All Booked

It’s me. Hi. How are you today?

Time for another review. My mood reading has been a little erratic and I wanted something that required little brain power, a hopefully happy ending, and a little bit of curiosity or love involved. I LOVED What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum and thought I’d give her other story a chance. Tell Me Three Things came before What to Say Next, but I was still excited and picked this up on audio. Let’s discuss!


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Tell Me Three Things
By: Julie Buxbaum
Pages: 328
Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)
Genre: YA Contemporary
Format: Audiobook


Book Synopsis:

Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?

It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.

In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?


My Thoughts:

I adored this book so much. Perhaps I just like Buxbaum’s writing (thus far I have), but I loved this story. It wasn’t super heavy, it wasn’t something that I felt had extremely troubling problems. It was simple, fun, and I could not stop listening. Buxbaum’s conversation at the end discussed how she dealt with the death of someone in her own family at a young age and how she put pieces of herself into this story. This made it so much sweeter when I was done with this story.

Jessie is struggling with the death of her mother and counts in days how long it’s been since she was taken from her and her father. However, she is not only coping with this loss, but with being moved to L.A. after her father marries someone he met through a bereavement group. Her new stepmother is extremely rich and Jessie’s new home feels sterile yet her new step-brother seems flashy and mean.

Jessie doesn’t know how to fit in at this new prep school where everyone is rich and she feels out of place. She gets an e-mail from “Somebody/Nobody” (SN) a few weeks into starting school who offers to help her in exchange for keep his identity a secret. While she’s hesitant at first, she wants to stop feeling so alone and takes the advice SN gives. She starts making new friends and has a confidant who she desperately wants to meet.

She goes through a wide range of emotions in this book: how the loss of her mother affects her; finding herself with crushes on boys she doesn’t think will ever notice her; despising and feeling sorry for her dad; feeling sorry for herself yet wanting to improve her life; navigating bullying; losing her home and friends. I mean, for how short this story was there was a lot jammed into it and I devoured it all eagerly.

I loved Jessie. I truly did. I also loved her new friendships with other females which I feel like we don’t see enough in books. I loved those new friends of hers. I also enjoyed the variety of boys Jessie interacted with in a pretty innocent way. I loved most of this story.

The only parts I didn’t enjoy (yet did?) are the very trope-y things. Mean girls dating the most popular boys. Girls bullying girls and no one doing anything about it. Jessie’s dad randomly marrying someone without telling her and making her suddenly move to a new state? I mean. What? Other than that, though, if you’re willing to not let any of those things really bother you and just enjoy a fluffy book, I’d recommend this. Cute. It was cute. I like.


  • Ok. Who has read this?
  • What did you think?
  • Have you read either of Buxbaum’s stories?

♥♥

Hello. Good morning, afternoon, or evening.

For several months I have always gone straight to this book when I walk into a bookstore because I’ve been wanting to read it so much. I decided I didn’t want to purchase it so I borrowed it on audio from the library. Let’s talk. P.S. This is long-ish.


The City of Brass

The City of Brass
By: S.A. Chakraborty
Pages: 533
Rating: ★★★★☆(3.75/5)
Genre: Fantasy
Format: Audiobook


Book Synopsis:

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles.

But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass, a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.

In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.

After all, there is a reason they say be careful what you wish for…


My Thoughts:

Perhaps listening to this on audio was a mistake for me. I somewhat wish I had read it in physical book form instead. There were parts of this book I was DEEPLY invested in. Then there would be parts I would be so glazed over for 45 minutes I’d have to go back and re-listen once or twice to the same thing so I didn’t lose the story line. I struggled but I also had fun. Does that make sense?

Nahri is a character I actually enjoyed. She was witty, somewhat sarcastic (which I’m finding is a quality I adore in characters), and figuring out life no matter the circumstances she finds herself in.

Dara. Well. Dara I actually loved. I loved Dara. When we first see him enter the story I thought “Oh great, here comes this asshole”. But, as the story went on and I tried to figure out if he was a good or bad guy, I realized he is neither. I enjoyed his affection for Nahri, his conflict over his very, very long life’s history and the future, and the way he is still able to love despite it all.

Ali is neither love-able nor hate-able. He is bound by blood to maintain the laws and rules his ruling family creates even though his heart and head tell him to act differently. While being on the more emotional side made him likeable, he did feel like a character who was constantly unsure of himself and therefore his development felt like a non-stop journey of going up and down hill after hill. Honor and blood. Compassion and caring for others. Finding a middle for him was difficult and while I could understand his position it left me feeling simply “meh” about him.

The parts I struggled with the most in this story was times where not much was happening or was usually when one of these characters and someone else were interacting with each other. Nahri and Dara were fine. But Nahri and Ali. Meh. Ali and Dara. Meh. Often in this situations nothing was really happening and even character development in these spots was low or nonexistent which made it hard to keep following. Hence the glaze fell over my mind and eyes.

The plot was usually interesting but sometimes a little slow. It continued this way throughout the entire story and at times left me wanting a little more than I got. Like many other books I kept wondering “Ok. But how is this going to end? Ok. But how is this going to help this person? Ok. But…why? Ok. But. But. But.“.  I understand looking back that the entire story wasn’t meant to be quick paced, but at many points I wished it was anyway. How Nahri is important in this world, how Ali and Dara play into this, and how the world could one day be made or broken because of them all was much more clear at the end, but it did take a while to get to that understanding. Nahri’s gifts are interesting. Dara’s past was intriguing. I did appreciate how the two of them found each other, rocked the core of Ali’s city, and were plotting ways to change their futures.

