Book Review

Book Review: When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton

Rating: ☆☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Historical fiction + Romance
Length: 346 pages
Author: Chanel Cleeton
Publisher: Berkley Books
Release Date: April 9th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

In 1960s Florida, a young Cuban exile will risk her life–and heart–to take back her country in this exhilarating historical novel from the author of Next Year in Havana, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick.

Beautiful. Daring. Deadly. 

The Cuban Revolution took everything from sugar heiress Beatriz Perez–her family, her people, her country. Recruited by the CIA to infiltrate Fidel Castro’s inner circle and pulled into the dangerous world of espionage, Beatriz is consumed by her quest for revenge and her desire to reclaim the life she lost.

As the Cold War swells like a hurricane over the shores of the Florida Strait, Beatriz is caught between the clash of Cuban American politics and the perils of a forbidden affair with a powerful man driven by ambitions of his own. When the ever-changing tides of history threaten everything she has fought for, she must make a choice between her past and future–but the wrong move could cost Beatriz everything–not just the island she loves, but also the man who has stolen her heart…

SOPHOMORE BOOK IS EVEN BETTER.

Oooooh, I loved this even more than Next Year in Havana. Let me also say, I love the Audible narrator: Kyla Garcia. She did another amazing job and kept me completely entranced in this book.

I love Beatriz Perez so stinkin’ much. She was an amazing MC and brought out all of the feels. I love how strong and independent. Beatriz has so much loyalty and love for her family and her country. This control and defines all of her decisions. And even when I wanted to shout out her, I also understood her choices.

THIS ROMANCE THOUGH. Okay, didn’t start out in the best light (trigger: cheating), but guys. I will firmly stand by that this might be the only case where I accepted and was okay with it. Her relationship with Nicholas made me swoooooon. Oh, it was so good. And also destroyed me, but I’ve already accepted that this is how Cleeton likes to torture us. I was happy with the resolution and felt relieved at how it all came to a conclusion.

My reasoning for being 4.5 stars vs. 5 stars was that, at times, it was too political (for me personally). It would cause some scenes to drag on a little long when I had already gotten the point.

BUT, what was really cool was having Beatriz work with the CIA. It was really interesting to have that plot line and her relationships with the agent was intriguing and intense. I loved watching Beatriz navigate the crisis in Cuba, the JFK assassination and the beginnings of the Cold War. History was woven perfectly into the timeline.

Overall audience notes:

  • Historical fiction + romance
  • Language: none
  • Romance: some kisses, and a handful of light detailed FTB scenes
  • Violence: guns, murder, threats of warfare, mentions of the JFK assassination
  • Trigger warnings: cheating (while engaged)

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Book Review

Book Review: The Traitor’s Kingdom (The Traitor’s Circle) by Erin Beaty

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult fantasy
Length: 400 pages
Author: Erin Beaty
Publisher: Imprint
Release Date: July 9th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Unlikely alliances are forged and trust is shattered in the stunning conclusion to The Traitor’s Trilogy.

A new queen under threat. 
An ambassador with a desperate scheme. 
Two kingdoms with everything to lose.

Once a spy and counselor to the throne, Sage Fowler has secured victory for her kingdom at a terrible cost. Now an ambassador representing Demora, Sage is about to face her greatest challenge to avoid a war with a rival kingdom.

After an assassination attempt destroys the chance for peace, Sage and her fiancé Major Alex Quinn risk a dangerous plot to reveal the culprit. But the stakes are higher than ever, and in the game of traitors, betrayal is the only certainty.

A FANTASTIC HAPPY-ENDING FILLED CONCLUSION.

OH HOW I LOVED THIS SERIES.

I question why it took me so long to get to this. I had heard mixed things, but should have trusted my gut. After I picked it up I never looked back. Perk of waiting so long? I barely had to wait to have all three books in my hands. A top series of 2019.

Sage went on an amazing character journey. I love that she realized her faults and choices had caused harm to her friends. She was able to apologize and actually become a better person for it.

