Review: The New Guy by Kathryn Freeman (arc)

the new guy kathryn freeman

Title: The New Guy 
Author: Kathryn Freeman 
Series: Stand-alone 
Genre: Romance, Adult Fiction 
Publication date: March 13, 2020 
Rating: ★★★½ 

Sam Huxton doesn’t do one-night stands, especially not with men she’s just met! But the hot guy at the bar was hard to resist and one night is all they share – no names, no numbers, just some much needed fun… Until the same guy walks into Sam’s life the next day as her new employee. Sam never mixes business with pleasure and makes it clear an office fling with Ryan is off-limits. But after-hours…one thing can lead to another. Can Sam trust her heart and her business with the new guy?

In many ways “The New Guy” is just the next romance novel but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. In fact, I had a great time reading this book, it being the kind of read you start and finish in one go. There’s an interesting set-up, good chemistry, a fast pacing and a likable set of characters. So if you’re in the mood for something light and easy, I definitely recommend. 

When Sam Hudson meets a tall and handsome stranger in a bar on the night of her grandfather’s funeral, she is ready to forget all about her grief. So what could be better than a night of no-strings-attached distraction? Exactly. It doesn’t even matter that the man isn’t very kind and a terrible talker. He has other qualities. And it’s glorious, heavenly some might say. So much so that she can finally understand the attraction people feel towards a one night stand. But fate has a twisted sense of humor because when Sam shows up at work the next day, her nightly benefactor turns out to be no less than the new tech guy her firm hired when she was taking some time off to mourn her grandfather. The firm she’s in charge of. Which means he’s now her employee. And for Ryan? He slept with his boss. And that’s a whole other kind of complicated. Especially as no one in the firm seems to like him very much to begin with.

Office romances are hot. I mean, I could pretend they’re not but I’d be lying so I’m embracing the cliche part of me that gets invested in these sort of things. I liked Sam and Ryan, they were more than just their relationship with each other. The book takes the time to develop their lives outside of each other, to explore more than just romance. I always appreciate that. And while the chemistry between them may not have been “off the charts” as was advertised, it was good enough for me to care. And I like broody men. Yes yes it’s a problem, I’m aware, shhh.

This book is not the most creative, nor is it the one that will change your life forever. But sometimes a book being enjoyable is simply enough. The turn of events felt logical, the attraction natural and it made me inclined to forgive the obvious. Maybe lives are obvious in a way. It’s not a bad thing to have read this kind of thing before. It was still its own story. 

I might read more from Kathryn Freeman.

Arc received through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Weight Of A Soul by Elizabeth Tammi (arc)

the weight of a soul tammi elizabeth
the weight of a soul tammi elizabeth

Title: The Weight Of A Soul 
Author: Elizabeth Tammi 
Series: Stand-alone 
Genre: Fantasy, YA 
Publication date: December 3, 2019 
Rating: ★★ 

When Lena's younger sister Fressa is found dead, their whole Viking clan mourns—but it is Lena alone who never recovers. Fressa is the sister that should've lived, and Lena cannot rest until she knows exactly what killed Fressa and why—and how to bring her back. She strikes a dark deal with Hela, the Norse goddess of death, and begins a new double life to save her sister. But as Lena gets closer to bringing Fressa back, she dredges up dangerous discoveries about her own family, and finds herself in the middle of a devastating plan to spur Ragnarök –a deadly chain of events leading to total world destruction. Still, with her sister's life in the balance, Lena is willing to risk it all. She's willing to kill. How far will she go before the darkness consumes her?

Don't go looking into the dark if you don't want to find what's there.

I found this book unbelievably dull. I kept praying for my interest to at least catch a spark and for me to please get invested in the story or even just the characters but it never happened. I started The Weight Of A Soul four times before I finally made it through the first chapter and I admit that I skimmed most of the rest. 

I wanted a Viking-esque world, I wanted strong characters, I wanted an action-packed plot and delightful insight in Norse mythology. Instead I got a messy romantic drama concealed as a young adult fantasy and a bunch of half-ass gods. Okay not fair. It wasn’t all exhausting love triangles but it certainly felt that way.

