Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley

Our Own Private Universe5/5 stars

Fifteen-year-old Aki Simon has a theory. And it’s mostly about sex.

No, it isn’t that kind of theory. Aki already knows she’s bisexual—even if, until now, it’s mostly been in the hypothetical sense. Aki has dated only guys so far, and her best friend, Lori, is the only person who knows she likes girls, too.

Actually, Aki’s theory is that she’s got only one shot at living an interesting life—and that means she’s got to stop sitting around and thinking so much. It’s time for her to actually do something. Or at least try.

So when Aki and Lori set off on a church youth-group trip to a small Mexican town for the summer and Aki meets Christa—slightly older, far more experienced—it seems her theory is prime for the testing.

But it’s not going to be easy. For one thing, how exactly do two girls have sex, anyway? And more important, how can you tell if you’re in love? It’s going to be a summer of testing theories—and the result may just be love.

“Because, well. I had this theory.
Granted, all I ever had were theories. That was the whole problem. My life, all fifteen years of it, had been all about the hypothetical and never about the actual.”

Our Own Private Universe is definitely one of my favorite LGBTQ+ book of not only this year but maybe even overall..? I can’t believe I’m even saying that because I’ve read so many wonderful LGBTQ+ books such as More Happy Than Not and Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda. And believe me when I tell you that this book definitely deserves a spot on the shelf along with them. This is a beautifully written story of a girl that is just trying to learn more about herself, and along the way, more about the world.

“Being bi, just like the rest of my life, had always been mostly hypothetical.”

Aki Simon is a very strong and complex main character. Right from the very start I knew that I was going to fall for this book just because of the way Aki thought. She is caring but also calculates and plans her moves, such as her theories. She’s worried that the hypotheticals in her life are just that hypothetical and not real life. So she takes her life into her own hands and thrusts herself into new, and maybe uncomfortable, situations to test herself. I know that everyone always says “I really connected to this character” or “they were just like me”. But I am not joking when I literally burst into tears while reading this book (They weren’t sad tears because this book isn’t really filled with many sad parts. They were tears of “this person gets me”.). A friend persuaded me to push Our Own Private Universe to the top of my TBR because in her words “this character is YOU”. And oh my goodness it was like having my mind cracked open and the findings were written on the page. I’ve never been this connected to a book or character but the way Aki thinks and the way Robin Talley translates it on the page? It’s nothing less than magical. Maybe this is why this book was so moving for me but this is definitely a part of why I will always hold this book very close to me.

“That was when I forgot how to breathe altogether.””

Aki and Christa’s relationship is very complex in this book. Neither one is publicly out. Christa has a boyfriend back home and her family would disown her if they knew. Aki doesn’t know how her father, the minister in charge of the mission group in Mexico, would react. Christa and her boyfriend made a deal to see other people during the summer, so Aki decides that this relationship will just be a summer fling. They have to sneak around Mexico, kissing in alleyways, and holding hands underneath tables. Everything is going perfectly until word starts getting out and their hiding place isn’t so secret anymore. They’re relationship is so pure. It is the definition of puppy love . Both of them can’t help but smile when the other enters the room. It was so much fun to follow along with them as they not only learn more about each other but discover things about themselves.

“I’d wondered what it would be like to have a real boyfriend. Maybe a girlfriend, too. Someday.”

This book was very focused on Aki discovering who she is, her sexuality most of all. But it was like no regular romance out there. It was like no regular Young Adult Romance out there. Robin Talley wrote this story so even when talking about serious and uncomfortable topics you feel safe and comfortable learning about it along with Aki. If you aren’t into semi-graphic intimate scenes this book may not be the best for you at the moment. Talley really delves into the topic of what it means to love someone and how you can healthily show that love, which she demonstrated through safe sex. That’s right ladies and gentlemen safe sex for a homosexual relationship. I was insanely happy to see this. Not only do YA books shy away from talking about condoms they even shy away from using anything but very vague descriptions to give you a hint that a couple had sex. But no no no you won’t find this here, Talley had Aki research and find out about homosexual safe sex, such as using dental dams, and let’s be honest many readers were probably learning this along with Aki. It was very refreshing to read a realistic young girl learning about sex and stumbling through it just like many others.

“The who mattered a lot more than the what.”

This story not only deals with sexuality and romance it also incorporates how faith and beliefs can change the way you view the world. Both Aki and Christa are both Christian and they even meet on a mission trip down to Mexico to help build a church there. Many people have this preconceived notion that every single Christian person has to be against LGBTQ+ but this book took that notion, tore it to shreds and lit it on fire. This book showed both the bad and the good of coming out. Aki mostly showing the good side of things and Christa mostly showing the bad. Christa does not want their relationship to be public in fear that her parents will find out. As described by one of her close friends, her parents were the type to consider disowning her because of her sexuality. While on the other hand Aki slowly came out to her close friends and brother and was not completely understood but was wholeheartedly accepted and loved by them all. Our Own Private Universe showed how no one can ever tell you when it’s your time to come out, it’s whenever you feel comfortable and safe to do so. Because this is a big decision to make, it’s one that can alter your life. But even if you have not come out that does not change who you are, you are still valid and strong and beautiful.

“If changed people’s minds. I’d taken something that was so obvious to me it didn’t even need to be explained and, somehow, I’d explained it.”

Another topic that was dealt with was social and economical issues that are present in the world today. I was super excited when I saw these begin to surface throughout the book through petitions, and in the end a debate, because these are topics that may not be addressed in your average light hearted contemporary read. These topics were to be discussed with the Church to see how they, as a whole, would stand for or agents certain topics. This being said the topics were a huge discussion point among our main character, who’s father is a preacher at their Church. Being able to hear both sides of certain issues during the debate was interesting but it was even more interesting to see how discussing these topics helped Aki develop as a character. Some issues that were main focal points other than the obvious Same-Sex Marriage was Foreign Aid to Countries in Need. We see this topic in a real world setting when Aki stumbles upon the only clinic in the town they are staying at, and realizing that there was only one doctor on staff for a portion of Mexico that housed hundreds of people. As you can tell this book was much more than just about the LGBTQ+ community.

“Frankly, it’s self-evident. As people of faith, it’s our duty to love everyone, the way God loves everyone. There’s no reason why any one group is less deserving of love – either the love of a church community, to the love of a family – than any other.”

At first I didn’t know how I felt about the writing style, but after a couple chapters it felt as natural as breathing. The first person POV gave you the feel of being inside Aki’s head. All of her worries were your worries, all of her fears were your fears, the love she had you felt in your core. Even with different troubles you could relate to her because of how fluid the writing was. There weren’t any major pauses or lulls in the story which made it an easy read.

“Girls like me smiled politely and always did the right thing. Girls like me definitely didn’t sneak away at night to do things that would crush their fathers. And if they did, girls like me knew how to keep it to themselves.”

I believe that this LGBTQ+ representation was very genuine and realistic. However, everyone’s story can be different so I understand how some may think that Aki’s thinking is completely wrong, or they didn’t connect to her at all. In my opinion I believe this story to be beautifully written story with complex and realistic characters and plot. If I am not mistaken I also believe this is an own voice novel, I am not completely sure if the author identifies as bisexual or not but I do know that she has a wife, which makes the story that much more authentic and real.

“‘It was so obvious! I didn’t say anything new.’
Dad chuckled. ‘It’s obvious to you, because that’s how you see the world, but it’s not obvious to everyone else until you persuade them to look at it that way, too.'”

I thoroughly enjoyed the entire book start to finish but one of my favorite parts of the book was actually the end, when everything started fitting together. This story is more character than plot driven, but nearing the end of the story all of the loose ends are tied up. Even if conflicts weren’t completely resolved we still had a sense of a good and satisfying ending. There was also a debate scene and it was just so well written. I absolutely love debates and anything that deals with political or social issues so I was super excited about this scene.

“It could be our own private universe.”

