Review: The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give

 

I’m going to be honest: I’m not sure how to review this book properly. This book snuck up and sucker punched all of my emotions in the best way possible. How do you do a book like that justice in a review?

Sort synopsis: Starr witnesses her childhood best friend, Khalil,  die in front of her after a police officer shoots and kills him during a traffic stop. Soon after, Khalil’s murder becomes national news as he was black and the police officer was white. Also, Khalil was unarmed. Throughout the entire story, Starr tries to balance her life at a rich and preppy school with the life she lives while in the poor neighborhood her school friends make fun of. Will Starr have the courage to stand up and do what is right, even if it means putting her life and her family’s life in danger?

This was not a story I went into blind. I knew this was inspired by Black Lives Matter but I was not prepared for just how much it would get to me. There were several moments within this story that flat out pissed me off. I was outraged by how certain situations were handled (or not) and/or by how people reacted to events. Let it be known now that Angie Thomas can write. Holy crap can this girl write. She brought me to tears and stirred up emotions that made me want to get out of my chair and do something. Authors like that do not come along often. Sure, I have been moved to tears over how a character died suddenly or by how another character was treated, but the overall premise of this story spoke to me. Books like this need to exist in YA. I believe Angie fills a much needed void. She has done what others may have been scared to do because let’s be honest, this can be a touchy topic. It could either be handled really well or horribly bad. This story? Eye opening and deeply moving, beautiful and breathtaking, full of raw emotion. I’m not sure I’ll ever stop saying good things about this story.

Starr’s character was outstanding. I want to be friends with her in real life. Her sass and attitude made me instantly fall for her. I was immediately on her side. Heck, I wanted to jump into the story and fight right alongside her. The way she constantly fought with herself about how she was two different people: the Starr her school friends saw, and the Starr that the people from her poor neighborhood saw. Those two people can be so very different at times but in the end, can they become one? Can the real Starr shine through?

The one theme I picked up on throughout this entire story is just how important family is. No matter what Starr was going through, her family was right beside her. They never left her, not for one moment. They always took the time to talk to her, ask her how she was doing, to check in on her mental and emotional state to ask if she needed help. Talk about refreshing! It brings a tear to my eye just thinking about it.

I don’t know if it is too early to call it, but this may be the best book of 2017. I want everyone to read this book. Also, if you get a chance, listen to the audio version. Hearing the voices for the characters brings so much more to this story. There are moments that had me in tears I was laughing so hard, while others had me in tears for other reasons. No matter what, read this book. Please, please read this book and share with others. This book needs to be in the world.

 

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Review: City of Saints and Thieves

City of Saints & Thieves

 

Hype… so much hype around this book. I purchased my signed copy at NTTBF recently and  someone walked by while standing in line, stopping to tell me me how good the story was. That’s a heck of a recommendation, wouldn’t you say?

This is the story of Tina, a Congolese refugee, who is simply trying to survive and make sure her sister, Kiki, is safe. Tina is a member of the Coondas, a gang of street thieves in Kenya, Africa. Tina has never forgotten how her mother was murdered and she believes the wealthy Mr. Greyhill was behind it. With the help of the Coondas, Tina sets out to find out exactly what happened to her mother.

I  went into this story blind. Sometimes I feel this is the best way to experience a story and be able to come to my own conclusions. One thing that stood out to me was how much research had to be done to compile this novel. Both the light and dark sides of Kenya were represented, and many other parts of Africa for that matter. It did not paint everything in sunshine and rainbows. It gave the dirty and unpleasant truth about just how bad life can be. Real tales of crime, corruption, and just how harsh women are treated during war. With that being said, this is not for the faint of heart. There are some truly disturbing scenes so be warned.

Everything about this story felt vivid and intense. I was often on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen. Would Tina be able to figure out what happened to her mother? Would she be able to stay alive in a ruthless gang of mostly men? Would she be seen the same or treated like another spoil of war? So much tension! This novel felt like a breath of fresh air when it comes to fiction writing. The narrative of Tina herself felt real and believable while being realistically flawed. Her conversations and actions made this story move at a rapid pace, keeping me engrossed for the entire ride.

I’m still not trying to give too much away. This is a heck of a story and highly recommend for those that are looking for a good thriller/mystery with something new thrown into the mix. Please, give this a chance if you have not already. You won’t be disappointed.