The only tiny issue I had was how much Clare annoyed me. I could not handle her woe is me style and thought she was going to be a downfall to the plot. LUCKILY, things highly improved on this front and I loved how her story came to an end and thought it made sense for her and Sage’s relationship.

ALEX AND SAGE. One of my new OTPs. UGH HOW I LOVE THEM. They infuriated me a lot less in this book, but I distinctly had a moment of being reallllll angry with Alex, WHY DUDE. But, hot dang, did he recover with fireworks. Their quiet moments WERE MY EVERYTHING. Typing this review makes me want to reread this book purely for their interactions. Oh, how I love them so.

A lot more drama and actual plot progression here too. It was easy to flip pages, and slowly read, savoring all of the moments this book had to give. I loved how much more intrigue this book had. There was less battle and more focus on the politics (and this change was done well). It kept me on my toes, when even I was pretty sure I knew who was behind everything there was still so much more to explain! I was interested in this as much as I was making sure Sage & Alex got the happy ending THEY DESERVED DANG IT.

Lots of female power in this too. Sage and her friends, Lani, Clare, and Queen Zoraya are a force to be reckoned with and I like that their subplot allowed a lot more insight into all of their lives. I learned more about them and their journey which had me really invested in them getting happy endings too (OHEMGEE the very end *shrieks with joy at how cute that scene was*).

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy + romance
  • Language: a little light language
  • Romance: kisses, a few tasteful little detailed FTB scenes
  • Violence: arrows, murder, swords, fire
  • Trigger warnings: PTSD (from an extreme burn), mentions of past drug dependence

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BOTM

Special Announcement: August Books for BOTM YA (& My Pick!)

This post may contain referral/affiliate links. If you buy something, I may earn a commission.

We are nearing the end of August y’all. And while that is sad, it’s time for more BOTM YA Picks! This can be the happy part of our day!

If you’re interested in signing up, please click the link below this paragraph! This month, new members can use the code: FLEX to join for $9.99 (33% off the regular subscription price!).

Book of the Month YA

Sci-Fi:

Mind Games by Shana Silver (Debut!)

Arden sells memories. Whether it’s the becoming homecoming queen or studying for that all important test, Arden can hack into a classmate’s memories and upload the experience for you just as if you’d lived it yourself. Business is great, right up until the day Arden whites out, losing 15 minutes of her life and all her memories of the hot boy across the school yard. The hot boy her friends assure her she’s had a crush on for years.

Arden realizes that her own memories have been hacked, but they haven’t just been stolen and shared… they’ve been deleted. And she’s not the only one, the hot stranger, Sebastian, has lost ALL of his memories. But how can they find someone with the power to make them forget everything they’ve learned?


Contemporary Fiction:

Hello Girls by Brittany Cavallaro & Emily Henry

Best friends are forged by fire. For Winona Olsen and Lucille Pryce, that fire happened the night they met outside the police station—both deciding whether to turn their families in.

Winona has been starving for life in the seemingly perfect home that she shares with her seemingly perfect father, celebrity weatherman Stormy Olsen. No one knows that he locks the pantry door to control her eating and leaves bruises where no one can see them.

Lucille has been suffocating beneath the needs of her mother and her drug-dealing brother, wondering if there’s more out there for her than disappearing waitress tips and generations of barely getting by.

One harrowing night, Winona and Lucille realize they can’t wait until graduation to start their new lives. They need out. Now. All they need is three grand, fast. And really, a stolen convertible to take them from Michigan to Las Vegas can’t hurt. 


Contemporary Fiction:

Color Me In by Natasha Diaz (Debut!)

Debut YA author Natasha Díaz pulls from her personal experience to inform this powerful coming-of-age novel about the meaning of friendship, the joyful beginnings of romance, and the racism and religious intolerance that can both strain a family to the breaking point and strengthen its bonds.

Who is Nevaeh Levitz?

