Book Reviews, Young Adult

Review: Me, Him, Them, and It by Caela Carter

ME is Evelyn Jones, 16, a valedictorian hopeful who’s been playing bad girl to piss off THEM, her cold, distant parents. HIM is Todd, Evelyn’s secret un-boyfriend, who she thought she was just using for sex – until she accidentally fell in love with him. But before Evelyn gets a chance to tell Todd how she feels, something much more important comes up. IT. IT is a fetus. Evelyn is pregnant – and when Todd turns his back on her, Evelyn has no idea who to turn to. Can a cheating father, a stiff, cold mother, a pissed-off BFF, and a (thankfully!) loving aunt with adopted girls of her own help Evelyn make the heart-wrenching decisions that follow?

–back cover of Me, Him, Them, and It by Caela Carter

Content warning: I am not entirely sure how this book ended up being able to be called YA. The sexual content is high and at times a bit graphic in the first half of the book.

That being said, I was excited to read this book. It seemed different, but during the first half I was tempted to put it down. I didn’t like how Evelyn was with Mary. I didn’t like hers and Todd’s relationship. I didn’t like how her whole purpose in life was to make her parents angry. It seemed like a lot of the same things happening over and over. She goes to see Mary, gets together with Todd, things are tense with her parents, over and over and over again. It did not take me long to tire of this.

About halfway through the book things picked up a bit, and at this point I was able to finish the book in about a day. Things were getting a bit more interesting but still, nothing really interesting seemed to happen in the book. So, that was a bit disappointing. Even by the end it seemed that most of the plot was Evelyn whining and being indecisive.

As for the characters…there were very few that I actually liked. Evelyn herself was a very unlikeable character. She seemed to whine nonstop and refused to even really consider making a decision for herself. Plus, a lot of the time, she was unfriendly and bordered on mean. I’m not sure what was up with her, but she was not at all relatable and most of the book I couldn’t care less about what happened to her. Her parents were absolutely the worst fictional parents that I have ever read about…in the first half of the book. During the second part I at least liked them more than Evelyn. Todd was also very unlikeable. Not only did he and Evelyn use each other but Todd was not willing to take a stand when consequences came. I liked Evelyn’s aunt, and towards the end of the book her wife. When her wife was first introduced it seemed like she was so cold it wasn’t possible for someone like that to actually exist, but she became much more likeable towards the end.

Plot and characters aside, Carter’s writing voice was pretty good. It was good enough that I could see a book with different plot and characters being pretty good actually.

I also liked the regret showed in the end of the book, but I felt like the ending itself was very unrealistic.

I give this book two out of five stars.

Book Reviews, Young Adult

Review: World of Shadows by Emily Rachelle

In this urban fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast, modern-day teenager Beila Durand is plagued by nightmares that lead her to discover – and wind up trapped in – a cursed underground world. The invisible people that live in this medieval village depend on Beila learning the truth behind their curse – and why she is the only one who can set them free.

In her quest for answers, however, all she seems to find are more questions. Where do the echoing screeching at night originate? Who is the isolated man that speaks with Beila from the shadows of his cloak? What does this New York girl have to do with any of it? And will she ever find a way back home?

–back cover of World of Shadows by Emily Rachelle

Before this book I hadn’t really read a fairytale retelling, but this book made me want to read a lot more of them. This book was charming and magical.

I loved the characters. Beila was relatable and lovable. I cared about what happened to her almost instantly. Shadow was also great. He was mysterious and most of the book he kept me guessing. I think that my favorite though were the invisible people. They were such a twist on the Beauty and the Beast story. I fell in love with all of them, especially Adelle and her daughter.

This book was hard to put down. Even though it was a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, a lot of the story was different, and that is what I loved. I recognized the story but so much of it was different that I was entertained the whole time.

While I loved this story there were a couple of downsides. I feel like sometimes her writing style was weak. There were several times that there was telling instead of showing. That could have improved the book in some areas. There was also a period where the author took the reader back in time and, while it was information that we needed, I did not enjoy this. It interrupted the climax and slowed it down for quite a bit. I also found the sentences in French kind of annoying. It would draw away from the story for me.

Overall though, this was a really good book. I give it 4 out of 5 stars. I think that most people would enjoy this book.

