Like a Love Song by Gabriela Martins (ARC Review)

Publisher: Underlined
Page Count
: 303
Release Date: August 3, 2021

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

Everything I knew about this book before I started reading it just made me want to dive into it even more. From the fake-dating-trope to the setting among the LA music and film stars – I truly thought Like a Love Song was written for me, because it basically covered everything I love. I’m so very happy to report that it didn’t disappoint!

Natalie, as a narrator, has a fun and easy voice. She effortlessly manages to make herself relatable to the reader, even though she has a couple diva-moments, which the people in her life notice and even shade a little at times. All of that is part of her journey though and what a sweet one that is. Because when you are followed by paparazzi all the time and every moment of your life gets captured for the internet (be it in a professional capacity or by the shoddy phone camera of a fan), it may happen that you lose sight of who you really are. Natalie was vulnerable and anxious, constantly overthinking what the public, but also her friends and family, were thinking of her, and that made her so beautifully human. I really enjoyed watching her find her way back to herself.

Now, enter William. I sometimes wished we had gotten to know his family and his struggles on an even deeper level, but he was so easy to fall in love with regardless. There was a certain dorkiness and cluelessness to him that felt so endearing, but most of all I appreciated his willingness to keep it real despite the circumstances. Even when Natalie sometimes doubted him, I think his sincerity shone through. However, I’d like to add that I will not tolerate any slander of superhero movies, especially not from indie movie snobs.

So much about this story was cute and funny, but it really had a lot of heart as well. I read it in just one day and that’s because it flowed really nicely, but also because it didn’t always go into great depth. Natalie’s feelings were very clear and I loved the glimpses at family and friends, funny text chains and hints at their life off the page, but sometimes I also wanted even more. I’m forever greedy that way.

The one final thing I will say is that the characters didn’t really feel like 17-year-olds to me. They could have just as easily been in their early twenties and I don’t see how that would have changed the story, but then again, I really didn’t mind that they sometimes seemed older in my head. Maybe I even preferred that in some scenes …

Lastly, Like a Love Song will officially release on my birthday and I think that is an especially good omen. I hope that date will put it under a lucky star, because I really think that a lot of people could potentially enjoy this fun story!

Fazit: 4/5 stars! If you like tropey (in the best sense of the word) teen romances, you should check this out!


Do you plan on reading Like a Love Song? What’s one of your favorite romance tropes? Let’s chat!

The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass (ARC Review)

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Page Count
: 256
Release Date: July 13, 2021

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

CW: racism, homophobia, bullying, school shooting, graphic violence/death, suicide and suicidal ideation, physical and emotional abuse, mental illness, parental neglect and abandonment, attempted rape/child molestation, drug use, possession

Ever since I saw the cover for this book (shout out to Jessica Jenkins, who designed it, and Corey Brickley, who did the cover art), I knew I had to pick it up. Horror is still a new-to-me genre and I’m slowly easing myself into it, unsure where I truly stand on it, but I have no regrets reading The Taking of Jake Livingston.

While it may seem short, The Taking of Jake Livingston packs quite the punch. From the get go, Jake’s narration style mixed with the diary entries from Sawyer manage to create great tension and suspense. Although Sawyer gave me the creeps, I enjoyed how reasons for his behavior were explained but not excused. I felt like it was really easy to connect to the teen voices, which were casual but also had some really beautiful lines included. I was barely a couple pages in and I wanted to know everything that had happened and was about to happen.
I have to say that you barely get a breather while you read, with heavy topics such as abuse, racism, bullying, etc. being around every other corner. It became quite a lot at some point, but, at the same time, perfectly portrayed Jake’s dire circumstances. He was about to be stripped of everything, even his self, and you really felt that along with him. All of that made the lighter moments, especially those with Fiona and Allister, who were like bright spots in the ever-growing darkness, all the sweeter. I often wished they had been featured even more prominently, just to give Jake someone to lean on, although I understood that wasn’t the main plot.

