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: American Street by Ibi Zoboi, Narrated by Robin Miles

Book: American Street by Ibi Zoboi, Narrated by Robin Miles

Published February 2017 by HaperAudio|Length: 8 hours, 35 minutes

Where I Got It: I own the audio book

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

The rock in the water does not know the pain of the rock in the sun.

On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie—a good life.

But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own.

Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?

I really liked American Street, and I’m especially glad that I went with the audio book!

I liked Fabiola- she’s a great character and I really felt for her.  I loved following her as she navigated life in Detroit without her mother.  From living with her cousins, to the people in their lives, to trying to be reunited with her mother…there were times where I felt so heartbroken over everything these girls had to deal with.  Things weren’t easy for any of them, but they really did the best they could.

I thought the romance was interesting, and there was one moment in particular that was absolutely heartbreaking, especially on audio.  Robin Miles is amazing as the narrator, and I felt like she was Fabiola.  You could hear the emotion Fabiola felt, not just at that moment, but during many different moments.  I really felt like I was experiencing things alongside Fabiola.  Still, while I liked Kasim, I would have been fine with less romance, considering everything else going on with both Fabiola and her cousins.  Still, their romance was cute, and it felt…natural, and not insta-love.

I could have sworn I had listened to more books by Robin Miles, but apparently not.  Maybe I just have a bunch of books narrated by her that I haven’t listened to?  At any rate, she can certainly narrate a story, and now I want to listen to some of the other books she’s narrated.

There were times where I thought Fabiola was in over her head, and I was muttering about how she probably shouldn’t be doing what she was planning on doing.  I had the feeling it wouldn’t end well, and even then, I had no idea where things would go.  She did mean well, and she really did have the best of intentions.  To a certain degree, I don’t think she realized how badly things would go, and I think she is a bit naive at times as well.  There is a lot she didn’t know, but she is pretty observant, and when it comes down to it, it was interesting to see things through her eyes.

While the book doesn’t focus on immigration as much as I thought, and while we don’t see a lot of Fabiola trying to get reunited with her mother, I still really liked seeing her adjust to life in Detroit.  We don’t see a lot of her aunt, but I really liked her cousins and the relationship she had with them.  They really looked out for her, and they did seem really protective but it was obvious they cared about her.

Another thing I really liked was her faith.  She practices Voudou, and it didn’t seem stereotypical at all, which was nice.  It was important to her, and other than one moment where her boyfriend thought she put a spell on him, it was seen/treated like any other religion.

Along with Fabiola coming to the US, we see drug dealing/drug abuse and relationship abuse, amongst other things.  I can’t say this enough, but Fabiola is amazing- she is determined to do the right thing, and she is such a strong, kind-hearted person.  I felt her loss at being separated from her mother, and happy at the thought that she might be reunited with her in the end.  Both she and her cousins are doing the best they can, and while things aren’t completely wrapped up, I feel confident that things will work for Fabiola and her family.

4 stars.  I didn’t love American Street, but it’s a great read.  If audio books are your thing, I’d definitely go with the audio, because Robin Miles did an excellent job at narrating.

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: Map Of Fates And The Ends Of The Earth by Maggie Hall

Book: Map Of Fates by Maggie Hall

Published March 2016 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons|311 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: The Conspiracy Of Us #2

Genre: YA Thriller/Mystery

Two weeks. 

That’s how long it took for Avery West’s ordinary life to change forever: In two weeks, she discovered she was heiress to a powerful secret society known as the Circle, learned her mother was taken hostage by the Circle’s enemies, and fell for a boy she’s not allowed to love, just as she found out another was her unwelcome destiny. 

Now, Avery crosses oceans in private jets to hunt for clues that will uncover the truth about the Circle, setting her mom and herself free before it’s too late. By her side are both the boys: Jack—steady, loyal, and determined to help her even at the expense of his own duty—and Stellan, whose connection to Avery grows stronger by the day despite her best intentions, making her question what she believes at every turn.

But at the end of a desperate hunt from the islands of Greece to the red carpet at Cannes comes a discovery that not only changes everything, but could bring the whole world to its knees. And now Avery is forced to face the truth: in the world of the Circle, no one is what they seem.