Let’s switch gears here and talk about the parts that made it impossible to stop listening. The world. This story starts in Cairo and the travels that occur stem from Cairo outward. To hear about somewhere other my own backyard was truly refreshing. The dust, the landscapes, the way people lived based on these things – great. Check, check, and check.

Additionally, the amount of diversity in magic, creatures, and things I’m not familiar with made me SO happy. Daeva. Tanzeem. Shafit. Nahids. Djinn. YAS. I learned so much about other beliefs, creatures, worlds, and ideas from this story (whether real or not) and I applaud Chakraborty for this. Thank you for the diversity I didn’t know I needed but am so happy I received from this story.

Overall, the world and what is inside of it is wonderful. Diverse. Beautiful. Unique. Interesting. The characters, though, not as much. While I struggled in some parts of this story I will still be eager to see what happens to these character’s fates in the next book since we left off on a somewhat sad, cliff-hanging spot.


  • Thoughts, anyone?
  • If so, what are your thoughts on the location and magic of this world? The people? The characters?

♥♥

Hi Book Lovers!

I recently listened to this story and I want to briefly discuss!


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The Lost City of the Monkey God
By: Douglas Preston
Pages: 326
Rating:  (4/5)
Genre: Non-fiction
Format: Audiobook


Book Synopsis:

A five-hundred-year-old legend. An ancient curse. A stunning medical mystery. And a pioneering journey into the unknown heart of the world’s densest jungle.

Since the days of conquistador Hernán Cortés, rumors have circulated about a lost city of immense wealth hidden somewhere in the Honduran interior, called the White City or the Lost City of the Monkey God. Indigenous tribes speak of ancestors who fled there to escape the Spanish invaders, and they warn that anyone who enters this sacred city will fall ill and die. In 1940, swashbuckling journalist Theodore Morde returned from the rainforest with hundreds of artifacts and an electrifying story of having found the Lost City of the Monkey God-but then committed suicide without revealing its location.

Three quarters of a century later, bestselling author Doug Preston joined a team of scientists on a groundbreaking new quest. In 2012 he climbed aboard a rickety, single-engine plane carrying the machine that would change everything: lidar, a highly advanced, classified technology that could map the terrain under the densest rainforest canopy. In an unexplored valley ringed by steep mountains, that flight revealed the unmistakable image of a sprawling metropolis, tantalizing evidence of not just an undiscovered city but an enigmatic, lost civilization.

Venturing into this raw, treacherous, but breathtakingly beautiful wilderness to confirm the discovery, Preston and the team battled torrential rains, quickmud, disease-carrying insects, jaguars, and deadly snakes. But it wasn’t until they returned that tragedy struck: Preston and others found they had contracted in the ruins a horrifying, sometimes lethal-and incurable-disease.


My Thoughts:

To begin, I want to briefly summarize to everyone that I am pursuing majors in World History and Anthropology. I am obsessed with three things (take it as you’d like):WWII from a European standpoint, American Indian history, and the history of the Southwest including histories in North and South America such as the Aztec, Maya, so on and so forth. The majority of classes I’ve been taking the past 3 semesters have all been around the histories of the Southwestern regions and this story fell in line with that learning. Also, it can be quite fairly assumed I picked this book up for the reasons mentioned above. I did.

I had not heard of this tale, legend, or whatever other fanatical word you’d like to use. Perhaps what drew me in mostly to this story was hearing the first hand experiences of the people involved in this journey (the good, the bad, and the ugly). Preston journeys with researchers and others to see if they can uncover anything about the rumors that have lasted for centuries over the supposedly lost city based on the Monkey God.

Starting with stories drifting through history enters a man named Theodore Morde who, in the early part of the 20th century, claimed he had found this city that had been lost to its people and the past. However, he eventually takes his own life without telling anyone of the things he supposedly found.

This book traveled through it all. It started with the train of people who have talked about or previously attempted to search for this place and how they got to the point of doing this in their lives. However, once we finally got to how it all connected to today’s story was important in my opinion. Then we follow this new team going out in to the wilds of the jungle which features one of the most venomous snakes in the world as well as other creatures that have never seen humans before.

 

The learner in me was so ecstatic to hear the most mundane things: how they prepped to go into the jungle including their supplies and expectations; the way the wildlife works; how researchers have attempted to use different technology to find the right locations; digging up the past including old journals and stories from people who claim to have gone; the trek through the jungle and the sounds, sights, and thoughts everyone had while taking this journey. I couldn’t get enough of it all. This is what I want to do. Highly venomous snakes and all.

The other part of this story I enjoyed was Preston discussing how deforestation and looting are damaging not only the jungles and all that live there, but history as well. It kills me that such sites lose their context, information, and history because of looters. It kills me that all the creatures in these areas who have never interacted with the destruction of humans are dying off and losing their homes due to carelessness.

The only part of the story that I didn’t enjoy as much was the extensive conversation around the disease at the end. While I am not trying to discredit its importance for not only the crew who got sick or anyone else who has the disease mentioned, it did take up a lot of time at the end and didn’t tie in as well to the main story of the lost city which bummed me out at the end.


  • Has anyone read this story?
  • Does this topic interest anyone?
  • How would you feel about venturing into the depths of an unknown jungle knowing you are risking your life?

♥♥

Hi Book Lovers!

Time for another review. First, I received three different copies of this book from different book boxes several months ago. Second, the cover is, honestly, appealing as all get-out. Third, I can’t recall a time I’ve read a Little Mermaid retelling or a book about sirens. I finally decided to give it a go and here is what I thought!


