Book Review: Heart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot

Book: Heart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot

Published February 2018 by Counterpoint|143 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: Adult Non-Fiction/Memoir

Heart Berries is a powerful, poetic memoir of a woman’s coming of age on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in the Pacific Northwest. Having survived a profoundly dysfunctional upbringing only to find herself hospitalized and facing a dual diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder and bipolar II disorder; Terese Marie Mailhot is given a notebook and begins to write her way out of trauma. The triumphant result is Heart Berries, a memorial for Mailhot’s mother, a social worker and activist who had a thing for prisoners; a story of reconciliation with her father―an abusive drunk and a brilliant artist―who was murdered under mysterious circumstances; and an elegy on how difficult it is to love someone while dragging the long shadows of shame.

Mailhot trusts the reader to understand that memory isn’t exact, but melded to imagination, pain, and what we can bring ourselves to accept. Her unique and at times unsettling voice graphically illustrates her mental state. As she writes, she discovers her own true voice, seizes control of her story, and, in so doing, reestablishes her connection to her family, to her people, and to her place in the world.

This is one of those books that seem really popular, in the sense that everyone is reading it, so I figured I’d read it and see why people love it so much.

So, I wanted to love it, but it was just okay for me.

A big part of it is both the length and the writing style.  I wasn’t expecting it to be so short.  It’s not even 150 pages, and that’s including the Q & A at the end, plus a forward at the beginning.  It’s not long at all, and I think that’s why I finished it, because I really struggled with her writing style.

It felt like I was reading diary entries or her notebook, and her memoir felt really disjointed and all over the place.  Stream-of-consciousness is what comes to mind, and so Mailhot jumps around in time and place.  It is one of those books you really have to pay attention to, otherwise you’ll miss something.  Not only that, but it felt like I was reading a collection of essays.

It’s not completely Mailhot’s fault, since I went into this book expecting a more traditionally written memoir.  I also felt like I was reading the same thing over and over- it felt like each chapter involved Mailhot pining after someone, while lamenting over having one child, while her other child was taken away from her.  There didn’t seem to be any resolution or movement, and I think, what it comes down to, is that I was expecting something very different than what this memoir contained.  I also thought the usage of the word you throughout the book made me feel like I was watching things from a distance, and I had a hard time connecting with her.  I had a hard time keeping up with her thought process, since it does meander around quite a bit.

It’s a shame, since there were a few sentences that were absolutely beautiful and poetic.  I wanted to like it, I really did.  And I tried so hard to like it, but I just didn’t have it in me.  I can see why so many people love it, and I really do think that the reasons why people love it are the reasons I didn’t, but not every book is going to be for every person.  This clearly wasn’t the book for me, but I am glad that it is a book that works for so many other people.

2 stars.  Heart Berries was just okay, and I was definitely expecting a more traditional memoir.  Even though it wasn’t for me, I can see why so many people think it’s a great read.

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Book Review: Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler

Book: Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler

Published by Little, Brown Books For Young Readers|400 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Non-Fiction/Memoir

What happens when the person you’re becoming isn’t the one your family wants you to be? 

When Aaron Hartzler was little, he couldn’t wait for the The Rapture: that moment when Jesus would come down from the clouds to whisk him and his family up to heaven. But as he turns sixteen, Aaron grows more curious about all the things his family forsakes for the Lord. He begins to realize he doesn’t want Jesus to come back just yet—not before he has his first kiss, sees his first movie, or stars in the school play.

Whether he’s sneaking out, making out, or playing hymns with a hangover, Aaron learns a few lessons that can’t be found in the Bible. He discovers that the girl of your dreams can just as easily be the boy of your dreams, and the tricky part about believing is that no one can do it for you.

In this funny and heartfelt coming-of-age memoir, debut author Aaron Hartzler recalls his teenage journey from devoted to doubtful, and the search to find his own truth without losing the fundamentalist family who loves him.

I can’t remember how I first heard about Rapture Practice- which, now that I think about, describes probably 99% of the books I wanted to read- but I was in the mood for non-fiction and a memoir, and it seemed interesting enough.

I was surprised that it’s a YA memoir.  I wasn’t expecting it, but looking back, it makes sense, considering it focuses on Hartzler’s life in high school.  It’s pretty easy to read, and it goes by pretty fast.  It did feel like I reading little snippets of his life, and while it tells a pretty linear, cohesive story, I wish it had gone into a little more depth.  I feel like he has a lot more of his to share but his high school years did give the book a certain focus.

