A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik (eARC Review)

Publisher: Del Rey Books
Page Count
: 336
Publication Date: September 29, 2020

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: a bunch of really murderous monsters of various kinds

This was my first Naomi Novik book and I had an absolute blast with it. From the premise alone, I already had a strong feeling I would enjoy A Deadly Education, the first book in the Scholomance series, but I wasn’t prepared for just how much fun I had with it.

From the beginning, Galadriel, who is usually just going by the name of El, was a hilariously snarky narrator. She finds very little to like about the people around her or the situations she finds herself in. Where other people try to see the good to get by, she is utterly prepared for the worst and expects nothing from no one. The amount of times she described herself as not being able to stop seething almost felt like a running joke at some point, because she really did have the hardest of times feeling anything but angry, which makes the moments she feels vulnerable all the more special.
However, what could have easily been an annoying trait after a while, worked incredibly well for her. Death seems to be a constant companion at the school and everyone is way too okay with more than half the class dying until graduation. It felt so callous and cold. All I wanted from El was for her to actually care for someone, to break that carefully crafted facade, and during the course of A Deadly Education, that’s exactly what you get, which is what makes it such a joy to read.

The strong suit of the story is definitely El’s interaction with her fellow classmates, be it with enclave kids she hates, the few kids that tolerated her or, most fun of all, shinning knight and do-gooder Orion. If I had to describe him, I’d say he was a classic example of a himbo – not the brightest bulb out there, but a boy with a heart of gold … and not bad to look at either. His banter with El was really EVERYTHING! If you can give me a good “Why are you being nice to me? Are you mad at me?”-kind of dynamic, I am hooked! I don’t really want to speak more to the nature of their relationship, because I don’t even know if I can call it fake dating or not, but it’s hilarious.

Where the novel struggles a bit is the world building. I never really found myself confused by the concept of the school, the international aspects with students from literally all over the globe being in this one void place or the onslaught of murderous monsters. What I did struggle a bit with was the enormous info dumps though. El is telling everything from her point of view (with a really interesting 4th wall break at some point), with long paragraphs of inner monologue and little else, which establishes her voice nicely, but also just means info on info on info in some sequences of the book. I wish there had been a sleeker way to introduce all that to us, but it kept happening throughout the novel, even after the initially very info-dump-heavy first chapter.

What really throws you for a loop is the final line of the book though! Honestly, this could have easily been an interesting standalone book (with only a couple unanswered questions left), but with that one last line, it turns your whole world and the experience you just had upside down. Now I am really full of questions and anxious to find out what the frick is going on!

Fazit: 4/5 stars! Absolutely loved this and am already so looking forward to the sequel!

Do you intend to read A Deadly Education? Have you read other books by Naomi Novik? Let’s chat!

Dear Justyce by Nic Stone (eARC Review)

Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Page Count
: 288
Publication Date: September 29, 2020

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: racial profiling, police brutality, incarceration, domestic abuse, mention of sleep paralysis, anxiety and depression

I have been a huge fan of Nic Stone’s novel Dear Martin and while I didn’t expect for there to be a sequel (or companion novel?), I was excited to get the chance to revisit these characters. However, this book isn’t as much about Justyce as it is about Quan, a boy with a very different life.

Right from the beginning, the author explains why she decided to write this book. As much as Dear Martin had quite the impact, the more readers Nic Stone met, the more she realized that a lot of people don’t get the same chances and opportunities as Justyce. There are people who feel trapped with a label that got stuck on them early on and like there is no escape from a possible future as a delinquent. People who are often at the wrong place at the wrong time and have no one in their corner. Things don’t always go right and one can feel powerless in the circumstances that you find yourself in. And they, too, deserve for their stories to be told and will hopefully see themselves in Quan’s experience.

Reminiscent of the format in the first book, we still have a bit of a mixed media style going on (letters, prose, etc.) and I found that specific writing style very engaging. It keeps the story flowing at a nice pace, without every getting confusing when it comes to timelines and so on.

Often, I am drawn to stories where characters need to find their family, their people, because for whatever reason their home life isn’t it. There might be a lack of support or an abusive environment the character will try to escape, but I rarely considered that finding a family – because you so desperately want someone to look out for you – can also end in a bad way. Quan makes some stupid choices, but once you hear how he went from one bad situation to another and at some point you are just done with the cards life deals you, you can’t help but feel for him and root for him. I was so happy to see that he had people in his corner, that truly only had his best interest at heart, even when he didn’t think he deserved them going to bat for him.

