Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

2/5 Stars

Everyone has that moment I think, the moment when something so momentous happens that it rips your very being into small pieces. And then you have to stop. For a long time, you gather your pieces. And it takes such a very long time, not to fit them back together, but to assemble them in a new way, not necessarily a better way. More, a way you can live with until you know for certain that this piece should go there, and that one there.

The Girl in Pieces is the story of Charlotte Davis, a girl in pieces. Her life has so far been one of loss and pain, some of it self-inflicted. A harrowing narrative told in haunting prose reveals the fractured pieces of Charlotte, and the difficulty in trying to piece them all back together.

While I hadn’t necessarily heard that many good things about this book, it was one that had been catching my eye for a while. Every once in a while I’m in the mood for a book like this, one that shows the darkness of humanity or the hardships of mental health. Plus, the book was an award winner as well as a Target book club choice, so I had high hopes. Unfortunately, the book didn’t end up living to them at all.

If you look at my reading history for the book, you can see a large gap of time where I just stopped reading, and that was due with me just kind of being done with it. I just didn’t want to force myself to keep reading it. In the end, I did push through and finish it, but mainly due to the fact it was a gift and I could get points for it in my reading challenge.

This book just didn’t work for me at all. We got thrown right into the thick of it, as we join Charlotte’s story in the ‘After’, after she just attempted suicide and after all the events that led to it and her cutting. It was a bit jarring of a start, you’re thrown into a situation and need to quickly understand what’s going on while the narrator isn’t offering up a lot of information herself. It also leads to a disconnect from the narrator, as you only see the consequences of what happened at first. You have less pity for a person’s situation if you don’t understand everything about it.

The book was also just quite slow, and never managed to truly grab me. There were a lot of scenes that just dragged and felt fairly mundane, and I may have skimmed a passage or two. I never ended up liking Charlotte either, making it even harder to continue. I saw some other reviews comment on how Charlotte just makes poorer decision after poorer decision, and that was extremely accurate. I get see was in a cycle of pain and hurt and that it was very hard to break from that, but since I didn’t have a connection with her, it was harder to understand her decision. I feel horrible for saying this, but I just never ended up having any sympathy for her.

I did end up liking how it all wrapped up though, and found a lot of beauty in the life Charlotte ended up creating for herself and the ending she had. It all felt very fair yet still happy, an optimistic note humming through the words. It was what gave this book an extra star.

I’m not gonna say I won’t try any more books from this author, because I feel there’s definitely something here and it just didn’t connect with me, but I’ll be less optimistic going in next time.

The Hate U Give by Angie Sage

4/5 Stars

What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?

The Hate U Give explores duality, black culture, police brutality, and so much more. It follows Starr Carter, a girl divided between worlds and identities, and what happens after one of her childhood friends gets murdered by a cop. It explores the effects of this in the community, her family, and especially her.

Now, I realize I’m extremely behind on reading this. It’s one of those books that once you miss the original wave of reading it, you just keep putting it off. A scrabble challenge with my discord group finally made me get around to reading it, and I’m glad I did! Part of me was worried that the book might have been overhyped for me by now and that I knew completely what to expect going in, but that wasn’t the case at all. The book was still new and shocking, even with me having experienced the culture and news in the US, as the perspective is still something very different to me.

This novel also has a fantastic audiobook (I feel like I’ve been saying this a lot recently!), and I highly recommend listening to this book. It adds a new layer to the story, more emotion and fragility to Starr’s character, and some scenes were straight up heartbreaking to listen to thanks to how emotional the narrator was able to sound. It made the character of Starr extremely real to me, and therefore her problems even more real than they already were.

This is a hard book to critique because it is both written for me and entirely not. I’m part of the group of people (white, American), that needs more real knowledge of these situations, needs to see the human aspect of the stories we always hear on the news. At the same time, this book is written to be the voice of the marginalized group that exists in America, the group of people constantly harassed, threatened, and murdered by cops for the most flimsy of reasons. This is their chance to feel seen and heard, and I cannot criticize nor discuss that. It’s simply not my place to discuss how accurate or real this book is, whether I felt the plot was realistic or the characters relatable. This was not a story made for me to relate to.