Growing up in an affluent suburb of New York City, sixteen-year-old Nevaeh Levitz never thought much about her biracial roots. When her Black mom and Jewish dad split up, she relocates to her mom’s family home in Harlem and is forced to confront her identity for the first time. 

Nevaeh wants to get to know her extended family, but one of her cousins can’t stand that Nevaeh, who inadvertently passes as white, is too privileged, pampered, and selfish to relate to the injustices they face on a daily basis as African Americans. In the midst of attempting to blend their families, Nevaeh’s dad decides that she should have a belated bat mitzvah instead of a sweet sixteen, which guarantees social humiliation at her posh private school. Even with the push and pull of her two cultures, Nevaeh does what she’s always done when life gets complicated: she stays silent.

It’s only when Nevaeh stumbles upon a secret from her mom’s past, finds herself falling in love, and sees firsthand the prejudice her family faces that she begins to realize she has a voice. And she has choices. Will she continue to let circumstances dictate her path? Or will she find power in herself and decide once and for all who and where she is meant to be?


Historical Fiction:

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

By day, seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan works as a lady’s maid for the cruel daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Atlanta. But by night, Jo moonlights as the pseudonymous author of a newspaper advice column for the genteel Southern lady, “Dear Miss Sweetie.” When her column becomes wildly popular, she uses the power of the pen to address some of society’s ills, but she’s not prepared for the backlash that follows when her column challenges fixed ideas about race and gender. 

While her opponents clamor to uncover the secret identity of Miss Sweetie, a mysterious letter sets Jo off on a search for her own past and the parents who abandoned her as a baby. But when her efforts put her in the crosshairs of Atlanta’s most notorious criminal, Jo must decide whether she, a girl used to living in the shadows, is ready to step into the light.


Fantasy:

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig (Debut!)

In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed.

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls’ lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last—the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge—and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that the deaths were no accidents. Her sisters have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who—or what—are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh’s involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it’s a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family—before it claims her next.

My pick for August is: The House of Salt and Sorrows! I’ve had this on my TBR for awhile and I’ve been seeing rave reviews for it. My bookstagram friend and I are actually going to host a buddy read later this month pick. If you’re interested, please check out my Instagram for more information!

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Book Review

Book Review: Wicked Fox (Gumiho #1) by Kat Cho

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2  
Audience: Young adult fantasy/magical realism
Length: 429 pages
Author: Kat Cho
Publisher: G.P. Putnam
Release Date: June 25th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

A fresh and addictive fantasy-romance set in modern-day Seoul.

Eighteen-year-old Gu Miyoung has a secret–she’s a gumiho, a nine-tailed fox who must devour the energy of men in order to survive. Because so few believe in the old tales anymore, and with so many evil men no one will miss, the modern city of Seoul is the perfect place to hide and hunt.

But after feeding one full moon, Miyoung crosses paths with Jihoon, a human boy, being attacked by a goblin deep in the forest. Against her better judgment, she violates the rules of survival to rescue the boy, losing her fox bead–her gumiho soul–in the process.

Jihoon knows Miyoung is more than just a beautiful girl–he saw her nine tails the night she saved his life. His grandmother used to tell him stories of the gumiho, of their power and the danger they pose to humans. He’s drawn to her anyway. 

With murderous forces lurking in the background, Miyoung and Jihoon develop a tenuous friendship that blossoms into something more. But when a young shaman tries to reunite Miyoung with her bead, the consequences are disastrous . . . forcing Miyoung to choose between her immortal life and Jihoon’s.

A BIT DIFFERENT THAN I THOUGHT.

I was stoked to read this because the premise made it sound like we were dealing with an immortal cross of a fox/human that was wickedly good. What I received was a little less than that.

Instead this was mostly a high school romance story, and way more magical realism than it was fantasy. Since we were in present day Korea though, this definitely didn’t need any crazy fantasy world-building. It’s a mega city with delicious food.

Yes, food. That is what made my mouth water multiple times. So much so that at midnight one night when I was reading, I stopped, pulled up Pinterest and began to pin a hundred Korean recipes. We’ve had most of them since writing this, and they were delicious.

