Review: All American Muslim Girl

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All American Muslim Girl By: Nadine Jolie Courtney

My Rating: 5 Stars

Allie Abraham has it all going for her—she’s a straight-A student, with good friends and a close-knit family, and she’s dating cute, popular, and sweet Wells Henderson. One problem: Wells’s father is Jack Henderson, America’s most famous conservative shock jock…and Allie hasn’t told Wells that her family is Muslim. It’s not like Allie’s religion is a secret, exactly. It’s just that her parents don’t practice and raised her to keep her Islamic heritage to herself. But as Allie witnesses ever-growing Islamophobia in her small town and across the nation, she begins to embrace her faith—studying it, practicing it, and facing hatred and misunderstanding for it. Who is Allie, if she sheds the façade of the “perfect” all-American girl? What does it mean to be a “Good Muslim?” And can a Muslim girl in America ever truly fit in?

Beware spoilers ahead!

Trigger Warning(s): Islamophobia, racism, discrimination, grief, harassment, and panic attacks.

Reading Challenge(s): Book 4 for the #Pondathon. Book 4 for #StartOnYourShelfathon. Monthly pick for The Reading Clowns book club.

Rep: Allie is a Jordanian-Circassian White Muslim. Wells has anxiety. Allie’s mother converted to Islam before marriage. Samira is a Malaysian Muslim. Fatima is Black, she converted to Islam at a young age. Shamsah is an Indian Queer Muslim. Leila is a half-Egyptian and half-Palestinian Muslim. Dua is an Arab (I think?) Muslim.

My Thoughts Before Reading: I was weary about reading this book. I wasn’t sure whether the Muslim rep would be done well. 

I changed my mind when I heard from other Muslim reviewers that the rep was well done. I am happy to say that I loved it!

What I Liked: I adored how nuanced the rep was! It so nice to read about the many Muslim characters. As well as the dua’s, prayers, Ramadan, and Eid. There were discussions about impostor syndrome, the idea of a ‘good’ Muslim, women not being respected at the mosque and such. 

I loved reading Allie learning about Islam! It was nice to read about her learning Arabic, attending a Quran group, joining the Muslim group at her high school, and most importantly standing up for herself. Allie’s story hits close to home, as I also started to learn about Islam when I was a teenager. You can tell that author addressed everything with care.

I loved Allie! She was an amazing character. Her journey with Islam was relatable. It was great to read about her growth! How she learnt about Islam, and that she no longer wanted to keep it a secret that she was practicing.

Allie’s relationship with her family play a large influence on how she viewed Islam. Her mother is a convert, so she was more open to Islam than Allie’s father. Allie’s father was raised in an extremely strict environment, hence why he doesn’t practice Islam and doesn’t want his family to either.

I adored Allie’s mother but I had a very hard time liking her father. I found him to be quite unreasonable and unfair. Allie’s father does (eventually) support her decision to practice Islam. Her parents even fast with her during the last few days of Ramadan. I loved reading about their growth!

I loved reading about Allie’s Quran group! It was nice to read about their friendship, and them learning Islam. I found their sessions to be informative. You really do learn something new everyday! My favourite friendship was Dua and Allie.

I really liked Allie and Wells together! Despite what the synopsis says, Wells father isn’t revealed until about 20% in. When Allie starts a relationship with Wells, she has no idea that his father is Islamophobic. Obviously they had a lot of struggles in the beginning, though they were able to work everything out. I liked Wells and how open he was to Allie practicing. He even educated himself on Islam.

My Criticism(s): Absolutely nothing!

What I’m Looking Forward To: More Muslim books!

Conclusion: Overall I absolutely adored All American Muslim Girl! I highly recommend.

Review: The Paper & Hearts Society

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The Paper & Hearts Society by: Lucy Powrie

My Rating: 4 Stars

Tabby Brown is tired of trying to fit in. She doesn’t want to go to parties – in fact, she would much rather snuggle up on the sofa with her favourite book.

It’s like she hasn’t found her people …

Then Tabby joins a club that promises to celebrate books. What could go wrong? EVERYTHING – especially when making new friends brings out an AWKWARD BUZZING feeling all over her body.

But Olivia, Cassie, Henry and Ed have something that makes Tabby come back. Maybe it’s the Austen-themed fancy-dress parties, or Ed’s fluffy cat Mrs Simpkins, or could it be Henry himself …

Can Tabby let her weird out AND live THE BEST BOOKISH LIFE POSSIBLE?

Beware spoilers ahead!

Trigger Warning(s): Bullying, harassment, cyber stalking, grief, and panic attacks.

Reading Challenge(s): Book 12 for #StartOnYourShelfathon.

Rep: Tabby has anxiety. Olivia is demisexual. I think that Cassie and Olivia may be POC, but I’m not sure. If anyone knows whether or not the girls are POC, please let me know in the comments. 

My Thoughts Before Reading: I was really excited about reading this book! I am happy to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it!

What I Liked: I absolutely enjoyed reading about The Paper & Hearts Society (a very fitting name for a book club)! I’ve never read a book with such fun bookish activities! The road trip to Bath was my favourite bookish activity to read about.

