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!

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!

Anna K. by Jenny Lee (Book Review)

Publisher: Flatiron Books
Page Count
: 374

It’s time to make a confession: I have never read or watched Anna Karenina in all my life. Why is that little tidbit of info about me avoiding/being oblivious about a Russian classic vital to you in this very moment? Well, Anna K. is a the glorious modern retelling of said classic and I hereby freely admit that I have no way of comparing the two, but I hope that still gives me a “unique” view on the book. It definitely made me curious about the original novel, that’s for sure.

Every happy teenage girl is the same, while every unhappy teenage girl is miserable in her own special way.

This book really left me in some sort of emotional state of mind! It took me a bit to find my footing, but from the get go, Anna K. is a fast-paced whirlwind of amazing characters. A lot happens as you sort of play tag with the characters and switch from one POV to the next almost seamlessly. At first, I was a bit unsure of just the vast amount of characters, but they were interconnected beautifully and each had their own voice and personality and depth to them despite all of it being told in the 3rd person (to me that sometimes feels a little less personal, but not here). On the one hand, it felt like you were just observing the characters’ lives, but on the other hand, you had clear insight into all their motives and desires.

What I first believed to be a superficial glitzy love-at-first-sight teenage foolery, turned out to be so much more than that. I loved the upperclass Manhattan/Greenwich setting. I loved that Anna K. was a Korean-American teen and that her family’s tradition clashed and blended with American society standards. I adored the character dynamics and how everyone was connected in a more or less expected way. I loved how heightened and extra a lot of it was. At some point, there was one tragedy after the other and each time I thought my heart couldn’t possibly break any more, but then there was another one just around the corner. Yet, you don’t leave this book sad (maybe a little wistful), but rather full of hope and love for all these characters.

There’s not much fault one can find with this book in my opinion. The characters aren’t perfect paper cutouts, but actual human beings with faults and flaws. Anna and Steven even made it into my list of favourite literary characters and that’s not an easy one to get on. So, if you aren’t into cheating plotlines and characters using an excessive amount of drugs, maybe this isn’t the read for you. The love is also very … insta? Love at first sight in general comes quick to these characters. But if you want a Gossip Girl approach to a Russian classic (and I’ve been told Jenny Lee did a pretty remarkable job with the retelling) with a more diverse cast of characters, you should definitely check it out! I promise you will keep turning page after page in anticipation of what might happen next and how things could possibly go so terribly wrong for someone so lovely.

As a last thought, I would really encourage you to check out the Author’s Note at the end of the story. It really added even more spark to an already very entertaining and heartfelt rollercoaster of a read for me.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! A fun and emotional take on an old classic!

Have you read Anna K. or Anna Karenina for that matter? Would you be interested in doing so? Let’s chat!

Tweet Cute by Emma Lord (Book Review)

Publisher: Wednesday Books
Page Count
: 368

I can’t believe I read this brand new 2020 release, but it was one of the easiest tasks ever to convince me to pick it up! Twitter wars, teen banter, copious amounts of Gossip Girl and Mean Girls references, grilled cheese and all the sweet goods one could imagine as well as the enemies-to-lovers trope – this book basically consisted of all the things I love and adore.

When you go into Tweet Cute, I feel like you very much know what to expect and that’s not a bad thing at all, because the execution is what matters. I went into it having quite a lot of the story elements that would be used in mind already, but I was still surprised when some of them were used. Sometimes a certain plot point would arrive much sooner and I’d be surprised by how much of the story was still left. Nonetheless, I never felt like the story was dragging on or stretching out parts of it too much, everything flowed nicely and made sense in the grand scheme of things.

This won’t be a very long review in total, just because there is very little to say other than my utter adoration for Tweet Cute. The characters were fun, the setting was cool (I like some preppy uptown New York academy), the banter was hilarious, but what I loved the most was the complex family dynamic. The pressure you sometimes get from wanting to please your parents, the rivalry that can ensue with a sibling because of different treatment and the fierce loyalty one might still feel, even when things are not at their best at the moment. All those things make a story feel real and relatable.

