Book Review: Likel1k3 by Jay Kristoff

Book: Likel1k3 by Jay Kristoff

Published May 2018 by Knopf Books For Young Readers|402 pages

Where I Got It: I own the hardcover

Series: Likelike #1

Genre: YA Sci Fi

On a floating junkyard beneath a radiation sky, a deadly secret lies buried in the scrap.

Eve isn’t looking for secrets—she’s too busy looking over her shoulder. The robot gladiator she’s just spent six months building has been reduced to a smoking wreck, and the only thing keeping her Grandpa from the grave was the fistful of credits she just lost to the bookies. To top it off, she’s discovered she can destroy electronics with the power of her mind, and the puritanical Brotherhood are building a coffin her size. If she’s ever had a worse day, Eve can’t remember it.

But when Eve discovers the ruins of an android boy named Ezekiel in the scrap pile she calls home, her entire world comes crashing down. With her best friend Lemon Fresh and her robotic conscience, Cricket, in tow, she and Ezekiel will trek across deserts of irradiated glass, infiltrate towering megacities and scour the graveyard of humanity’s greatest folly to save the ones Eve loves, and learn the dark secrets of her past.

Even if those secrets were better off staying buried.

I’m not sure what to think about Likelike.  I read this one because it was this month’s book club pick, and I get why people like Jay Kristoff.  I don’t know that I would have picked up Likelike if it were not for book club, but it’s different.

At first, I had a hard time getting into.  Partly because of the…terminology I guess.  It’s my least favorite thing about sci-fi, and I generally don’t read a lot of sci-fi focusing on robots.  Not only that, but I had a hard time keeping up with who was who, and I had to read the first few chapters a few times just to figure out who the characters were and what was going on, because I wasn’t getting it.  It could have been me, it could have been the book, but that is neither here nor there.

It also felt painfully slow, and the memories that Eve had were kind of disjarring.  I mean, you knew she was remembering things, and there are some secrets that should have stayed secret.  This is a dark book, and it is definitely not for everyone.  I don’t know if his books are ones I would like- there were things I really liked about this one, but I also don’t know what to think about it.  Between this one and Illuminae, which I couldn’t finish because the formatting drove me up a wall, I don’t think I’ll seek out one of his books.  I’d give it a try if it were for book club, maybe, but on my own?  Probably not.

I liked the plot twist (as obvious as it was), and I like the premise of the story.  I liked the world that Eve lived in, and it’s a futuristic wasteland.  I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it, and it is different than a lot of the other sci-fi I’ve read.  It stands out, and in a good way.  If you’re looking for something unique and that doesn’t shy away from the dark side, this is the book for you.  There is no happy ending, but I’m oddly fine with that.  I had the feeling it wouldn’t have a happy ending, and it seems like happy endings are not his thing.

Also, I don’t read a lot of sci-fi.  Well, something so strongly sci-fi.  Set in space, yes.  Dystopia, definitely yes.  Maybe sci-fi that’s not super-technical, but something like this?  Usually not.  Maybe it’s just not my thing.

Anyway, I did like the world he built.  It’s vivid, and I could picture things so clearly.  Honestly, while I’m not sure what to think about this book in book form, I’d probably watch the hell out of a movie or tv show based on Lifelike.  I’m pretty sure it would be interesting to watch, and all of a sudden, I’m thinking that this is one of those books that I’d like far better on screen than in print.  Or maybe, I’d like it better as an audio book, but I’m not sure if that’s something I’m interested in doing.

I feel like I’m making no sense at all with this review.  My thoughts are all over this place for this one, and I can’t seem to get them organized.  Or in a way that’s cohesive and makes sense.  I think it’s time to move on, because I have no idea where I’m going with this.

My Rating:  So, I’m not actually going to rate this one.  Well, not yet.  I have no idea what to rate it because I have no idea how I really feel about it.  So for now, Likelike gets no rating.

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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: Listen To Your Heart by Kasie West

Book: Listen To Your Heart by Kasie West

Published May 2018 by Point|336 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Talking to other people isn’t Kate Bailey’s favorite activity. She’d much rather be out on the lake, soaking up the solitude and sunshine. So when her best friend, Alana, convinces Kate to join their high school’s podcast, Kate is not expecting to be chosen as the host. Now she’ll have to answer calls and give advice on the air? Impossible.

