Book review: Everless (Everless #1) by Sara Holland

Everless  

This year has been rather generous on new young adult fantasy series. One of the early 2018 debut novels is Everless by Sara Holland. I saw this book pop up a lot on BookTube, which, naturally, attracted me to it. Everless came out in January, but I only finished it in summer, even though it was readily available at my library.

 

Synopsis

 

In the kingdom of Sempera, time is currency—extracted from blood, bound to iron, and consumed to add time to one’s own lifespan. The rich aristocracy, like the Gerlings, tax the poor to the hilt, extending their own lives by centuries.

No one resents the Gerlings more than Jules Ember. A decade ago, she and her father were servants at Everless, the Gerlings’ palatial estate, until a fateful accident forced them to flee in the dead of night. When Jules discovers that her father is dying, she knows that she must return to Everless to earn more time for him before she loses him forever.

But going back to Everless brings more danger—and temptation—than Jules could have ever imagined. Soon she’s caught in a tangle of violent secrets and finds her heart torn between two people she thought she’d never see again. Her decisions have the power to change her fate—and the fate of time itself.

 

Review

 

I read the first hundred pages or so of Everless almost in one go and then got stuck. The beginning was engaging and well written, however very quickly the book fell into the pit of tropes and cliches.

We have a female protagonist, Jules, who is repeatedly told not to go to the Gerlings’ estate by her father, but, naturally, it is the only way to help her father, and Jules goes against his wishes. Of course, there is more to the story: half-forgotten memories and old friendships. There is a crush that happens unexpectedly for Jules - but can be seen a mile away by the reader. There is an obvious love triangle, which includes a naive but well-wishing girl, a good boy, and an archetypical bad boy.

For some reason, the very beginning of Everless reminded me Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. Perhaps, it was the idea of a girl with unknown powers going to the very place she should avoid at all costs and working as a servant. Even a love triangle was similar. But, naturally, the plot was different.

You can imagine that with that type of a setting, I was rolling my eyes a lot. But I have little patience for cliches. I must say, however, that for a debut novel Sara Holland did an excellent job with creating the world and her writing style is light enough that the book flows well. It is an easy read which helped me finish it eventually.

The magic system of this world, which is connected directly to the society and economic structure, is what makes Everless stand out from other young adult fantasy novels. I liked the idea of blood being tied directly to years of life that could be turned into a coin and used to pay for things. It is a fascinating concept. Unfortunately, everything else in Everless was cliched.

I guess about the betrayal long before it happened. I knew who would turn out to be a villain. I did enjoy the experience of reading this book, though, so I plan on continuing with the series. My favourite part was when Jules explored an abandoned town and the scene with the Queen.

I think that overall for me Everless was more about the world building than characters or plot. I want to see more of that world developed and explored. I feel that the author has the potential of making this story much better. Everless may not be the book I would want to own, but I am looking forward to the sequel.

 

Rating: 3 stars

 

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Book review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert (audiobook)

The Hazel Wood  

This review might contain spoilers.

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert is the first book in the new, young adult, fantasy trilogy. The moment I heard about this book, it became one of my most anticipated releases of 2018. I ordered my first Owlcrate subscription box and received an exclusive cover edition of The Hazel Wood. I was so happy!

Months later, my excitement abated a bit, but I still wanted to read the book. When I found out that Rebecca Soler narrates the audiobook version, I immediately ordered it from Audible.

Synopsis

 

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother's stories are set. Alice's only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother's tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

Review

 

I have mixed feelings about The Hazel Wood. First of all, Rebecca’s narration is fabulous, and whatever misgivings I have about the book, they have nothing to do with the narrator.

For some reason, I expected The Hazel Wood to be like “The Darkest Part of the Forest” by Holly Black (which is one of my most favourite YA fantasy novels - I am still not over the fact that it is a stand-alone). But it is different, although, at times, especially moments about the forests and Hinterland dwellers coming through to the real world did remind me of Holly Black writing. Alice, the main protagonist, sometimes reminded me of Kate from This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab - she is a straightforward and unapologetic girl with anger management issues.

And that is the problem with The Hazel Wood - it reminded me of other books I have already read. Not too much, but enough that I felt as if the story was not original enough. I loved the idea of travelling between worlds and the book with creepy fairy tales. That is definitely something that I enjoy in stories. More so, Melissa does an excellent job at developing the plot and characters and weaving in references here and there.