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To Kill a Kingdom
By: Alexandra Christo
Pages: 342
Rating: (3.50/5)
Genre: YA
Format: Hardcover


Book Synopsis:

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

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


Quotes:

“Technically, I’m a murderer, but I like to think that’s one of my better qualities.”

“The true danger is people. They are unpredictable. The betrayers and the liars.”

“Royalty cannot be unmade. Birth rights cannot be changed. Hearts are forever scarred by our true nature.”

“‘Wars aren’t won by running,’ she says. ‘You can’t win a war,’ I tell her. ‘Someone else just loses.'”

“Some people burn so brightly, it’s impossible to put the flames out.”


My Thoughts:

Characters:
I did not enjoy Lira. I’m so sorry, but I just didn’t. Well, let me take that back a bit. I enjoyed her at the start when she was so ruthless and cold as her namesake should be. However, the way she developed fell so flat for me and I ended up feeling like cringing often in the second half of the book at her character’s terrible thoughts and plans.

On the other hand, I mostly enjoyed Elian. I kept wanting to roll my eyes at how often he thought about how he didn’t want to rule a kingdom. Which. I mean. Fine. You don’t want to rule. But stop obsessing over it and make a decision – either don’t rule or suck it up and rule. Geez. Besides that, I enjoyed watching his banter and kindness with his crew and even Lira throughout the book. I was happy with some of his choices by the end and happy FOR him.

I feel like Elian’s crew held the most enjoyment for me as well as the sea witch who was so brutal and ruthless which was, at times, the only complex thing going on.

Story line:
This book started out strong for me and I was excited to see where it was bound to go. However, I quickly became annoyed by the middle of the book. I’m 100% sure that after every single page I turned in this book from the middle on I thought “I have no idea how this story can be wrapped up to where I enjoy what comes out of it all”. Every. Page. To be fair, I was right and that I didn’t enjoy the ending which fell extremely flat.

The ending was unrealistic, frustrating, and whatever battle, fight, or even argument I hoped would occur only fizzled my dreams slowly but surely. I’m all about loose endings. I’m also about nicely wrapped up endings. I can go both ways here. The way this wrapped up was fine for a standalone book, but also gave me a slightly sour taste in my mouth.

Overall I mainly enjoyed the characters and the majority (more than the first half) of the story. However, I do wish that this story had continued on the path it began and it would have felt better executed that way. I’m glad I read this and enjoyed the voyages on the sea and dealings with sirens and mermaids. It inspired me to pick up other mermaid/siren/sea books afterwards so for that, thank you.


  • I was trying to search for other people’s To Kill a Kingdom reviews here but haven’t found as many as I thought I did months ago. Tell me, have you read this?
  • If you have, let’s discuss. Good and bad!

♥♥

Hi Book Lovers!

I read A Reaper at the Gates the week it was released but I’m just now finding I want to discuss it out loud.


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A Reaper at the Gates
By: Sabaa Tahir
Pages: 464
Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)
Genre: YA
Format: Hardcover


Book Synopsis:

Beyond the Empire and within it, the threat of war looms ever larger.

The Blood Shrike, Helene Aquilla, is assailed on all sides. Emperor Marcus, haunted by his past, grows increasingly unstable, while the Commandant capitalizes on his madness to bolster her own power. As Helene searches for a way to hold back the approaching darkness, her sister’s life and the lives of all those in the Empire hang in the balance.

Far to the east, Laia of Serra knows the fate of the world lies not in the machinations of the Martial court, but in stopping the Nightbringer. But while hunting for a way to bring him down, Laia faces unexpected threats from those she hoped would aid her, and is drawn into a battle she never thought she’d have to fight.

And in the land between the living and the dead, Elias Veturius has given up his freedom to serve as Soul Catcher. But in doing so, he has vowed himself to an ancient power that will stop at nothing to ensure Elias’s devotion–even at the cost of his humanity.


My Thoughts:

Maybe I’m too easily caught up in the hype of popular books, but I definitely loved the third book in this series.

Lia is becoming much more complex as a character – she finally is taking charge, facing demons, and not just simply running from all the trouble in her world but instead is facing them head on.

Helene’s story was really fascinating this book, too, with her loyalty to the Emperor and yet her true loyalty with her sister. It gave a much softer look at Helene and I appreciated knowing she isn’t like the Emperor or the COMMANDANT. Ugh – that thing.

Elias. Well, his beginning story as Soul Catcher in the last book felt like a cop out for me and I wasn’t as much of a fan of his story line. However, in this book it was heartbreaking to see what he would have to accomplish in order to become what he promised he would become in this role. Also, how it affected Lia was sad and it made me sappy-girl swoon over his adoration of her here.

The Commandant is especially annoying, vindictive, and out to get the flesh of everyone and everything. I hate her character, but I suppose that means Tahir did a good job at creating such an awful character with no remorse or positivity. Only tricks and schemes. The Nightbringer, however, I found fascinating. He wasn’t as horrendous as he’s painted out to be – it’s almost proof that everyone has some kind of backstory that has made them who they are. Now, I’m not saying I’m rooting for his character and that he’s wonderful, but, I did find I had a somewhat soft spot for him at points (though I always wondered what plot he was up to this time around when he showed up somewhere).

There is so much packed into this book: traveling, fear for one’s life, fear of who you are becoming and if it is enough, fighting and death, hope and wanting to stand up for what is right. A lot of this book is leading up to a bigger battle at the end and it is one that had my heart pumping until the last page. There is so much going on with so many different groups of people that it’s fast-paced and sometimes brutal in what is going on.