Now, can someone please make me a grilled cheese?? I am hungry!

Fazit: 5/5 stars! Such good fun! (Caution: Do not read while hungry or craving food!)

Have you read this book also? Have you seen it swarm around the blogosphere as much as I have? Let’s chat!

Your WIP in Gifs Tag! (NaNoWriMo 2019 Edition)

For those of you who have followed my blog for a while, you’ve probably seen this tag before! I have previously done it for my project Arcadia (check out the post here) and for my #witchyWIP (which you can check out here) and both times, I just had a ton of fun. Now, I didn’t want to do an official NaNoWriMo announcement, because I don’t know how seriously I am taking it this year, but I figured everything that helps get me motivated is a good thing.

Disclaimer for those who don’t know what NaNoWriMo is: It stands for National Novel Writing Month and is a yearly event that takes place during the month of November. Writers all over the world attempt to write a novel with at least 50K words during the time constraint of that one month. I’ve done it previously, but only succeeded once.

Since you are not supposed to TALK about what your WIP is about, I am not going to for now. I might do a short summary at the end, but will mostly just let you guess?? Let’s do this!

THE RULES

💛 Thank the person who tagged you (no one tagged me this time, but still, thanks Michelle for creating this kind of post!)
💛 Credit the creator of this tag (Michelle!) and link back to this post so she can find out aaaall about your WIPs!
💛 Try to limit the amount of gifs you use per question – I’d say maybe stick to five or less but I’m not the boss of you

THE QUESTIONS

Sum up your WIP in 4 gifs!

(Keep in mind, this is just a regular old Contemporary YA. I wasn’t trying to hint at any sort of scifi connection or so …)

Time to introduce your main characters!

Karoline

Little bean thinks she can do anything!

Lena

There’s some stuff to unpack there. Who is she jealous of? Does it make her literally sick? Stay tuned!

Jack

Maybe that’s not so much Jack, as Karoline’s thoughts about Jack, but whatever.

Marcia

You don’t want to mess with that lady.

How would your main character react in a crisis?

I feel like Karoline would have a hard time asking for help. She’d just try to brave it on her own.

If you were to meet your main characters, how would you react?

This story has some … memoir-esque qualities …

And if you were to meet your antagonist?

It would be civil, but I don’t think we’ll ever be on the same page.

Is there any romance in your WIP? How would you sum it up in gifs?

Actually, despite Karoline crushing on one or two people, there isn’t really a romance. It’s super tame and just not about that.

How do other characters feel about this ship?

How do you want people to react to reading your WIP?

This is the evolution of how I hope everyone will feel about Karoline.

WHAT IS IT ACTUALLY ABOUT?

As much fun as it was to look up those gifs and pick them for this post, I could understand how you might not feel the connection to any of it, since I have told you literally nothing besides it being Contemporary YA so far. Let’s start with a little blurb maybe?

Karoline is ready to see the world! (Or at least she thinks she is.) After mountains of paperwork and considerable support from her friends and family, she is finally about to embark on her exchange semester in the US. But when she arrives, nothing is like she imagined it would be. Yes, every day in High School feels like she jumped right into one of the TV shows that have shaped her youth, but somehow she just can’t seem to make it work with her host family. Will Karoline manage and have to grow up in a foreign country with no support system from back home around?

I am still working on that pitch … but it’s basically what it’s about. This is very heavily influenced by my own experiences, but I threw in more than enough fiction to not make it awkward with real life people. At least I hope so … no one better try to find themselves in this story.

So far, I am not on target for the official NaNoWriMo goal at all, but it’s okay. I will write at my own pace. What do you think about my untitled exchange semester story? Are you interested? Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Let’s chat!

The Wicker King by K. Ancrum (Book Review + The Legend of the Golden Raven Novella)

Publisher: Imprint
Page Count
: 305

CW: hallucinations, unhealthy co-dependency, negligent treatment of children, harmful behaviour and self-endangerment 

I’ve wanted to pick up The Wicker King ever since I saw a finished hardcover copy of it in a store in Canada almost 1.5 years ago. If you are a sucker for beautiful covers and extravagant design inside and outside of books, you will have a hard time resisting this one. Although I try to get better at not just buying books because of their beauty, the Wicker King definitely paid off.

