Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch Review

Love & Luck by Jenna Evans WelchLove & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: May 8, 2018

Pages: 320

Summary: Addie is visiting Ireland for her aunt’s over-the-top destination wedding, and hoping she can stop thinking about the one horrible thing she did that left her miserable and heartbroken—and threatens her future. But her brother, Ian, isn’t about to let her forget, and his constant needling leads to arguments and even a fistfight between the two once inseparable siblings. Miserable, Addie can’t wait to visit her friend in Italy and leave her brother—and her problems—behind.

So when Addie discovers an unusual guidebook, Ireland for the Heartbroken, hidden in the dusty shelves of the hotel library, she’s able to finally escape her anxious mind and Ian’s criticism.

And then their travel plans change. Suddenly Addie finds herself on a whirlwind tour of the Emerald Isle, trapped in the world’s smallest vehicle with Ian and his admittedly cute, Irish-accented friend Rowan. As the trio journeys over breathtaking green hills, past countless castles, and through a number of fairy-tale forests, Addie hopes her guidebook will heal not only her broken heart, but also her shattered relationship with her brother.

That is if they don’t get completely lost along the way. 

My Rating: ★★★☆☆ ¾

My Thoughts: Love & Luck is Welch’s spin-off to Love & Gelato, which follows Lina’s friend Addie, as she spends her time in Ireland for her aunt’s wedding. Though a quick detour offers Addie the chance to mend her broken heart and her complex relationship with her brother! Character-driven and filled with adventure, Love & Luck is perfect summer contemporary!

Back in 2016, I read a book called Love & Gelato! I was expecting a light summer YA Contemporary set in Italy, but what I got was so much more!

So, of course when I saw that the author would have another YA Contemporary, I knew I had to pick it up!

Where to start with Love & Luck! Well, I really loved its focus on family and sibling relationships/dynamics!

Addie has 3 older brothers: Ian, Walter, & Archie! They all are really into sports and though tease each other every now & again, are always there for one another.

However at the start of Love & Luck, when Addie & Ian’s argument leads them to go rolling from a cliff, they definitely have some issues to work out.

Their mother has had enough of their arguing and so, as punishment, they are forced to stay together and make their way to Italy and get along!

With Addie’s soccer & Ian’s football on the line, if they don’t get past their arguing, its also a chance for them to overcome their own heartaches and mend their relationship.

The main focus of this book is really Addie & Ian learning to get along again as Ian’s detour through Ireland forces them both to stick together as Addie’s anticipated trip to Italy (to see Lina) comes to a halt!

The sibling dynamics are at the heart of this story and having sisters myself, found the complexity of those dynamics were explored really well!!

Along the way Addie follows a guide book she found in the hotel during her stay for the wedding titled: Ireland For The Heartbroken: An Unconventional Guide to the Emerald Isle!

She follows the guide when she learns that the trip to Italy will take a bit longer than expected and along the way, uses it to overcome her recent break-up with Cubby and the difficulties that came with it!

What made Love & Luck such an immersive read, was how character-driven it was! From Addie, Ian, & their new friend/tour guide Rowan, I felt I really got to know them and understand them fully by the end of this story!

What I find so great about Welch’s books is how invested you become in the characters! She really builds her main cast and as you learn more about them you also get more insight into their strengths, doubts, insecurities, etc.!

There’s also so much more to Ian & Addie’s difficult dynamic ( & argument) that gets revealed as the story progresses!

With much more to Ian & Rowan than Addie first expects, I was just as surprised as she was when I learned more about them.

Another plus of Love & Luck is how atmospheric it was and how Welch really builds the setting and gives it a life of its own through her characters!

I really loved Rowan! He is actually an online friend of Ian’s and as the secrets about their detour to Ireland get revealed, it turns out Ian wants to follow the different memorable sites of his (& Rowan’s) favorite band Titletrack, to in the end see them live at a festival: Electric Picnic!

He also becomes the tour guide of sorts as all 3 of them stop at various spots throughout Ireland!

I really loved his character! While he seems to be just an average guy, there’s so much more to him that gets revealed as he & Addie become closer on their journey through Ireland!

What also made Love & Luck so wonderful was that because it wasn’t really focused on romance, we really get to see the wonderful friendship between Addie & Rowan as they rely on each other to overcome their heartbreak!

+ There’s also a certain cameo I was waiting for, so of course I really loved seeing Lina & Ren again!!

Now as to why I didn’t love this book as much as Love & Gelato:

~Well, because it runs parallel to Love & Gelato, the pacing felt incredibly slow because I knew where the story was headed! (+ the in-between tour guide sections (though I liked them) really slowed the pacing for me too!)

