Review: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Can we all just be excited for a second at the fact that my most anticipated book of the year lived up to my own personal hype??

I’ve only read one of Leigh Bardugo’s young adult books, the first book in the Grisha trilogy, and it was right around the time when it was first released and I didn’t really love it. I’ve had no interest in reading any of her other books up until now and when I first read the synopsis for Ninth House I was immediately like “YES, I NEED TO READ THIS”

I like dark stories and oh boy, did this deliver on that. I’m going to say what everyone is saying about this book: it is an adult book and should be categorized as such. This is a very, very dark adult book and is not suitable content for younger readers.

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Before I get into my review, here’s the synopsis from Goodreads:

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

Like I had said at the beginning of the post, this was my most anticipated read of the year. I got nervous as I started to see more and more reviews of people reading this and rating it lower than anticipated and I kept stopping myself from starting it because I didn’t want to be disappointed. Luckily, in the end, I was so far from disappointed, I rated this 5 stars.

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This book was a behemoth and I read it over the course of about three days. Each chapter title gives you the time at which the events in the chapter are taking place. “Winter” and “fall/late fall” were the main ones and the perspective switched between our main character, Alex, and Darlington, Alex’s mentor in Lethe. Lethe is essentially a group that has been created to be guardians to the secret societies of Yale.

From the get go, I connected with Alex and her struggle with being a survivor. The fight for life and for survival is something I relate to deeply and it was emotional to see how strong she was in order to do anything. I also really enjoyed reading from both her and Darlington’s perspectives in order to get a more in depth view of the story. I personally felt like if we had only followed Alex, that we never would’ve learned some of the things that Darlington shared in his chapters.

I genuinely wish that I would have kept a tally of how many times I said “oh my god” or “wtf” while reading this because it was lot. Some parts of the book I totally saw coming, but others blew my mind. I think that I can say that I am a big fan of paranormal/fantasy type thrillers because unlike thrillers that take place in “real life” basically anything can happen. We can get those big twists and shocks because literally anything could happen. This whole book had me turning the next page thinking “what could possibly happen next?” It was compelling and devious and I adored it.

A lot of the reviews I’ve seen are from people who thought that this book was boring, or at least the first half was boring. I felt like this book was chock full of information but to me, it felt balanced. If it had all been jam packed with action, I think it would have been overwhelming. But with less action and more exposition, it would have been too dry. There really wasn’t any point in this that I felt like I wanted to skip sections or chapters because I genuinely wanted to see what every page had in store. If you’re looking for a simple read, this probably isn’t for you! It’s full of names and stories and is so layered that it takes a lot of brain power to really engross yourself in it. But let me tell you, it is well worth it if you like dark adult fantasy.

So when it comes to recommending this, I want to preface this with this book is really disturbing at times. One scene in particular made me physically gag and many others left me feeling drained. It was dark, definitely not quite what I expected, but in the end I was left with overwhelming hope for this group of characters that had been beaten down and broken more times than I could count. I adored the characters in this book, flaws and all and I genuinely can’t wait to get my hands on book two. But please be careful when picking up this book and if you are interested in content warnings I’ll have those at the end of the review.

I think that if you’re a fan of dark stuff, give this a try. If you like a unique cast of characters and a wild story, pick this up.

If you’re interested in purchasing a copy, you can find it here.

Content warnings:

Sexual assault (child rape and date rape), murder, gore, drug abuse, drowning, death, suicide, forced consumption of human waste. 

 

Review: Wilder Girls by Rory Power

Do you ever read a book and then just spend forever rolling it over in your mind because you have literally no idea what you think of it? That was this book for me.

Wilder Girls by Rory power was an incredibly highly anticipated read of this year and while it didn’t sound quite up my alley (books about quarantine and disease are not usually a hit for me) I was looking forward to giving it a try.

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It follows a dual perspective of two girls at Raxter School for Girls, a boarding school that has been placed under a quarantine for the last 18 months after a mysterious disease called the Tox took over the island. They’re completely cut off from the world while the disease changes everything in strange and violent ways. Girls have grown gills, second spines, scales, and more. It’s essentially supposed to be the female version of Lord of the Flies (which I get but also it’s vastly different so…) So with that really brief description, let’s get into the review.

I think I’m just going to start right off with my star rating. It took me over an hour to decide on this but I went with three stars.

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I thought this started off incredibly slowly and up until about 150 pages in I was tempted to DNF this. There were definitely small pieces of the story that kept me wanting to continue so in the end I kept going.

