Warcross by Marie Lu ARC Review

Warcross by Marie LuWarcross by Marie Lu (Warcross #1)

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons BYR

Release Date: September 12, 2017

Pages: 368

Summary: For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

My Rating:★★★★★

My Thoughts: This action-packed masterpiece is filled with intrigue, phenomenal setting, characters, and plot, Warcross immerses you from page 1!

I flew through this book in less than a day and want to go back and read it all over again!😭✨

Everything, from the world to plot, characters, etc. that Marie Lu constructed was absolute genius!~😭❤️❤️

Warcross was a novel I went into with super high expectations, b/c obviously its Marie Lu (one of my all-time favorite authors) + I love video games/gaming! So its pretty obvious I was stoked about this book and it did not disappoint!

From the very beginning you are transported to this bright, colorful and intriguing story following Emika (Emi) Chen. She catches criminals for a living and is a brilliant hacker.

With her father having passed away, absentee mother, and one else to care for her, Emika works as a bounty hunter for the police to just get by. The novel starts off with her tracking down a gambler in the streets of Manhattan.

With the wide-spread popularity and accessibility of Warcross, rules are set up by the government to prevent players from gambling through it. And Emika finds herself catching these gamblers, among other people who use Warcross illegally!

However the hunt doesn’t go quite as planned and she doesn’t walk away with the money she needs. With roughly $13 left to her name, she’s unsure of what to do. To make matters worse, she has an eviction notice on the apartment she shares with her roommate Keira. With all the stress she’s under, to escape the real world for a little, she enters Warcross.

But after hacking herself into Warcross, she finds herself becoming an overnight celebrity and gets a call from Hideo Tanaka, her childhood idol + creator of Warcross!

Then, she’s headed to Tokyo to meet Tanaka because as it turns out, he needs her help as a bounty hunter to spy on this year’s Warcross tournament! Not only to find out about a hacker infiltrating the game, but also put an end to whatever they may be planning.

There is so much heart to this novel and you can clearly see it through Marie’s writing + Emika’s POV with the vibrant world building, clever gaming references (that I definitely picked up on), plot, setting, dialogue, everything!!

Another aspect of the world I really loved, was the futuristic tech introduced which had the ability to translate different languages, among other things and just seeing the impact of this technology on so many people was fascinating!~

Marie really brings the game of Warcross to life and after finishing this book, I wish it was real! 😭✨🕹🎮❤️💛💜

The plot itself goes in directions I was not expecting and there is so much intrigue, mystery, action/adventure and Marie balances all those aspects perfectly!

I loved all the characters equally and loved that there was tons of diversity in this novel! There’s a character who is in a wheelchair, and characters who are Latinx, Indian, Japanese, Chinese, and gay representation!

My only minor issue, was that I wanted Emika to interact a little more with the side characters, because they were all written so wonderfully and I just really wanted to know more about them.

Because this book doesn’t come out for another month or so, I really want to avoid spoilers, but yes it was phenomenal!

It even pulled me out of my reading slump! The story was fun, fast-paced and just AMAZING!~ ❤

After turning the final page, you’ll be wishing Warcross was real! This fun, fast-paced, action-packed adventure with intrigue, phenomenal character-development and world-building is not one to miss!

+ Keep an eye out on the blog (around release day) for a Warcross Reading Playlist! 😍✨🎧📚

July 2017 Wrap-Up

# Of Books Read: 5

One Italian Summer by Keris Stainton1. One Italian Summer by Keris Stainton

One Italian Summer Full Review

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Release Date: May 4, 2017

Pages: 245

My Rating:★★★☆☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: There was a strong theme of sisterly bonding between the the 3 sisters Milly, Elise & Leonie throughout the whole novel which I loved, as they take a trip to Italy w/ their mother to celebrate a relative’s wedding. There’s also a theme of grief as the girls come to terms with their father’s death. Stainton really captured and kept the themes of sisterly-love + grief throughout the whole novel. However, there is a romance that I felt began to overshadow the plot (since its told through 1st person POV) + the atmosphere of Italy wasn’t quite there and I was hoping for a little more description. Aside from that, it was a pretty enjoyable YA Summer Contemporary!