I loved all the characters and their interactions with one-another! I especially loved Tabby and Ed’s relationship. I could feel Olivia’s excitement whenever she came up with a club activity. Henry was sweet. And while I took some time to warm up to Cassie, I absolutely loved her development!

I really enjoyed Tabby’s character development! Tabby is still reeling from the bullying she faced at her previous school. She has several panic attacks throughout the book. And blames herself for getting bullied.

Tabby gains self confidence and is able to confront her trauma. Thanks to her new friends. Especially Ed, who is her best friend.

The bullying story line was extremely well done! It was raw and realistic. The aftermath was inevitable but I didn’t mind. I felt that it was well written and worked with the plot.

Initially Tabby has a good relationship with everyone expect Cassie. Who is convinced that Tabby is going to betray them and destroy their friend group. Cassie has her own reasons for believing this. Though Cassie pushes past this and accepts Tabby in their group. I loved it when Cassie opened up to Tabby! 

Like I mentioned earlier Tabby has an excellent relationship with Ed and Olivia. Both of whom accept her right away. Henry’s relationship with Tabby veers in the romantic direction.

I really enjoyed reading about their friendship and eventually their romance. They were so cute together!

I loved reading about Tabby’s relationship to with her grandmother! Her Gran was so cool and a joy to read about! Her Gran was the only active family member to read about. Her parents were still living at their house wrapping up the sale and moving. Her Gran is a large part of the reason Tabby continues to befriend The Paper & Hearts Society.

My Criticism(s): My only criticism is that I think Tabby should’ve told her family about Jess.

What I’m Looking Forward To: Reading the sequel Read with Pride.

Conclusion: Overall I really enjoyed this book! I highly recommend.          

Review: Love from A to Z

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Love from A to Z by: S. K. Ali

My Rating: 4 Stars

A marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like potatoes—because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together.

An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.

But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry.

When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break.

Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her.

Then her path crosses with Adam’s.

Since he got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister.

Adam’s also intent on keeping his diagnosis a secret from his grieving father.

Alone, Adam and Zayneb are playing roles for others, keeping their real thoughts locked away in their journals.

Until a marvel and an oddity occurs…

Marvel: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

Oddity: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

Beware spoilers ahead!

Trigger Warning(s): Islamophobia, racism, discrimination, grief, harassment, mention of drone attacks and murder.

Reading Challenge(s): Book 1 for the #Pondathon and for The Theme Thieves: Happiness. Monthly pick for The Reading Clowns book club. 

Rep: Zayneb is West Indian, Caribbean-American. Adam is Chinese Canadian and Finnish. Both Adam and Zayneb are Muslim’s. Zayneb’s mother and Adam’s family converted to Islam. 

My Thoughts Before Reading: I was a little weary about reading this. I DNFed the author’s first book Saints and Misfits due to not meshing with the writing style.

Though I still wanted to give it a try for the Muslim rep. I am very happy to say that I loved Love from A to Z!

What I Liked:  I loved reading about Doha! I could feel myself walking with Zayneb, exploring the area, and could even smell the food.

The writing style was superb! I loved reading the journal entries. I thought it was an excellent way to distinguish between Adam and Zayneb. 

I adored the Muslim rep! It was realistic and relatable. Some of my favourite scenes were discussions about Islam. For example the prayer scene with Adam’s family. I loved how they came as a family to pray and make dua together. It reminded me off what I do with my own family.

I loved how close Zayneb was to her family! While you don’t get to read about her entire family (her brother and sister live elsewhere), you could tell they are close to one another.

Zayneb’s aunt is the family member that you read about the most. I loved reading about their interactions! I liked that Zayneb’s aunt encouraged her ideals and gave some really good advice.

Zayneb’s friend group is a bit off a mess in the beginning. They are all still reeling after Zayneb gets suspended. They do bounce back with a new member to their cause. I enjoyed all their interactions! Especially Zayneb and Kavi’s.

I really enjoyed the plan to take down Mr. Fencer! Islamophobia is nothing new and every Muslim faces it. However, it takes a lot of courage to face Islamophobic people head on and take it down. The strength that Zayneb and her friends had was amazing! And it was depicted in such a way that it was relatable. They weren’t always strong and sometimes they were scared. Regardless they pushed on and succeeded!

Zayneb was relatable. The angry part of me really resonated with Zayneb. I agreed with all the points she made and felt some of them deep within my soul. Particularly the discussion about drone attacks that she had with Adam’s friends. Throughout Love from A to Z Zayneb does learn to hone her anger. Rather than blowing up at everything. For example, confronting those people at the gym. I loved reading about her development and enjoyed the execution!

I loved Adam and his family! They were so close knit and had an amazing family dynamic. Especially Adam and his sister. I liked reading about Adam’s friends! Especially Connor. They were close knit in a similar way Adam is to his family.

The flashbacks were really sweet and heartbreaking! Most of them had Adam’s mother, who passed away because of MS. S. K. Ali did an excellent job tackling grief. It was also great to read about how and why Adam’s family converted to Islam. 

