P.S. I Like You Book Review

psilikeyouTitle: P.S. I Like You
Author: Kasie West
Publisher: Point
Publication Date: July 26, 2016
Genre: Young Adult – Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 330
Format: Received in August Uppercase Box

Signed, sealed, delivered…

While spacing out in chemistry class, Lily scribbles some of her favorite song lyrics onto her desk. The next day, she finds that someone has continued the lyrics on the desk and added a message to her. Intrigue!

Soon, Lily and her anonymous pen pal are exchanging full-on letters—sharing secrets, recommending bands, and opening up to each other. Lily realizes she’s kind of falling for this letter writer. Only, who is he? As Lily attempts to unravel the mystery and juggle school, friends, crushes, and her crazy family, she discovers that matters of the heart can’t always be spelled out…

This book was adorable and it was nothing short of what I was looking for in a contemporary novel. I found the characters to be funny and real, the plot to be fun, realistic, and fast-paced.

The story started out with Lily being distracted in Chemistry class writing down lyrics in her notebook and her teacher telling her to pay more attention and turn in notes at the end of every class. When she starts to daydream and write lyrics on the table, the next day she sees those lyrics completed and she starts writing notes back and forth from there. For a large portion of the book the mystery of who was writing the notes was well hidden and she didn’t figure it out until about half way through who it was when she saw him while she was running errands for someone.

I thought that Lily was a great character. She was awkward and funny and kind, and she loves her family unconditionally, as well as her best friend Isabel. I love that she had some quirks that allowed her to be seen in a more realistic light, like how she has a nervous habit of chatting up a storm when she’s really nervous or put in an awkward situation, or how she’ll resort to humor – even if no one gets her humor sometimes. I loved that about her. (Probably because I do the same thing.)

Having her large family have such a big presence in the book was something I wasn’t expecting, and I thought that that was such a great part of the book. Of course she thought her family was difficult and everything to live with, but as an outsider I thought that her family was fun and very entertaining. With an older sister and two younger brothers, plus both parents, her house wasn’t short on fun. I also loved the way she talked to her siblings: like she cared and was patient with them. Of course there were moments of frustration, but she still really just showed how much she cared, and that they cared back, and I loved it.

Cade was interesting because when I thought he was being an arrogant dude, trying to make jokes and be humorous, it was his way of trying to make situations better for others. He has just as much of a big heart for people as Lily does, which makes my own heart warm. Not only that, but even during their fights I could tell that he wasn’t totally in it, and that there was something he wanted to say – especially as time went on. He was kind and funny just like Lily, a very great match for her.

Of course that’s not to say neither has their faults. Even when they fought and when their anger was explained, I still was kind of confused as to why they fought to begin with. Maybe it wasn’t explained, or it was and I missed it, but I thought that the hate-to-love romance that happened was gradual, realistic, and the cutest thing ever. *insert fangirl squeal*

I also appreciated the friendship between Lily and Isabel in here because I don’t often see YA friendships between characters stem out more than just a side role. But Isabel played a big role in Lily’s life and Lily often said that Isabel was much more important than some of the things that were going on, which was awesome.

And there was of course mini dramas here and there with the letters, another girl, and even with Isabel, but I like how things resolved themselves and how each character worked to fight for the important relationships to stay intact. It was mature of them all, and I was glad to see that.

I thought that this book was very adorable and that you should definitely check it out if you’re looking for a cute contemporary to read anytime soon.

I rated this book 5/5 stars and highly recommend it!

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Illuminae Book Review

illuminaeTitle: Illuminae
Series: Illuminae Files #1
Authors: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 20, 2015
Genre: Young Adult – Science Fiction
Pages: 599
Format: Purchased Hardcover

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

This book was fantastic! From the formatting to the story, the characters, everything was just brilliant and it quickly became one of my top three favorite books I’ve read this year.

I didn’t know what to expect when I first when into the book because I knew the format was extremely different to any other book I’ve read before as it’s told in IMs, case files, video surveillance logs, fancy font designs, etc., but wow. I think the format of the book really helped to tell the story and enhance what was being told and happening to the characters as they tried to live another day.

The format was pretty seamless, going from one form to another in the next “chapter” and each time it would be a different voice or character and it made feel as though I was in that world and experiencing what the characters were. Bravo to the authors for coming up with the idea!