Literary Magazine

The India Incident

“It’s kind of a funny story, but…” I let my voice trail off, giggling nervously as I tapped my nails on the dark wood of my dining room table. I’d invited Nirali over for lunch so we could talk about her wedding. HER WEDDING! How could I tell my best friend I wouldn’t be going to her wedding? That I physically COULDN’T go?

“But what?” Nirali asked.

“But.” I groaned and buried my face in my hands.

“Angel, what is going on with you today?”

“Oh, the hell with it. Nirali, I love you, and I love Taj, and I am so happy for both of you, BUT,” I took a deep breath, “I can’t come to the wedding, I’m sorry.”

“Wait, what?”

“I can’t come to the wedding.”

“What do you mean you can’t come to the wedding? Angel you are my best friend. You HAVE to be there.”

“Well I can’t be. Trust me, I wish I could be, but I literally cannot be there.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“Well like I said it’s a funny story.”

“Angel, there is NOTHING funny about you blowing off my wedding. We’re paying for your airfare and you are staying with my family. They love you and… and… What the fuck is going on with you?”

Book Reviews, Young Adult

Review: What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

Since her parents’ bitter divorce, McLean and her dad, a restaurant consultant, have been on the move-four towns in two years. Estranged from her mother and her mother’s new family, McLean has followed her dad in leaving the unhappy past behind. And each new place gives her a chance to try out a new persona: from cheerleader to drama diva. But now, for the first time, McLean discovers a desire to stay in one place and just be herself, whoever that is. Perhaps Dave, the guy next door, can help her find out.

Combining Sarah Dessen’s trademark graceful writing, great characters, and compelling storytelling, What Happened to Goodbye is irresistible reading.

–back cover of What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed the simplicity of it. I enjoyed the characters. I enjoyed the everyday setting that I could relate to. I enjoyed the things that made it unique. I read it fast and came to a conclusion: this is a really great book.

This book was very well written. I loved how it went back and forth between the different parts of her life. It would show how she was with her dad, how she was with her mom, how she was at the restaurant, how she was alone, how she was with Dave, and how she was with her friends. I think that this was one of the reasons I read it so fast. All of the different sides of her make up McClean. Nothing seemed out of place. All of the different sides of this story compiled into one beautiful story.

I really have grown to love simple writing. There was nothing distracting about it. It was the type of writing that allows one to be completely pulled into the story. Dessen created a story world that was easy to become a part of.

The characters were by far my favorite part of the book. McLean was a likable and relatable main character. Dave was charming in his own dorky way. I wished that I knew Opal and Riley. Both were such lovable, vibrant characters. Even her parents were great. Her dad was probably my favorite YA fiction dad.

Even though this book was very well written, and I enjoyed it, I don’t think it is for everyone. It definitely is for an audience that enjoys coming of age stories. There isn’t much action and there aren’t many twists. The story is quaint and comforting, and if the back cover blurb sounds interesting to you, you will most likely enjoy it.

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Book Reviews, Young Adult

Review: Looking for Alaska by John Green

Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave “the Great Perhaps” even more (Francois Rabelais, poet). He heads off to the sometimes crazy and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young. She is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart. Then. . . .

After. Nothing is ever the same.

–back cover of Looking for Alaska by John Green

I loved the first half of the book. The first half was light and fun. I think part of what initially drew me in was the setting. Ever since I was young I enjoyed reading about boarding schools and summer camp, so to me, what is more perfect than a boarding school that reminds me of a summer camp? Even though it seemed like it would be an uncomfortable place to live in–small spaces and the heat was horrible–it seems like it was a fun place to live in, and I loved reading the first half because of this. I loved reading about the pranks and every day craziness.

For as fun as the first half of the book was the second half was… not fun. It was so intense that it was hard to read. The second half was very emotional.

The before and the after were both great in their own way.

I’ve always liked Green’s writing, and I think that most lovers of YA fiction would at least agree that he is a good writer. He’s humorous, and he keeps the pace going well. His words flow and draw one into the story. Whether or not I enjoy the plots of all of his books, I think he is a great writer.

As for the characters, I didn’t feel like they were quite as well fleshed out as characters from other books by him. They were okay but only okay, nothing more. I don’t feel like any of them were all that unique and memorable. Still though, they were enjoyable, and I cared about the characters enough that it made my heart hurt.

