Rosemary and Rue Review

The world of Faerie never disappeared; it merely went into hiding, continuing to exist parallel to our own. Outsiders from birth, these half-human, half-fae children spend their lives fighting for the respect of their immortal relations. Or, in the case of October “Toby” Daye, rejecting it completely. After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the fae world, retreating into a “normal” life. Unfortunately for her, Faerie has other ideas. The murder of Countess Evening Winterrose, one of the secret regents of the San Francisco Bay Area, pulls Toby back into the fae world. Unable to resist Evening’s dying curse, Toby must resume her former position as knight errant to the Duke of Shadowed Hills and begin renewing old alliances that may prove her only hope of solving the mystery…before the curse catches up with her.

This book sounded like a great read-alike Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series. October Daye had it all, a high position in the faerie court, a family, and then lost it for fourteen years while under a spell. She has cut off all her ties to faerie and works the night-shift at a grocery store. She is sucked back in when a good friend dies and places a curse on her to solve her murder. What happens next should be a great mystery/fantasy, but it doesn’t quite do it for me. I liked the book, it was an easy and quick read. I didn’t love the book. October is suffering from her lost time and the portrayal of her anger and despair over that are what kept me reading the story.

It bothered me that she cut ties with everyone, even people she called friends. She learns a lot of what she missed out on during the course of the novel and regrets not keeping up with the people she cared about. She never really gives any explanation for why she shunned the community; but that didn’t bother me as much. October has to talk to a lot of people in the course of her investigation seemed more of a way for the author to introduce the various characters and places in faerie than actually help with solving the murder. I liked seeing the various characters and the different worlds; I just wish the world-building had been done differently than it was.

After stumbling her way through the entire novel and a few deaths, October is able to solve the case and takes her place back in Court. This is the first in an ongoing series with this character. While I enjoyed the book, I don’t have any plans to read all 12 books in the series. I may pick up a later book to see if the writing and character improve over time. It wasn’t the greatest book, but it wasn’t the worst.

Rating: 3/5

Everything Everything

Madeline Whittier has to watch the world from the inside of a bubble—literally. Her diagnosed condition of Severe Combined Immunodeficiency is a life sentence that limits her to a world of two people: her mother, who is a doctor, and her nurse. Everything changes when Olly and his family move into the house next door. Olly is the kind of inventive guy who figures out a way to communicate with Madeline, and over the course of the next few months Madeline becomes Maddy, a young woman who takes potentially deadly risks to protect Olly emotionally, if not physically.

 

Madeline is as content with her life as she could be. She isn’t allowed outside, she’s never been outside. Despite that, she mostly is happy with her life and her insulated world. That all changes when Olly and his family move next door. What starts as a brief conversation turns into a wonderful love story. Madeline is a great heroine. She doesn’t get too angry over her fate too much, choosing to see the good things in her world instead of all the bad. Her perspective definitely got me thinking about how I view my chronic ailments.

When a new family moves next door, Madeline tries not to be interested, not to be attached. She didn’t count on Olly. Olly barrels into her life and makes her start wanting things she’s never wanted before. Olly has demons of his own and their connection is immediate. He handles her illness surprisingly well. Because of Olly, Madeline starts wanting more and takes a very drastic risk in her desire to be normal.

There aren’t many adults in this book. We see the most of Madeline’s mom and her nurse, both who are very different. Her Mom also happens to be her doctor and is very protective of Madeline. Her nurse feels she should have a little more freedom and allows Madeline a little more leeway in her actions.

The twist at the end was completely and utterly unexpected. I can’t talk much about it without spoiling what happens, but it was definitely a shocker!

Rating: 4.5/5

History is All You Left Me

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When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course. To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson.  But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart. If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.

I liked Adam Silvera’s first book, but this is truly an exceptional work of literature. The exploration of first love, friendships, family, and grief are heartbreakingly written. The novel is broken up into two time periods: the first being the story of Griffon and Theo’s relationship from beginning to its end and the second about Griffin trying to process his grief over Theo’s unexpected and sudden death.

Plagued by compulsions and ticks, Griffin’s grip on sanity loosens when he learns about Theo’s death. Unable to control himself, he slips into a downward spiral and makes some unexpected and not necessarily always healthy life choices. His decision to follow Jackson back to California is both a healing and heartbreaking trip. I don’t want to spoil the secret he is keeping, but I thought it was going to be worse than it was. The secret is enough to have Griffin feeling responsible for Theo’s death and his guilt is palpable, especially when reading the story of their relationship. It seemed totally conceivable that Griffin would expect that he and Theo would one day get back together given the circumstances of their breakup.