 

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Review: Done Dirt Cheap

Done Dirt Cheap

 

I tried so hard to like this book. I mean, I carried it with me to Orlando in the hopes of finishing it wanted to like this book. The fact I struggled so much to finish this one meant it just was not for me.

Short blurb: Tourmaline and Virginia have an unusual friendship and met in an even more unusual way. Together, they team up to beat the odds and get back at the people that are out to hurt them.

That sounds like a pretty rocking story, right? Wrong. This entire story was boring. BORING. I started skimming chapters about 25% of the way through for several reasons:

  • The writing style was choppy and very difficult to follow
  • The dialogue was cheesy
  • The overall plot had such potential but the author just did not deliver
  • Nothing. Happened.
  • The characters were not interesting

The absolute main thing that bothered me was the name of the main character: Tourmaline. Seriously. Who names their child that? I stumbled over that the entire book. For some reason I figured that by now authors knew that unrealistic names for the characters might throw some readers off. If I struggle to pronounce and know nobody would name their child that, I will not be invested in that character. Petty? Probably but I just know what kind of a reader I am. I did not care about the rest of the characters either. I didn’t like Virginia and did not believe they would form such a fast and tight friendship. It did not feel believable to me. They felt like they were trying too hard to be tough and edgy, like they were trying to convince themselves just how badass they were.

The plot was sketchy at best. I, like many others readers, spent most of my time reading and rereading what I just read hoping I had missed something because the holes in the plot were massive. Sadly that was not the case. The author just did not do a good enough job getting the reader from point A to point B. I quickly discovered that I flat out did not care what was going on. Zero cares. None. Goose egg. It probably didn’t help that I just just finished the Thunder Road series so my mind kept circling back to that as a reference for motorcycle gangs and how they should behave in all aspects. I know that is not comparing apples to apples, but it is just what my mind did. And it told me that this particular story was not good. Again, it felt like a teenage girl that was trying too hard to prove how tough and badass she is.

I tried. I really, really tried to like this book but it just was not for me. I am sad that I did not love this and rated it so low (2 stars and that felt generous) but it just was not my cup of tea.

 

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Review: Frostblood (Frostblood Saga #1)

Frostblood (Frostblood Saga, #1)

 

I have become quite picky with fantasy books lately. I usually shy away from high fantasy as I find they are not my favorite genre to read. I either don’t understand what is going on or the story does not grab my attention. I was hesitant to start this because the blurb reminded me too much of Red Queen. After the fiasco that was Glass Sword, I did not want a repeat.

Short recap: Ruby is one of the last Firebloods in the land. She is hidden with monks and trained to use her fireblood power. She is tasked with killing the ruling Frostblood king and taking his throne.

There is nothing overly complicated about this plot. I found the story interesting and very easy to follow. My one complaint though is at times it felt a little more juvenile than I was hoping for. If I was much younger and just discovering YA fantasy or moving my way up from middle grade to YA, this would be the book for me. However, that is not me. I felt like there were various parts of other plots sprinkled throughout this story. Part of it felt like Marie Lu’s The Young Elites, other parts read like Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen and Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone. I could keep going but you name the YA fantasy book, there’s a good chance part of this story will feel like a section of it. It is a quick and easy read but nothing that really sank its teeth into me. The world building is decent and it does the job but it wasn’t anything that absolutely blew me away.

The same goes for the characters. The story starts with Ruby, hiding her gift of fire, trying to survive by her mother’s side. Everything changes when Ruby’s mother is killed by the king’s army and thus causes Ruby to swear revenge. Nothing new with that storyline. Ruby trains hard to develop her powers because she is constantly told that she is The One that can save everyone. Sound familiar as well? Again, nothing new. The male character, already forgot his name, helps train Ruby all while hiding a dark and powerful secret. Pretty sure you can already guess what that is. These two start a sort of romance but I never felt the chemistry between them. It sort of felt like they were attracted to each other because they were the only ones close to the same age. Plus, they are supposed to be forbidden from being together. Woooooooooooooo. Heard that one before, have you? Stuff like that is throughout this entire story.

Overall, I liked this story enough to be curious about the second book. This just did not feel like anything original or earth shattering that I need to scream from the rooftops how amazing it is. I have a feeling a lot of YA readers will really enjoy this, but don’t go into it expecting something new.