~ Beside’s Addie, Ian, & Rowan, the other characters seemed pretty forgettable

~ There’s also the plot point of the entire reason Addie & Ian are arguing & while things are revealed, I felt that the major history to it was shared way too late in the story! Because of that, it felt that most of their problems could have been fixed with better communication, considering how quickly it was rushed through when more backstory to it is finally mentioned!

& to me what I personally found odd throughout the book, was that if Addie & Ian were being punished and had to get along, why was their mother leaving them alone & expecting them to get to Italy on their own with no problems? (This is just an odd personal gripe I had).

Overall though, what really made this book good was the focus on the main characters, their growth and the emphasis on friendship, overcoming heartache & sibling dynamics!

Love & Luck is a YA Contemporary that is perfect for summer! The story really shines through its characters and the development they undergo!  Its a character-driven, immersive and atmospheric story that focuses on overcoming heartache & the complex bonds of siblings! 

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Someday, Somewhere by Lindsay Champion Review

Someday, Somewhere by Lindsay ChampionSomeday, Somewhere by Lindsay Champion

Publisher: KCP Loft

Release Date: April 3, 2018

Pages: 270

Summary: Dominique is a high school junior from a gritty neighborhood in Trenton, where she and her mom are barely getting by.

Ben is a musical prodigy from the Upper East Side, a violinist at a top conservatory with obsessive talent and a brilliant future.

When Dom’s class is taken to hear a concert at Carnegie Hall, she expects to be bored out of her mind. But then she sees the boy in the front row playing violin like his life depends on it — and she is transfixed.

Posing as an NYU student, Dom sneaks back to New York City to track down Ben Tristan, a magnetic genius who whisks her into a fantasy world of jazz clubs and opera, infatuation and possibility. Each sees something in the other that promises to complete them.

As Dom’s web of lies grows, though, so does Ben’s obsessive need to conquer Beethoven’s famous Kreutzer Sonata. But Ben’s genius, which captivates Dominique, conceals a secret, and the challenges of her life may make it difficult to help him.

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Someday, Somewhere is a lyrical YA Contemporary that follows Ben and Dominique, their own separate journeys, and how the relationship they forge offers a bright light in a hazy, uncertain future! Eloquent writing, deeply complex characters, with a moving plot about family, love, self-growth, and chasing after your dreams!

Where to start with this book! I had my eye on Someday, Somewhere for a while and decided to finally pick it up!

It had me feeling so many things! Joy, sadness, heartbreak, acceptance!! This book has shattered me (;´༎ຶД༎ຶ`)♥♥

I just can’t believe this book is over!! I loved it so much!! ❤ ❤

I flew through Someday, Somewhere and it had me so emotional, from my attachment to the characters, the emotional depth woven throughout, etc! Champion’s YA Contemporary has easily become another one of my favorite reads of 2018 + made it onto my list of all-time favorite YA Contemporary books!

Someday, Somewhere follows Dominique Hall, who lives in a poor neighborhood in Trenton, N.J. with her best friend Cass and then there’s Ben Tristian who lives in a wealthy area of New York, attending a prestigious music school, Brighton Conservatory.

The novel starts with Dom & her class attending a concert at Carnegie Hall for a field trip.

With the financial stress of her mother’s laundromat, Spin Cycle, her dreams of becoming a dancer + attending NYU becoming more fantasy than reality, her uncertainty of the future, and a million other uncertainties, she finds solace in Ben’s violin playing that moves her to tears.

I loved how the differing lifestyles/finances, were explored and discussed through Dom’s POV and how it clearly differed from Ben’s more privileged lifestyle! I don’t usually see that in YA Contemporary, so I’m glad it was really given enough page time to have it discussed.

Told through dual POV, the novel then follows Dominique as she & Cass work together to try and find Ben, so Dominique can put into words just how much his music meant to her.

As for Ben, a star violinist at Brighton, he just wants to prove himself as a great musician and be the best, as he practices Beethoven’s Kreutzer for the upcoming Sonata Showcase. This performance only features 12 students and if he gets in, it’ll prove all that he’s worked years for will finally lead him somewhere.

As Dominique finally gets a chance to meet Ben, the lies she shares, for fear of him not accepting who she really is, begin to build & build as their relationship develops.

However, over the course of the story Dom finds the courage to not only be honest with him, but also herself as they both forge an incredible relationship.

This novel focuses so much on finding oneself, as seen through Ben & Dom’s POVs. While Champion does a spectacular job at building each of the other characters, you really get into Ben & Dom’s heads and learn so much about their dreams, fears, and passion to follow their hearts.

Music weaves its way into this story in such a elegant way, especially through the writing. Seen through Ben’s POV, with his passion and drive for classical music, we see how its weaved into the way he views the world.