Despite the heaviness and the gruesome scenes, some of which had me in literal tears, the book does end on a hopeful and lovely note. I don’t know if I could have handled a glum ending, but I was really pleased and even happy at what I got. This was a story about ghosts, control and letting go of things/people that hurt you, but it was also about self-acceptance and even queer Black love. While the romance surely wasn’t the main plot, the author managed to incorporate it perfectly, making it something that eased the heavy parts without ridiculing what was happening.

In the end, I was impressed by how much intensity could fit into such a “short” book. Some parts felt a bit disjointed and rushed, lacking consequences at times, but the discomfort and creepiness of some scenes will continue to haunt me. I’ll try to just think of the nice ending instead …

Fazit: 3.5/5 stars! Gripping and haunting story you will surely fly through!


Do you intend to pick up The Taking of Jake Livingston? Are you interested in YA horror?

The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin (ARC Review)

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Page Count
: 362
Release Date: June 1, 2021

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

Advertised as “Practical Magic meets Twister“, The Nature of Witches immediately grabbed my attention when I first heard about it (those are legit two movies I adore with my whole heart). As much as I enjoy immersing myself in a high Fantasy concept, there’s something special about magic meeting our contemporary world, which this book does instead.
In this specific instance, witches have always lived among humans and helped them regulate the atmosphere and climate. But humans, as they tend to do in every reality it seems, wanted more. They went against the witches’ recommendations and tried to inhabit parts of the planet that should have been left to nature, always trying to push the limits further, until the Earth could take no more and the atmosphere became too erratic to be tamed by magic even.

As far as general premises go, this was something that interested me right away, because I loved the idea of mirroring our real life climate crisis in a magical way. However, the book only carried this idea as an underlying theme to propel the main character, Clara, further in her journey of accepting herself. Told from her POV, you mostly deal with her inner and very personal struggle. As an Everwitch, she can control magic no matter the season, whereas other witches are at their strongest or weakest depending on the time of year. Clara’s not just the only Everwitch there is, but because it has been so long since the last one lived, no one really knows what her powers entail, just that she is stronger and more dangerous and their only hope at counteracting the humans’ destruction. The danger in her abilities manifests specifically whenever she loses control, because her rampant magic seeks the people she loves the most and kills them, hence why she is reluctant to form any attachment to the people in her life.

While reading the book, I understood where Clara’s trauma came from. Imagine having powers you never asked for and that no one knows how to control, just to see them take every person you love from you at the slightest mistake. The conclusion that you would need to isolate yourself makes sense, but it still put the story in a repetitive loop, because not getting attached to anyone simply isn’t realistic. We are not even talking about romantic love here, but any kindness can make the heart grow fonder. Still, Clara focuses a lot on her romantic entanglements, which include her ex-girlfriend Paige and her current love interest Sang. I was personally more invested in Paige’s side of things, simply because she seemed like one of the few people willing to call out Clara when she was being self-centered and their history was really interesting. Sang, on the other hand, was one of the loveliest and sweetest characters. He was so supportive and exuded a calm that I wish I possessed too, but somehow I didn’t feel the depth of their love as much as it was described on the page.

All of this was a surprisingly quick read as you breeze through the seasons, but despite the dangerous situations the characters were put in, I didn’t feel the urgency of the plot. Usually, when it comes to magic, I try to just accept what I’m told, but I struggled a bit with the logistics. Here are a couple of examples that didn’t make sense to me entirely:

  • Every witch has their own seasons (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter) in which they are born, their personality is affected by and their magic is the strongest. However, seasons aren’t technically bound to certain months. They are marked by weather patterns and daylight hours, completely different depending on where you live on the planet. So, if a Summer witch didn’t want to see her powers wane after three months, wouldn’t they just be of better use in a different geographical area?
  • Clara had to live in a shed in the woods all by herself after a fatal incident with her powers, to make sure she wouldn’t get attached to any of her other classmates who lived together in dorms. This technically seems logical, but then they pair her with one person to train her alone, be it a teacher for years or a newly introduced person her age. If you spend time with someone in close proximity and they are your only close contact, you will form an attachment. People tend to grow on you over time, so this course of action was an odd choice for me, because it obviously counteracted what they were trying to do.
  • The big final plan (which I won’t go into detail about) was reckless, could have backfired so badly and was purely based on a hunch. Never mind that we don’t fully understand what happened or why it was necessary exactly, but it seemed to be a cure all.

