Review: The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

The Hate U GiveThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After reading this book, I can certainly see what all the uproar is about. ‘The Hate U Give’ addresses the very sensitive issues of race relations and police brutality in a time when the nation is torn over these issues. Most of my friends are at one extreme or the other when it comes to the #Blacklivesmatter movement. Since I don’t want to incite an online mobbing, I’m going to do my best to avoid that movement specifically, while sharing my thoughts and opinions on this wonderful book.

First of all, this is a very moving story. It centers on a teenage black girl, Starr Carter, who leaves her crime-riddled neighborhood each day to attend an affluent school across town. In both settings, she feels a need to conform to the social norms. This means that she lives a double-life of sorts — she has one persona with her black family and friends in her neighborhood and another one with her wealthy, predominantly white, friends from her school.

One night she attends a party in her neighborhood that turns violent. After leaving the party with her childhood friend, Khalil, her life and her community is forever changed. A routine traffic stop turns tragic when an unarmed Khalil is repeatedly shot by a police officer after failing to follow police instructions.

The events of that night serve as the spark that sets off an explosion. Starr’s neighborhood has a long-standing animosity for the police, citing multiple instances of police brutality and harassment. The death of Khalil is only the latest in a long line of atrocities.

Begrudgingly, Starr is forced into the center of a media feeding frenzy. Part of her wishes that she could just hide and return to her “old” life, while another part wants to be brave and stand up for what she believes is right. She was in an extremely difficult situation for a young girl.

Although she initially tries to remain anonymous, as the sole witness of Khalil’s murder she eventually speaks out publicly. Doing so, Starr learns a lot about herself and the people that she surrounds herself with. Some will stick around to support her, others will reveal that they were never really who she thought they were.

While this book certainly highlighted the issue of police brutality against blacks, there were several other takeaways for me. I applaud the author for not shying away from other issues that are controversial. For example, racism – against multiple races – was prevalent throughout this story. I appreciated that the author was forthcoming in addressing this topic, even knowing that it would likely be controversial. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Racism is still racism and it is wrong, regardless of the race.

Although I did find the danger of Starr’s neighborhood to be exaggerated, the author also highlighted the issue of violent crime, drugs and gang warfare. Several times, there were drive-by shootings or other crimes committed in Starr’s neighborhood by the residents against the residents. It was sad and the author did a good job of highlighting this issue/cycle of violence.

One notable, older man in the story commented on this and I couldn’t have agreed with him more. There was a lot of senseless violence and crime in Starr’s neighborhood. As he said, the government needn’t look further than that neighborhood to find a real terrorist. The people lived in fear, not only of the police, but of the crime lord in their midst.

The conflict in Starr’s family over whether to stay in the neighborhood, despite the danger, or move to a safer neighborhood, also was enlightening. There were a lot of mixed feelings and a sense of betrayal that accompanied her parent’s desire to “better” their situation and that of their children. It reminded me of that saying about crabs in a bucket, always trying to pull one back in before they can get out. There was certainly plenty of pressure and resentment, both within and outside of her family where this was concerned. They had to balance their desire to improve their situation against the repercussions of being viewed as sell-outs. The same was true for Starr’s uncle, who was a police officer.

Overall, this was a wonderful book. I’d definitely recommend it to others, regardless of their views. It provides plenty of food for thought and raises awareness of several important social issues.

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Review: A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3), by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3)A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m not sure that I can say much about this book that hasn’t been said already, so I’ll keep this short and sweet. ‘A Court of Wings and Ruin’ was a great finale to the series. I have loved watching Feyre evolve over the course of this series and this book did a wonderful job of bringing everything full circle. If you’re a fan of the series, then this book is a must-read.

That being said, I honestly didn’t think that this book was as spectacular as the second book. This is probably a reflection of my personal tastes more than anything. I am primarily a romance reader. I like a little fantasy and adventure, but I need a healthy dose of romance thrown in.

While this third book definitely continued the love story, it wasn’t as smutty as I would’ve liked. There, I said it. I wanted more steamy, hot times with Feyre and Rhysand. The second book definitely provided more to work with in that regard, but I understand that this book is not marketed for adult romance readers, like me. Again, it is just a matter of personal preferences.

On the other hand, this book was action-packed. From start to finish, there was always something adventurous and deadly brewing. There was never a dull moment. It definitely kept me on the edge of my seat right to the very end.

I won’t say much about the storyline, because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. There are a lot of changes that occur during this book. Some are heartbreaking, others will make you melt. I was left with a feeling of contentment, resolute that everything was “right” in this make believe world that I grew to love so much.

