Book Review: Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Book: Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Published October 2017 by Crown Books For Young Readers|210 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Raw, captivating, and undeniably real, Nic Stone joins industry giants Jason Reynolds and Walter Dean Myers as she boldly tackles American race relations in this stunning debut.

Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates. Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up—way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack.

I really wanted to like Dear Martin.  I really did, and while I can see why this book is popular, it wasn’t for me.

One thing I didn’t like was the format- the book went between scripts, letters, news reports, and the typical narrative you usually see in books.  It was really jarring, and the book would randomly switch formats.  It was disorienting, especially because you’d have a few paragraphs, then it would switch to a script format for three sentences, and back to paragraphs.  It took me out of the story, and it made me feel like I was being told what was happening, instead of seeing or experiencing it myself.

It also felt really heavy-handed and preachy at times.  I think what the book is about is really important, and I was intrigued by the connection to Dr Martin Luther King, but it didn’t really work for me.  I think I was expecting that to be more important than it really was- it turned out to be just a few letters, and those letters really felt like they could have been addressed to anybody.

Because Dear Martin is so short, it felt like an introduction to some of the issues we see in the book, like race, equality and justice.  There are a lot of points that come up but they felt glossed over, and they weren’t explored in depth.

There is a pretty big moment in the book as well, but I felt nothing when it happened.  I should have felt something, and I hate that I didn’t feel anything.  Considering the story reminds me of countless news stories and that there are books with similar subject matter, I wanted to be more upset.  I think it just felt like something was missing- in the acknowledgments, she does thank her editor for helping her cut the book in half, and I wonder if maybe I just wanted that other half.

I…I was just bored.  It didn’t do anything for me, and I do think there are better books that deal with similar themes and stories out there.  Like The Hate U Give and any of Jason Reynolds’ books, though in this case, All-American Boys is the one I’d probably mention.  It falls short, especially in comparison to some of the other books out there, and in particular, with the ones I already mentioned.

I do think this is an important story, and what it’s about is an important one to read.  The formatting and writing didn’t work for me, and while I can see why so many people love this book.  I do think the message is great, and even though this book didn’t work for me, I think it’s worth checking out.

2 stars.  I hate giving this book 2 stars, and I was really close to giving it 1 star, because it didn’t work for me at all.  But there are some really interesting (and uncomfortable) discussions that are worth reading.  I would still recommend it for the story it tells because I think what he goes through is important to read.

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Book Review: Slave To Sensation by Nalini Singh

Book: Slave To Sensation by Nalini Singh

Published September 2006 by Berkeley Sensation|338 pages

Where I Got It: I own the paperback

Series: Psy-Changling #1

Genre: Adult Romance/Paranormal Romance

Nalini Singh dives into a world torn apart by a powerful race with phenomenal powers of the mind-and none of the heart.

In a world that denies emotions, where the ruling Psy punish any sign of desire, Sascha Duncan must conceal the feelings that brand her as flawed. To reveal them would be to sentence herself to the horror of “rehabilitation” – the complete psychic erasure of everything she ever was…

Both human and animal, Lucas Hunter is a changeling hungry for the very sensations the Psy disdain. After centuries of uneasy coexistence, these two races are now on the verge of war over the brutal murders of several changeling women. Lucas is determined to find the Psy killer who butchered his packmate, and Sascha is his ticket into their closely guarded society. But he soon discovers that this ice-cold Psy is very capable of passion – and that the animal in him is fascinated by her. Caught between their conflicting worlds, Lucas and Sascha must remain bound to their identities – or sacrifice everything for a taste of darkest temptation.

I really liked Slave To Sensation!  I don’t read a lot of romance, and I feel like I always say that I’m going to read more of it, but I never seem to do that.

I’ve had this book on my bookshelf for ages, and I figured it was about time to read it.  Partly because I was in the mood, but also because I’ve been trying to read some of my owned but unread books in an effort to see what I want to keep and what ends up being donated to the library.

I did like the concept- two very different people, and two very different worlds.  I wanted to know more about both, and I really liked what I saw of the world Lucas and Sascha live in.  I was especially impressed with the world building, considering it’s a romance.  Granted, it’s a paranormal romance, but even then, you get a lot more then what you’d typically see from other books in the genre.  I liked both the Psys, who have psychic abilities, and the Changelings, who are shifters.  Both are very, very different, but I’m curious to learn more.  They both seem to be at war with each other, and I really want to know how it plays out.