Finally, this may not have been everything I’d hoped it would be, but the writing was beautiful, especially when it came to the weather and plant life. I also really liked the little quotes at the beginning of each chapter. They were a nice touch and I don’t want to reveal anything, but loved how it came full circle in the final chapters. Something about them worked so well as affirmations, you didn’t even have to be a witch to feel like they could be helpful to you as well.

Fazit: 3/5 stars! Very interesting concept and quick read, although it didn’t live up to my expectations!


Do you plan to read The Nature of Witches? What is your take on contemporary magical stories? Let’s talk!

The Summer of Broken Rules by K.L. Walther (ARC Review)

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Page Count
: 386
Release Date: May 4, 2021

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

CW: loss of a loved one

Sometimes a book comes around and it just sweeps you off your feet. The Summer of Broken Rules was definitely that for me! It’s not easy for a story to be fun as well as moving, but somehow this one struck the perfect balance and just made it an incredibly engaging read.

You meet Meredith and you can easily relate to her. I think anyone who has ever lost someone close to them understands the way you yourself get lost in your grief. Every corner you turn, you see that person and remember how things used to be, but can’t be anymore. The Summer of Broken Rules managed to make this story a beautiful exploration of grief, while also the journey of reemerging from that cloudy haze that comes with loss, without it ever feeling too heavy. I may have shed a tear or two, but I laughed and smiled even more.

From the get go, I was just in love with the setting. I haven’t been on a vacation in forever and definitely have never been to Martha’s Vineyard (it feels like a rich people destination in my head and I cannot explain why?), but I could almost feel the sun on my face, smell the ocean breeze and couldn’t shake that odd feeling when you just know it’s unavoidable to get sand everywhere. Add to that a huge group of relatives and friends, where you sometimes lose track of just how you are related, but you know you are family either way because of the shared bonds and you have captured my heart. At times, I had trouble following the who’s who, but never when it came to the important players.

When it comes to the love story, I thought it was interesting how easily I was swayed by Wit. Many times, I have complained about insta-love and insta-lust, but somehow the connection between Meredith and Wit just felt natural. You basically just follow them through the course of a week, but every interaction felt authentic and made me root for them rather than roll my eyes at their quick attachment.
I’d also like to praise that there was a discussion, albeit brief, about how Meredith tends to latch on to her love interests and detach from her friends as a coping mechanism for her grief. Having scenes with that as a context puts them in a different light and, in this instance, makes them work all the better. With the characters being aware of how fast things are developing and even questioning their behavior, I thought it was refreshing. In the end, it didn’t change how I felt about them though and I was happy to see them grow together through the hurdles they had to overcome.

I can’t say I’ve ever been as competitive or invested in a game as the entire extended Fox family is when it comes to “Assassin”, but what a treat it was to follow them for a week. As serious as they take it, it also created some hilariously brilliant moments and I understand how it became a tradition for them. It’s almost something you’d want to revisit yourself every year to see how everyone was doing, which was why I was so grateful for a little epilogue from the future!

As a final note, this was my first time reading a book by K.L. Walther, but I heard that there are lovely little easter eggs to her previous novel “If We Were Us”. I adore when authors put in those tiny references for readers and it has me very tempted to check out her debut novel.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! Fun and moving – a great summer read along the lines of Morgan Matson books!


Could you see yourself picking up The Summer of Broken Rules? What are some summer reads you enjoyed a lot? Let’s talk!