Lena is destined by birth to become chieftess of her clan, following in her father’s footsteps. Her father however, is no easy man to love. With him always gone at sea, forcing the other villagers to raid with him, there is little love lost between them. His disregard for others is (I wish I could say slowly but it really was more of an all of a sudden thing) weakening his position as leader. Which means that now more than ever, appearances are important. So when Lena’s sister Fressa reveals she is engaged to their mutual best friend Amal, it stretches already thin family bonds. A younger sister isn’t supposed to marry first and Amal is promised to someone else. But then Fressa dies. Sudden, unexpected and for no apparent reason other than she fell down and simply never got up.

So far not so bad, I suppose. It’s an interesting premise. But that’s where it went wrong real fast for me. Lena chooses not to accept her sister’s death. She chooses not to accept it. No grief, no denial, just “no”. In her grand plot to get her back, she summons a ghosty horse and goes to meet Hela in the underworld where the goddess of death spins a tale about well, death and Valhala and the weight of Fressa’s soul. And that right there is when I called bulshit. It was all so .. easy? Like, I’m nog going to accept my sister’s death so let’s summon a goddess and oh look it works and now a nice trek through some frozen wastelands and hi Hela can you please save my sister? There was some other vague but obvious foreshadowing talk but idk, when you lose my credibility it’s not coming back. Hela didn’t feel like an all-powerful creature of myth. She was just a one-dimensional character with the name of a god. Or so it seemed to me. Ragnarok was casually thrown in somewhere along the line and look that’s Loki passing by *wave*.

And that’s my main annoyance. I missed thorough exploration in every single line. This book has no soul, which is pretty ironic. It misses depth, it misses atmosphere. Show me what life in this settlement is like, give me more than just a few carefully chosen descriptive lines. Let me breathe it. Build this world, this plot. It has potential, now let it ripe. The father’s storyline and his demise was so… underdeveloped. Other plot lines could have been so much more. They could have made me care. I’m sure they could have. 

And on top of that I didn’t even like any of the characters. If I had it may have changed my view on things but I was so indifferent towards it all. I had to look up most names for my review and it’s been less than a week since I finished the book. That shows just how uninvested I was. Still am. Maybe someone else would love this. I didn’t. Pity.

Arc received through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Find Me Their Bones by Sara Wolf (arc)

find me their bones sara wolf
find me their bones sara wolf

Title: Find Me Their Bones  
Author: Sara Wolf  
Series: Bring Me Their Hearts #2  
Genre: Fantasy, YA  
Publication date: November 5, 2019 
Rating: ★★★½  (Maybe four???)

No one can save her. In order to protect Prince Lucien d’Malvane’s heart, Zera had to betray him. Now, he hates the sight of her. Trapped in Cavanos as a prisoner of the king, she awaits the inevitable moment her witch severs their magical connection and finally ends her life. But fate isn't ready to give her up just yet. With freedom coming from the most unlikely of sources, Zera is given a second chance at life as a Heartless. But it comes with a terrible price. As the king mobilizes his army to march against the witches, Zera must tame an elusive and deadly valkerax trapped in the tunnels underneath the city if she wants to regain her humanity. Winning over a bloodthirsty valkerax? Hard. Winning back her friends before war breaks out? A little harder. But a Heartless winning back Prince Lucien’s heart? The hardest thing she’s ever done.

This one moment is all I could ever ask for.

It is all I will ever have, and I tattoo it into every part of my aching flesh. 