This Is How It Happened by Paula Stokes2. This Is How It Happened by Paula Stokes

This Is How It Happened Full Review

Publisher: Harper Teen

Release Date: July 11, 2017

Pages: 384

My Rating:★★★★☆ 

Overall Thoughts: Genevieve Larsen comes to terms with her boyfriend Dallas Kade’s death in this YA Contemporary that discusses mental health, family, friendship, acceptance, and the impact of social media/internet! Kade was an up-and-coming singer and his fans mourned for his loss. Gen learns to accept and cope when truths come to light about what happened.While there were some moments of slow pacing + the romance feeling a little rushed, Stokes’s YA Contemporaries always manage to integrate a number of themes and topics into her novels that give them such depth!

The Library Of Fates by Aditi Khorana3. The Library Of Fates by Aditi Khorana

The Library Of Fates Full ARC Review

Publisher: Razorbill

Release Date: July 18, 2017

Pages: 354

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: The Library Of Fates is a perfect YA Fantasy if your looking for a character-driven +thought-provoking tale! When Princess Amarita’s castle is attacked, she goes on a journey to reclaim her kingdom and change her fate! There’s female friendships, a rich mythology that really shines throughout the novel, and little to no romance! The plot kept me surprised with each and every page! While there were a few moments of slow pacing towards the middle + wanting a little more expansion on world/characters, Khorana’s novel was a tale that immersed me from the very beginning!

Lucky In Love by Kasie West4. Lucky In Love by Kasie West

Lucky In Love Full ARC Review

Publisher: Scholastic

Release Date: July 25, 2017

Pages: 333

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: Maddie’s life changes when she wins the lottery, however she makes some mistakes along the way as she is so overwhelmed with all the money she has! There’s a cute friendship/romance that develops with Seth Nguyen (one of Maddie’s co-workers), discussion on finances/financial struggles, + themes of friendship & family. While some of Maddie’s decisions did frustrate me, this novel is a fun and fast-paced contemporary that will have the pages flying by!

No More Heroes by Michelle Kan5. No More Heroes by Michelle Kan

No More Heroes Full Review

Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing

Release Date: June 27, 2015

Pages: 265

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: No More Heroes is a perfect read if your looking for Urban Fantasy, action, mystery, love superheroes/superpowers, and are looking for a diverse cast of characters! (Seriously there is so much representation ❤ ❤ A majority of the cast are characters of differing ethnicites (Samon, Chinese, Indian, Cambodian + Maori  & characters who identify as aro-ace, gay, genderfluid, have anxiety + ADHD) In the City, we follow 3 teens who have Abilities who find themselves teaming up with Vigilantes (or those who use their Abilities to take down bad guys) as Vigilantes start mysteriously being killed off!  Kan does a fantastic job at building the element of mystery throughout! The world-building is so unique from the setting to the explanation for how the differing Abilities work! There is such a big emphasis on friendship throughout the whole novel + no romance! I did want a little more description/expansion in terms of world+characters, but above all No More Heroes was a unique and fascinating story that has me awaiting a sequel!

Additional Posts + Miscellaneous From This Month:

All Systems Red by Martha Wells Book Review (Originally read in July)

Fire Emblem AwakeningMisc*~ If you didn’t know, I love video games and after so long, I finally got back into playing them again! So, in July what took up a lot of my free time when I wasn’t reading was Fire Emblem Awakening!✨🎮 Its a tactical role-playing game where your a skilled tactician who wakes up from amnesia to find yourself helping out a prince, his sister and their guard in their fantasy kingdom of Ylissie as you defend the kingdom from monsters! I don’t really wanna give too much of the plot away, but yeah this game is tons of fun! I adore it, the characters, plot, world, everything, one of my new favorite video games for sure!! I made it about 1/2 way through the game in July & I’m hoping to finish it this month!😍💖🎉 ~

No More Heroes by Michelle Kan Review

No More Heroes by Michelle KanNo More Heroes by Michelle Kan

Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing

Release Date: June 27, 2015 (Feb. 2017 for 2nd edition)

Pages: 265

Summary: The peaceful nights are kept under the clandestine and watchful eye of young, gifted vigilantes the world over. But a sudden rash of vigilante deaths heralds the arrival of a new and unfamiliar enemy – one whose motive is as unclear as their identity. Someone or something seems determined to disturb the peace, and they’re going straight for the watchmen to do it. In a city where those who are gifted make up their own rules, who will step forward when the threat of a swift end is real and there stands so little to gain?