Griffin is a character that is hard to say goodbye to when the book ends. His voice is so raw and authentic that he leaps off the pages and into your heart. I am not sure if Adam Silvera put any of himself in Griffin, but it would make complete sense if he did. I got very protective of Griffin, wanting to sit him down, put an arm around him, and let him know that eventually things would be okay with time and a little bit of therapy. It also made sense that he and Jackson would be in different places in the healing process and their thoughts on dating again.

Griffin and Jackson share many similarities, but enough differences to know that Jackson was not simply a replacement for Griffin. The book ended on a slightly hopeful note, but I knew that both Griffin and Jackson had a long road ahead of them. What made it work was somehow knowing that they would find their way out of their grief one day and live again.

Rating: 5/5

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Summary:  Reshma is a college counselor’s dream. She’s the top-ranked senior at her ultra-competitive Silicon Valley high school, with a spotless academic record and a long roster of extracurriculars.

What’s a habitual over-achiever to do? Land herself a literary agent, of course. But she’s convinced no one would want to read a novel about a study machine like her. To make herself a more relatable protagonist, she must start doing all the regular American girl stuff she normally ignores. For starters, she has to make a friend, then get a boyfriend. Of course, even with a mastermind like Reshma in charge, things can’t always go as planned. And when the valedictorian spot begins to slip from her grasp, she’ll have to decide just how far she’ll go for that satisfying ending.

My Review: I had a hard time liking this book at first. Reshma is a very unlikable character. She is willing to do whatever it takes to keep her top spot in school, including cheating, plagiarizing, and even suing the school. It was difficult to connect to someone like this, but eventually, I began to be intrigued by someone so vastly different than I am. Reshma has no friends and has a very skewed opinion about her fellow students, her teachers, and schooling in general. Her parents are not much better. Her dad lets her do whatever she wants and while her mom disapproves, she doesn’t do anything to stop Reshma.

It was truly fascinating to see the lengths that Reshma is willing to go to get what she feels she deserves. She definitely thinks very well of herself, and though she is obnoxious and I didn’t like her, it was refreshing to read about a teenager so sure of themselves and what they want for themselves. Her friendship, for the lack of a better word, with Alex was very entertaining. Alex is a great characters and I would have liked to get in her brain more. The book is written almost like a diary in first person narration, so you only see the other characters as Reshma sees them. It’s a shame too, because I would love to know some of their stories as well, especially why Alex lets Reshma hang out with her.

Reshma changes slightly toward the middle and end of the book. There isn’t a reason given for why, even she can’t explain it. She backs off on a few things and it bothered me because it seemed very sudden. She didn’t gradually grow and change through the book, so her change of heart seemed too pat for me.

 

Rating: 3.5/5

Serpent King

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Summary: The son of a Pentecostal preacher faces his personal demons as he and his two outcast friends try to make it through their senior year of high school in rural Forrestville, Tennessee without letting the small-town culture destroy their creative spirits and sense of self.

My Review: This book is told by three characters: Dill, the outcast son of an incarcerated preacher, Lydia, the fashion blogger desperate to get out of their small town and into New York City, and Travis, a loner from an abusive family obsessed with a set of fantasy novel series.

Dill is the angry one of the three. Dill’s father has been in jail and he takes care of his mother while dealing with being an outcast in school. He is angry about what his father did, he is angry that his Mom has to work so hard, he is angry that he gets blamed for what his father did, and he is angry that he will be stuck in his hometown with no prospects of a future. He takes a lot of his anger out at Lydia who has a normal home life and can’t wait to leave. He lashes out at her because he wants her to stay.

Lydia is the most centered of the characters. Her parents are very much a part of her life and support her hopes and dreams. They seem a bit too perfect in my opinion, but her interactions with them are some of the more light hearted aspects of the novel. Her plan is to go to NYU. She has some connections due to her fashion blog and uses them to help her get out of her little home town.

Travis is my favorite. He is a loner who is highly obsessed with a series of fantasy novels. He wears a dragon pendant necklace and carries a staff with him in honor of the novels. He has re-read them many times and goes on online forums to discuss them for hours. He is very socially awkward, but he is able to make a connection with a girl through these forums. Dill and Lydia also do something for him that gave me this huge grin.