I appreciated Nic Stone’s letter to the reader and author’s note so much. She really put a lot into this book and I like that the she acknowledged how much of it is fiction and how Quan’s case would have probably ended differently in real life. But a lot of the story is about how we need to belief in people and let them know that we do, how it creates hope and a mindset that there can be a difference – that’s why I am glad the book ended the way it did! I think it will help create more open minds and hearts as well, as we all can believe in and support the people around us!

Dear Justyce is just as raw and real as its predecessor and can easily stand on its own. It shows how different experiences can be, but how far a little support can go. I hope that it will encourage people to reach out to those who struggle and prevent things from escalating the way they did for Quan.

Fazit: 5/5 stars! I think I liked this better than Dear Martin (not that they are really in competition though).

Are you planning on reading Dear Justyce? How did you feel when you heard there was a sequel to Dear Martin? Let’s chat!

Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power (eARC Review)

Publisher: Delacorte Press
Page Count
: 352

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: death, murder, arson, vomiting, unplanned pregnancy

I was supposed to read this book about two months ago, before it’s release in early July, but it was a struggle getting here. I want to start by saying that I have not read Wilder Girls and therefore had no expectations concerning the author’s writing style or way of storytelling. All I thought this would be was a family drama, which it was in part, but there is definitely so much more to it that I feel like I didn’t sign up for.

I’ve been trying to gather my thoughts for a while now, but can’t seem to make sense of it all yet. I think my main issue was that I went into this book thinking I’d get a twisted tale of a torn family, but really, it was more along the lines of horror? Those of you who know me, realise that in 9 out of 10 cases, I would not pick up a horror book on purpose and it was off-putting here as well.
I was prepared for an otherworldly, thick with the scent of buried secrets atmosphere (which Power manages to create quite well), however, I was not prepared for it to be so decidedly not our world in the end. When you start this novel, the characters take some getting used to, but it seems like we are here, in our reality. It takes almost half the book to come to the conclusion that you are not and at that point you are just confused.

This book features queer characters, a strained family relationship, a rural/small town setting – all factors that would usually entice me to read a book! So, why exactly didn’t it work for me?

Burn Our Bodies Down is told through the inner monologue of the main character Margot. She is a strange girl with very intense mood swings, something that didn’t always make it easy to follow her thought process. We get snippets of her personality as well as a bit of exploration of her sexuality (is she a lesbian? bisexual?), but it all gets dropped in favor of the “mystery” of the plot. And that mystery is really all that kept me propelled to keep reading, because I surely wasn’t able to connect or like any of the characters very much. I wanted to know how it would be resolved. I had my guesses early on and even though at that time, I had still thought this was just regular reality, I was right. That just added to me not feeling very satisfied by the pay off, because what else could it be?

Before I end this review for good, I just want to say that I saw a lot of people enjoy this book. It’s probably a very me-thing that I didn’t and which I mostly base on the inability to connect to any of the characters while reading. I highly recommend you check out varying reviews if you are still unsure whether you want to read this book or not.

Fazit: 2/5 stars! This was not meant for me.

Have you read this book? Do you want to? Have you read Wilder Girls? Let’s talk!

Again Again by E. Lockhart (eARC Review)

Publisher: Delacorte Press
Page Count
: 304
Publication Date: June 2, 2020

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

This is not a love story, or, at least, not a romantic love story.

I feel like that’s what the cover might suggest and what you could interpret the blurb to be, but it’s not. Maybe it is part of why I went into this book with a sort of wrong idea, but then, I learned a long time ago to never truly expect E. Lockhart’s books to be any specific way to begin with. I quite enjoyed her earlier chick-lit-esque work (for those of you who followed her career and are fans of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, you’ll get a fun little easter egg) but was truly the most enamored with We Were Liars, which was what I would consider more in the mystery genre. Now, Again Again, doesn’t really fit into either category and proves once again that E. Lockhart won’t be confined to any genre.