After the cliffhanger of the first book it was extremely easy to fall right back into this world and Zera’s personal hemisphere of backstabbing and betrayal. The story starts right where the previous one left off but what struck me right away was how different the tone of this book felt. What made Bring Me Their Hearts so highly entertaining was the humor laced through every paragraph, Zera’s delightful sass as she recounted the events of her life a most compelling argument to keep turning the pages at rapid speed. That I’m-hurting-and-possibly-dying-but-let’s-crack-a-joke-anyway is less present here. Especially in the beginning 

Because the story is different. The balance has shifted. Zera is lost and struggling to find herself, closing herself off from the people she has come to care about to avoid more pain. And in that regard Find Me Their Bones struggles a bit of middle book syndrome. I felt Zera’s internal struggle, understood it completely. But the internal monologue started feeling repetitive real fast, the same arguments to distrust her friends playing through her head over and over to the point where it lost a lot of credibility. 

Maybe there wasn’t enough plot to back it up. Although the book never bored me, I felt like there was too much filler stuff. And I like fillers, I do, I like the opportunity to get to know characters in a different light, but the main plot picked up too slowly. It could have been stronger, more elaborate, more detailed. This book is a set-up for bigger things to come and I’m thrilled to find out what they are but in the mean time I wish there had been more.

More of Lucien and Zera as well. They had amazing chemistry in the first book, the kind of spark that makes you rush through a story. Their scenes were fewer now and a lot less friendly, which of course made perfect sense after everything that happened, but I will always want more of their delightful banter. What bothered me however, is the time frame. They’ve only known each other for two weeks, which is repeated over and over. It doesn’t make sense for these characters to behave the way they do over the course of just a couple of weeks (days?). I’m sorry but it doesn’t. 

And yet I might still have given this book four stars. For the most part I really enjoyed reading this book. It’s well-written, the words flowing easy and drawing you in. Except I couldn’t stand Princess Varia and it was really hard to get over that since she’s in a lot of scenes. What a manipulative, entitled *****. I didn’t feel her struggle, I couldn’t rally behind her cause to save the world of war and destruction and I sure as hell couldn’t get on board with the way she treated the people around her. But I liked new character Yorl, so there’s at least that.  
The book doesn’t drag, is entertaining and once again ends in cliffhanger that turns you real frustrated when you start counting the months until the release of the next book. I’m definitely going to read the next installment, I care about this story and these characters enough to follow them on the rest of their journey. But if Varia could disappear that would be great, thanks. 

Review: Hart & Seoul by Kristen Burnham (arc)

Title: Hart & Seoul 
Author: Kristen Burnham 
Series: Stand-alone 
Genre: Contemporary, YA 
Publication date: June 4, 2019 
Rating: ★½ 

Merilee Hart has been doing her best to keep things together since her mother left, her art a welcome escape from her depressing new reality. But things seem to go even more awry the moment her next door neighbor’s enigmatic and mysterious nephew arrives from South Korea. Lee is moody, cocky, and utterly infuriating. But when Merri’s closest friends betray her and her father crushes her dream of going to art school, Merri finds herself drawn to Lee, who seems to live within even greater shadows than her own. And just when she thought things couldn’t get crazier, Merri’s world is upended when she discovers Lee’s big and bizarre secret…he is none other than a runaway member of the K-pop mega-group Thunder. It’s not long before Thunder’s fans, the Storm Chasers, begin to close in on Lee, ready to do whatever it takes to return their favorite idol to his rightful place in the band. Faced with the prospect of even more heartbreak and caught up in an international whirlwind that has a life of its own, Merri realizes that she must find a way to mend herself, gain control of her life, and pursue her dreams—her heart and soul depend on it.

When it comes to K-pop and its related idol culture, my knowledge of its works is not non-existent but it’s definitely limited. I started reading this book unbiased, although not completely objective either as I am certainly interested to learn more about what it’s all about. If anything I was ready to love it. Hart & Seoul seemed like a simple, compelling way to fall in love with a mostly foreign world of entertainment and hopefully its (in this case fictional) lead pop stars. 

It didn’t work out quite as planned. The premise is exciting, though. An undercover K-pop idol, reconnecting with the real world and somewhere along the way falling in love with a regular American girl; and in return the girl entering a fantastical world previously unknown. It’s a trope I can always rally behind, it reminds me of my teenage years and foolish but oh so compelling movies. I didn’t expect or even want this to be deep and thoughtful. I just wanted it to be fun. Unfortunately I was often too busy being annoyed to enjoy the experience.