All in all I truly believe that this story will stay with me for a very long time. It’s a story that can resonate with everyone because everyone has experienced what Aki’s going through in some kind of way. We have experienced first love, questioning who we are, fear that people will not understand or accept us, passion for causes that resonate in us, loss of someone important in your life, and new friendships. If you are thinking of trying out an LGBTQ+ book for the first time or the millionth time, I would highly recommend you read this one as soon as possible.

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The Prophecy by Petra Landon

the prophecy3.5/5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

As a powerful wizard threatens the Chosen from beyond the grave, can they unravel The Prophecy in time to save their world?

Tasia is a very special Chosen. Warned to keep her distance from her brethren, she makes a fateful decision one night to assist an injured Shape-shifter. Suddenly, Tasia finds herself in the cross-hairs of Shifter mercenaries encroaching on San Francisco and their vampire allies. Forced out of the shadows, Tasia has little choice but to ally herself with the local Shifter Pack, led by a formidable and dangerous Alpha Protector. In the cut-throat world of a Shifter Pack, Tasia must fight to guard her secrets while struggling to negotiate with the enigmatic Alpha who holds his violent Pack together with a ruthless hand on its reins.
Grave danger threatens their world as a powerful wizard exploits an old prophecy to divide the Chosen. When the Pack is asked to investigate the twenty-five year old mystery, Tasia is drawn deeper into a past that risks raising the suspicions of the very Chosen she hides from. As danger closes in on her, Tasia must decide who to trust with the deadly secrets she guards.

“‘Try me, Big Eyes’ his voice was whisper soft as he resumed his sprint towards their car. ‘I might surprise you.’”

I am very grateful that Ms. Landon offered me the opportunity to read and give an honest review of her book. Naturally I was very excited to read an urban fantasy because after a month of studying for final exams I was ready to escape into a book. I was not disappointed with The Prophecy, it’s storyline and characters were amazing! This book started out with a bang and I knew right away that it was going to be a hard book to set down. The first thing I would like to get out of the way is the terminology I’ll be using throughout this review. Wizards poses magic that is put on a scale of “levels”. Wizards that have magic L2 and below have little to no magic and are seen as “less than” in the wizard world. Wizards with L3 and above have enough magic to weird against other chosen. The next important subset of Chosen are the Shifters. Shifters are basically werewolves but they are able to change into any animal that is specific to that shifter. A Shifter has an immense amount of strength and a huge temper that comes from their animalistic side. The next two subsets are Vampires and Ancients, which are ancient wizards that have the most power. Ms. Landon did a great job explaining the power systems and different Chosen present in the book, which makes it easy to understand and implement the knowledge throughout the book.

“It had been a long day. Rather, it had been a long week. Nope, scratch that, it had been a long three months!”

Tasia Armstrong is the strong, but also extremely realistic, female protagonist you didn’t know you needed. Tasia is an extremely rare and powerful wizard that is hiding in San Francisco. To keep her powers and existence a secret she poses as a Level 2 wizard, a wizard with little to no magic. She is also extremely independent and knows how to step up to the plate when anyone she loves needs her. Tasia not only holds two normal human jobs but also takes small jobs on the side to use her magic to clean away any previous magic spent in an area. The one unique gift Tasia possesses is the ability to sense the amount of magic spent and what kind of Chosen, creature with magic, spent it. On one of her small jobs she finds herself in the sticky situation of either helping a fellow Chosen or keeping her identity hidden. Needless to say Tasia helps the Chosen because even with the many stupid situations Tasia puts herself into and the mistakes she made, she is a kind hearted person. One of my favorite aspects of this book was how even through all of the danger and intrigue Ms. Landon kept Tasia as the strong woman that also has an extremely strong heart.

“‘That girl is very special. Do you know why?’ he spat out furiously. ‘She has a Pack that will not abandon her, no matter what.’”

Our male protagonist, Raoul, also known as Alph, is the Alpha Protector of the North Californian Shifter Pack. He is the overly protective and testosterone driven male in our story. From the beginning he was shown as the one to hold loyalty over anything else but also the one that can break your neck with a stare. Alph is the kind of character that is an acquired taste. In the beginning I knew he was supposed to be the guy you hate but then halfway through learn to love him along with the female protagonist. But he was always an interesting character in my mind because he was very back and forth with his emotions, which at times did get very irritating, but in the end it all made sense. Yes, in the end I did end up liking Alph because who can resist a brooding, secretly sensitive Alpha who respects women? Not me.

“‘From what I hear, he defended you vigorously to his colleagues.’
‘Hawk’ Raoul remarked with a knowing look. ‘Why am I not surprised? Hawk behaves like a gossipy schoolgirl when it comes to you.’
‘I heard that, Alph’ Hawk’s irrepressible voice came clearly through to both Shifters.”

Hawk, my absolute favorite character in this book. Both of them are Shifters, but they aren’t as temperamental or testosterone driven. Hawk is a very loving and protective character that takes a liking to Tasia when she first comes to the Pack. Hawk was the reason why Tasia was brought into the Pack in the first place. Hawk was captured by two rogue Shifters and Tasia was able to rescue him. Because of this incident Alph granted Tasia Pack protection allowing Tasia to stay at the Lair and get closer to Hawk. Hawk is basically the best friend that every person needs. He cares for and helps Tasia through the process of her becoming familiar with Shifter tradition and lifestyle. At one point he even held Tasia as she cried, and I would like to point out how most Shifters don’t like physical touch or affection. Hawk. Is. The. Most. Affectionate. And. Loving. Character. And. He. Deserves. More. Than. What. He. Was. Given. That’s all I have to say.

“Love is a very powerful emotion, my boy! Never underestimate it.”

One of the main things, that I touched on previously, was how the relationships developed and were portrayed. The Prophecy did not lean heavily on romantic or sexual relationships which was a really nice change. Instead it focused on the platonic relationships that helped Tasia grow to be the person she becomes at the end of the book. My favorite friendship was between Tasia and Hawk because both characters are so genuine in their love for each other. Hawk, being the only familiar face at the Lair, was the person Tasia leaned on and depended on for help. Even though Hawk was a huge “rock” for Tasia she also provided a safe space for Hawk to open up about his life and problems plaguing him. The other platonic relationship I love is between Duncan, an older British Shifter, and Raoul. Throughout all of the exchanges these two Shifters have you can tell how comfortable they are with one another. Duncan is one of the only people Raoul will open up to and he also allows him to call him by his first name instead of Alpha, which demonstrates a level of equality. Being able to read an urban fantasy that wasn’t solely focused on a romantic relationship was a really nice change. The Prophecy is chock full of friendships that are both unexpected and unique in their own ways.

“Enormous gray eyes, shimmering with unshed tears gazed straight at him. An involuntary and watery hiccup followed as the gray eyes stared at him in awe…’You good, Big Eyes?’ he inquired softly. ‘Where does it hurt?’”

A small aspect of the book that I happened to not like was the use of nicknames. I have read many books where two characters have an inside joke or nicknames for each other and it comes off as cute and intimate. But, in this case, I don’t think they really worked for me. Raoul calls Tasia “witchling” which I was totally okay with because it came off as natural. But then he started calling her “Big Eyes” and it just made me a little uncomfortable. Like I personally can never see anyone referring to another person as “Big Eyes”. It just doesn’t roll off the tongue easily and just sounds awkward. Yes, this was a very small and insignificant aspect of the book, but when it’s used over and over it starts to grate on your nerves just a little.

“For what it’s worth, my boy, I’m glad. It is time for you to stop sleepwalking through your life.”

The plot for this story was intricately thought out and all in all pretty well written. From the beginning you were aware of who was who and what the overarching problem was. This helped you figure out later on what the world’s dynamic was and how or why people reacted the way they did. The beginning of this book really started out with a bang. After reading the first chapter i knew I was going to have a problem setting the book down. But after hitting around halfway through the pace of the book came to a sudden halt. Problems weren’t being solved and many scenes and plot lines seemed repetitive. But after a couple chapters that were a little hard to get through the book took off. It was at the point in the story where everything was happening all at once. There was also the theme of having scenes or pieces of dialogue repeated throughout the story, which in a way made me feel like I as a reader was being underestimated. All of these scenes and pieces of dialogue had just occurred so I ended up skipping them because I felt like they were unneeded. All in all the writing is very thorough and descriptive which made for a very in depth reading experience.