As for the romance, I liked Lucas and Sascha together.  They have their obstacles, of course, and they do get their happily ever after.  It is a romance, after all.  But there is no insta-love here, and things felt very natural between them.  I guess it usually does with romance, but I also don’t read enough of it to know for sure.  I’m just going off of what I have read.  I think I’m also comparing it against the romance you see in YA, which is unfair since romance as a genre is very, very different then YA.

I definitely rooted for them, and I’m glad things worked out for them.  It was hard not to, but they really do belong together, and they really are cute together.  I have the feeling that the other books in the series won’t focus on Lucas and Sascha, but that they’ll make an appearance, and we’ll still get to see how things work out for them.

4 stars.  I really liked it, and while I’m not rushing to read the next book in the series, I still can’t wait to see what happens next.

Book Review: Shadowsong by S Jae-Jones

Book: Shadowsong by S Jae-Jones

Published February 2018 by Wednesday Books|384 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Wintersong #2

Genre: YA Fantasy

Six months after the end of Wintersong, Liesl is working toward furthering both her brother’s and her own musical careers. Although she is determined to look forward and not behind, life in the world above is not as easy as Liesl had hoped. Her younger brother Josef is cold, distant, and withdrawn, while Liesl can’t forget the austere young man she left beneath the earth, and the music he inspired in her. 

When troubling signs arise that the barrier between worlds is crumbling, Liesl must return to the Underground to unravel the mystery of life, death, and the Goblin King—who he was, who he is, and who he will be. What will it take to break the old laws once and for all? What is the true meaning of sacrifice when the fate of the world—or the ones Liesl loves—is in her hands?

I really liked Shadowsong!  After reading Wintersong last year (and absolutely loving it), I knew I had to read Shadowsong.

Shadowsong is a very different book than the one that Wintersong.  It’s a lot darker than I thought it would be, but it’s just as vivid.  I didn’t like it as much as Wintersong, though.  It didn’t have the magic or dreaminess that I would have expected, and it didn’t have the poetic beauty that the first book did.

I hate to compare books, and they are intended to be two different books, if the author’s note at the beginning of the book is any indication.  I expected them to be different, but even with her note, I didn’t expect them to be so different.

I really appreciated that she had a trigger warning at the beginning of the book.  I really respect her for doing that, considering how this book is a lot darker and more serious than Wintersong.  We see characters struggle with addiction and self-harm, amongst other things, and even though those things aren’t triggering to me, I know that they are to other people.  I just really appreciate that she did this.

Still, I loved the world and the story, and how completely immersed I was in Liesl’s world.  It’s dark and twisty and haunting, and there were times where I understood why Liesl acted the way she did.  I think, if I were in her position, I would too.

I do admit to skimming over the letters at the beginning and ending of the book.  I have no problem with reading cursive, but this…it was hard to read, and so I ended up skimming.  I’m not sure if maybe I missed something in those letters, and that’s why I didn’t like it as much as I thought, or if maybe I loved Wintersong so much that nothing would live up to it.

This book is the perfect follow-up to Wintersong.  We see what happens once Liesl leaves the Goblin King, and what happened with the Goblin King ages and ages ago.  And we learn his name as well.  Though he is mostly absent from this book, I still feel like he was with Liesl, and there for her no matter what.

4 stars.  I really liked Shadowsong, though I didn’t love it.  I really appreciated the author’s note at the beginning, and I loved seeing how Liesl’s story ended.  There is something about this world that lures you in, and this book is very haunting, though some of the things I loved about Wintersong weren’t present in this one.  It’s still worth reading, though!

Book Review: The Upside Of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli, Narrated by Arielle DiLisle And The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

Book: The Upside Of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli, Narrated by Arielle DiLisle

Published April 2017 by HarperAudio|Length: 7 hours, 58 minutes

Where I Got It: I borrowed the audio book from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love–she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often but always in secret, because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness–except for the part where she is.Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny, flirtatious, and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss, and she’ll get her twin back.There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him–right?

I really liked The Upside Of Unrequited!  It’s a really cute romance, and I really liked Molly.  I wasn’t the biggest fan of her sister, Cassie, who I thought was rude and irritating and she totally treated Molly like dirt.  And Molly let her.  But Molly was really cool otherwise, and so I’m glad the book was narrated by her.  Better her than Cassie, because I don’t think I could take it if the book were about Cassie instead.

Molly was really easy to relate to, and she was so easy to relate to.  I can’t relate to how many crushes she’s had, and while I will fangirl over certain pairings in the books I read, I’m not the hopeless romantic she is.  But the fact that she felt like everyone around her was growing up and that she wasn’t?  That was very easy to relate to.  She’s just at a different point in her life, and she’s not less of a person just because she wasn’t experiencing things at the same time that her sister and her friends were experiencing them.