Again Again is partially written in verse and takes place in a multitude of universes, although mainly two. I think this approach could go over either way with the reader. Sometimes it felt repetitive in a tiresome way, other times it showed you how one moment can unfold in such vastly different ways that you yearn for a different outcome. It definitely takes time to get used to this unconventional style of storytelling, although I think the visual formatting helped get the point across. Still, I’m really torn on this matter myself, because I would be lying if I told you that the final universe wasn’t my favourite and I was so very relieved that it existed – imperfections and everything – whereas I really struggled with the others.

As far as the characters go, I found it a bit difficult to really fall for Adelaide. She was putting on this bubbly front of happiness, which didn’t reflect her inner sadness and turmoil at all, bordering on obsession in so many departments of her life. Her erratic behaviour made me dislike her sometimes, especially when she was impulsive and neurotic about boys that were only an escape, but not a solution. I understood why she acted the way she did.
Grieving for someone, even if it wasn’t the kind of grief related to death, and being burdened by constant worry will change you. It makes you act strange and impassive and everyone deals differently, but even though I got that on some level, it didn’t prevent me from getting frustrated with her sometimes. I appreciated the realness of her brokenness, while also resenting it. I am contradictory that way.
I did really like her creative side though! I would love to see some of the stuff she made in this book in real life!

However, as I said at the very beginning of this review, this is not a romantic love story, because all these boys (which were really only three) couldn’t have been more inconsequential, if I’m being completely honest. The most important relationship in this book, at least in my eyes, is the one between Adelaide and her brother Toby. Theirs is a love story of a different kind, because loving a family member can be just as hard and disappointing and necessary. Them finding their way back to each other was the only thing that really mattered to me.

Lastly, I just want to mention that I always love it when dogs are in the mix! I want to warn all of you that a dog gets punched in the face in this book (out of defense), but that they also seem to be able to talk to the main character in a way and that was surprising and quirky and I still don’t know what to make of it.

Fazit: 3.5/5 stars! Hit and miss in a lot of ways.

Do you want to read Again Again? Have you read previous books by E. Lockhart? Let’s talk!

I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn & Allison Raskin (Book Review)

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Page Count
: 352

**I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!**

I am a fan of Allison Raskin’s and Gaby Dunn’s YouTube channel Just Between Us (and their earlier work on Buzzfeed) and when they announced that they wrote a book together, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. I Hate Everyone But You is told in emails and text messages, a format I very much enjoy because it flows easily and mostly turns out to be a super fast read. From the beginning, I thought it represented both Allison’s and Gaby’s voice really well, in fact so much so that their characters seem like teen copies of themselves. Having that base knowledge of them, I felt like I understood when they joked or when they were serious about something. I definitely understand the people that were offended by some of the remarks, but I pretty much read the entire book in their respective voices and for the most part that worked quite well for me. Both, Ava and Gen, are deeply flawed in some of their ways of thinking, but at the same time try to grow (when they are not being completely stubborn and self-centered). I think they become better people because of each other, while also learning how to depend less on each other while exploring the world around them … if that makes any sense.

Having said that, I am not entirely happy with the book. They really tried to pack everything there is in this one book (approaching topics such as finding your place in the LGBTQ+ community, anxiety, depression, mental health, addiction and many more), but at the same time didn’t really have an engaging or comprehensive plotline. I am serious, if you would ask me to summarise what it was about in one or two sentences, I would really struggle to say anything more than a timid “friendship?”. I’ve read quite a couple of novels that were character driven instead of plot driven and it worked fine for them, but because of the message format, I feel like there wasn’t enough room for development and us getting to know the characters in depth to warrant such an approach. The two girls always knew more about each other than we would ever find out about them as the reader.

Ultimately it was a fun and fast read, but it could have been better in some aspects.

Fazit: 3/5 stars! I guess I expected more?

Have you read I Hate Everyone But You? What are your thoughts?

Mindstormer by A.J. Steiger (eARC Review)

Publisher: Oneworld Publications
Page Count
: 320

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

As you know, I’ve read the first book in this duology (?) only recently. You can check out my review for Mindwalker HERE!

While I wasn’t the biggest fan of the predecessor of Mindstormer, I was pleasantly surprised by the beginning of this one. It really switched things up and kept you wondering what had happened. Lain having lost her memory sort of resets all her relationships back to when book one started, but since you know how she is “supposed to feel” towards certain characters, it really creates an interesting dynamic.

