Book Review: Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith

32048554

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Year Published: 2017

My Rating:★★★★☆

This book follows our main character Alice, who has had a crush on her best friend Teddy for years. On his 18th birthday, she decides to get him a lottery ticket, and lo and behold he wins. Like $150 million big. While Alice is combatting the change that this huge amount of money brings on her and her friends’ lives, she is also combatting issues of her past. The death of her parents haunts and determines the decisions she makes every day, and now that this big change has come upon her life with Teddy’s newly acquired wealth, it feels like life is being thrown way out of balance.

Initially, this book was slow to start. It took about 150 pages for the story to really pick up, but when it did, I found it to be a solid contemporary. It’s not just fluff and romance, but has some real depth to it. Each character has their own challenges to battle, and it’s evident that these battles are the focal point of the story, not the romance. Our main character, Alice, has lost both her parents. Teddy, our lucky winner, has to deal with a dead-beat dad. And lastly, Alice’s cousin Leo (who she lives with, along with his parents) is dealing with whether he wants to pick a college where he can be with his boyfriend, or if he should follow his heart and take his future elsewhere. All of this combines to make a very thoughtful and meaningful story. The only issues I had with this book was the pacing and the fact that the teenage characters didn’t talk like teenagers do. At least to me they didn’t. Other than that, I quite enjoyed this book.

By the end of it, I fell in love with each of the characters and, to be honest, the ending was just perfect. Jennifer E. Smith has stepped up her game (more specifically, her writing) in this one. It’s not just fluffy romance, it goes into a lot more deeper issues, like family loss, grief, and broken familial relationships. The book is given way more depth in this way, all the while you’re rooting for the characters to have a happy ending, romantically and just in general. A solid YA contemporary overall.

Find this book elsewhere: Goodreads Amazon Book Depository

Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

mask of shadows

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, LGBT

Year Published: 2017

My Rating: ★★★☆☆

In a nutshell, and not to seem too spoiler-y since this doesn’t come out until the fall, this book follows our main character, Sal, a gender-fluid assassin/thief that has a tragic past and is looking for revenge in the future. To do this, they enter a tournament to become the next member of the Left Hand, the Queen of the kingdom’s league of assassin’s and spies, in order to get close to the court’s nobles. Along the way, Sal encounters allies, enemies, and a possible love-interest with the daughter of a court member. It’s not all fun and games and revenge though, as Sal learns there is more at stake than they originally thought.

This book was not as great as I expected it to be, but it was good nonetheless. It takes quite a while for the story to take off, as our main character is a bit of mystery until about 1/4 of the way through the book. Not only that but the fantastical world this book takes place in felt like it was kind of thrown at the reader; there was a lot of info-dumping and many times I felt confused as to what was going on because I didn’t know the workings of the world I was in. Eventually, however, the story began to pick up pace as Sal became more of a rounded character, along with their love interest and the rest of the members of the Left Hand.

The stakes were high, and I appreciated the suspense in that. In the end, I did enjoy this book for its characters and the potential for some serious action in the next book. Again, it wasn’t a very solid YA fantasy, but I do think there is room to grow. As such, I look forward to the next book in the series, and I will definitely be recommending it as a book with (from what I can tell, being a non-gender fluid, heterosexual person) good representation of gender fluidity.

Find this book elsewhere: Goodreads Amazon Book Depository

 

SaveSave

Book Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

we were liars

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery

Year Published: 2014

My Rating:★★★★☆

What a wild ride this one was. I was never intending on picking this book up, but my library just happened to have the audiobook available, and it’s a short audiobook, so I thought why the hell not.

In a nut shell, this book follows our main character, Cadence Sinclair. She is a part of the very prestigious and very rich Sinclair family. Every year, her family and her cousins visit an island owned solely by their family. One summer, Cadence returns to the island after something mysterious, and something she can’t remember, happened on the island two years previously. This book is about her figuring out exactly what happened those two years ago.

I honestly don’t want to get more into it than that, because I feel like it’s best to go into books like this one without knowing much.

Overall, I really did enjoy this story. I might be the only person who didn’t figure out what was going on until it was revealed at the end of the book, but I’m going to take that as a good thing, because it definitely added shock value and heightened the reading experience for me.

I really commend the author on being able to create a compelling story with well-rounded characters in such a small amount of pages. That is honestly something to be proud of as a writer. Not only that, but the book has a lot of re-readable value. It’ll be interesting to go back and pick up on things I hadn’t picked up on previously, now knowing the whole truth of the story.

I definitely look forward to reading more compelling reads by E. Lockhart in the future.

Find this book elsewhere: Goodreads Amazon Book Depository

Unpopular Bookish Opinions…

Sooo we all have unpopular opinions, right? But that doesn’t mean that’s a bad thing. It just means we all have our own way of seeing things, and that’s what makes the world diverse! By means of the unpopular opinions book tag, the original of which you can find here, I’m going to share some of my unpopular opinions. Take no offense people, this is all for fun.