I loved the relationship that builds! Though some may see it as very quick progression, I found it just worked so well with the story, its characters, and when you get to the heart of Ben & Dom’s dynamic, its clear its so much more than meets the eye.

I loved both Dom & Ben equally! You find yourself rooting for each of them. With Dom’s bravery to seek out Ben, follow her dreams, and take chances, I loved her so much and she was such a great main character. As for Ben, with his passion to be a great musician, you understand, but you also feel heartache for him, when its clear at times he pushes himself too much.

Ben is overly confident and it shows through his inner thoughts when he’s critical of his classmates and people in his life. Dom is very hopeful, though she has fears for what is in the future, her persistence to follow her dreams continued to build throughout the entire story!

Overall I loved how complex and dynamic Ben and Dom were. They are very different, but you see this passion they both share and how it connects them. You really get to understand them so fully by the very end of the novel and I just wish there’d be another book with these 2!!

You see how much they find a freedom with each other to escape the complex obstacles they are facing in their own lives, and how their relationship gives them courage to have faith in themselves and I loved that so much! ❤

Their dates we’re so cute ❤ ❤ From their first official date at the Village Vanguard to see Jazz music and just seeing how they shined and saw the world just a little bit brighter with each other.

Though their is a romance that develops, it definitely is not the core of this story! Its more about Dom & Ben themselves, how they grow, think about their futures, and who they want to be and I loved that so much!!

The way Champion crafted her other characters from Dom’s POV such as her mother, estranged father, her best friend Cass, all are all explored and crafted so wonderfully that their personalities shine throughout the entire book.

As for Ben, while I found his parents to not be as developed, his brother Milo, classmates Claire, Carter, music instructor Yaz, and many other characters, were explored with such depth as well!

Champion really crafted her characters with such heart and they were so incredibly real and really came to life!

What really stood out to me about Someday, Somewhere was definitely the eloquent writing! As the novel focuses on music, the emotionally impactful writing brings such a realness and beauty to the story that elevates the characters and story even more!

I truly adored the writing and found it effortlessly weaved itself to bring such life to the main characters Ben & Dom.

As for diversity, Dominique is biracial (1/2 white + Ecuadorian), her best friend Cass is gay & black, and her father, Reg, who’s Ecuadorian.

This novel also explores mental health (bipolar disorder)! Though the topic of mental health is weaved into the novel through Ben’s POV very subtly, it definitely becomes a more prominent aspect to the story nearing the last 50 pages or so, when we learn he does have bipolar disorder!

The way its explored, is seen through Ben’s actions and his inner thoughts.

I truly fell in love with this book and recommend it if your looking for an eloquent, moving, and character-driven YA Contemporary!

I suppose my only minor issues, were a few characters that weren’t really developed and the ending (from Ben’s POV) did feel a bit rushed.

However, I adored the ending! It was hopeful and left me very emotional. Champion’s story had me feeling so many things from joy, to heartache, sadness–so many things!

Someday, Somewhere is a deeply moving YA Contemporary, with main characters you’ll fall in love with! With elegant writing, impactful messages, unique plot, and an incredible cast of characters, Champion’s debut is an incredible and powerful read!

Highly recommend it!

Little Witch Academia Vol. 1 by Yoh Yoshinari Review {Manga}

Little Witch Academia Vol. 1Little Witch Academia Vol. 1 by Yoh Yoshinari & Keisuke Sato (Artist)

Publisher: Yen Press (Yen Press JY)

Release Date: June 26, 2018

Pages: 176

Summary: “Reach out your hand, and your story will begin!” 
Those words changed young Atsuko “Akko” Kagari forever, sparking in her a lifelong dream of becoming a real witch. Now she’s been accepted to the same school as her childhood hero, Shiny Chariot-the prestigious Luna Nova Witchcraft Academy. As the only student to come from a non-magical family, Akko finds herself surrounded by prodigies from around the world, but giving up isn’t in her vocabulary. Whether it’s making friends, proving the doubters wrong, or just flying on a broom, Akko is going to make her fantasy a reality!

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Little Witch Academia Volume 1 follows Akko who dreams of being a witch and finds herself attending the Luna Nova Witchcraft Academy! With fun adventures and a delightful cast of characters, this is a great start as an adaptation for fans of the show and those unfamiliar with the series!

Little Witch Academia is easily one of my all-time favorite animes! I watched it when it first was released as a short film and fell in love with it!

If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it (start with the 2013 short) and then the series on Netflix! While the manga is definitely a great intro for those who’ve never seen it, the show is also just fantastic from the characters, world, story, etc. that you should definitely check it out (you won’t be disappointed)!