“You are wrong, Tasia Armstrong. In fact, you couldn’t be more wrong. I hope that you come to see that one day.”

All in all I really enjoyed reading this book. I loved the characters’ personalities and the plot was easy to engage with. This book seemed to just have a beginning and middle so I wish we could have seen more of a definite ending to this book. With that being said I will definitely be looking forward to reading the continuation of this series and seeing what Tasia and Raoul have hidden up their sleeves. If you are into urban fantasy, fantasy, or just young adult books in general you would enjoy The Prophecy.

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More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

more-happy-than-not5/5 stars

Trigger Warning: self harm and depression

Sixteen-year-old Aaron Soto is struggling to find happiness after a family tragedy leaves him reeling. He’s slowly remembering what happiness might feel like this summer with the support of his girlfriend Genevieve, but it’s his new best friend, Thomas, who really gets Aaron to open up about his past and confront his future. As Thomas and Aaron get closer, Aaron discovers things about himself that threaten to shatter his newfound contentment. A revolutionary memory-alteration procedure, courtesy of the Leteo Institute, might be the way to straighten himself out. But what if it means forgetting who he truly is?

“I trace the smiling scar, left to right and right to left, happy to have it as a reminder not to be such a dumbass again.”

This was my first time reading a book written by Adam Silvera, and it definitely won’t be my last. Not only was this book a masterpiece it was also Mr. Silvera’s debut novel, and I can tell that he has a lot more to come. More Happy Than Not is a heart wrenching book that leaves you with tears in your eyes, a whisper of a smile on your lips, and a pit in your stomach. It brings out every emotion you could ever feel, one after another. You become so full with emotion that by the end of it you just feel empty…ironic.

“I would do my damn best to be more happy than not. You’ve already experienced so much bullshit so you can always look back on how things could be worse. That’s my two cents.”

Our main character, Aaron Soto, was the kind of character that you scream at but also want to just crush in a hug. He has just been through so much, from his father dying to self-harm. Aaron knows the true meaning of grief and sadness, he has battled with his demons and knows that it feels like when they win out. He is dating, Genevieve, a wonderful girl that was his rock when his life seemed like it was falling apart. And when he convinces her to go to an art camp over the summer he has to figure out how to continue his life without her smiling face in it everyday. With her gone Aaron turns to a new and comforting friend, Thomas. Thomas grounds Aaron, but he also throws Aaron into another raging storm of new emotions.

“Some dudes make their minds a prison. I like living outside of bars.”

Thomas is such a complex and unique character. He isn’t the cliché unique and special snowflake . He just has a powerful aura around him, he’s the kind of person that has an air about him that just radiates happiness and strength. Thomas played such a crucial role in this book. He wasn’t just the one to have Aaron began questioning his sexuality, he was also such a strong friend for Aaron. They became such good friends in what seems like an instant. It was as if they were long lost friends, they already knew each other and just jumped right back into their relationship.

“She doesn’t really understand Want versus Need like we do at home; just because you can afford something doesn’t mean you have to have it.”

If we are going to talk about relationships we should probably start with Genevieve and Aaron. They are the first “couple” that we see in this story. When you begin the book Genevieve and Aaron have already been dating for quite some time. They definitely have a familiarity between them but they don’t seem completely comfortable around each other. There were certain small scenes that took place that might have been small and insignificant but left me questioning the state of their relationship. Aaron comes from a low-income household, he knows what it means to sacrifice wants for needs, and he usually puts himself last when it comes to his family. Genevieve however comes from a better off family, not completely financially secure but better off than Aaron’s family. There are a couple times in the story where either she wants to give him something that is a “want” for him and she won’t listen to him, or where he wants to go out/do something special for her but doesn’t have enough money to live up to her standards . I feel like throughout their relationship Aaron thinks that Genevieve wont think or care about the time and effort behind his acts, just the outwards appearance. I’m not trying to take away from their relationship. They kept each other afloat during hard times and leaned on each other when they honestly couldn’t stand anymore. They were amazing friends to each other, but I feel like friends is where the relationship should have stayed.

“Please tell me you have a superpower, like you’re actually a descendant from aliens or something. I’ve always wanted to be the best friend in a superhero movie who keeps the superhero’s secret.”

Which brings me to Thomas and Aaron. The two lost puzzle pieces that somehow fit together perfectly. They just immediately become best friends and have amazing adventures that honestly makes me jealous. They sneak into movies, watch movies on the roof, run through sprinklers on hot days, and play manhunt. They met while Aaron was trying to hide from him friends during a game of man hunt, Thomas helped him hide behind something in an alleyway. You could say that they found each other during manhunt. Dang, this book is just filled to the prim with ironies, I love it.

“She holds my hand and sobs some more while tracing the raised smile on my wrist. ‘We’re scarred enough, okay?’”

Aaron doesn’t have the best home life. He doesn’t really talk to his brother or his mother after what happened to his father. His father died, and the way that he died left a permanent scar on the family. Aaron doesn’t want to move anything of his fathers but after a couple months his mother out of the blue throws all of his stuff away. His family wants to suppress all of the horrible thoughts and forget about that time in their lives where they lost a loved one and almost lost another. Everyone deals with grief in different ways.

“Sometimes pain is so unmanageable that the idea of spending another day with it seems impossible. Other times pain acts as a compass to help you get through the messier tunnels of growing up. But the pain can only help you find happiness if you can remember it.”

More Happy Than Not dealt with many social issues, life changes, and emotions, especially grief. Adam Silvera explored the many types of grief and grieving processes throughout the book. I find that Aaron is the kind of person to want to find comfort and understanding in others during his grief. While his brother and mother are more of the introverted grievers, they keep to themselves and absorb themselves into daily tasks to keep themselves centered. Mr. Silvera also incorporated the grief where you don’t necessarily miss the person but you miss what you could have had with them. You miss the fights that ended with screaming or the moments where you could have bonded and gotten to know each other better. There was also the understanding that the natural process isn’t to forget the person or grief but to learn to live with it every day. There will be bad days when the grief and memories hit you like a ton of bricks, and other days that you feel as light as a feather. But, they will always be apart of your life, even if they aren’t physically with you at the moment.

“From the shapes cast by the green paper lantern, you would never know that there were two boys sitting closely to one another trying to find themselves. You would only see shadows hugging, indiscriminate.”

I absolutely loved this book and all of its diversity. This book covered everything from ethnicity to sexuality. The LGBTQ+ community was definitely a major aspect in this book. Right on the back of the book it states that sexuality would be explored and boy was it explored . Our main character Aaron is dealing with the internal struggle of realizing that he is gay. His community isn’t very open to homosexuals so naturally his survival instincts kick in and he tries to suppress his feelings. His situation was just one of many, he isn’t the only one to feel as though he can’t truly be himself or come out into a safe environment. This fact is so sad and emotional for me. 42% of LGBTQ+ people say that the community they live in would not be accepting of them. LGBTQ+ youth are two times as likely to be physically assaulted, kicked or shoved at by their peers. These statistics are harsh but they are the reality that many people live in. It is our responsibility to change this world for the better, to make it more accepting, and to have people feel safe in their communities. No matter how old you are, you can still make a difference and alter our world. Make it safe to people like Aaron can feel safe coming out to his peers or even walking down the street holding hands with his boyfriend. If you would like to read more about the LGBTQ+ community, issues, statistics, or donate to HCR please go to http://www.hrc.org/

“The operation is scary-sounding and pretty extreme-it is experimental brain work, after all-and the doctors are cautious about administering it to those under the age of twenty-one. But I’m a danger to myself so they’re letting me shake the old ways and days out of my head.”