While this series has drawn to a close, I am left wondering if Ms. Maas has any plans to create a spin-off series. There were so many characters introduced in this series that have grown dear to me. I feel like their stories want to be told and she certainly planted the seeds to do this. I guess I’ll have to wait and see.

Overall, this was a fantastic book and series. I would definitely recommend this series to others. ‘A Court of Mist and Fury’ is still my favorite by far, but this one was great in and of it’s own right also.

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Review: The Man I Love (The Fish Tales, #1), by Suanne Laqueur

The Man I Love (The Fish Tales, #1)The Man I Love by Suanne Laqueur
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After reading ‘An Exhaltation of Larks’, I knew that I wanted to read every book written by Ms. Suanne Laqueur. Her writing is exquisite. The stories and characters that she brings to life are raw and emotional, heartbreaking and inspiring. I’ve definitely gone a little “fangirl” where she is concerned!

‘The Man I Love’ tells the story of a close-knit group of friends at Lancaster University. In many ways it is a coming of age story, set against the backdrop of a terrible tragedy. They were young and carefree until the unthinkable happens. Then, this group of friends struggles to survive in the aftermath of a terrible attack.

Each of them copes with the trauma in a different way. As young, college students, they don’t appreciate the need to seek out professional help. All of them develop some destructive behaviors. In the months and years that follow they fall into a downward spiral, nearly destroying themselves and their relationships with those that they love.

No relationship undergoes more strain that that of Erik “Fish” Fiskare and Daisy Bianco. Erik was a theatre tech when he met Daisy, a lead ballerina at the school. The two were head over heels in love. They had the kind of relationship that others envied…until that day. Nothing was the same after that day.

Aside from Erik and Daisy, there is a robust cast of characters that make this story memorable. Will Kaeger, Erik’s best friend/roommate and Daisy’s dance partner, also plays a pivotal role. He is left to live with guilt and questions whether or not his actions were to blame for the events of that tragic day. It was his brief love affair with another student, James, that seems to have been the motivator for James’ horrific actions on that day.

Spanning over a decade, the long-term effects of a single traumatic event are played out through these character for readers. This story was absolutely beautiful, but also tragic and highly emotional. These characters both broke my heart and inspired me.

The first book in a series, ‘The Man I Love’ proves to be an addicting read. I will definitely be reading the other books in this series immediately. I highly recommend this book. I am utterly captivated by this story and these flawed, very human characters.

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Review: Bright Side (Bright Side, #1), by Kim Holden

Bright Side (Bright Side, #1)Bright Side by Kim Holden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book wrecked me! It was incredibly touching and heartfelt. Despite dealing with some rather depressing subject matter, it was handled with care. I can’t say that I didn’t cry big fat tears, but I can say that I smiled far more than I cried while reading this book. It was beautiful.

The heroine, Kate, moves from San Diego to Grant, Minnesota for college. Right off the bat, I loved her. It is easy to understand why her best friend, Gus, gave her the nickname “Bright Side”. She is the type of person that just lights up a room. Kudos to the narrator for being able to capture the essence of Kate’s character so well.

As Kate makes friends in her new home, she never lets her relationship with Gus weaken. They talk daily on the phone, while he tours with his band, Rook. There is no mistaking the strength of their bond, or the fact that there are feelings shared that extend beyond the bounds of normal friendship.

Despite claiming not to believe in romantic love, Kate finds herself falling in love. Keller Banks is the hot guy that works the counter at the coffee shop that she frequents for her caffeine fix. They flirt tirelessly and find themselves thrown together more often through mutual friends.

Once Kate and Keller begin spending more time together, their attraction is evident. Before long, Keller has let Kate into the private aspects of his life that he doesn’t share with others. The two grow incredibly close in a very short period of time.

Nobody is more surprised by their quick intimacy than Kate herself. She never planned on falling in love. She didn’t even believe it existed. More importantly, she has a big secret that she’s been keeping from everyone she loves, which she knows will ruin everything.

Aside from the romance between Kate and Keller, I found myself drawn to the stories of friendship in this book. Kate’s relationship with Gus was incredible. The support and love between them was so strong it was tangible. Similarly, her relationships with Clayton, Shelley and Pete were inspiring.

This book certainly did not lack for a strong cast of supporting characters. Each of these characters was endearing in their own way. Even the ones that made me mad initially, like Kate’s roommate, won me over eventually. I loved all of them and am looking forward to reading their stories.