I will say that there were points where I didn’t want to finish the book, and it was because of his parents.  I felt so angry at them for not being more open, and for how they treated Aaron.  I mean, I know he did rebel, and did things they didn’t want him to, but they were really, insanely strict.  When I hear someone describe themselves as a Christian, his parents are what immediately pop into mind.  I know not all Christians are like Hartzler’s parents, but they are what I associate with Christian.

Still, as frustrating as it was to read his parents, I am glad I read Rapture Practice.  It is a perspective that I don’t pay a lot of attention to, and even though I disagree with a lot of his parents beliefs, I’m still glad I read Rapture Practice.  I don’t know that I came away with a better understanding of why they believe what they do, but I can definitely relate to Hartzler starting to question his beliefs and faith.  Questioning ourselves, our beliefs and what our families believe is something I think we can all relate to, regardless of our faith (or lack of it).

I really wish there was some sort of afterword or epilogue or something where we get a little about about what happened after he graduated high school.  Some sort of conclusion would have been nice, but it did wrap things up pretty nicely.  Overall, I liked it, even though there were some things I wasn’t thrilled with, which I already talked about.

I felt for Aaron, and I can’t imagine having to sneak around to see ANY movie, or to hide listening to music because they’re not Christian enough.  One of the things I liked about the book was seeing him figure things out, and realizing that what he wanted to do and what he believed didn’t match up with what his parents believed.  I didn’t always agree with Aaron’s choices, but I can understand why he did what he did.  I had a much harder time doing that with his parents, but Aaron was definitely trying to figure things out for himself, which is a part of life.

3 stars.  I had some reservations about Rapture Practice, but it was an interesting read.

Book Review: Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

Book: Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

Published May 2018 by Nancy Paulsen Books|240 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary

Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal’s Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she’s busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when—as the eldest daughter—she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn’t lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens—after an accidental run-in with the son of her village’s corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family’s servant to pay off her own family’s debt. 

Life at the opulent Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle for Amal—especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal’s growing awareness of the Khans’ nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realizes she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams.

Here is another really great middle grade contemporary!  I really enjoyed this one, and I actually felt really sad for Amal.  I can’t imagine a world where you have to work as a servant to pay off debt and because you said the wrong thing to the wrong person…especially at the age of 12.

Initially, I assumed that this book was historical fiction, and then I was horrified and sad when I realized it was more contemporary.  I feel terrible that I had assumed indentured servants were a thing of the past, but that the Khan family used children as servants made me feel sick to my stomach.

I loved Amal, and all she wanted was to go to school.  Things changed, and not surprisingly, things worked out for her in the end.  This book showed how important it is to speak out against injustice, and that everyone deserves an education.  I’m lucky that I have had chances that Amal didn’t have, and while I appreciated the author’s note at the end of the book, the part of me that wants to learn more wishes there were a list of books for further reading.  Maybe that’s just me though.

It was a little bit darker than what I would expect for middle grade, but it’s not too dark for younger readers.  I was dropped into Amal’s world, and she is a character that I enjoyed seeing.  I loved her relationship with her family and friends, and how she found new friends at the Khan estate.  Saeed did such a great job at showing Amal’s village and you really felt Amal’s need to get back to her family.

4 stars.  I would recommend Amal Unbound to everyone.  I loved Amal’s determination to do what was right, and her story is one everyone needs to read.

Book Review: Karma Khullar’s Mustache by Kristi Wientge

Book: Karma Khullar’s Mustache by Kristi Wientge

Published August 2017 by Simon Schuster Books For Young Readers|272 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary

Debut author Kristi Wientge tackles the uncomfortable—but all too relatable—subject of female body hair and self-esteem with this sweet and charming novel in the tradition of Judy Blume.

Karma Khullar is about to start middle school, and she is super nervous. Not just because it seems like her best friend has found a newer, blonder best friend. Or the fact that her home life is shaken up by the death of her dadima. Or even that her dad is the new stay-at-home parent, leading her mother to spend most of her time at work. But because she’s realized that she has seventeen hairs that have formed a mustache on her upper lip.

With everyone around her focused on other things, Karma is left to figure out what to make of her terrifyingly hairy surprise all on her own.