But to Kate’s surprise, she turns out to be pretty good at the hosting gig. Then the podcast gets in a call from an anonymous guy, asking for advice about his unnamed crush. Kate is pretty sure that the caller is gorgeous Diego Martinez, and even surer that the girl in question is Alana. Kate is excited for her friend … until Kate herself starts to develop feelings for Diego. Suddenly, Kate finds that while doling out wisdom to others may be easy, asking for help is tougher than it looks, and following your own advice is even harder.

Kasie West’s adorable story of secrets, love, and friendship is sure to win over hearts everywhere.

I actually really liked Listen To Your Heart.  I’ve read quite a few of her books this year, and I went into it expecting an okay story.  I was surprised that I liked it so much.  I’ve noticed that her books tend to be pretty similar, with pretty similar characters, so it’s getting harder and harder to like her books.  And yet, I still keep reading them.

Anyway, back to Listen To Your Heart.  I think I liked it so much is because Kate is pretty cool.  She’s sarcastic, and scared to be a podcast host, and yet she continues to do and ends up liking it.  The lake is pretty important, but I’m glad to see her realize that there are other options out there, and that it’s okay to figure out what you want.

I know there are a few podcasts mentioned, primarily one about first dates.  I have no clue if they’re real or made up, but either way, I liked that her school had a podcasting class.  I myself am a podcast listener, so I think that’s another reason why I liked it so much.  You see the class pick a theme, and while it focuses on hosting the advice podcast, you do see elements of promoting it as well.

Is it weird that I kind of wish some podcasts been recommended at the end of the book?  I mean, I know some authors will mention songs or artists they listened to in the acknowledgements, and some authors (like Rachel Caine) have whole playlists at the end of the book, so I was half hoping there would be podcasts the author listened to or something.  I know this has nothing to do with the actual book…but still.

So, one of the things that kept from loving Listen To Your Heart is that it’s a typical Kasie West book.  It’s fun and sweet and there’s a romance, and it’s pretty predictable if you’ve read any YA contemporaries, but especially if you’ve read anything by West before.  I’m still not sure why I liked this one more than some of the other ones I’ve read this year, but I’m going to go with it.

4 stars.  I think I’ve said all I needed to say- it’s cute and fun, and I liked that Kate realized there’s more than the lake.

Book Review: Bright We Burn by Kiersten White

Book: Bright We Burn by Kiersten White

Published

Where I Got It: I own the hardcover

Series: The Conquerer’s Saga #3

Genre: YA Historical Fiction

Haunted by the sacrifices he made in Constantinople, Radu is called back to the new capital. Mehmed is building an empire, becoming the sultan his people need. But Mehmed has a secret: as emperor, he is more powerful than ever . . . and desperately lonely. Does this mean Radu can finally have more with Mehmed . . . and would he even want it? 

Lada’s rule of absolute justice has created a Wallachia free of crime. But Lada won’t rest until everyone knows that her country’s borders are inviolable. Determined to send a message of defiance, she has the bodies of Mehmed’s peace envoy delivered to him, leaving Radu and Mehmed with no choice. If Lada is allowed to continue, only death will prosper. They must go to war against the girl prince. 

But Mehmed knows that he loves her. He understands her. She must lose to him so he can keep her safe. Radu alone fears that they are underestimating his sister’s indomitable will. Only by destroying everything that came before–including her relationships–can Lada truly build the country she wants. 

Claim the throne. Demand the crown. Rule the world.

I have loved this series since the beginning, and this book is no exception.  Also, it’s Kiersten White, and I love her, so of course I absolutely loved this book.

Look, Lada is not a likeable character, and that is what I love most about her.  I wanted a Wallachia ruled by Lada- it’s what she wanted more than anything, and I hated Mehmed and Radu for trying to take that away from her.  She will do anything to make sure that Wallachia is allowed to be the country it should be, even if it means destroying everything around her.

She’s bloodthirsty, on a murderous rampage, and pretty good at losing allies.  I can’t help but like Lada, even though she really pushes it and tests it.  But I think the limitations she has a woman trying to fight for her country rang true.  Lada is screwed up, and yet, there are times where I think we see the self-doubt and vulnerability.  It was those moments where we see a more humanity than what you’d expect from someone like Lada.  White has done such an amazing job at showing why Lada does what she does, and that she really does believe she’s doing the right thing, even if her methods are a bit…different.

Radu and Lada are such different people, and it’s amazing that they both grew up in the same environment, but turned out so different.  Radu could have been liked Lada, but he wasn’t.  He wanted love, and chose that, while Lada was hellbent on being prince of Wallachia.  They really balance each other, and while Lada veers towards blood and violence, Radu chooses love and people.  Radu and Lada had their paths- very different paths, I might add- and I am glad I went along for the ride.  I love that Radu was the softer character and that Lada was the more vicious character, and it was perfectly normal for them to be soft and vicious.