All the superficial details aside, I honestly am glad I finally read the book. It’s not an easy read for sure, but it has lovely characters and such an important story to tell. I don’t want to spoil anything, but you don’t necessarily wonder as much about what is fantasy and what is reality as it might seem at first glance. I’ve had my fair share of books that mastered the art of completely bending your mind with the possibility of what might be happening, but there were very few doubts about the going ons in the Wicker King for me, which is probably why it was almost scary to read sometimes.

August and Jack are wonderful characters and I often just wanted to jump into the story and mother them, hug them and protect them. I did not agree with all the choices they made nor the behaviour they sometimes showed, but those boys did the best they could and deserved so much better. It’s not that I believe their parents didn’t love them, but they did a terrible job at it. Circumstances can make life hard and people crumble and break at times, but if you have kids, you really have to power through regardless. I know it’s easier said than done from where I am comfortably sitting childless behind a computer screen, but wow, did I wish that I could somehow help them and care for them, because their parents sure didn’t. In the end, it was good that they took care of each other, even if they could have done with a guardian in their lives.

There are a couple reasons I didn’t fully adore this book though and I think those are just very me reasons. While I love myself some short chapters, I was confused about the POV in the beginning (which is August’s by the way) and then felt like they hindered me from really connecting in some moments. I also didn’t love the continued hook ups, but my main sore point of the book was the relationship between August and Jack somehow. I liked that it was ambiguous in the beginning, because I am not the kind of person who just puts a romantic label on things just because I can. However, the longer I read on, the more I got afraid for them. They were so important for one another, so entangled in each other’s lives. The presence of August was like a necessity to Jack and vice versa. I understand that it’s one of the main points of the book, but it almost seemed unhealthy to me and therefore I couldn’t 100% root for them to be together. As I said though, this is a very me thing and maybe that worked perfectly fine for other people.

Fazit: 3.5/5 stars! Definitely worth a read even if I didn’t click with every part of it.

If you know me, you also know that I am not much of a novella person, but The Legend of the Golden Raven was free for Kindle, I got it and really enjoyed it.

In only 40 pages, The Legend of the Golden Raven shows Jack’s condensed view of the events of The Wicker King. I thought that was a really neat addition to the main book and was happy to see a whole lot more magical/fantastical elements included. Obviously, the author couldn’t go into detail with it, but it still fills some gaps and rounds up the tale nicely.

It’s most likely not a must-read, but if you enjoyed the Wicker King, then I would recommend this as well.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! 

 

Have you read The Wicker King and it’s companion novella? Do you want to? Let’s talk about it!

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi (Book Review)

Publisher: HarperCollins
Page Count
: 310

Tahereh Mafi is one of my all-time favourite authors. I haven’t read everything by her, however, most of what I have read was more in the dystopian (??? gosh, I am terrible with genres) category, whereas A Very Large Expanse of Sea is Mafi’s first YA contemporary! I wasn’t sure how her writing style would translate to this genre, but it was a truly amazing read!

Where to even start? Set one year after the terrible events of 9/11, it chronicles a particularly memorable time for Muslim teenager Shirin. You can immediately tell that it is a very personal story and while I don’t know all the specifics that went into this book, I am certain that Tahereh drew some parts of it from her own experiences. Even though I can’t say I was really a teen in 2002 just yet myself, I was slowly getting there, and it instantly brought back some memories from that peculiar time. I remember the news reports and the fear and all that even though I was living on an entirely different continent. But I also associate those years with a certain kind of nostalgia, when everything was getting more digitalised while not quite being there yet.

Aside from a setting I could easily wrap my head around, I was most enamored with the characters. Shirin is a no-bullshit kind of narrator and a really smart one at that. She manages to paint a picture of all the people in her life in a way that makes them seem real, even if you only meet them briefly on the page. Her growing relationship to Ocean was exactly how I picture teens in love for the first time. Everything happened fast but at the same time with caution and the awareness that the other person might just have the power to break their heart.

