Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga Review

Here We Are Now by Jasmine WargaHere We Are Now by Jasmine Warga

Publisher: Balzer+Bray

Release Date: November 7, 2017

Pages: 304

Summary:Despite sending him letters ever since she was thirteen, Taliah Abdallat never thought she’d ever really meet Julian Oliver. But one day, while her mother is out of the country, the famed rock star from Staring Into the Abyss shows up on her doorstep. This makes sense – kinda – because Julian Oliver is Taliah’s father, even though her mother would never admit it to her.

Julian asks if Taliah if she will drop everything and go with him to his hometown of Oak Falls, Indiana, to meet his father – her grandfather – who is nearing the end of his life. Taliah, torn between betraying her mother’s trust and meeting the family she has never known, goes.

With her best friend Harlow by her side, Taliah embarks on a three-day journey to find out everything about her ‘father’ and her family. But Julian isn’t the father Taliah always hoped for, and revelations about her mother’s past are seriously shaking her foundation. Through all these new experiences, Taliah will have to find new ways to be true to herself, honoring her past and her future.

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Here We Are Now is a moving YA Contemporary that follows Taliah when she meets her rock-star father for the first time, connects with him and his family, and learns more about her parents past! Plot, writing, characters, and themes all come together to deliver an unforgettable tale of family, love, and new beginnings!

I read Warga’s debut novel My Heart And Other Black Holes & just loved everything about it, from the characters to the writing and was definitely excited to pick up her next book the moment I heard it was announced!

With each page, I just continued to fall in love with this book! From the wonderfully written characters to the mystery that unfolds surrounding the past of Tal’s parents to the importance and power of music that weaves its way into the characters and strong theme of family that is such an important part of this story.

Tal has always had her suspicions growing up that her father may be rock-star Julian Oliver, though her mother usually avoided the topic. When he shows up on her doorstep one day to explain to her that his father is gravely sick. and may be passing away soon, she knows its a lot to take in.

But she knows its her only chance, so she takes the opportunity with her mother out of town on business in Paris, to reconnect with her father and figure out how Julian and her mother Lena met and exactly what happened between them that caused them to split up.

Though her friend Harlow is hesitant at first, she’s convinced to tag along and join Tal on her adventure.

Now she’s in Oak Falls, Indiana meeting Julian’s family, from his mother to the cousins, aunts, and boy next door Toby.

I loved how character-driven this book was! It was beautiful reading how Tal grew close to the father that she had always thought of meeting one day, how music shaped her father’s life and how it inspires her too (with her dream to become a song-writer too).

This novel is also driven by the important theme of family. Not only through learning more about her parents past and getting to know her father better, but through Tal connecting with her father’s family and just reading how happy they are to get to finally meet her. Family is such a huge part of this story that you sense it with each page.

Also told through Lena’s past, we better understand by Tal’s mother grew to avoid talking about Julian and how their relationship shaped her and how it really connects with Tal as she learns more about her family.

The intricacy of the plot and storytelling was done so perfectly and really allows you to solve the mystery of Tal’s parents past as it unfolds for her with each and every chapter!

While the pacing was slow at some points, I felt it really allowed me to immerse myself into the story and really understand the amazing characters.

This is also an OwnVoices story as Tal’s mother is Arab-American! It was also great to read such diversity in this novel with Harlow’s f/f relationship with Quinn that’s mentioned, and Tal who is biracial (1/2 white and 1/2 Jordanian).

The theme of friendship is also makes its way into this story as we learn that Tal feels her friendship with Harlow is slowly fading as she spends more time with her girlfriend Quinn & her band. Tal and Harlow used to be so close, writing and preforming songs with each other or just hanging out. She feels their friendship is slowly fading and you really understand how Tal feels when Harlow later decides to leave join Quinn back home and tell Tal that she shouldn’t only rely on her. I felt bad for Tal, but she takes charge and decides to let Harlow’s tough words inspire her to connect with her family.