It basically follows Akko Kagari, who comes from a non-magical family, and her adventures as she attends Luna Nova, an all female school for witches. She’s always wanted to be a witch just like her childhood hero who inspired her, Shiny Chariot! She attends as one of only a couple non-traditional attendees at the school and makes new friends like Lotte & Sucy!

Though she gets into quite a bit of trouble, she doesn’t give up on her dream to become a witch and has such wacky adventures along the way!

From Akko’s first day, to a competitive volleyball match, the case of a mysterious broom by the name of The Shooting Star, & plan for a birthday party, she gets into some fun and interesting situations!

Just like in the anime, we meet familiar faces like Lotte & Sucy, the students Akko first meets that help her out on her way to Luna Nova & who end up becoming her best friends/roommates!

Then there’s Diana Cavendish, Akko’s “rival” who always butts heads with her! The two don’t get really get along, but there’s definitely moments where (while they don’t admit it) they see eye-to-eye on certain things & may even have more in common than they first assume!

And there’s also Amanda O’Neill, who’s a bit of a rebel and is a bit brash with Akko, but they definitely form a bond + beginnings of a friendship in this volume! (Their dynamic on the show is also really great 😍)

While the story mainly has an intro and various short adventure chapters, the ending leaves on mysterious note, where you learn a bit more about the school and are left wondering where Volume 2 will be headed!

The art was done just like it is in the show & if you ever see it in person, the cover design is so beautiful & colorful!

The characters personalities shine with each page and even if characters are shown for a short time, you really get a feel for who they are and the art/dialogue really captures the spirit of each character!

And for fans of the show, its also just a great addition to the Little Witch Academia universe! While it definitely goes in a bit of a different direction than the show & intro short, its still such a fun read!

Little Witch Academia Volume 1 is a fun, magical introduction & addition to the Little Witch Academia series! You’ll get immersed into the world of the Luna Nova Academy and as you follow Akko on all her adventures, you’ll definitely want Volume 2!

June 2018 Wrap-Up

# Of Books Read: 5

Heavy Vinyl by Carly Usdin + Nina Vakueva1.Heavy Vinyl Volume 1 by Carly Usdin +Nina Vakueva (Heavy Vinyl #1)

Owned | Started/Finished June 1 |Rating: ★★★★★ | Heavy Vinyl Full Review

Overall Thoughts: A fun, diverse, graphic novel with so much girl power set in 90’s New Jersey! Heavy Vinyl follows Chris who works alongside her all-female co-workers at her local vinyl store. With anxiety, she wants to fit in with her new friends but hasn’t gotten the chance! That is until a case of missing singer introduces her to the world her co-workers have been hiding from her: their vigilante fight club! Now she’s tagging along with them to solve the mystery and maybe uncover more along the way! This is an incredible graphic novel that’s character-driven, diverse, and just a fun story! Friendship is at the heart of Heavy Vinyl and it really shows with each page. Additionally, there’s a lot of fantastic representation among the main cast/side characters: f/f & m/m relationships, lesbian rep., black & Puerto Rican rep., interracial relationships! I adored this graphic novel so much & highly recommend it!  I think there’s only 1 volume planned which is sad, because it ends on at place leaving you to want more from the story & characters, so definitely pick it up & support it, you won’t be disappointed!

Running With Lions by Julian Winters2.Running With Lions by Julian Winters

Owned| Started June 3 + Finished June 7 |Rating: ★★★★☆ ½| Running With Lions Full Review

Overall Thoughts: A coming-of-age YA sports contemporary, that really focuses on characters! Sebastian Hughes is ready for his last summer of soccer training camp with his teammates, before senior year. However things get a bit complicated when his former friend, Emir Shah, shows up. Though regardless of their past, Sebastian is eager to make Emir feel at home! Through a 3rd person POV, the characters, plot, summer setting/atmosphere come to life! A huge aspect of this novel is the way Winters explores sexuality, with characters identifying as gay and bisexual + through the teammate’s support + acceptance of each other throughout the entire book! The characters really grow as they spend their time at Camp Haven and I loved seeing their friendship dynamics with each turn of the page! The plot, characters, etc. are all wonderfully developed and the pacing is great! Highly recommend checking out Winter’s debut!

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl3. Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl

ARC| Started June 9 + Finished June 12 |Rating:★★★☆☆ ¾| Neverworld Wake Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Neverworld Wake was an intriguing YA Contemporary that blends with science fiction! Beatrice Hartley gets the opportunity to reconnect with her friends from boarding school at an estate, since the year or so since her boyfriend Jim’s passing. But when a mysterious man arrives, he tells them they’ve been caught in the Neverworld Wake and only one person can make out alive by the end. The mystery that surrounded Neverworld and how the info was revealed was both delivered and explored at perfect moments throughout the story. While the plot and mystery remain such huge parts of the story, I did find myself not enjoying this book as much as I’d hoped. The writing (which is 1st person) never really made me find a connection to Bea as a character and with the simplicity to the writing, some elements of the story, like side characters were pretty forgettable. However, what definitely made Neverworld Wake an immersive read, was definitely the mystery, and exploration + complexities to the Neverworld!