I think I’ve been in a middle grade contemporary mood lately because this is one of a few I’ve read recently.  I mostly read YA (and only rarely read middle grade), but this one jumped out at me because it tackles body hair.  I’ve read a lot of books in the 7.5 years I’ve been reviewing books and while I can’t always remember what I read a week or two ago, much less years ago, I can honestly say that I don’t think I’ve read a book about a character dealing with body hair.

It does have a Judy Blume feel to it (for some reason, I’m specifically reminded of Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret), and I think Judy Blume fans will enjoy this one.  Regardless of whether you’ve read Judy Blume or not, this is a book I’m glad I picked up.

There is a lot that comes up in this book- food and identity, bullying, friendship, and much more.  It’s not long, and it’s middle grade, so it doesn’t go into a lot of depth, but I still thought that you get a really good sense of what Karma is dealing with.  I liked seeing her realize that both she and her best friend need other friends as well.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the new girl in town, who becomes friends with Karma’s best friend.  Even though I can understand why she acted the way she did, I still wasn’t a fan.  Hopefully, she’ll change and realize that she wasn’t always nice, and that how she treated Karma wasn’t cool.

Karma’s middle school experience was pretty relatable and I wish it had been around when I was around 11 or 12.  Not necessarily the friendship drama part, but the feeling insecure about how I looked part.  I’m glad that this book is on the shelves now, though, because I feel like it has an audience.

4 stars.  I didn’t love it, and I’m not quite sure why, but I still really liked it, and would recommend it to everyone.

Book Review: Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan

Book: Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan

Published March 2017 by Salaam Reads/Simon Schuster Books For Young Readers

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

Series: None

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary

Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized.

I really liked this one!  It’s a cute middle grade contemporary, and I don’t read a lot of middle grade (or children’s books) but I think this is a good one to read.

I really liked Amina, and how she had a fear of performing in public.  It was really easy to relate to, and I am not a fan of public speaking, so I liked that Amina overcame it.  I also liked her friendship with Soojin, and how Amina starts questioning if she needs to change because Soojin starts talking about changing her name to something more American.

Amina is such a great character, and I dare you to not like her, because she’s thoughtful and caring.  She has a great friend in Soojin, and Khan captures what it’s like to be 12, when you’re unsure of who you are and where things stand.  You really see how things change between Amina and Soojin, but I really liked their friendship.  I feel like I’m a broken record on that one, but it’s true.

I also liked Amina’s relationship with her family, and I just liked seeing them together.  I really liked the family dynamic and that we see slightly differing opinions on things within one family (particularly in regards to music).

One thing I didn’t like was when a particular plot point was introduced.  We don’t see the local mosque being vandalized until the end of the book, and for some reason, I thought it would have been introduced a lot earlier.  I wish it had, because I really liked how the whole community came together after it happened.  I know it’s middle grade, so it’s not going to be very long (or very in-depth) but it would have been nice to have it be more of a focal point.

It didn’t stop me from really liking it.  I think it’s perfect for everyone- whether you read middle grade or not, this book did a great job at showing how we deal with faith and culture.  It’s also great for the intended age group, but regardless of how old you are, it’s one to read.

4 stars.  I really liked Amina’s Voice, and while I wish the vandalization of Amina’s mosque hadn’t been introduced so late in the book, I still really enjoyed Amina’s story.

Book Review: Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D Jackson

Book: Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D Jackson

Published May 2018 by Katherine Tegen Books|439 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Mystery

Monday Charles is missing, and only Claudia seems to notice. Claudia and Monday have always been inseparable—more sisters than friends. So when Monday doesn’t turn up for the first day of school, Claudia’s worried. When she doesn’t show for the second day, or second week, Claudia knows that something is wrong. Monday wouldn’t just leave her to endure tests and bullies alone. Not after last year’s rumors and not with her grades on the line. Now Claudia needs her best—and only—friend more than ever. But Monday’s mother refuses to give Claudia a straight answer, and Monday’s sister April is even less help.

As Claudia digs deeper into her friend’s disappearance, she discovers that no one seems to remember the last time they saw Monday. How can a teenage girl just vanish without anyone noticing that she’s gone?

I really liked Allegedly when I read it earlier this year, so I knew I wanted to read this one.  I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would, though.

I think my biggest issue was the timeline.  It jumps around a lot, so you’re getting before, after and 1-2 years before the before.  I had a hard time distinguishing between the time lines, and the twist didn’t really help.  It is sad that Monday’s disappearance is brushed off, and that Claudia is the only one who seems to care.  I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if Monday had been white- a very different story than what happened to Monday.  It’s heartbreaking that no one really follows up with what happened to her, because things appear to be okay, and that she seemed to get lost in the shuffle.

