I find it weird that these books never mention Dylan Thomas once | This Raging Light and But Then I Came Back [ARC] by Estelle Laure

Lucille and Eden have been friends forever. But the summer before their senior year, Lucille’s mom decides to take off on a solo vacation. She promises to come back before school starts, but Lucille and her little sister Wren are left waiting long after that deadline has passed. Meanwhile, Eden is struggling to come to terms with her future in ballet and the new feelings that have arisen between Lucille and her twin brother, Digby.

Just to start off, I really liked This Raging Light and But Then I Came Back was also enjoyable, but I didn’t like it AS MUCH. I just really had so many feelings about Lucille and Wren. Lucille has to be so tough and is put in this impossible situation. I noticed that some reviewers haven’t liked how mean she is to Eden and Digby after a little while, but I feel like I can understand it completely. She has to be so stressed out and she can’t REALLY talk to anyone about her situation. But one thing this book does do is make me believe in the kindness of strangers. So…there’s that.

The relationship between Lucille and Digby is…a little weird. It feels completely one-sided at the beginning of the book and it’s not completely clear what makes Digby have a change of heart. He’s got a girlfriend at the beginning of the book and he cheats on her with Lucille which is NOT OKAY. That being said, I did end up liking their relationship in the end. Mostly, though, the relationship that I really liked was between Lucille and Wren. I LOVE a good sister relationship and I felt that this book definitely delivered in that area. There’s a sizable age difference between the two girls, but they love each other and are there for each other through everything. My heart was seriously just breaking for these girls throughout the whole book.

There wasn’t too much of a plot beyond trying to survive while Lucille’s mom is gone, but I was okay with that. Again, there have been some reviewers that disliked how the first book ends because they felt like there wasn’t a resolution. I can definitely see that, but I finished the first book and immediately went into the second which picks up right where the first one left off so…I didn’t really mind the lack of a resolution.

The title is something that really drew me to this book initially. The poem it’s quoting is great (who doesn’t love it?) and the girls discuss it a little in the book. But then they never mention Dylan Thomas to my recollection. There’s no real reason why the NEED to talk about him, but perhaps it could have added an interesting layer or dimension to the book.

This is the point where I’m going to transition into my review of the second book, so if you don’t want some things spoiled from the first book, do not continue reading.

I didn’t like Eden as a narrator as much as I liked Lucille. There’s just something a little…chippy about her? I felt like she had this undercurrent of anger throughout a lot of her interactions with people. Then because Eden’s just woken up from a coma, there are some weird things that she sees that almost gives this book a magical realism feel to it where that was NOT present in the first book. It almost feels like a different genre.

The new characters that were introduced in the second book are interesting. I was a little confused, though, because apparently Eden has these two really good guy friends who are over all the time but who are never mentioned in the first book. I didn’t like the way that her new guy friends or even her parents and brother reacted to Eden at times. They got really angry with her when she didn’t want to do something–the girl just got out of a coma! I would think she’s allowed to not want to go to a club or party.

This book was interesting because we really get Eden’s point of view in the whole fallout between her and Lucille. Lucille really isn’t painted in the BEST light in this book, which was hard for me since I liked her so much in the first book. At the same time, I thought it was a great way of showing that there are two sides to every story, you know? I understood why Eden felt the way she did and ultimately why she reacted to Lucille how she did in the first book.

Overall, I thought these books were pretty great. I think it would make more sense to read them in order, but you could definitely read them separately and I think the second book would still make sense…mostly.

Overall Rating: 5 (TRL), 4 (BTICB)
Language: Moderate for both
Violence: Moderate (TRL), Mild (BTICB)
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate for both
Sexual Content: Moderate (TRL), Mild (BTICB)

Note: I received But Then I Came Back free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Diversity? Check. Great Characters? Also Check. | 180 Seconds by Jessica Park [ARC]

180 SecondsAllison is just trying to get through college interacting with the fewest number of people possible. She’s about to start her junior year and to the disappointment of her adoptive father, Simon, has been mostly successful at that goal. Allison grew up in the foster care system and has a hard time trusting that people are going to stick around. She knows that she needs to work through some of her issues, but it’s a lot easier to stay in her dorm room and live vicariously through her best friend, Steffi. When Allison gets roped into participating in a social experiment, her whole world changes in just 180 seconds.

I’m going to start off by saying that even though NetGalley classified this book as YA, I would say it fits a lot better in the NA category if only because our main characters are in college. But also, it just feels like an NA book. But anyway, I really appreciated the amount of diversity in this book because it was present without hitting the reader over the head with it. Characters had subtle diverse traits that actually effected who they were as a developed character. I also enjoyed that this book tackled some important topics without trying to take on EVERY important topic (I’m looking at you The Names They Gave Us).