The main protagonist is Alice Proserpine - her first name, obviously, refers to Alice from Wonderland, and her last name - to Proserpine (or Persephone in Ancient Greece), the ancient Roman goddess, who was kidnapped by the god of Underworld. Thankfully, Alice from The Hazelwood had a better fate than that of Persephone.

There were other literary references, multiple mentions of Kurt Vonnegut, Harry Potter, and other classics.

Alice, her mother Ella (which is short for Vanilla, by the way), her grandmother Althea - all seem to have rather sonorous names creating almost alliteration. Even, Ellery (Finch) fits into the trend.

Alice is not a likeable character, and she is not supposed to be one. But seeing as the narrative is told from her perspective, it is hard to be completely detached from her personality. I neither liked nor disliked Alice. I felt that she was well developed, but failed to make me care about her as a character. Same about the plot. The Hazel Wood failed to make me care.

The only character whom I liked was Finch. I did not like him from the very beginning, but I liked him later, for his determination and excitement about the Althea Proserpine’s book and Hinterland. He was also very sweet to Alice, and even though later we learned about some of his ulterior motives, it still does not cancel out the fact that he did a lot for her.

And she was a shitty friend in return.

Sadly, Finch’s fate turned out to be a sad one, and seeing as he was the only character of colour in the book, his mistreatment by the plot does not sit well with me. I thought about it a lot. It is possible to argue that Finch got exactly what he wanted (I can’t really say more for fear of spoiling it all), but I just don’t like the way it was delivered in the book.

There was a reference to the police mistreatment of people of colour in the book. And there was at least one canon same-sex couple. I must give it to Melissa, she did try to cross her Ts to make the book diverse and appealing to all readers, but I still found that the book was lacking in this regard as well.

I am torn. I can compare The Hazel Wood to a slightly warped mirror reflection - everything seems to be in place, but at the same something is off. I wish I loved this book, but I didn’t. I liked the wrapper but not the filling.

I still plan to continue with the series - although the ending of The Hazel Wood wrapped up so nicely, I am surprised it is not a stand-alone - I hope that since it was a debut novel, the sequel will be better.

 

Rating: 3 stars

 

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I created a mood board inspired by The Hazel Wood, as it is a very atmospheric book. I made two versions - one with black and another with biracial Finch. (Since the book didn’t specify and I loved both images that I found.)

Version #1

The Hazel Wood mood board 1

 

Version #2

 

The Hazel Wood mood board 2

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Book review: The Wicker King by K. Ancrum

The Wicker King  

I came across The Wicker King on Indigo website. I think it was among the new teen releases or something similar. I knew it was tagged as LGBTQ+ on GoodReads, and that is more than enough for me.

 

I got this book from the library, and I kept it on my shelf for awhile before I picked it up.

 

And oh my god.

Summary

 

The Wicker King is a psychological young adult thriller that follows two friends struggling as one spirals into madness.

 

When August learns that his best friend, Jack, shows signs of degenerative hallucinatory disorder, he is determined to help Jack cope. Jack’s vivid and long-term visions take the form of an elaborate fantasy world layered over our own—a world ruled by the Wicker King. As Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy in this alternate world, even August begins to question what is real or not.

 

August and Jack struggle to keep afloat as they teeter between fantasy and their own emotions. In the end, each must choose his own truth.

 

Review

 

I read The Wicker King in less than two days. I would have finished it in one go, if I had time. I picked it up because I was not feeling like reading anything and The Wicker King had such an appealing cover. Besides, I knew nobody else who read this book, and I was very intrigued.

 

Ten pages in, I was so hooked that I couldn’t put the book down.

 

The Wicker King is a hard book to describe as it should be approached more like an experience than the story. It is about two best friends, friendships and loves, relationships, and other worlds. It is a lot about trust, and faith, and abandonment.

 

The chapters in The Wicker King are short. Sometimes just a couple of pages. Sometimes - a paragraph. As the story progresses, the edges of the book get darker and darker - a visual representation of the darkness that is slowly swallowing August and Jack.