So, to fully understand this book you have to understand what the Leteo Procedure is. The Leteo Procedure is a brain operation that makes you forget things. This procedure is very high risk, and even after getting the procedure you can have complications like forgetting who you are or slowly gain your memories back. This procedure is usually performed on people that have gone through a horrible trauma and want relief, one of Aaron’s friends got it because his brother was murdered and he was the cause if it. They try to give it to patients that truly need it and have no other place to turn to. With that being said, Aaron wanted to get this procedure to turn him straight. He had tried so hard to stay away from Thomas, the person that challenged his sexuality, and just stop being gay , and since nothing has helped he is turning towards Leteo. Being homosexual is not something that you can just change about yourself, it is apart of who you are. Society puts such a bad connotation on it that Aaron was willing to risk his life to be straight.

”’No homo, Stretch.’
‘I know.’ I smile, and squeeze his hand back. ‘Hell of a happy ending, right?’”

I know this one aspect of the book wasn’t super important but it just kept popping up! Adam Silvera added in the line “no homo” throughout the book. Which I get how people could see it as irritating or over kill, but for me it was just so…perfect. I have so many male friends that will compliment one of their friends and always, and I mean always end it with “No homo”. For me this line meant so much. It meant that: a) Thomas and Aaron were getting closer. They were comfortable enough to compliment and play around with each other b) It also cemented the idea that Aaron wasn’t very positive and concrete in his sexuality. He had noticed something about Thomas that could come off as romantic, and not only noticed but also had the urge to share his discovery. I just thought that incorporating that common phrase used by young people made this relationship very genuine.

“This chart is the work of a madman who wants his happy ending, I should imitate his insanity.”

Adam Silvera’s writing style is perfection. I am already blown away and this is only his debut novel. If he is this talented and powerful what will his other books be like? His writing seemed effortless and his plot was carefully thought out and planned. There weren’t any moments that seemed rushed or just shoved in for emphasis or a meaningless cliché moment. Mr. Silvera but his heart and soul onto paper and then published it so we could share in his journey.

“I can’t believe I was once that guy who carved a smile into his wrist because he couldn’t find happiness, that guy who thought he would find it in death.”

All in all this book was amazing and blew me away. I literally read it in one sitting. I started it on a seven hour road trip home during Winter Break. I decided that I finally needed to sit down and read this book that I had been anticipating since it’s release. Once I picked it up, there was no way I was setting it down. Adam Silvera is an amazing author and you can tell he put his all into this book. If you are looking for a book jam packed with diversity, heart break, adventure, teens coming of age, and romance this is the book for you! Adam Silvera will definitely take his rightful place on my favorite authors and auto-buy authors lists. I cannot wait to see what he does next!

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In the Crossfire by Yelena Lugin

in-the-crossfire4.5/5 stars

Trigger Warning: scenes with torture and abuse

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The world as you know it, is gone.
Humans are being hunted by both demons and seraphs. Sky was not someone who ever thought that she would be captured alive. But she was. She thought she knew who to trust, she thought she knew the truth. She could never have been more wrong. This is Sky’s story.

“I was to forever be stuck in this space, in the crossfire of two species who did not belong on earth.”

I would like to thank the outstanding and amazing writer, Yelena Lugin, for contacting me to read and review her book, In the Crossfire. I was immediately enthralled by the title and after reading the summary I know I would like this book…and boy was I right! I was more than right, I absolutely loved reading this book and I can’t wait for the next one, Breaking of Chains. The scenes and descriptions made you feel like you were there with the characters, and the characters themselves were flushed out and were developed very well. If you are looking for a book that is long enough that you will get a full story out of it with amazing characters and writing this is the book for you!

“‘What happened to you?’ Barakiel observed Luke when we stepped off the bus.
‘Girl fight.’ Heath answered.
And as if Barakiel knew, he turned to me.
‘Well you look fine.’ He said.”

I was very skeptical of Sky being our main character at first. I felt like we were going to have another girl is better fighter than even the seasoned warriors because she lived in constant threat for a couple years. But it wasn’t that way at all! Sky is of course a great fighter but that’s with years of not only being out in the wilderness fighting demons but training with her mother, an angel. Her half angel half human blood, halfling, does make her special and gives her some added strengths, but it also sets her back. Demons want her to hunt down Angels and Angels want to kill her. All of her life she was taught to keep her angel side hidden and fight with her human reflexes. After being kidnapped by the Angels, in particular Nathanial an attractive prince, her secret is even harder to keep. Her character was very complex and continues to develop throughout the book. Following Sky and those she keeps close to her fight to survive kept me on the edge of my seat.

“I will face the world with you, Sky. From the deepest pit of the ocean, to the highest cloud in the sky.”

There wasn’t another character in this book that I could classify as a main character. I felt like Sky was pretty much our main focus, even her love interest didn’t have a humongous role. I felt like this added to the feeling of abandonment. Books about another creature or species taking over Earth are always given a huge backstory. This is how they took over, this is what they wanted, the world is in shambles, and people are trying to survive in small groups. But, I feel like we never really get to experience our main character feeling truly alone. Being alone and feeling alone are two completely different things. I can be surrounded by people in a room and still feel completely isolated. And we finally get that feeling in this book, we get to see Sky battle the isolation in every chapter, no matter if she was with friends or in the training room fighting demons one on one. She always had that feeling of isolation and that, for me, made the book a hundred times more intense and in a way makes you empathize for her even more.

“‘So, Nathanial, what am I?’ My eyes narrowed, waiting for an answer.
He loosed an aggravated sigh, rubbing the back of his neck with a hand.
‘You’re a damn headache.’”

One of the main angels we get to meet on a very personal level was Prince Nathanial. He is a very complex and interesting person. Right when you think you have him figured out he goes and switches it up on you. You never know what he is going to do, especially when it comes to Sky. There is always that aspect of uncertainty in young-adult relationships because no one wants to be the first one to admit that they like, or are in love with, the other. But, I feel like Sky and Nathanial had a pretty open relationships. Granted people said things they didn’t mean but all in all they were better than the other young-adult relationships I’ve read. Go figure, an angel and a halfling can have a better relationship than two humans.

“The sun is out, dark one. You’re a coward in the day. Go crawl back into your smelly basement, where you can pretend to be all big and strong.”

There wasn’t a set in stone villain throughout the story. At first you think it’s going to be the demons that take over the world but then the angels were cast in a pretty bad light. Then the worst character of all time, Samuel, comes into the picture. He is basically an angel demon hybrid. He looks like an angel, but if you cut him black blood would come seeping out. Rumors spread of Samuel and his sadistic practices, but no one wants to put their head under the dark princes boot. They’d rather turn their head when they hear a girl screaming for help, or walk the other direction when they smell something putrid down one of his hallways. Everyone in the book seems to be wary of him, but no one has the guts to really stand up against him…except for Sky. Sky does have her moments of utter stupidity, and most of those moments are fueled by Samuel. Many people scolded her for her actions but a good amount of the humans and even angels were in awe of her strength. The only comment I have to make is: when you kick an animal, it’ll bite.

“‘Me?’ Surely I had misheard her, I thought she had said I needed a dress.
‘Well it’s not for us.’ Max chimed in.
‘Nawh Max, I’m sure you have a lovely pair of legs.’ Heath winked at him.”

We may not have had another character with a huge role other than Sky, but we did have a great set of secondary characters. Everything from sadistic rapists to an goofy angel that helped Sky get through her tough times. I can’t pick my favorite character from this great cast because I was able to relate almost all of them. Even the bad characters had a couple redeeming qualities, except for Samuel. Some on the honorable mentions were definitely Heath, Barakiel, and Kat. Every character had a unique personality and relationship with Sky that kept the book moving.

“I’m going to kill Max and Heath, I promised myself, who gives a girl alcohol and leaves her outside in the cold, on a hive, surrounded by deadly angels.”

The relationships were some of the best parts of this book. Both the platonic and romantic relationships were changing throughout the story. People you thought would be by your side, change allegiances, and others that you thought would be your enemy turn out to be one of your most valued allies. The relationship between Sky and her love interest, Nathanial, is very…interesting. In the beginning it does have a lot of parallels to other young-adult romances, but as they grew as people, and in turn grew their relationship, things began to change.

“‘He is a fool. And when we are through with you, we will bring him to his knees, and that’s something I would really, really love to see.’ The glint in her eye was dangerous.”