The story itself was really compelling, it brought up so many questions about what could possibly be happening to this island and these girls. The plot is what kept me connected to the book and essentially nothing else. I didn’t really connect with any of the characters, I definitely empathized with them and their situation but I felt like I barely knew anything about any of them. When they switched perspectives from Hetty to Byatt, it was really jarring. I mean it was over 100 pages into the book by the time that happened so it felt weird to all of a sudden read from another perspective.

I also didn’t feel like this perspective change was all that well done. Byatt had a very distinctive voice but her pieces didn’t really fill in many holes of the story, they just added more. By the end of the book I had so many questions that I was shocked that I had reached the final page. This book was marketed as a standalone and I have absolutely no idea how it could possibly have just ended the way it did. I mean talk about a cliffhanger.

I enjoyed the crazy crescendo that was the ending of this book. But again, all the unanswered questions just left me wondering why the heck I just spent two days reading this. I wanted to get to the end and find a resolution and the fact that there wasn’t one left me mulling over why I had read this book in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand why some people would absolutely love this book but I also understand why there are people who wouldn’t like it. If I had known there weren’t going to be answers waiting for me at the end of this book, I don’t think I would have pushed through that beginning portion, so now I’m really stuck wondering if we’ll ever get a sequel, or maybe just some sort of epilogue.

This was marketed as a feminist Lord of the Flies and honestly, I really and truly don’t understand that. It’s a survival story at heart, I’ll give them that, but that’s as far as I’d take the comparison… Also I don’t care but I’m going to say it and say that changing the entire cast of characters to female doesn’t inherently make it feminist (because that’s essentially the only thing I could take from that comparison, idk). I’m interested to see what Rory Power writes next, her writing is quite nice and I really hope that in her next books her characters stand out as much as her story does. I think she creates a spectacular story but I just wish that everything else didn’t fall so flat.

If you’re looking for a borderline scary and a little bit gory YA survival story, I would recommend trying this. But if you’re hoping for something that hands you the plot all wrapped up in a box with a bow on top, this isn’t for you.

 

Review: The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

As is the case with so many of the books that I review, I got this at my library! I was super pumped that they had it and even more pumped that it had no wait time. 36478784._SY475_

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary takes quite the unique twist on the “there’s only one bed” romance trope.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Tiffy and Leon share a flat
Tiffy and Leon share a bed
Tiffy and Leon have never met…

Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.

But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window…

This book has been a bit hyped up and I was hesitant to start reading it as I haven’t had the best rapport with hyped up books this year. By the end of it though I was pleasantly surprised with how much I had enjoyed it! I actually rated it 5 stars!

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Tiffy and Leon were such distinctively different characters and one of my favorite things about the book was how vastly different the writing styles were between their chapters. It gave them both a unique voice and it seriously made the book for me. When there are more than one narrator in a book I will sometimes get mixed up with who is speaking and this kept them so separate that I never got them mixed up.

I think that all the branched off plot lines in this actually held weight within the story which is not often the case in romance novels. Though I would have loved to see more with Leon’s patients, Holly and Mr. Prior, just because I adored them. Each portion of the felt tied up by the end and I was left feeling satisfied overall.

The characters were unique but not overly done which I really appreciated. I feel like it’s far too easy for side characters in romance books to fall into stereotypical roles. From the beginning I was a bit worried with the introduction of Kay but she ended up being so minor that I kind of just brushed my thoughts of her to the side (I could say a lot about her but I think I’ll refrain from doing so).

One of my personal favorite parts of this book was Tiffy’s job! She works as an editor for craft books and one of her clients crochets and knits and it honestly brought me so much joy to read all those parts. DIY should be included in more books.

I also really enjoyed the romance in this. Seeing the relationship between Tiffy and Leon unfold between notes left around the flat was perfect. I’m a big fan of unconventional relationships like this! Leon has a good chance of being my new favorite love interest. He was so gentle, sweet, and caring and I quite enjoyed reading his chapters (this is definitely not always the case when it comes to dual perspectives with males and females). He was so respectful and just genuine, loved him.

Minor spoilers ahead in terms of trigger warnings and discussing those plots points:

As a warning there is a stalking abusive ex in this book and if you are at all triggered by stuff like that I would probably pass on this book. I felt that the author handled this quite well and this is coming from someone who has been in an emotionally abusive relationship similar to the one Tiffy had been in. By putting her in therapy I felt that was one good step forward but I also felt like this didn’t completely lean in to the whole “love can fix everything”. Tiffy was still uncomfortable with falling into a new relationship but still felt more secure with her new relationship. I don’t know, it just felt good to me.

This was such an unexpected joy to read. It had me feeling all warm and fuzzy by the end and I really want to get my own copy so that I can read it whenever I want to. If you’re looking for a sweet slow-burn with a very happy ending, I would definitely recommend this to you!