It just really got lost in the three different timelines, and while Claudia had her own memories of Monday, it clearly was a different picture from what was actually going on with Monday.  It seemed like there were some people who seemed to care, and tried to follow up, but things didn’t go anywhere.  I felt for Monday and Claudia, and I wish I was more into the story, because I think Monday’s story is an important one.  I think the confusing timelines took away from what actually happened.  I know it did for me.

There’s another reason why Monday’s Not Coming was just okay: I’m tired of the “I only have one friend and I’ve somehow lost them” story line.  Look, I know some people have a hard time making friends, and Monday made things a lot better for Claudia, especially at school.  But I’m just not a big fan of something happening to the only friend they’ve ever had plot point.  It was hard to get into it knowing something bad happened.

Also, mystery isn’t my thing (especially this type of mystery), so that didn’t really help either.

I’d definitely read Allegedly, though.  It’s a great book, though I know Monday’s Not Coming is going to be a book some people are probably going to like.  It’s obviously not my cup of tea, but I know it’s someone’s cup of tea.

2 stars.  This one turned out to be okay, but I’m still interested to see what Jackson writes about next.

Book Review: From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon

Book: From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon

Published May 2018 by Simon Pulse|336 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Aspiring filmmaker and wallflower Twinkle Mehra has stories she wants to tell and universes she wants to explore, if only the world would listen. So when fellow film geek Sahil Roy approaches her to direct a movie for the upcoming Summer Festival, Twinkle is all over it. The chance to publicly showcase her voice as a director? Dream come true. The fact that it gets her closer to her longtime crush, Neil Roy—a.k.a. Sahil’s twin brother? Dream come true x 2.

When mystery man “N” begins emailing her, Twinkle is sure it’s Neil, finally ready to begin their happily-ever-after. The only slightly inconvenient problem is that, in the course of movie-making, she’s fallen madly in love with the irresistibly adorkable Sahil.

Twinkle soon realizes that resistance is futile: The romance she’s got is not the one she’s scripted. But will it be enough?

Told through the letters Twinkle writes to her favorite female filmmakers, From Twinkle, with Love navigates big truths about friendship, family, and the unexpected places love can find you.

I didn’t like this one as much as I thought.  I’ve been on a contemporary kick lately, but this one didn’t work for me.  Which makes me sad, because I really enjoyed When Dimple Met Rishi, and I thought I’d really enjoy this one.

A big part of why I didn’t like this book was the format.  Twinkle writes letter to her favorite female filmmakers, which was cute.  But with the e-mails from her secret admirer and the texts added in as well, I had a hard time getting into the book.  In the midst of the letters, you’d see emails and texts, and then it would go back to the letters, and it was just irritating.  To the point that even though I went through this book pretty fast, it made me not care about what was going on.  And it took me out of Twinkle’s story, which didn’t help.

Then again, I thought Twinkle was absolutely terrible…so…yeah.  She really becomes self-centered, and she is terrible to Sahil, because he’s not his twin brother.  It’s clear he has feelings for her, and she does reciprocate those feelings, though maybe not initially.  She’s terrible to her best friend, and upset that her best friend has ditched her for the popular crowd, but doesn’t consider that maybe she’s part of the problem too.  She does find friendship and love in unexpected places, and at one point, it sounded like a complete set-up.  It wasn’t, and that was a relief, but I did expect Victoria to be up to something.

I was glad that Twinkle realized her part in things, and that her best friend apologized for how she treated Twinkle.  And the same with Hannah, but at the same, it was too late.  I mean, it did follow a progression, and Twinkle does take some time to realize things, but it was hard for me to actually care.

There were some funny moments in this book, and while it’s not set in the same world as When Dimple Met Rishi, it was written in the same vein- funny, guys you will probably swoon over, and heroine who knows what she wants.  It is weird, though, because some of the things I hated about Twinkle were things I loved about Dimple, but chances are, if you don’t like Dimple (the character) you probably won’t like Twinkle.  Unless you’re weird like I am.