I won’t spoil the ending, and I wasn’t sure what to expect with it.  I loved the ending, and this really is a great ending for the series.  I’m sad it’s over, because I really have loved this series, but I couldn’t ask for a better ending.

5 stars.  I absolutely loved this book, and Lada, while on a vicious, bloodthirsty rampage, is also absolutely amazing.

Book Review: Glitter by Aprilynne Pike

Book: Glitter by Aprilynne Pike

Published October 2016 by Random House Books For Young Readers|384 pages

Where I Got It: I own the hardcover

Series: Glitter #1

Genre: YA

A royal murder. The promise of a throne she never wanted. And a glittering drug that is her only way out.

Outside the Palace of Versailles, it’s modern day. Inside, the people dress, eat, and act like it’s the eighteenth century. The palace has every indulgence, but for one pretty young thing, it’s about to become a very beautiful prison.

When Danica witnesses an act of murder by the young king, her mother makes a cruel power play…blackmailing the king into making Dani his queen. When she turns eighteen, Dani will marry the most ruthless and dangerous man of the court. She has six months to escape her terrifying destiny. Six months to raise enough money to disappear into the real world beyond the palace gates.

Her ticket out? Glitter. A drug so powerful that a tiny pinch mixed into a pot of rouge or lip gloss can make the wearer hopelessly addicted. Addicted to a drug Dani can sell for more money than she ever dreamed.

But in Versailles, secrets are impossible to keep. And the most dangerous secret—falling for a drug dealer outside the palace walls—is one risk she has to take.

Glitter is a book that has been sitting on my bookshelf for a while, and for some reason, I was in the mood to read something I own but hadn’t read yet.  Since I’ve really enjoyed her books in the past, I decided to go with Glitter.  I liked Glitter, but not as much as I thought.

Some of the world-building was odd.  I know it’s the first book in a series, so while I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t get more backstory, part of me is still hoping that we’ll get something.  Like, why are there people pretending that they’re living in Versailles?  They have a king and queen (Marie Antoinette and I think Louis…whatever Louis they were when Marie Antoinette was around), and they have to dress like they did during that time, but they also have technology.  It’s just strange, and at first I was thinking that it was some sort of alternate history sort of thing, but the more I read, the more I realized it wasn’t.

There’s some corporation involved as well, but I, for the life of me, couldn’t figure out what the heck was going on with that.  Are there other places similar to Versailles, where they have this odd blend of technology and re-eanctments?  Or is it just Versailles?

Also, it kind of defies genre a little bit.  It’s not historical fiction, since they’re pretending to be living in Marie Antoinette’s time, but it’s not dystopic.  It’s like…sci-fi mixed with thriller I guess?  I have no idea but at any rate, the world-building was just not what I was expecting.  It made it seem like the book was having an identity crisis because it could not make up its mind about what it wanted to be.  I loved her Wings series so much, and I was a little disappointed in the world.  I’m still going to read the next one at some point, because I am curious about what happens next, but I’m not in any rush.

This book did have a certain level of ridiculousness, which was a bit much in this case.  It’s ridiculous, but not the kind I’m willing to overlook.  Danica, while determined to get out of the palace and not marry the king, was also incredible selfish and not at all caring about the consequences of selling drugs.  She wasn’t bothered by the fact that she was getting people addicted to drugs, or that it killed people.  I have an inkling she might not see the error of her ways, but I could be wrong, considering marriage is not something she wants.  At least to the King.

I know it seems like I didn’t like this book, but I did.  It held my attention, and the characters are pretty memorable, even though I liked very few of them.  And I do want to read the next book, so I definitely liked it enough to keep going.  Also, I like Pike enough that I’m going to pick up the next one at some point.

3 stars.  I didn’t love Glitter (obviously) but I still liked it.

Book Review: Sky In The Deep by Adrienne Young

Book: Sky In The Deep by Adrienne Young

Published April 2018 by Wednesday Books|340 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Fantasy

OND ELDR. BREATHE FIRE.

Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield — her brother, fighting with the enemy — the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.

She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.

I wasn’t sure about Sky In The Deep at first, but I’m glad I picked it up.  I ended up liking it more than I thought I would.

