Book Review: I Was Here by Gayle Forman

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Cody and Meg were inseparable.
Two peas in a pod.
Until . . . they weren’t anymore.
 
When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.

I think that depression and suicide is something that has affected everyone, if not directly then peripherally.  I’ve had ex-boyfriends and friends that suffered from depression and suicidal ideations, and most everyone knows someone who has been affected in one way or another.

I Was Here opens the reader to a lot of emotions that come along with dealing with suicide.  Forman depicts survivor’s guilt, the standard emotions that come along with loss, and showcases an aspect of the mental health community that everyone needs to be aware of.

Cody didn’t handle Meg leaving and changing her life as well as she could have, yes, but growing pains happen in friendships.  However, much of the novel is about Cody and how she discovers Meg’s secret life with depression (I am an advocate of being 100% honest and upfront with your friends about any struggle you might be having with mental illness) and her descent into the pro-suicide internet groups.  Cody struggles with discovering who she is without her best friend, but ends up finding a lot of new ones along the way and ends up exposing her town and the police to the website that encouraged Meg’s iwasherequotesuicidal ideations.

I suppose for me it wasn’t a surprise to hear about the online community for those that have suicidal ideations, because as someone who suffered from an eating disorder for almost 15 years, I am well versed in pro-ana and pro-mia sites that serve as motivation for those suffering.  What was very interesting to me was that Forman drew this story from real life inspiration, and that she was so moved by one young woman’s story that she expanded upon it and created a novel that can help educate as well as it can entertain readers.

This isn’t an easy story to read.  It is hard to read about someone who ended their own life, and I understand that this can be triggering to some readers.  But this is an excellent story and a good platform for readers to learn.

If you or anyone you know suffers from depression or suicidal ideation, please reach out and find help.

4.5 Bards for I Was Here

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Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

 

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: June 14, 2016

The only life seventeen-year-old Kol knows is hunting at the foot of the Great Ice with his brothers. But food is becoming scarce, and without another clan to align with, Kol, his family, and their entire group are facing an uncertain future.

Traveling from the south, Mya and her family arrive at Kol’s camp with a trail of hurt and loss behind them, and hope for a new beginning. When Kol meets Mya, her strength, independence, and beauty instantly captivate him, igniting a desire for much more than survival.

Then on a hunt, Kol makes a grave mistake that jeopardizes the relationship that he and Mya have only just started to build. Mya was guarded to begin with—and for good reason—but no apology or gesture is enough for her to forgive him. Soon after, another clan arrives on their shores. And when Mya spots Lo, a daughter of this new clan, her anger intensifies, adding to the already simmering tension between families. After befriending Lo, Kol learns of a dark history between Lo and Mya that is rooted in the tangle of their pasts.

When violence erupts, Kol is forced to choose between fighting alongside Mya or trusting Lo’s claims. And when things quickly turn deadly, it becomes clear that this was a war that one of them had been planning all along.

Blog Tour Review & Giveaway: The Love that Split the World by Emily Henry

 

splittheworldblogtour

 

lovethatsplittheworldNatalie Cleary must risk her future and leap blindly into a vast unknown for the chance to build a new world with the boy she loves.
 
Natalie’s last summer in her small Kentucky hometown is off to a magical start…until she starts seeing the “wrong things.” They’re just momentary glimpses at first—her front door is red instead of its usual green, there’s a pre-school where the garden store should be. But then her whole town disappears for hours, fading away into rolling hills and grazing buffalo, and Nat knows something isn’t right.
 
That’s when she gets a visit from the kind but mysterious apparition she calls “Grandmother,” who tells her: “You have three months to save him.” The next night, under the stadium lights of the high school football field, she meets a beautiful boy named Beau, and it’s as if time just stops and nothing exists. Nothing, except Natalie and Beau. 

Release Date: January 26, 2016

I’m going to guess that you may have reacted the same way I did when you read the title of this book.  I remember thinking, “Wow, that is a bit dramatic.”  But now that I’ve finished the novel, I can tell you that my personal reaction to the ending was something like this:

So now I firmly believe that the title was really just a metaphor for what the story did to my heart.  Henry should just rename it The Love that Split Jessica’s Heart.