 

The synopsis calls The Wicker King a thriller, which is true in the sense that it does create the atmosphere of suspense and tension. However, I would call the novel a mix of contemporary and magical realism. The things that Jack sees and the things that both characters experience at times feel more real than the real world itself. I loved the writing and the characters in the book. You need to pay attention to chapter titles and the small bits here and there, that make the story so compelling, and a bit weird (but in a good way).

 

At times poetic and symbolic, at times outright scary - The Wicker King is a vortex that pulls readers into its depths, spinning heads and breaking hearts. I cried halfway into the book. I cried at the end. I cried because it was over and I was not ready to let August and Jack go.

 

I read the library book and then went and purchased my own copy. The Wicker King is undoubtedly going to be my favourite read of 2018.

 

The Wicker King novella

 

There is a novella set in the same world. It is titled The Legend of the Golden Raven, and it is free on Kindle. You have to read it after reading The Wicker King though, as it won’t make much sense otherwise, and you will get so much more emotions if you read the novella afterwards. I gave the novella the same rating as The Wicker King.

 

I refuse to believe that this is the only book and there is no sequel.

 

Kayla Ancrum has instantly become my auto-buy author. Her next novel, The Weight of the Stars, is coming out in March 2019 (although initially it was listed as October 2018).

 

I can not wait to see what this author comes up with next.

 

Rating: 5 stars

 

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Book review: "Arrowood" (Arrowood #1) by Mick Finlay

Sherlock Holmes stories have been part of my life since very childhood. I grew up completely obsessed with Sherlock Holmes (and The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas - but that’s for another story). After Sherlock Holmes came Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot and some others, but Sherlock Holmes has always been number one. I have read a few pastiches based on Conan Doyle’s stories and characters, as well as some other detective stories set in Victorian England.

It has been awhile since I discovered new Victorian England stories. And then I saw a book by the title of Arrowood at Indigo.

The tagline was so appealing that I had to restrain myself from buying it on spot.

London Society takes their problems to Sherlock Holmes. Everyone else goes to Arrowood.

Synopsis

The Afghan War is over and a deal with the Irish appears to have brought an end to sectarian violence, but Britain's position in the world is uncertain and the gap between rich and poor is widening. London is a place where the wealthy party while the underclass are tempted into lives of crime, drugs and prostitution. A serial killer stalks the streets. Politicians are embroiled in financial and sexual scandals. The year is 1895. The police don't have the resources to deal with everything that goes on in the capital. The rich turn to a celebrated private detective when they need help: Sherlock Holmes. But in densely populated south London, where the crimes are sleazier and Holmes rarely visits, people turn to Arrowood, a private investigator who despises Holmes, his wealthy clientele and his showy forensic approach to crime. Arrowood understands people, not clues.

Review

Sound exciting, eh?

Well, let me tell you, Arrowood is one of the most boring books I have ever read. It is only 360 pages long, but it took me so long to read it that the book was more than 1 week overdue back to the library. I just started to yawn every time I read as much as a page.

The novel is very slow paced, even more so in the beginning. For a very long time, basically up till the very end, all parts of the narrative were very disjointed, and I couldn’t figure out how all of those plotlines were going to cross. The mystery was resolved at the end, however, I didn’t find the ending to be strong. The disappearance of a Frenchman was not what it seemed. The Irish gang’s actions were not as violent as they were portrayed to be. Someone got their vengeance, but it lacked the ‘WOW’ effect. (I am trying to avoid spoilers, in case you still would like to check this book.)

Arrowood is a debut novel by Mick Finlay. He teaches in a Psychology Department, and used his knowledge of psychology while writing his novel. The author gave his character, Arrowood, the ability to profile people and predict their actions based on psychology. However, at times his deductions seemed a bit farfetched or not strong enough for evidence. As much as Arrowood likes to complain about Sherlock Holmes’ methods, he is not always accurate in his conclusions either.

I did not like Arrowood as a character. He is supposed to be a gentleman, but his hygiene is terrible, he doesn’t seem to care to spend money on his clothes, in spite of being vain, and he is a bit too attached to gin. He is short and fat, and repeatedly called unattractive - a total opposite of Sherlock Holmes (or Hercule Poirot).  Arrowood is terrified of his sister Ettie, who seems very like one of those Wooster’s aunts - formidable and no-nonsense, which adds a bit of a comic relief into the story.