Review: Resurrection Girls by Ava Morgyn

Resurrection Girls by Ava Morgyn is all about grief and healing. Telling the story of a girl named Olivia, three years after the death of her younger brother. A new girl named Kara Hallas moves in across the street with her grandma and mother and Olivia is immediately drawn to them.

While hanging out with Kara, Olivia begins to pull herself out of the hole that her brother’s death left her in. The two of them form an unlikely bond while writing letters to death row inmates and Olivia tries to learn who exactly the Hallas family is.

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I received an ARC of this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This was beautifully written and utterly heartbreaking. It’s all about grief and healing and it felt so personal to look into the lives of the people within this book. At times I felt like it was too much, like I was reading about the lives of real people and I felt almost bad reading it. Although it was really hard to read I ended up reading it all in one sitting while I was doing some work at the library a few weeks ago.

The prose within this was beautiful and I think that Morgyn did a fantastic job writing her first novel. I thought that the different portrayals of grief added a lot of depth and I appreciated that Olivia and her parents all dealt with the loss of her brother in vastly different ways.

The actual Resurrection Girls subplot in which Olivia and Kara wrote letters to death row inmates was very minor, at least in my opinion. I thought it was interesting but it didn’t lend itself to the plot as much as the descriptions of this book make it out to be. I think in general this book is more about healing and relationships than anything else. There is a bit of a romance subplot as well and I thought it was okay. I loved the overall arc of the book and while I wasn’t so invested in the subplots I did enjoy them for the most part.

In terms of characters, Olivia is the only one that felt fully fleshed out. Every once in a while we got into the depths of the other characters but throughout the whole story Olivia is the sole focus. I appreciated the depth we got from her parents towards the end, it felt right, but I would have loved to know more about Kara and Prescott. Prescott had so much potential to be a really great character and in the end, he lacked depth. I talk more about what I wanted from Kara in my spoilery section later in the post.

Due to the dark nature of this book I’m including content warnings here, and then the next section contains spoilers so if you want to skip them, scroll down to the next picture.

 

 

Content warnings for: death of a child, suicide, overdose, addiction, serial killers, death

This next section contains spoilers:

So this book, I assume, is considered magical realism but I honestly think that the whole subplot of the Hallas family having some sort of “curse” could have been done away with… Or this book could’ve been 50-100 pages longer in order to fully develop what was going on with them. I felt that the ending was extremely rushed and it didn’t really add anything to the story. Kara and her family could have just as easily been a normal family with how little I learned about who they really were. It was easy to imply some of the gaps in the story but I wanted more from that storyline. That was really my main issue with the book.

I am also a tad uncomfortable with the part of this book in which Olivia overdosed. Not saying that this was bad, but I will say it felt unrealistic. Like from what I remember they didn’t even place a psychiatric hold on her? They just let her go home with her mom… The same mom that she got these pills she overdosed on from? I’m probably just being nitpicky here but this is an area where I have a ton of personal knowledge and it felt really brushed over and reduced to something really simple. Definitely not saying it was bad, just that this also could have been expanded on and written differently.

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Resurrection Girls was incredibly dark, hypnotic, moving, and deep. It was fantastic and I highly recommend it. I ended up giving it a rating of 4/5 stars and am looking forward to whatever Ava Morgyn comes up with next.

If you’re interested in picking up your own copy you can find links to the book here:

Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Book Depository

Mini Reviews: Alex Approximately, Serious Moonlight, & Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett

Back at it again with another mini reviews post. This time I’m going to be talking about the three Jenn Bennett books that I have read recently. I’ve heard people talk about all of these before, in fact I normally hear people speaking quite highly of these books so that’s why I decided to finally pick them up.

I think I’ll write my reviews in order of how I read them, so that starts off with Alex, Approximately.

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Synopsis:

Classic movie buff Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online by “Alex.” Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.

Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new arch-nemesis. But life is whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever-it-is she’s starting to feel for Porter.

And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…Approximately.

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This was by far my favorite of the three books. I rated it 4 stars and actually really enjoyed it! I found the sassy “hate” flirting between Porter and Bailey to be so perfect (sassy flirting is the best) and I found Bailey to be incredibly relatable. Her “dodging” methods were spot-on with things that I do and I found myself feeling for her a lot.

My biggest gripe with this book was how overly emotional everyone got. Like both Porter and his father got extremely angry and violent over events and that just really put me off. I think that this had a decent balance between the traumatic backstories and the happy go lucky teen romance. Also this is supposed to be a retelling of You’ve Got Mail, which I have never seen, soooo I can’t make any comparison to that.

The next one that I read was Starry Eyes.