In the end, I cried big, fat tears. It was sad, but also very inspiring. This is one of those books that makes you step back and reevaluate how you go through life. It was inspirational and helps keep things in perspective.

This is a must-read! I can’t believe that I put it off for so long, but I am so glad that I finally read it. This book was fabulous!

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Review: My Skylar, by Penelope Ward

My SkylarMy Skylar by Penelope Ward
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Once I finished ‘Jake Undone’, I had to start ‘My Skylar’ to get Skylar’s story. This book can be read as a standalone, but reading ‘Jake Undone’ will provide a brief introduction to Skylar and a little insight into her background. Similarly, you’ll have the backstory for Jake and Nina, Skylar’s super-supportive friends, if you’ve read that book first. However, it is not necessary to read ‘Jake Undone’ first to understand and/or enjoy ‘My Skylar’.

Skylar and Mitch meet when they are young children. Mitch’s grandmother lives across the street from Skylar’s family. He comes to stay with his grandmother one summer while his parents split up.

The two find that they have a lot in common, despite their separate upbringings. In no time at all, they become best friends. They spend every waking moment with each other, until Mitch has to return to his home.

When Mitch’s father shows up unexpectedly early to pick him up, he is surprised. He is only more surprised by the news that his parents are getting divorced. As a young boy, the demise of his parent’s marriage has shook his belief in the foundation of marriage. He even questions the permanence of “love”.

Skylar does not hear from Mitch for years. As a teenager, she hears his name at a party and immediately the memories come back. She has never forgotten the boy that walked into her life all those years ago, even if he seemed to have forgotten her.

When Mitch returns as a teenager to live with his mother in his grandmother’s home, Skylar and him pick up their friendship where they left off. It is almost like he never left. Only, now there is a definite sexual attraction brewing between the two.

This was a story that delivered a ton of angst and teenage melodrama. There were several times that I found myself wanting to shake Mitch and Skylar. So much heartache could’ve been avoided if they had only been open and honest with each other. It was incredibly frustrating at times, as they danced around each other ignoring the elephant in the room.

Along the way, the story takes a few unbelievable twists. I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy the story, but I did think that some of the twists were over-the-top. Skylar and Mitch were dramatic enough without having some of the extra twists in my opinion. I kept thinking “What else?”. It was like the universe was working to keep these two apart.

This story follows Mitch and Skylar’s relationship from childhood into adulthood and there are plenty of angst-filled moments along the way. They are together, then they aren’t. They’re inseparable, then they’re estranged. It was enough to give me whiplash at times.

Despite all of the back and forth, I found myself glued to my headphones while I listened to their story. It was angsty and over-the-top, but I loved it. My heart broke at times, but it worked out perfectly in the end. I recommend this story for anyone that loves a HEA, but isn’t afraid to work for it or cry a few tears along the way.

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Review: Forbid Me (The Good Ol’ Boys, #2), by M. Robinson

Forbid Me (The Good Ol' Boys, #2)Forbid Me by M. Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After reading ‘Complicate Me’, I couldn’t wait to start the next book in the series. M. Robinson’s stories have a way of sucking me in. Like it’s predecessor, ‘Forbid Me’ proved to be an emotional, angsty story of forbidden love. I couldn’t get enough.

‘Forbid Me’ is the story of Lucas’s little sister, Lily and his best friend, Jacob. Much like half-pint, Lily has always been around the “Good Ol’ Boys” for all of her life. Also like half-pint, she was very much “off-limits” to any of the guys. As much as they sheltered Alex, who was only a couple of years younger than the boys, it was far worse for Lily, who was seven years younger than Jacob.

The age-difference between Lily and Jacob might be tough for some to swallow. After all, she was around 15 when they first started exploring their attraction. He was in his early twenties at the time. If Alex was “half-pint”, then Lily was “jail bait”.

Most of the conflict in their story centers upon the forbidden nature of their relationship. In many ways, it was very similar to ‘Complicate Me’. Jacob spends a lot of time trying to deny his attraction to Lily because she is so much younger and the sister of his best friend. Eventually, Lily has had enough of Jacob’s rejection and tries to move on, only to have him then figure out how much he wants her. Once he’s no longer fighting his attraction, they waste time trying to hide it from their friends/family.

Where this story differed from ‘Complicate Me’ was in the personalities of the characters. Lily was no shrinking violet. This was one bold, outspoken heroine. M. Robinson did a great job of crafting her character. She managed to keep her from coming across as young or “victimy”, which was essential, given the age difference between her and Jacob. If anything, you felt like she was the one taking advantage of Jacob.