The one thing that truly saddened me in this book is the new relationship Lia forms towards the end and what happens with that relationship. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it but the bond between these two characters felt awkward yet comforting all at once as it was forming. At the very end I kept thinking “next book will prove this situation wrong. Next book will prove this situation wrong”. I know it probably won’t but I wanted to have hope in that moment. Additionally, the final ending was very chummy and I’m curious how it will bounce into the final book where it left off.

Overall I loved this story. I enjoyed the more complex features of these characters I’ve grown to absolutely adore. I enjoyed the world and, even though it’s dark, I also loved the way this fallen apart world is coming together to battle it out for change (whether that’s good or bad I don’t know yet). I cannnnnnnooooootttt wait for the last book and I know I will end up re-reading the series when that time comes!


  • Tell me your thoughts on this book!
  • Who was your most loved character? Your least?
  • What did you think of the ending and fighting?
  • Are you excited to read the next book or have any other additional thoughts?! Please share!!!

 

♥♥

Hi Book Lovers!

I’ve been on vacation for a little bit now and on the plane ride to my destination (Wisconsin, to see my family), I was able to listen to this wonderful story! Let’s talk about it.


What to Say Next

What to Say Next
By Julie Buxbaum
Pages: 292 pages
Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)
Genre: YA Contemporary
Format: Audiobook


Book Synopsis:

Two struggling teenagers find an unexpected connection just when they need it most.

Sometimes a new perspective is all that is needed to make sense of the world.

KIT: I don’t know why I decide not to sit with Annie and Violet at lunch. It feels like no one here gets what I’m going through. How could they? I don’t even understand.

DAVID: In the 622 days I’ve attended Mapleview High, Kit Lowell is the first person to sit at my lunch table. I mean, I’ve never once sat with someone until now. “So your dad is dead,” I say to Kit, because this is a fact I’ve recently learned about her.

When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David. Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth?


My Thoughts:

Kit is struggling to come to grips with her life without her dad after he recently passed away. David has never been able to fit in due to his high functioning state of mind and inability to read social cues. Two very different kids in high school yet when their worlds clash together it is adorable and precious.

I’m going to start by saying I loved David. A lot. He has to be one of my favorite book characters to exist. In reality he reminds me a lot of Jacob Hunt from House Rules by Jodi Picoult. He wants to fit in. He wants to have friends. He wants to be social. He just doesn’t quite know how. Hearing the narrator read through Jacob’s thoughts made me hang on to every word that was being said.

Kit, on the other hand, took me a little longer to enjoy. I initially had a harder time connecting to her character. I knew from the get-go she was struggling to cope with her feelings after her father’s recent death, but it was hard to like her and her group of friends (who I initially thought were annoying and dramatic). However, as the story goes on, it was relatable to see her growing from something so traumatic into a new version of herself and towards the middle of the story when the situation with David’s notebook happens, I appreciated her friends a lot more (they really started to jump on to the bandwagon of genuine friends which was a nice thing to see).

There is some romance in this novel, but it didn’t feel like the front and center of this novel (as I didn’t think it should be). For that, I applaud this book. The setting wasn’t super relevant for me in this book and instead focuses on the character’s development. If you’re looking for something with a lot of drama, love, or craziness then head in another direction!

I didn’t really like the complexity of the situation surrounding David’s notebook nor the surprise piece towards the end around Kit. While neither were completely out of left field, I did wonder why they were in the book and it sometimes just felt like it was there for the book to have some drama. I could have gone without and still loved the book, but I also can see why they were put in there (such as Jacob’s breakdown in one chapter and reciting Pi multiple times to calm him).

Overall this book was such a light, wonderful, fantastic read. I think I found one of my new favorite characters and I’ll be interested in reading more of Julie Buxbaum’s work!


  • Have you read this book? If so, did you enjoy it?
  • Have you read any other books by this author? If so, are they good?

♥♥

Hi Book Lovers!

Time for another review.


When Elephants Fly

When Elephants Fly
By Nancy Richardson Fischer
Release Date: September 4th, 2018 by Harlequin Teen
Pages: 400 pages
Rating: ★★★★☆ (4.5/5)
Genre: YA Contemporary
Format: E-Book


To start, I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Secondly, there are a few potential triggers for anyone tirelessly working through mental health challenges: abuse, suicide, and schizophrenia.

 

Book Synopsis:

Lily Decker is a high school senior with a twelve-year plan: avoid stress, drugs, alcohol and boyfriends, and take regular psych quizzes administered by her best friend, Sawyer, to make sure she’s not developing schizophrenia. Genetics are not on Lily’s side.

When she was seven, her mother, who had paranoid schizophrenia, tried to kill her. And a secret has revealed that Lily’s odds are even worse than she thought. Still, there’s a chance to avoid triggering the mental health condition, if Lily can live a careful life from ages eighteen to thirty, when schizophrenia most commonly manifests.

But when a newspaper internship results in Lily witnessing a mother elephant try to kill her three-week-old calf, Swifty, Lily can’t abandon the story or the calf. With Swifty in danger of dying from grief, Lily must choose whether to risk everything, including her sanity and a first love, on a desperate road trip to save the calf’s life, perhaps finding her own version of freedom along the way.


Favorite Quotes:

“Crazy is genetic. It’s the house I was born inside. There are no windows, just two locked doors. One door leads to Normal, the other to Insanity. At some point, I will inherit a key, but I don’t get to pick which door it unlocks. Even if I did, there’s no guarantee I’d understand the choice, or realize where I was when I got there.”

“I hold my breath, frozen like a soldier who has stepped on a land mine. But no matter what I do, eventually it’s going to blow me up.”