The romance was a cute-y, low stakes, not too fast (but not slow burn) high school saga. It developed over a few months and I was behind it. I liked where Miyoung and Jihoon were going. The crux of the whole plot wasn’t as strong as I was hoping. The reasoning for their initial conflict didn’t hit me in the heart strings like I think it meant too.

My biggest issue was the epilogue. IT DID NOT NEED THE EPILOGUE. WHY WOULD YOU CONTINUE A STORY WITHIN THE EPILOGUE WHEN IT WAS FINE THE WAY IT WAS? I don’t get it, and am now confused by the whole thing. I’ll have to see what the next book is about before making any final decisions.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult magical realism (I guess kind of fantasy?)
  • No language (double points for this)
  • Romance: some kisses, they do spend the night together but only sleeping
  • Violence: a handful of murders
  • Trigger warnings: physical child abuse

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Book Review

Book Review: Alanna: The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness #1) by Tamora Pierce

Rating: ☆☆☆☆  
Audience: Young adult fantasy
Length: 274 pages
Author: Tamora Pierce
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: September 1st, 1983
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

From now on I’m Alan of Trebond, the younger twin. I’ll be a knight.

And so young Alanna of Trebond begins the journey to knighthood. Though a girl, Alanna has always craved the adventure and daring allowed only for boys; her twin brother, Thom, yearns to learn the art of magic. So one day they decide to switch places: Thom heads for the convent to learn magic; Alanna, pretending to be a boy, is on her way to the castle of King Roald to begin her training as a page.

But the road to knighthood is not an easy one. As Alanna masters the skills necessary for battle, she must also learn to control her heart and to discern her enemies from her allies.

Filled with swords and sorcery, adventure and intrigue, good and evil, Alanna’s first adventure begins – one that will lead to the fulfillment of her dreams and the magical destiny that will make her a legend in her land.

MY FIRST TAMORA PIERCE BOOK.

This book was less than 300 pages, so truly a quick read. I enjoyed it, but it also wasn’t world-shattering for me.

I really liked the coming of age story for Alanna. This book spans a few years of her life as she grows up pretending to be her brother so she can become a knight. She goes through a lot of growing pains that I could relate to and appreciated the addition of.

I had a hard time staying fully interested in the story. A lot was happening…and not happening all at once. The villains weren’t fully formed and weren’t in the book long enough for me to actually hate. They flitted through and I was like oh wait…what was that about?

What I am most excited about are the hints of the romance I must see in the future. It seems like it’s forming on solid ground, the guy is sweet and growing up in his own way. I think there’s a lot that could happen here and I am excited to know what happens between them.

There’s definitely inklings of what will happen in future installments and I am still interested in pursing them. It’s nice to have a break from big fantasies for something on a much smaller scale. I’m happy I finally picked this up!

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: none
  • Romance: none
  • Violence: swords, poison, sickness

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Book Review

Book Review: The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen

Rating: ☆☆☆☆  
Audience: Young adult contemporary
Length: 440 pages
Author: Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: June 4th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Emma Saylor doesn’t remember a lot about her mother, who died when she was ten. But she does remember the stories her mom told her about the big lake that went on forever, with cold, clear water and mossy trees at the edges.

Now it’s just Emma and her dad, and life is good, if a little predictable…until Emma is unexpectedly sent to spend the summer with her mother’s family—her grandmother and cousins she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl.

When Emma arrives at North Lake, she realizes there are actually two very different communities there. Her mother grew up in working class North Lake, while her dad spent summers in the wealthier Lake North resort. The more time Emma spends there, the more it starts to feel like she is divided into two people as well. To her father, she is Emma. But to her new family, she is Saylor, the name her mother always called her.

Then there’s Roo, the boy who was her very best friend when she was little. Roo holds the key to her family’s history, and slowly, he helps her put the pieces together about her past. It’s hard not to get caught up in the magic of North Lake—and Saylor finds herself falling under Roo’s spell as well.