Molly did seem shy and anxious but it wasn’t seen as a bad thing.  And while her sister seemed to believe that Molly needed to put herself out there, her shyness never seemed to be shamed.  Putting yourself out there can be hard, especially if your shy and anxious, but again, everyone does that at different points in their life.  Just because Cassie does it, doesn’t mean Molly has to do it at the exact same time.

Still, she seemed really uncomfortable with the idea of kissing or actually talking a guy or basically anything relating to relationships.  And yet, there seems to be this determination for her to be kissed and to have a boyfriend.  If that’s what she wants, that’s totally cool, but she just seemed really uncomfortable with it all.  I kind of got the sense that it was to say she had done it, and so that she felt like she was experiencing what everyone else was.

It wasn’t quite as funny or nerdy as Simon, of course, and I didn’t like it quite as much, though I still liked it.  Apparently not as much as other people seemed to like The Upside Of Unrequited.

I did like it as an audio book, and Arielle DeLisle was a good choice as narrator.  I could definitely picture Molly sounding like her.

My Rating: 3 stars.  I liked it, but not a lot.

Book: The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

Published May 2015 by HarperTeen|346 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the paperback from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

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. 

I like that her books are, for the most part, cute, light, fluffy romances.  They’re good reads for spring and summer, but I think I might have overdone it with them recently, because this was not one of favorites.  I mean, I liked it, but it’s one of my least favorites.  At least, as far as her contemporary novels go.

There’s the mean girl drama, of course, and it’s your typical rom-com in book form.  I knew how the story would end, especially with both the drama and the romance.  It was entertaining, though, and I didn’t hate it.  I also didn’t love it, so we’re settling for like.  I knew what to expect going into this book, and if I’m ever in the mood for some predictable but also cute and light, her books are the way to go.

Honestly, though, I don’t have much else to say, so onto my rating, I suppose.  It’s your typical Kasie West book, and it’s good if you want something light and fluffy.

My Rating: 3 stars.  I liked it, and it’s a cute book, though it is predictable.

Book Review: The Hollow by Jessica Verday and Aristotle And Dante Discover The Secrets Of The Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Book: The Hollow by Jessica Verday

Published September 2011 by Simon Pulse|509 pages

Where I Got It: I own the paperback

Series: The Hollow #1

Genre: YA Paranormal/Re-telling

When Abbey’s best friend, Kristen, vanishes at the bridge near Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, everyone else is all too quick to accept that Kristen is dead…rumors fly that her death was no accident. Abbey goes through the motions of mourning her best friend, but privately, she refuses to believe that Kristen is really gone. Then she meets Caspian, the gorgeous and mysterious boy who shows up out of nowhere at Kristen’s funeral, and keeps reappearing in Abbey’s life. Caspian clearly has secrets of his own, but he’s the only person who makes Abbey feel normal again…but also special. 

Just when Abbey starts to feel that she might survive all this, she learns a secret that makes her question everything she thought she knew about her best friend. How could Kristen have kept silent about so much? And could this secret have led to her death? As Abbey struggles to understand Kristen’s betrayal, she uncovers a frightening truth that nearly unravels her—one that will challenge her emerging love for Caspian, as well as her own sanity.

I didn’t like The Hollow as much as I thought I would.

I mean, it is a re-telling of Sleepy Hollow, so that part is cool. And I like that Abbey knows what she wants to do- make and sell perfume for a living.  It’s really different, and it is odd to see a character who will probably take some college classes, but doesn’t have a plan to go to college.  College isn’t for everyone, and yet, she still knows what she wants to do, and has things planned out.

There is a little bit of a mystery, but I was bored by it.  It’s the typical best friend goes missing and turns up dead mystery, and of course, the missing best friend is basically Abbey’s only friend.  I know this book came out years ago, but what is with that sort of story?  It’s frustrating to read, and I’m not sure why.

I just wasn’t invested in Abbey’s story, to the point where I don’t think I’ll keep going with the series.  While there are some things I’m wondering, like everything with Caspian and the secrets Kristen was keeping, I have no burning desire to move forward with this series.

It seems like Abbey, especially at the end of the book, needs a lot of help, and I did like that she recognized she needed help.  But again, I just wasn’t invested in her story, and while I want to feel some sort of sympathy for her, I found I didn’t.

My Rating: 2 stars.  There were some things that I liked, but The Hollow ended up being okay.