Yelena Lugin’s writing style is beautiful. It had the perfect balance of description and dialogue. I feel like I focus so much on this balance, but it’s really important. There were a couple moments where you were sucked into this vortex of descriptions, or pages of no dialogue whatsoever. But, all in all the book was well balanced. It flowed well and you felt like you were there with the characters. I read more than half this book in one sitting because it’s so addicting! Experiencing this journey with Sky, Kat, Nathanial, everyone both human and angel. The decision to keep it first person with one POV was a great choice! You never left Sky’s mind, so you saw everything through her eyes. First person changes the reader’s view on the story because you are hearing the main characters commentary but that’s what this book needed. It didn’t need a vague overview of clash of worlds, you need a story packed with emotion. Choosing Sky’s voice to be heard throughout the story was one of the best aspects of this book.

“Silently he raised his hand pulling a small leaf that had been tangled in my hair, freeing it. ‘We males seem to be good at screwing with things that are good.’”

The plot of In the Crossfire was fast paced and dangerous. Even when Sky was in “safety” I was still on the edge of my seat waiting for a new plot line to pop out of the woodwork, and I was not disappointed. The main plot wasn’t lost behind the other intricate plot points that were woven in over time. You can tell that Yelena Lugin knew where she wanted this story to go and what she wanted to come out of this book. The book was easy to read and gave you a warm feeling inside, perfect for getting out of a reading slump.

“Fear keeps people alive. It shows you your limits.”

Overall, this is one of my favorite books on 2016. In the beginning the story line seemed very simple but as the plot line and character grew it started to get more and more detailed. Nothing was over written or explained to the point of boredom, you knew what you needed to know and enough to get you started on your journey. You learned more about the angels and demons taking over the world with Sky as she started to learn more about them. It was a very easy and great way to show rather than tell the reader about the world they were reading about. If you are looking for a well-written book with romance, fighting, angels, demons, and lots of danger this is the book for you. Every time I picked up In the Crossfire my eyes stayed locked to the page and I couldn’t set it down. I will be waiting, impatiently, for the second book to come out. There is so much that was left unsolved and so much more to learn from this world! This is definitely a book you want to pick up.

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Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

carry-on3.5/5 stars

Trigger Warning: suicidal thoughts

Simon Snow just wants to relax and savor his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him. His girlfriend broke up with him and his mentor keeps trying to hide him away in the mountains where maybe he’ll be safe. Simon can’t even enjoy the fact that his roommate and longtime nemesis is missing, because he can’t stop worrying about the evil git. Plus there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. When you’re the most powerful magician the world has ever known, you never get to relax and savor anything.

“I’ve got you now, I think. I’ve finally got you where I want you.”

This book was a lot to take in. I was very skeptical going into this book. I absolutely loved Eleanor & Park and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell but a book about magic…that very closely resembled Harry Potter? I was definitely not the first one to preorder this one. But, after reading all 518 pages, I can definitely say that it was enjoyable. If you are a huge Harry Potter fan you have to go into this book with the mindset of “this is similar and can even be categorized as a fan fiction”. Because, personally, if you don’t you will find so many similarities that you will want to punch a wall…or push someone down the stairs.

“Once Penelope tried to calculate how many scones I’ve eaten since we started at Watford, but she got bored before she got to the answer.”

Simon Snow was a very interesting character. There were moments where you wanted to strangle him and other times where you wanted to hug him. He definitely is a new take on the “chosen one” that I really enjoyed. He was quirky, loyal, and all in all has a huge soft spot for those he loves…even if they aren’t the best people. He did have the whole troubled childhood and orphan cliché that usually comes with these books. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing but it definitely didn’t add to his character or the plot of the book. There were a good amount of scenes where you were happy with Simon’s choices. It seemed as though Simon Snow is the new intelligent chosen one that accepts help and tries to work on his flaws. Attributes that should be applauded.

“When my Aunt Fiona asked me if I’d pushed Simon Snow down a flight of stairs, I said, ‘Fuck yes I did.’”

Tyrannus Basilton Grimm Pitch. Before I get into his character can we just take a second to acknowledge this name? I was so intrigued by his name that I actually looked up the meanings:

Tyrannus: a prince; one that reigns
Basilton: regal
Grimm: fierce
Pitch: many websites say they don’t have a meaning but a crest website I found said that it derived from “son of Pies” (Which I thought was hilarious since the main character, Simon, is always hungry.)

Now back to Baz. He is the angsty teenager with a heart of gold. And to add to that he’s a freaking vampire! A vampire who is a pyromaniac, and as you probably know vampires are very flammable. He creates and plays with something that you bring his demise. How angsty and grunge can you get! Baz was definitely my favorite character because he seemed the most real and developed. Rainbow Rowell thought out his backstory and that really showed. He is also very intelligent and isn’t afraid to show it. Tyrannus Basilton Grimm Pitch deserves the world.

“She’s stupidly brave-it’s the only stupid thing about her.”

Penelope is not one of our main characters but this strong, independent, and amazing woman deserves her section of this review. She not only brings all of the information to the table she comes up with almost every single plan, at least the ones that worked. She is also a POC which makes me heart happy, the entwining of diversity is always needed and Penelope brought it all to the table.

“Sharing a room with the person you hate most is like sharing a room with a siren.”
“Sharing a room with the person you want most is like sharing a room with an open fire.”

The relationships, both romantic and platonic, were so adorable! Sometimes you had to stop reading just to sit there hugging the book and have the feelings wash over you. Going into this book you knew that there were LGBTQ+ elements so you basically assumed that Simon and Baz would get together at one time or another throughout the book. They seemed very unlikely in the very beginning of the book since all Simon focused on was how Baz must be “plotting”, I swear the words plotting and flammable (in reference to Baz) must have been used a hundred times. There was a certain scene when their relationship was beginning to form that I didn’t really enjoy. I felt as though they were using the element of depression and suicidal thoughts to make the relationship move faster…which isn’t very cool. The platonic relationship between Penelope and Simon was great! It’s the kind of male and female relationship that restores your faith in humanity.

“I’m no soldier. Don’t see why I should have to fight for a living just because I can throw a punch.”

The plot and character development wasn’t the best. It took a while to not only develop certain characters but have them meet each other, so in 518 pages you didn’t really get much done. This book is definitely very focused on the characters, and the overall plot just gets lost. For a solid 20 chapters I basically forgot that the whole point of the book was to find the Humdrum and destroy him. It would have helped if we were able to see the characters grow while battling or searching for the Humdrum instead of just hearing about it. A good amount of the action had already happened before the book so there wasn’t the feel of immediate danger, even though you knew the Humdrum was still out there.

“I really, really hate to talk to Simon about Baz. It’s like talking to the Mad Hatter about tea. I hate to encourage him.”

Rainbow Rowell’s writing style is very carefree and simple. There aren’t these huge flourishes or pages and pages of descriptions that you don’t need. It’s very straight to the point, in this case less is definitely more. The use of multiple POVs was nice, but I definitely feel as though some of the characters narrations were unneeded. Whenever I hit and Agatha chapter I would find myself setting the book down. She was definitely one of my least favorite characters and everything she said or “came up with” was either already stated or blatantly obvious. If Rainbow Rowell had limited the book to just Simon and Baz or Simon, Baz, and Penelope at max it would have made the experience much more enjoyable. You don’t really have to think when your read Carry On, you can just put your brain on autopilot and relax. And if you are someone like me who is always thinking and realises the ending before the character do, you should definitely try to shut your brain off. I figured out most of the book before I was even halfway through it which was a little irritating. But, I would definitely recommend this to anyone trying to get out of a reading slump! Even though this book was 518 pages, it flew by.

“I imagine him saying, ‘The truth is, I’m desperately attracted to you.’ And then I imagine myself spitting in his face. And then I imagine licking it off his cheek and kissing him. (Because I’m disturbed. Ask anyone.)”

One of the major problems I had with this book wasn’t even that big of a deal. It’s not like I despised the writing style or certain plot points, it was just a small detail that bugged me every time it came up. Instead of having spells, the magicians would say phrases or sing songs that somehow hold magic in them. In a few scenes it did work, but the rest of the time it just seemed childish and lengthy. I get that this makes it so there magic evolves with the current trends and maybe makes it easier for them to say spells around humans. But, most of the spells they use on a day to day bases would draw so much attention and are definitely not easy to work into a conversation.