I didn’t particularly about the romance in this one, which turns out to be a love square.  I didn’t particularly care about Neil being interested in Twinkle, and for some reason, I thought the emails were from Sahil.  They’re not, of course, but I was confused about how obvious it was that they were from him.  I was so, so wrong on that, and I don’t know why I didn’t connect it before.  I did find myself skimming over the texts and emails so maybe that’s why I didn’t connect everything.

At any rate, this book wasn’t for me.  Her books do sound really cool, so this one isn’t going to stop me from picking up her books in the future but I may be more hesitant going forward.

2 stars.  From Twinkle, With Love was okay, and I had a hard time getting into the book.  It was light-hearted and fun, but formatting and a heroine that was frustrating to read made it hard to like the book.

Book Review: Girl Made Of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

Book: Girl Made Of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

Published May 2018 by HMH Books For Young Readers|295 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

For readers of Girl in Pieces and The Way I Used to Be comes an emotionally gripping story about facing hard truths in the aftermath of sexual assault.

Mara and Owen are as close as twins can get, so when Mara’s friend Hannah accuses Owen of rape, Mara doesn’t know what to think. Can her brother really be guilty of such a violent act? Torn between her family and her sense of right and wrong, Mara feels lost, and it doesn’t help that things are strained with her ex-girlfriend, Charlie. As Mara, Hannah, and Charlie come together in the aftermath of this terrible crime, Mara must face a trauma from her own past and decide where Charlie fits into her future. With sensitivity and openness, this timely novel confronts the difficult questions surrounding consent, victim blaming, and sexual assault.

I absolutely LOVED this book.  It absolutely gutted me and I was a sobbing mess by the end of the book.  It is worth reading.  Please please please let this be one of the books you read this year.  It’s very much a look at rape culture, and please keep that in mind if you do pick up the book- or continue reading this review.

I felt so much for Mara, who doesn’t want to believe that her brother did, but she also wants to believe Hannah, especially since Hannah isn’t the type of person who would make it up.  The way people treated Hannah when she came back to school was horrifying but not surprising, and I’m not surprised that a lot of people seemed to believe it didn’t happen the way Hannah said it did.  And it’s horrifying that charges weren’t pressed, at least partially because Hannah and Owen were dating and because they had sex before.  I was so angry, but again, it wasn’t a surprise.

I loved Hannah’s relationship with Charlie, and they both have their flaws and things they’re dealing with, but they rely on each other to get through it.  I also loved seeing Mara’s relationship with Hannah, and how it changes throughout the book.

Girl Made Of Stars isn’t just about Hannah’s rape- it’s about the trauma Mara experienced when someone she trust took away that trust in a society that doesn’t believe women when they come forward about sexual assault.  Mara’s parents believing Owen didn’t do anything, meant that they would never believe Mara if she told them what happened to her.  You see so clearly how everyone feels and what they think and it’s messy and complicated and you see it so much throughout the book.

I loved everything about this book, as heart-wrenching as it was to read.  I know there is no way I can do this book justice, and I’m having the hardest time putting into words how amazing and powerful this book is.  I’m starting to cry just thinking about how I felt when I read this book, and that’s not something that happens often.

Just make sure this book is one of the ones you read this year.

5 stars.  I cannot think of a single negative thing about this book, and it’s one book I’m glad I picked up.

Book Review: The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

Book: The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

Published May 2018 by Farrar Straus Giroux Books|323 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

From the author of I Believe in a Thing Called Love, a laugh-out-loud story of love, new friendships, and one unique food truck.

Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn’t so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind? 

With Maurene Goo’s signature warmth and humor, The Way You Make Me Feel is a relatable story of falling in love and finding yourself in the places you’d never thought to look.

I really liked The Way You Make Me Feel!  I liked Clara, and she really changes a lot in this book.  Goo’s previous book was cute and fun and light-hearted, and this book was pretty similar in that sense.  It’s a completely different story, of course, but I really liked it, and I loved the relationships that she had with Rose, Hamlet and her dad.

It really is a heart-warming story, and I loved seeing Clara get really invested in her dad’s food truck.  She wasn’t happy about it at first, but it seems like she really does like it by the end of the book.  I think she learns a lot, especially after going to see her mom, and realizes that being around her dad, and doing better is something she needs to do.

All of the change we see in Clara felt really natural.  It didn’t feel forced at all, and it felt like it happened at a good pace.  Okay, maybe the friendship with Rose is a little bit forced, now that I think about it.  It is the typical enemies-to-friends story but I did like it, and it didn’t get in the way of me liking their friendship.  They do balance each other out.