I liked this novel, but it had its issues. The language was a bit too wordy at times and I was unhappy with one of the major plot points of the novel. I don’t think it was a necessary plot point. I think the book would have been fine without it.

Rating: 3/5

The Lie Tree Review

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Summary: On an island off the south coast of Victorian England, fourteen-year-old Faith investigates the mysterious death of her father, who was involved in a scandal, and discovers a tree that feeds upon lies and gives those who eat its fruit visions of truth.

My Review: This book tries to do too many things at once. Set in the Victorian era, this is a story about lies, family, and the role of women. Faith wants to more than marry well, which is all a woman in that time period can do. She resents that she isn’t allowed to study natural science and evolution like her father and has become slightly bitter over it. While I was able to empathize with Faith, she was a hard character to like. She isn’t very nice to anyone save her brother Howard, and not all the time. Instead of befriending the local boy, she antagonizes him throughout the entire novel and shows him little mercy or kindness.

The family has moved from London due to a scandal which Faith about later in the book. Her father is killed while they are in their new home and Faith makes it her mission to find out who killed him. She uses the Lie Tree, a discovery of her father’s, to aid her. The lie tree has the book diving into the magical realism genre, one I am not a fan of. Basically, if you feed the tree a lie and make the lie come true, the tree will grow and provide a fruit. If you eat the fruit, you are given strange and very vague visions of the near future. I admit, the book totally lost me with this plot point.

The other themes of this book: the role of women and family are good. As much as Faith dislikes how her mother acts after her father dies, her mother is doing the only thing available to her to ensure her children have some sort of future. Faith doesn’t understand much of this, but begins to at the end of the novel. Faith herself is a girl clearly born in the wrong time period. She has educated herself as best she could and wants to do more with her life than get married and have children.

Faith adores her father, as both a man and a scientist. She constantly hopes to get his approval and when she does, it is one of her happier moments in the story. She is put in charge of watching over her younger brother and keeping him occupied. Understanding that he is a scared little boy, Faith protects him as best she could and if often seen talking or playing with him. She worships her father, is mostly disgusted by her mother, but she truly does love her brother.

If the tree wasn’t involved as well as other plot points, I would have given this a much higher rating. Admittedly, I am not a huge fan of the magical realism genre. If that doesn’t bother you, then give this book a try.

Rating: 2.5/5

The Sun is Also a Star Review

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Summary: Natasha, whose family is hours away from being deported, and Daniel, a first generation Korean American who strives to live up to his parents’ expectations, unexpectedly fall in love and must determine which path they will choose in order to be together.

My Review: I read this book in one day. I could not put it down. Natasha is desperate to stay in New York. She does not remember much of her life in her home of Jamaica. Her family is not rich, but she was happy. She had friends. She had a place to call home. In conjunction with her separation is an underlying anger at her father, who put her family in this situation in the first place. If he had not been caught, they would still be able to stay in New York. She is angry with him from turning their lives upside down. She is also angry about how he feels about her and her mother. Her mother is not as big of a presence in the book, but she is the stable parent of the two. She works multiple jobs to keep them in their apartment and fed. In her journey to save herself, and her family, she meets Daniel.

Daniel’s family moved to America to give their children a better life. Now that his older brother has not lived up to them, it is up to Daniel to go to college, become a doctor, and marry a good Korean girl. He doesn’t want any of these things. Daniel is a dreamer and a poet. He isn’t even sure he wants to go to college, but he can’t find the courage to tell his parents that. His older brother, who he used to be close to, has drifted away from him and frankly, is a jerk.

Daniel and Natasha meet by pure happenstance and he is instantly smitten. While Daniel is the dreamer, Natasha is the skeptic. Life is not all hearts and butterflies in her opinion and she doubts that love even exists. Daniel makes it his goal to have her fall in love with him by the end of the day. As Natasha knows she only has one day left, she takes the bet. What happens next is a wonderful love story told from Natasha and Daniel’s point of view.

This sounds like a typical romance, but it is anything but. In addition to hearing from Natasha and Daniel, other characters get their own chapters to share their own stories. Sometimes the chapter is about a specific word or meaning. These chapters help guide the story. They tether it all together and enrich the story that unfolds in one magical day. Though the ending chapters seems a little rushed, I loved this book. Nicola Yoon is definitely an author to be on the lookout for.

Rating: 5/5