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Synopsis:

Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best friends-turned-best enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern-day Californian version of the Montagues and Capulets.

But when a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Alone. Together.

What could go wrong?

With no one but each other for company, Zorie and Lennon have no choice but to hash out their issues via witty jabs and insults as they try to make their way to safety. But fighting each other while also fighting off the forces of nature makes getting out of the woods in one piece less and less likely.

And as the two travel deeper into Northern California’s rugged backcountry, secrets and hidden feelings surface. But can Zorie and Lennon’s rekindled connection survive out in the real world? Or was it just a result of the fresh forest air and the magic of the twinkling stars?

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This was my least favorite of the three. I rated it 2 stars. This entire story was just outrageous. Like the entire “conflict” could have been dealt with had Zorie even tried to talk to Lennon. And honestly, who in their right mind would leave people stranded out in the middle of nowhere. That whole aspect of the book made me so mad. What an entitled group of side characters, HATED them!!! Also so many parts were just really out there, with bears and mountain lions and lightning…. How unlucky can two people get?? This book sounded sooooo good from the synopsis, a Shakespeare retelling and camping? Sign me up!! But the execution just wasn’t there. I didn’t really like any of the characters and I spent most of my reading just shaking my head in frustration.

Oh, and the fact that this book started off with Zorie literally using her telescope to peep on Lennon… Gross.

Lastly, I read Serious Moonlight.

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Synopsis:

After an awkward first encounter, Birdie and Daniel are forced to work together in a Seattle hotel where a famous author leads a mysterious and secluded life in this romantic contemporary novel from the author of Alex, Approximately.

Mystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.

In her new job, Birdie hopes to blossom from introverted dreamer to brave pioneer, and gregarious Daniel Aoki volunteers to be her guide. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel.

To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell…discovering that the most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.

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Birdie was hands down my least favorite character from any of these books. I had to drag myself through over half of this book. Honestly, the only reason why I rated this three stars was because there was a good 150 pages that charmed my pants off and kept me from DNF’ing this altogether. The first half was boring, the ending was convoluted, the middle was just right.

So I probably could have done an entire review for just this book alone but I’ll try to be brief. Birdie was so incredibly naive and genuinely stupid and fucking selfish and I can’t stand her. I don’t know if that was purposeful because of her “sheltered” childhood but I still couldn’t even look past that and give her the benefit of the doubt. Daniel was precious and can I say that he’s too good for Birdie? Because he’s Too. Damn. Good. for Birdie.

By the end of this, I think too many plot lines converged and it got overwhelming in a bad way. I finished the book unimpressed and wanting more.

Final Thoughts

I don’t think that I’ll be picking up any Jenn Bennett books in the future. I can see why people like her books, but they’re  just not for me. Also, coming from an asexual person, I understand why putting sex scenes into YA novels is important but damn do we really need to make it so pivotal?? It’s not life changing, as all these characters made it out to be… I think that it could have been written a lot differently. Honestly had me looking at these relationships a lot more like young lust instead of young love. But, again, I’m asexual so you can take my thoughts with a grain of salt.

All of these books sounded great from reading the synopsis but I was left wanting more. And, as is a problem I have with so many other books that I read, so much of the conflict within these books could have been solved with communication and I will just continue sighing heavily over this. Anyways, was not really impressed and I’m definitely looking forward to reading some better books in the next few weeks.

 

Review: Mother Knows Best by Kira Peikoff

PSA: If you can’t write a book without using a character’s mental illness to advance the plot (when that isn’t the central theme of the book) then maybe that isn’t the book you should be writing 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Mother Knows Best by Kira Peikoff is categorized as a medical suspense/thriller about “a mother’s worst nightmare, a chance at redemption, and a deadly secret that haunts a family across the generations.” I was provided a digital review copy of this by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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First off, this really isn’t a thriller. The entire plot is laid out in the synopsis and nothing was incredibly shocking or thrilling. It was definitely suspenseful at times but wasn’t that gripping in that sense. The book started off really strong and I was greatly enjoying my reading. I love it when people decide to fuck with Mother Nature and then ultimately get screwed (probably why Jurassic Park is one of my favorite movies). The ethical aspects of this and the medical stuff was interesting enough but I definitely felt like I had to suspend my disbelief for a lot of what happened. I felt like the characters were all stereotypes and while it definitely wasn’t the worst thing, it just made it even more predictable and a little boring. The ending wrapped everything up with a nice tight bow and I just felt like it was rushed to make it to the conclusion.