I related to Adam quite a bit. He was calm and caring. Something that I always strive to be.

Adam has MS. His family doesn’t find out for a majority of the book. In fact Zayneb knew before his family did. With Zayneb’s push Adam finally tells his family and they agree to stand by him. Zayneb does as well. I loved Adam confronted his fears and realized that he can be happy whilst having MS!

I don’t know that much about MS so I can’t speak in regards to how well it was depicted. What I can say is that I felt the author did a good job explaining the disease.

I loved Adam and Zayneb’s relationship! They brought out the best in each other and were so cute together. I was so happy when I read in the epilogue that they got married! 

My Criticism(s): Absolutely nothing!

What I’m Looking Forward To: More books by this author!

Conclusion: Overall I loved this book! I highly recommend. 

Review: Other Words for Home

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Other Words for Home by: Jasmine Warga

My Rating: 5 Stars

I am learning how to be
sad
and happy
at the same time.

Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives.

At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven’t quite prepared her for starting school in the US—and her new label of “Middle Eastern,” an identity she’s never known before. But this life also brings unexpected surprises—there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is.

Beware spoilers ahead!

Trigger Warning(s): Islamophobia, xenophobia, racism, discrimination, mention of war and physical violence, vandalism, and harassment.

Rep: Jude is Syrian. Sarah is American-Syrian. Grace is Korean. Ben is Chinese. Omar is Somali. Layla is American-Lebanese. Michelle and Miles are American. 

Disclaimer: Other Words for Home was read during The Theme Thieves November challenge Standalone. 

I won this book in a giveaway hosted by the lovely Soknou! Click the link for her Twitter profile.

My Synopsis: Jude loves her family and home! She spends her time with her best friend Fatima and her brother Issa, watching old American movies and singing American songs.

Due to the rising tension and war occurring in Syria, Issa changes. Now all Issa talks about is change, and in his own way he’s working towards a better future for Syria. The brother who would sing Whitney Houston with Jude is no more. This new Issa is reckless and rarely comes home.

As tensions and violence continue to rise in Syria, Jude is told by her mother that the two of them will be leaving for America. Though her brother and father won’t be coming. Her father wants to stay with his shop and Issa wants to continue to fight for a better Syria.

Jude isn’t pleased with this news. She would rather stay home with her family and those she is familiar with. Then she hears that her mother is pregnant and agrees to go.

Once in America Jude and her mother experience culture shock. And it is proving to be difficult to adjust to life in an another country. It doesn’t help that Jude’s cousin Sarah makes no attempts at a civil relationship.

Jude finds solace in her ESL class. It’s comforting for Jude to know that she is not the only one experiencing culture shock. With the help and support from their ESL teacher, the group strive and grow in their new environments.

Along the way Jude discovers her courage and stands up for what she believes is right. Maybe America can also become her home.

Book Format: Others Words for Home is written in verse (first person) following Jude. It’s divided into six parts with roman numerals (which serve as the chapter numbers) beginning per part. There are some flower illustrations on top of the roman numerals. Plus some Arab, a glossary, and an authors notes which lists websites.

Where I Heard About this Book: I saw this book on GR.

My Thoughts Before Reading: I was so excited to read this!

Though I was a little concerned with the writing style. I haven’t read many books in verse and wondered whether I would like the writing style.

I am very happy to say that I adored Other Words for Home

What I Liked: I loved the writing style! I found that the verse was an excellent way of telling the story. Other Words for Home was complex whilst still being light. This writing style also allowed the author to perfectly capture life as an immigrant. 

Jude’s relationship with her family was beautiful and heartbreaking. She is close to her parents and her brother Issa. Of course once her brother becomes involved in the conflict, their relationship drastically changes. The entire family breaks apart. It was really painful to read about these changes. Especially when Jude is told, that she and her mother would move to America without her father and brother.

Once in America Jude and her mother have to settle and adjust to their new lifestyle. It’s quite hard for Jude as she deeply misses her father and brother. Though now she is forming new familial connections with her uncle Mazin, aunt Michelle and her cousin Sarah.

Jude absolutely adores her aunt Michelle! Aunt Michelle speaks slowly so that Jude can under her and does everything she can to make Jude and her mother’s life comfortable. Her uncle Mazin is always working, so he doesn’t have a significant relationship with Jude in the beginning. Her cousin Sarah doesn’t like her. Sarah mocks everything that Jude is. From her accent, to people she talks to, to the way she dresses, etc.

Throughout the book Jude does begin to understand Sarah’s plight. To two reconcile towards the end of the book. Uncle Mazin and Jude develop a close relationship. Jude is even able to talk to Issa (she talks to her father regularly) and is finally at peace. When Jude’s baby sister is born the family feels complete. 

I appreciated how the author wrote all the familial relationships. Even though Jude’s family is broken apart in the beginning, they come back to together stronger. And with more people.

I loved reading about Jude’s friendships! The ESL class was such a joy to read about. I loved each and every one of the students. It was amazing how much they connected to one-another. I also loved Layla! Jude meets Layla at a Middle Eastern restaurant and the two immediately hit it off. Miles was also such a sweet friend to Jude! All of the people in her life provide Jude with a strong support system.