The plot was compelling and made the book very hard to put down. My only real critique  was that I kind of feel like this book was just sad for the sake of being sad. I didn’t feel like it had some great inspiring lesson like a lot of other heart-wrenching YA books have. It just seemed like the author wanted us to cry.

Even though this book was not one of my favorites it was a very well written book. I think that if you liked The Fault in Our Stars that you will like this book too.

I would suggest waiting for this read if you are under 16 though. Sexual content is a bit high in some places in this book, and I think that it is not suitable for most younger readers.

I give the book 4 out of 5 stars.

Literary Magazine

Hollow Hearts

Her eyes flickered from corner to corner, taking in the empty space that seemed to surround her. No one ever seemed to notice the girl in the back of her room with scars up her arms and books hugged to her chest. They didn’t notice her unless they wanted to taunt her. They didn’t make her feel welcome unless they wanted to get in her pants to see just how far up her thighs the scars went. They wouldn’t talk to a freak like her. Not unless they wanted something she had that they didn’t. A girl would ask for a pencil or her life, it just depended upon the day. A boy would ask for her eraser or her virginity, and that just depended on who he was. Everyone would ask for her sanity, snapping bits and pieces off until there was nothing more than a whisper of what once was. The cry of what once was the best thing about her. Her brains were something she was exceedingly proud of, if she wasn’t wanting to kill herself at the moment. She was slinking away from the world of the living, quicker and quicker was her descent, but no one would acknowledge it. She had brains and beauty, but who were any of her classmates to notice? They kept on pushing her further and further to the edge of madness, where she clung on for dear life. Then, suddenly, she was falling. Her heart began to spiral into madness, her brain fell long before the rest of her body knew what was happening. At home her mother would look sullen, her face sunken in as if she had been through hardship, and she had. Her daughter was fading away, disappearing before her wary eyes.

Book Reviews, Young Adult

Review: The Belgrave Legacy by Zara Hoffman

Fawn doesn’t believe in magic. But when she is unexpectedly thrust into the middle of an ancient feud, she must learn to control her powers.

Caleb is sick of Hell. But when a simple seduction becomes complicated by real feelings, he is forced to pick between keeping his past or fighting for his future.

Can this young witch navigate a dangerous world with the dark angel assigned to romance and seduce her by her side?

The Belgrave Legacy is an upper-young adult paranormal romance novel with a feminist twist. Filled with magic, witches, angels, demons, Zara Hoffman’s “coming of age” story will keep you turning the pages until the very end.

–back cover of The Belgrave Legacy by Zara Hoffman

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

Generally, when receiving an ebook it can take me up to a month to read it because I really hate reading off of my laptop, but I finished this book in a week. That is saying a lot for me.

In one word, this story was addicting. It was hard to put down.

Part of this is because of Hoffman’s writing style. She has a way of pulling you into her world. Her writing style is vivid enough that you always know what is happening but simple enough that you are never distracted from the story. I wish that all authors would use a similar voice, but her style was unique enough to be her own.

I really loved the characters too. Fawn was easy to relate too, because I think most people become in love with the idea of someone at some point. Caleb was clever and I loved everything from his backstory to what he became in the book.

The plot was interesting and the pace was great. I spent most of the story excited for what was going to happen next.

Now, there are a couple of reasons that I am giving this book 4 out of 5 stars instead of 5 out of 5 stars.

First of all, there were times where the plot could’ve been more suspenseful or we were told something earlier in the story that, if kept hidden, might have turned out to be a huge plot twist partway through. The characters, although I liked them, could have been developed better. It seemed like they were only developed enough to fit in with the story, not enough to be real, vivid people. It could’ve been a lot worse but it could’ve been better too. I also feel like the love aspect of this story was a little bit rushed.

Overall, this book was a good read, and I would recommend it if you enjoy paranormal fiction.

I give it four out of five stars.

Book Reviews, Young Adult

Review: Supernaturally by Kierstin White

Evie finally has the normal life she’s always longed for. But she’s shocked to discover that being ordinary can be…kind of boring. Just when Evie starts to long for her days at the International Paranormal Containment Agency, she’s given a chance to work for them again. Desperate for a break from all the normalcy, she agrees.