Similar to My Heart And Other Black Holes, Warga also explores mental health as Tal overcomes her anxieties and opens herself up to better knowing her father, his family, and having more confidence in herself (and her music).

I loved the writing so much, following Tal’s POV! Not only with the themes of family, music, and love that weave their way into the depths of this story, but also through Warga’s beautiful and subtle writing that brings so many aspects from themes to the characters of Here We Are Now, to life.

While I just adored this book with each and every page, I can’t really explain why but Tal’s friend Harlow was just not really my favorite character 😂 She was pretty pushy at times with getting Julian to open up more and just wasn’t a supportive friend when she decided to leave Tal. I just felt the overall story felt odd with her there, if that makes sense? 😂😂

Here We Are Now beautifully explores the strength and fragility of family, love and how it changes over time. With themes of family, music, love, character-driven storytelling, and an intricate but moving plot, Warga’s latest YA Contemporary is not one to miss!

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Gray Wolf Island by Tracey Neithercott Review

Gray Wolf Island Tracy NeithercottGray Wolf Island by Tracey Neithercott

Publisher: Knopf BYR

Release Date: October 10, 2017

Pages: 336

Summary:Right before Sadie died, she begged her sister, Ruby, to do the one thing she could never do herself: Find the treasure on Gray Wolf Island.

With just a mysterious treasure map as a guide, Ruby reluctantly allows some friends to join her on the hunt, each of whom is touched by magic: a boy allegedly born to a virgin, a girl who never sleeps, a boy who can foresee his own death, and a boy with deep ties to the island. Each of them is also keeping a secret—something they’ll have to reveal in order to reach the treasure.

As the secrets come to light, Ruby will have to decide: Can she make peace with her friends’ troubled pasts and continue to trust them? Can she forgive herself for doing the unspeakable? Deep in the wilderness of Gray Wolf Island, Ruby’s choices will determine if they make it out with the treasure—or merely with their lives.

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Character-driven, chilling, and atmospheric, we follow Ruby as she sets out with a task to find the fabled treasure on Gray Wolf Island! With a beautiful writing-style, fantastic cast of characters, and both mystery + adventure with every page, you’ll be immersed as you uncover the secrets woven throughout the story!

What I loved about Gray Wolf Island so much, was how the descriptive and atmospheric writing-style really brought setting and characters to life! It really builds the setting, emotions, and depth to the story!

Ruby Caine lives in the sleepy town of Wildewell, where rumors and theories about the treasure on Gray Wolf Island are always churning. Her twin sister Sadie has been passionate about finding the treasure and Ruby knows it. So, sadly when Sadie passes away she leaves Ruby with a task, to discover the treasure she could never find.

So one year later, with the present grief of losing her twin, she still keeps the promise in the back of her mind. When by a chance of fate, browsing the public library with Doris, the elderly woman she’s in charge of looking after at the town’s nursing home, she finds a copy of Treasure Island with a poem which reads much like a riddle, that she believes will help her find the treasure and honor her twin sister.

From there she enlists the help of Elliot Thorne, a wannabe bad boy who comes from a long-line of treasure hunters and the knowledge that could help Ruby on her adventure. He then gets his friends, Gabe Nash and Charlie Kim to tag along on the adventure. When Doris finds out about the treasure hunt and that they need a boat, she tells the group that her granddaughter Anne Lansing would be a great addition to the team.

Then the 5 set out to uncover the mysteries woven throughout the poem and find the treasure!

The characters we’re all written so well! Through the descriptive and beautiful writing, they really come to life through Ruby’s POV. Another great addition to the mystery and depth of the story, was the 2nd POV introduced early on, which follows a boy who wakes up on Gray Wolf Island with no memory of how he got there or who he is, and how his journey ties to the overall story of Gray Wolf Island.

The plot itself carries a lot of mystery as we find out more about the history of the town of Wildwell, Gray Wolf Island itself, Ruby, her team, and the secrets some carry with them.