I absolutely loved Jude! She was open minded, patient, and most of all brave. Jude’s character arc is about confronting her fears and choosing to be brave in this new country. Jude auditions for the school play despite opposition from her family and some friends. She strives to fight for and stand up for her beliefs.

I related to a lot of her experiences. Especially when Jude starts to wear a hijab, and she sees how people react to her while she dons the hijab. She also makes it clear that wearing the hijab is her choice, and that even she who is wearing a hijab, also cares about women’s rights.

My favourite part is that Other Words for Home is a realistic middle grade!

My Criticism(s): Absolutely nothing!

What I’m Looking Forward To: More Muslim middle grade books!

Conclusion: Overall Other Words for Home was a beautiful read! I highly recommend it.              

Review: Hello, Sunshine

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Hello, Sunshine by: Leila Howland

My Rating: 4 Stars

A Prep School Girl with a Hollywood Dream

Becca Harrington is a reject. After being rebuffed by every college on her list, she needs a fresh start, so she packs up everything and moves to LA, giving herself one year to land an acting gig or kill herself trying.

Unfortunately, not everything turns out as planned, and after a few grueling months, LA is looking like the worst idea ever. As hard as she tries, Becca can’t land an agent, she’s running out of cash, and her mom is hounding her to apply to more schools. In an act of desperation, Becca and her friend Marisol start posting short videos online—with the help of their adorable filmmaker neighbor, Raj—and the videos catch the attention of a TV producer. Could this be it? Her big break? Or will she have to move back home with nothing but some bad head shots and a monstrous credit-card bill?

Becca may not get the Hollywood ending she was hoping for, but perhaps she’ll learn there’s more than one way to achieve her dream.

Readers will love every page of this funny, romantic, aspirational, and ultimately triumphant novel about a girl who just wants to make it on her own.

Beware spoilers ahead!

Content Warning: A creepy neighbor who continues to harass and stalk the main character. There are some sex scenes but nothing explicit. And a nudity situation.

Book 2 for Monstrous March.

Becca and her boyfriend Alex are spending one last hoorah before Alex goes to college. All of the college’s that Becca applied for denied her. Upon her mother’s request Becca plans to look for a part time job whilst trying to became an actress. Much to her surprise Alex breaks up with her. Feeling lost Becca decides to move to LA and try to become an actress there.    

I had heard about Hello, Sunshine through Netgalley in 2017. I really liked the synopsis and heard good things, so I decided to purchase a copy. I am happy to say that I enjoyed it! The book is written in first person limited following Becca’s point of view. There are text messages, lists, as well as quotes from a book and online articles.

I really liked that this book is YA! I think this book would help so many teens before going into college. And it’s nice to see college YA. There are a lot of valuable lessons such as the value of work, a person’s worth, and money.

I really liked Becca! She was so happy and energetic. I rarely read about those types of characters and Becca felt so fresh and fun. Her growth throughout the Hello, Sunshine was amazing! I really enjoyed her standing up for herself. And learning and experiencing new things. Which in turn helped her grow and become a really good actress.

I loved the family aspect! Becca is really close to her mother and even her cousin Vivian. She had a fantastic relationship with her mother! I also appreciated that Becca didn’t mind that her father was out of the picture. As long as she had her mother she was all good. Becca’s mother plays a huge part in the story and in the decisions she makes. I wish more YA would bring in family.

I loved the friendship between Becca and Marisol! Marisol was also trying to become an actress. The two supported each other rather than tearing each other down. Which was so nice to read about! They had such a wholesome friendship which made the book all the more enjoyable.

I also really liked Raj! He was a good friend and a genuine person. His crush on Becca was so cute to read about. I did enjoy how it was slow burn. Also when Becca friendzoned Raj he came back and was cool with everything. They really did complement each other.

I did have some issues with Hello, Sunshine. I didn’t like that Raj got all giddy at the thought that he looked like a ‘criminal’. This didn’t feel realistic considering that he was an Indian. And Indian’s are primarily confused by ignorant people as Muslim’s therefore are terrorists.

While I’m happy that Becca got into California film school I am a bit muffed by it. I really thought that she would answer that question and grow even more. But that didn’t happen. I know that connections are everything and while I appreciated that aspect, I still would’ve liked to see her answer it. 

The conflicts at the end were weird. Marisol was rich and kept it a secret. And that whole thing with Raj kind of made sense but also felt thrown in there for some drama build-up. Not every contemporary needs that and this book could’ve done without it.

While I like Raj and Becca as a couple I’m not happy with how they got together. It read odd and felt rushed. And it affected how I felt about them as a couple. I think it would’ve been better had they gotten together earlier and maybe not had a conflict before.

Overall I really enjoyed Hello, Sunshine! I highly recommend.       