Book: Aristotle And Dante Discover The Secrets Of The Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Published April 2014 by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers|360 pages

Where I Got It: I own the paperback

Series: Aristotle & Dante #1

Genre: YA Contemporary

Dante can swim. Ari can’t. Dante is articulate and self-assured. Ari has a hard time with words and suffers from self-doubt. Dante gets lost in poetry and art. Ari gets lost in thoughts of his older brother who is in prison. Dante is fair skinned. Ari’s features are much darker. It seems that a boy like Dante, with his open and unique perspective on life, would be the last person to break down the walls that Ari has built around himself.

But against all odds, when Ari and Dante meet, they develop a special bond that will teach them the most important truths of their lives, and help define the people they want to be. But there are big hurdles in their way, and only by believing in each other―and the power of their friendship―can Ari and Dante emerge stronger on the other side.

I know everyone LOVES this book, but unfortunately, I didn’t.  I liked The Inexplicable Logic Of My Life a lot better than this one.

It felt like I was reading snapshots of their lives, as opposed to a story about them.  I mean, there is a story there, and we see them hang out and become friends and discover things about themselves.  But I really felt like I was reading a lot of smaller stories that formed one big story.  It felt like there were a lot of scenes that were missing, and the pacing and timeline felt off.  It’s hard to believe this book took place over the course of the year, because it felt a lot shorter.  Again, I don’t think we saw everything that happened over the course of that year.

I did like the strength of their friendship.  That stood out, and there is strength in friendship.  I also liked the focus on family, and if there’s something Saenz does well it’s having parents be involved while also showing how much characters can grow and do things on their own.  He does fully-formed friendships really well too, but what really stands out is how much their parents are around and involved in their lives.  They’re actually there, and have really important roles, which is nice to see in YA.  It’s not very common to have parents actually around and involved.  Especially when the parents are still together.  I’m glad their parents were around, alive and still together.

I can see why people love the characters and story so much, but unfortunately, I’m not one of them.  As much as I want to believe that I just didn’t read this book at the right time, that just wasn’t the case.  I found myself bored and eventually, there were times where I skimmed the book because I just wanted to get through it.  It seemed a little slow, and while not a lot happens, I just wasn’t feeling it.

There was a moment where I wanted one of the characters to come to the realization that his parents did.  Unfortunately, we never see him come to terms with it in his way, or even talk about it on his terms.  Instead, he’s told by his parents, and I thought that took away from it, because we never see him actually think about.  I felt like he’s being coaxed into it, and that didn’t work for me.  However, I do understand that people may feel differently, and that maybe he did feel that way, but just didn’t want to admit it.

My Rating: 2 stars.  I didn’t actively dislike it, and while a few things things were done really well, it wasn’t enough to change the rating either way.  It wasn’t for me, obviously, but if it sounds like it’s up your alley, I’d say go for it.

Book Review: Allegedly by Tiffany D Jackson

Book: Allegedly by Tiffany D Jackson

Published January 2017 by Katherine Tegen Books|400 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Mary B. Addison killed a baby.

Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: A white baby had died while under the care of a churchgoing black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say.

Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. The house isn’t really “home”—no place where you fear for your life can be considered a home. Home is Ted, who she meets on assignment at a nursing home.

There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary must find the voice to fight her past. And her fate lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But who really knows the real Mary?

I’m not sure what to think about Allegedly.  Part of me is angry, for how Mary was treated, and everything she had to go through.  But part of me is also wondering what really happened.

I felt angry that people would actually threaten a 9 year-old.  I felt so angry (and now that I think about it, sad) that people actually wanted the such strong punishment for a 9 year-old.  She was 9.  And I do wonder, what if it had been a white 9 year-old who was accused of murdering an infant.  Would it have been a completely different outcome?  Probably, and that makes me even more angry.

Not only that, but the people running the group home she lived in were horrible.  She wasn’t in a good situation, even after she left prison.  She was stuck, and as much as she wanted to try to get herself out, she had to jump through so many different hoops.  She was surrounded by people who told her that employers and colleges wouldn’t want her because she’s a murderer.  It makes you wonder how people are supposed to better themselves if that’s what our society really thinks of them, and won’t give them a chance to move on.  Now that I’m thinking about it, it doesn’t seem like there’s an easy answer, and one that I probably can’t answer.  Partly because I don’t know enough about it, but also, this is a book review, not a post on answering life’s questions.

This book definitely has its twists and turns, but by the end of the book, I was wondering if Mary really did it or not. She is a pretty sympathetic character, but I also felt like, by the end of the book, I wasn’t sure what to believe.  She did seem like an unreliable narrator by the end of the book, and while I was convinced that she didn’t do it, I wasn’t too sure by the end of the book.  You’re questioning everything, though I’m not sure about the ending.