Unfortunately that was only the first part and then there is an entire flashback to the three months we missed. That’s when things sort of turned generic for me again and constantly kept reminding me of things I had read or seen before. I was also very frustrated with Lain and Steven’s behaviour during that time. I seriously started to think that Ian would become a valid option, simply because Lain and Steven didn’t interact with each other whatsoever. People change when they are thrown into extreme circumstances and it would not have been far fetched for me if they had simply grown apart, but apparently that wasn’t the master plan behind it. I just got so annoyed with their very opposite beliefs clashing, both of them being stubbornly idealistic in their own ways.

Something about this series just rubs me the wrong way. I am not sure I can really put a finger on it, but the portrayal of the countries and their relationship was odd to me (Like, can you imagine Canada building a wall to the US and then becoming one of the countries with the harshest internment camps on the planet?). In addition to that, I could not really agree with either form of suggested government and whenever Lain proposed a less violent approach, not even she could come up with concrete ideas on what they were actually supposed to do.

In the end, I was glad that the characters didn’t come out of this unscathed. Events like the ones they went through leave a mark and they’ll have to live with their actions forever. Ultimately, I liked it better than the first book, but it will never become one of my favourite series.

Fazit: 3/5 stars!

Would you read this series? Did you check out the sequel?

Words In Deep Blue by Cath Crowley (eARC Review)

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Page Count
: 288
Publishing Date: June 6, 2017

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

This beautiful tale, told in the alternating POVs of former friends Rachel and Henry, was simply EVERYTHING I could have hoped for. I wept through the majority of it and by the end, I  was simply in love with the book.

Words in Deep Blue is a love story, but it’s also about loss and grief. It’s about family and time. It’s about all the things we might not appreciate enough while we have them. And it’s a story that will have you falling in love with books all over again. There are countless references to classics as well as contemporary fiction. I am a person who always keeps her books in meticulous condition, but this made me want to write in the margins, underline quotes I saw myself in and write letters to strangers. The fact that it’s written not only in prose, but that we also get to see some of the letters and notes that are exchanged and where they are left is something I simply adored.

It was so easy to connect to the characters, even the secondary ones. They are not perfect, sometimes even flawed to a point where I would call them immature, but they are incredibly real. Their feelings were all out there and you were with them each step of the way. I just wanted to hug them, comfort them, cry with them or point them in the right direction.

In addition to everything I’ve already mentioned, the secondhand-bookstore setting is the perfect place for every bookworm out there. It almost felt like a character in itself, because it had so much life in itself. So much history. I would gladly pick up any future book Cath Crowley will write and for the record, I really want a Letter Library in my most frequented bookstores.

Fazit: 5/5 stars! I just want to buy this book a dozen times, write letters and leave them for strangers to be found.

Are you interested in reading Words In Deep Blue? Have you heard of it before?

Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith (eARC Review)

Publisher: Delacorte Press
Page Count
: 432

**I was provided with an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!**

This isn’t Jennifer E. Smith’s first book, however it is the first time I got to read one of her stories myself. I was immediately intrigued by the story, found the relationship between the characters beyond cute and sat on the edge of my seat with excitement for the first quarter of the book … but then it just sort of fizzled out.

Alice is very closed off and doesn’t even admit to all her feelings to herself. I am very glad that we got a view of why that was and how it changed as she realised that she didn’t have to always keep those walls up. She was smart and kind and even though I was sometimes frustrated with her when she got a little judgy, I generally really enjoyed her POV and growth. Her past was so heartbreaking, but I could definitely relate to her struggles. I know that the memory of a person can be warped over time and how you tend to put them on a pedestal or try to make them proud, even if you might have chosen a different path if it hadn’t been for them. I loved how, layer by layer, Alice found more to herself and didn’t need the approval of someone who wasn’t even there anymore.

The people in Al’s life were the best! Leo and Max deserve their own story or companion novella or something. But also the adults felt real and flawed but mostly present – something I always value in my books, be it YA or adult fiction. Unfortunately, I struggled a bit with Teddy though. I knew from the beginning that him and Alice would be endgame and that Sawyer, no matter how sweet he was, wouldn’t be a viable option. Nonetheless, I just didn’t really like Teddy. I don’t think it necessarily only boils down to just being his behaviour after he received all the money, but in general he had moments where he was just a jerk. It got better towards the end, but I wasn’t always 100% behind the motivation of his actions.

All in all I very much enjoyed the read, but most of the initial excitement soon gave way as the story took on a more predictable course.