No More Heroes is an urban fantasy action/adventure novel about young, would-be heroes who get more than they bargained for when they delve deeper into a world they never knew they were a part of. Featuring a diverse cast of players, discord, a mystery to be solved, plenty of literary action and high-stakes battles, No More Heroes is a story about self-belief and camaraderie, persistence in the face of trials, and what it means to be the best version of yourself.

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: This action-packed and character-driven urban fantasy, follows a diverse cast of characters who have superpowers! No More Heroes is a tale about friendship and what it means to be a hero!

No More Heroes had me hooked from page 1! Vigilantes (or those who use their Abilites to protect the City) mysteriously seem to be getting killed off 1 by 1!

A group of teen Vigilantes: Clare, Linus, and Mallory (who are fairly new to it), become involved when they rescue Vigilantes (Shockwave +Resonance) from a burning building!

Resonance tells them more about what Vigilantes do, but to stay safe!

Over the course of the novel, Linus, Clare, and Mallory become more involved in this mystery of surrounding the Vigilantes. They soon join Shockwave, Resonance (much to her dismay), and a few other Vigilantes as they uncover more behind who could be behind these attacks.

This novel really put a focus on character development and I loved that so much! There is also so much representation, which is amazing!

There’s Samoan representation (Linus), Chinese (Resonance aka Fang), Indian, Maori+ Cambodian rep.! Also characters who have ADHD (Clare) and anxiety (Resonance). There was also characters who identify as aro-ace, gay and genderfluid!

I also really felt connected to Resonance as it gets mentioned that she has anxiety! As the novel progressed, I picked up on certain actions/moments that showed Resonance’s anxiety, but no matter what she pushed on and continued to be a strong leader, despite it! Even when she encountered some obstacles along the way,  she was so brave and so determined to keep her friends safe!

With the mystery that surrounds who’s been killing off the Vigilantes, I was surprised when it gets revealed! Kan did a great job at keeping the element of mystery present throughout the story!

As for world building I found it to be so unique. The novel takes place in the City, a fictional city that has numerous skyscrapers, buildings, etc. and has a mainly cool/foggy weather. It was fascinating and with night being a big element of the setting I felt it really added to the mysterious tone of the story! Continuing with the world building, I also loved the explanation for why Vigilantes mainly work at night-time/evening (b/c a theory suggests that the night enhances Abilities). It was an additional little tidbit of info, but for me it added much more to the knowledge of Abilities and above all the direction Kan took with superpowers/abilities was so unique!

+ I really loved Clare’s ability (being able to travel through fog) it was so unique and I loved learning more about it!

Also if your looking for a novel with no romance, this is the book for you! No More Heroes really focused on its characters + story and friendship was a theme present throughout the whole novel.

I loved the friendship/dynamic between Clare, Linus & Mal so much ❤ ❤ (+ Shockwave/Resonance)!!  Its clear from the very beginning that they are all looking out for one another and have each other’s backs! While I really loved Clare + Linus’s dynamic, it would have been great to get more between Mal + Clare too, but I loved their dynamic all the same!

As the story progressed, there was also expansion on some of the older/ more experienced Vigilante’s motives which touched upon some characters showing morally grey sides/elements of antihero and that really added another layer of depth to these characters who already had so many differing sides to them.

While I am usually pretty hesitant with 3rd person narration, Kan did a fantastic job! It really helped to expand on the large cast of characters and overall went perfectly with the story! I do hope for future novels there is more development + expansion on the characters! I really loved each of them, but felt I needed to known so much more about them~

As to why I took off 1/2 a star: I wish there was more description/expansion on the City! Its such a fascinating setting and it would have been great to get more development + same goes for the characters (as mentioned above)! I adored them and felt they were all so unique & amazing, I just wanted to learn more about them~ ❤

With the way the novel wraps up, it sets up for a great sequel! I’ve read online that there is another novel in the works and I’m so happy about that b/c I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to these characters and the fascinating world just yet! :’)

No More Heroes is a perfect read if your looking to get into urban fantasy or really love stories about superheroes! This novel is filled with diverse characters, action, perfectly planned mysteries, fantastic character dynamics, emphasis on friendships and above all a fun and fascinating plot that will keep you turning the page!