“The Humdrum may be more powerful than ever, but you’re more powerful than ever, too. Remember that.”

The ending of this book was bittersweet. I enjoyed where we ended up but the chapters leading up to the epilogue were very…staged. They just didn’t seem realistic to me. Yes, I figured this was the path the book would take but it was overly dramatic and seemed more like the Portuguese soap operas my grandmother watches on tv. Some drama is good, but too much takes away all of the serious tones of the scene. The epilogue was a very nice addition though, it made you smile after the not so great ending.

“Everything makes me want to kiss you. Haven’t you worked that out yet? Crowley, you’re thick.”

All in all I really enjoyed this book. It wasn’t a book that blew me away or had me yelling from the rooftops, but I definitely didn’t want to burn it or anything. (Because just like Baz this book is very flammable.) It is a book that will give you warm feelings and just make you feel good about humanity in general.

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Sorrel and Myriana by Evelyn Sun

sorrel-and-myriana3/5 stars

Trigger Warning: mental-illness, abuse, death, gore

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Pain begets insanity.

Insanity begets love.

Love begets pain.

It is 1932, and the City of Dalltop is teeming with corruption. In the dead of night, a woman cries for help, but none turn an ear to her pleas. She scuttles through the lost buildings under their leaky roofs for shelter, but they always come. They dress as dark as the night and hide in the shadows. She pierces her feet in mileage and tears her clothes in desperation, but they always find her.

Myriana was a rich young lady with no ambitions, no voice of her own that is until she became the wife of the handsome tycoon, Sorrel Borchardt. She soon learns that nothing is as it superficially appears. The streets that shine during the day actually stand upon the rotten foundations of a mafia organization known as Idon. What hand does Sorrel Borchardt have in Idon? Will Myriana learn to adapt to her new violent lifestyle or will she be consumed by it? Embark on a journey rout in spine-chilling bloodshed as you thread upon the fine line that divides infatuation from insanity.

“I live my life idling about, waiting in fear for what is to come. Death could not come sooner.”

I was contacted by the amazing and super sweet author, Evelyn Sun, to read and review her new book, Sorrel and Myriana. Can we take a moment to just gawk at this cover? Because it is stunning. After reading the synopsis of Sorrel and Myriana I was extremely happy that Ms. Sun contacted me. It seemed fast paced, chilling, thrilling, and intense.

“A poor man may have nothing material, but have all that he requires to sustain emotional happiness. A rich man may have all he can touch, but nothing that he cannot.”

Sorrel Borchardt. The bane of my existence. I can not express how much I hate Sorrel. If I had to kill off a character from any book…it would be him. The way I pictured him was like the teen version of “the most interesting man in the world”. I can see him just sitting in his office going “I don’t always kill but when I do I kill everyone .” The way he treats everyone in his life, especially Myriana, is sickening. Don’t even get me started on the abusive relationship. I know it was in the description, and you should expect it going into this book, but it doesn’t make it any easier to stomach. Some of the things he did to her…I wanted to throw up. He doesn’t care about anyone or anything that’s in his way. And it hurts me to say that I became creepily interested in his character about half way through the first part of this book. I kept telling myself that everything he was doing was an act but I couldn’t help but be fascinated with this multi-faced creature. It’s like he puts on a new suit and becomes a new person. Needless to say by the end of the first part I hated him again. Sorrel Borchardt is a character you will love to hate.

“How ironic is it that I have finally acquired freedom only to want to return to my cage”

Now that I have vented about Sorrel lets talk about his complete opposite, Myriana. Even though Myriana was written to be that innocent person that was trapped by Sorrel, she has a little edge to her. She doesn’t just sit around and let Sorrel go on his killing sprees. She stands up for what she believes in and tries to run away from Sorrel on multiple occasions not even taking into consideration the consequences. On the other hand, I wanted to shake some sense in Myriana so many times I just got tired of her character. Certain opportunities get placed in front of her, on a gold platter , and what does she do? She shoves it off the table and beats it with a baseball bat. She demolishes it. “It” being her freedom. “It” being my patience.

“This is where he cages me to ensure that his canary never escapes.”

The plot was thrilling and intense. There were always new twists and turns added out of nowhere. There wasn’t just one problem. There were multiple little plot points woven together to form an overall plot arc. The beginning of the book started out very strong, but after a couple chapters a lot of the information was repeated, sometimes more than once or twice. Which, at times, was a little irritating since all you wanted was to move on with the plot and solve the problems. Overall the plot was good, well thought out, but a little slow.

“Between Sorrel’s fingers, I could not breathe, but they were warm.”

If I had to pick my favorite part about Sorrel and Myriana it would be the secondary characters. The secondary characters made this book shine. They made the story move along, gave you a character with a personality wasn’t extreme, and at times gave you a couple laughs. This book is practically dripping blood from all of the characters Evelyn Sun killed off so the only advice I have for you is: don’t. get. attached. to. anyone.

“Home. It seems like a distant dream.”

I have to say the writing style wasn’t my favorite thing about the book. I usually aim for the books that have a 1:1 ratio of dialogue to description…sometimes I even enjoy a 1:2 ratio. But this book was borderline 1:10. The descriptions were very dense, I could literally picture everything in the scene from the color of the sky down to the rocks. Every once in a while it was nice but after a while my mind was so cluttered with unimportant details that I couldn’t focus on the plot. The dialogue on the other hand was really good. It fit the time period of the 1930s. Their conversations were very formal and I think Evelyn Sun hit the shifts and details of the language perfectly.

“My vision is blurred as tears swell up. I want to go home.”

All in all Sorrel and Myriana was a extremely detailed book that will keep you on your toes. You wont see half the things coming and the other half you pray your wrong. Sorrel is the person that you hope you never have to meet in your lifetime and Myriana is the person, with some adjustments, you strive to become. All in all I enjoyed reading this book and I can’t wait to see how Evelyn Sun grows as an author in the coming years.

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Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

open road summer.jpg4/5 stars

After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. Her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of healing hearts and break-up ballads.

But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence. This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking.

“I want to reach back into my history with a grade-school pink eraser, scrubbing away my decisions like mistakes on a math test. To bad I drew my mistakes in ink.”

I went into this book expecting a lovey dovey, easy to read, contemporary. I was in a reading slump and just needed something to pick me up, even if it didn’t have a sound plot or well developed characters. But, by the end of the book I was pleasantly surprised. This book had sustenance. The plot was thought out, characters flushed out, relationships well developed over time, and above all there wasn’t an insta-love relationship. So, basically this book blew my expectations out of the water.

“Dee penned my name into the lyrics of her first single, “Open Road Summer.”

I am a huge, die hard, music person. With that being said the only genre I never listen to and ultimately have grown to dislike is country. Don’t get me wrong I respect the genre and the artists that contribute to it, along with their fans. But, you will not find me listening to country anytime soon, and I try to avoid it at all costs. That’s why I was a little apprehensive about reading this book. Why would someone who dislikes country read a book surrounding the genre? Well I asked myself that multiple times. I was, however, surprised how much I enjoyed the music aspect of the story. Granted, I altered all of the songs, lyrics, and concerts so they looked/sounded like rock or other genres. But, in my head it all sounded amazing and kept me intrigued to read more.

“Strawberry milk,” I say, eyeing him as we head toward the counter. “Really.”
He turns to me. “Do you have something to say about my snack selections?”
“Nope.” I fall into line behind him. “I just didn’t realize you were a middle-school girl going to a slumber party.”
“And I,” he says, plunking his strawberry-fest down on the counter, “didn’t realize you were a soccer mom justifying her chocolate craving with the fact that raisins are a fruit.”