Jacob also stood out from Lucas’s character. Yes, he was attracted to a younger, off-limits girl, but that was where the similarities ended for me. He didn’t engage in the same self-destructive behaviors that Lucas did. He also seemed to give more regard to Lily and her feelings. Sure, he made plenty of mistakes along the way, but there wouldn’t have been much of a story otherwise.

Overall, this was a great story. It was sweet, taboo and very angsty. I listened to the Audible version and it was well-narrated. If you’re looking for a sweet, forbidden love story, this is a good choice.

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Review: Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, #4), by Sarah J. Maas

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, #4)Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With every one of these books, I’ve been amazed with the evolution of the characters and storyline. ‘Queen of Shadows’ has upped the ante for this already incredible series. While the third book in the ‘Throne of Glass’ series might have had Celaena tentatively exploring her royal heritage, this fourth book has her finally embracing her queenly role. She doesn’t do anything small, and the same can be said for her transformation from assassin to long-lost Queen Aelin.

However, Celaena isn’t the only character that undergoes a drastic transformation. Chaol morphs into a completely different person, becoming mostly despicable for the greater part of this story. Dorian is also fighting against the demon within him, becoming a bystander to his body’s own actions. Celaena’s childhood rival, Lysaendra, also proves to be an unexpected ally. It seems that everyone is changing.

This book shows major shifts in power and foretells of the great war to come. Supernatural beings return to the forefront. A great king’s dynasty falls. Past wrongs are avenged.

With everything going on, Aelin still has time to find a new love interest. As much as I love this story, I have to admit that this is my biggest gripe. She changes her men out more often than she changes her underwear! After a while, it becomes hard to believe that any of her romantic entanglements are sincere. There’s already been Sam, Dorian, Chaol and now Rowan…and the series isn’t finished yet!

Despite her rapidly changing love interests, I still am completely enthralled with this story. It is far heavier on the action/adventure side than my usual reads, but I’m enjoying the change of pace. I am completely hooked on this series and cannot wait to see where the next installment will take me.

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Review: Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass, #3), by Sarah J. Maas

Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass, #3)Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just love this series! Each book proves to be better than the last. This book was packed with action and adventure. There is never a dull moment while reading this story!

More so than the earlier books, this one focuses on Celaena’s story. She is forced to face the past that has haunted her for years and the magic within herself that she fears. There is no hiding from who she is any longer.

Along the way, she forms new friendships and comes to terms with her destiny. No longer content to hide from her true self, she prepares to take a stand. Finally, her people have their queen back.

I cannot wait to see what the next book in this series has in store for me! I am completely addicted to this saga. With each chapter, the story grows more complex, but I cannot get enough! Love it!

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Review: Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1), by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I listened to the Audible version of this book and it was fantastic! I loved every minute! Take a badass femme fatale, add in a brutal competition, and you’ve got a gripping story. On top of that, our heroine has two powerful, sexy men enamored with her.

The first book in the series, ‘Throne of Glass’ definitely pulls you in and leaves you wanting more. So much remains a mystery, despite the revelations that were made. I am hoping that this series will show an end to the King’s tyrannical reign and further exploration of the paranormal elements.

I am definitely intrigued and have already started the second book in this series. Sarah J. Maas has gained another fan!

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Review: A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2), by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2)A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I finished ‘A Court Of Thorns And Roses’ I knew exactly what I wanted to see happen…or so I thought. In this follow-up book, I can honestly say that Ms. Maas gave me absolutely nothing that I expected, but everything that I didn’t know I needed. I loved the way things played out in this book!

In most cases, I don’t do well with my main characters changing love interests. However, even though I didn’t see it coming at the end of the first book, it worked for me. Why? Maybe because the characters had grown up some and grown apart in the process. Maybe because Tamlin morphed into an unrecognizable douche. Maybe because Rhysand was just impossible not to love. Regardless of the reasons, I was never so happy to embrace an “out with the old, in with the new” attitude.

With that being said, a part of my heart still holds a spot for the Tamlin I fell in love with in the first book. Lucius too, for that matter. With the exception of Feyre, all of my favorite characters seem to have lost themselves in this book. As a result, the story turned in an entirely new direction, with a new cast of supporting characters.

However, I loved the direction this story went. The new cast of characters were fantastic. Feyre really shined in this book, as she came into her own as a powerful immortal. Tamlin may have broken my heart, but Rhysand mended it.

Overall, I loved it! It does end with another twist, so I’ll be anxiously awaiting the arrival of the next book. I’m sure Tamlin will try to redeem himself, so it’s bound to be interesting. I can’t wait!

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