I think my biggest issues with this book come from the fact that the blurb on the cover set my expectations for something of the same level and tone as Sherlock Holmes stories. But Arrowood is different. The characters are more flawed, they lack elegance and refinement; the language also lack the intricacy of Doyle’s penmanship. It seems to me as if the publisher’s intention to make the book sell by putting the comparison with Sherlock Holmes on the cover backfired a bit. The events of the book do take place in parallel with Doyle’s stories, which is fun (for me as a fan of the stories), but also seems like a cheap attempt to ride on Sherlock Holmes’ coattails.

I wanted to love Arrowood. But I didn’t. I dislike him, quite a bit in fact. Barnett, his sidekick, is more of an appealing character - more so, that the narration is told from his point of view, in the obvious mimicry of Doctor Watson’s stories. Barnett is a simple man, but he has a secret that he carries throughout the book, and that secret and that pain associated with it made me like him a lot more than Arrowood. I might even be tempted to read the next book just to see how that plotline gets revealed.

Ettie left me confused. On one hand, she is a strong willed woman, who does exactly what she wants. On the other hand, she turns into a blushing maiden around a certain someone, which seems very much like not her character at all, if we assume whatever Arrowood said about her was true.

Not to mention, that one scene in the book in which Arrowood and Barnett failed to get information from a group of men (working in a garage), who supposedly were part of a gang, and sent Ettie and her church women to search the place. The reasoning being that ‘a man would not hit a woman’. Seriously? Is it supposed to be believable? Or is it a joke? Because those women are removed by those men by force, naturally.

Was it an attempt to make this book more feminist? (Since the historical period of the book traditionally had women as weak and incapable.) Was it supposed to be funny?

I don’t think female characters or their roles in the story were written well. I am all for strong female characters but not at the expense of a comic relief.

I wish I could love this book, but instead it left me bored out of my wits. I gave it an extra 0.5 star only because the period language is quite on point.

I am yet to decide if I want to read the second book when it comes out. I am interested in Barnett’s storyline, but I also would rather be reading Sherlock Holmes stories. Perhaps, this book would have worked better for me in an audio format, but alas I read a hard copy.

Personal rating: 2.5 stars

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Arrowood: Sherlock Holmes Has Met His Match

Book review: "The Uncrossing" by Melissa Eastlake

The Uncrossing  

I received an e-ARC of "The Uncrossing" by Melissa Eastlake from Entangled Teen in exchange for a free and honest review.

 

The moment I saw this book available for request, I immediately hit ‘send’ button. Gay boys, curses, and magic? Hell yeah!

However, when I started reading the book, my excitement dampened.

Let’s start with the plot.

 

Synopsis

 

Luke can uncross almost any curse—they unravel themselves for him like no one else. So working for the Kovrovs, one of the families controlling all the magic in New York, is exciting and dangerous, especially when he encounters the first curse he can't break. And it involves Jeremy, the beloved, sheltered prince of the Kovrov family—the one boy he absolutely shouldn't be falling for.

 

Jeremy's been in love with cocky, talented Luke since they were kids. But from their first kiss, something's missing. Jeremy's family keeps generations of deadly secrets, forcing him to choose between love and loyalty. As Luke fights to break the curse, a magical, citywide war starts crackling, and it's tied to Jeremy.

 

This might be the one curse Luke can't uncross. If true love's kiss fails, what's left for him and Jeremy?

 

Plot

 

The synopsis sounds more coherent and put together than the book itself. I loved the idea of an urban fantasy set in a modern New York City. I loved that it was all about old curses and family secrets. However, I found the execution of this plot as well as world building rather weak. Magic system seems to be connected to spells, blood, and voodoo-like curses, but the limitations of the magic, or how each character does what they do, is never really explained.

 

"The Uncrossing" lacks exposition to the point that I had to go back a page or two to visualize what is happening. It took me some time to get used to the narration. It is not a poorly written book, but it has holes that often left me floundering and second-guessing what I am reading.

 

Luke and Jeremy though. Ah, those two are absolutely adorable. I enjoyed all the characters in the book, although the attempts at creating morally ambiguous and grey characters, like Andrei and Sergei, with this sort of jumpy narration have largely failed, in my opinion. I liked them both, but some aspects just missed the mark for me.