This book was short (288 pages) and read really quickly and I would have probably rated it 4 stars had the choice not been made to use Claire’s (the main character) mental illness in order to advance the plot. Like I already wasn’t a fan of it in the beginning but I was going to chalk it up to her just being anxious and still grieving the loss of her first child. But then she got “bad” again and the whole thing culminated in her ending up in a mental health facility which I think had absolutely no relevance to the plot. Literally anything else could have been written for her to be doing in order for her to be away from the house long enough for Jillian to infiltrate and do her dirty work. But no… Also if authors can’t learn the difference between “delusions” and “hallucinations” I’m going to file a complaint and start a riot. These are not the same things. A delusion is a thought, it’s a very strong and unshakeable belief in something that is not true or is completely impossible. A hallucination, in very brief description, is experiencing something that isn’t there and can affect any of the senses. I feel like I should start an entire series on mental health representation in books because I’ve encountered some really, really bad takes recently.

Anyways, I just wanted to share a few quotes from the portion of the book where Claire was in the hospital:

“The schizophrenics are the noisiest; they jabber the most, in different tones. The psychotics are the quietest, but the scariest.”

I notice she’s backed up two steps, in case I try to grab the pen and stab her. The staff never get too close to a wild animal in a cage.”

Pretty soon after that, she’s also apprehended by “guards” and then injected with medication in order to knock her out. Like way to just bring all the mental hospital stereotypes into play right here! This is so unrealistic, like in all my times in hospitals I’ve only ever seen one person get a shot and that’s because they needed a stronger dose than a pill could provide. As is the fact that she was released from the hospital that she was “voluntarily” staying at after her episode in which she was taken down by the guards. That’s not how that works. That’s not how any of that works. Shit, I get that Claire didn’t think she was “crazy” but don’t take down everyone else. Patients are people too. We’re people too. And the fact that the author wrote this section like this was incredibly insensitive and it really hurt me. This is why I don’t share my own mental health and hospital history with people because that’s the kind of representation we get in books.

Please, authors, I beg of you, stop writing mentally ill characters as a means of driving your plot. Stop writing us as crazy. Stop making us the villains. Just stop. It hurts. It makes me sad. It’s not fair. You can do better.

So after reading that part of the book I felt really disheartened. I finished the book because it was easy reading but it never redeemed itself. I ultimately rated it 2 stars and will not be recommending this.

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Review: A Fire Sparkling by Julianne MacLean

I am a sucker for a good World War II historical novel. I love learning about any part of history but I’ve always found my biggest interests in WWII. So when I saw a new WWII based novel on NetGalley, I requested an ARC right away and they graciously provided me with one. Unfortunately I wasn’t in a huge historical fiction mood when I got it so I only just now got around to reading it (shame on me 😦 ).

But once I did sit down to read A Fire Sparkling by Julianne MacLean I ended up completing it in two sittings (probably would’ve been one if I hadn’t had to train someone at work). I think my favorite thing about historical fiction books are when they do capture your attention to the point of not wanting to put the book down. Many historical fiction books are dense and poetic and not that easy to get into at first but gradually pick up speed and intensity as it goes on.

Most of this review is going to contain spoilers because I don’t feel like I can adequately discuss my thoughts without spoiling the book… So I’ll do a quick nonspoiler review now before I dive further into my thoughts on this book.

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Here’s a quick summary:

A Fire Sparkling follow dual timelines during “present day” 2011 and Europe in World War II. Gillian returns home after heartbreak to spend time with her father and grandmother and discovers that her grandmother has been hiding a huge secret from her family for most of her life.

That’s a really bad summary but that’s essentially all the story is.

This book was a very easy read, it was not full of complicated prose or very poetic at all. So if you are new to the historical fiction genre, I would recommend this. If you are a fan of the trope where an old person reveals a huge life secret in their old age, I would recommend this. If you want a very (in my opinion) light historical fiction novel that is full of twists and turns, I recommend this.

If you have extensive knowledge of World War II and are well versed in historical fiction and want a really deep and realistic story… Don’t pick this up. This story just seemed so unrealistic and the twists and turns that the plot took made me dizzy. The characters all felt pretty flat to me as well and I wasn’t a fan of Gillian whatsoever and I rated the book 3/5 stars.

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You are about to enter a spoiler zone, leave now if you don’t want to get spoiled!!!

Y’all… I have no idea what to think of this book. It felt like the author had like a checklist of historical fiction World War novels and just checked off every item as she added them to the plot. Spies, lost loves, resistance infiltrating enemy forces, an old person revealing their entire lives in their old age… It was exhausting. There were so many twists that this book took that it straight up gave me whiplash!!

Now, I saw it coming that the Nazi was Gillian’s true grandfather. The author literally said that the earl that was the supposed grandfather had dark hair and eyes while Edward had blond hair and blue eyes (and look I know it was possible, but was highly unlikely, I do understand basic biology) and I just figured that Vivian had had another miscarriage and April gave up the baby due to one situation or another. I definitely didn’t see the twist coming that Vivian was April but in the end, okay, super dramatic but it works.