Lucky In Love by Kasie West ARC Review

Lucky In Love by Kasie WestLucky In Love by Kasie West

Publisher: Scholastic

Release Date: July 25, 2017

Pages: 333

Summary: In this new contemporary from YA star Kasie West, a girl who wins the lottery learns that money can cause more problems than it solves, especially when love comes into the picture.

Maddie doesn’t believe in luck. She’s all about hard work and planning ahead. But one night, on a whim, she buys a lottery ticket. And then, to her astonishment —


She wins!

In a flash, Maddie’s life is unrecognizable. No more stressing about college scholarships. Suddenly, she’s talking about renting a yacht. And being in the spotlight at school is fun… until rumors start flying, and random people ask her for loans. Now, Maddie isn’t sure who she can trust.

Except for Seth Nguyen, her funny, charming coworker at the local zoo. Seth doesn’t seem aware of Maddie’s big news. And, for some reason, she doesn’t want to tell him. But what will happen if he learns her secret?

With tons of humor and heart, Kasie West delivers a million-dollar tale of winning, losing, and falling in love.

*Got ARC from a festival*

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Lucky In Love is a fun+ fast-paced YA Contemporary that follows Maddie as her life changes when she wins the lottery!

I read my first Kasie West book last year, P.S. I Like You and absolutely loved it! So, of course I was super excited to read her next novel Lucky In Love! ❤ 

Maddie is a planner and focused on school, prepping for college and hoping she gets into her dream university! She loves her job at the zoo and hanging out with Seth Nguyen ❤

However, her family’s finances are quite tight. It causes quite a bit of problems, with her parents getting into arguments + her brother still having debt.

And her birthday doesn’t go quite as planned! Her best friends Blaire+ Elise had other responsibilites, her parents continue to argue about finances, among other academic/financial anxieties, she decides to head to her local mini-mart!

When she wins $30 million after getting a lottery ticket there later in the evening, her life changes! She can now pay for college, support her family, and so much more, yet it comes with some downsides.

I loved the discussion/inclusion of financial struggles that people face + how it can impact a family!

Once Maddie wins the money, one of the popular girls at school, Trina is recommending she should splurge and have fun! Trina had good intentions, but I felt it just caused problems for Maddie.

While I understand Maddie being overwhelmed with the money she’s just received, I couldn’t help but be frustrated with her at times too b/c she blindly followed what people wanted /expected her to do with her own money (like paying more than she needed to for a car + buying other expensive things she knew she didn’t really want)!!

The whole time I was like: “No dummy \0/ don’t listen to them! Just do what you think is best!!”

Her parents were recommending her to get a financial adviser + friends recommending her to spend wisely, but no one really helped her go through with it, so she was left making decisions on her own. She was not being guided at all, which led to many of her problems!

Her friends were by her side, as novel progresses, but she (mainly towards the middle/end but gets resolved <3) finds they aren’t making time for her and believe she’s changed. So, Maddie finds herself hanging out with Trina more.

It made sense cause she felt her friends were abandoning her, however it just caused me to be more frustrated b/c Trina would keep telling her how she should spend her money and Maddie, a majority of the time just followed what she or others would say.

Well aside from that, I really loved the romance! It’s clear that Maddie has a crush on Seth and I loved their adorable banter/friendship throughout the novel! + It was great to read more diversity in Wests’s books! (Vietnamese rep. + exploring the impact of finances)

While it may seem that this novel is romance heavy, it really isn’t! It really focuses on Maddie and her journey with her lottery win + school + college, etc!

I understood when Maddie felt the need to not tell Seth about her lottery win, with all that was happening, it made sense, yet I completely understood when she felt guilty about it too! With their friendship continuing to grow, she felt she wasn’t being fully honest.