 

Problematic aspects

 

Even though the book is great when it comes to diversity, the choice of cultural background for the characters left me slightly confused. The Kovrovs are Russian, while the Melnyk family is Ukrainian-Creole. I can not speak for the Creole culture, but I can speak for the Eastern European part.

 

The portrayal of a rich and influential Russian mafia family (because let’s be honest, this is what the Kovrov family is) is so stereotypical for western society to the point of being mildly offensive. The Ukrainians are portrayed as hardworking but poor.

 

Besides mentioning a prayer in Russian or some Russian or Ukrainian words, without actually mentioning them in the text, the cultural background of both families is shown only in their given names and the mention of borscht in the first chapter - which, let me be absolutely clear, nobody would ever serve to an important guest as a meal neither in Russia nor in Ukraine, unless we are speaking of a rural Russia in the feudal times.

 

There are reviewers who love to throw around complaints about “cultural appropriation”, but in spite of my feelings on the subject, "The Uncrossing" is hardly damaging. I would have, however, appreciated a more meaningful portrayal of both cultures. Both Russian and Ukrainian folklore have enough depth to provide inspiration for any fantasy setting or magic system.

 

I had problems with the world building and magic system, mild issues with some of the characters, but I adored the romance part in the book, although it is usually the least favourite plotline for me. I also felt that the ending of the book was better thought through than some middle parts. I found myself more engaged in the book after I hit 50-60%.

 

It is a debut novel, so I hope that Melissa would produce more fiction in the future. Hopefully, it would also be about queer boys and magic. It was overall a fun read, even though it took some time to get used to the style. Recommend for the fans of the YA LGBT books, otherwise, you might find it boring.

 

Personal rating: 3.5 stars

 

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BLOG: Preview of The Uncrossing by Melissa Eastlake

The Uncrossing  

As you know, I love LGBT+ books and I always support indie or emerging authors. I was very lucky to receive an e-ARC of The Uncrossing by Melissa Eastlake from Entangled Teen. This is a debut, YA fantasy novel that I am currently reading and quite enjoying. The novel is coming out on October 2, and I will have the review on my blog by or on that date. However, today I have an exclusive preview from The Uncrossing! So, thank you so much to Melissa for giving me this opportunity to share it with you.

Synopsis

The Uncrossing is a Rapunzel-esque romance between two boys who have grown up in the magic mafia. Luke can break almost any curse—they unravel for him like no one else. Working for the Kovrovs is exciting and dangerous, especially when he encounters the first curse he can’t break…

Excerpt

Luke always seemed busy and independent for a teenager, very…was glamorous the word? Mature. Intense.   Like the rest of his family, he wore formal clothes, but he carried them nicely. The top button of his white shirt was undone, a V of skin peeking under the knot of his tie.   What Instagram had taught Jeremy about Luke: He liked cats, purple Gatorade, and street art. He liked his parents’ cooking better than restaurants, unless it was okra or beets, and he worked a lot but he enjoyed it. He liked math and science better than English and history, which Jeremy could hardly even imagine.   Also, one of his friends posted weekly Thursday thirst traps of models and celebrities, all across the gender spectrum, but Luke only ever commented on the pictures of guys. Once, the friend had posted a picture of a wan model, all cheekbones and legs, and Luke had replied, “Drag me.”   Jeremy could second-guess the blue of the sky, but the evidence was pretty solid that Luke liked boys.   Jeremy snapped his eyes back to his empty plate, but Alexei’s attention was hot enough to burn his cheeks. This was the treat, or the test: just say something. Luke also liked the kind of flashy action movies no one in Jeremy’s family ever wanted to watch, so all Jeremy had to do was bring up The Fast and the Furious. “It sounds great on the new sound system at home…” Something like that. Something cool.   “We have a little business to discuss.” Alexei nodded to Yuri and Helene. “And there is a task I would like our witch doctor’s help with.”   The Melnyks all straightened in their chairs, their attention sizzling as Jeremy grabbed his messenger bag from the floor and pulled out two burlap witch bags.   Luke winced, and Camille leaned forward. “Oooh.”   “Quite,” Alexei said. “A client found these in their home, luckily before they managed to hurt anybody. I’d like an inventory of the contents and a swift execution.”   Luke nodded. “Yes, sir.”   “Wonderful. Jeremy will stay with you until that’s done—call me if there are any problems.” He turned to Jeremy. “I won’t need long, but take your time. Call me when you’re done, and we’ll come pick you up.”   Sure he would. He’d want a debrief on everything Jeremy had said to Luke, and there would be nothing to tell him. “I’ll take the subway.”   Alexei arched one sly eyebrow but didn’t answer. He followed Helene and Yuri downstairs and left Jeremy alone with the twins.