“I had the urge to tell her that there’s a relief when you no longer have to prove to the most important person in your life that you’re worthy.”

“The one certainty in life is that it changes.”

“It’s impossible to bend crazy to your will. It wins, hands down.”


My thoughts:

This book hooked me from the beginning and I soon found myself unable to complete any real-life tasks to continue reading Lily’s story. Lily comes from a genetic line predisposed to schizophrenia. After almost losing her own life due to her mother succumbing to her own delusions, Lily grows up hoping to beat the odds of something she cannot see coming. She has a long-term plan of no stress (or fun of any kind) in order to come out, hopefully, free of the same mental illness that’s been plaguing the woman in her family for several generations.

However, Lily begins volunteering, and eventually writing small stories for the local newspaper in her town. Her story on the local zoo preparing for a new elephant calf, soon named Swifty, leads her on an unexpected journey after Swifty’s mother tries to kill her shortly after birth.

Lily is quite the character. She’s slightly infuriating. She’s slightly too calm and laid back. She’s slightly avoiding truly living life. Yet, I couldn’t stop thinking about how fearful I would be if I were her knowing that there was a strong possibility I would find myself drowning in a sea of mental illness that I couldn’t avoid. While I do not struggle from schizophrenia nor personally know anyone who does, my heart ached to see the way this illness can suck the life of anyone it goes after. To hope for a life you are pretty sure will not play out as you’d hope would probably make me just as cautious and anxious as Lily was for most of this story.

Her best friend, Sawyer, was a wonderful character, although this idea he was ridiculously rich wasn’t something I bought into for the majority of the story. Sawyer also harbors secrets of his own and it becomes clear in understanding the superbly adorable to the friendship Lily and Sawyer have created over their own internal struggles through the years.

This story also had another hot topic in it for me: elephants. I’ve read several stories about elephants in the past that discuss their depth of emotion and how they typically act in the wild. Sometimes those ideas are hard to listen to and this story does touch on several instances of animal abuse which were hard to stomach through for myself. Still, the elephant’s stories are just as important here and only added to the tugging on my heart.

I enjoyed almost everything about this story: the mental health representation which I do not think we see nearly enough in YA (or any other genre), the elephants, the friendship, but most importantly the decision between living your life or letting your life control you. Is it better to take risks that might not let you live as yourself as long as you’d like? Or is it better to play it safe and hope to peacefully ride out the waves without creating any yourself?

There were only a few pieces of the story I did not enjoy as much: Lily just up and leaving out of the blue for a story, her selfishness during some of Sawyer’s personal problems arising, and her initial carelessness at how her life affected other people’s (such as Swifty). Lastly, the odd way the story ended wasn’t necessarily bad, but it kept taking odd turns I wasn’t expecting and with people I wasn’t expecting. Also, without saying what it is, the final piece of Lily’s puzzle at the end really tore me apart for a few days after finishing. I non-stop thought about mental health and how I choose to live my life, even without the battles Lily faces.

I’d highly recommend this story to just about everyone: it isn’t a perfect, happy story, but it is something that should be thought and talked about more often.

  • Has anyone else read this book?
  • What were your thoughts on this story?
  • What did you think of the mental health topic in this book?

♥♥

Hi Book Lovers!

I recently did a review for An Ember in the Ashes which was a re-read in anticipation of A Reaper at the Gates to come out. That obviously meant I needed to FINALLY get around to A Torch Against the Night so when the third installment was available I could devour it immediately (which I did). Let’s get started.

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A Torch Against the Night
By: Sabaa Tahir
Pages: 452
Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)
Genre: YA
Format: Hardcover


 

Book Synopsis:

Elias and Laia are running for their lives. After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.

Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.

But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.

Bound to Marcus’s will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own—one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both.


 

My Thoughts:

I think this book was my favorite of the three so far. Firstly, I knew more of the world, rules, and culture and what was going on so instead of spending the first several chapters wondering what was happening I could easily jump right in and simply enjoy it from page one. Second, I enjoyed the overall story line of this book the most simply because of where it came from and where it led to by the end. Third, I loved the characters SO much more in this story than in An Ember in the Ashes.

In regards to the story line, it was easy to follow. I always enjoy that there are still plenty of details in her writing and stories but it doesn’t ever feel as though we are stuck in one spot or bogged down too much that it stalls the story line. I appreciate that. I understand that this book is definitely a slight “filler” in that there is mostly traveling and the idea of scheming going on here, however, I think I enjoyed getting to know Lia, Elias, and even Helene more.

While Helene was not my favorite character in An Ember in the Ashes, I found her growing on me throughout this book. Being torn between your mind/heart and the life you need to live to survive is a tough call, and I feel slightly bad for her most of this book. Lia felt slightly more naive in this book. Perhaps it’s the issue with the Nightbringer that made me roll my eyes. While she didn’t seem as afraid as in the first book, I did wonder about some of her choices and why they were necessary or if they were doable (Kauf? I mean.) Elias is wonderful. His story line made me feel the most: sad, confused, worried, etc. Without spoiling it, I was not in favor of where his story went by the end of this book. It felt like a cop-out and a way to keep the story going.

The love (triangle[s]?) weren’t my favorite piece of this book. While I can appreciate loving and hoping despite the terrible things going on around you in desperate times, some of these situations felt pushed and unnatural. I really could have cared less if there were any love stories involved here as I feel like the main plot doesn’t revolve around this idea anyway.