Everything was painfully obvious. And I know it’s a lot to ask this kind of book not to be, but there are limits to my ability to deal with the obvious. I could see everything coming miles away, the foreshadowing was so unsubtle and yet somehow the main character always found herself suprised. That doesn’t work. And annoyed the hell out of me. 

Main character Merilee was likable enough and so was K-pop star in disguise Hyung-Kim Lee. If that’s even his name, because he was usually called Lee, sometimes Eeunim, or just Ee. At first I thought I didn’t get it because I lacked some knowledge on Korean name-giving but it’s more - it genuinely just doesn’t make sense. Nor did the nickname “Lee” chose for Merilee. He called her Christmas, because you know, Merilee, Merry, Merry Christmas, Christmas. So yeah.

Writing about different cultures and especially doing them justice is tricky. It takes tons of research and hours of careful consideration. You really don’t want a book to paint a cliche picture. Sadly I felt this was exactly what Hart & Seoul did. The way the main character’s aunt (who had been living in America for years) “spoke” and the grammar mistakes she constantly made, were painful to read. Maybe on tv this works, but seeing the errors written on paper made it come across as really condescending. Or at least that’s how I felt. The Korean references made me roll my eyes multiple times. I’m sure there has to be more to Korea than Gagnam Style. Lose the cliches and superficial characteristics, that would be my biggest advice.

I also didn’t feel like the author payed enough attention to how sparkly Lee was? I really like my boys sparkly, you know. Or wait. She did. Once or twice. Per sentence. IT WAS SO ANNOYING. She frequently called him sparkle boy, I kid you not. So sexy. I got major Twilight vibes and that might not be the best advertising for your book about K-pop idols.

Many things also didn’t make sense. Situations brought about emotions that didn’t seem to fit or were exaggerated and I honestly can’t imagine a K-pop idol being so unworldly he would call blonde hair ‘yellow’. I think it was supposed to be endearing. It wasn’t. Neither was the chemistry between Lee and Christmas - uh, Merilee. There wasn’t any. And if a romantic book isn’t really romantic…

Ah well. It could have been good but it failed to deliver. Wouldn’t recommend. Especially not if you’re into K-pop and have some actual insight in what it’s supposed to be. I imagine the book would only annoy you even more.

Review: The Girl The Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young (arc)

the girl the sea gave back adrienne young

Title: The Girl The Sea Gave Back  
Author: Adrienne Young  
Series: Sky In The Deep  
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, YA  
Publication date: September 3, 2019 
Rating: ★★★★ 

For as long as she can remember, Tova has lived among the Svell, the people who found her washed ashore as a child and use her for her gift as a Truthtongue. Her own home and clan are long-faded memories, but the sacred symbols and staves inked over every inch of her skin mark her as one who can cast the rune stones and see into the future. She has found a fragile place among those who fear her, but when two clans to the east bury their age-old blood feud and join together as one, her world is dangerously close to collapse. For the first time in generations, the leaders of the Svell are divided. Should they maintain peace or go to war with the allied clans to protect their newfound power? And when their chieftain looks to Tova to cast the stones, she sets into motion a series of events that will not only change the landscape of the mainland forever but will give her something she believed she could never have again—a home.

The Nādhir would follow me into the mist of the forest when the sun rose. And only the gods knew if we’d ever come out.

The Girl The Sea Gave Back is a stand-alone companion book and often called a spinoff, but it reads surprisingly like a sequel to Sky In The Deep. It is set in the same village and deals with a largely similar cast of characters, which makes the return to this Viking-esque world both familiar and welcome. Sky in the Deep left me craving for more and so did this book.