Not The Girls Your Looking For by Aminah Mae Safi4.Not The Girls You’re Looking For by Aminah Mae Safi

ARC| Started June 13 + Finished June 18 |Rating:★★★★☆ ½| Not The Girls You’re Looking For Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Aminah Mae Safi’s debut explores the complexities of family and friendship (especially female friendships) in her debut! I connected with Lulu, the main character, from the very first page! She’s outgoing, not afraid to speak her mind and I just–loved her character so much.  This novel explores the messiness of friendship in an honest + complex way, and its such a huge theme of the story. Safi really allows for both friendship & family to be explored, and I was able to really see the many different sides to these dynamics. The unique plot, themes explored, character dynamics, etc. all came together so wonderfully in Not The Girls You’re Looking For to make for such a fantastic YA Contemporary!

A Reaper At The Gates by Sabaa Tahir5. A Reaper At The Gates by Sabaa Tahir (An Ember In The Ashes #3)

Library| Started June 19 + Finished June 25|Rating:★★★★☆| A Reaper At The Gates Full Review

Overall Thoughts: This is very much a darker continuation to the An Ember In The Ashes series! Character development and lore/mythology are such huge parts of this book and really take center stage. I loved seeing the development and growth to Laia, Helene, and Elias. They are such phenomenal characters and you really see where their fates lead them in this book! War and the dark aftermath of it are explored in this novel and its just heartbreaking. While this was such a great book, I found for me personally that the pacing in the first 1/2 or so made this book a bit difficult for me to really love it as with the previous ones. With the pacing, I felt that with the urgency of the stakes that are given + alongside the writing that made side characters, setting, etc. feel a bit under-developed and not as fully immersive for me in previous books. However regardless of that, as soon as I reached the end, I needed the next book right away. So, I am beyond excited to read the final book and see what Sabaa has in store for the world/story of Ember! 

Additional Posts From This Month:

Book Bytes #12

Audio Dime Museum Podcast Review {Literary Listens}

Currently Reading & YA Books On My June 2018 TBR!

Circle Of Shadows by Evelyn Skye Exclusive Cover Reveal

Dark Ages Podcast Review {Literary Listens}

Plans For July:

~READ MORE!! I feel like I just haven’t been reading much as I’d hoped (;´༎ຶД༎ຶ`) & before summer ends, really want to catch up on my TBR! If you have any tips to read more, definitely let me know!! 😭💕📚📚

~ Post more podcast reviews for Literary Listens! June was my first month posting audio drama podcast reviews & they were such fun posts to make!! I really hope to review/recommend more audio dramas next month too!! 🎙✨💖

~Continue working on my summer bullet journal 😍📒💕☀

What books did you read this month?? 😍📚

+ What are your bookish goals for July? Lets discuss in the comments!! ✨✨

A Reaper At The Gates by Sabaa Tahir Review

A Reaper At The Gates by Sabaa TahirA Reaper At The Gates by Sabaa Tahir (An Ember In The Ashes #3)

Publisher: Razorbill

Release Date: June 12, 2018

Pages: 464

Summary: Beyond the Empire and within it, the threat of war looms ever larger.

The Blood Shrike, Helene Aquilla, is assailed on all sides. Emperor Marcus, haunted by his past, grows increasingly unstable, while the Commandant capitalizes on his madness to bolster her own power. As Helene searches for a way to hold back the approaching darkness, her sister’s life and the lives of all those in the Empire hang in the balance.

Far to the east, Laia of Serra knows the fate of the world lies not in the machinations of the Martial court, but in stopping the Nightbringer. But while hunting for a way to bring him down, Laia faces unexpected threats from those she hoped would aid her, and is drawn into a battle she never thought she’d have to fight.

And in the land between the living and the dead, Elias Veturius has given up his freedom to serve as Soul Catcher. But in doing so, he has vowed himself to an ancient power that will stop at nothing to ensure Elias’s devotion–even at the cost of his humanity.

*A Reaper At The Gates review has major spoilers*

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: A Reaper At The Gates is a dark, haunting, and character-driven continuation to An Ember In The Ashes series! Character development, expansion on lore and mythology take center stage as war looms on the horizon!

Wow, where to start with this book! The characters grow so much throughout Reaper:  Laia, Elias, and Helene are faced with supernatural forces as they come to terms with the path that destiny has laid out for them!

To start I loved the immense growth we see from each of the main characters! There is so much internal development that they undergo from acceptance to heartache.