I’m not sure if Mary’s a better liar than everyone thought or if she really didn’t do it, but deciding to be honest about what really happened, and then changing her mind….I’m not sure how I feel about that.  Maybe you’re supposed to be so angry, and then question everything.  Maybe things aren’t what they seem, and that in some cases, we’ll never know for sure what happened.  That not everyone is reliable.

It didn’t take away from the dark grittiness we see in the book.  It didn’t take away what the justice system is like, and there’s a lot I don’t know, like what happens to the children who are born to a mother in prison.  We see other issues, like mental health, how our environment affects us, and how the media sees certain cases.

Speaking of the media, throughout the book, we see excerpts from interview transcripts and from books about both Mary and her trial.  They really showed how people see Mary, and they are an insight into what people think of her trial.

While Jackson tackles a lot of different topics, she also did it well.  Everything felt equally important, and I wasn’t overwhelmed by everything we see.  It came together to paint a picture of a girl who needs a lot of help, but isn’t necessarily getting it.

4 stars.  I don’t know that you can necessarily like a book like Allegedly, and I wasn’t sure about the ending, which is why it gets a rating of 4 stars.  But Jackson has set a very high standard for her future books, and I hope they’re as good as this one.

Book Review: Always And Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

Book: Always And Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

Published May 2017 by Simon Schuster Books For Young Readers|336 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before #3

Genre: YA Contemporary

Lara Jean is having the best senior year. And there’s still so much to look forward to: a class trip to New York City, prom with her boyfriend Peter, Beach Week after graduation, and her dad’s wedding to Ms. Rothschild. Then she’ll be off to college with Peter, at a school close enough for her to come home and bake chocolate chip cookies on the weekends.

Life couldn’t be more perfect!

At least, that’s what Lara Jean thinks…until she gets some unexpected news.

Now the girl who dreads change must rethink all her plans—but when your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

I really liked Always And Forever, Lara Jean!  Granted, it took months for me to actually read it, but I did finish it! I kept checking it out from the library and renewing it so many times that I hit the max number of renewals, which resulted in me having to return it.  Of course, I’d get distracted by what felt like the 50 million other library books I had, so I kept renewing it without actually reading it.

Lara Jean’s story continues in this book, and I’m glad that we get to see more of this series, because the last book felt so unfinished.

Lara Jean is still the innocent, naive hopeless romantic we see in the previous books.  I was hoping that she’d lose some of that innocence, and she still seemed so young.  I mean, I know she is, age-wise, because she’s off to college at the end of the book.  But I wanted to see her mature just a little bit, and we never really get that from her.

Hopefully, going away to college will be good for her.  I was actually glad that she didn’t get into her dream school (UVA) because it meant she’d be farther away from home.  I know Lara Jean tends to be a homebody, and I can so relate to that.  I know it’s hard for her to get out of her comfort zone, and actually leave her family.  I think one reason why I love Lara Jean so much is because I see a lot of similarities between us.  But I think a change will be good for her, and maybe being away from her family and everything she’s ever known will get her out of her shell a little bit.

She did seem very willing to be at a college for one year, and then transfer closer to home.  And it all seemed to be for Peter.  I don’t know that she’s necessarily giving up on a good opportunity just because of both Peter and her family, but she also didn’t seem to be willing to give it a good effort.  She did seem to change her mind a little bit by the end of the book when she does get into her 2nd choice school, and realize it might be a good fit for her.  She seemed more willing to at least give it a try, even if it meant being away from Peter.

What did frustrate me was how people seemed to think she shouldn’t go off to college with a boyfriend.  I mean, if it doesn’t work out, then it doesn’t work out, but you don’t know until you try it.  I think Lara Jean was holding herself back, and I do think Peter is a part of that, but overall, I think it’s just who Lara Jean is.

I’m going to switch gears a little bit and talk about some of the other characters.

I wasn’t a big fan of Peter in this book, and I thought there were times where he was horrible to Lara Jean.  She does put up with it, and I kind of wish she didn’t.  I also didn’t particularly like Margot.  I’m not sure why, but I kind of forget about Margot a lot of the time.

I’m glad her dad is dating again, and Trina seems pretty cool.  Kitty, as much as I love that girl, is a little bit of a brat, and I’m not sure why I didn’t notice it before.  She definitely needs to be told no a lot more, and I feel like she gets to do whatever she wants.  Partly because she’s the youngest, but also because their mom died when Kitty was really young.  It’s like they give in because they feel bad for her, and that’s not really fair to Kitty.