In addition to the adorable romance + while I was a little frustrated with some of her decisions sometimes :’) Overall reading from Maddie’s pov was great! She was so kind + trusting (even if there were times it got her into financial issues)! I felt connected to her character + just wanted her to finally understand what the best decision was for her + her lottery money.

She was very focused in her schoolwork & getting into college but also wants the best for her family now that she’s won the lottery, but even when the money caused her some troubles/issues along the way, she kept moving forward! However, she learns to focus more on herself and what she wants in life and put herself first more often (whether it has to do with college, her money, or other things).

While it may seem like I was pretty frustrated with this book 😂 Overall I really enjoyed it! ✨🍀💕

Lucky In Love is a perfect YA Contemporary if your looking for a fast-paced and fun read! Following Maddie and her lottery win, there are themes of family, friendship, finding one’s self + the perfect mix of romance!
Definitely recommend checking this book out!

The Library Of Fates by Aditi Khorana ARC Review

The Library Of Fates by Aditi KhoranaThe Library Of Fates by Aditi Khorana

Publisher: Razorbill

Release Date: July 18, 2017

Pages: 354

Summary: No one is entirely certain what brings the Emperor Sikander to Shalingar. Until now, the idyllic kingdom has been immune to his many violent conquests. To keep the visit friendly, Princess Amrita has offered herself as his bride, sacrificing everything—family, her childhood love, and her freedom—to save her people. But her offer isn’t enough.

The unthinkable happens, and Amrita finds herself a fugitive, utterly alone but for an oracle named Thala, who was kept by Sikander as a slave and managed to escape amid the chaos of a palace under siege. With nothing and no one else to turn to, Amrita and Thala are forced to rely on each other. But while Amrita feels responsible for her kingdom and sets out to warn her people, the newly free Thala has no such ties. She encourages Amrita to go on a quest to find the fabled Library of All Things, where it is possible for each of them to reverse their fates. To go back to before Sikander took everything from them.

Stripped of all that she loves, caught between her rosy past and an unknown future, will Amrita be able to restore what was lost, or does another life—and another love—await?

*Received ARC from a festival*

My Rating:★★★★☆ (still debating between 4 + 4½)

My Thoughts: The Library Of Fates is a character-driven tale that explores a rich and immersive world, while weaving in thought-provoking discussions! The plot goes in directions that keep you turning the page!

While I may be in between 4/4½ , just the reading experience alone made this book so much fun!

Khorana’s writing really builds the world we see through Princess Amarita’s eyes! Through the 1st person POV, The Library Of Fates easily becomes a very character-driven story that shows so many different sides to Amarita as she undergoes a journey to reclaim her kingdom.

As for plot, I adored it so much! From the very first page discussing “The Parable Of The Land Of Trees,” I felt immersed from the very beginning.

The princess has lived quite a sheltered life and over the course of this novel, yet comes to understand more about her home of Shalingar and the magic that sweeps across her kingdom.

Amarita must escape her kingdom when it gets attacked by Emperor Sikander and finds herself on the run with Thala, an Oracle (who was taken from her family and trapped within Sikander’s kingdom)! There is never rivalry, etc. between them and they support each other no matter what as they go on this dangerous journey to reach The Library of All Things and undo the fate that’s been put upon Shalingar!

However, with Sikander eager to take control of the Sybillines cave (for the powerful drug chamak), his guards among others, are never far behind, so Amarita & Thala try to stay hidden over the course of the story.

Female friendships + empowerment in this novel is also huge part of The Library Of Fates! It really focuses on Amarita & Thala’s growth as they become friends and their strength as they face struggles while learning more about who they are!

As for the other characters, such as her father Chandradev, Arjun, her childhood friend+ Mala, her lady in waiting (among others we meet along the way) they all came to life through Amarita’s eyes.

The relationships, especially between Amarita + Arjun was very well done! We learn so much about their past and strong friendship, I wish he was present in the story more!

This novel is essentially a journey story, as Amarita tries to find a way to undo her kingdom’s fate and Thala hopes to find freedom. The plot went in directions that kept me guessing and above all was unexpected for me!

Khorana’s writing really delivers a world rich with mythology and is a vital part of the novel! That aspect of the story really shines throughout the novel, as do the magical/fantastical elements + Amarita as a character!