But as one disastrous mission leads to another, Evie starts to wonder if she made the right choice. And when Evie’s faerie ex-boyfriend Reth appears with devastating revelations about her past, she discovers that there’s a battle brewing between the faerie courts that could throw the whole supernatural world into chaos. The prize in question? Evie herself.

–back cover of Supernaturally by Kierstin White

When I read Paranormalcy (the first book in this series) I fell in love with the world that White created. This book just reinforced that. She really has a way of drawing you into the story until you forget that anything else exists. I think that that’s what has made me fall in love with this series, or maybe it’s the new twist on paranormal creatures.

I also love how clean her books are. I feel like most of the books I’ve read recently–several of which I’ve just picked up randomly–have needed a content warning of some sort, but hers are clean enough that I’d let a ten-year-old read them. It’s kind of refreshing.

The characters in this book are ones that I won’t be likely to forget. I love everyone from Evie to Lend to the creative monsters or sort of monsters, like Vivian. Even Reth, who is more or less a villain; I found myself fairly fascinated by him. And I love Evie and Lend’s relationship. I think that they’ve got to be one of my favorite fictional couples.

I enjoyed the plot of this even more than I enjoyed Paranormalcy. Towards the end, there was an excellent plot twist that I really didn’t see coming.

With how much praise I’ve given this book you’ll probably be surprised when I don’t give it five stars. Here’s why: there were a couple of times where the book just wasn’t five-star material. There was a section of twenty to thirty pages that were pretty boring and took me some time to get through. She also seems to have a lot of cliches when it comes to representing teenagers. Also, I could not stand Jack, a character who seemed to come out of nowhere. I thought that he was annoying most of the book. It didn’t ruin the book for me, but I feel like it definitely could’ve been better in some areas.

That being said, I give the book 4 out of 5 stars. If you loved Paranormalcy or just love paranormal fiction in general, I would give it a shot.

Recipes

Pernese Food: Bubbly Pies

Growing up, my mother would bring me along to the library and to the used bookstore; so, I was never without a book. She influenced much of my reading preferences from mystery to science fiction to fantasy. The extent of her influence, funnily enough, was easy to see in one of my English classes in high school. We were able to choose our own books for an assignment and the high school library had a book called Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey. Full of telepathic dragons and music mixed with a coming-of-age story centered on Menolly, I was hooked. When I told my mom how excited I was about the book, she took me to one of the many bookcases in our basement and pulled out several other books in the same series so I could read more!

One of the main things in the novels is the description of food, which I rather like – things that might be familiar to us earthens but with a twist specific to the stories and their people. This is especially true of the Pern novels, which focus on descendants of settlers from Earth who crash-landed on a planet with a dangerous red sun. For some reason, I was fascinated by the drinks and sweets and meals that were discussed in the book. It wasn’t until now that I finally made something in honor of the books.

I researched to find some recipes that fit in with the Pernese world; thankfully, this was an easy task. I found several recipes through an Anne McCaffrey fansite.  After looking through, I decided on bubbly pies in part because my fiancé loves blueberries.

Since I have food allergies,  I use Bob’s Red Mill gluten free flour and Earth Balance dairy-free butter.  They’re both a one-to-one ratio replacement. These are all the ingredients – I love simple recipes.

 

Making the crust with the flour, sugar, salt, and butter. Water came later.

I absolutely detest kneading bread but it needed to be done.

My fiancé, Chris, assembled the filling of blueberries, sugar cinnamon, lemon juice, and butter:

And the dough, the filling, and the flan bowls:

Since I hate the texture of dough, Chris helped put the dough inside the little flan bowls. They’re supposed to be an eighth of an inch, but it was pretty difficult to get them that think and not have it stick to our hands. A little flour didn’t help,  but water on his hands did.

Here’s the dough and filling:

 

I think the flan bowls we used are a little larger than they needed to be because it took an additional 10 minutes beyond the recipe’s bake time to be done to golden perfection.

As you can see in this photo, they look slightly underdone.  When they were done, Chris and I both were so excited to try them that we dug right in.  These are great if you’ve left time between dinner and dessert because they are quite large.  Be careful of burning your mouth!

These are perfect for someone with a massive sweet tooth, just like Menolly’s young friend, Piemur.