In The Girl The Sea Gave Back we follow Halvard and Tova, two youngsters fresh into adulthood from different clans, destined to cross paths and end up on opposite sides of an inevitable war. Their lives couldn’t be more different. While Halvard is a child of peace and chosen to become the next clan leader of de Nādhir, Tova has always been a Rikki outcast living with the Svell. If she hadn’t been a truthtongue, a thread between the living and the future, and cast the rune stones for her enemies, her life would have been forfeit the moment she washed ashore. But the Svell tala, Jorrund, recognised her potential and fought to give her a fragile place within the Svell community. When the power balance shifts, however, Tova’s fate is left in the hands of clansmen who both fear and detest her.

I have always liked Halvard, getting to watch him grow up has been an unexpected pleasure. His personality largely moulded by Fiske, Iri, Inge, Eelyn’s father and Myra, there was no way he would not turn out a fine, strong human being. But getting to know Tova was equally intriguing. I liked who she was and how she dealt with the hardship of having absolutely no one to rely on and having to carry the burden of the rune stones. The story is fast-paced and full of action. As war looms on the horizon and alliances shift, people die and fight for a future that might already be set in stone. 

There are appearances from Fiske and Eelyn and I can’t decide if I loved those parts or if they disappointed me. Because as great as it was to have them return, them now being mere side characters left me unsatisfied. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to these two before and these small interactions weren’t enough. It just wasn’t.

I’m also not sure we needed the flashbacks. It felt as if they were mostly there to give us a piece of Fiske but since we hardly learned anything new in those scenes, I would have preferred a more fleshed out main story. Because that’s something I missed. The book is short and should have been longer. There is not enough room for detail and careful development. It missed something, some of the magic. It’s good but it could have been better, which despite me liking it, also left me somewhat disappointed. 

Adrienne Young’s writing on the other hand, I’m a big fan of. Her words seem simple but they carry weight. They draw people in. I like the way she builds scenes and has a nose for small but significant moments.

If you loved Sky In The Deep, I recommend picking this up. Vikings are fun and so is this world. It’s perhaps not as good as the first book but it’s worth reading and enjoyable. And who knows, maybe there will be a third part that will fulfil all our wildest dreams. A girl can dream, right?

Also both Sky In The Deep and The Girl The Sea Gave Back reaaaaally make want to pick the ‘Vikings’ tv show back up.

Review: The Love Solution by Ashley Croft (arc)

the love solution ashley croft

the love solution ashley croft

Title: The Love Solution 
Author: Ashley Croft 
Series: Stand-alone 
Genre: Romance, Adult Fiction 
Publication date: August 15, 2019 
Rating: ★ 

Sisters Sarah and Molly are close, but they couldn’t be more different. Sarah runs a craft business and is obsessed with all things shiny and glam, whilst Molly is much more at home in her white coat and goggles, working in a science lab. When Molly is put onto a new assignment, she’s over the moon. It’s a high-profile, top secret project – and she has a handsome new boss to ogle at when she’s not bending over a petri dish… But when Sarah finds herself on the painful end of a disastrous break-up, no amount of Ben & Jerry’s or trashy rom-coms can cheer her up. She wants to take a more drastic approach to dealing with her heartbreak, and one that only her sister – and perhaps a sprinkle of science – can help with . . . Will Sarah find love where she least expects it, or is it really all in the chemistry?

Arc received through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

All I wanted was for this to be a light-hearted, quick summer read. That’s not asking a lot. And while the blurb definitely excited me, the book unfortunately didn’t meet any of the required criteria. About halfway in I debated DNFing but I pulled myself through. Not that I would have missed much if I hadn’t.

My first and main problem with the book is that it’s advertised as romance and that there is zero chemistry. The book is written in dual POV switching between orphan sisters Molly and Sarah and thus it contains not one but TWO developing romances; in some ways even a third. Yet I didn’t care. I can forgive a lot in chicklit books. As long as the romance is compelling there is a lot I can turn a blind eye to. But if not even that is compelling… it makes for a very boring read.