This book has the absolute wonderful ability to showcase some of the lesser known Native American myths, mixed with common anglo-saxon religious stories, some time travel theories, and alternate realities.  Whew, that sounds like a lot doesn’t it?  Well, it seems like it would be, but it all comes together extremely well.

Henry did such a great job with the characterization in The Love that Split the World, and I have to say that most teens and young adults I know can definitely understand and identify with Natalie’s main problem: trying to find who they are and where they fit into the world.  Seriously, I’m in my twenties and I completely identify with those questions.  Granted, Natalie has some pretty specific reasons behind her need to find herself and her place, but they can be universally applied and it really causes you to be emotionally invested almost immediately.

Quickly the reader will realize that Natalie isn’t exactly a run of the mill teenager.  She has been visited off and on her entire life during her sleep by a mysterious entity she calls “Grandmother,” and on her last visit Natalie is warned that she has three months to save HIM.  Naturally we all assume that the him is the guy mentioned in the synopsis, but there are actually three other male characters not mentioned in the synopsis that this possibly applies to!

Beau is the typical bad boy with a good heart, but that doesn’t make him any less complex or interesting in this context.  He comes in and out of Natalie’s life in flashes and their time together is precious and full of ALL the romantic and sexual tension (Kudos, Henry).

I’m not going to give away any other spoilers but there’s definitely a River Song and Doctor vibe going here with Natalie and Beau’s relationship.  If you are a Whovian then the correlation should be pretty obvious and make you want to read this even more.  If you aren’t a Whovian, then read this book and go watch Doctor Who! It’s on Netflix for crying out loud!

4.5 Bards for The Love that Split the World! Don’t forget to enter to win a copy below!

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Book Review: Where She Went by Gayle Forman

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In accordance with Penguin Teen’s Gayle Forman celebration for the paperback release of I Was Here, I finally read the sequel to If I Stay, Where She Went.  Be sure to check out the giveaway at the bottom of the review, because 5 winners will win a complete set of Gayle Forman paperbacks!

 

It’s been three years since the devastating accident . . . three years since Mia walked out of Adam’s life forever.

Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Juilliard’s rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia’s home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future – and each other.

Told from Adam’s point of view in the spare, lyrical prose that defined If I Stay, Where She Went explores the devastation of grief, the promise of new hope, and the flame of rekindled romance.

I’m not going to lie and tell you that this book didn’t bring the feels.  Now, it’s a whole different type of feels than those in If I Stay.  Where If I Stay was full of life and death and first love, Where She Went is full of despair in the midst of success, struggle to move forward, and the hope that something better is ahead.

The novel is told from Adam’s perspective this time, and so the reader gets a lot more information about how the accident and the loss of Mia’s family affected him as well.  He suffers from crippling panic attacks and is increasingly unhappy with the direction his life has taken since Mia ghosted him.  Seriously though, I love Mia as a character, but come on, you ghosted him?  The guy that was there for you through the accident and the aftermath? Turns out she has a decent reason, but I still question that choice.

Fate seems to have a hand in their lives because not only are they in the same city, but are finally both in the same emotional place at the same time.  There are a lot of really heartrending moments in this book concerning Adam’s need to accept and let go of Mia.  She tries her hardest to show Adam all the little formanquoteplaces that make her happy she moved away to New York and never returned to her hometown.  Readers see through Adam’s eyes how Mia has healed and how she has rebuilt her life without her family.  It’s beautiful to see the growth in her, but Forman manages to leave just a bit of mystery in the process so there are enough places for readers to fill in their own details.

The novel is full of Forman-isms (that’s right, I called it that), and they can be applied to everyone in one way or another.  If you haven’t read If I Stay or seen the movie, I recommend picking up the first installment now so you can have the pleasure of reading Where She Went.

4 Bards

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Enter to win a complete paperback set of Forman’s novels, here!

