The Hate U Give | Book Review

Title: The Hate U Give
Author: Angie Thomas
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publish Date: February 28, 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Contemporary
Pages: 444
Format: Hardcover

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice.

I bought this book when it first came out and I didn’t read it until now. There was an incredible amount of hype behind it – and rightly so – but I just couldn’t bring myself to read it. A lot was going on in my personal life, but I knew I wanted to read it eventually.

And boy, am I finally glad I did. I started to read it at the height of the protests this past June, and I wanted to take it slow, so it wasn’t until almost a full month later that I started reading and couldn’t put it down. It’s such a fast, impactful read.

I’m just going to say it now: I really loved this book. It filled me with anger, sadness, relief, happiness, love, hope, disgust; pretty much a whole range of emotions. Let’s talk about my thoughts on the story itself:

First of all, the family aspect in this book is AMAZING! I never get to read a lot about family dynamics in any books I read, regardless if they’re YA, adult, middle grade, whatever. So being able to see such a strongly rooted family was so refreshing. I loved not just the relationship Starr has with her parents and siblings, but also her uncle and how he’s very much like a second father to her.

Of course, with this greatly tight-knit family comes the opposite for many of the other characters in Starr’s world, like her half-brother Seven’s mom and stepfather, or Khalil’s mom. There’s many sides to the dice, and I appreciated getting even just a glimpse into some of the other relationships some of the other characters had.

I felt sadness for Starr, not just because of what happened to Khalil right in front of her eyes (which is obviously tragic and horrible and no one should ever have to witness that), but also that she felt such a need to separate who she was depending on where she was: if she was in Garden Heights, she was one person; if she was at her school at Williamson, she was a completely different person, a held back version of herself. As the book goes through many ups and downs, Starr has many realizations about herself and the world and people around her, including one of her “friends.” I’m glad that she figures it out, to some degree, by the end as to who she is and where she fits in with all of it.

Reading about the gangs in the book kind of put in to perspective just how much gangs can be like a family to people, as well as how hard it can be to leave if you no longer want to be part of them. It can be scary, for sure, but it was also cool to see rival gangs come together for a similar purpose.

I felt that the whole journey that Starr took to reevaluate her stance on everything – her friend groups, her family, her race, everything – was handled really well and felt very real. I could see her struggle with it, especially when it came to opening up and being more vulnerable with her white boyfriend, Chris. I could see her struggle and how she really handled it with a lot of consideration and care for herself.

Of course, some of the hardest parts to read were her recounting the murder of her best friend. I almost cried at the very end of a chapter where she was recounting it in front of people and just her last sentence felt so impactful, so raw, so real, that I almost started to ball my eyes out because… wow. I’ll most likely never have to experience or think something like that ever in my life, and how she had to think that at 16? It hurts.

And how she had to call out one of her friends for having said several racist things over the years, and the white girl never admitted to it and would always play the victim. It was frustrating and I wanted to slap her, but I was also glad to see that there was also Chris, Starr’s boyfriend, who wanted to prove that he loves her for her, nothing else. It was nice to see.

Overall, this whole story is incredible. I’m not doing it justice by talking about it here (other than the fact that I’m rusty at these book reviews lol), but I can understand the hype, and I highly recommend you read this book – especially if you’re white – just to get a glimpse into the world Black people experience every day.

Also remember: Black Lives Matter, all day, every day.

★★★★★

Sorcery of Thorns | Book Review

Title: Sorcery of Thorns
Author: Margaret Rogerson
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books.
Publish Date: June 4, 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 465
Format: Kindle eBook

All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery: magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather. She hopes to become a warden, charged with protecting the kingdom from their power.

Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire. Elisabeth’s desperate intervention implicates her in the crime, and she is torn from her home to face justice in the capital. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.

As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught – about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.

Sorcery of Thorns is a standalone YA fantasy novel, which is not something that you often come by. It’s a story that began (and technically ended) in a library, with books that could talk, move, make noise, snore, etc. That part was super fascinating to imagine! Like, can you picture hundreds of grimoires just mumbling to themselves or trying to spit ink at you? It sounds fun, not gonna lie.