Even though I finished this book pretty recently, I found the romance forgettable.  I mean, I like Hamlet, and I think he and Clara have a pretty good relationship, but I am finding that I’m not remembering them as a couple.  Maybe because they were friends for quite a while, or maybe other things were more memorable than them as a romantic couple.  I’m not really sure what it is about their romantic relationship but it’s clearly something that didn’t stand out.

And Clara and her dad!  It seems like he’s pretty lax as a dad, and obviously Clara gets into all kinds of trouble.  It is interesting that it took her prank at junior prom to get him to be more of a dad and less of a friend but I did really like their relationship.  It seems like Goo has a soft spot for father-daughter relationships, and it felt very real.  Clara seems really protective of her dad, and I know I’ve mentioned how invested she gets in his food truck, but I think it’s really sweet and really cool that she enters a contest in the hopes that he’ll win and be able to get his restaurant up and running.

I was sad to see what her relationship with her mom was like.  Her dad does try, but it would appear that her mom doesn’t really care about Clara.  I definitely got the impression her mom was more interested in maintaining a certain carefree lifestyle than she was in being a mother.  I know Clara’s parents were young when they had her, and it seemed like her mom tried for a while, but I honestly could have cared less about Clara’s mom.  Clara going out to see her, though, really seemed to get Clara to realize how important her dad was, and how she did have responsibilities at home.

4 stars.  I didn’t love The Way You Make Me Feel, but I still really liked it!  I thought it was fun and heart-warming, and I love the relationships Clara had with some of the characters.

Book Review: Between The Blade And The Heart by Amanda Hocking

Book: Between The Blade And The Heart by Amanda Hocking

Published January 2018 by Wednesday Books|319 books

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

Series: Valkyrie #1

Genre: YA Fantasy/Paranormal/Re-Telling- Norse Mythology

Between the Blade and the Heart is the first book in a brilliant new young adult fantasy duology inspired by Norse mythology by New York Times bestselling author Amanda Hocking.

As one of Odin’s Valkyries, Malin’s greatest responsibility is to slay immortals and return them to the underworld. The balance of the world rests on her ability to carry out orders. But when Malin discovers that her mother spared the life of an immortal who was destined to die, her world is thrown into chaos.

As Malin wrestles with the knowledge that her mother might not be who she thought, she’s also thrust into the path of a gorgeous blue-eyed guy named Asher who needs her help slaying the rogue immortal who destroyed his family. Malin, along with her best friend and her ex-girlfriend, must decide where her loyalties lie…and whether helping Asher enact his revenge is worth the risk—to the world and to her heart.

I didn’t like Between The Blade And The Heart as much as I thought I would.  It is a cool idea, but I thought the mythology and world were more confusing than it needed to be.

Yes, you get a general idea of Malin’s world but I thought that things weren’t explained very well…if they were explained at all.  The book was both futuristic and old, all at the same time, but it didn’t work for me.  I think it just made it seem like Hocking wasn’t sure if she wanted something more traditional or more futuristic.  I think it did need a little more direction, because I felt like most of the time, it was unclear where things were going.

And I didn’t particularly care about the characters…or like them.  I don’t need to like characters to like a book, and sometimes unlikable characters are what make me like a book, but I felt like the characters were superficial and boring.  For whatever reason, I just couldn’t care about any of them, or what happened to them.  The book was on the shorter side, so maybe the characters didn’t develop as much as they needed to.

It did move fast, and there was quite a bit of action, but I was bored.  I don’t understand how a book with a lot of action can be boring, but this book was.  Maybe I was bored but I didn’t like or care about the characters.  Maybe it’s just me, and not the book.

Going back to the mythology, I did like seeing Valkyries!  It’s not something you see a lot in fantasy/paranormal, and you do see some other paranormal beings that you don’t typically see.  So that was nice, but like I mentioned before, things weren’t explained very well.  I’m not too familiar with Norse mythology (or anything else we see in the book, in terms of supernatural/paranormal beings), so it’s possible that having that knowledge would have made a difference.  Still, I felt like some of the basics should have been explained, because I was left feeling confused and bored.  I know I picked up this book up because it sounded really cool, and not everyone reading this book is going to have enough knowledge of Norse mythology to know what’s going on.

2 stars.  This book was okay, and while I wanted to like it more, I couldn’t.  It had a lot of potential, but it wasn’t the book for me.