The entire story tackled so many different topics. This isn’t just a love story, although there certainly is a focus on it, but also a tale about family, friendship, finding your passions and having to handle racism and Islamophobia. It hurts deeply to know that there are such vastly ignorant and hateful people out there. I always wished that those parts of the story were fiction only, but unfortunately that’s not the case.

Lastly, Tahereh Mafi finished the story off in the most bittersweet way. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I am not going to go into the details here, but it felt right to end it in that certain way, while you also wanted so much more afterwards.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! This book was packed with so much in such few pages in comparison.

Have you read A Very Large Expanse of Sea? Is it something you’d be interested in? How did you feel about Tahereh writing in another genre? Let’s talk about it!

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo (Book Review)

Publisher: Hot Key Books
Page Count: 368

Before starting this review, I want to give a huge shout out to Ari @The Romance Corner Blog because To Kill a Kingdom was one of the books I won in her giveaway. I rarely win those, so when she messaged me I was over the moon (and looking at the two books that came my way and that I absolutely love, I still am over the moon now) and she deserves all the thanks for making this happen. And second, I also want to thank Marie @Drizzle and Hurricane Books for being my buddy reader for this adventure. Don’t forget to check out those lovely ladies’ blogs and to keep a lookout for Marie’s own review of the book.

Sooo, that was a lot of unrelated preface for my review. I am trying my best not to simply scream at you that I loved the book. However, from the get go, it had everything I liked in a story. Sirens, pirates and the cold ruthlessness and beauty of the ocean. I know that to Kill a Kingdom is a sort of retelling of the Little Mermaid, but I really didn’t have a hard time separating those two stories. First of all, Lira is a siren and there is a vast difference between sirens and mermaids in the book (SO appreciated that!! You know how fuzzy I get about those two getting mixed up together). And then I feel like the story just had a completely different vibe.

The descriptions were whimsical and dark. There was so much murder and ripping out of hearts in the beginning, I reveled in it and knowing what was about to come. We tried to pace ourselves, but at some point I just couldn’t stop reading anymore. I needed to know how long Lira could keep up her ruse, who’s hearts would be broken and who would survive the wrath of the evil Sea Queen. I wouldn’t claim that the book was entirely unpredictable, but it still kept you on your toes, with some cruel chapter-cliffhangers but an amazing conclusion in the end.

While I loved reading both Lira and Elian’s POVs, I think I can consider Lira being one of my new idols now. Her change was gradual and comprehensible, I loved how she discovered humanity and grappled to come to terms with siren-hood at the same time. Her hate-to-love-story with Elian never really seemed forced or suddenly uncharacteristically mushy, but rather involved daggers, fights and bickering that seemed true to their nature and was a lot of fun to read. The only thing I quarrel with a bit is the fact that Elian calls himself a pirate. He is a prince, a diplomat wherever he goes, and I don’t think he has ever plundered a ship? How can he be a pirate? I guess he may have taken the bounty of other pirate ships, but that’s just like him executing the law? To me he was a sailor and not so much a pirate …

I didn’t just love the main characters, but I also really fell for some of the side characters (mainly people from the crew, but not only). There was something about the style of writing that just made it really easy to picture everyone and every place. I would want nothing more than to travel through those kingdoms during a time of peace, as it sounds absolutely beautiful.

I hope that some of my rambles actually made sense, but most of all that my excitement and love for this story swept over to you. At some point during our buddy read, I was reminded of a picture of an actress I really adore and it just screamed Lira at me. I know that everyone pictures characters differently, but I couldn’t end this post without sharing it with you!

Doesn’t she just look like someone who could rip out your heart? And she definitely has pirate vibes too!

Fazit: 5/5 stars! Whenever anyone will ask me for a Fantasy recommendation in the near future, this will inevitably come up!

Did you read To Kill a Kingdom? Do you want to? Let’s talk about it!