 

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Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

 

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: March 1, 2016

The last thing sixteen-year-old Jamie Watson–writer and great-great-grandson of the John Watson–wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s enigmatic, fiercely independent great-great-granddaughter, who’s inherited not just his genius but also his vices, volatile temperament, and expertly hidden vulnerability. Charlotte has been the object of his fascination for as long as he can remember–but from the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else.

Then a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Holmes stories, and Jamie and Charlotte become the prime suspects. Convinced they’re being framed, they must race against the police to conduct their own investigation. As danger mounts, it becomes clear that nowhere is safe and the only people they can trust are each other.

Book Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six-of-CrowsKetterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price–and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction―if they don’t kill each other first.

Kaz. What can I say about Kaz. He’s not someone to be pitied, but I just want to wrap him up in a blanket and tell him it will be okay. But he survives the only way he knows how, he just keeps going. No matter the situation, he knows that he has to, so he does. Matthias and Nina are honestly just the right amount of angst and heartbreak that even if I didn’t like the book, I would probably keep reading just for them, because I am a huge sucker for terribly sad things. Jesper flirting with Wylan to throw him off, and then just because gives me life. Please more Jesper and Wylan in the next book. More Wylan in general actually, he’s the only one of the six that didn’t have his own narrative.

My favorite character though, is definitely Inej. It very easily could have been a story like boy saves girl, girl falls in love with boy, stays with boy forever even though he can’t love her the way that she needs/wants. But she knows what she wants and what she wants is someone whole, who will love her wholly and she finds strength in that and in herself and she quite literally pulls herself up with that. And even though we see her strength, we see her weakness from her past, she’s not just a “strong female character” she’s actually well-rounded, all of the characters are.

I was struck early on by Bardugo’s writing. Multiple times in the first couple chapters, I just had really “wow” moments from some of her lines. So many surprising twists and turns that she keeps hidden from the reader and other characters through Kaz, and it really works with his character. At the end of it, I loved it because it was suspenseful and you never knew what was going to happen next, but also because it was really just a story about people. How people can always surprise you. How you can grow and surprise yourself. This ragtag group of kids went from needing each other because they had to, to actually starting rely on one another.

Brilliant. I can’t wait for the next one. 4.5 Bards.
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Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

 

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: February 2, 2016

Magic is powerful, dangerous and addictive – and after passage of the 18th Amendment, it is finally illegal.

It’s 1926 in Washington, DC, and while Anti-Sorcery activists have achieved the Prohibition of sorcery, the city’s magic underworld is booming. Sorcerers cast illusions to aid mobsters’ crime sprees. Smugglers funnel magic contraband in from overseas. Gangs have established secret performance venues where patrons can lose themselves in magic, and take a mind-bending, intoxicating elixir known as the sorcerer’s shine.

Joan Kendrick, a young sorcerer from Norfolk County, Virginia accepts an offer to work for DC’s most notorious crime syndicate, the Shaw Gang, when her family’s home is repossessed. Alex Danfrey, a first-year Federal Prohibition Unit trainee with a complicated past and talents of his own, becomes tapped to go undercover and infiltrate the Shaws.

Through different paths, Joan and Alex tread deep into the violent, dangerous world of criminal magic – and when their paths cross at the Shaws’ performance venue, despite their orders, and despite themselves, Joan and Alex become enchanted with one another. But when gang alliances begin to shift, the two sorcerers are forced to question their ultimate allegiances and motivations. And soon, Joan and Alex find themselves pitted against each other in a treacherous, heady game of cat-and-mouse.

A CRIMINAL MAGIC casts a spell of magic, high stakes and intrigue against the backdrop of a very different Roaring Twenties.

Book Review: Rebel Angels by Libba Bray

Rebel_AngelsGemma Doyle is looking forward to a holiday from Spence Academy—spending time with her friends in the city, attending balls in fancy gowns with plunging necklines, and dallying with the handsome Lord Denby. Yet amid these distractions, her visions intensify—visions of three girls dressed in white, to whom something horrific has happened that only the realms can explain.