And lastly, Chris.  Chris and Lara Jean really drift apart in the book.  They really started to go their own, separate way, and while I’m glad that Lara Jean does hang out with other people, part of me wishes that they weren’t people who were either friends with Peter or people who dated Peter’s friends.  I kind of wanted Lara Jean to make her own friends.

Actually, when I said Chris was last, I lied.  I don’t know how I could forget about Stormy!  She’s a fun character, and sadly, we don’t really see her in this book.  I know Lara Jean is a lot busier and all, but Stormy is an awesome character who will not be forgotten.

4 stars.  I really liked it, and I think it’s a fitting conclusion to Lara Jean’s story.  I do wish Lara Jean had changed a little bit, and that she wasn’t so stagnant, but she’s still a very relatable character.

Book Review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, Narrated by Sneha Mathan & Vikas Adam

Book Review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, narrated by Sneha Mathan & Vikas Adam

Published May 2017 by Dreamscape Media|Length: 10 hours, 45 minutes

Where I Got It: I own the audio book

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Now that Dimple Shah has graduated, she’s ready for a break from her family – especially from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the Ideal Indian Husband. Ugh. But Dimple knows that her mother must respect that she isn’t interested in doing that right now – otherwise she wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers, right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic, so when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him – during which he’ll have to woo her – he’s totally onboard. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself. Although their parents hadn’t planned suggesting the arrangement so soon, when their kids signed up for the same summer program, they figured why not?

I really liked When Dimple Met Rishi!  It’s a cute rom-com, and I’m glad I finally got around to reading it.  Well, listening in this case.

Actually, let’s start off with When Dimple Met Rishi as an audio book.  Usually I talk about that part last, for some reason, but since I’ve already mentioned that I listened to it, I might as well talk about it now.

I really liked it as an audio book, and I have the slightest feeling that had I read it, I probably wouldn’t have liked it as much.  I could picture Rishi and Dimple really well, and while I’ve never listened to anything narrated by either Mathan or Adams, I thought they did pretty well narrating both Dimple and Rishi respectively.  In particular, I really liked Mathan’s narration of Dimple’s chapters and she really captured who Dimple is as a person.  It’s not that Adams didn’t do the same for Rishi, because he did.  I just don’t think he did it to the degree that Mathan did with Dimple.

I think part of it is that I liked Dimple a lot more than Rishi.  Dimple is definitely spirited and determined and she knows what she wants.  Is she whiny and stuck-up?  Sure, but hopefully that will change as she gets olders.  She and Rishi do balance each other out, since Rishi is a loyal, hopeless romantic who wants everyone around him to be happy.  He’s more of a people-pleaser than Dimple ever will be, though I did find him a little more boring and unmemorable.

I admit that at first, I thought Rishi was a little pathetic.  He was really into the idea of an arranged marriage, and like I said, he’s a hopeless romantic.  He, especially at the beginning, was a lot more interested in Dimple, and things were definitely one-sided.  It’s mostly because Rishi knew, and Dimple didn’t, that they were a possible match. We do see why Rishi acts the way he does, and I slowly started to change my mind because of that.

There is one other reason why I changed my mind about Rishi.  It’s not fair to him that I saw him as a pathetic, hopeless romantic.  If the tables were turned, and if it were Dimple acting that way, would I have the same reaction?  No, probably not, because a big part of my reaction to Rishi at first was because Rishi’s a guy, and it’s not fair that I’m deciding how he should and should not act.  And as the book goes on, we do see why Rishi acts the way he does.  I think part of it is who he is, and I’m glad I changed my mind about Rishi.

It’s definitely your typical romantic-comedy, and there are actual obstacles to their relationship that aren’t related to random miscommunications.  Dimple’s hurtful and dishonest, and Rishi, while overprotective at first, does care about her.  She cares about him as well, and I liked that Dimple had no problem saying that she was at a different place in their relationship.  I liked that she needed more time and that marriage wasn’t something she was thinking about, even though Rishi seemed more ready for it.

Was marriage something her mom wanted for her?  Of course, but her mom also wanted her to be happy, and that was more important than Dimple getting married.

This book also has a lot of funny moments as well.  I laughed quite a few times, and I was frequently smiling as well. I think it really came across in the audio as well, because the tone of voice that both narrators used made a lot of moments really amusing and light and fun.

4 stars.  So, I didn’t love it, but I did really like it.  I think it’s great as an audio book, but I think it’s worth reading in any format.  It’s light-hearted and fun, and I definitely recommend it.