With such a unique plot, I kept making connections and figuring out just where this mystery was headed with each turn of the page! I fell in love with each of the main characters: Ruby, Sadie, Elliot, Anne, Charlie, & Gabe!

The connections these characters have with each other was so well written and you really become connected with them through the unique and atmospheric writing. You feel like you know so much about them with such few lines.

Gray Wolf Island also really develops on important themes such as family, friendship, grief, and acceptance. While also having humor and balancing dark and lighthearted moments so well!

I loved the banter between Ruby and Elliot & the beautiful friendship between Anna & Ruby! Also having a twin myself, it was so easy to connect with Ruby and understand the grief + loss that she felt so deeply and the duty she held to honor her sister’s wishes.

It was also great to see diversity within this novel. There’s Charles Kim, who is Korean, Anne Lansing & Doris, who are Native American. The town itself is also discussed throughout with some Native history. This novel also heavily incorporated elements of magical realism (If you’ve read this novel or are planning to, I would also recommend checking out Anna-Marie McLemore’s Wild Beauty).

As the novel progresses, the team gets into the web of mystery as they attempt to find the treasure and encounter some trouble along the way, when its revealed they must reveal secrets as the journey continues.

My only issue was that while the story flowed so well, nearing the end, it felt much slower for me personally and the end felt rather rushed. 

The mystery really comes together as you discover more about these characters and the island! The plot really goes in directions you don’t expect and has such great twists when you learn more about the island and its treasure!

Gray Wolf Island is a unique, atmospheric, and magical tale with twists, turns, and really focuses on the friendship and adventure that Ruby has as she attempts to find a mysterious treasure to honor her twin sister! The plot, vivid setting + writing, and characters will stay with you long after the final page!

All The Wind In The World by Samantha Mabry Review

All The Wind In The World by Samantha MabryAll The Wind The World by Samantha Mabry

Publisher: Algonquin Books For Young Readers

Release Date: October 10, 2017

Pages: 264

Summary:Sarah Jacqueline Crow and James Holt work in the vast maguey fields that span the bone-dry Southwest, a thirsty, infinite land that is both seductive and fearsome. In this rough, transient landscape, Sarah Jac and James have fallen in love. They’re tough and brave, and they have big dreams. Soon they will save up enough money to go east. But until then, they keep their heads down, their muscles tensed, and above all, their love secret.

When a horrible accident forces Sarah Jac and James to start over on a new, possibly cursed ranch called the Real Marvelous, the delicate balance they’ve found begins to give way. And James and Sarah Jac will have to pay a frighteningly high price for their love. 

*Received an early finished copy from the publisher*

My Rating:★★★★☆

My Thoughts: All The Wind In The World paints an immersive and atmospheric tale that follows Sarah Jac & James as they find themselves on the Real Marvelous ranch and find their bond slowly fading away! Mabry blends contemporary, dystopia, and elements of magical realism to deliver a wholly unique tale!

 I really loved Mabry’s debut A Fierce And Subtle Poison and her wonderful writing easily brought her tale to life. So, thanks so much to the publisher for an early copy of All The Wind In The World~

Pretending to be cousins, Sarah Jacqueline Crow and James Holt travel from desert ranch to desert ranch to get enough money to one day stop working and hopefully start their own horse ranch and live peacefully together.

However when a desert storm accident forces them to flee and catch a train to find work elsewhere, they reach the Real Marvelous and find their relationship slowly shifting and changing entirely. With their sweeping tale of love to heartbreak, I found my own heart breaking as I read their relationship slowly fading away 😥

The fade and possible slow rebuild of the relationship was not only emotional to read about, but overall unlike any relationship I’d ever read in YA before!

Sarah Jac finds herself alone as she notices that James begins to change when she is told to take on an equestrian job, working with one of the ranch owner’s daughters, Bell. As she continues to work on the Real Marvelous she finds herself stuck and unsure whether she can break free from this supposedly cursed ranch!