Any Place But Here by Sarah Van Name (ARC Review)

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Page Count
: 336
Release Date: May 1, 2021

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

CW: underage drinking

Any Place But Here is my first encounter with Sarah Van Name’s writing and I immediately felt drawn into the world of her characters. You meet June and Jess at an evening that feels like it could be any night of the week for them, beyond tipsy and definitely drunk, just that it’s at a school venue and things are spiraling fast after they get discovered with booze in the bathroom.

After that, no matter what June says, her parents don’t trust her anymore and send her off to live with her grandmother (lovingly called Oma, which is also what I have always called my grandmothers too) to attend an all-girls-school. In the beginning, I struggled a bit with that punishment. I understand the concern of June’s parents and the way they mostly blame it on her “friendship” with Jess, but June is literally a straight A studen and … I come from a country where the legal drinking age is 16, so I always roll my eyes a bit at American laws. Of course, there is a difference between drinking responsibly and just getting wasted and I don’t condone the reckless kind since I’m not much of a drinker myself, but it’s always a bit difficult for me to wrap my head around why it is such a huge deal. I literally had bartending classes at my school when I was 16, but I’m veering off course. This conflict sets up the rest of the novel and does so really well.

Who would want to leave behind everyone they know, including the person they care about most, to live in a town where they know no one and nothing ever happens? I can tell you that the answer is not June.

As we see the world through her eyes, it quickly becomes clear that June’s relationship with Jess was more than “just” a friendship. Whenever she speaks about her, their shared bond seems undeniable, but the longer they spend apart, the harder it becomes. And you also start to wonder what held them together in the first place. Things become even trickier when June’s new friends bring up the question of her sexuality (in an intimate and non-pressure related setting) and June has no real answer for it, especially since she finds herself drawn to one of the new acquaintances. I find it’s not often that bisexuality is explored in young adult books, but I enjoyed the way it was done here.

I have spent my fair share of time away from family and friends and I always felt like I was a different person when I came back. Sometimes I was shocked to see how much had changed in my absence, other times I found myself annoyed with the lack of change in my environment when I felt so utterly different. This book perfectly mirrored my emotions and dealt with how hard it can be to let go or fight to keep someone in your life. It’s always a decision you have to make and sometimes you don’t ultimately get what you want.

When you meet new people that enrich your day to day and you find new hobbies that bring you joy, it can be hard to arrange and combine this with your old life. Things change and so do people. Aside from this beautiful exploration of love and friendship, it was also a great but nonchalant portrayal of family. The messiness of it, but the love that was woven through all decisions really warmed my heart. Even with them being miles apart, June’s younger siblings were always present in her thoughts and the struggle with her parents was so relatable. They always made her feel like she had to compete for their approval, but when she lived with her grandmother she experienced such a different parenting style and through that could actually find things she enjoyed.

Overall, I loved being on this ride with June and seeing her find her own way. It also got me really interested in photography, which I didn’t expect, but hey, maybe I’ll find my own Sam there.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! A great read about changing relationships, family and expectations. Enjoyed it a lot!


I know the release is still a while away, but could you see yourself pick up Any Place But Here? Have you had experiences with toxic relationships? Let’s talk about it!

This Is Not a Ghost Story by Andrea Portes (Book Review)

Publisher: HarperTeen
Page Count
: 288

CW: suicidal ideation, depression, mental health decline, grief

When I hear the phrase “this is not a ghost story”, my mind immediately goes to the latest installment of the Haunting series – Bly Manor. So, it came as no surprise when this book was recommended to me as the perfect complimentary read. However, once I started I more and more got Hill House vibes from it (a menacing house working against you, rapidly declining mental health). Then again, it doesn’t seem like either one and yet would fit into the series really well … that is, if you were focusing on just one 17-year-old girl instead of a large ensemble cast. But I digress.