But back to the characters…I absolutely LOVED Allison. My heart really went out to her. I can’t say that I had any of the same experiences in college that she did, but I’ve had my fair share of social anxiety. Obviously what Allison is going through is much bigger than just social anxiety, but I still felt like I could relate to her on some level. Secondary characters were fantastic and had just enough depth in my opinion. My only critique on the character front is that maybe Esben seemed a little too…perfect. There was never any real friction in his and Allison’s relationship and he was super understanding about everything. It’s nice for the story, but I don’t know that it’s necessarily realistic–especially in a boy who’s in his early 20’s. My experience with that age group is that they’re just not that mature.

The plot was great–I loved learning about some of Esben’s social experiments. I liked seeing Allison and even Simon getting involved. However, I’m not totally sure how I feel about the plot twist at the end. Was it necessary? Or not? I’m still on the fence. In the end, though, I feel like even though the plot wasn’t really the focus of the story, it did a good job helping each of the characters to grow and develop.

Overall, I thought this book was another great showing for Jessica Park. I loved Flat-Out Love and this book has definitely convinced me to read everything she writes.

A trigger warning: this book does deal with rape though it isn’t the main focus of the book.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Mild
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate. They’re in college, they talk about it and do some stuff but nothing is really explicitly described.

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Top Ten Tuesday: The Best of 2017 So Far

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week there is a new topic and this week’s topic is: Best Books You’ve Read In 2017 So Far

I haven’t been able to read as much this year as I thought I would (I’m about 14 books behind on my Goodreads challenge), but I’ve still read some good ones. Here they are in no particular order (titles link to Goodreads).

This Raging Light by Estelle Laure – 5 Stars
Once and For All by Sarah Dessen – 5 Stars
180 Seconds by Jessica Park – 5 Stars
The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy – 5 Stars – Review
The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares – 5 Stars – Review

Manners & Mutiny by Gail Carriger – 5 Stars – Review
A Million Junes by Emily Henry – 4 Stars – Review
Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer – 4 Stars – Review
Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo – 5 Stars
Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik – 4 Stars – Review

I am now extremely thankful for all my senses | The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy [ARC]

The DisappearancesAila and her brother have just moved to Sterling, the town their recently deceased mother grew up in. Right away, they notice some strange things–the flowers have no scent and there doesn’t appear to be any mirrors in the house. As they investigate, they’ll learn secrets about the town and about their own family. Is it a curse? Or is there another explanation? And what does their mother have to do with it?

This is a strong debut from this author and I’m very excited to see what she brings us next. I was decidedly NOT expecting much from this book. The premise intrigued me, but I didn’t really know what I was in for. As it turns out, I ended up LOVING this book. The writing was so beautiful and the entire atmosphere of the book was ethereal but grounded at the same time. This book seemed to have some magical realism elements woven throughout, but then there was also a sciencey aspect to it and I really enjoyed that contrast.

The main characters are all terrific. I love Aila. She’s fierce but kind at the same time. Her relationship with her brother Miles feels genuine and imperfect, but strong. My heart seriously broke for Miles so many times in this book. I thought that the relationships between Aila and Miles and the Cliftons felt realistic. It helps that every single character had depth–that makes their relationships feel like so much more. The only character I felt lacked a little bit was Will. His motivations could have been developed a little more, but at this point I’m just nitpicking. Even the mean kids at school had depth, which doesn’t usually happen in YA books.

I loved the time period. The book is set during World War II which is the perfect backdrop for the plot. The plot would not have worked in any other time period. We’re immersed into this town that has so much shared history. It’s really created this community that’s had to band together through these trials. Perfect setting.

The story itself is so interesting as well. As Aila starts to try to solve this mystery, the reader feels like they can follow along as well. I mean, Aila’s just reading Shakespeare–I can do that! This book made me want to read some Shakespeare to try to find clues as well. Ultimately, though, I wish that the Shakespeare clues played a bigger role in solving the mystery. It would have been really cool if the reader could solve the mystery by fitting those pieces together, but as the story is written, we can’t. I guess I wish there had been a little bit more of a treasure hunt-ish aspect, but I get why the book wasn’t more like that.

Overall, I thought this book was SO GOOD. Seriously, I think everyone should read it. At this point, it’s super underrated. I have literally heard nothing about this book. So when it comes out on July 4th, I expect everyone to go out and pick up a copy–I don’t think you’ll regret it.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: None
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: None

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

No traveling pants, but still a good read | The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares [ARC]

The Whole Thing TogetherRay and Sasha are more or less part of the same family. They grew up in the same house, with the same sisters, in the same bedroom…but they’ve never met. A long time ago, Ray’s mom used to be married to Sasha’s dad. A nasty divorce and two remarriages later, Ray and Sasha were born. 17 years later, their worlds are about to collide for the first time.