  

Review: Famous in a Small Town

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Famous in a Small Town by: Emma Mills

My Rating: 4 Stars

For Sophie, small town life has never felt small. With her four best friends—loving, infuriating, and all she could ever ask for—she can weather any storm. But when Sophie’s beloved Acadia High School marching band is selected to march in the upcoming Rose Parade, it’s her job to get them all the way to LA. Her plan? To persuade country singer Megan Pleasant, their Midwestern town’s only claim to fame, to come back to Acadia to headline a fundraising festival.

The only problem is that Megan has very publicly sworn never to return.

What ensues is a journey filled with long-kept secrets, hidden heartbreaks, and revelations that could change everything—along with a possible fifth best friend: a new guy with a magnetic smile and secrets of his own.

Beware spoilers ahead!

Trigger warning: Mention of car accident, mention of prison, mention of fatal accident, and taking credit for someone else’s work.

Sophie and her friends are preparing to enjoy their summer break. Much to the group’s surprise a new boy August moves in. August is the brother of Sophie’s neighbor. While working Sophie overhears her band teacher talking about the upcoming fundraiser. The teacher mentions that they will likely not be able raise enough money to participate in The Rose Parade. Sophie takes action into her own hands and decides to get Megan Pleasant to come back and perform. Only Megan has sworn never to return home. 

Emma Mills has been on my radar since I enjoyed This Adventure Ends. I was hesitant when I heard about Famous in a Small Town. Ultimately I gave in to my curiosity. I am happy to say that I enjoyed it! This book is written in first person following Sophie’s point of view. There are flashbacks, text messages, online articles, and social media posts.

There’s something about reading an Emma Mills book. It’s like hugging a blanket. You know it’ll be fluffy and have a huge emphasis on friendship. It’s comforting. And no surprise this is what was present in Famous in a Small Town. 

I absolutely adored the friendship! Sophie has a large friend group and all of them get along with each other. Their conversations were also so funny! As well as relatable. Each character was unique and original. It was even better when August joined the friend group. 

I really enjoyed reading about Sophie’s growth! And her character in general. She wasn’t perfect and she knew that. Sophie genuinely wanted to work on herself and become a better person. She was sweet and caring. It’s a nice change to read about those kinds of characters.

I also really liked August’s nieces! They were so cute! And a delight to read about. I particularly enjoyed it when Sophie babysat them. Sophie would do anything to keep them happy. And wasn’t afraid to act a bit goofy in the process.

I found Famous in a Small Town to be the more romance oriented than This Adventure Ends. Early on Sophie realizes she has a crush on August and asks him out. He politely refuses and asks that the two remain friends. I really enjoyed reading about their relationship!

August was such a sweet character. I actually expected him to be brooding. And in a way he was. But not exactly. Through Sophie and her friend group, as well as his brother August came out of his shell. I really enjoyed reading about his character development!

I was really surprised about the mystery aspect! The whole Megan Pleasant situation was a bit bizarre in the beginning. I didn’t think much off it. Then it went in a direction that I wasn’t expecting. There is another mystery aspect that was also quite surprising. I liked how each mystery was handled.

My only problem with Famous in a Small Town was how Sophie’s parents weren’t really present. This isn’t that large off an issue and it didn’t effect my rating. I just would’ve preferred for them to be more present.

Overall I really enjoyed this! Highly recommend.    

Review: A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares

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A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares 

By: Krystal Sutherland and Tara Sands (Narrator) 

My Rating: 4 Stars

Ever since Esther Solar’s grandfather was cursed by Death, everyone in her family has been doomed to suffer one great fear in their lifetime. Esther’s father is agoraphobic and hasn’t left the basement in six years, her twin brother can t be in the dark without a light on, and her mother is terrified of bad luck.

The Solars are consumed by their fears and, according to the legend of the curse, destined to die from them.

Esther doesn’t know what her great fear is yet (nor does she want to), a feat achieved by avoiding pretty much everything. Elevators, small spaces, and crowds are all off-limits. So are haircuts, spiders, dolls, mirrors and three dozen other phobias she keeps a record of in her semi-definitive list of worst nightmares.

Then Esther is pickpocketed by Jonah Smallwood, an old elementary school classmate. Along with her phone, money and a fruit roll-up she d been saving, Jonah also steals her list of fears. Despite the theft, Esther and Jonah become friends, and he sets a challenge for them: in an effort to break the curse that has crippled her family, they will meet every Sunday of senior year to work their way through the list, facing one terrifying fear at a time, including one that Esther hadn’t counted on: love.

Beware spoilers ahead!

Trigger warning: Death, mention of murder’s, physical violence, mention of war, mention of kidnapping, suicide attempt, mention of critically injured animal, and abusive parent.

The Solar family has been cursed by death. During their grandfather’s war days, he met death. Not just once but many times. Death cursed the Solar family to die from a fear. Hence why Esther Solar made a list of fears. Then she meets Jonah, a childhood friend. Much to her surprise he robs her. The two meet again with Jonah promising to help Esther conquer her list.

In 2016 Sutherland released her debut. I didn’t much care for it. I decided to check out this book because the synopsis sounded good. I am happy to say that I enjoyed it!