Book Review: Midnight Without A Moon by Linda Williams Jackson And Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Book: Midnight With A Moon by Linda Williams Jackson

Published January 2017 by HMH Books For Young Readers|320 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Rose Lee Carter #1

Genre: Middle Grade Historical Fiction

Rose Lee Carter, a 13-year-old African-American girl, dreams of life beyond the Mississippi cotton fields during the summer of 1955. Her world is rocked when a 14-year-old African-American boy, Emmett Till, is killed for allegedly whistling at a white woman. A powerful middle-grade debut perfect for readers who enjoyed The Watsons Go to Birmingham and Brown Girl Dreaming.

I liked Midnight Without A Moon, though I think I was expecting something that was more YA than middle grade when I first started reading it.  I still liked, and I definitely recommend it.

Something I was surprised by was how Rose Lee and her family lived.  It was hard to believe that the book took place in the 1950’s, because the conditions that they lived seemed so horrible and old.  It’s hard to imagine a time when voting as a minority could get you killed.  And that at 13, she was expected to not finish school to help out at home.  I can’t picture that either, especially since she seemed so smart.  It made me sad to see that because she was smart, and would find her own way, she couldn’t do the one thing she wanted more than anything.

Williams Jackson really paints a picture of what it was like to live in 1950’s rural Mississippi.  It was particularly interesting to see what her grandparents thought of things like the NAACP and race relations and the civil rights movement.  I was surprised to see that they didn’t want to rock the boat, and prior to this book, I would have assumed they wanted things to change.  They did seem okay with how things were, or maybe they just made their peace with how things were.  Maybe they just didn’t want something to happen to the people that they care about, which I can understand.

It definitely makes the book an important read, and while I only know the gist of what happened to Emmett Till, I do want to know more about what happened to him.  Does anyone have recommendations for books to read?  I’m definitely open to suggestions!

I did like her grandfather, and her grandmother was…really horrible actually.  Hopefully, we’ll see her grandmother open up a little bit, but it’s also possible her grandmother is just set in her ways and won’t change.  This is the first book in a series, and while I’m not sure if I want to continue on with the series, I might pick up the 2nd book one day. Maybe her grandma just needs some time.

It’s definitely an important book, and it’s so hard to believe that the history in it so recent.  And the book is still relevant, and I think it could be an interesting jumping point for a history class.

My Rating: 3 stars.  I liked it, and I especially liked Rose, but I think I was expecting something slightly older, particularly where Rose is concerned.

Book: Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Published October 2017 by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dloughy Books

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

A cannon. A strap.
A piece. A biscuit.
A burner. A heater.
A chopper. A gat.
A hammer
A tool
for RULE

Or, you can call it a gun. That’s what fifteen-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he’s after. Or does he? 

As the elevator stops on the sixth floor, on comes Buck. Buck, Will finds out, is who gave Shawn the gun before Will took the gun. Buck tells Will to check that the gun is even loaded. And that’s when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawn’s gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didn’t know that Shawn had ever actually used his gun. Bigger huh. BUCK IS DEAD. But Buck’s in the elevator?

Just as Will’s trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buck’s cigarette. Will doesn’t know her, but she knew him. Knew. When they were eight. And stray bullets had cut through the playground, and Will had tried to cover her, but she was hit anyway, and so what she wants to know, on that fifth floor elevator stop, is, what if Will, Will with the gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, MISSES.

And so it goes, the whole long way down, as the elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an END…if WILL gets off that elevator.

This is one of those books that a lot of people love and think very highly of.  Unfortunately, I wanted to like it more than I did, and it would seem like I am in the minority.

The story itself was amazing.  I mean, you see why there’s a never-ending cycle of revenge-killing – someone dies, and then someone else kills to get revenge, and it just never ends.  I was sad to see how many people Will lost to guns, and I want a life for him where he doesn’t lose anyone else he knows and loves to guns.

The ending was pretty open-ended, but also a little confusing.  It had a “it was all a dream” feel to it, and you’re left wondering if it really happened, or if it was a dream or even if he wasn’t even alive.  I think it’s open to interpretation, which is good if you like that sort of thing.  If not, then keep that in mind if you pick this book up.  It does make you question what you know and what you thought you knew,

I have mixed feelings about the book being told in verse.  It did make the book a pretty quick read, and I feel like verse was a great way to tell this story because it somehow makes the book more powerful.  But I’m also not the biggest fan of books told in verse, and something about it didn’t quite work for me.  Jason Reynolds is very good with putting words together, and while I think I might have enjoyed this book a little more had I listened to it, I also would have missed out on some of the formatting.  It’s a trade-off, I suppose, though novels told in verse usually seem to work better for me when I listen versus reading.

Anyway, this seemed like a very long elevator ride, but I did like the concept of a different person getting on at every floor.  Now that I think about it, something about that makes me think of that one book, The 5 People You Meet In Heaven, and I’m not sure why.