As many others have said, and shown by the insane hype and publicity surrounding this book, The Hate U Give is an important novel that everyone needs to read. It is a multi-faceted book and therefore important for a variety of audiences. It showcases and starts the discussion on a variety of issues, all of which are extremely important to the world we live in today. From the idea of police brutality, a very American issue, to the idea of duality and fractured identity, a more global and growing ‘issue’, there is a lot to unpack in this book.

I’m excited to see the movie now, to see these voices and scenes visualized in a way the audiobook couldn’t, and I’m curious to see what Angie’s other books will bring!

The Red Scrolls of Magic by Cassandra Clare and Wesley Chu

5/5 Stars

The Red Scrolls of Magic is a step back in the timeline of the Shadowhunter world, taking place a short while after City of Glass. It reveals the details of the mysterious European vacation Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood took in between City of Glass and City of Fallen Angels. Full of romance, danger, and of course demons, The Red Scrolls shines a new light on Downworlders, the European Shadowhunters, and Magnus and Alec’s relationship.

When I heard about this new series, I was endlessly excited. Magnus Bane is hands down my favorite character in all of the Shadowhunter books, maybe even of all books ever. And Malec was one of my first ever true ships. And now there’s a whole series following him/them? It was my dream come true.

The first installment definitely lived up to my dreams. While I got off to a rocky start, as I had started with the audiobook of the book and ended up not liking how it made me feel about the characters and scenes, I ended up getting quickly hooked once I picked the book up physically. It was a short book, meaning a faster pace, and it was an easy book to get lost in. I very easily could have missed my stop while taking the train, and almost did!

It’s been a while since I’ve read the original series, so I can’t really tell how this novel compares to them in terms of focus (between plot and romance), but I felt this book balanced the plotline well with the romance. There was a lot of focus on Magnus and Alec and their new relationship, but I feel like that’s what a lot of readers of this book want, and it also just made sense in the context of the story. There’s a lot that Magnus and Alec are trying to figure out between them, as well as about themselves. It led to a quite emotional and romantic story, and I loved it.

The plot was also interesting by itself. I was worried it would be kind of a throwaway plot, as it’s being written into the past of this series, but I was worried for no reason. This book cleverly adds new insights into old events while also revealing information that might be impactful later on, all without making it feel like it came out of nowhere. I also loved how much more of the Downworlder experience we saw, as that’s something I’ve been wanting a long time.

I also felt that Clare did the gay relationship of Magnus and Alec justice without over-sexualizing or making it problematic. She mainly focused on their love for each other and how they navigated uncertainties, which is something that is relevant and relatable to a lot of people. She also focused a lot on the immortal vs. mortal issue, or shadowhunter vs. warlock issue, which was a purely fictional one, and therefore one she can draw from her own lore on. When it came to the sexual parts of their relationship, Clare didn’t go into too much detail nor focus on any acts themselves. This meant that Magnus and Alec weren’t sexualized purely for the audience, and the romance and desire felt intimate and meant for them, rather than the reader. It seemed to avoid the pitfalls of many other straight women trying to write gay relationships, though of course I am not the best judge of this and you should not take my word as the final say on the matter.

Overall this book just made me really, really happy, and anyone into Malec, Alec, or Magnus will definitely love this book. There’s just a lot to love about it.

I also wanted to mention the acknowledgments. It’s not something I generally review, but it almost felt like a part of the story. Clare gave some insight into Magnus and Alec and their creation as characters and as a couple, and what that meant for her career and the series. It was wonderfully interesting to read, and it definitely added to my opinion of the situation/characters.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

4/5 Stars

It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.

The Scorpio Races is a story about an island. Every year, deadly water horses make their way on to this island, leading to the annual Scorpio Races. This story follows two main protagonists, both who end up racing for their own ideas of freedom.

This was another book I listened to the audiobook of, and although it wasn’t the best (female narrator seemed to always read dialogue as if they were shouting?) it did lead to me finally reading this book! I’ve loved all the other works by Stiefvater that I’ve read, and while I didn’t like this one as much, it still grew on me.

I’ll admit that while the writing style of this book is still good, it wasn’t what I’ve come to expect from Stiefvater. I know authors fluctuate in style between series and books, but I just didn’t like the simplicity this style had in comparison to the other books I’ve read of hers. I was a bit let down, and I think this led to me not getting into this book at all at first.