In terms of the actual historical story in this. It was decent, that was the part of the book that I actually liked. It gave me whiplash but it kept me interested and in the end, that’s what mattered. For the most part, it just felt very generic and typical of a World War II historical fiction novel. Pretty much all of the characters were flat and I wasn’t particularly attached to any of them. I would have loved more development with Jack especially considering he was the “great love” the grandmother’s life.

The “present day” timeline was annoying. I hated Gillian as a character. She clearly was supposed to have some big healing story arc by accepting her mother’s death from a decade before but I felt like she was an entirely pointless character and her story was atrocious? Like, okay, let’s have a character heal from a past trauma… But was it really necessary to this book? NOPE! Her story could have easily just been “oh, I’ve been through a breakup (or even been single this whole time) and just decided to come home and visit” and then BAM there’s grandma’s story. Her story with the cheating just added to the plot soup. Literally so many storylines and none of them were 100% developed. This could have been 3-4 books with the amount of stuff that was going on. Like I said earlier, I wasn’t attached to any of the characters and I felt absolutely no sympathy or empathy for Gillian which to me, clearly shows that these characters weren’t well written.

One little gripe before I get to my last point… OMG the amount of times the author described an emotion being felt in the belly. I should’ve kept a tally. It was like once a chapter. Drove me crazy. Use other descriptors, please and thank you.

There was one thing that really made me mad, like steaming mad, and that was the ending. I’m sorry but making the Nazi a part of the resistance? No. Just honestly why? That’s a total copout to make the guy look “good”. Sorry, no, I don’t care that he was part of the resistance. You don’t get that high up in the ranks without doing atrocious things. It’s unforgiving. The author really tried to redeem this guy and I absolutely hated that. I could probably rant for a good hour about how frustrated this made me feel but I’m just going to say that this was a poor choice and I would have preferred for it to have ended differently.

I went with 3 stars for my rating because while it was plot soup and had a bad ending and not so great writing, I did enjoy it overall. And maybe I could hyper analyze and change my rating but there’s not really a point. I think this would be a fine book for people who want to read historical fiction but can’t handle the super dense and heavy books that usually flood this genre.

Now, if you’ve stuck around this far, thanks for reading and I hope you all have a great weekend!

Mini Reviews: Sheets & Ghosts

Found out a very important thing when I was at the library the other day… All the good graphic novels are in the kids section!!! I’ve been going to this library for my entire life (I still have my original library card with my barely legible childhood signature) and once I moved up to the YA and adult sections I kind of stopped going to the children’s section. But now that my brothers are old enough to be getting into chapter books, I’ve started to venture into the middle grade section more and more. For one, it’s super fun to reminisce over all of the books that I recognize over the years, but also I’ver realized that there are so many good books that I’ve wanted to read that are hidden over there!

The graphic novel section in the YA part of my library holds almost exclusively manga (which I’ve never really gotten into) so I was super excited when I went to get my brother a graphic novel from the kids section and I stumbled upon Sheets by Brenna Thummler and Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier! I read them both in one night and was surprised that they carried pretty similar themes so I’ve decided to group them together in this post to review!

So first off is Sheets by Brenna Thummler. This book follows a girl named Marjorie. She’s thirteen and is not only navigating the difficulties of school (boys and P.E. are stressful, definitely relatable) but she’s also running her family’s laundry business completely on her own. Now take in the fact that a ghost named Wendell is starting to cause problems behind the scenes of the store and a conniving “businessman” that’s trying to take the business out from under them this story dives a lot deeper than I ever expected it to.

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First off, I want to say that the artwork in this is stunning. The colors are absolutely gorgeous. I mean look at these!

 

And apart from that, the story is great. The parts with the rude customers hurt my heart but were so highly realistic (and this is coming from someone who works at a dry cleaners so it was very relatable). This book was about healing and growing. While both Marjorie and Wendell have experienced death in one way or another (Marjorie lost her mom and Wendell himself is dead) it was touching to see how they grew into themselves as the story progressed. This was incredibly different than I expected it to be from when I’ve heard people talk about it but I absolutely loved it all the same.

Now the second graphic novel I read was Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier. Raina is a favorite author of mine and I was really excited to finally be able to read this. Ghosts is about a girl named Catrina (Cat) and her sister, Maya. Maya has Cystic Fibrosis (CF) so their family is moving to a coastal town in order to try and see if the sea air will help her lungs. After moving, the sisters find out that there is more to the little coastal town than meets the eye. Spoiler alert: It’s ghosts 😉

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This book was also a lot deeper than I expected it to be and there were a few scenes that got me tearing up. It was a really touching story about a town that embraces those that have died and celebrates their ghosts as they come back. A lot of this story centered around Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and the town enjoying their time with those that have passed away.