The main female protagonist, Elisabeth, grew up in one of the Great Libraries in the kingdom, as she was abandoned there as a baby. She grew up amongst the stacks and loved them very much. She was also very much trained in what it was that the librarians should expect of the novels: that they’re dangerous – especially those of higher class levels – and that they could kill people if they changed into Maleficts.

Also that sorcerer’s are evil and will kill you for the hell of it.

As she is thrust into a much different, much larger city than the one she grew up in due to tragic circumstances at the library she grew up in, she discovers that not everything that was taught is as it seems, and she slowly learns and grows from that over time.

However, I will say, I really didn’t like her character through 80% of the story. I found her to be just… too afraid of everything. She felt incredibly weak and not quite three-dimensional for a large portion of the story. It kind of felt like her growth was stunted for a while. As the story and the stakes grew, I saw more of her potential, but as a main character, there was a lot that I just wasn’t personally drawn to. Like, I felt like, especially in the beginning, that her biggest defining “trait” was her height, because it was pointed out so often. It was just very frustrating at times.

As for the secondary main character, Nathanial, who is a sorcerer, I really liked him! Quite the contrast to Elisabeth, I really liked his character. Yes, he has a dark past (that some parts weren’t explored too much or in too much detail, which is a shame), so sometimes he comes off as standoffish, but his humor genuinely made me laugh. I loved his sarcasm so much!

I also enjoyed seeing the magic and how it worked in this world from a couple of sorcerers. Nathanial’s magic was dark, much like his family’s past, and it was very powerful. I think the caveat of having a higher-demon being your patron in order for you to have magic was a great way to incorporate magic into the world – and one I don’t see often in stories!

I do wish, however, that there was more of him in the novel, and more interactions between him, Elisabeth, and Silas, who is Nathanial’s demon. When the two of them – and even the three of them, or just Silas and Elisabeth – were together, it felt like there was a lot more life added to the page, and I was just so curious about the two male protagonists and what they were going through.

Silas, the demon, is very forthright in his feelings towards humans, emotions, and other such things, and he really sticks to it through to the end. I can’t explain much more than that without spoiling it, but I really enjoyed how a high-born demon, in a bound pact with a human, is such a stickler for decorum as a butler. It’s a great juxtaposition, and one of the best highlights throughout the book.

I found myself often predicting a lot of what was going to happen next as I was reading, and then found myself becoming frustrated when it wasn’t obvious to Elisabeth for a bit after. I don’t know why it bugged me so much that she didn’t get it, but also I’m not the biggest fan of being able to predict things that are going to happen (I’m talking multiple times; once or twice is okay). And then when it did happen and Elisabeth would react the way she did just… didn’t help.

I found the plot to be interesting, though, especially with the lore behind the demons, the grimoires, the magic, and ancestors involved in the story. It was very intricate and I found it to be pretty enjoyable as a result.

The romance was both subtle and rushed all at once. I mean, I thought it was sweet and I enjoyed the scenes, but also, wow, they almost moved really fast and it caught me off guard. I do think, though, that they compliment each other well.

The epilogue, also, I enjoyed (and predicted, but I was glad I did), and found myself wanting more afterward.

Despite all that, I liked the book. I definitely think that if you’re interested in reading it, if you like books about books, magic, betrayal, and romance, that you’ll enjoy the story. Overall, it wasn’t bad, but it’s not something I’ll gravitate back towards anytime soon.

★★★☆☆

Scarlet Book Review

scarletTitle: Scarlet
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #2
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Square Fish
Publication Date: February 5, 2013
Genre: Young Adult – Science Fiction, Retellings
Pages: 452
Format: Purchased Paperback

Cinder is back and trying to break out of prison—even though she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive if she does—in this second installment from Marissa Meyer.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother, or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana.

As this is a sequel there may be spoilers.

Guys. This sequel. I was so enthralled with reading it, needing to turn the page to know what happened next, that I read it in under 12 hours. That’s right: I read it in one sitting. ME. A SLOW READER. HOW. I don’t know. But anyway, that’s not the point of this review. The point of this review is to inform you: I enjoyed this more than Cinder.