This Is Not a Ghost Story is written in a stream of consciousness/inner monologue style that immediately made Daffodil (the main character and our narrator) endearing to me. She is chaotic, daydreaming, binges conspiracy theory documentaries on Netflix all day and manages to not move from her bed unless strictly necessary. Human contact? Who needs that!?
While I adored her voice, because it helped lighten some of the creepier scenes with a tinge of humour, I could also see a couple people struggling with it. The way I see it is that it’s one of those things that’s either totally your thing or not at all.

As you all well know, I don’t really do horror. OR I mostly only do horror light, so, this worked really well for me. The title already says it, it is not a ghost story. It sure feels like one at times, but there’s a lot more to it that just keeps unraveling and tricking you. This book is for all the people who hear a creepy noise and deliberately ignore it until no longer possible. It’s for all of us who will try to explain away the most illogical and impossible things like there is any kind of rationale to it.

The only thing I am kind of grapple with is the end. It’s not that it doesn’t make sense. It really does, but I am not sure if it feels right? Some have described it as lackluster, which isn’t even my issue with it. I am just uncertain about the involvement of a certain someone in getting Daffodil into this situation in the first place. It just does not sit right with me entirely, but maybe … maybe that is just not for me to understand. As Daffodil said, there’s not yet words for some things you want to say.

In the end, I did pick up a horror-esque book on purpose and … I enjoyed myself! A LOT! I have really ventured out of my comfort zone a little bit this year and I am really proud of that. Maybe this book isn’t perfect, but I am basing this rating on how much it entertained me and I more or less inhaled This Is Not a Ghost Story.

Fazit: 4.5/5 stars! Still trying to come to terms with the ending, but overall I really enjoyed this!


What are we thinking? Would you pick up this book? Let’s talk in the comments!

Admission by Julie Buxbaum (eARC Review)

Publisher: Random House Children’s Books/Delacorte Press
Page Count
: 352
Release Date: December 1, 2020

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

I have not read any book by Julie Buxbaum before, but know a couple of friends who quite enjoy her style and I was excited to check out Admission. As far as I gathered, this story was inspired by the very much real admission scandal but is an entirely fictitious version of similar events. Neither research nor any association with real people exists and since the author makes a point of mentioning that very clearly, I thought I should too.

Julie Buxbaum did not choose an easy topic, that much was obvious from the get go to me. You have this family steeped in privilege and while you do want to allow the reader to connect to the characters, you don’t want to redeem them or excuse their actions. I am not quite sure how, but Buxbaum managed this balancing act phenomenally.

With an alternating Now and Then POV, you get to explore the events that led up to Chloe’s life and that of her family imploding, while at the same time seeing the very concrete fallout from it. I didn’t really wonder whether Chloe knew what was going on or not, but I enjoyed the debate on what it means to be complicit. Buxbaum managed to humanize her without sugarcoating that she is the villain in a lot of people’s stories. I feel like a lot of authors have that need to not just give their characters a redemption arc, but also one that absolves them of their wrong-doing, which thankfully wasn’t done here. I don’t want to say you empathize with what happened, because I was downright disgusted by some of the conversations that family had, because screw them for their entitlement, but it made you understand how their thought process was and that weirdly made sense in turn.

I don’t think this is one of those books where you fall in love with very many characters, however, I have found great pleasure in the way friendships and family are portrayed. I liked how inconsequential the romantic love interest was, because in the end, it’s very doubtful that it would be a priority in such an extreme situation. Instead it focused on so many different kind of relationships and I especially appreciated the one between Chloe and her best friend Shola as well as the one to her sister Isla (both of which were my favourite characters if I am being completely honest).

While definitely not the easiest of topics and quite frustrating to read about sometimes, it was still a page turner I quite enjoyed. I’m glad that no excuses were made and consequences were implemented. It once again made me really, really, really glad that I did not have to deal with the stress of going to university/college in the US though.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! An intense look at how far some people go for their children and how it all blows up!

Do you want to read Admission? Do you have university admission horror stories of your own? Feel free to ask questions about the system in my country if you want to!