I read a number of reviews that I found myself disagreeing with because in the end, I don’t think that this book was supposed to be a history lesson. It was a story in which two girls were trying to learn how to come to terms with the fact that one them is sick. Now CF is slowly becoming less and less of a fatal disease, but it is a lifelong illness that people have to deal with. No matter how much the technology improves, there’s still a chance that someone could die. I mean I closely followed Claire Wineland‘s journey on Youtube while she tried to get a lung transplant and then she ended up passing away from a stroke that was caused by a blood clot after having a successful transplant. The scene in Ghosts where Maya asks Cat if she would be scared of her ghost if she died tore me up inside. And that’s what this story is about. It’s about seeing the inevitability of death and understanding that we can be scared of it, but that doesn’t mean that we have to forget about or be saddened by the people we have lost. We can celebrate and cherish our loved ones for as long as we live.

And maybe this story could have done with the Dia de los Muertos aspects (I personally didn’t read into it as much as some reviewers did) but I think that having those allowed the characters to celebrate their heritage and traditions that not everyone gets to learn about.

I thought that this story was great and although it wasn’t my favorite of Raina’s (Smile still takes the cake) I did really enjoy this story!

I gave both of these books 5 stars and I highly recommend them both.

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Review: Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

“Broken people don’t hide from their monsters. Broken people let themselves be eaten.”

When I say that this is the book that I have been waiting my whole life to read, I don’t say that lightly. Like there are some books that you read and you enjoy and you move on from and then there are books that open your mouth and crawl down your throat and into your soul… This book crawled into my soul and stuck its tendrils in every nook and cranny and I’m not sure if I could expel it if I tried.

I am…. Very emotional right now. Genuinely cannot stop thinking about this book. Wow. Wow. Wow.

So I read Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia this week. I had heard of this book a few times before now, but I never actually knew what it was about. I knew that it had been compared to both Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and Radio Silence by Alice Oseman; both of which are books that I related to immensely. It was on the shelf at my library when I was there last weekend so I decided to finally check it out.

Here’s the blurb for the book on Goodreads:

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, she’s LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves the online one, and she has no desire to try.

Then Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea’s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school. Wallace thinks Eliza is just another fan, and as he draws her out of her shell, she begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile.

But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart.

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I started off with this book not really having any high expectations of the story. Of any sort of these fandom-centered books, Fangirl was still the one that I hold nearest and dearest to my heart. But after reading this, well, that’s all changed.

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I rated this 5/5 stars and I will make my claim here that I genuinely do not think that any book that I read for the rest of the year will top this one. This is- and I cannot stress this enough- my new favorite book.

So I’m going to do this review in two parts. An objective part, which I’ll do real quick first, and then my own personal review in the secondary part.

Eliza and Her Monsters hits on so many aspects of living life as someone who is very online. There are great storylines, good character development, an adorable first romance, intense backstory, this was a familiar story and yet so unique… The mental health representation is spot on and the fact that the author portrayed therapy visits and actually put a character on medication. *Chef’s kiss* For anyone that has grown up in a fandom, grown up loving books or comics or been part of an online community, I highly recommend. It weaves together both the good and bad parts of being online and really highlights the inner strength that it takes to be able to get up and move forward when you really, really don’t want to be around anymore.

This is also a great book that talks about passions and the choices that young people have to make in deciding whether to go on to further education, what to do for work, how to decide what we really want to do for our future. I think it is so important to see books where young people don’t follow the “traditional” path of going to college right out of high school. Not everyone needs to follow that path and it’s important to know that we have options.

On a personal note, this book struck a chord with me that no book ever has before. There were so many parallels within this story that coincided with events in my own life that on more than one occasion I had to set the book down and take a lap around the store that I work at because I was getting overly emotional. (Like I genuinely felt like I was reading my own story and it was the creepiest and most emotional thing I’ve ever felt).

I have never related to two characters more, never seen myself in a book the way that I saw myself in Eliza and Wallace. It tore me in two and then slowly glued me back together. I can’t even say that this is a book that I needed back in high school because genuinely, this is the book that I needed right now. I want to tell everyone to read this book but at the same time I want to keep it to myself because this story felt so personal.

Oh gosh, I’m getting emotional again. *deep breaths* Okay!

So there is a trigger warning for suicide in this book, and while I’m glad I didn’t know about that going into my initial reading, I also know that I probably would have saved myself from a less extreme panic attack when reading the scenes in which this trigger is relevant.