Fazit: 3.5/5 stars! A cute story!

Have you read Windfall or other books by Smith? Do you want to?

Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman (eARC Review)

Publishing: May 1, 2017
Publisher
: Sourcebooks Fire
Page Count
: 320

**I was provided with an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!**

I found out about this book through rather unfortunate events occurring in fall/winter last year when some Neo-Nazis decided to troll Laura Silverman for absolutely no reason at all and started to give her book 1-star-ratings on Goodreads. As terrible as those events were, I was glad to see the book community rally together for her and I am also very glad that it lead me to discover Girl Out of Water for myself.

This is the perfect summer read, even when it’s not summer. Silverman has a way of just really making you feel like you are right there with the character. I could almost smell the salt of the ocean breeze or feel the sweat of the Nebraska heat without ever thinking that there was too much description. So, even when I didn’t agree with every choice Anise made, I was with her in the moment no matter what. Anise is definitely a flawed person, but I could understand her and even relate in most moments. While I am in no way as athletic as her, I get the level of passion she has towards surfing. And while I do not have this close knit group of friends in my current geographical location, I went through similar difficulties with having to adjust to the distance between me and people I cared about more than once in my life. She makes mistakes, but you know that she is never intentionally out to hurt anyone.

I think one of the things I appreciated most about this book was how much it was about family, the one you are born into and the one you choose for yourself. It’s a theme I am often missing in my YA books, because whether parents or other family members are there for us or not, they always shape us and our youth. So, to see the struggle and the love that both come with this topic just made my heart sing. And it’s not like there wasn’t still room for other things, such as the really amazing love interest. Lincoln totally won me over with his self-confidence, charm and genuine interest and care for the people around him. And yes, also his dimple!

I didn’t mind the swearing and the underage drinking in this one, but if I could have changed something it would have rather been Anise’s storyline with her mother and her final confrontation with her friends when she got back home. Somehow I felt like there was more build up and nerves from Anise compared to the easy way it was finally resolved. That is such a minor thing though, I still adored this book and would definitely recommend it as a book to pick up this summer.

Fazit: 4.5/5 stars! Great book about family, friendship, passion and finding to oneself!

Are you going to read Girl Out of Water? Have you heard about it?

Stealing Candy by Stewart Lewis (eARC Review)

Publishing: May 1, 2017
Publisher
: Sourcebooks Fire
Page Count
: 288

**I was provided with an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!**

When I first read the blurb, I was quite excited about the sound of Stealing Candy but unfortunately it didn’t hold up to my expectations. Candy is quite the self-centered person. From the first page on, I got a vibe from her like she thought she was better than everyone else and also that she didn’t appreciate what and who she had in her life. All she wanted was to get away from everything, but when her wish comes true, it’s not at all what she wanted … or is it?

To be kidnapped is, I imagine, a very terrifying thing to experience. Candy was scared all of two seconds, but then she was sort of happy? That’s just something that did not go into my head. She had absolutely no feeling for how much danger she was truly in and she basically regarded the whole situation as a fun adventure. All I wanted to know then was “How?!”. In addition to that, she got a closer look at one of her abductors and decided he is hot? I understand how you might hold on to the person that is treating you well in a traumatic situation like this, instead of the other guy, who beat and threatened her. Nonetheless, I would have expected her trust in him to grow over time and not for her to ponder how dreamy he looks and just be okay with how they met and his intentions for their journey. There was just no build up of them getting closer, but rather this immediate attraction, which I found odd considering the circumstances.

There were some interesting elements to this, such as the reason why Levon kidnapped her and how Candy’s famous dad played into all of it. It added mystery to it somehow. The pacing was alright too, albeit a little repetitive in terms of how they progressed on the road.

At the end, there is a change in Candy’s attitude. She opens up to people and accepts them just like she wants to be accepted, but the change was too sudden for me. I couldn’t comprehend where it was coming from exactly, it felt more like she just had to do that to come across as a better person in the end. Speaking of the end, I didn’t mind that it was quite open in terms of the romance. It seemed to be more about where Candy was in life than where she was with her relationship with Levon and I appreciated that.

Fazit: 2.5/5 stars! A difficult protagonist made it hard to relate to what was going on and why she was feeling certain ways.

Have you read any good kidnapping books that weren’t too much like thrillers? Tell me all about it!