Similar to Mirror In The Sky, what I love about Khorana’s writing is how thought-provoking it is and how it really makes you think about the bigger picture!

I did find the pacing to be just a little bit slow towards the middle + I did want more expansion/development from certain characters + aspects of the world, because I really wanted to learn more about them as the story progressed!

Aside from that…
The Library Of Fates is a complex and thought-provoking YA Fantasy that really focuses on the expansive mythology in the world as well as the characters! The plot takes unexpected turns that will leave you guessing till the very end!

This Is How It Happened by Paula Stokes ARC Review

This Is How It Happened by Paula StokesThis Is How It Happened by Paula Stokes

Publisher: Harper Teen

Release Date: July 11, 2017

Pages: 384

Summary: Somehow I’ve become a liar. A coward. Here’s how it happened. 

When Genevieve Grace wakes up from a coma, she can’t remember the car crash that injured her and killed her boyfriend Dallas, a YouTube star who had just released his first album. Genevieve knows she was there, and that there was another driver, a man named Brad Freeman, who everyone assumes is guilty. But as she slowly pieces together the night of the accident, Genevieve is hit with a sickening sense of dread—that maybe she had something to do with what happened.

As the internet rages against Brad Freeman, condemning him in a brutal trial by social media, Genevieve escapes to her father’s house, where she can hide from reporters and spend the summer volunteering in beautiful Zion National Park. But she quickly realizes that she can’t run away from the accident, or the terrible aftermath of it all.

*Received ARC through author’s giveaway* 

My Rating:★★★★☆ 

My Thoughts: This Is How It Happened follows Genevieve Larsen as she comes to terms with her boyfriend’s death after they were both involved in a fatal car crash. 

The first novel I’d ever read by Paula Stokes was Girl Against The Universe and I loved it so much! When I heard about This Is How It Ends, I had to put it on my TBR right away! Luckily, I was able to get an ARC from Paula through a giveaway (tysm ❤).

Being a new up and coming singer, Dallas Kade gathered quite a fan base + a new record deal. His sudden death is mourned by people from across the country (especially as seen through social media).

Similar to Stokes other novel, she discusses and explores mental health. Incorporating, especially in this novel, the impacts that trauma and stress can have on a person, while also discussing in a couple scenes throughout the novel, the importance of therapy.

Stokes always manages to incorporate important discussions on mental health and keeps it as a steady theme throughout the book!

Additionally the impact of social media was another huge factor of this novel and is weaved into the story so well! It’s now such a huge part of how we take in news, etc. and Stokes really made it an important factor of the story, while also making it so relatable!

The characters were all written with such depth! All the characters introduced felt so real and throughout the novel, really come to life through Gen’s POV.

The first person POV really allows us to understand how this event has impacted Gen mentally and emotionally. Stokes use of first person really gives the reader an inside look into Gen’s internal struggles and how she copes with this loss.

As for plot, it does have its slow moments, but above all is about Gen finding the strength to explain what happened the night of Dallas’s death and find the strength in herself to move on and accept!

She decides to spend time with her dad in Utah to allow time for the news to simmer down, and over the course of the novel connects more with her father + Rachel (his new wife).

It was great to read about her reconnect with her father and connect more to Rachel, who was very supportive while Gen stayed to visit.

Above all her time spent in Utah is used to understand what she wants, how she can accept what has happened to Dallas and the realize the effects it has on Brad (the man accused of causing his death). I really enjoyed reading about being immersed in the setting in Zion + Utah!

Living with her mother, Gen has grown up to stay focused on a dream towards medical school. Her mother is very strict and over the course of the novel, Gen understands that she also fears talking about what happened because of her parent’s (mainly mother’s) expectations.

I loved how Stokes made Gen’s parents such an integral part of the story (not only through plot, but also seen through Gen’s POV). While Gen has fears about confronting them to talk about what happened, she comes to accept and learn along the way that she’s surrounded by parents who will stand by her no matter what.

I will admit, some moments were slow paced + I did find the relationship that develops to feel a little rushed.

However….