Something about the setting made me think of both Norse mythology and Iceland.  I’m not sure why, but it did.  I liked the setting, and the world is one that felt both familiar and different, in a good way.  I got a really good sense of the world that Eelyn lives in, and of course, I initially assumed it was the first book in a series.  Before realizing it was a stand alone, of course.  I’m always nervous about stand alone fantasy novels, because I’m never sure if the world will be explained well enough.  It was, though, and while you have the rival clans that band together to defeat a bigger rival, it worked really for both clans.

I think I did expect more than two clans who have quite a few different villages between them, but I think any more would have made things more complicated, so two worked out really well for this book.  There was distrust, of course- and that was set aside.  I think at least one more book could have expanded on the rivalry and the different relationships between the characters, but overall, I thought it was pretty good for just the one book.

There were some terms that popped up that I wasn’t sure of- I flipped to the back expecting a glossary, but there wasn’t one.  I was able to get the idea from the way other characters acted, so it wasn’t a huge deal.  And it is a stand alone, so in the end, it wasn’t that surprising.  It is on the short side, and I think maybe adding a little more to it might have helped.

I thought things were resolved pretty well, though some things were glossed over to get that resolution.  Again, not surprising, but that’s what I get for randomly deciding that I’m going to read a book without paying attention to what they’re about and if they’re part of a series.

I’m not really sure what else to say, so I think it’s time to move onto my rating of Sky In The Deep!

4 stars.  I really enjoyed Sky In The Deep, but I do wish it had been a little bit longer.

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: The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

Book: The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

Published May 2017 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens|390 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

When it all falls apart, who can you believe in?

Everything is going right for Lucy Hansson, until her mom’s cancer reappears. Just like that, Lucy breaks with all the constants in her life: her do-good boyfriend, her steady faith, even her longtime summer church camp job.

Instead, Lucy lands at a camp for kids who have been through tough times. As a counselor, Lucy is in over her head and longs to be with her parents across the lake. But that’s before she gets to know her coworkers, who are as loving and unafraid as she so desperately wants to be.

It’s not just new friends that Lucy discovers at camp—more than one old secret is revealed along the way. In fact, maybe there’s much more to her family and her faith than Lucy ever realized.

I loved this book so much!  I was reading/finishing this one around the same time as Girl Made From Stars, and I was pretty emotional while reading this one.  Partly because I was still reeling from Girl Made From Stars, but also The Names They Gave Us is a pretty emotional book itself.

I felt so much for Lucy, and I think it’s because she reminded me of me a little bit.  Not the Christian doubting her faith part of it, but with how she felt about her mom’s cancer coming back.  Something about it made me think of grandma, especially the month or two before my grandma died.  While her mom is still alive at the end of the book, things are not looking good for her, and when I finished the book, I was hoping that her mom made it through.

Lucy is so hesitant to go to Daybreak at first, and I don’t blame her at all.  She does go, of course, and while I wasn’t surprised at Lucy’s journey, I was glad to be right there with her as got to know her campers, her fellow counselors and herself.

She learns a lot about her family as well, and even I didn’t see it coming, though certain things at the beginning of the book made a lot more sense once I had finished the book.  I really like seeing Lucy struggle with things, and how hard it was for her to fully deal with things, especially the family stuff we learn.  While it’s not completely resolved, I felt hopeful that things turned out fine for everyone.  It did end a little bit abruptly, and I was hoping for more closure, but at the same it kind of made sense for the book.  As much as I wanted more, at the same time, I’m also okay with wondering what happened next.

At first, I wasn’t sure about the religious aspects of the book.  I was expecting Lucy to be really into church and everything- she was, I think, and I do think she was genuinely sad about not being at her parent’s camp for the summer.  I’m glad she didn’t go in the complete opposite direction, and went on a downward spiral of ignoring and forgetting about her faith.  It was there, and while she struggled with her faith for quite a bit of the book, I was glad it was there.  It felt very inclusive somehow, and I know it might be off-putting for some people, but I thought it was done really well.

Lucy is compassionate, and I loved seeing her care about her campers and her counselors.  Daybreak was good for Lucy, and I think it really challenged her beliefs.  In a good way, of course, and she really does change for the better. She really felt like she belonged at Daybreak by the end of the book, and it’s clear she had a lot of admiration for what other people are going through, or have gone through.

I am so glad I read this book, and by the end of it, I was sobbing and hugging/clutching this book close to me.  I needed a couple minutes to get it out before I was able to actually put the book down and wipe away the tears.

5 stars.  I loved this book, and it’s another one I think everyone should read.

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.