Sarah was in no way relatable (she made no sense at all) and even Molly was only slightly likable. They were very flat and superficial, as was every other character. The love interests were more or less interchangeable and apart from some stereotypical traits they had no personality or even a life. Molly and Sarah made choices I couldn’t possibly understand or stand behind and could only be explained as plot convenience. And too often there was drama for the sole purpose of DRAMA. So many things were exaggerated and could have been avoided if only people communicated.

The plot was … weird. It focused on the wrong parts of the story in my opinion and was often more tell than show. Some parts were awfully rushed while others that didn’t matter at all were given too much attention. But even then it was often just plain wrong or utterly unbelievable. This book is supposed to show empowered women but fails miserably. At some point it almost told me to feel sorry for people cheating on their partner, like boo-hoo they have it bad too. 

And then there’s the ‘love solution’ plot. Molly and her boss Ewan are working on some top-secret artificial hormone that is nicknamed the ‘love bug’. It’s some sort of chemical combination that will make people fall for each other. It’s dubious in itself but the way it was used in the story was so awfully wrong I couldn’t get over it. Also, despite it being top-of-the-art and not even disclosed to other members of the company, Molly tells her sister all about it. How does that make sense? But none of that as bad as using it to make your cheating fuck of an ex-boyfriend take you back. 

The writing itself was below average. The dialogue was off. I can’t quite pinpoint what didn’t work exactly but reading it felt like watching a bad soap opera; everything obvious and melodramatic. Except for the word “shagging” probably. Never have I seen the verb “shag” used this often before. I was this close to turning the book into a drinking game.

The only good thing I can give you is that the cover of the book is cute. When I looked at it I could see myself fall in love with these characters. But a cover is not the book, you still have to open it up and take a look. ‘Cause under the cover you discover that the king may be a croo- Yeah fine, no more Mary Poppins but I guess this tells just how much I didn’t care. The book was boring and sort of problematic. Would not recommend. Moving on to better things.

Review: Again, but Better by Christine Riccio

again but better christine riccio
again but better christine riccio

Title: Again, But Better  
Author: Christine Riccio  
Series: Stand-alone  
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, YA  
Publication date: May 7, 2019 
Rating: ★★★ 

Shane has been doing college all wrong. Pre-med, stellar grades, and happy parents…sounds ideal—but Shane's made zero friends, goes home every weekend, and romance…what’s that? Her life has been dorm, dining hall, class, repeat. Time's a ticking, and she needs a change—there's nothing like moving to a new country to really mix things up. Shane signs up for a semester abroad in London. She's going to right all her college mistakes: make friends, pursue boys, and find adventure! Easier said than done. She is soon faced with the complicated realities of living outside her bubble, and when self-doubt sneaks in, her new life starts to fall apart. Shane comes to find that, with the right amount of courage and determination one can conquer anything. Throw in some fate and a touch of magic—the possibilities are endless.

The Queen of BookTube publishes a novel. I know it’s a controversial topic, BookTubers getting book deals. Many resent them for it, saying it’s more about their online reach than the actual book. I think it’s both? From a publisher’s perspective it makes sense to take a chance on someone with a large following, to make the “smart” choice. And it’s not like BookTubers got their audience for free. They had to work really hard to build it. So I’m proud of these lucky few for accomplishing what so many of us can only dream of.

So is Christine’s book any good? It is! It also… isn’t.

The book tells the story of Shane Primaveri, a pre-med student going to London for a semester. She is eager to get away from her dull life and start over abroad where she not only plans to finally make some friends, but also to ditch pre-med and follow a writing program instead. Before long she realises that life with friends, and also falling in love, is not as uncomplicated as it had once seemed but she is determined to make this the experience of a lifetime. To finally get out of her shell and live the life she’s always wanted for herself.

I really liked the setting, it’s the main reason I gave this book three stars. When I was in college I also took a semester abroad so everything felt very relatable. Being new and more or less alone in a foreign country, having to take care of yourself and be responsible without an adultier adult to fall back on. It’s challenging for sure but it’s also an extraordinary experience. Meeting wonderful new people, late-night meetings in the dorms, taking trips all around Europe - basically living on the edge. So I immediately felt at home in this book. It was really nice to revisit this and it’s easily the best part of the book.