Still, I think meeting each and every one of these people really affected Will, and got him to remember things and think about things and question things.  It’s really up to him what happens next, though you find yourself questioning what that is.  Given how quickly this book goes, you don’t really get a chance to completely digest what just happened.  Multiple readings might be a good thing for this book, and I feel like the more you re-read it, the more you pick up on.  I just don’t know that I want to re-read it.

I love that he writes books so all teens can be heard and seen.  Isn’t that why we all read, to see ourselves reflected in the pages?  It’s sad that this is the reality for some teens, but authors like Jason Reynolds are so amazing at making teens feel seen and heard and more visible, even if the book isn’t one I personally loved.  Just because the book didn’t quite work for me doesn’t mean it’s any less important.

Long Way Down is a book that clearly speaks to a lot of people, and I really, really wish I were one of them.  I would still recommend this book to everyone, because I think Will’s story is one that should be read.

My Rating: 3 stars.  I hate giving this book 3 stars, I really do.  In fact, I almost gave it 2 stars, but couldn’t bring myself to do it.  Like I said, Will’s story is an important one, and while a lot of things didn’t work for me, there were some others things I did like.

Book Review: Love, Hate And Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Book: Love, Hate And Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Published January 2018 by Soho Teen|281 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

A searing #OwnVoices coming-of-age debut in which an Indian-American Muslim teen confronts Islamophobia and a reality she can neither explain nor escape–perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Jacqueline Woodson, and Adam Silvera.

American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.

There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.

I liked Love, Hate & Other Filters!  I really felt for Maya, and she’s likable and sympathetic.

I really loved how she wanted to go to film school, even though it’s not what her parents would have wanted (or chosen) for her.  You really see her struggle with her identity as an Indian-American teen, and I really liked her relationship with her aunt.

One thing I thought was interesting was her mom’s focus on Maya getting married.  I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems like almost every single book focusing on Asian-American, Middle Eastern or Muslim characters has a mom who has this single-handed focus on getting her teenage daughter married.  I know arranged marriage is a custom (please forgive me if I phrased that wrong.  Also, please let me know the correct way if I did get wrong) in some cultures, but she did seem more focused on that than what was going on with her daughter, especially after a horrific event happens a few hundred miles away.

And while her parents did struggle with the idea of her going to New York, I can understand why they would change their mind.  Still, I can’t imaging being disowned because of a decision to do it anyway.  Part of me feels like that is something that happens, and I hope they come around.  They do love her, and they do worry about her, but I am having a hard time with understanding why they’d disown her, and why they weren’t more supportive.  I really do want to understand where they’re coming from, but I’m really struggling with that.

I hated how Maya treated in the aftermath of that event, and how she was lumped into the same group as the perceived perpetrator, just because he had the same last name.  I get that people were scared, and that took over, and people were acting in a completely different way then they were before.  Who wouldn’t be scared, after something like that?  But how people reacted wasn’t a surprise at all, and I felt like it highlighted really well how people treat those who are Muslim.  The Islamaphobia was handled really well, and I wouldn’t expect anything else.  Love, Hate & Other Filters is #ownvoices, and it felt very much like Maya was going through something Ahmed had experienced.

I did like seeing the chapters following the perpetrator of the attack.  They didn’t make sense at first- actually, they didn’t make sense until we actually see the crime, and then they started to make sense.  They gave some insight into that person’s thoughts, but even though they were different, I don’t know how much they actually added to the book. They did show that terrorism has no religion, and that anyone can be a terrorist, so there is that.

A lot of this book is romance, and I didn’t particularly care for it.  There are two possible love interests for Maya, and I didn’t care for either of them.  Not only that, but she dates one guy, only for it to not work out in the end?  It didn’t make any sense to me.

One last thing that didn’t make sense: Maya’s religion.  I know the blurb says Maya is Muslim, and I went into the book expecting that to be part of the book in some way.  But Maya never says she’s Muslim, she never prays…she never acknowledges that she’s Muslim.  I know everyone has their own relationship with religion, but I never got the sense that it was important to her.  I don’t know if it’s shame, or if she didn’t really believe in it but sort of adhered to it because of her parents.  I’m just confused about how the summary of the book mentions Maya is Muslim, but we never see any mention or acknowledgement of it.

3 stars.  The romance was superficial and boring, and I felt like some of the labels for the book didn’t actually match what we see in the book (namely religion).  I do think the hate crimes we see in the book, and the way Maya was treated after the terrorist attack were well done.  It just wasn’t enough to give the book a higher rating.