Lastly, while it made me feel anxious at times, when Tahir doesn’t stray from the way this world works, the rough stuff and all, I appreciate the story a little more. Listening to tales at Kauf was not easy, but almost necessary. Listening to the brutality of other situations and fights along the way were also difficult but, again, made me appreciate the story more. I’m growing to like when a story doesn’t stray from the hard things just to save face or be constantly fluffy and happy (even though those are usually my favorite stories).


  • TELL ME YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS BOOK!
  • What was your favorite part?
  • Least favorite part?
  • Did you like the love situations?

♥♥

Hi Book Lovers!

I was lucky enough to receive this book on Netgalley in an exchange for an honest review. Let’s talk about this emotional roller-coaster ride.

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Ohpikiihaakan-ohpihmeh (Raised Somewhere Else)
By: Colleen Cardinal
Pages: Unknown (E-Book / no pages listed)
Genre: Nonfiction
Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)
Format: E-Book on Kindle

“What they didn’t see was the pain, trauma and suffering that we endured living under that roof with those people.” – Colleen Cardinal

It’s been a few days since I finished Colleen’s story. I had a lot to think about. Colleen, an Indigenous woman, grew up in the Sixties Scoop – a practice that occurred primarily in Canada where Indigenous children were taken from their families and sent to foster homes or adopted (usually by white families) in the late 1950s on. Her story is one of growing up in a family different from her own and how it snowballed into the life she created for several decades. Colleen dealt with abuses abound including mental, emotional, physical, and even sexual. Trauma can alter people in vastly different ways and this story was a look at how Colleen coped through her life (very rough, detailed patches and all) and found her way back to herself and to the people and culture she was taken from years ago.

Colleen told this story as if she were sitting across from me speaking her truths. Honestly, there were a few instances I looked up almost expecting someone to be there telling me what her words were telling me about her life. What also impressed me is how she has owned up to so many things about her past that even she admitted aren’t easy to do for many people. In that, I applauded her greatly.

“I am not perfect by any means and have hurt and been violent to other people in my past.” – Colleen Cardinal

“Like a familiar piece of luggage, I have dragged my abuse right along with me, and in many ways have taken it out on my children.” – Colleen Cardinal

Perhaps wisdom does come with age and watching Colleen’s story unravel and lead her to a place of self-discovery was inspiring, hopeful, and educational (the Sixties Scoop was yet another piece of Indigenous culture I didn’t know existed beforehand). Additionally, her extreme love for her children was something to be cherished as I read. Yes, she has made many errors in her life (which of us haven’t?), and sometimes her own desires sadly did come before her children’s desires. However, she credits them for her ability to grow and change constantly and I appreciate that as I never had a mother who loved me as much as she loves her children.

The downside to her story, for me, was certain parts felt slightly repetitive. It wasn’t necessarily overdone to a point I was irritated or annoyed, however, it did detract from the way her story unraveled when we would see her travel back a moment to re-live something already discussed. I think why this was hard for me is that Colleen’s story has a lot of emotional and rough spots in it – things I have never experienced and things I wish no one would ever have to experience. Rehashing a section that I already felt sad about was difficult the first time and sometimes I didn’t want to stomach things a second time.

This book was neither easy to read nor bursting with warm, fuzzy feelings. I cannot relate to her on many levels, yet that is why I loved her story so deeply. I have been in awe of Native American and Indigenous culture since I was around five or six and have felt that so many of their stories have been skipped over or not given a platform or opportunity to reach as many people as they should. What has happened to their lifestyles and culture has unsettled me for decades and in listening to Colleen’s story I felt proud for her and her people to finally raise a voice and put a foot down to accepting what they are told to accept. While many voices are still not heard, this story was fascinating, saddening, and hopeful. I hope it allows others like her to find their way back to their true selves and allow the rest of us to see what has happened to so many Indigenous people. Those actions cannot be taken back – history is history. Yet there is always time to change the future to be better and brighter for future generations that have been previously been wronged for so long.

“There are things you just keep on doing no matter what. You drag your ass out of bed or off the couch and you keep going because you have to, because no one is going to do it for you.” – Colleen Cardinal

This is just one of many stories that should be read by many to help further the knowledge of what has happened under the rug to so many for years upon years. Don’t assume you know the full story unless you’ve truly looked at every angle. I highly recommend reading this story for anyone interested in learning more about the Sixties Scoop and understanding what’s really happening under the stereotypes put on many Indigenous by those who do not truly understand.

 

♥♥

Hi Book Lovers!

Today we are gathered here to discuss the sad tale of how much I disliked a story. If you’ve put that together with the title of this blog post, you’ll know I was NOT A FAN OF THIS BOOK AT ALL. Let’s discuss.

SLIGHT spoilers ahead.

King's Cage

King’s Cage
By: Victoria Aveyard
Pages: 528
Genre: YA
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ (2.5/5)
Format: Audiobook

 

Book Synopsis:

In this breathless third installment to Victoria Aveyard’s bestselling Red Queen series, allegiances are tested on every side. And when the Lightning Girl’s spark is gone, who will light the way for the rebellion?

Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother’s web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner.

As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare’s heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.

When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.

 

My Thoughts:

Alright. Alright, alright, alright. As I was prepping this review I was looking at my Goodreads and I honestly couldn’t help but panic a bit when I saw the overall rating for this book is 4.02/5. Needless to say, I think this will be a bit of an unpopular opinion review.

I read this book a few months ago now and I’ve been waiting and waiting to review it because I kept having conflicting thoughts on what I wanted to say. To sum it up: I no longer have much to say, and what I do have to talk about will be small in amount and not necessarily positive.