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Movie/book review: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

"Everything, Everything" Movie  

"Everything, Everything" Movie review

 

I am one of those bookish people who have to read a book before the movie. It doesn’t always happen, but I strive for it. The only movie franchise that I have ever watched without reading books (not for the lack of trying) was The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies. And I loved them a lot!

 

I admit it, I am a book snob. I always think that books are better than movies. Sometimes it is even hard to compare the two as movie scripts inevitably bring changes to the plot, and not always to the best effect.

 

It was one of the reasons why watching “Everything, Everything” the movie was very low on my priorities list. I am not very fond of romance stories, and even though I loved the book, I didn’t feel compelled to watch it on screen.

Thank goodness for transatlantic flights: I am ready to watch “Madagascar” movies for the upteenth time just to distract myself!

 

So, after watching The Boss Baby (which was cute), Smurfs: The Lost Village (which was fairly stupid) and rewatching “Penguins of Madagascar” (because they rock), I settled to watch “Everything, Everything”.

 

The movies has only one, rather unimaginative, tagline on IMDB: “A teenager who's spent her whole life confined to her home falls for the boy next door.”; and an average rating of 6.4. I didn’t have much hopes for the movie, as I knew the plot, but I hoped to be entertained by the characters, and sure I was!

 

I think that Amandla Stenberg is a perfect Maddy. I loved her acting and her sweet nature. She was, honestly, the best thing about this movie. I was not as impressed by Nick Robinson (Olly) as I felt that he was not gritty enough, if you will. I liked how their text conversations were translated into face to face conversations on screen. The presence of an astronaut was a nice touch. But otherwise the movie was not very visually imaginative. The books has some cool illustrations, that were missing from the movie.

 

I think my biggest disappointment with the "Everything, Everything" movie was that it failed to deliver a punch at the end. Everything showed on screen was sort of mellowed out, in my opinion. Maddy was less sick, her mother less obsessive, Olly less intriguing. I loved Olly in the book, but in the movie he was a bit mediocre, unfortunately. The imperfections and inconsistencies in treating serious illness are more visible on screen than in a book format too. (E.g., Maddy's mother or her nurse enters the house and goes through decontamination, washes her hands but then grabs the bag and brings it in? That looked very improbable.)

 

When I read the "Everything, Everything" book, I gave it a rather high rating of 4.5 stars. I really enjoyed it, it was sweet and resonated with my personal experience of being subjected to an obsessive care by a relative. However, since then I did read some reviews by people who pointed out that even though Maddy’s disability was not correctly portrayed and this representation is actually harmful. I admit that I did not think about the representation of serious chronic illness or disability when I read the book as it always held a bit of an unrealistic touch for me. As in, this is a mysterious disease and nobody knows what it is (which is actually not true, but it was my interpretation of it). Obviously, I can not speak on behalf of people who struggle with serious chronic illness or disability, but as my mother is severely allergic to animals (we are talking about not being able to share a space with an animal for any period of time), I do understand how this representation seems unhealthy and deems the character's situation as not serious enough. Especially, since the message is that it is okay to risk everything (family, health, life) for the sake of love.

 

Nope, don’t do that, kids.

 

I am not going to change my rating on Goodreads for this book, although I do now think that 4.5 stars was a bit too generous. However, I did enjoy "Everything, Everything" and the writing style, and still think that it was a great debut novel. Nicola Yoon is also a total sweetheart - I met her at BookCon in 2016. Too sad that the movie flopped for me.

 

Overall movie rating: 2.75 stars

 

"Everything, Everything" Book review

 

"Everything, Everything" Book

 

Written: November 2015

 

personal rating: 4.5 stars

 

This book deserves all the love and hype surrounding it! It is a very cute story about a girl who is allergic to everything. One day, a new family moves into a nearby house and she befriends their son.