The plot itself was one we’ve probably heard a bunch of times when it comes to science fiction: a rogue AI (Artificial Intelligence) goes rogue and the people have to stop it from destroying everything. I think that the way in which it was delivered, though, was extremely effective and allowed immersion with the story. It went through heartbreak, survival, grief, bravery, and it talked about disease, making the right call, and belief in yourself. It was delivered really well and it kept me on my toes and needing to turn the page to know what happened next. (I literally read this in one sitting. A nine hour sitting, but one sitting nonetheless.)

Kady Grant is a seventeen year old computer hacker who plays off like she’s indifferent and cold, but she really is trying to push her feelings down so they don’t interfere with what she needs to get done. She doesn’t accept a lot of things that happen during this journey, but toward the end she comes to the realization of so many things and I think that her heartbreak really broke my own heart. But through it all she was brave, willing to try the next thing, to put a stop to whatever the people in charge aboard both the Alexander and Hypatia were trying to do. I thought that she went through a great arc of character growth and that she showed resilience when it was needed, fear, grief, determination. She was truly an inspiring character.

Ezra Mason is an eighteen year old guy who just wants to get his life back together and talk out things with Kady and make things up to her. But when everything goes to shit on their planet Kerenza IV, he gets enlisted as a flight pilot aboard the Alexander. I loved Ezra so, SO much. He was funny, sarcastic, always had a joke to tell. I was so heartbroken during some of the conversations that were had regarding him, but also laughing out loud during some of the conversations he had with others. He seriously made me so happy. He was willing to take risks, willing to help out wherever he could, and he was strong through a lot of it.

AIDAN, the AI system aboard the Alexander, was a character I didn’t think I would grow so attached to. He was essentially the main “villain” in this story, and as such, I was expecting to hate him. It. Whatever. It was always saying it was trying to protect the people when it killed them, or that it was being merciful, or that it made the decisions it made within the protocols that were set for it. And, well, I could see that it tried. It really, really did. I knew that the intentions it had weren’t inherently bad ones, just the execution of them was. It was a character that I wanted to yell at and shake and hurt, but then it became a character I cried over, a character I cared about so much that I felt sorry for it rather than angry. I found that these moments were so powerful and profound that I had to stop and absorb it all.

That’s not to say that what happened aboard all of the ships were good things. In fact, quite the opposite, especially in the last quarter of the book, but I found that I was still so invested in all of the characters, even the ones that had made shorter appearances than others throughout the book. It was so fun, so heartbreaking, but so beautiful all at the same time.

There were hints of romance, which I thought were super adorable because the flirting was just… Oh man, it was funny. There were friendships and those conversations had me laughing out loud! There was correspondence, conversations had over radios and letters that went south real fast.

All in all, the formatting, the story, the characters, the language, everything used was amazing and I feel like this really deserved all the hype that it got.

I rated this book 5/5 stars and highly recommend it!

A Torch Against the Night Book Review

atorchagainstthenightTitle: A Torch Against the Night
Series: An Ember in the Ashes #2
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: August 30, 2016
Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 452
Format: Purchased Hardcover

Elias and Laia are running for their lives. After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.

Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.

But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.

Bound to Marcus’s will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own—one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both.

As this is a sequel there may be spoilers in this review.

This sequel to An Ember in the Ashes was nothing short of a roller coaster of a ride, and it was such a phenomenal way to continue the story.

Remember when we weren’t getting a sequel? Oh, how those days were dark and unfair. But now that we have it, and we’re getting two more books after this one, I have to say that the publisher made the right decision because Sabaa SLAYED this book.

The plot picked up right where the first book left off with Elias and Laia running for their lives from the Empire and Blackcliff. It was a few intense first chapters, including with Helene being interrogated for answers, and I thought that it was a strong beginning for the book. As the book continued, the plot began to grow and twist and there were so many hints that I tried to pick up as I went along to figure out if someone was who they were, or if a certain action was going to happen, or if there was something that foreshadowed something later in the book.

It was a roller coaster ride and I think I fell in love with the characters even more in this book, though there were a few bumps along the way that had me wanting to yell at them to pick a different choice.

Laia was just as strong in this book as the last and I felt that she definitely grew as a character. Her mysterious power was revealed more and she didn’t even realize she was doing it until an event later on in the book. I thought that her own surprise was a good thing to incorporate, but I also wish her powers were explained a little more. I do love her, though, because despite everything she’s gone through she still has a very kind and caring heart, and she has a fire in her that doesn’t burn out. Though there was misplaced trust and uncertain feelings, I thought that she was just an exceptional character.