If it is possible to hate Mare Barrow more than in Glass Sword then I hadn’t anticipated it at that time. Her character is bitter in a self-loathing way which made me despise her more and more as every chapter began. Cal is also in the same self-loathing-so-it-affects-change-from-happening type of person in ALL of these books that I constantly struggle when I’m reading reviews that talk about how much they love him. The only reason I have clung on and went through with this book was due to Maven. I don’t even like “the bad” characters often because I’m a total softy at heart and just want everything to work out perfectly in the end. Yet, this story (for me) is so dull that Maven is the only thing that keeps me interested because I almost WANT him to destroy everything and everyone just for something to actually occur.

Mare is locked away for what feels like more than half of this book and it’s SO DULL. Let me repeat: IT’S SO FLIPPING DULL. There’s no great thoughts that come to her in this room (just self loathing and pity for herself), nothing major happens, and months, yes months, go by in this story before she finally escapes from this room that holds no story line. By the time the action began (as appears normal in Aveyard’s books) in the last quarter of the book I was so bored I didn’t even care what that action was in any shape, way, or form. I remember sitting in my car waiting to turn, listening to what I assume was the highlight of the action in the book, and thinking “Wow. I truly do not care about this at all.”

Lastly, the ending with Cal and Mare was so anti-climatic and pointless I wished for a brief moment I had a physical copy of the book so I could actually throw it across the room upon completion just to express to the universe how mad I was at everything.

I’d give more time to this review but honestly, I’m ready to put these characters and story behind me and I have no desire to even finish the last book at this point. I know I’m more of a minority in this series, but at the end of the day (and months of thinking about it) I cannot find any other reasons to enjoy it as so many others have.

 

  • Have you read this series or book? Did you like them?
  • If so, why?????
  • If not, why?????
  • I don’t care to read War Storm, so if you have, tell me how it ends!

Hi Book Lovers!

This is a spoiler review so proceed at your own risk if you haven’t read the story yet!

I’d apologize for being MIA recently, but honestly, life happens and sometimes that is more important than typing up a blog. Still, I’ve been reading a ton and have quite a few books I wanted to sit down and chat about. It just so happens this one is not only super hyped again right now, but that I’m also super excited to talk about all that is held between the pages of this book!

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An Ember in the Ashes
By: Sabaa Tahir
Pages: 446
Genre: YA Fiction
Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

 

Book Synopsis:

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loves ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will rish her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier – and, secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined – and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

 

Favorite Quotes:

“Fear is only your enemy if you allow it to be.”

“I don’t need to believe in the supernatural, now when there’s worse that roams the night.”

“Safety is an illusion never to trust.”

 

 

My Review:

First, can we talk about how poorly the book’s description does to this story? Personal opinion, obviously, but after reading the story several times it seems so bland in comparison to what lies ahead for Laia and Elias.

Let’s start with our characters.

Laia – I see so many reviews of people who absolutely adore Laia for her strength in this book. While I can understand this affection for her, I actually don’t agree with it here. Sure, she does grow a lot, but admittedly, I find her a bit on the cowardly side for the first part of this story. Granted, her situation is bleak, but I still found myself wishing I could urge her on to do certain things or stop her from doing others I didn’t understand. Regardless, I do love her character development over the story and find she’s got a large, tender heart and a will to survive.

Elias – is a character that is easy to love. He is masked (literally) as a cold, tough soldier, yet yearns to be free and love without restraint. What isn’t to love about him? I enjoyed watching his tenderness come out as the story went on and found his relationship dynamic with so many different people to be an interesting part of his journey. I always wanted to see what he would say or do next with a character, especially Helene.

Helene – I actually do not really enjoy her much in this book. Perhaps it really is the way she is presented at being the Mask she was made into? Whatever it is, she always irks me in this book, although I do enjoy her interactions with Elias. Also, I forgot about her power until I re-read this and I did enjoy seeing her rare tender moments in healing – especially with Laia which was highly unexpected.

As for everyone else, need I say much about the Commandment? She’s a sociopath. Keenan irritates me to no end and I don’t understand his point in most of the story. I really enjoyed our short interactions with Spiro Teluman. Cain and the other Augers are…interesting. Lastly, the Cook and Izzi are lovely.

The story itself is somewhat brutal, scary, and intriguing all the same. I truly enjoy Tahir’s writing: it doesn’t move too fast nor does it move too slow. I always get enough information to know what is going on, the details seem to be in the most appropriate places, and her way of getting us to love her world and these characters appeals to me so greatly. I devour her work so quickly when I pick up these books. Despite not being the biggest fan of torturous scenes, I still appreciate the way the story doesn’t shy from the brutality of this world and its comparison to the Rome-like world of our own.

My favorite part of this story was the scheming at the end that, upon my first read, I never expected and it was actually a surprise for me. I enjoyed the fierceness of characters to push through in tough times and even dare hope for a better future.

Every time I pick this story up I cannot put it down until I finish as quickly as possible (this one was also good on audio). The world, the story, the characters, and everything in between makes this story worth it again and again.

So, tell me. Are you one of the many who have read this book?
Did you enjoy it?
Did you not?
What was YOUR favorite part?
Who is YOUR favorite character?

♥♥

There is this deep-rooted need in me to make some small attempt at explaining my love obsession for Jodi Picoult. Whatever I say, though, won’t even come close to what I really feel for her work. Sometimes I get personally offended when people don’t like her work and actively avoid reading reviews for her books so I don’t go into rants with people who dislike a book. I get it, that’s completely unfair of me to do as we all have different tastes in books and stories – but I mainly want you to understand how much I love her work no matter if you agree or disagree.