Again, 5/5 stars. Already bought my own copy of this and will probably be rereading before the end of the year.

If you want to pick up your own copy (which I highly urge you to do) here are some links for you:

Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Book Depository

Review: Rebel Girls by Elizabeth Keenan

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I recently received an ARC of Rebel Girls by Elizabeth Keenan from NetGalley in order to review.

Before I get into my thoughts, here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

It’s 1992, and there’s a rumor spreading in Baton Rouge…

When it comes to being social, Athena Graves is far more comfortable creating a mixtape playlist than she is talking to cute boys—or anyone, for that matter. Plus her staunchly feminist views and love of punk rock aren’t exactly mainstream at St. Ann’s, her conservative Catholic high school.

Then a malicious rumor starts spreading through the halls…a rumor that her popular, pretty, pro-life sister had an abortion over the summer. A rumor that has the power to not only hurt Helen, but possibly see her expelled.

Despite their wildly contrasting views, Athena, Helen and their friends must find a way to convince the student body and the administration that it doesn’t matter what Helen did or didn’t do…even if their riot grrrl protests result in the expulsion of their entire rebel girl gang.

In this day and age, this book and the topics within it are just as important as they would have been back in 1992 when this book takes place. However, I found that the way this book was executed fell very short of any expectations I had of this book. I am very aware that I am not the target audience of this book. I’ve recently turned 23 and very much don’t fit in to the young adult age range anymore but I still feel like this book was bad. From my own context of reading this, I could understand why it might appeal to a younger audience however I personally could not find it in myself to appreciate any part of it.

I’m also going to preface this by saying that in my review I will not be talking about the actual debate of pro choice or pro life. Just the way that this book handles it.

I’ve decided to rate this book 1 star.

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***This review contains minor spoilers***

The feminist aspects of this book did not come across the way that I feel like they were intended to solely because the main character, Athena, did not seem to convey why she felt the need to believe the things that she did other than the fact that her Riot Grrl heroes felt that way. This can easily be explained away by her being a teenager because teenagers very easily blindly believe things (I mean I know I did!) but she has the ability to explain why the people she trusts feel the way that they do. So much of Athena’s inner dialogue was her saying sexist things and then backtracking because she “shouldn’t think like that”. There’s no real motivation to her beliefs, she’s still very much sucked into the popularity contests of high school and she falls on the “not like other girls” spectrum at her Catholic school.

The entire book dealt with issues that Athena’s sister, Helen, was encountering but was all told from Athena’s perspective I’m assuming because Helen didn’t have the same beliefs as Athena did so that’s why Athena was chosen to force feed us her thoughts. I really felt like that this book should have been from Helen’s perspective, even if she was pro life. I think that it could have been an interesting character arc for her to go from being strictly pro life to seeing the reasons why people might be pro choice and possibly even changing her beliefs.

I think all of the characters in this book were flat. They were all stereotypes that played into a dramatic high school story. The mean girls, the jocks, the cute boys, the outcasts, etc. It played at being diverse but things like the fact that Sean (Athena’s best friend) was a star football player but hid his love of comics really played into the “everyone must fit their stereotype” line. Sister Catherine was my favorite character in this whole book and she hardly played a big role at all which was really disappointing. I felt like she was also the most realistically portrayed. The guidance counselor character literally made me want to scream. I cannot believe that there was a character that demeaning and malicious written in to this book… Same with the lady that worked at the “fake abortion” clinic. I am well aware of how much fear mongering goes in to pro life campaigns but I can’t imagine why the pro life characters in this book needed to be so graphically rude. Or the locker scene, oh my dear lord the locker scene literally made me sick to my stomach with rage.

Before I can get too angry, like I’m trying really hard to keep my thoughts straight here… But I just think this book lacked empathy. Athena was one of the most unempathetic characters ever. I understand that she’s a teenager but if this book is supposed to center around her younger sister being bullied because of rumors surrounding an alleged abortion I just think it’s in poor taste that the first 100 pages of this book revolve around a crush. I felt like Helen was the only character who really “grew” throughout the book and I wish that she would have been the main character instead of Athena.

In the end, I feel like the message in this book had the potential to be something really good but I spent the entire book getting more and more frustrated over everything. The overall plot wasn’t even revealed until 100+ pages into the book because the first quarter was filled with fluff about crushes and typical school drama. This also had an incredible lack of empathy towards any character. There was so much cruelness from multiple characters that it physically hurt to read. And if that was the point to try and bring shock value into getting teenagers to believe in being pro choice, well, then I guess this book did that? I wish I could say that I wanted to recommend this but I can’t.