 

I liked everything about this book. The way it is written. The fact that it is interrupted by illustrations and notes written by Madeline. The fact that this book has some similarities to "The Fault In Our Stars" but only it is way better and lighter and happier. (And also, HAWAII!)

 

The characters are unique and have very distinctive voices. I loved both Madeline and Olly. I loved the setting of the book. I loved all the descriptions.

 

I also loved the twist and the way the story resolved itself, even though I did suspect something like this would happen. (It also quite unexpectedly resonated with my own experience, which was a bit surprising.)

 

Can't say more but this book gave me rather happy, warm and fuzzy feeling. Even though it mostly about illness. Nicola Yoon has achieved something that John Green failed to do for me.

 

Read it. You will love it.

 

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Book review: "Black Bird of the Gallows" by Meg Kassel

 

"Black Bird of the Gallows" is a stand-alone, young adult urban fantasy novel with lots of supernatural and even slight horror notes. Let me start the review by saying that this is the most gorgeous cover I have seen this year! I was definitely attracted to the book based on the cover and the prospect of an urban fantasy (because crows and harbingers of death? Hell ya!) and was extremely lucky to receive a NetGalley copy from Entangled Teen. The book is officially coming out on September 5th, and I will provide the links at the bottom of my review.

 

Here is the official synopsis:

 

A simple but forgotten truth: Where harbingers of death appear, the morgues will soon be full.

Angie Dovage can tell there’s more to Reece Fernandez than just the tall, brooding athlete who has her classmates swooning, but she can’t imagine his presence signals a tragedy that will devastate her small town. When something supernatural tries to attack her, Angie is thrown into a battle between good and evil she never saw coming. Right in the center of it is Reece—and he’s not human.

What's more, she knows something most don't. That the secrets her town holds could kill them all. But that’s only half as dangerous as falling in love with a harbinger of death.

 

I was rather excited to read this book, but, unfortunately, it did not live up to the hype. It is not a bad debut novel, but it lacked depth and solidness of the plot and characterization. The idea of the crows being the supernatural creatures and harbingers of death is not a new one but Meg Kassel takes an interesting spin on it, adding more supernatural forces into the mix. However, a lot of the explanations of the magic and the rules of it were vague, undeveloped, and the ending had a very rushed and ‘Deus Ex Machina’ feel. (Considering how many of YA books tend to have an ending that can be summarized as “well, this happened because it happened”, I am starting to think that a lot of people have never read any classic literature. Go and read the Greeks. It has all been done before.) It was not the worst ending ever but I could tell that this was going to happen a mile ahead.

 

I did not like the fact that the author decided to title every chapter - it is my personal preference not to know what is going to happen in the chapter that I am about to read as all of those titles were basically spoilers. It sometimes took out the fun out of reading the story.

 

I liked all of the characters in the book, which is rare. Well, almost everyone - I am not counting the bullies at school. Angie is lovely, and her father is one of the best supporting characters in YA, as he has both a distinctive voice and is not just a plot device, as it often happens with parents or relatives in the genre. Angie goes through some serious character development, that was well-written and thought through. Her friends are great too - they were both funny, and reliable, and supportive, and everything about them was great for the story. The relationship that they had with Angie was great and I loved how close they remained throughout it all.

 

Let’s talk about Reece now. Okay, first things first: I love angsty and dark characters. I can live off angst. However, in case with Reece it was a  bit overdone. I liked the way he was introduced in the story, as well as his background, his family, etc. But as the book progressed, we were not given any new information or anything else, the author just recycled the same facts over and over again. The plot concerning Reece, his family and the curse can be summarized in a couple of sentences. It is a very alluring plot, but it lacks depth and, ultimately, originality.

 

Have you ever watched the movie "Meet Joe Black" with Brad Pitt? Reece sometimes reminded me of Joe. The Fernandez family had a very strong vibe of Edward Cullen’s family, just on a less violent side. Overall, I did get occasional Twilight vibes from the book (a lonely, angsty girl, who comes to live with her father; a supernaturally attractive and dangerous boy; “the death follows me around” sort of thing, etc), but I guess it can be said about a lot of supernatural or urban fantasy YA books that came out after Twilight Saga (by the way, I am not fan of those books at all).