This series is fun!  I really liked Map Of Fates, and I thought it was a pretty good follow-up to the first book.  We really get more into this world, and what the prophecy could be.  We also get more into the Circle and the Order, and we’re definitely sent on a wild goose chase.

There’s a lot of travel and a lot of clues, and Avery is scrambling to get this thing figured out.  I don’t know that I necessarily liked it more than The Conspiracy Of Us, but I didn’t like it exactly the same either.  I think I liked it slightly more, but not enough to give it a higher rating.  Which we’ll get to eventually.

I wish I connected more with Avery.  I don’t know how I’d act if I were in her situation, and I’d probably be a hot mess if any of what happens in this series actually happened to me.  I just want more with her, and I especially want more of her mom.  The whole using her mom to get her to do things didn’t completely work for me, and I think it’s because we barely see her mom.  And that was in the first book.  She does make an appearance in this book as well, but I feel like we didn’t get enough with her mom for me to completely be on board with it.

Especially since it seemed like maybe her mom knew something but kept it from Avery.  Which I get, given what happens in this book.  But still.  I think there’s more to her childhood and her relationship with her mom, and I really think her mom knew what was going on.  Maybe her mom was trying to protect her, but who knows?  We never get a clear answer in this book, and while it’s possible we’ll get one in the next book, it’s doubtful.  Very doubtful.

It is fun, though, and it still reminds me of a YA version of The Da Vinci Code.  There’s something else I’m reminded of, but I can’t place it.  It will probably come to me after I’ve finished this review, which would be par for the course. It didn’t get good until the second half of the book, and maybe that’s why I liked it only slightly more than the previous book.  It makes me want to read the next just to see how it all ends.

Things did seem rushed and a little underdeveloped, which…I don’t know.  It didn’t really work, because I thought it could have bridged the gap between the previous book and the next book a little bit.  Maybe my opinion will change after reading the next one, but I expected a little more with this one.  As entertaining as the book is, I wanted something a little more.  Still, I’m not complaining too much because it is what I had expected.

My Rating: 3 stars.  I liked Map Of Fates, and thought it was a good sequel.  There were some things I didn’t particularly like, but it was expected, and I still want to read the next book to see what happens.

Book: The Ends of The World by Maggie Hall

Published July 2017 by G.P. Putnam’s Books For Young Readers|320 pages

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

Series: The Conspiracy Of Us #2

Genre: YA Thriller

The Circle is hers. But Avery West has lost everything else: her mother, the family she’d just found, and the one boy she trusted. In their place are unfathomable power, a staged relationship that makes her question every real feeling she’s ever had, and a mission to find the cure to the virus that’s made her own blood a weapon.

Then disaster strikes, turning Avery, Stellan, Jack, and Elodie into the most wanted people in the world. To clear their names and the growing rift between the families of the Circle before the world dissolves into World War Three, they’ll have to make a desperate, dangerous final race for Alexander the Great’s tomb. What they will find inside will mean the world’s salvation—or destruction.

Avery will have to decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice—for the world, for family, and for love—in this conclusion to the Conspiracy of Us series.

This is one of those series where I liked each book less and less.  The concept is really cool and all, but I just wasn’t a big fan of this book.

I’m having a lot of trouble even remembering this book a couple months after finishing it.  I know I had all kinds of thoughts about when it finished, but clearly, they haven’t stuck.  While I usually have some sort of impression about a book weeks later, I have no impression of this book at all.

Which isn’t good, because even though I obviously read this book, I don’t remember much of anything.  It’s also not a good thing, because you’d think the last book in a trilogy would be more memorable, but not in this case.  Maybe it says something about this book, if it’s not memorable enough to actually properly review it.

Pretty much all I do remember is the search for clues, and that it seemed to be a race against time to figure everything out.  That’s about it, and I feel like I was just bored with it.  And I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seemed like a lot was going in this book.  Of course there it, since it’s the last book and all, but…I don’t know, it just seemed strange in this case.

I did like it, even though I can’t remember why, and it is a quick read, so that’s good too.  I don’t think it was painfully slow, unlike some other books I’ve read.  Although it did have this conspiracy vibe going on, it also seemed different somehow, though I could be wrong about that.