The book is written in third person omniscient following Esther and flashbacks of her grandfather with death. There is one scene that is narrated from Death’s point of view. The chapters are titled based off a fear of Esther’s. Some chapters just have titles that don’t pertain to Esther’s list.

I’m really happy that I gave this book a shot! It was good and I enjoyed the magical realism aspect a lot. Even the family and friendship dynamics. I also felt that the author excelled at portraying mental health.

I liked Esther! She was a great character. I especially loved her growth and that she ended up loving herself. Esther’s list of fears is based on things she’s seen on tv and heard stories about. The list was quite interesting. And you can honestly fear most of it. By the end she did love and acknowledge every aspect of herself. 

I liked Eugene a lot. He is Esther’s twin. He spends a lot of his time trying to convince Esther that the curse isn’t real. That their family has mental illnesses. The two have a really close bond. And it was nice to read about.

Esther doesn’t have the best relationship with her parents. Her father never leaves their basement. There’s a bathroom and food gets brought down. Meanwhile their mother who used to be so strong isn’t anymore. Their mother spends her time gambling. Her top concern is their money. Esther is torn up over her parents and doesn’t know what to do.

Hephzibah is Esther’s best friend. The two of them used to be friends with Jonah and met each other in school. Esther has never heard Hephzibah speak. The two communicate in sign language and text messages. I enjoyed their friendship! 

Jonah and Esther of course didn’t have a good introduction. When Esther sees him again she punches him. Which was justified. Things happen and the two come to an agreement. Their relationship was so cute! I really enjoyed the two of them tackling the list. Jonah and Esther were rocks for each other. They really helped each other grow. And they were such a cute couple! 

Death was such a nice connection! I enjoyed reading the flashbacks with him and their grandfather. It was a nice touch of magical realism. And brought the grandfather as a character. In present day the grandfather is dying. There were a lot of good quotes with their conversations. And the topic of death was tackled in such an interesting manner.

I especially liked that at the end all the characters are still struggling with their mental health. Eugene and Esther decide to go get therapy. Yay for positive therapy rep! Their family is still struggling. The relationship to one-another makes them so strong. Jonah doesn’t just magically cure Esther. She is still working on it.

Overall I really enjoyed this book! I highly recommend.   

Review: Moxie

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Moxie by: Jennifer Mathieu

My Rating: 4 Stars

Moxie girls fight back!

Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with her small-town Texas high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes and hallway harassment. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.

Viv’s mom was a punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, so now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. Pretty soon Viv is forging friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, and she realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.

Beware spoilers ahead!

Trigger warning: Rape, blackmailing, harassment, bullying, slut shaming, mention of accident, sexism, misogyny, and mention of death.

Vivian is used to everything. She’s used to behaviour of the boys. Used to all the sexist jokes, and the boy being able to get away with everything. Until Lucy transfers. Lucy is the new girl and the latest victim of Mitchell’s harassment. Viv puts her foot down. Why should she and the rest of the girls have to deal with this?! Viv using inspiration from her mother’s Riot Grrl days creates Moxie. A zine for all the females. A revolution forms. But can they hold out against the school board and most of the male population?

I had seen Moxie on Goodreads and Twitter. I didn’t care much for the synopsis. I went to the bookstore and saw it on the shelves. Out of curiosity I picked it up. I am happy to say that I enjoyed it!

The book is written in first person limited following Vivian. There are chapter numbers. And pictures of the zines that she makes. Which could sometimes take about three pages.

I’m really surprised that I was able to enjoy it! The synopsis read like one of those feminist books, that don’t turn out that good. I can happily say that I was wrong! What I appreciated the most was the diversity! Some feminist books are actually white feminism in disguise. Which was not the case here. There were WOC and some LGBTQIA characters. And all were done so well!

I really liked Viv! Her journey through creating Moxie was incredible. I loved that she decided to take a stand for the sake off helping her fellow women. This really is an empowering book about fantastic female friendships!

Claudia is Viv’s best friend. The two have done everything together since they were children. Their friendship is tested once the Moxie zines start coming out. Claudia like Viv has gotten used to the system. She’s not quite a fan of it being questioned. Of course Claudia doesn’t like the system or the general treatment, but she’s used to it. This is partly why Claudia didn’t like Lucy in the beginning. Lucy questioned everything and where she came from things were better. She does warm up to Lucy. And makes up with Viv.

Lucy was such a fun character! It was nice to read about her observations on how odd the school was. She was alone in the beginning, but Moxie brought Viv and her together. Lucy and Claudia were on rocky terms in the beginning. The two do become good friends.

Even the typical blonde cheerleader played a huge role. Viv and every other female were under the impression that Emma had a lot to gain from the system. Partly because she was pretty and didn’t seem to mind the status quo. Emma turns out to be so much more! I really appreciated how the author handled women.  

I liked Viv’s relationship with her family! Her grandparents were very sweet. And her mother served for the inspiration of Moxie. Her mother’s past was so cool and interesting! I love that she fought for the things she loved.