 

I am not a huge fan of “insta-love” either but it somehow worked in this book. The amount of romance was a bit too much but it was not overly too sweet. I did, however, roll my eyes whenever those kids wanted to make out when the world was basically going to an end around them.

 

I found a couple of copy-editorial mistakes, where things disappeared or appeared out of blue, but since I was reading the ARC, I can not tell if those made it into the final version.

 

I have always loved crows but this books just reinforced my love for these birds. I will never look at the bees in the same way, though.

 

I would have been able to deal with all of those if the style was more solid. The author’s writing suffers from a very common mistake of ‘telling’ instead of ‘showing’. The details of the curse are repeated over and over, as well as descriptions of things that happen at school, during the day, etc. Even with the first POV, it is still possible to avoid that. There was a whole passage almost at the very end of the book which was the repeated information, almost word to word, to what the characters had said just a page ago. It was glaringly obvious and redundant. A lot of things that happened during “the tragedy event” were told instead of described, and some of the details were so vague that I felt as if the author rushed through this part, when it should have been one of the major parts of the book.

 

Like I said, "Black Bird of the Gallows" is a debut novel, not the worst but not the best either. I found it cute, but not too original. It was refreshing to read a stand alone novel though. I do feel that the author has a potential to produce great stories, but lacks the skill at this point. Will definitely keep an eye on her future projects.

 

In spite of my opinion of the book, I do appreciate the opportunity provided to me by Entangled Teen to read and review the ARC.

 

Personal rating: ~ 3 stars

 

More of my reviews on my blog.

 

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Black Bird of the Gallows

Book review: The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

   

This book kept coming up on BookTube and GoodReads as a new YA contemporary with a main gay couple, so of course I had to pick it up! I chose to read this book as part of #LGBTQIAREAD Read-a-thon, as I mentioned in my blog post.

“The Love Interest” is a slightly sci-fi young adult contemporary romance novel. Sounds confusing? Well, how about the plot. There is a nefarious secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. They are taken from their families and raised and trained to be perfect love interests for people who are destined for great power or influence. Those “love interests” are split into Nice and Bad, depending on their personality fit, and are constantly evaluated for various skills. Once they are deemed to be fit and are matched to their “chosen one”, they are then given the directives and are implanted into lives of those “chosen” to spy on them for the rest of their lives.

 

Caden is a Nice, Dylan is a Bad. They are give the same target and the ultimate incentive to win this dangerous game: be chosen or be killed. But, unexpectedly, they start to develop feelings for each other.

 

The plot summary was what attracted me to this book. I am not a huge fan of YA contemporary romance, but I love queer books and dystopian/sci-fi elements, so I was very excited to read it. Good thing that I purchased the book before I checked its rating on GoodReads or I might have never picked it up. As I am typing this, “Love Interest” has the rating of 3.18 on GR, and I try to never go for books which are under 3.5, because I get mostly disappointed (the only exception besides “Love Interest” was “Wink Poppy Midnight” which I adored).

 

Let’s be fair here, “The Love Interest” is far from a strong debut novel. There are a lot of plot holes surrounding the secret organization and how it was dealt with. Especially, in the last third of the novel - I had an impression as if the author was rushing through the ending or didn’t have it fully outlined, because everything that was happening was just too fantastical to be real. Some of the characters were too two dimensional for my taste and some of their actions were just implausible.

 

The good thing about this book is that it is just pure fun. The first half or even two thirds of the book is just a pure satire and parody on a typical young adult romance. And it is intended to be such. I found the narration overall pleasant enough and the action was fun.

 

I think that this book would have benefited from more editing and perhaps another round of revisions. I liked the idea of love interests/spies, I liked both Caden and Dylan. But the book lacked depth and even the moments that were supposed to move me felt a bit shallow as they were so brief. Not to mention the fact that the ending was extremely weak.

 

Is it a great book? No, but it IS a fun book which I might even re-read if I need a good laugh (because some of those romance tropes were just hilarious). But most importantly - the book gave me exactly what I wanted to read: a queer love story. We don’t have enough of those in YA, even nowadays.

 

I will definitely keep an eye on Cale’s books and hope to read more by him.

Personal rating: 3 stars

 

Affiliated links:

 

The Love Interest