Elias was going through a lot in this book mentally and physically, and I think that coupled with what he had been told about himself being, essentially, a curse kind of took a lot out of him. He held himself back a lot and wanted to do a lot of things on his own when he would have benefited from having someone help him, which was very frustrating to me. But, I understood, at the same time, where he was coming from given his past and everything that went along with it. I did think he was extremely brave, though, and that he made a lot of good and bad decisions. He’s only human, after all.

Helene was probably the most conflicted of all of the characters because her heart and her duty were at war with one another the entire book, and I felt so sad for her because of it. She tries to be the Blood Shrike everyone expects her to be, and she’s extremely smart and capable of her new job, but almost everyone looks down on her because she’s a young woman. I like that she never let that get to her, though, and instead showed everyone just how strong and capable she actually was. I want her to find her own happiness because she deserves it, damn it.

There were so many secrets throughout this novel, so many questions that I have, and I need to know what they are. Why does Marcus talk to himself? What is the Commandant actually doing? What will happen with Elias and Laia? I need to know!

The action sequences were also stellar because they were fast paced and I could imagine every single slice or hit with clarity; I felt like I was watching an action movie. Everything felt like it belonged in that world seamlessly, and I think that the way it was delivered made it beautiful.

There was some romance in the book, and when a certain thing happened I was like, “But why?” And then more things were revealed and I was like, “Oh hell no.” I think that the tension between Laia and Elias was so thick you could have cut it with a knife, even though both of them tried to deny it multiple times. It was cute, really.

I’m just reeling from this book. My mind doesn’t know what to think, where to go, or how to really comprehend everything that went on because there was SO much that happened. I’m satisfied with how it ended the way it did and I’m definitely excited to read the next book.

I rated this book 5/5 stars and highly recommend it if you’ve read the first book.

Orange: The Complete Collection Vol. 1 & 2 Manga Review

orange1Title: Orange: The Complete Collection 1
Author/Illustrator: Ichigo Takano
Publisher: Seven Seas
Publication Date: January 26, 2016
Genre: Manga – Teen – Sci-fi, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: Purchased Paperback

A Plea From the Future

On the day that Naho begins 11th grade, she recieves a letter from herself ten years in the future. At first, she writes it off as a prank, but as the letter’s predictions come true one by one Naho realizes that the letter might be the real deal. Her future self tells Naho that a new transfer student, a boy named Kakeru, will soon join her class. The letter begs Naho to watch over him, saying that only Naho can save Kakeru from a terrible future. Who is this mystery boy, and can Naho save him from his destiny?

When my best friend suggested this manga series to me, I knew I would love it. She knew I would love it. And frankly: I did love it. It was heartwarming, very touching, and it reached all of the places inside of me that I try to not touch – and I needed every minute of it.

There are trigger warnings for depression and suicide and there are spoilers below.

From the characters to the story to the art, I found that each part was expanded upon and really thought over carefully as the story grew and we got to learn more about these characters and just why it is they have to save Kakeru.

Naho, our leading lady, was kind of like your typical shoujo heroine who’s very modest, easily embarrassed, but has a big heart. She cares very deeply for her friends and doesn’t want anyone to get hurt – emotionally or otherwise. I thought that she was very cute and that she did her best to help her friend (who she obviously developed feelings for). I wish she had been more brave at times and had acted as the letters suggested, but I also know that it’s not in her nature to be as brave as she was sometimes.

Kakeru, the main focus of the story, deals with a lot of depression and suicidal thoughts after his mother commits suicide on the day of the entrance exams when he doesn’t return home right after school. He blames himself and, as a result, he holds in his feelings, not sharing with his friends. In the future world (10 years in the future), he is no longer there with them, and they all reflect back on him not being there and what they could have done to save him. In the past life, his friends are changing the future, and as a result he ends up enjoying life a lot more, but he’s still very depressed and puts on a smile so his friends don’t worry. But when they do push and ask him very serious questions, he does eventually break down and tell them some of what’s bothering him and I think those were some of the most important parts.

Suwa, Hagita, Azu, and Takako, the other friends in the group, all try to cheer up Kakeru even though they don’t fully know why they’re doing it just yet. I love that they all try their best to be supportive in whatever way they can and that they don’t back down and let Kakeru drown in a spiral of darkness.