I have a huge weak spot of funny books. If a book has no plot, flat characters, and no story arc, but is hilarious it will get at least 1-2 stars. For me humor is a huge part of a story. I love to laugh and Open Road Summer did not disappoint. If you are looking for the love-hate relationship, chock full with quips, poking fun, and overall amazing comebacks you should pick this book up right now. Reagan has a really strong personality that buts up against Matt’s perfectly. They dislike each other enough to get under each other’s skin but like each other, and Dee, enough to respect each other. It’s a perfect match.

“You are the only person who can build emotional barriers, but you’re also the only person who can topple them. Other people can’t knock down the walls you’ve built, no matter how much they love you. You have to tear them down yourself because there’s something worth seeing on the other side.”

This book wasn’t all sunshine and smiles, it delved into many hardships. One of the huge aspect of this book was Reagan’s relationship with her stepmom. Reagan remembers her mom as a perfect person, and when her dad decides to re-marry, Reagan is far from happy. She doesn’t approve of their relationship and it’s one of the reasons why she decides to go on tour with Dee.

“But my mom says the best revenge is living well, and I believe her.”

The biggest factor in Reagan’s decision to go on tour with Dee, was her ex-boyfriend. The way the relationship ended wasn’t healthy and Reagan needed to get away. She didn’t want to be reminded by all of the relationships crumbling around her so she took shelter in her relationship with Dee. She thought going on tour would give her time to sort through all of her feelings, and maybe help her move on.

“I swear his looks are pure Darwinism. If he wasn’t so cute, someone would have killed him for being annoying by now.”

The relationships in this book were so cute, and realistic. There was a wide variety of relationships represented in this book. Reagan is a very spontaneous person, many of her relationships are quick and short. While, Dee falls for people and stays in love for a very long time. Then there is Matt, he takes a while to warm up to people but when he gets to know you, he won’t let you go. They represented a lot of different types of relationships, not just the stereotypical “I’ll be with you forever” ya relationship which I loved.

“Stop documenting the moment for a second, he told me. Just be in it.”

The plot of the book revolved around Dee’s tour, and country music. Most of the chapters were set in different cities around the country. This helped move the story along. There weren’t many slow scenes that bored me. But, there were a good amount of scenes where Reagan made stupid and rash decisions without thinking through all of her options. Because of this, her character came off as a bit bratty and full of herself.

“I’m a taped-together girl, but I can carry my own baggage.”

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Since I am not a fan of country music I was a bit apprehensive because I knew the book was centered around that genre. But the main characters were unique and well developed, the plot was well thought out with no breaks or spots that were slow, and best of all there were conflicts that weren’t petty or cliché. I loved watching the relationships, platonic and romantic, grow throughout the story. All in all this book was definitely worth the read.

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The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

the fill-in boyfriend3.5/5 stars

When Gia Montgomery’s boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she has to think fast. After all, she’d been telling her friends about him for months now. This was supposed to be the night she proved he existed. So when she sees a cute guy waiting to pick up his sister, she enlists his help. The task is simple: be her fill-in boyfriend— two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. After that, she can win back the real Bradley.

The problem is that days after prom, it’s not the real Bradley she’s thinking about, but the stand-in. The one whose name she doesn’t even know. But tracking him down doesn’t mean they’re done faking a relationship. Gia owes him a favor and his sister intends to see that he collects: his ex-girlfriend’s graduation party — three hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.

Just when Gia begins to wonder if she could turn her fake boyfriend into a real one, Bradley comes waltzing back into her life, exposing her lie, and threatening to destroy her friendships and her new-found relationship.

“Chin up. There are other fish in the sea. It’s a big ocean. Sometimes we need to catch and release a few before we find the keeper.”

I went into this book with only one thing on my mind; get out of my reading slump. I had been in a reading slump for about two months and it was killing me. So, naturally I decide to read a fluffy, fun loving romance book that I can speed through. This book was exactly what I needed to get out of my slump. Granted there were a couple holes in the plot, the character were really petty and cliché, and the whole relationship was completely unrealistic. But, it was a perfect book to get me out of a slump and I needed it at the moment.

“How is selfworth measured today? By the amount of likes a post gets, by how many friends we collect, by how many retweets we accumulate? Do we even know what we really think until we post our thoughts online and let others tell us if they are worthy?”

Okay, first off you have to realize that our main character Gia is a total b*tch. This girl doesn’t care about how others feel and only thinks of herself. I was actually thinking of dnfing the book after the first chapter because I couldn’t deal with her thoughts. But, after she meets fill-in Bradley her whole demeanor changes. She starts to stand up to her horrible friends and hangs out with kinder and all in all better people. Without her change of character I would have probably thrown this book at a wall. So, when/if you read this book just power through Gia’s horrible attitude in the first chapter.

“I like it when you’re not perfect.”

Gia and fill-in Bradley’s dynamic comes naturally and helps move the plot along. They are really good actors when it comes to filling in as each others significant others. The first fill in at Gia’s prom was very uncomfortable since they had only met minute before, but Kasie West wrote it perfectly. They didn’t mold into their fake relationship quickly, it took some warming up but ultimately they stuck to the plan and were fantastic. Fill-in Bradley and his sister were my favorite characters. Their relationship wasn’t like your usual brother-sister duo but it was so much more. They watch each others backs even when they yell at each other and are complete opposites.

“I never wanted anyone to have this much power over my emotions again. It was safer to keep to myself, to keep things on the surface. Things ended better that way.”

The plot had a few holes that were just glazed over and a lot of the conflicts were really petty. Honestly the whole book could have been resolved in the first chapter. Instead of lying to your friends just own up and tell them the truth. Simple as that, but instead of doing that Gia makes an elaborate lie and basically watches it unravel around her.

“Mocking someone else to make us seem deep or intelligent only proves the exact opposite.”

All in all Kasie West’s books are perfect for getting out of a reading slump and just having a fun time. They are the kind of books that lets you turn off your brain and just live in the moment. I’m not a huge romance fan but Kasie West makes every situation so interesting, even though a bit unrealistic, they are fun to read, with an edge of seriousness. If you are looking for a fun, light romance this is a must read.

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This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

this song will save your life5/5 stars

Trigger Warnings: suicide, self harm, depression, bullying

Elise Dembowski doesn’t fit in. She spends the summer before her sophomore year of high school literally studying pop culture: the celebrities, the styles, the popular music. She hates it all, especially the saccharine, auto-tuned music. When it comes to music, Elise has standards. But she has come to the conclusion that, had she been more normal as a young child, she wouldn’t have become such an outsider. It may be too late to change her fate now, but she has to try. On the first day of school, she pulls on her skinny jeans and a tee shirt with a flattering neckline, slides a headband into her hair (the magazines say that headbands are in), and stands at the bus stop. Still, no one talks to her. But it’s early in the day, right?

When a final attempt at popularity fails, Elise nearly gives up. Then she stumbles upon a warehouse party where she meets Vicky, a girl in a band who accepts her; Char, a cute, yet mysterious disc jockey; Pippa, a carefree spirit from England; and most importantly, a love for DJing.

“You think it’s so easy to change yourself. You think it’s so easy, but it’s not.”

When I first heard about this book I was completely sold. The summary hit a little too close to home but I knew that if I ever got my hands on this book it would change my life. Once I saw a couple reviews and videos about how amazing the book was on youtube, especially Emmmabooks (If you are reading this. Thank you so much for raving about this book and promoting it to your audience. This book has truly changed my life for the better and like the title states it will “save your life”.), I had to pick it up; and I am so glad that I did.

“Sometimes when you are worn down, day after day, relentlessly, with no reprieve for years piled on years, sometimes you lose everything but the ability to cry.”

Elise is a sophomore in High School and has never really fit in with her peers. But she wants to change this. She wants to sit in the middle of the bus instead of the front, have someone sit with her instead of sitting alone, have a conversation with someone instead of listening to her ipod. Feeling like you don’t belong has been a general feeling amongst the youth of today; especially High Schoolers. Being a High School student myself I really connected to what Elise was feeling and all of the thoughts going through her head. Once Elise decided she had had enough of the bullying and abuse she was receiving at school she decided to hurt herself. After cutting herself she realized that she didn’t want death she just wanted someone to care if she died. A couple months, therapy sessions, hospital visits later Elise is back in school and stumbles across an underground nightclub and she comes alive.