Okay, so I know that Brashares has written more things than JUST The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, but I honestly haven’t read anything else by her. I remembered really like that series though, so I decided to give this one a shot since it had a really intriguing premise to me. Right away, I really enjoyed the writing. The narration and dialogue all flowed together really well and the writing made the book very easy to read. The plot wasn’t super predictable, but there also wasn’t much that happened that was super surprising. This book is more about the characters anyway.

Family dynamics are very interesting. I’m going to say that it’s impossible for a family to be completely drama-free and the family in this book is definitely not an exception. The narration rotates between the five kids: the original three sisters (Emma, Quinn, and Mattie) and the new kids (Ray and Sasha). That, at times, got confusing for me. I was reading a digital ARC and sometimes there wasn’t a clear indicator that the book was changing narrators–I hope that’s something that is fixed or different in the physical book. That being said, if the narrators had very different tones or voices, this wouldn’t have been so confusing. Unfortunately, all of the narrators pretty much sound alike. It was very difficult to tell them apart just from the language. The only signals we get are from context.

The good thing about having so many narrators, though, is that I really felt like I got to know each of the siblings on a pretty deep level. If there had just been one or two narrators, we would have only gotten to know the other characters on a superficial level from our narrator’s perspective. I enjoyed getting to know how characters were perceived but then also having the internal viewpoint for each of them. I expected to not like at least one of the siblings, but I honestly really came to care for each of them in separate ways. Obviously they each had some less desirable traits, but I was willing to overlook them because I felt like I knew each of them on a deeper level so those things didn’t matter.

The only kind of negative thing that really stood out to me was that Jaime’s family seemed a little random. They had a ton of drama as well, but then they’re not really explored at all. I would have either liked more exploration there, or less description of it.

After reading (and pretty much loving) this book, I was surprised to see that there were many negative reviews for this book on Goodreads. One reviewer in particular (who admits to being a straight, white, female) thought that this book displayed “blatant sexism, body-shaming of all sorts, stereotyping, and some racism”. While I could see her points, I just wanted to give my two cents on some of those things. I’m also straight and female, but I’m only a quarter white so I might have a slightly different perspective.

“Blatant Sexism”. The reviewer points out a section of the book where one of our main characters, Ray, is looking at another character’s body–specifically her chest. The reviewer’s response: “This is a direct example of the ‘boys will be boys’ attitude that results in the normalization of rape and sexual assault. What could Ray do? Well I’ll tell you–he could have not looked down at Sasha’s dress, and kept his eyes to himself…” I see her point and I’m not at all trivializing the normalization of rape and sexual assault that is happening. However, I was listening to an interesting podcast the other day. It was a rerun for This American Life (great podcast if you’re not already a subscriber). It was an episode completely about testosterone (listen here). In one of the sections the reporter was interviewing a transgender man about his transition. As part of the transition, he had to be injected with a very high dosage of testosterone. It was really interesting to hear him talk about how he thought about women pre-transition (and testosterone) versus post. There was a stark difference. Obviously, we all have agency and can make our own choices, right? However, as a woman, I felt that my eyes were opened to this chemical thing that happens in boys that doesn’t happen in girls that I really had no idea about. It seems apparent to me that it’s not just a moral or ethical thing, but that natural chemicals and hormones are coming into play as well. I guess what my point is, is that even though I agree that Ray shouldn’t have been looking at Sasha’s chest, I don’t feel that this interaction was necessarily out of place. I was uncomfortable when I read it too, but I’m not necessarily angry at Brashares for including it–I feel like I get it.

“Some Racism”. The reviewer describes her frustration that an Indian American man (actually he was raised in Canada) is stereotypically a “tech genius”. Just as an aside here, I thought he was in finance, but I could have gotten that wrong. Another reviewer criticized the fact that this same character, Robert, was really trying to downplay the fact that he was Indian and wanted nothing more than to be just like all the white men out there. I can see why that’s bothersome, but I feel like we need to look at the overall context here. He was adopted by white parents and it sounded like he was raised in a white community. So from that perspective, it makes sense that he might not identify as being Indian–he wasn’t raised that way. In addition, it can be frustrating for people to make assumptions about you based on your physical appearance (I speak from personal experience here). I can understand why Robert would want to be “as white as possible” (for lack of a better term) since that’s more or less what he identifies as.

Those are just some of my thoughts about the negative comments that have been made about this book. I think a lot of the problems that people have with this book just need to be viewed in the appropriate context instead of being taken out and examined under a microscope. I, personally, was not offended by the book as a woman or as a person of color–in fact, I actually really enjoyed it! I’ll allow you to judge for yourself, but I don’t think these negative reviews should be enough to keep you from reading it if you would have picked it up otherwise.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Heavy
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate (some drinking and some underage smoking)
Sexual Content: Moderate (nothing explicit).