Her and Viv do get into a bit of a rough spot. Her mother’s new boyfriend plays a huge role in this. As Viv felt that her mother was changing because of said boyfriend. The two make up when Viv starts seeking her mothers advice. Viv also felt that her family wouldn’t support her on Moxie. Much to her surprise they did and were proud of her.

Viv’s crush Seth also played a huge role, outside of the love interest. Seth actually caught Viv when she put out the first zine. He decided to keep it a secret. And found out cool. He became her go to person for occasional advice. There was a slow burn romance between the two which I liked!

If it wasn’t obvious with the trigger warnings this book was hard to read. There are a lot of hard subjects brought up. And while I think they were dealt with properly, it didn’t make it any easier.

It’s not just the male student body that sucked, it was even the female teachers. The school board and the mentality of the town. The behaviour of these characters truly disgusted me. I spent a lot of my time reading furious at all the things that happened. Which I’m assuming was the author’s intention. Kudos to the author.

I also want to point out that I never felt that Moxie drove away male allies. Towards the end of the book the girls team up for a Moxie walkout. Seth and some of his male friends join this walkout in solidarity of the girls’. I thought that this was really powerful! Don’t believe what Kirkus says.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this! I highly recommend.       

Review: Here Lies Daniel Tate

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Here Lies Daniel Tate by: Cristin Terrill

My Rating: 5 Stars

When ten-year-old Daniel Tate went missing from one of California’s most elite communities, he left no trace. He simply vanished.

Six years later, when he resurfaces on a snowy street in Vancouver, he’s no longer the same boy. His sandy hair is darker, the freckles are gone, and he’s initially too traumatized to speak, but he’s alive. His overjoyed family brings him home to a world of luxury and comfort he can barely remember. In time, they assure him, he’ll recover his memories; all that matters now is they’re together again.

It’s perfect. A miracle. Except for one thing.

He isn’t Daniel Tate.

He’s a petty con artist who accidentally stumbled into the scam of a lifetime, and he soon learns he’s not the only one in the Tate household with something to hide. The family has as many secrets as they have millions in the bank, and one of them might be ready to kill to keep the worst one buried.

Beware spoilers ahead!

Trigger warning: Murder, mention of abusive parent, neglectant parent, self-harm to create a birth mark, drug addiction, overdose, mention of cheating, mention of divorce, incest, blackmailing, and physical violence.

This was not how it was supposed to go. It should’ve been so easy. Pretend to be some recently found rich kid and fit in. He didn’t expect all the problems that come with the Tate name. But hey it’s worth it. He has a family, access to school and other necessities. The cherry on top is that the Tate’s are rich. How long could he keep the act up? What if the killer came for him?

I have read the author’s debut All Our Yesterday’s and thoroughly enjoyed it! When I heard that she was writing a mystery I didn’t hesitate to add it. I am happy to say that I loved it!

Here Lies Daniel Tate is written in first person limited following our main character. There aren’t any chapters. It just starts and ends. You don’t know the name of the main character. He never mentions it. Which worked really well seeing as he is an unreliable narrator.

Our main character has been pulling cons for years. He gets into a foster care system temporarily and then leaves. It’s just a cycle. Of course he doesn’t want to be found, so he never reveals his name. Hence the running.

The book begins with him doing just that. Except it doesn’t quite work out. Whilst running away one of the other children notice him. And tell the people in charge. Out of desperation, he looks into a missing children database. On there Daniel Tate’s information is recorded. Thus he pretends to be Daniel. And then the whole mess begins.

I was really impressed by this book! I didn’t know that the author would be so good at writing mysteries. I truly hope she writes more. I saw nothing coming! And let me tell you there are a lot of reveals. In order to maintain the appearance of Daniel, our main character does some digging into the Tate’s secrets. And there were so many. I also really liked how there weren’t any chapters. It was a unique reading experience.

Once they hear that their brother is alive Lexi and Patrick (the eldest siblings) rush to pick him up. Nichalos is in shock that his brother was even found. And Mia is just happy to have another family member. She was a baby when Daniel disappeared. Their mother seems very cold. And Daniel’s father is in jail, so he can’t visit him. A childhood friend of Daniel’s does also email him.

The FBI get involved in hopes of finding Daniel’s kidnappers. The school board is also informed of Daniel’s mental state and keeps on eye on him. He is assigned a counselor, who he has to report to.

I actually liked our main character! While everything he does is questionable, all in all he just wanted to belong. And a place to call home. It was really something to read about his attempts to become Daniel. There are vague hints into his real life as a child. But nothing concrete. Just enough to keep you guessing. 

I loved the main character’s relationship with Mia! She was so sweet and pure. Like the only one in the family with good intentions. Mia couldn’t walk that much. She had some problem, that the Tate’s say she was born with. I don’t remember the name anymore. If anyone else does please mention in the comments! And I’ll mention you in the review.

Patrick wasn’t home that much. He actually lived on his own somewhere else. Though he was there when our main character had to meet with the FBI. Patrick was a lawyer. Lexi also has her own apartment, but upon the return of her brother she stays in her family home frequently. Lexi was also fantastic! Really great sister. Patrick was too, when he visited.