“I like projects where I could take things apart and figure out exactly how they worked. The problem is, you can’t do that with people.”

Elise meets many people while at the nightclub. Mel, the guard/body guard at the door of the club who becomes a father figure for Elise. Vicky, an outgoing soon to be rockstar who befriends Elise. Pippa, Vicky’s “do now ask later” kind of friend. Char, the Start’s DJ and mentor to Elise. Every single character in this book had depth, even the petty popular girls in school that we only meet for a couple of pages. They were all interesting and unique. There were a few stereotypes used throughout the book but it helped convey Elise’s thoughts and how she sees High School.

“I was smiling like a crazy person because I had just made a hundred people dance, I had just made a hundred people scream, I had just made a hundred people happy.”

Char, the DJ at Start, sees Elise’s love of music and talent with the turntables. He takes her under his wing and teaches not only how to DJ but how to DJ the right way. It’s not only about playing songs that you like over and over. Anyone with an ipod can do that. It’s about reading the crowd to see what they are reaction to, beat matching, and most of all losing yourself in the feel of the music. Elise is a fast learner and soon Char lets her DJ for a half hour every night on Thursday’s. Elise loves the feeling of being in the DJ booth looking out over the club and watching what her music can do to people. In those moments she is truly happy, but when the lights turn on and she has to sneak back into her bedroom, the feeling of being invincible starts to fade.

“Tonight the Internet seemed filled with versions of me, like a fun house filled with mirrors. Some of them made me look prettier, and some of them made me look uglier, and some of them chopped me right in half, but none of them were right.”

Elise loves the nightclub scene. When the lights are dim and the music is loud everything looks ten times better and everyone seems ten times more interesting. That bartender? He is a college student trying to pay for his schooling. That girl with the shirt skirt and spiky pumps? She’s a talented singer that’s trying to graduate. That DJ with the unicorn boots? She’s a sophomore in High School that’s bullied and is just trying to fit in. But in the dark you don’t see all of these insecurities or normal features of a person. You only see what they want you to see, because for one Thursday night every week they can be whomever they want.

“Sometimes you just have those days. When you know, from the moment you wake up, that everything you touch you will break, so the less you touch, the better.”

This book is one of the best portrayals of depression, anxiety, and bullying I have ever read. From the first page I was sucked into Elise’s head and found myself engulfed in emotion. For me this book put all of my feelings, fears, and insecurities on paper and it was a little sad and hard to read. But, in the end this book helped me come to terms with those feelings and ultimately helped me understand myself better.

“Sometimes you just have those days where everything goes wrong. But sometimes, and totally unexpectedly, something can go right.”

This book shows that even when you feel like everything is broken, one day with help, everything will come back together. Each person’s feelings and emotions are valid, and every situation is different. This means that reading this book you might feel the portrayal of depression, etc isn’t good because that wasn’t your or a loved one’s experience. But, somewhere out in the world there is someone reading this book and connecting to the characters feelings and finding a sense of understanding and love in between these pages.

“I was giving up. But sometimes you have to give up something you are to get to who you want to be.”

The writing style was perfect. It was just descriptive enough to imagine the scene but vague enough that you could modify certain things. Leila Sales’ writes amazing characters and plot. There weren’t any lagging moments or scenes that weren’t vital to the growth of characters or the plot.

“It was a very small compliment, but it came from someone who mattered, about something that mattered.”

All in all if you are in the right mindset this book will move you. Elise is a relatable character that burrowed into my heart, read my mind, and spoke to my soul. Her words didn’t seem overplayed or fake. All she wanted to be was popular and you know what happened instead? People were horrible and treated her badly. Some say it’s the “high school experience”, but to me that’s just an excuse for the abuser. It doesn’t matter if it’s verbal, physical, emotional, cyber, or in person, what matters is that one person is being hurt. I absolutely loved this book and it definitely holds a special place in my heart.

Mental illness is not something we should look over. It may be scary to speak or even think about but if you are feeling depressed, suicidal, anxiety, or are suffering from abuse, bullying, or any other crises please talk to someone, visit the websites below, or call a helpline. Please reach out to someone who can help.
United States Suicide Hotlines: http://www.suicide.org/suicide-hotlin…
International Suicide Hotlines: http://www.suicide.org/international-…
24 Hour Crisis Hotline: (212) 673-3000
National Domestic Violence Hotline: http://www.thehotline.org/
For many more crisis hotlines such as depression, suicidal thoughts, stress, anxiety, grief, bullying, and so much more: http://www.teenhealthandwellness.com/… 

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All We Have Is Now bu Lisa Schroeder

all we have is now2/5 stars

Trigger Warning: suicide

What do you do with your last day on earth?

Just over twenty-four hours are left until an asteroid strikes North America, and for Emerson and everyone else who didn’t leave, the world will end. But Emerson’s world already ended when she ran away from home. Since then, she has lived on the streets, relying on her wits and on her friend Vince to help her find places to sleep and food to eat.

The city’s quieter now that most people are gone, and no one seems to know what to do as the end approaches. But then Emerson and Vince meet Carl, who tells them he has been granting people’s wishes — and gives them his wallet full of money.

Suddenly, this last day seems full of possibility. Emerson and Vince can grant lots of wishes in one day — maybe even their own.

“Some were safe. Some would live. Others would not.”

I had only read one other “asteroid is heading towards earth” book before All We Have Is Now. I didn’t really enjoy it because the characters were predictable and the ending wasn’t what I was looking for. This book basically gave me the same exact feeling as the previous book. I feel like most of the characters were like: “An asteroid is heading towards Earth, big whoop.” And I personally cannot deal with characters that offhand important issues and make irrelevant situations, like relationships, into a big deal. Maybe this book is just proof that asteroid collision/end of the world aren’t for me.

“Let us live so we can love.”

The beginning of the book was definitely the highlight. We are introduced to our main characters, two homeless kids that ran away from home and have lives with each other for so long they are practically family. Their dynamic was well written and gave me the feeling that they found safety and security with each other. This helped with the rest of the book because certain heavy scenes have context and meaning. I enjoyed their “siblings/best friend” dynamic in the beginning of the book, but once we hit about half way their relationship started to shift. It changed from being natural and flowing easily to stiff and really awkward with all of the misplaced sexual tension. The relationship problems in this book took away from the imminent death in about 48 hours plot line.

“No,” she says. “If you haven’t noticed by now, there’s nothing here for me.” She pauses. “Except you, of course.”

I have to admit I didn’t really love Lisa Schroeder’s writing style. It was really simple with a lot of dialogue and little to no detail. It was like reading about a black and white world. There were too many conveniently placed scenes and characters throughout the book. Whenever a problem arose the next chapter would hold the answer. This led to a lot of small and irrelevant problems that took away from the main problem…imminent death by asteroid.

“Nothing makes much sense, does it?” she asks. “I mean, really, what do we know for sure except that right now, in this moment, we’re standing here, breathing? The rest, who knows? Let’s stop asking questions. Let’s just stop trying to figure out everything and simply be happy we’re here. What do you say?”

My favorite aspect of this book was the “apocalypse make a wish foundation” they began. A kind man on the street gave them a wallet full of cash and told them to have the best last days they could, and all he asked for in return was for them to pay it forward. At first they were a little apprehensive about the “paying it forward part”. But, once they got the hang of it, they were helping people left and right. They brought joy to those that couldn’t take their minds off of death and an escape from reality even if it was only for a couple of hours.

“The past is the past. It’s gone, you know? It doesn’t matter anymore. All we have is now. Right now.”

All in all the characters were a little “cookie cutter problem teenagers”, the plot wasn’t well paced or flushed out, and the ending had me tearing out my hair. This would have been a pretty solid book if it hadn’t been for the ending. I don’t know about you but if I am investing my time into reading a book I don’t really care for endings that feel like a copout. The problem was to easily resolved and the explanation had me scoffing. If you enjoy end of the world books you might enjoy All We Have Is Now. But personally, I can’t see myself picking up anymore books with the premise of an asteroid heading towards Earth.

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