 

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ARC Review: Goodbye Days

Goodbye Days

 

I have been struggling with this review for months. Why? This book was so earth shattering, soul crushing, heart smashing good that I am afraid my words will not do this story justice.

Carver Briggs never thought his life was anything more than normal. Amazing friends and great family, what more could he want? Everything changed after he sent a text to one of his best friends and that might have caused a horrific car crash that ended their lives. A criminal investigation is launched to see what exactly caused the accident that ended the lives of Mars, Eli, and Blake. No matter what the outcome is, Carver has to carry the guilt that he, in fact, may be the reason for their deaths. The families are all dealing with the loss in very different ways. Then, one day, Blake’s grandmother reaches out to Carver and asks him to help her with a ‘goodbye day’ so she can say her final goodbyes to the grandson she lost. Carver is apprehensive but feels obligated to help her out. It turns out to be therapeutic for both. This gives Carver the idea to reach out to the other families to have a ‘goodbye day’ for the sons they lost. Is this really the best thing? Are all of the families willing to forgive Carver for what he might have done?

This book made me ugly cry and it caused mascara stains on my pillow case. I may send Random House and Jeff the dry cleaning bill for that, but I’m not sure yet. I do know that this book broke me in ways I didn’t know I could break. From page one my heart went out to Carver and what he was going through. I quickly became invested in all of the characters. I soon found myself wishing I was a member of the Sauce Crew. These guys just clicked on another level that let me know they truly would have been friends for life, long after high school and they scattered to the winds. This group was meant to be a unit. I always thought it would be difficult for a writer to make readers care so much about characters that are no longer living but Jeff did it effortlessly. I cared so much for the members of the Sauce Crew that the more I found out about them, the more my heart shattered. I found myself breaking apart at how much life they did not get to live or experience. Just thinking about it now is threatening to test my waterproof mascara.

This story was so beautifully written that I tore through it in no time. I was so engrossed in what was happening that I was sad when the story ended. I just wanted to keep reading Jeff’s words. By the end of this story, my heart was shattered and barely functioning, yet I was thanking Jeff for doing this to me because Carver’s journey was just so beautiful.

I really do not know how much more I can say about this story without giving it away. It is no secret that I am the biggest fan of this story and will be recommending it to everyone for a very, very long time.  This is a story that will probably (hopefully?) stay with a lot of people. It is so thought provoking that I am still playing this story over and over in my head. Now I’m just rambling. That’s what great books due to me… they make me a blubbering idiot. Promise me you will pick up this book. Promise me you will buy it, borrow from the library, borrow from a friend. Whatever you need to do (except steal!) to get a copy of this story, do it.

 

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Review: Trouble is a Friend of Mine (This is a big ball of NOPE)

Trouble Is a Friend of Mine (Trouble, #1)

 

What in the sam hill did I read in this story? I’m still not sure. I expected something so much more than what I got.

From Goodreads:

“The first time Philip Digby shows up on Zoe Webster’s doorstep, he’s rude and he treats her like a book he’s already read and knows the ending to.

But before she knows it, Zoe’s allowed Digby—annoying, brilliant, and somehow…attractive? Digby—to drag her into a series of hilarious, dangerous, and only vaguely legal schemes all related to the kidnapping of a local teenage girl. A kidnapping that might be connected to the tragic disappearance of his little sister eight years ago. When it comes to Digby, Zoe just can’t say no.

But is Digby a hero? Or is his manic quest an indication of a desperate attempt to repair his broken family and exorcise his own obsessive-compulsive tendencies? And does she really care anyway?”

Yep, I’m using the Goodreads blurb again. Why? Because I had a hard time figuring out the actual plot of this terrible story. The idea of this story did appeal to me but the delivery was bad. Oh so bad. The plot felt as if it was slapped together. There were holes so big you could drive a truck through them. It was not logical and it did not seem to fit together. Over all of that, it felt repetitive. It was causing me to roll my eyes more and more as it continued. I still don’t know why I actually finished.

