s to the point where I feel like this book could be chopped in half and we’d still get an understanding of what happened in the story. She’d just have to include the really important things, such as the background information on Juliet and why her past friendship with Lindsay came to an end.

She wrote so much in this book, yet didn’t include one of the most important details in the story: Why did Samantha have to repeat this day? We know that after she dies, she’s stuck in this limbo of repeating the day of her death over and over again, but she never once explained why she had to go through this. We also get an ending to the cycle that doesn’t make sense, because both these characters died on the original day. So it would stand to reason that Samantha is supposed to save both of them from death, but that ends up being far from what happens. While I understand Oliver has this as a way for Samantha to prove how much she’s changed, I find it to be a flaw with the story, since both these characters are supposed to already be dead.

Besides Samantha, everyone else has no character development. Yes, we learn more about her friends and the people they bullied, but we don’t see any of these characters grow. I understand that all of these events happen on the same day so we shouldn’t expect this much of them, but I feel like they’re could’ve been a way to make this possible. Like with Lindsay, you start to see a little shift in her when Samantha asks about Juliet, but that’s really it. The only thing that changes with the characters in Before I Fall is the way Samantha sees them.

Speaking of which, I hate how Samantha and Kent’s relationship develops. Considering what’s happening in the story, I felt like having romance was completely unrealistic. Even though this is a young adult novel, I hate that she paired these two together because it didn’t make sense to me. I get that Samantha has known Kent since childhood, but that doesn’t mean they are perfect for each other. Especially with the way Samantha’s character is in the story, it just didn’t add up to me. It was almost like she was putting these two together since neither of them had anyone else. Yes, Samantha had Rob, but you could tell she didn’t care for him all too much. She only stuck with him because he was popular and someone she’d had a crush on for a long time. But you can tell she’s not right for Kent either, especially with the way she treats him in the beginning of the book. It seemed way too unrealistic to me because of everything that was going on that I wish she didn’t include any romance in the story at all.

While I enjoyed reading Before I Fall, it’s definitely not the book I expected. There are so many things with the story that if improved would make it the book people are raving about. But for me, it had too many flaws to meet those standards.

 

 

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