My Rating: 3 stars, though I’m not sure why.  Other than remembering I liked it, which isn’t really detailed.  But since I can’t remember much about the book, it doesn’t warrant a higher rating, and for reasons I can’t remember, I did like enough that I don’t want to give it a lower rating.

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: 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: The Shadow Hour And The Savage Dawn by Melissa Grey

Book: The Shadow Hour by Melissa Grey

Published July 2016 by Delacorte Press|421 pages

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

Series: The Girl At Midnight #2

Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

A battle has been won. But the war has only just begun.

Everything in Echo’s life changed in a blinding flash when she learned the startling truth: she is the firebird, the creature of light that is said to bring peace.

The firebird has come into the world, but it has not come alone. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and Echo can feel a great and terrible darkness rising in the distance. Cosmic forces threaten to tear the world apart.

Echo has already lost her home, her family, and her boyfriend. Now, as the firebird, her path is filled with even greater dangers than the ones she’s already overcome.

She knows the Dragon Prince will not fall without a fight.

Echo must decide: can she wield the power of her true nature—or will it prove too strong for her, and burn what’s left of her world to the ground?

Welcome to the shadow hour.

I liked The Shadow Hour!  Echo really comes to terms with being the firebird and what that means.  Things are certainly darker in this book, and I liked seeing Echo fight a growing darkness that came about when she became the firebird.

I didn’t really care for the love triangle in this book.  It made sense in The Girl At Midnight, but now?  It’s boring and unnecessary, in my opinion.  And I kind of hate that Echo didn’t say anything when she and Caius were talking with Rowan.  Echo is a great character, and she really does come into her own, but I still wish she had said something.  Wait, did I say love triangle?  Because I meant love triangles.  I don’t particularly care for Rowan and Echo, and I don’t particularly care about Caius and Echo, but better Caius than Rowan.  At least we actually spend more time with Caius.

And the whole triangle between Quinn, Jasper and Dorian?  I don’t get it either.  I can barely handle one love triangle on the best of days, much less two.  Something about Quinn really bothered, and I can’t quite place why.  Jasper is a little odd as well, but not to the degree that Quinn is.  I am not a fan, and that is all I have to say about that.

Speaking of Jasper, I really do love him, and he’s pretty awesome.  I think he’s my favorite character in the series, hands down.  It’s not that I don’t like the other characters, because I do (minus Rowan, because he just bothers me), but Jasper is the one I absolutely love.  Really, Echo has quite the group, and something about them reminds me of the group we see in Six Of Crows by Leigh Bardugo.

We do see a little bit of Echo’s life before she comes to live with the Avicen.  I was curious about what her life was like before Ala came into her life, and we get a glimpse of that.  I still wish we saw more of it, because for some reason, it feels like it should be a bigger deal.  I don’t know if it’s just me and my wishful thinking, or if I just want there to be more of a connection between her past and her becoming a firebird, but I really hope it goes in that direction.

My Rating: 3 stars.  I did like it, but at this point, I just want to finish the series to see how it all ends.

Book: The Savage Dawn by Melissa Grey

Published July 2017 by Delacorte Press|496 pages

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

Series: The Girl At Midnight #3

Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

The war between light and dark has begun. The sides have been chosen and the battle lines drawn.

After awakening the firebird, Echo is now the only one with the power to face the darkness she unwittingly unleashed upon the world…right into the waiting hands of Tanith, the new Dragon Prince. Tanith has one goal in mind: destroy her enemies, raze their lands, and reign supreme in a new era where the Drakharin are almighty and the Avicen are nothing but a memory.

The war that has been brewing for centuries is finally imminent. But the scales are tipped. Echo might hold the power to face the darkness within the Dragon Prince, but she has far to go to master it. And now she’s plagued by uncertainty. Is she strong enough to stare into the face of evil and not lose herself in its depths?

The war has begun, and there is no looking back. There are only two outcomes possible: triumph or death.

So, I was pretty determined to finish this series just to see how ended.  As the series went on, I lost interest in what happened, and while I’m glad I’m finished with this series, I’m also wishing (just a little bit) that I had spent the time I was reading this book on a different one.