Now onto the characters. I strongly disliked the characters. (Hate is such a strong word…) I never connected with any of them and I didn’t want to. I could not stand Digby for anything. I wanted to tie him to a chair and watch him wear himself out. His character was far too hyperactive and high strung. I wondered if he was manic throughout most of the book but apparently that was just his personality. It was awful. Zoe was no better. She was such a people pleasing pushover that she rarely stood up for herself. She found herself in situations that she didn’t want to be in or shouldn’t have been in only because she wouldn’t say “No”. The rest of the characters were not memorable. They could have been shadows in the background for all I remember of them.

What bothered me the most about this story is how juvenile it read. The voice of the characters sounded like they were very young, tweens almost. They certainly did not come across as if they were older teenagers. The lackluster plot felt overly simple and nowhere close to complicated. Digby and Zoe made it complicated for no reason. Maybe it was to move the story from Point A to Point B, but who knows. Don’t get me started on the cover either. I positively loathe the cover of this book. It does not speak to me on any level and originally caused me to avoid this book at all costs. I wish I had listened to my gut and just stayed away.

I cannot recommend this to anyone. I did not find anything funny or remotely funny about this story. I found the characters rude and underdeveloped at best. I wish I had DNFd when my gut told me to but I stuck it out and was even more disappointed than I thought I could be. I know I’m the black sheep on this book but alas, not every book is for every reader.

 

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Review: If You Find Me

If You Find Me

 

This book. I was not prepared for the intense emotions that would come from this story. Some words I will use to describe this story: Haunting. Beautiful. Raw. Gut wrenching. Heart breaking. Powerful.

Carey and her little sister, Nessa, have been living in a run down trailer in the middle of the woods for years, living off of beans and old books. These girls are used to being left to fend for themselves thanks to their unreliable meth-addicted mother who leaves for long stretches at a time. These girls have their world turned upside down one day when their long lost dad and a caseworker show up to rescue them. This way of life is all these girls know. Suddenly they are whisked away to the hustle and bustle of the city, where they quickly discover just how much they don’t know about life outside of the woods. As Carey and Nessa try to adjust to their new lives, Carey cannot help but wonder when the good things will stop and they will be thrust back into the horror of unspeakable things that happened in the woods. These unspeakable things are so bad that Carey cannot bring herself to admit and that caused Nessa to stop talking. Carey discovers the truth behind what her mother did, the fact she was abducted 10 years ago, and admit to the terrible secret she’s been keeping secret for years.

I have so many emotions and feelings about this story. It shattered me in ways I didn’t know what possible. The thing that stood out the most to me about this was the narrator on the audiobook. That may sound crazy but bear with me. It is true that a narrator’s voice can make or break a story. In this case Tai Sammons took this story to another level. I believe she nailed the voice of Carey perfectly. I felt every emotion, every feeling, every action Carey had, it was outstanding.

That being said, I loved the characters in this story. My heart constantly broke for Carey and Nessa. The unspeakable things those girls witnessed and lived through would have broke nearly anyone else but they saw it as normal. The bond between these two sisters is almost too hard to put into words. What they have connecting them transcends the word “love”. Carey would have gone through hell and back to save her sister. Carey fought with every ounce of her being to save and protect Nessa from the cruel and unforgiving events of life. Carey did the best she could with basically nothing. The rest of the characters felt as if they had individual voices and their own personalities. I did not like Delaney but I don’t think I was meant to. She came across as the stereotypical snotty spoiled teen who was used to being an only child. It was no secret that she and Carey did not get along. I think the adults could have handled the situation a little better but no parent is perfect.

I am trying so very hard not to give anything away. I want to go into more detail but I won’t. I have read some reviews where the reader dropped their rating of the book because they felt Carey’s voice sounded more mature than her 15 years. I have a huge problem with that because reasons. Carey went through more in her 15 years than most people have in their entire lifetime. She survived hell and kept her sister safe while doing it. She raised her sister from a baby while their mentally ill mom was smoking meth and selling her body to pay for the drug habit. You cannot expect a young child to witness and live through those types of events and not grow up fast. Someone had to be the adult and it certainly wasn’t going to be Carey’s mom. Cut the girl some slack. The audio gives the added kick to Carey’s voice because you get to hear everything in the Tennessee accent which gives just that little something missing from the print version.

Please, if this book is not on your TBR – add it now. This book has been out for a few years and it deserves all of the hype. Believe the hype. This book is one that will stay with you long after you finish reading.

 

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