As the story progresses, we learn more about her life before the ranches in Chicago and her younger sister Lane, who passed away quite some time ago.

Mabry blended a dystopia desert setting with contemporary magical elements (weaved throughout) in such a way that I’ve never read before. The mysteries surrounding the world and how it came to be actually made the story that much more magical for me!

Additionally, it was great to see diversity in this story! There was Sarah Jac, who is mixed-race and an m/m relationship towards the middle between Raoul & Leo (who is an important character from early on and as the novel progresses).

Because this novel is very character and atmospheric-driven, I did want the plot to be expanded on a little more and felt the pacing could have been just a bit faster. While I really loved the unique characters introduced, I would have loved for them to be developed more over the course of the story as well.

I loved reading from Sarah’s POV! Through the rich and atmospheric writing, the setting and way of life for jimadors (farmers) felt very gritty and real.

Especially through the setting, Sarah’s POV brings to life the hardship these workers faced continuously going from ranch to ranch to get enough to support themselves/their families, while enduring the grittiness of the desert!

As mentioned above, I adored the description and atmosphere of the desert setting! Taking place in deserts of Southwest Texas, there was such vivid description of the setting, weather, and grittiness of what Mabry portrayed and I loved that so much!

And overall the creativity of Maby’s stories always has me anticipating her next book!

All The Wind In The World is an atmospheric story which blends dystopia in the deserts of the South West with mystery, romance, and contemporary with hints of magical realism! Mabry’s writing builds a dark and gritty atmosphere which delivers a unique aspect to an equally unique tale!

The Victoria In My Head by Janelle Milanes ARC Review

The Victoria In My Head by Janelle MilanesThe Victoria In My Head by Janelle Milanes

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: September 19, 2017

Pages: 400

Summary:Victoria Cruz inhabits two worlds: In one, she is a rock star, thrashing the stage with her husky voice and purple-streaked hair. In the other, currently serving as her reality, Victoria is a shy teenager with overprotective Cuban parents, who sleepwalks through her life at the prestigious Evanston Academy. Unable to overcome the whole paralyzing-stage-fright thing, Victoria settles for living inside her fantasies, where nothing can go wrong and everything is set to her expertly crafted music playlists.

But after a chance encounter with an unattainably gorgeous boy named Strand, whose band seeks a lead singer, Victoria is tempted to turn her fevered daydreams into reality. To do that, she must confront her insecurities and break away from the treadmill that is her life. Suddenly, Victoria is faced with the choice of staying on the path she’s always known and straying off-course to find love, adventure, and danger.

*I requested an ARC from the publisher~All thoughts are my own*

My Rating:★★★★★

My Thoughts: The Victoria In My Head is a breath of fresh air in YA Contemporary! Comedic and heartfelt, Milanes’s debut novel weaves in themes of family, friendship, and courage as Victoria’s “treadmill” life becomes a little more interesting when she decides to join a band!

The Victoria In My Head easily became one of my favorite YA Contemporary books of all time + probably the rest of the year! I HIGHLY recommend adding this book your TBR if you haven’t already~

I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH! (;´༎ຶД༎ຶ`)♥♥

Told through a humorous + wonderfully written 1st person POV, we follow Victoria Cruz as she starts off another “treadmill” of a day. She’s gotten used to the routine of her daily life: breakfast, school, Cross Country practice, etc.!

Until she sees a cute guy hanging up a poster in the hallway of school. While she is very shy, she makes an on-the-spot decision to check it out & attempts to talk to the guy!  It turns out the mystery guy leaves up a poster for lead vocalist auditions for the band he’s a part of.

After talking it over with her best-friend Annie Lin, who is extremely organized, focused, and not one for spontaneity, she convinces her its probably not a good idea. That is until later that day (b/c of Annie) she gets a spot for an audition and finds the courage to at least check it out!