However, it grew on me. Something about the simplicity of the story, of two people with very pure goals racing for their futures, grew slowly on me, and I didn’t even realize until I hit the ending and it affected me as much as it did. I guess it was something about the characters, how compelling their stories were, how real their motivations and personalities were.

I also just fell in love with the racing and cultural aspect of the book. It felt overall really well done, and while there were definitely some gruesome scenes, it just ended up backing up the dark descriptions of the water horses. I just also loved the emotion the characters tied to the parts of the island they loved, and how their homes, whether that be in a place, people, or horse, were described and made the main focus of the novel.

I’m glad I finally got around to reading this book, and while I don’t think it’ll ever be one of my favorite Stiefvater works, I did end up enjoying it!

The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum

4/5 Stars

First off I would like to thank the author, the publisher, and NetGalley for giving me the chance to read and review this ARC. Please note that the version I read was an advanced copy, and certain events/language may be changed in the published edition. While the copy was provided for free, all opinions are honest and my own.

The Weight of the Stars is a lyrical story about two girls who reach for the stars, literally. Ryann dreams of eventually reaching them, continuing the legacy of her dead parents. Alexandria waits for news from the stars, from a mom that had to leave before Alexandria ever knew her. Both are struggling under the weight of loss, the responsibility to those they still have, and their large dreams. However, together, they may just find a way to carry the weight and bring their dreams to realization.

This is one of those books that sneaks up on you as you’re reading and you don’t realize how much it means to you until it’s over.

When I heard the description of this story, as well as some of the selling points of it (LGBTQ, slow burn romance, lyrical writing), I knew I had to request an ARC so I could read it ASAP. I will admit that at first this novel can be hard to get into, and I didn’t find myself liking it at first, but my love for the story was one that ended up growing slowly, and sneaking up on me in the end.

One of the hard parts of this book is the characters, as they are not easily likable characters. Ryann and her friend group, while known for their ability to befriend everyone and bring quiet misfits out of their shells, are often quite aggressive in their approach, to the point it’s practically bullying. It really puts you off of almost all the characters at first, and the victim of this behavior, Alexandria, is not someone you really easily pity either. However, slowly but surely, you end up accepting and liking these characters for all their flaws and bad behaviors, and the way their stories end up interweaving is quite beautiful.

The writing is also something I was originally disappointed in but found a great love for later. I had expected something slightly different, and while the writing was definitely lyrical, the short chapters and formatting of the story worked to make the story more choppy. However, once again, as you keep reading you learn to love this style and how well it meshes with the story. The ending was especially beautiful, and the emotions it ended up invoking in me were what made me realize that this story actually got to me. I will definitely read Ancrum’s other novel just to see how the writing style is used in that story.

The plot itself was also one of growing intensity and size, starting from a small classroom to an even smaller trailer park to eventually spanning the stars above. As the story goes on, more and more players end up having a role in everything that’s happened to Ryann and Alexandria. The winding style of the plot matches up to the characters and writing style perfectly in this sense, and it leads to everything coming together in perfect melody.

(Also, as a note, there is a large range of diversity in this novel, especially in terms of sexuality. A few of the side characters are gay, along with a girlxgirl relationship at the forefront of the novel).

All in all, it’s hard to describe how I loved this book because even I am not entirely sure of how I ended up liking it and how I ended up having my heart broken at the end. It’s a unique story in this way, as not many manage to sneak up on me. In the end, I highly recommend this book for those who dream of space, those who wish to read more diverse books, and those who love tales that slowly increase in intensity and emotion. I will definitely be reading more novels from Ancrum!

Wildcard by Marie Lu

2/5 Stars

Tearing something down isn’t the end; doing something great, or better, something right, is.

Wildcard by Marie Lu is the sequel and finale to Warcross, Lu’s 2017 sci-fi hit. It continues Emika’s story after the thrilling and surprising events of Warcross, revealing new allies, enemies, and secrets, and continuing the premise that not everything is as it seems in the tech world of Emika and her friends.

I wasn’t sure when I’d get around to reading Wildcard, as I didn’t end up preordering nor had plans to buy it soon, but when I saw it available on Libby from my library I snatched it up right away! Warcross was a quick read and I expected its sequel to follow the same pattern, and I needed a quick read right then. My reading friends were kind of split on whether they thought it was a decent sequel/conclusion, so I went in not really sure what to expect from it, and in the end, I’m kind of stuck in the middle.