What I found so heartbreaking, was reading about the separation between Laia & Elias! With both of them on their own journeys and learning how they must accept or navigate the destinies/prophecies that are leading them closer to their fates.

Laia is now fighting to save her people, Helene must make sacrifices as she leads the way for battle, and Elias must choose between the people he loves and his role as Soul Catcher if he’s to prevent ghosts from taking over the mortal world.

I loved the development to dynamics with Helene, Harper, and Dex! Seeing how they help Helene as she tries to make her way back to Antium to take down the Commandant.

Their dynamics between Helene, Harper, and Dex (at least from what I remember from book 2), feel so much more developed in this book and we really see the powerful bond they’ve forged with each other throughout this journey.

Laia is on a quest to take down the Nightbringer and won’t let anything get in her way. She meets a new friend and reconnects with familiar faces along the way.

One of the new characters introduced, who I really loved was was Musa! He was Laia and Darin’s new friend who helps them on their way to come up with a plan against the Nightbringer! His page time was definitely cut earlier than I would have hoped, but I am beyond excited to see where his journey is headed in book 4!

I also wish Darin had more page time!

Aside from new characters, secrets are revealed, and there’s so much character development as the plot expands and what is set for the finale, is clear!

While A Reaper At The Gates definitely has its heartbreaking moments, the ending and parts throughout definitely remind us there is hope for the beloved characters we’ve followed so far! There is one scene in particular at nearing the end that really surprised me & I can’t wait to see where it leads a couple of our main characters!

Elias’s story focuses so much around his fate as the Soul Catcher and how his journey is about him letting go of his humanity to accept the role he has been chosen for.

It was heartbreaking to read how the love he has for his friends and family slowly had to fade away in order for him to accept the magic he needed as Soul Catcher in The Waiting Place.

I will admit, what makes this book so difficult for me to rate a full 5 is the pacing for the first half! Because of it, the stakes didn’t feel as high as with the previous books and it wasn’t until the last half (or a bit after) that I finally found the story picking up!

Because of that, there was a lot of elements from supporting characters to plot pacing that felt a bit off for me.

The writing made elements such as setting, supporting characters, etc. feel very under-developed, for me personally. But as I made my way to about the 50% mark, I definitely found myself connecting better with the story.

What broke my heart, honestly was ch. 53 (;´༎ຶД༎ຶ`) (;´༎ຶД༎ຶ`) I’m still not over it!! As an avid RPG gamer, this chapter reminded me very much of a scene that’s similar in one of my favorite video games and it just–left me so emotional and devastated!!

The idea/themes of destiny and fate are explored so much in this book! I find that those themes always allow me to connect even more to a story because they are themes I just really love exploring and find they add so much to a story!

War and its lasting affects are also huge factors that are explored in the later 1/2 of Reaper and are so heart-breaking, but very much reflect the world today. Tahir explored these themes that leave you so impacted and shaken.

The mythology and lore of the world is also given center stage as they get woven in deeper not only into the story, but to the characters as well!

Tahir balanced mythology, character dynamics, plot, all so wonderfully that finally reaching the end, I am still unsure how I will be able to wait for Book 4!

A Reaper At The Gates is the epic continuation to Tahir’s, An Ember In The Ashes Series! The mythology, characters, themes and so much more all weave together to bring a tale that will leave you on the edge of your seat for the finale!

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl ARC Review

Neverworld Wake by Marisha PesslNeverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Release Date: June 5, 2018

Pages: 336 (324 ARC)

Summary: Once upon a time, back at Darrow-Harker School, Beatrice Hartley and her six best friends were the cool kids, the beautiful ones. Then the shocking death of Jim—their creative genius and Beatrice’s boyfriend—changed everything.

One year after graduation, Beatrice is returning to Wincroft—the seaside estate where they spent so many nights sharing secrets, crushes, plans to change the world—hoping she’ll get to the bottom of the dark questions gnawing at her about Jim’s death. But as the night plays out in a haze of stilted jokes and unfathomable silence, Beatrice senses she’s never going to know what really happened.

Then a mysterious man knocks on the door. Blithely, he announces the impossible: time for them has become stuck, snagged on a splinter that can only be removed if the former friends make the harshest of decisions. Now Beatrice has one last shot at answers… and at life.

And so begins the Neverworld Wake.

*Received ARC through Yallwest*

My Rating:★★★☆☆ ¾

My Thoughts: Neverworld Wake is a YA Contemporary which brilliantly blends mystery with science fiction! The development and uncertainty surrounding Neverworld Wake delivers so much to this intriguing mystery story, that is both haunting and thought-provoking!

Even as I’m writing this review, I am so torn on how I should rate Neverworld Wake! I’m leaving it at 3.75 though am conflicted on whether I should bump it up to a 4, because there were things I really loved/liked, and some things I wish could have been better.