With that, her life becomes a little more interesting! When she becomes a part of the band, she’s making new friends, band members like Levi (band leader), Strand (the poster guy +guitarist), and Krina (the drummer), learning more about her best friend Annie in the process + tackling first love, + better understanding herself along the way and attempting to try new things.

She has a love for music (collecting vinyls + has an extensive knowledge of rock music) and makes playlists for random moments or things (like stargazing, rainy days, etc.) which I loved reading about (´▽`ʃƪ) Above all, I adored how music was weaved all throughout this novel!

There were so many aspects that I loved about this book! From the spectacular writing + great pacing, diverse cast of characters, to the unique plot, and important themes…the list goes on!

I loved how diverse this cast was! There’s the main character Victoria Cruz + her younger brother who are Cuban-American + of course also her parents who are Cuban! While I may not be Cuban, but being Latinx/ Latina myself, reading from her POV honestly brought me to tears because I related to her so much. She is quite shy +has anxiety (even around her family sometimes), but when she gets comfortable enough around new people/friends can really open up!~

From the food mentioned like platanos, a quincenera being mentioned later on, even to Victoria mentioning in one scene that while parents were speaking Spanish and she commented that her parents joked/assumed she’d never know what they talking about her as though she didn’t know Spanish at all 😂😂 It was moments like that which were just so relatable that I cried tears of joy!! (I loved reading from her POV so much 😭❤️🎶✨!!)

As I mentioned above, it was amazing to read such a diverse YA Contemporary! There’s her best-friend Annie Lin (Chinese), Krina the drummer (Indian + Lesbian), cute-mystery guy Strand (biracial), + Levi, the band leader (Jewish).

There’s also a friendship + f/f relationship that later develops between Annie & Krina.

While I loved all the characters equally, my favorites aside from Victoria, were Annie & Strand!

Victoria’s parents are set on her applying and attending Harvard, that over the course of the novel, its clear that she is overwhelmed with the plan her parents have laid out for her and she isn’t entirely sure of what she wants anymore.

While she is unsure, she fully understands she wants to make her parents proud and understands why they are expecting her do Cross-Country + keep her grades up to make her application as outstanding as possible, because all they want for her is to be successful & happy once she heads to college!

What I also loved (a don’t often see in YA Contemporary) was how involved Victoria’s parents were! They loved her very much and were very protective! While both Victoria and her parents had their reasons for agreeing/disagreeing with each other, I loved how central they were to the story!

While I have read quite a number of YA Contemporary novels, this one truly stands out and has easily taken the top spot of my favorite YA Contemporary book of all time! Its been quite a while that a YA Contemporary has truly stuck with me as much as this one did.

There were a variety of themes + discussions over the course of this novel! Themes of family and independence are truly at the heart of this story.

The Victoria In My Head also has so many positive female friendships + I don’t think once does Victoria think badly of another girl! So often in YA Books there’s girl vs. girl hate, this book had NONE of that!

Victoria does have her preconceived notions of people (guys & girls), but once she gets to know them + considers the differing sides to those people, she is very understanding! She builds new friendships and though she is shy, her friendships with the females were strengthened so much as the story progressed.

There’s also a lot of discussion of sex/sex positivity as the story progressed when Victoria later gets a boyfriend and is navigating her first relationship.

I don’t want to give too much of the book away, but overall I highly recommend adding The Victoria In My Head to your TBR + checking it out on release day! It was a book that went above and beyond my expectations and truly captured my heart ❤️🎶

Overall, I’m so grateful to have been able to read/review an early copy of this novel and spread the word about The Victoria In My Head so other Latinx & especially Cuban/Cuban-American readers can relate to Victoria as much as I did!

The Victoria In My Head is a spectacular coming-of-age story! With a dynamic + diverse cast of characters, hilarious + comedic moments, phenomenal plot, fantastic writing, and so much more, this music-filled debut follows Victoria Cruz and the courage she gains to follow her heart!

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!😍💖🎉 ~

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!

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!