It was such a cool idea at first, and I think, of the trilogy, I still liked the first one the best.  The way I feel about this series is the way I felt about the Golden Compass series- the first one was cool and interesting, but the following books were kind of unnecessary.  I hate making this comparison, but it’s like a boring version of the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo.  I was also initially reminded of that Laini Taylor series (I think it’s Daughter Of Smoke and Bone) but it’s been ages since I’ve read the first one, and I never finished the series, so I don’t know how accurate the comparison to that series is.  Maybe go with Laini Taylor or Leigh Bardugo, because I think I’d have to recommend those two series over this one.  Or even read The Girl At Midnight, but stop there.  I kind of wish I had done that.

Everything felt so drawn out, and it was a struggle to get through this one.  I thought there wasn’t a lot of action, and usually the last book is the most action-packed as we race towards a conclusion.  Not this book.  It was pretty much something to read while I was waiting for the laundry to be done (I am so used to having a washer/dryer around that having to go to an onsite laundry mat is a little weird getting used to).

It also seemed like there was a lot of filler, which I would expect from a second book- and maybe even bits and pieces of it in the first one- but certainly not in the last one.  There seemed to be a lot of unnecessary description.

The characters also seemed to be the same people that they were in the 2nd book, and I wanted a little bit more change and growth from them in this one.  Some characters (like Ivy and the Ala) are randomly mentioned but we don’t see what happens with them.  Things are mentioned once or twice, but never mentioned again.

And the ending was boring as well.  Things happened that should have gotten a reaction from me, but they didn’t because by that point, I just didn’t care.  And there was one moment that was a little bit of a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of moment.  I should have cared, but like I said, I didn’t.  I think I was just so ready to be done with the book and the series that I found myself skimming over quite a bit of the book, especially towards the end.

I think one of the very, very few things I actually like was actually finishing.

My Rating: 2 stars.  I don’t care enough to give this book one stars, and I’m just glad I’m finished with this series and The Savage Dawn.  It was too drawn out and not enough action.

Book Review: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

Book: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

Published February 2018 by Disney-Hyperion|448 pages

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

Series: The Belles #1

Genre: YA

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision. 

With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.

I was really looking forward to reading The Belles, especially since I really liked the Tiny Pretty Things series.  It’s really worth reading, and I really liked it.

I almost said that I really enjoyed it, but the word enjoyed somehow doesn’t seem like the right word.  I think it’s because the book was a lot darker than I ever expected.  I guess you could say it’s fantasy, but for some reason, I also got this whole dystopian vibe from it.  Which is strange, considering that dystopia (at least for me) always leans towards sci-fi and technology, and this book very much relies on magic and gods and goddesses, which is more fantasy than sci-fi.  It should be interesting to see how the book turns out genre-wise, because I think it could be an interesting combination for the rest of the series if there are elements of fantasy and dystopia.

I did picture a fictional New Orleans- which is probably because Camellia lives in a place called Orleans.  It’s like Victorian England meets New Orleans on either an island or a city right on the water.  I could picture everything pretty well, and it seems pretty vivid.

I was both fascinated and horrified by the descriptions of Camellia’s work with her clients.  It’s really descriptive, so I could see it really clearly.  It’s fascinating what people will do to be seen as beautiful but at the same time, it was horrifying because the people who make appointments with Camellia will do anything to be seen as beautiful.  Beauty really is subjective, and Clayton does an amazing job at showing that and how beauty standards can change.

It did start off slow, but it does pick up.  Things seem so innocent at first, but once you learn how the Belles came to be, and the further you get into the world, the less innocent it seems.  It’s a dark world, and yet, there are so many secrets.  We do learn some of them, but I feel like there’s a lot more to this world than we see.

I’m actually really excited about reading the rest of the series, because I want to know more about what’s going.  It’s going to be a long wait, but at least I can re-read The Belles in the meantime.

4 stars.  The Belles, while I really liked it, wasn’t quite a 5 star read for me.  I recommend it, and it’s a great book, but it just didn’t have that something that would get 5 stars.  Which does make me a little sad, because something about Camellia’s world was very, very familiar to me.