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Perfect Series Ending to a Great Series | Manners & Mutiny by Gail Carriger

Manners & MutinyIn the final book of Gail Carriger’s Finishing School series, Sophronia, Dimity, and Agatha gear up for one final adventure before officially finishing. There will be impossible romances, invading Picklemen, and the most wonderful dinner party that, unfortunately, may or may not end in an explosion.

I love this series so much. I’m a fan of Carriger’s in general, but of the three series’ set in this universe, this one is by far my favorite. Sophronia is just such a likable main character! She’s smart and manipulative, but also kind and loyal. She develops wonderfully as a character over the four books and grows up to be someone who I desperately want to be friends with. Carriger has also done a good job developing secondary characters like Dimity, Pillover, and Agatha. My problem with some of Carriger’s other characters is that they seem a little…exaggerated. Luckily, Sophronia just seems like a really normal girl given the circumstances.

This book probably had more action than the first three (or it at least felt like it) and that’s not a bad thing. I really liked getting into Sophronia’s head and seeing all of the skills that she’d been learning at school come into play. It’s kind of hard to explain without spoiling anything, but it was really enjoyable to watch Sophronia strategize. The plot included a couple of twists involving certain characters that I did NOT see coming and they were pleasant surprises. In the end, there wasn’t much else that I was looking for from the plot. There were a few things that were left unresolved, but I feel almost certain that those things will (or have been) addressed in the other series’. I thought this series wrapped up really nicely and (of course) there were a few cameos of characters from Carriger’s other series The Parasol Protectorate.

Overall, this was a very fun book and series altogether. While some of Carriger’s other series’ stray into more “adult” territory, this series is firmly YA and I would recommend it to any pre-teen/teenage girl (or boy for that matter–plenty of action). Sophronia may go down as one of my favorite protagonists of all time.

Overall Rating: 5 (rounded up from 4.5)
Language: None
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild

BLOG TOUR: Iron Cast by Destiny Soria [GIVEAWAY]

Iron CastIron Cast
by Destiny Soria
Release Date: October 11, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction

Goodreads|Amazon|B&N|Book Depository|iBooks|Kobo

SYNOPSIS: It’s Boston, 1919, and the Cast Iron club is packed. On stage, hemopaths—whose “afflicted” blood gives them the ability to create illusions through art—captivate their audience. Corinne and Ada have been best friends ever since infamous gangster Johnny Dervish recruited them into his circle. By night they perform for Johnny’s crowds, and by day they con Boston’s elite. When a job goes wrong and Ada is imprisoned, they realize how precarious their position is. After she escapes, two of the Cast Iron’s hires are shot, and Johnny disappears. With the law closing in, Corinne and Ada are forced to hunt for answers, even as betrayal faces them at every turn.

REVIEW: The author starts the book with a note regarding her two main characters. She emphasizes that she really wanted to focus on their relationship as opposed to their individual relationships with the boys they like. I always like a little romance in books, but I really appreciated that the romance wasn’t the sole focus. This book has much more depth to it than that. The thing that I really loved about this book is the interactions between Ada and Corinne. They’re so different and the author does a great job of really portraying them as individuals. Their loyalty to each other is inspiring and I love that the author didn’t have them get into any catty arguments or jealous fights. Their relationship is so much bigger than that.

I loved the atmosphere of this book as well. It’s set in a Boston winter shortly before Prohibition is passed. This book makes Boston seem like this really magical and atmospheric city and I think it was the perfect setting for this story. The magic was also very intriguing to me though I don’t think it was explained very well. What exactly is hemopathy? Why does iron effect hemopaths? And how do they get their powers? What determines what kind of powers they have? Even with all of these questions, I like how wordsmiths and songsmiths have their powers so closely tied to emotion. On the other hand thespians and whatever Saint’s hemopathy is called don’t really seem to tie-in. While I like all of the different skills, it seems like there’s a disconnect. The four “powers” don’t really seem to connect to each other. That being said, they’re all extremely cool.

Overall I really enjoyed this book even though the plot was pretty slow at the beginning. There’s a lot of background and character development that the reader needs to get first, but once the plot really got going, I was hooked. I’m just so intrigued by this world! I don’t know if the author plans on making it a series, but I would love to read another book featuring these characters!

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Mild
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Mild



Destiny SoriaABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
Destiny Soria writes Young Adult fiction. Her debut novel, IRON CAST, will be published by Abrams/Amulet in Fall 2016.

Destiny lives in Birmingham, AL, where she spends her time trying to come up with bios that make her sound kind of cool. She has yet to succeed.

Website|Goodreads|Twitter|Facebook|Instagram


Fantastic Flying Book Club

Note: I received this book free from the author/blog tour in exchange for an honest review.