For Saylor, it’s like a whole new world is opening up to her. But when it’s time to go back home, which side of her will win out?

VERY CHARACTER DRIVEN.

This was very different than the previous four (maybe five?) Dessen novels I have read. Not in a bad way, just different.

This was heavily character driven and was a bit of a long book. It took a bit to get into because I didn’t know when it really began. I kept looking for a love story that I didn’t see. Once I realized that this was going to much deeper levels than that, I was able to get on board.

NOW, not to say there wasn’t a little bit of romance. Saylor does meet someone, and things end well. It isn’t the forefront of the novel though. The big focus is on Saylor and her growth over the summer. After a family tragedy she grows up not really remembering having spent any time there when she was younger. Her time spent on the lake allows her the opportunity to learn about her mother’s family. She’s able to reconnect with so many people and learn through them about her mother and more.

Saylor changes a lot over the course of the novel and helps her Dad do the same. He was a bit more stubborn (because of grief) and she is able to help him release the tension he had been carrying way too long. At times I would be upset with her Dad because I couldn’t grasp WHY he couldn’t relax a little. By the end, the rest of the story is out and we’re able to understand the decisions at play.

Lots of lasting re-kindlings with family are made and has given Saylor back apart of her life she didn’t realize how much she needed.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult contemporary
  • Language: a little strong language
  • Romance: a few kisses
  • Violence: mentions of a boat crash (off screen) and a sailing boat capsizes
  • Trigger warnings: alcoholism, drug abuse, off-screen heroine overdose, underage drinking, loss of a loved one

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Book Review

Book Review: Recursion by Blake Crouch

Rating: ☆☆☆
Audience: Sci-fi fiction + thriller
Length: 336 pages
Author: Blake Crouch
Publisher: Crown
Release Date: June 11th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Memory makes reality. That’s what New York City cop Barry Sutton is learning as he investigates the devastating phenomenon the media has dubbed False Memory Syndrome—a mysterious affliction that drives its victims mad with memories of a life they never lived.

Neuroscientist Helena Smith already understands the power of memory. It’s why she’s dedicated her life to creating a technology that will let us preserve our most precious moments of our pasts. If she succeeds, anyone will be able to re-experience a first kiss, the birth of a child, the final moment with a dying parent. 

As Barry searches for the truth, he comes face-to-face with an opponent more terrifying than any disease—a force that attacks not just our minds but the very fabric of the past. And as its effects begin to unmake the world as we know it, only he and Helena, working together, will stand a chance at defeating it.

But how can they make a stand when reality itself is shifting and crumbling all around them? 

MY HEAD HURTS.

I have an unpopular opinion coming your way. I liked Dark Matter more. This book was only okay. On the lower half of my 3 star rating.

This started out great. My head was exhausted trying to grasp all of the scientific concepts, BUT I was still having a good time. I knew we were building up and the back and forth timelines were keeping me intrigued.

Then at a bit past the halfway point I started to notice the repetitiveness. And over and over again the same situation kept happening. Way more times than I thought was necessary to get the point across (and how awful that Helena kept having to go through the same time frame?!?). At this point I stared scanning the pages til we brought up some more action…but none ever came.

The book felt more dedicated to the relationship between Barry and Helena than it did to the drama and thriller aspects I felt I got in Dark Matter. Yes, I was invested in them and thought their relationship made sense. But, it was dragged out and I only wanted to know the answer to how to stop the world from ending.

What was also totally trippy was thinking about this actually happening and what could result from this. A lot of current aspects were taken into account for this book which made it feel all the more real. I dearly hope our government isn’t hiding some memory machine planning to control the fates. There’s a point to this book, you can’t play God.

Overall audience notes:

  • Science fiction mystery/thriller
  • Language: f-word a lot (too much for me personally)
  • Romance: some kisses, mentions of “f-ing” each other, but not descriptions of the event
  • Violence: murder, guns, see trigger warnings for me
  • Trigger warnings: suicide ideation, multiple descriptions of peoples suicide and mass suicides

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