That part was great. The names of the side characters were decidedly less so. I appreciate a fun creative name for a character but there is such a thing as overdoing it. Shane’s friends are Babe, Atticus and Sahra (which okay) but to top it all off, there is love interest Pilot Penn. Yes, you got that right. Pilot Penn. Ehm so yeah, no. But they were all likeable enough. They seemed like a fun crowd to hang around with and I liked Pilot. I had more issues with main character Shane. 

It’s simple, really. Christine is her main character; or the main character is Christine, whichever you choose. I don’t watch a lot of Christine’s videos, she’s just too “loud” for me, so I honestly didn’t think I knew all that much about her. Except clearly I do because I couldn’t separate Shane from her. Everything SCREAMS Christine. From Shane’s constant fandom references (Lost, The Mortal Instruments, Harry Potter, Taylor Swift) to her online username (FrenchWatermelon19) to the way she spoke and carried herself and reacted to things and people… Even their appearances are similar. I don’t think this book is supposed to be autobiographical? So that’s a problem. That’s a real problem. As an author you have to be able to distance yourself from your characters. 

Shane also suffers from social anxiety. I realise that this means different things to different people but here it felt kind of unauthentic. Yes, Shane was a bit awkward around people at first and she sure stumbled over a lot of chairs but social anxiety is more than that, I think. That could have been explored a lot better in my opinion. 

I did like the pop culture references. That really is a hit or miss with me. Sometimes it works, sometimes it really really doesn’t. But Christine managed alright. I especially liked it because a huge part of the book is set in 2011 and it was nice to be reminded of what was ‘hot’ back in the day. I never really understood the obsession with Angry Birds but I mean, we ALL had that friend.

The book is a really fast read. The writing is pretty basic but it’s entertaining and flows naturally. I liked the banter and I was invested in Shane’s journey. However I clearly hadn’t read the blurb closely enough because the actual magic in it surprised me. I honestly thought I was reading a regular contemporary. But it strangely sort of works. It was a different approach and I was curious as to what would happen.

Overall this is a quick, light read. It’s not groundbreaking but it’s not terrible either. I liked it, if mostly because I have such a personal connection to the whole study-abroad thing. And it carries a powerful message. Live your life for yourself, not for someone else. Make your own choices and don’t let someone else tell you what to do. I think that’s important. 

Review: In The Afterlight by Alexandra Bracken

in the afterlight alexandra bracken
in the afterlight alexandra bracken

Title: In The Afterlight  
Author: Alexandra Bracken  
Series: The Darkest Minds #3 
Genre: Fantasy, YA  
Publication date: October 28, 2014 
Rating: ★★★★★ 

Ruby can't look back. Fractured by an unbearable loss, she and the kids who survived the government's attack on Los Angeles travel north to regroup. With them is a prisoner: Clancy Gray, son of the president, and one of the few people Ruby has encountered with abilities like hers. Only Ruby has any power over him, and just one slip could lead to Clancy wreaking havoc on their minds. They are armed only with a volatile secret: proof of a government conspiracy to cover up the real cause of IAAN, the disease that has killed most of America's children and left Ruby and others like her with powers the government will kill to keep contained. But internal strife may destroy their only chance to free the "rehabilitation camps" housing thousands of other Psi kids. Meanwhile, reunited with Liam, the boy she would-and did-sacrifice everything for to keep alive, Ruby must face the painful repercussions of having tampered with his memories of her. She turns to Cole, his older brother, to provide the intense training she knows she will need to take down Gray and the government. But Cole has demons of his own, and one fatal mistake may be the spark that sets the world on fire.

It rained the day they brought us to Thurmond. 
And it rained the day I walked out.

It was always my intention to write a review for this book, but somehow years passed and I never got around to it. Until I got to the point where I didn’t even remember enough to write an honest and coherent recap of the story. But this year I’m taking the time to revisit old favorites and The Darkest Minds is definitely that. A favorite. So here I am.