My biggest issues were all with the first 60% of the book. There was nothing inherently wrong with it, no specific writing, character, or plot issues, it just felt like something was missing. The spark that Warcross had simply didn’t exist in the first half of the book for me, and I didn’t feel truly connected with the story. It zoomed by so quickly and so fast, that it forgot to take me along with it. I was reading the story and understanding the events and how all these pieces fit together, but I wasn’t connected, invested, in what that all meant. Most books grab you and that world takes over your own for a while, but that didn’t happen right away here, and for a sequel, it was a bit disappointing. I just plain didn’t care for the first part.

When the ending started really kicking in, and things were finally coming together and starting to make sense, I finally found the spark again, the reason I loved Warcross and Emika and all the others. I found the way things ended to be a perfect conclusion, both how the immediate plot was wrapped up as well as the distant future explained. But it just wasn’t enough to fully save the reading experience for me, and that’s why this book is only getting 3 of the 5 golden stars.

After reflecting, I’m more able to pinpoint the specific problems with the book that may have caused my original distance and why the final portion drew me back in. We spend the beginning portion of the book with fairly shallow feeling characters, as I never felt like Emika’s Warcross team and other friends ever got enough build up to mean something to me. Of course, I cared what happened to them, but I wasn’t necessarily too interested either. When you add this to the new characters added in the beginning, it feels too much like an entire beginning, with characters you’re supposed to know and love but just don’t yet. It keeps you at a distance, like you don’t fit in this circle with these people. However, as the book goes on and you learn more about Sasuke and Jax, one of the new characters, a connection starts to be built again, and this is where I started getting into the book. This in addition to the increasingly larger role Hideo plays, the secondary character who received most build up in book 1, I started to feel more at home in the story, and thus enjoyed it more. It all just came a bit too late.

All in all, I don’t regret reading this series at all, and I’ll always read whatever Marie Lu writes next! I just wish I had gotten back into this faster, and been able to enjoy the ending to its fullest.

You by Caroline Kepnes

3/5 Stars

If you knew what I went through to get into your home, that I messed up my back trying to know you, inside and out, you’d judge me for it.

You is Kepnes latest thriller, now a hit Netflix series. It follows Joe, a man endlessly obsessed with a girl, Beck, who walked into his bookstore one day. Curiosity turns to obsession as the progression of the tale turns dark and darker, revealing the lengths Joe is willing to go to make Beck his.

I expected a lot from You, from both the rave reviews from my friends and family about the show to just general internet reception. However, it just didn’t manage to blow me away. I didn’t dislike it, and the time I spent reading it wasn’t wasted, but it was an averagely thrilling book and nothing more.

In terms of plot, this book was actually pretty predictable and that’s one of the worst things for a thriller. The build-up and background of Joe in the beginning made it pretty clear what was probably going to happen later on, and when we finally actually got to it, I was already bored with the idea. Additionally, we know going in that Joe is a stalker, that he will go to great lengths to get to know every single part of Beck and to date her and love her. This makes what he does end up doing, which is extremely creepy if you think of it happening to yourself, feel almost normal since he’s doing exactly what you expected him to do.

Additionally, the situation with the characters themselves is also an interesting choice. No one is actually all that likable, so you never end up feeling for the people who suffer and for Beck, who is being ruthlessly stalked. They are all so petty and fake, revealed from all the “research” Joe is doing, and it leads to detachment from the event happening to the characters as well as lack of empathy for them. It removes the emotion and stakes from the book, as while you know what Joe is doing is bad and he definitely should not have done this or that, you end up not really caring since you don’t emotionally feel the consequences of his actions.

What is interesting about the book is the way is positions as the reader. The entire time you look through the eyes of Joe and are seeing things from his perspective only. It leads to a one-sidedness, a belief in what Joe is doing even though every part of you knows it is extremely wrong. This is only aided by the fact that you don’t actually like his victims, so a part of you doesn’t really care about what he’s doing and still hopes he gets the girl.

All in all, I don’t regret reading this book and I’ll probably watch the series in order to see how this gets transferred to tv, but it’s not my favorite thriller out there by a long shot.