The lure is strong, and soon Gemma, Felicity, and Ann are turning flowers into butterflies in the enchanted world that Gemma takes them to. To the girls’ great joy, their beloved Pippa is there as well, eager to complete their circle of friendship.

But all is not well in the realms—or out. Kartik is back, desperately insisting to Gemma that she must bind the magic, lest colossal disaster befall her. Gemma is willing to comply, for this would bring her face-to-face with her late mother’s greatest friend, now Gemma’s foe—Circe. Until Circe is destroyed, Gemma cannot live out her destiny. But finding Circe proves a most perilous task. . . .

I loved this second installment so much. Especially the ending, everything was wrapped up so nicely, but still leaving an opening for the next book. I really enjoyed the message that the ending brings. A message of understanding and letting go and ultimately that you people won’t always do what you want them to, and people may disappoint you, but that’s no reason not to keep going and not to have hope. Years later, I’m still really impressed that this is only her second book ever.

It’s refreshing that we get to see London instead of Spence, and also different parts of the Realms. As lovely as the gardens were, it does get old seeing the same thing over and over again. I think Bray does an excellent job of describing the rest of the beauty (and horror) of the Realms. Getting to see the other aspect of the girls’ lives, and all the drama that comes with being a lady in Victorian London, was very exciting.
I love that Gemma starts to realize/understand her privilege, and that’s eye opening for a lot of readers as well. You can say something to someone that you think is a compliment, but is actually incredibly insulting. Props to Libba Bray for letting her character realize this and try to make up for it, rather than just sitting with it and not understanding that as a rich, white girl, you are very privileged, and not every one wants to be like you.

I will say that I KNEW IT (though I won’t say what “it” is to avoid spoilers). But, I’m not sure if I knew because I remembered it, or if it was just that obvious. If it was that obvious, I wonder if it was on purpose. Like we know something that Gemma doesn’t, and we keep thinking throughout the book, “oh no, Gemma don’t do that!” Whether it was or wasn’t intentionally obvious, I still think it was done really well, and it doesn’t take away from the rest of hte story at all, adds suspense, even.

Definitely would recommend and give 5 bards.

fivebards

Book Review: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a “witchery,” a magical skill that sets them apart from others.

In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble—as two desperate young women know all too well.

Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires.

Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her—but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safi’s hotheaded impulsiveness.

Safi and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

This book has been hyped, hyped, and hyped again by the publishing community and is heralded as the newest fantasy star in young adult literature.  With the genre being inundated with more and more fantasies, it is starting to get harder for authors to find a wholly unique storyline.

Dennard has created something beautiful.  She states in her acknowledgements at the end of the novel, she set out to show that “Friendships can be as epic as romances.”  I think that she did this well.  Sure there will be those readers that try to ship Iseult and Safiya together as a couple, but I honestly didn’t get that vibe from either character.  I love them as dedicated best friends who would do anything for one another.  C’mon, you know you all have that one friend who is your lifeline and who you would do anything for.  I just love how strong the friendship is between these two characters.

Now that I’ve harped on that for a bit, let me talk a little bit about the world and the plot.  I can say that I was extremely confused within the first chapter or two concerning the world that Truthwitch takes place in, but mostly because Dennard kind of drops you in the middle of the action rather than give a boring “this is this” type of beginning.  This type of start has its drawbacks (i.e. a bit of reader confusion), but I think that it works extremely well because it establishes the characters right off the bat and introduces one of the main antagonists immediately.  Get ready for a quick ride once you get past those first few chapters because Dennard does not allow this narrative to drag at all.  It went by quickly and now we have to wait a whole year for the next installment.

I will say that if you are looking for a book with traditional witches a la the Casters in Beautiful Creatures or something akin to Sabrina the Teenage Witch, then beware that these are nothing like those witches.  These characters have very specific magic, rather than the ability to manipulate all things or have the ability to cast any type of spell.  It’s possible that the characters’ ability will expand over the course of the subsequent installments, but we will have to wait and see!

4.5 Bards

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Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: May 17, 2016

Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the Tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the Tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love . . . or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear . . . the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

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