Charming as a Verb by Ben Philippe (Book Review)

Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Page Count
: 336

I have said it before and I will say it again, there’s something about Ben Philippe’s writing that just works for me. I was utterly smitten with The Field Guide to the North American Teenager and extremely pumped to read Charming as a Verb. From the first couple of pages, you just sort of get the characters and their personality. They come to life easily and grow on you quickly.

All children are charming as an adjective, but you’re charming as a verb. 

Henri “Halti” Haltiwanger is, in all possible meanings of the word, charming. He has a Smile (yes, capital S) for every situation and knows how to navigate people like the back of his hand. In addition to that, he is also extremely smart and funny and handsome – a combination that makes him likable in every social circle he encounters, despite some massive income differences between him and his other classmates. And while you read, you get it! Henri is a go-getter and not beyond a little con here and there to get to the places he needs to go. He just knows exactly what to say and makes his flaws look endearing, so, it comes as little surprise when Corinne, the social opposite of him, blackmails him into helping her get a social life. A meet cute started by blackmail, not something you see every day!

“You want me to She’s All That you?” I manage to say, hiding the smile creeping on my lips.
“What’s that?”
“Oh, my God,” I groan. “Watch more movies. Maybe that’s been the missing ingredient all along.”

From there on, things evolve quickly and you have a sort of rivals to friends to lovers situation. Corinne and Henri are incredibly cute together and will have you smiling like crazy with their banter and endearing get-to-know phase. However, this book isn’t just a romance. It’s about so much more!

A much bigger component, and the source of many a problem, is the fact that Corinne, Henri and their friends are in their senior year at High School. Being at a very competitive private school is one thing, but Henri simultaneously has to keep his dog-walking-business running, help out at home and fulfill his dad’s dream of getting into Columbia. And that’s the source of one of the main issues!

Despite our both being the O-Generation – a concept I have to admit rings terribly true the more I think about it – Corinne isn’t an immigrant. Or the child of immigrants. It’s a distinction that’s mostly irrelevant except in the moments like these, where it could easily place us on two different wavelengths. There’s no Haitian in her, no Jamaican, no Puerto Rican. Her Blackness is American, born and raised. Stolen and enslaved, technically, but still, it’s rooted here. She never aspired to be here from another shore elsewhere. She might not understand.
“If I give up on Columbia, then … I don’t know.”
“Then it’s like you’re no longer Haltiwanger Hungry?”
“Something like that.”

So, Henri has to figure out why he wants to go to Columbia and how far he is willing to go to get there. I call it the main issue, because it leads to Henri doing something that just made me so irrefutably angry. Maybe it’s not fair for me to hold Henri to such a high standard, but I truly expected better from him and that just made me so disappointed in his actions.
Then again, that’s another sign of great writing! I was so invested in the life of the characters, I wanted them to do better. I wanted everyone to succeed and live their dreams. And I don’t even speak of just Corinne and Henri here, who were so lovable, but also side characters like Henri’s best friend Ming. That dude was exactly the kind of friend I wish everyone had!

To recap, Ben Philippe’s writing style is still something that I enjoy very much. He manages to not feel the need to detail every second of every day the characters live through and yet you always feel like you have the full picture. His characters are full of life, relatable and fun. I didn’t enjoy the conflict in this one as much as in The Field Guide … but I still thought it had amazing parts focusing on the family-theme and very cute romance moments!

Fazit: 3/5 stars! I really wish Halti hadn’t done that one thing …

3s

Are you planning on reading Charming as a Verb? Have you read Philippe’s other book? Let’s talk!

Watch Over Me by Nina LaCour (Book Review)

Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Page Count
: 272

CW: parental neglect, emotional and physical abuse, grief, ghosts

Nina LaCour is one of my auto-buy authors and I don’t even need to read the blurb to buy her books. However, when I first heard about this one, I was immediately drawn to it. I knew that once again, Nina LaCour would create an impeccable atmosphere that would eventually emotionally wreck me – and that’s exactly what happened, but more about that later!