The plot of the story was one that had me reeling from so many emotions. I laughed, I cried (more like sobbed), I was angry, joyful… So many emotions were packed into this first large volume that I felt like this was a story written for me. I loved seeing the progression from the past and the future, to see where they were ten years in the future, how they were living their lives, why they came together, and how they wanted to fix it. And then their past selves, though doubtful at first, really took the letters’ advice to heart and implemented as many changes as possible. It was so inspiring and beautiful.

There was, of course, romance as this is a shoujo manga (girl’s manga, aka, here there be romance and cuteness), and though it was subtle, it was still there and so darn cute. The feelings grew slowly and steadily, and just like any school crush, it was difficult for either party to really speak their feelings. I feel that, if they had, it would have made it just a little bit easier overall.

Overall, my favorite aspect of this book was the friendship because it is such an important element in this story. Not giving up on your friends or taking sides or anything like that. It was all about trying to make one friend happy, yes, but they were all doing it because of how much they care for Kakeru.

This first volume is definitely 5/5 stars and I extremely, highly recommend it.

orange2Title: Orange: The Complete Collection 2 Publication Date: May 31, 2016 Pages: 384 Format: Purchased Paperback

Everyone has regrets in life. So who wouldn’t take the chance to change the past if given the opportunity? When sixteen-year-old Takamiya Naho receives a mysterious letter, claiming to be from her twenty-seven-year-old self, her life is suddenly thrown into flux. The letter informs her that a new transfer student by the name of Naruse Kakeru will be joining her class, and to keep her eye on him. What is Naho to make of the letter’s contents and its cryptic warning?

Orange: The Complete Collection 2 also includes a bonus story, Haruiro Astronaut. This five chapter story is about a pair of twins who discover that they can’t share everything in life – or at least not an alien that suddenly becomes a part of it.

In this second volume, we pick up the story right where it was left off and we find out that all of the friends received letters from their past selves. They all work hard and come together to try to make Kakeru’s life as happy as possible. Of course, sometimes they couldn’t rely on the letters because the events happening in their timeline was different from their future selves’ timeline. Sometimes it would make things worse, but other times it would make things better, and sometimes events would align and they could follow the letters’ suggestions.

Naho really tries to make an effort to express her feelings to Kakeru in this novel, and it does make him happy, until a slip up that causes his thoughts to spiral and he doesn’t want to hurt her anymore and, therefore, turns away from her. This causes a downward spiral that they were hoping they could control, but it ends up happening anyway.

These times were the toughest to read because, as someone who has had similar experiences, once we dove into Kakeru’s point of view and saw his thought process, it was very similar to ones I have had before. When we relived the past Kakeru’s life, it was very saddening, but it also showed just how much the group of friends had come to that point to really make their Kakeru happier and change the outcome to the best of their abilities. I thought that this was a very powerful move and one that was well handled.

The ending, of course, made me burst with happiness. It was so beautiful and heartwarming and it shows just how strong friendship can be; how strong love can be. I absolutely loved this series and thought that it was really well done and showed accurate representations of depression. It’s easy to put on a smile for the world when really you feel like you’re dying on the inside. For Kakeru, this was all too true, and I’m so glad that the friends were able to help him in one timeline even if they couldn’t help him in another.

Beautiful. Simply beautiful. 5/5 stars.

Also, there was a a bonus five chapter story with different characters called Haruiro Astronaut.

This short story followed twin girls, Chiki and Mami, and how Mami always has the boys falling in love with her, and Chiki’s never really had a crush on anyone before. It’s a cute, hilarious story about the girls’ falling for guys, but it mostly focuses on Chiki and I loved it!

I felt that Chiki and Mami were very different personalitywise even if they were very similar in looks. Chiki was more like the mother hen, always looking out for others – especially Mami – whereas Mami is much more like a child and needing to rely on others.

When Mami introduces Chiki to a hot, smart basketball player, Yui, Chiki finds out that Yui likes her sister. So when those two start going out, we’re introduced to two other characters: Tastuki – Yui’s best friend from childhood – and Taskuoki – a kid from Chiki’s class who claims to like Mami, but really…

Let’s just say: hilarity ensues, there was a lot of laughter (A LOT), and it was adorable and really helped to lighten the mood after reading Orange. It was very cute and heartwarming, and I need a whole series just about these characters, please and thank you. This short story is a definite must read and I rated it 5/5 stars, too!

Girl Against the Universe Book Review

girlagansttheuniverseTitle: Girl Against the Universe
Author: Paula Stokes
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: May 17, 2016
Genre: Young Adult – Contemporary, Romance, Sports
Pages: 379
Format: Received Hardcover in May Uppercase Box

Maguire is bad luck.