When I read the first book of the saga last year I didn’t get the hype. I don’t know what it was, but I ended up putting off this sequel for a long time as a result. And now I regret not picking it up sooner because this sequel was one that drew me in, kept me on the edge of my seat, made me laugh, go “WHAT THE HELL,” and so much more.

I knew that the fairytale retelling element in this book was all about Little Red Riding Hood. I wasn’t sure how the elements of the story were going to be incorporated into this world, but I think Marissa Meyer did a really great job of showing the elements without outright saying what it was! Scarlet (other than her name) had a favorite red hoodie that her Grandmother had given her, and then there was Wolf who had a lot of surprises and secrets of his own. I also loved seeing Cinder in there (she grew on me in this book) and seeing her work at being a mechanic and use her sass and wits in many situations. She wasn’t perfect, which I appreciated. And THORNE. I LOVE HIM.

So let’s talk about some of the things that happened, yeah?

When the book started out with Scarlet in an alleyway delivering produce from her Granny’s farm – and the fact that her Grandmother had been missing – was an instant hook for me. Scarlet had a fierce love and loyalty to her grandmother that I thought was so unseen in many YA novels, so I highly appreciated it. Scarlet has a temper which she tries to control, but sometimes it slips through her fingers and she unleashes her anger on the inanimate things around her (or people, depending on the situation). I thought it was endearing. Scarlet’s resolve to find her grandmother was inspiring, honestly. Her fierce determination was a constant in this book, even when she faced betrayal and imprisonment.

Wolf was a mystery from the start. I couldn’t place my finger on it, but something in me knew that something was going to happen for him to betray Scarlet. He wasn’t anything like the “Big Bad Wolf” that I was expecting – you know, strong, distant, cold, fearless. No, he was much more timid and wary, super cautious. But he was definitely strong, that’s for sure. When circumstances unfolded and it was revealed who and what he was, I was a) shocked, and b) in disbelief. There were so many questions running through my mind and I didn’t know how to place them.

Also, I’m forever shipping Scarlet and Wolf because they’re EFFING ADORABLE, OKAY?

Anywho, then we have Cinder who I don’t remember if I was impressed with or not in the last novel. But in this novel I felt much more attached to her, like what she was fighting for, what she was struggling with and what she wanted to do not only for herself, but for others, was purposeful and I wanted to see her achieve. I loved her sarcasm and wit, and I also liked the fact that she doesn’t have complete control over her powers, that they’re so underused that she doesn’t completely understand how to use them. And that she feels guilty when she does use them. I find that makes her realer than I was expecting. I also just love the mechanic aspect of hers because a) I love female mechanics in stories, and b) I find those scenes extremely fascinating given that she’s a cyborg and can use her own body to do so many things. It’s so cool!

And then we have Captain Carswell Thorne. I love him. That is all.

No, but seriously, he was so hilarious and charming, but he was also strong and smart in his own ways, even if he did act dumb a lot of the time. Does that make sense? Either way, I thought Thorne was kind of like the much needed comedy relief in this story? He had his uses, don’t get me wrong, but a lot of what came out of his mouth was really funny. I highly appreciated him and need more of him, thanks.

Kai was struggling so much in this novel and it makes me wonder what’s going to go down in the next two books now that he’s made a decision about something huge. I’m glad to see that he still cares about Cinder despite everything that happened and despite how much he tries to deny it, even to himself. I think that his role will become greater AND I have a theory about one of his advisors. Hmm.

I was surprised to see a chapter from Queen Levana’s point of view! It was interesting to see how observatory she is and how her mind works, even in that little snippet. I’m interested to see if we’ll see more from her point of view in the next books.

The plot of the book was centrally geared around Scarlet saving her grandmother and Cinder finding Scarlet’s mother for answers. It was fast paced and definitely upped the ante of the book. I thought that the plot of the book and the dangers within them were definitely heightened given that Cinder is now a fugitive, and that the story itself was well done. I did have some questions, though, at some points where I was like, “But why are you doing that?” that had me unsure of what I wanted to rate this. Also how things took place in only a matter of days and a few certain romantic things happened (which I’m totally fine with and was glad that even the characters acknowledged the short time span of things).

I rated this book 4.5/5 stars and highly recommend it!

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!

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!