This YA Contemporary tackles grief and loss as we follow Genevieve’s journey to accept her boyfriend’s death and find the inner strength within herself. With themes of family, acceptance, and friendship, Stokes novel also brings to light discussions of mental health and the impact of social media! Filled with mystery, important themes of loss and acceptance, This Is How It Ends is a novel to check out!

One Italian Summer by Keris Stainton Review

One Italian Summer by Keris StaintonOne Italian Summer by Keris Stainton

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Release Date: May 4, 2017

Pages: 245

Summary: It’s been a year since Milly, Elyse and Leonie’s dad died, and a year since their last trip to Rome. Summer’s here again, and once again they are heading with their mum to Italy – but what’s it going to be like going without Dad? Rome still holds its familiar charms – the sun is still as warm, the gelato as delicious, the people as welcoming. But nothing is quite as it once was …

With grief still raw for all of them, Milly is facing the additional awfulness of having to see Luke again – gorgeous, gorgeous Luke, who she had a fling with last year, and who she made a total fool of herself with – or so she thinks. What’s going to happen this time? What’s more, things between Milly, her sisters and their mum are rocky – Leonie is being tempestuous and unpredictable, Elyse is caught up with her new boyfriend, and Milly feels like she just doesn’t know how she fits in any more.

Over one Italian summer, can Milly find a way back to the life she once had?

My Rating:★★★☆☆ ½

My Thoughts: One Italian Summer is an emotional YA Contemporary that discusses grief, shows the strong bond between sisters, as they take a trip to Italy for a relative’s wedding!

This book was super difficult to rate, because there were so many great elements to it!
For the most part, the story focused on the sisters (Milly, Elise, and Leonie) and their relationship/dynamic which I loved! I don’t usually see much of that YA!

From the very first page its clear that there’s a strong bond between all 3 of them and that really shows as the story progresses. The beginning of the novel was definitely my favorite. There’s so much great development and set up that made the novel start off very strong!

Additionally, the sisters discuss sex/sex positivity throughout the novel which is something I don’t think I’ve ever read in YA before! Overall it was great for the sisters to have those discussions honestly throughout the novel.

Milly, the middle sister, narrates the story as the girls + their mother head to Italy for their aunt Alice’s wedding. However, grief is felt by the sisters (especially their mother) as its the first time they are returning to Italy without their father.

Throughout the novel, there is a heavy theme of grief as the girls (mainly Milly + their mother), while in Italy are finding it difficult to enjoy their trip and be happy for Alice, while so much of the trip reminds them of Dominic. It added so much to the story to see grief tackled by the sisters + mother in different ways to see how it impacted them/how they were coming to accept his death.

I adored the originality of this story and Stainton did a fantastic job at keeping the plot unique and engaging.

However, in terms of setting and getting the atmosphere of Italy, I wasn’t really getting it. While this novel is very character driven (which was great), setting/atmosphere didn’t feel as developed as I was hoping. (In terms of delivering more/equal development on characters + Italian setting, I personally felt Jenna Evans Welch’s Love & Gelato did a much better job)

The writing was good, however I did find the writing to be quite choppy at times. But overall Stainton’s writing really delivered well on a strong theme/delivery of grief and sister bonding.

As the story progresses, its revealed that Milly had a crush on Luke (her cousin Toby’s best friend) and its revealed that there was something that happened between them when they last visited Italy.
While the romance wasn’t necessarily bad, I felt it took up a huge part of the plot in very different places throughout which made it very difficult to get a fully developed story when every other page Milly kept talking about wanting to hook up/be with Luke.

I did enjoy the later 1/4 of book much more as Milly and Luke are able to talk more and finally say whats on their mind, but I really didn’t like how the romance began to over shadow the main plot. It really felt like an uneven balance with the romance/plot in general for me personally.

As for the rest of the story regarding the wedding + the girls enjoying Italy that was great! I wish there was more of that, instead of such a heavy focus on the romance.

Apart from that, I really did like this book and recommend it if your looking for a summer contemporary!

One Italian Summer is a book to read if your looking for a great contemporary that focuses on grief and the strong bond between sisters. While the romance can seem like such a heavy part of the story, the engaging plot and characters make this an enjoyable summer read!