This book is long and intense. The pacing is slower than we’re used to from Alexandra Bracken but while in some moments it may feel as if nothing much is happening, there are actually a whole lot of wheels spinning in the background. A huge chunk of this book focuses on the relationships between all our favorite characters. And to say those are strained would be an understatement.

Ruby is struggling with her position as a leader of their new-formed side branch of the Children’s League. She learns that it is impossible to keep everyone happy and has to deal with the pressure of being relied upon. There is not much room for failure but she’s constantly doubting herself, feeling like she’s not strong enough to live up to everyone’s expectations. And then of course there is the tormenting guilt over losing Jude, bringing Liam back into the League and every other harmful consequence she is responsible for. These insecurities along with her search for justice, drive her towards the one person who seems to understand what she’s going through. And that person is no longer Liam. It’s his brother Cole who knows what it’s like to step up and take control, who knows what is at stake and is willing to do what it takes to break into the camps and save the children Ruby so desperately wants to free. Spending so much time with Cole inevitably puts a strain on her relationship with Liam. Cole and Liam can barely stay in the same room together, let alone ever see eye to eye. It puts her in the middle, constantly threading a careful path between the two brothers, trying to keep the both of them (along with everybody else) happy, while trying to set her own agenda in motion.

Black is the color that is no color at all. Black is the color of a child's still, empty bedroom. The heaviest hour of night-the one that traps you in your bunk, suffocating in another nightmare. It is a uniform stretched over the broad shoulders of an angry young man. Black is the mud, the lidless eye watching your every breath, the low vibrations of the fence that stretches up to tear at the sky. It is a road. A forgotten night sky broken up by faded stars. It is the barrel of a new gun, leveled at your heart.The color of Chubs's hair, Liam's bruises, Zu's eyes.  
Black is a promise of tomorrow, bled dry from lies and hate. Betrayal. I see it in the face of a broken compass, feel it in the numbing grip of grief. 
I run, but it is my shadow. Chasing, devouring, polluting. It is the button that should never have been pushed, the door that shouldn't have opened, the dried blood that couldn't be washed away. It is the charred remains of buildings. The car hidden in the forest, waiting.
It is the smoke. It is the fire. The spark.  
Black is the color of memory. It is our color. The only one they'll use to tell our story.

They say no one is perfect but here that’s about two hundred percent true. As they all had to live in close quarters, tension rose and all of them made bad decisions. I love Ruby. I love Cole. I love Liam. I even like Clancy in some twisted way. Yet they all did and said things that made them seem like jerks. Ruby kept too much information hidden from Liam. Cole should have given his brother an honest chance. Liam shouldn’t have been so resentful. Except this is exactly what made these characters so very human. Put a group of people together in this particular set of circumstances and of course there are going to be disagreement, distrust and infighting. It’s a natural course of events. So I’m here for it. If anything, it made me so much more invested. This book has some seriously great character development.

And man, I love Cole. Love, love, love Cole. From the moment I met him I was trash. I’m not even sure I can pinpoint when exactly it happened, but there’s no denying my attraction. While I have always loved Liam, it’s Cole that holds my heart hostage. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not necessarily shipping him with Ruby (I think she and Liam are adorable together), but he’s just such a great character. And damn did he deserve better. All this pain and anger bottled up in him, only to finally find release, to finally find acceptance and then… I won’t spoil, I promise I won’t but dammit.

They don't burn, do they? Not like us.

In The Afterlight is worthy of its high rating. Despite the rather slow start there is a great deal of action and a lot of beautiful scenes between the characters we’ve all grown to love. Zu, Chubs, Vida, Nico… Even Clancy had his moments. But be warned, it fucks with your feelings. Big time. There is some serious heartache, so much pain. I cried so hard, you should have seen me, even if the ending is sort of perfect. Even if it all plays out in the only way it could. Alexandra Bracken is cruel, which we leaned in the previous books, but she’s a wonderful story crafter and after rereading the entire series, I’m still convinced of its greatness. 

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