Our main characters relationship with the Tate’s mother was complicated. She left all the mothering to Lexi or the maid. Barely existed her room to even say hello. Our main character feels like she knows that he’s not actually Daniel. But for whatever reason does nothing about it. Unless you count avoiding him.

The relationship with Nicholas was also very rocky. See Nicholas and Daniel never got along. Of course our main character doesn’t know about this, and constantly screws up in conversations with Nicholas. Hence how Nicholas figures out that he isn’t Daniel. He does threaten to do something about it. But it would be pointless. At this point our main character wants to do some digging and uncover the whole mystery. Thus the two teamed up.

I also liked Nicholas! Especially his boyfriend. He had a no-nonsense attitude which I loved. Our main character also has a love interest. Whose name is Ren (correct me if I’m wrong). And I’m pretty sure she was Japanese. They were so cute together! I really liked the slow burn romance.

The reveals were something. If you think about it some of them were obvious. Most of them weren’t. Specifically what happened to Daniel. I didn’t consider it would be those characters. I didn’t think they had a motive. Turns out they did. It was a bitter sweet ending. And I can honestly say that this book will stay with me.

Overall I loved this! I highly recommend.                

Review: One of Us Is Lying

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One of Us Is Lying by: Karen M. Manus 

Audible Narrators: Kim Mai Guest , MacLeod Andrews, Shannon McManus, and Robbie Daymond 

The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars, One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.
Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.
Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

Beware spoilers ahead!

Trigger warning: Suicide, mention of cheating, physical violence, blackmail using a character’s sexual orientation, homophobia, drug addiction, slut shaming, bullying, controlling relationship, and bad representation of mental illness. 

I read One of Us Is Lying a little over a year ago. In that time I’ve been thinking a lot about this book. I’ve come to realize that all those problems other people had with it, I did as well. I guess writing trigger warning’s in my reviews has been a part of it as well. Also I think some of the charm has worn off and I’ve managed to forget quite a bit. That’s not really helpful for mysteries let alone this review.

Anyways let’s get to it! This follows four first person point of views. There’s a full cast for the audiobook. There are tumblr and blog posts. During detention the main characters are with Simon, the school’s resident Gossip Girl. Simon has a severe peanut allergy. While their teacher is off to do something, Simon starts to have convulsions. Unable to find an epipen Simon is rushed to the hospital. It is revealed the next day that Simon died.

The four main characters are now suspects in the murder. On Simon’s blog there are posts outing each of the main character’s secrets come out to the whole school. The four face isolation and bullying once each of their secrets are out in the open. After all of this they all decide to team up. Thinking the real killer is still out there to get them.

The title is actually wrong as every character in this book are hiding something. I found most of the story to be enjoyable! I liked the character’s growth and relationships to one-another. My favourite was definitely Addy! Her character growth was amazing. Below I’ll detail each of the character’s secrets, family, and such.

Bronwyn: Half Mexican is the ‘Smart One’. She’s a hard worker. And does well in all her studies. Well except for the one time she cheated of course. Voila big secret! Due to stress, wanting to live up to her families expectations, and being half POC. She’s got a good relationship with her family. Romantic love interest is Nate. 

Nate: His mother abandoned him, his father is an alcoholic, and on the side he’s a drug dealer. Earning him his reputation at school. He’s the biggest suspect due to this. Of course his big secret is his family life and that he still deals. Romantic love interest is Bronwyn. They were surprisingly cute together!

Cooper: Extremely popular, good looking, and an athlete. Has a beautiful girlfriend. Best friend is Addy’s boyfriend Jake. Secretly he’s gay and doesn’t want people to know. The town is quite homophobic and so is his father. Unfortunately this is outed too. Note that he wasn’t out of the closet. He has a boyfriend whose a model.

Addy: Pretty, popular, and is Jake’s girlfriend. Although she hasn’t always been faithful. She cheated on Jake with Ty. Who she gets along with better. Her mother has made her believe that Addy needs a man in her life. Otherwise she’s useless. Her sister believes otherwise and is in the middle of a divorce. Once she gets outed she get’s bullied and slut shamed. Addy remains single in the end. And she and her sister move in together. Her character development was suburb!

The author really excels at contemporary! I really liked all the characters and their friendship. It takes a really long time for the mystery to come in. The characters kept me engaged! Good job on the author’s part.

The mystery part is a bit lacking. As it was Simon who had depression, and committed suicide. Simon had Jake and another girl (whose name I’ve forgotten) frame the four main characters for his death. Simon started to get badly influenced by forums that liked school shooters. He became obsessed and apparently thought it would a fantastic idea to frame some people for his ‘Murder’. Nate’s mother is also bipolar and comes back after taking medication that works for her.

I do feel that the author doesn’t handle mental illness well. At the time I felt Simon’s motivations made sense. It fit his character. He was really dramatic. And it is completely possible to get bad influences. But as I’ve found out this year this is a common trope in thrillers. And that’s just awful. If it weren’t for those things I probably would’ve rated it higher.

Overall I did still enjoyed a majority of this book! I would still recommend but please read trigger warning’s first.