Let’s do this!

geronimo

1. A Popular Book or series that you didn’t like.

Most recently, the popular book that I didn’t like was…Passenger by Alexandra Bracken. *cringes from its adoring fans yelling at me*. I know, I know. From what I’ve seen of book reviews though, I don’t think I’m alone in this. It’s a pretty polarizing book. I just couldn’t stand the insta-love, and the MC was not very bright, and it was just so unrealistic. Sadly, no me gusta.
2. A Popular Book or series that every one else seems to hate but you love.

The last time I did this tag was on my YouTube channel, and at the time I said The Maze Runner series by James Dashner, but I’m gonna switch it up this time since it’s been 2 years since then. I would have to say…The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling. I usually don’t like literary fiction, family-drama type novels…but I just got so invested in the characters in this one I had to know what happens. A lot of people found it boring, and I can see where it was slow, but I enjoyed it overall.
3. A Love Triangle where the main character ended up with the person you did NOT want them to end up with OR an OTP that you don’t like.

(SPOILER ALERT FOR THE INFERNAL DEVICES BY CASSANDRA CLARE

!!

OK

Tessa Gray. At the end of the series, we see that she ends up with someone else. But in the beginning, and for many, many years until he dies…she chooses to be with Will. Now I know she couldn’t be with Jem because of the whole Silent Brothers thing, but I still liked him better. Luckily, they eventually get together but they definitely go through a lot before that happens.
4. A popular book Genre that you hardly reach for.

Mystery/thriller. Romance. Horror. The closest I’ve gotten to any of these is YA contemporary, or books like We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. Soooo yes.
5. A popular or beloved character that you do not like.

Jace Wayland. Sorry folks.
6. A popular author that you can’t seem to get into.

As mentioned before, Alexandra Bracken. I’ve heard if you don’t like one of her books, you probably won’t like the rest. Other authors besides Bracken? Mmm..Jennifer E. Smith? I’ve read one of her books, and I’m currently reading Windfall, which is her latest release (coming out on May 2nd). I wasn’t too crazy about the first book I read by her (I can’t even remember the title), and so far I’m not too crazy about this one either and I’m already halfway through it.
7. A popular book trope that you’re tired of seeing. (examples “lost princess”, corrupt ruler, love triangles, etc.)

I HATE, especially in YA contemporary, when there is no parent/guardian relationship with the main character. It’s just unrealistic.

ALSO IN FANTASY, when a character from our world is thrown into a magical world, or learns of time travel, or magic, or just anything otherworldly and accepts it without question. They’re just like, oh? My family can time travel? I can enter another world buy means of a secret portal? Cool.

And I would be like ????????? what’s going on????????

and I feel like most people would be like that as well
8. A popular series that you have no interest in reading.

Hmm…the Lux series by Jennifer L. Armentrout and Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead.
9. The saying goes “The book is always better than the movie”, but what movie or T.V. show adaptation do you prefer more than the book?

I don’t really have an answer for this one, to be honest.

~~

Well, that’s it folks! Hopefully I haven’t offended anyone. After all, this is all in good nature. And now, to go read some books I have more positive opinions about! 🙂

reading

Book Review: Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

underrose

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mental Health

Year Published: 2016 (UK) 2017 (US)

My Rating: ★★★★1/2

I received an advanced reader copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This is a non-spoiler review.

TRIGGER WARNING for self-harm and depression.

This was one of my most highly anticipated reads for 2017 and boy oh boy was I right in anticipating this. The reason I was anticipating this book was because the blurb indicated it was a story about a main character with agoraphobia (fear of leaving one’s home or ‘safe space’), OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), extreme anxiety, and depression. These are all things that I have suffered from, so to see a book that was coming out that explored all of these things in one character really had me intrigued. I wasn’t disappointed.

In a nutshell, this YA contemporary follows our main character Norah, a 17 (?) year old teenager living in California who suffers from all of the above mentioned. The reader follows her day to day life and how she deals with the illness she suffers from. It explores her relationship with her mother, as well as her therapist. There is also, of course, the love interest as well. The love interest comes in the form of Luke, a boy who has just moved in next door and is intrigued by Norah: the girl who sits in the open doorway of her house, watching the outside world while her mind keeps her trapped inside her house.

Right off the bat, hearing that there is a love interest to someone who has agoraphobia, or any other invisible illness, may make a reader hesitant. Is this just another book about the love interest fixing the mental illness of the main protagonist? Because that in itself is very unrealistic.

You may think this at first, but this book is far from that. The love interest in this book definitely does not fix Norah’s illness. In fact, she still has a very long way to go by the time the end of the book comes about. What he does do, and what her mother and therapist also do in this book, is help Norah deal with the day to day hurdles she has to jump through. They help her grow.