Regardless, I really did find Neverworld Wake such an interesting story, that was a very interesting reading experience from start to finish! And I do hope to check out Pessl’s previous book Night Film at some point & her future books, because the way she crafted the mystery of Neverworld Wake was just so great!

I can’t remember exactly how I heard about this book, but from both the summary and eerie + haunting cover, this sounded like such a great mystery read!

Told through a first person POV, we follow Beatrice Hartley, who is spending the summer after her first year at college, working at her parent’s ice cream parlor.

However, when an opportunity arises for her to head to an estate (Wincroft) and reconnect with her best friends from boarding school after the passing of her boyfriend Jim Mason, she is hesitant at first, but believes it’ll finally allow her to find closure.

Then after a close call that almost causes a car crash, a mysterious man arrives explaining to them they are now a part of the Neverworld Wake.

And by the end, only one person can live.

What I really loved about this novel, was the mystery, development, and exploration of the Neverworld Wake. The complexities to it kept me so invested in the story!

It essentially gathered Beatrice, Whitley, Kip, Cannon, and Martha’s experiences/life events, etc. and it all blended together to create a Neverworld Wake, where they each relive the same day for a certain # of hours.

The exploration of the Neverworld with how it related to each of them, the mystery they were solving surrounding Jim’s death, the intricate time/space aspects etc. were all explored so well and delivered at such perfect times throughout the book , that it never felt info-dumped or under/overly-explained.

There was a perfect balance of information given about it to keep you guessing, but also on track with how it evolves throughout Neverworld Wake.

Because its told through a first person point of view, it was definitely easy for me to get a lot of character/internal development from Beatrice. It even allowed for the mystery and uncertainty of the story to deliver plot twists & the story in general, in a way that was very easy to follow and allowed for each element of Neverworld to build in a brilliant way, where it never got confusing.

There were particular names/references which I personally related to classic stories (like Alice In Wonderland) through the introduction of a figure from their past at boarding school called the White Rabbit.  For me that gave it another level of mystery, almost magical, and otherworldly sense that classic stories such as Alice In Wonderland offer.

Not sure if that was Pessl was going for, but I found that made Neverworld Wake even more interesting and immersive.

There was also the introduction to this fictional book called: The Dark House Of Elsewhere Bend by J.C. Gossamer Madwick, which really builds itself into the story as it progresses.

It added another level of mystery and added something unique to the story and overall it sounds like such an interesting book when you learn more about it!!

Neverworld Wake also really focuses on the plot, mystery, and interesting world/world-building, that there is little to no romance in the book (Only through Neverworld/general flashbacks Bea has about her time with Jim).

The mystery of the novel is built in such a way that honestly left me guessing each and every moment, because when you think you figure out how Jim died, you get even more pieces to the puzzle and I loved that!

They are all introduced and developed in a great way that doesn’t leave you lost as you meet more characters and find out how they connect to Jim’s story.

Now what I found to lower my rating were a couple of aspects such as writing-style, slow pacing, and word choice for a couple lines (planning to see if they are in the FC & share them soon!).

As mentioned above, were following the story from a first person POV, told through Beatrice’s eyes.

From the writing-style in general, I never really found an attachment to Beatrice as a character. I felt her personality didn’t shine through at all to be honest. While I was definitely invested in the story and what was happening, I never really found a point in the story where I ever really connected with her as a character, even though we were following her and getting a lot of her inner thoughts, etc.

The writing-style never really allowed her to stand out.

Because of that, it also made surrounding/side characters (maybe aside from Martha & a couple other characters) not entirely memorable.

Additionally, while we are told Beatrice knew these friends in high school and were inseparable, I never really felt there was a friendship dynamic between them & Beatrice at all (or at least through the writing and execution of their dynamics, I never really felt it in the story). I could definitely feel the relationship/friendship between all the friends, but never with Beatrice.

At points overall, the simplicity to the writing-style made elements of the story feel a bit generic and forgettable.

However I will say that the writing in my opinion, really delivered in developing and intricately expanding on the mystery, Neverworld Wake as a whole and how they tie together.

Neverworld Wake is an eerie and immersive YA Contemporary that focuses and shines on the plot, mystery, and complexities of the Neverworld Wake! Merging contemporary with science fiction, and mystery, Pessl’s novel delivers an intricate story with a plot that will leave you guessing till the very end!