That being said, I have been on a kick recently of wanting to re-read all of her books. Last year I read House Rules and My Sister’s Keeper (both for the 4th of 5th time total). This year I wanted to add a few more re-reads of her work I don’t typically pick up when doing re-reads. While on the subject of things I’ve been into recently, I have to add audio books to the top of that list. So, I was browsing the library e-books and saw that Leaving Time wasn’t in use and decided to give it a shot. Granted, I usually prefer her books in physical form so I was extremely hesitant to pick this up on audio but gave it a shot anyway. The first hour of it I wasn’t a fan of (mostly told from the side of Jenna, our main character). But after that, I was HOOKED. Let’s discuss!

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Leaving Time
By: Jodi Picoult
Pages: 401
Genre: Fiction
Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

 

 

 

Book Synopsis:

For more than a decade, Jenna Metcalf has never stopped thinking about her mother, Alice, who mysteriously disappeared in the wake of a tragic accident. Refusing to believe she was abandoned, Jenna searches for her mother regularly online and pores over the pages of Alice’s old journals. A scientist who studied grief among elephants, Alice wrote mostly of her research among the animals she loved, yet Jenna hopes the entries will provide a clue to her mother’s whereabouts.

Desperate to find the truth, Jenna enlists two unlikely allies in her quest: Serenity Jones, a psychic who rose to fame finding missing persons, only to later doubt her gifts, and Virgil Stanhope, the jaded private detective who’d originally investigated Alice’s case along with the strange, possible linked death of one of her colleagues. As the three work together to uncover what happened to Alice, they realize that in asking hard questions, they’ll have to face even harder answer.

Favorite Quotes:

The moral of this story is that sometimes, you can attempt to make all the difference in the world, and it still is like trying to stem the tide with a sieve.
The moral of this story is that no matter how much we try, no matter how much we want it…some stories just don’t have a happy ending.

I wonder if, as you get older, you stop missing people so fiercely. Maybe growing up is just focusing on what you’ve got, instead of what you don’t.

I tell you this story by way of explanation: The people we define as crazy just might be more sane than you and me.

The sound that a heart makes, when it is breaking, is raw and ugly. And anguish, it’s a waterfall.

Could it be as simple as that? Could love be not granted gestures or empty vows, not promises meant to be broken, but instead a paper trail of forgiveness? A line of crumbs made of memories, to lead you back to the person who was waiting?

Just because you leave someone doesn’t mean you ever let them go.

My thoughts:

I said this in another post at one point, but I mentioned that I almost never cry at books – they can be super sad, yet I don’t ever cry.  -Insert dramatic cough here- But this book. THIS book.

Jenna is the “main” character and we hear mostly from her. She’s a conflicting character for me – she’s sassy, extremely smart, and unbearably lonely. She has an entire universe of a hole in her soul from missing her mother and, as in most Picoult books, she feels things to an extent I’m unsure many people can comprehend in the real world (mainly, I just mean it doesn’t always seem plausible for a 13 year old to feel as deep as a character like Jenna). Despite this flaw that occasionally irked me, Jenna’s determination and sassiness helped balance out her sadness and confusion in her hunt to find her mother.

Serenity and Virgil are pretty great characters, though significantly different in personalities. Virgil is an old-cop-turned-P.I. who drowns his feelings and regrets with booze and an overall grumpy tone. For me, he mirrors pieces of myself that could easily wind up like him in attempts to mask mistakes, regrets, and pain of the past. On the other hand, Serenity, a psychic, copes differently with her losses and regrets and I enjoyed seeing a great deal of sides of loss and hope within these characters – they are as different as you and me.

But Alice. Dear Alice. She breaks my soul into a million pieces. Not simply because of the story, but because of how she receives information, processes thoughts and emotions, and has this extreme love and understanding of the creatures she has admired her entire life – elephants. Listening to Alice’s chapters made me want to rip my heart out and give it to her in an attempt to heal her soul. I can understand how she could be a somewhat problematic character for some or even unbearable to listen to/read, but I cannot express how much I loved her this time around. At the end, I just kept thinking about the list of things that went wrong or could have been done differently, but then I remembered that that’s life. Sometimes we make choices we cannot take back, or sometimes we don’t know the right answer. Sometimes things don’t work out the way we picture them. Sometimes they do. The imperfection that is Alice is what makes me love her so much. I’m not saying she did everything appropriately or that I condone some of her mistakes, but I still find myself admiring her as a whole and that’s why I loved her so much.

Lastly, the elephants. Picoult always does such a great deal of research for her books in order to give accurate information to readers. There are honestly really difficult things to listen to about poachers, elephant’s lives and deaths, and everything in between. Maybe I have simply always had an overly-bleeding heart for elephants and their diminishing numbers, but Picoult doesn’t stray from rough details and the grief some of these creatures experience through this book. Not only that but you get a chance to learn several things about elephants you might not have easily learned otherwise.

Overall, I refuse to pick this book apart for any of its flaws. Yes, there are flaws. The characters have flaws. The story has flaws. The ending could be highly problematic for some people. No, it took absolutely nothing away from me and in the last hour of this audio book I sat on my couch with tears streaming down my face.

I will almost always recommend Picoult books and after listening to this on audio, I would recommend either version of this book if you have not yet read it. But, be warned, if you experience a lot of emotion while reading this could be one that gets to you like it did for me.

 

  • Have you read Leaving Time?
  • Do you enjoy Picoult’s work?
  • Did you learn anything new about elephants or believe they can experience grief?
  • Did you love or hate the ending?

 

♥♥