What really amplifies Norah’s internal struggles in the book is the knowledge that the author herself has suffered from all of these things. This therefore makes it an own-voices book (a book in which the author identifies with the same characteristics of the main character). Norah’s story suddenly becomes all the more real with this piece of knowledge and it really authenticates the story in this way. It authenticates that people with this mental illness think about things such as the following daily:

-Self-harm
-Low self-worth
-Wondering if this illness will ever let them have a life
-Thinking every worst situation possible will happen if they step outside their door
-Overthinking every word a person has communicated to them
-Overthinking pretty much everything in general to the point where it makes them sick

We, the readers, discover that Norah thinks about these things daily. Her struggle with these things, and slowly but surely overcoming them only to find something else blocking her path to recovery, is what this book is really all about. The romance is a cute subplot, but again, it is not the main focal point of the story.

The only thing I would have to complain about this book was that a lot of the pages that contained Norah’s internal thoughts were overflowing with metaphors and similes. A lot of what Norah would be thinking about was compared to something else. I understand that it is hard to write a book that comprises mostly of the narrators thoughts without metaphors and similes, but I feel as though the book would have benefited more if there was less of this.

Other than that, I highly enjoyed this novel. It, in my opinion, should be required reading of any teenager in high school. It really opens up the subject of mental illness and even shows that it is more common than one may think. Students, and pretty much any one of any age, will learn that they are not alone in reading this book…and I think that’s one of the most important things to remember when you have a mental illness: that you are not alone.

Find this book elsewhere: Goodreads Amazon Book Depository

Book Review: The Cresswell Plot by Eliza Wass

cresswell

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Year Published: 2016

My Rating: ★★★1/2☆

I went into this book not knowing much about it. I thought it had something to do with some sort of buried secret, and in a way, it did. However, it wasn’t the secret at the end of the novel that was revealed that really made this an interesting read for me. What made it interesting was the uniqueness of it. I have never come across a family, in reality or in fiction, as disturbing as that of the Cresswell’s. More specifically, the father of the family. The fact that it was so disturbing really lifted the rating of this book for me, because I have not come across a book in my lifetime that has done so.

I admired our main character/narrator and her role in breaking her family out of the religious cult that her father built for the family, but in the end I think she was just a means to an end. I wish she was a little more rounded as a person. For example, we could have had her explain when the questioning of her family’s ways began; if it started early on, or if only just now the thoughts began to creep into her head. That way, we see some sort of development into the person she becomes: someone who has become openly defiant of her father and the control he has over them.

In the end I would have to give this book a 3.5/5 stars. This is because I felt as though it had the potential of being much longer, allowing the reader to get to know the characters more and what their lives have been like. Also, some of the characters seemed ambiguous in their beliefs, especially the main character’s siblings. They would defy their father, but then they would go back to submitting themselves to his will. There wasn’t much consistency there. Otherwise, I thought this was a very thrilling and different read. I would not, however, recommend this to certain people, as religion can be a touchy subject, despite the fact that it was portrayed in such a radical way that it wouldn’t usually offend anyone. However, in the end, I felt as though things were handled quite well and it was a solid read.

Find this book elsewhere: Goodreads Amazon Book Depository

Book Review: Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

vengeance

Genre: Young Adult, Western

Year Published: 2015

My Rating:★★★★☆

I received an advanced readers copy of this novel courtesy of the publisher and the author in exchange for an honest review.

A young adult Western novel, Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman follows 18 year old Kate Thompson in 1877 Arizona. Seeking revenge for her father’s murder, Kate goes on a journey and picks up some friends along the way that help her take revenge on her father’s death. Along the way, Kate and her companions encounter love, friendships, and a shoot-out or two, all the while uncovering secrets about the Thompson family past

This was my first Western novel, let alone my first young adult Western novel. As far as I know, there aren’t that many like it on the market. Western doesn’t seem to be a popular genre in the young adult medium, but I think Erin Bowman has done quite a good job in introducing this genre to a younger, yet still mature, audience.

Kate is a very strong and willful character. I was especially surprised of her resilience after her father was murdered and how she immediately knew what she wanted to do: go after the men that killed him. I really appreciated her in that way, and I wish I could be as strong a person as she is. I do wish that her world was built a little bit more before the story of her journey to avenger her father began. The story pretty much jumps right into it, and although her life before her father’s death is alluded to throughout the novel, I still wish there was a little bit more background to her and her family before the main events of the book began.

All of the other characters in the novel—Jesse, Will, Liluye, etc.—were enjoyable and each of them served their plot purposes quite well. I wish I could have seen a little bit more of Liluye, as she was quite intriguing, but at the same time I am content with the amount of presence and importance she held in the novel. Jesse and Will were a pleasure to read, and I believe that everything that happens to them is tastefully done and there is no overkill in their individual fates.

I did see the plotwist at the end of the novel coming just a few paragraphs before it happened, and to be honest I could have done without it, but it was still an interesting twist. Overall, Vengeance Road was quite enjoyable and I am glad it was my first Western. If you are interested in young adult and are looking for something to introduce you into the world of Western, Vengeance Road will introduce it to you quite well!

Find this book elsewhere: Goodreads Amazon Book Depository