I see this book being classified as Young Adult and I’m not sure I would necessarily agree with that. Mila, the protagonist, is 18 at the beginning of the novel and turns 19 during the course of it. She goes to live on a remote farm, where she works as a teacher and helps with the harvest as well as Sunday markets. Her life and her struggles very much came from the past, and thus her younger self, but it still felt like it could have just as easily been classified as an adult novel. That’s not to say that I minded the more grown up approach, but I just think it’s something to be mindful of when you pick up this book.

There’s something about Nina LaCour’s writing that just transports me into a whole different world. Usually, rooted in a lot of trauma but still very much in reality, Watch Over Me was a surprise with its literal instead of metaphorical ghosts.

Had we been telling the truth, he would have said, The place where I’m sending you – it looks beautiful, but it’s haunted.
Okay, I would have said.
It will bring everything back. All that you tried to bury.
I understand.
It’s going to make you want to do bad things.
I have experience with that.
And how did it turn out?
Terribly. But I promise to do better this time.

Mila yearns for something in her life. I would say for a family, a place to call home and someone or something to belong to. In her desperate need to hold on to these new people she is meeting on the farm, feelings of jealousy and self-doubt creep in. While I understood entirely where she came from, it was such an intense longing tied to strong emotions on her part that it sometimes felt off-putting. That’s not to say that she was unlikable, but she surely contained multitudes behind her quiet and pleasant demeanor.

When I read a LaCour book, I often associate it with very strong emotions of my own. While Everything Leads to You wasn’t all happy, I still associate a warmth and admiration for it due to its setting being in film. With You Know Me Well, I had found one of my favourite feel-good-books and We Are Okay drowned me in a world of sorrow. Watch Over Me is a bit harder to categorise. I could have easily read it in one sitting, it is poetic and beautiful and flows nicely. But something about it is also very eerie and strangely tied to a sense of dread, sorrow and grief. It made me sad to the core and sometimes I cried at passages that didn’t even seem so sad.

“Do you like it?” Julia asked. But I didn’t know what she meant. All I saw was the deep blue-green water, the white foam against dark rock. The wildflower-studded cliffs, and the tall grasses in the wind. “Because it’s magnificent,” she said. “But I don’t like it. It scares me.”

There is no explicit romantic storyline in this book! While there are hints that a character may be attracted to more than one gender, it is not discussed or a focal point of the story. Although, the relationships Mila forges and nourishes are definitely worth talking about. To me there are four worth talking about here (without giving away too much):

  • Her mother and Blake: the trauma she has to face on the farm mostly stems from them. There is guilt and relief, sadness and so much strength that was bred in that relationship. It’s what’s really haunting Mila.
  • Terry and Julia: they are basically the parents Mila never had and always wanted. They have taken in over 50 kids and fostered them, which put them on a pedestal in Mila’s mind.
  • Billy and Liz: as I said, there’s no romantic storyline, but I feel like there was definitely an air of possibility for a throuple here as Mila seems to be attracted to both of them and fantasizes about them.
  • Lee: Lee is Mila’s 9-year-old student and anchor during her first weeks. She feels like they are both outsiders in this family and she clings to him tightly. I often felt torn about their relationship, because I loved how close they grew, but I also hated the emotional baggage she put on that kid sometimes.

“I’ll never leave you,” I said to him. I closed my eyes. I felt his body relaxing, heard the slowing of his breath. “You’ll have to grow up and leave me first.”

Sometimes I didn’t realise just how much time had already passed on the farm. It went from days to weeks really fast and I think that’s why I sometimes struggled with the depth of attachment the characters already had to each other. When I turned that last page, I wouldn’t have been able to give you a timeline at all. However, I did feel like I had just been on a journey with Mila. I didn’t understand everything that had happened, but I doubted that she did either. The farm is a magical place that only becomes the bad kind of haunted if you let it.

Fazit: 3/5 stars! I feel like I just went on a whimsical journey of sadness and grief.

Do you plan on reading Watch Over Me? Have you read other books by Nina LaCour? Let’s talk!

Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles (Book Review)

Publisher: Little Brown Books
Page Count
: 305

TW: police brutality, murder, violence, racism

Tyler Johnson Was Here was on my TBR before it ever even got released. When I saw the cover and read the blurb, I knew this was yet another very important read. It’s not the first time I am tackling the issue of police brutality through fiction on my blog. The thing is, those reads are never easy (and they’re not supposed to be), but that’s not the reason I hadn’t gotten to Tyler Johnson Was Here earlier. I don’t know why it slipped through my fingers, but the murder of George Floyd and the protests that followed in the US and all over the world were a terrible reminder of how this is still very much the reality for Black people and people of color out there. So, I felt more compelled than ever to finally get to this book.

Jay Coles does not shy away from making it very clear that police brutality is a constant companion in some people’s lives. I hate the thought that children who should be carefree and playing with friends have to be educated by their parents about how to behave when the police stops them. How they could have done not even the slightest thing wrong, but everything they say or do could be construed as dangerous at the whim of some stranger. While most of the novels I have read before focus on one specific event of police brutality, Coles shows several incidents, each one shaking you to the core alongside the characters. So, while the main turning point that is mentioned in the blurb “only” occurs at the half-way point, you get this build-up of this constant companion of fear.

The cop yells, “Everybody shut the fuck up.” He looks at the three of us. “You three better get out of here before you’re next.” And now I’m wondering: What does next mean? Next to be treated like a punching bag or an animal? Next to lose my life?

I found myself very quickly attached to Marvin, the main protagonist. He is gentle, kind and smart and has a voice I loved to read about. Tyler is different and similar to him, two sides of the same coin. They were on the verge of growing apart a little bit, but still had that unbreakable bond. Marvin’s sadness was palpable on every single page while reading and I was close to shedding tears more than once. I never doubted that he was stronger than he thought himself capable of (albeit sad he had to be), but he was so incredibly brave towards the end. It was great to see his development throughout the story and see him stand up for what he believes in.

Yes, I’m willing to die for this cause, but the fact that there’s even a chance that I’ll die, become a hashtag, be remembered briefly, and then be completely forgotten and marked as a statistic fucking terrifies me.

I only wish I would have learned as much or at least a bit more about his friends and love interest. I understand that his mind was very much occupied by a traumatic event and I could see how much he cared for and appreciated the people in his life. But still, they fell a bit flat for me in comparison to Marvin, who we got a great feel for! Nonetheless, I enjoyed the focus on community and how it can be a source of strength in such trying times.

Some days, when I do, I just stare at the blackness I see in the mirror hanging on my closet door. I tell myself that I love this skin, that I’ve always loved my blackness, that if the world doesn’t love me, I will love myself for the both of us. After reminding myself that I matter, that I’ve always mattered, that Tyler mattered and still does, I make a promise to myself. I promise to never be silent about things that matter.

I don’t think the story needed a stronger focus on the trial, because the outcome wasn’t what was most important to Marvin in the end. He found his meaning of freedom and what mattered most to him through other means and in honoring his brother in his own way. Still, I’d like to say something: Video evidence should not be necessary to get people heard or to get a conviction or even as much as an arrest. People should not have to be excellent in order to not get killed by the people who were supposed to protect them. It all makes me so very angry, but I’m not surprised anymore. If you are still surprised by any of this, you haven’t been paying attention, because this has been happening for a while now.

Fazit: 4.5/5 stars! Another very important read!

If you want to engage with this topic through fiction some more, here are a couple books I have read and can recommend (as I am sure there are many more that I have not yet read that are really great):

The Hate U Give (The Hate U Give, #1)          Dear Martin (Dear Martin, #1)          All American Boys

Having said all that, I also encourage you to check out some non-fiction books. I have to work harder on that myself, but I found Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (part memoir, part essay) very insightful. I have also heard great things abut Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad.

More resources: https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/


Have you read Tyler Johnson Was Here? Do you plan on picking it up? Let’s chat!