No matter how many charms she buys off the internet or good luck rituals she performs each morning, horrible things happen when Maguire is around. Like that time the roller coaster jumped off its tracks. Or the time the house next door caught on fire. Or that time her brother, father, and uncle were all killed in a car crash—and Maguire walked away with barely a scratch.

It’s safest for Maguire to hide out in her room, where she can cause less damage and avoid new people who she could hurt. But then she meets Jordy, an aspiring tennis star. Jordy is confident, talented, and lucky, and he’s convinced he can help Maguire break her unlucky streak. Maguire knows that the best thing she can do for Jordy is to stay away. But it turns out staying away may be harder than she thought.

This book was full of surprises in many good ways and I enjoyed every bit of it.

This story follows Maguire, a sixteen year old girl who’s life has been less than awesome since the deaths of her father, uncle, and brother five years prior. She blames herself constantly when bad things happen around her and she finds that it’s safer if she just stays home, under her blankets reading a book where she can’t hurt anyone.

That’s until her therapist, Dr. Daniel Leeds, gives her “shrink homework,” challenges for her to complete if she wants to take a trip out to Ireland with her mom to meet her father’s family for a memorial service. These challenges are to push Maguire into trying to regain her life back, to take back what the Universe took from her, so to speak, and so she reluctantly agrees to these challenges.

And that’s where she meets Jordy, a tennis player dealing with his own problems and also meeting Dr. Leeds to deal with those problems.

Maguire goes through an awesome transformation as this story progresses. She isn’t completely “cured” by the end, but she makes steps toward becoming better and reclaiming her life for herself, which makes everyone in her life proud – but especially her.

I thought that this book was so well done in terms of the mental illness of PTSD and OCD that was displayed because, as I’ve probably said before, not everyone’s mental illness is the same, even if it falls under the same name as someone else’s. Stokes did a good job of writing about how much Maguire’s illness affects her every day life: from five-second checks to make sure everything around her is safe and no one will get hurt, to the panic attacks she has at the beginning, to eventually becoming comfortable enough with friends around to do more than she ever would have thought possible.

Maguire is very cautious of her surroundings and also doesn’t reach out to others to talk about her issues in the beginning. As her relationships grow and she becomes more confident in herself (which is subtle, but still noticeable), she does talk about her issues more and the friends that she has are very supportive of her and never tear her down or tease her mercilessly because of them. I loved being able to see progress in her and that she wasn’t afraid to stick her ground when she knew she couldn’t go through with something and that she was also willing to try out more and more things with different people that she previously wouldn’t have opened up to because of it.

Jordy is a tennis athlete who’s eighteen years old and still has his parents running his life for him – and he hates it. He wants to take control of the reins and decide his future for himself, but he’s also afraid. He was charismatic and real a lot of the times when he wasn’t being Tennis Jordy. I liked him a lot and felt that he was just another teen dealing with his own issues and trying to break out of that and do things for himself instead of for others. I also liked that he didn’t force Maguire to do anything she didn’t want to and would go the extra mile to make sure she knew that he was being cautious.

The friendships in this book were also a delight to read about, even if they weren’t the main focus of the book. The friendships with Jade and Penn were both healthy and different, which was great to see not only in Maguire’s situation, but in a YA book. Even when I thought one character was going to be “the bad guy,” she ended up just having a misunderstanding and she became okay again in my book.

Maguire’s relationship with her mother even mended itself as a result of Maguire taking steps to get better. They didn’t have a bad relationship or anything, but they still grew closer and stronger together as a result. It was so uplifting to see a positive mother figure with a presence in the book. Even Tom, Maguire’s stepfather, gained some brownie points! It was so awesome to read about.

The romance in the book, too, was well done because Maguire and Jordy started off as friends and the feelings between them slowly started to blossom. Nothing was ever forced and both were very awkward about it at times, but I felt the connection they had. Even though there was uncertainty there because of Maguire’s feelings about herself being cursed, the two managed to communicate even when it was hard (sometimes with the help of friends).

Overall I highly enjoyed this book a lot more than I was expecting. Even the tennis scenes were interesting to me! I’ve never played tennis before, but it’s made me want to watch or try for fun. The dynamic in this book between all of the characters was a healthy one, and I couldn’t have asked for more in the regard.

I rated this book 5/5 stars and highly recommend it!