Running With Lions by Julian Winters Review

Running With Lions by Julian WintersRunning With Lions by Julian Winters

Publisher: Duet Books (Interlude Press)

Release Date: June 7, 2018

Pages: 320

Summary: Bloomington High School Lions’ star goalie, Sebastian Hughes, should be excited about his senior year: His teammates are amazing and he’s got a coach who doesn’t ask anyone to hide their sexuality. But when his estranged childhood best friend Emir Shah shows up to summer training camp, Sebastian realizes the team’s success may end up in the hands of the one guy who hates him. Determined to reconnect with Emir for the sake of the Lions, he sets out to regain Emir’s trust. But to Sebastian’s surprise, sweaty days on the pitch, wandering the town’s streets, and bonding on the weekends sparks more than just friendship between them.

*Bought an early copy from Yallwest*

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Running With Lions is a fantastic YA Contemporary! With a dynamic cast of characters and page-turning plot, this novel follows senior Sebastian Hughes, goalie for Bloomington High’s soccer team! This novel follows him and his teams summer at Camp Haven to train for their upcoming fall game! Winters explores the complexities of love, friendship, and finding oneself in this unforgettable YA Debut!

Running With Lions was a book I had been looking forward to for a while! From the amazing cover + summary, and focus on soccer!

What I love about this book is that it explores sexuality in such an open way.

“No exclusions around here…Be who you are! Be proud! Treat each other like family!”

Seeing the team + coaches being supportive of each other and just having that strong friendship between Sebastian, Mason, Willie, the other team members, and Grey, the coach’s daughter, was just amazing to read!!

Sebastian is ready for summer! Spending it with his teammates at Camp Haven to train for one last season of soccer together, he’s ready!

Though things get a bit complicated when Sebastian notices his childhood friend Emir Shah is also on the team this season. Emir keeps to himself and pretty much avoids the team when he can (due to his shyness).

Though Sebastian is aware that their friendship during childhood is now over, he tries to get through to him and make him feel more at home with the team.

From a rocky start to early morning runs and training sessions to improve on his soccer skills, Sebastian finds himself trying to connect with his old friend again. This soon leads to something more!

Seeing their dynamic develop as they learn more as to why they grew apart was such a deeply explored aspect to their relationship and it was great seeing how they were able to look past it, accept, and start again!

Emir was such a great character! Through the teams eyes he seems like someone who just doesn’t care, but that is not the case! We see how lonely Emir has felt since his sudden move to the UK caused his friendship with Sebastian to crumble.

However, we see that Sebastian’s courage to make him feel part of the team regardless of their past, really allows Emir to see the team as family!

Told through a 3rd person POV, it allows you to get an overall + in-depth look at the characters, plot and builds the setting/summer atmosphere, which comes to life on the page!

The characters all are written and explored with such depth that they also come to life from their first introductions!

Each and every character is written in such a way where you know so much about them from such few words and you really find yourself connecting with each of them!

We also see there’s so much more to these characters than when we are first introduced to them! Over the course of this novel, we see how their friendships/relationships change and grow as the summer at camp progresses!

There’s just so much development to the Bloomington High team and each character was given a great amount of page time, so were able to see the many different sides to these teammates!

I also really loved Grey Patrick (Coach Patrick’s daughter, who tags along at Camp Haven)! She was just such a great character and I loved her interactions/moments with the guys, like Sebastian & Mason!
She’s fierce and confident and overall she was such an amazing character! I also loved Willie, he was also one of my favorites!

Over the course of the novel Grey and Willie go through their own journeys, which are really given enough page time as we see them develop over the course of the story!

While its mentioned he has a knee injury in the beginning, we see how Willie’s soccer training develops and changes, as does the relationships + dynamics that grow among his friends/teammates throughout the book.

Both Grey & Willie’s journeys were given such interesting development and I loved following each of them throughout the book! Their personalities shined with each page!

There’s also such a diverse cast of characters, which was great to see!! Sebastian who identifies as bisexual, Emir who is pakistani-muslim + gay, Willie is gay, Hunter is black, & Gio is stated to be hispanic.

Winters also explores sexuality in such an open and honest way thorough out the entire novel! The team is very accepting and having that is so important to Sebastian as we see throughout Running With Lions.

Sebastian was such a complex main character! What I loved exploring through his POV (which I don’t see much of in YA), is life after high school and being unsure of what that future holds.

Winters explores this element so well throughout the entire book that it gradually becomes an even more recurring thought from Sebastian as he gets closer to the start of his Senior year!

Additionally, Winters explores so well the side of Sebastian who questions who exactly he is without soccer as the thoughts of college, the future, and the future of friends comes into play.

*I also recommend checking out Kris Hui Lee’s Out Of Left Field if your looking for another sports (baseball) YA Contemporary that discusses future after high school in a unique way * 

Running With Lions is fantastic Coming-Of-Age YA Contemporary that explores sexuality in an open and honest way! With a supportive cast of diverse characters, great writing, and themes of friendship throughout, this is a great YA Contemporary to check out!