Book Review: The Sal and Gabi Series

Hey, everyone! Today I’m here to review a pair of books that I really should have reviewed sooner, given that I read them nearly a month ago at this point. I wasn’t originally going to review these, but I realized how fun and exciting they really are and how much I wanted to share them with my followers! Let’s get to it!

The Sal and Gabi Series | Carlos Hernandez

Published March 5, 2019 (book one)

382 pages | Hardcover

Trigger Warnings: Mentions of death of loved one (off page), references to child abuse, hospitalized baby.

Sal Vidón has not started at his new school under the best of circumstances. It’s the third time that he’s ended up in the Principal’s office in his first three days (though, the first two days were hardly his fault), but this time he’s facing Gabi Reál, who is determined to convince their Principal that Sal did put the dead chicken in Yasmany’s locker–even if no one saw him do it. Even if the chicken was gone when the janitor came to clean it up, and the blood that got on Yasmany’s shoe? Gone.

Not long after, Gabi stumbles on Sal’s most protected secret: Sal can conjure things much bigger than a dead chicken in someone’s locker. Things like his dead mother from an alternate universe. But as the pair gets to know each other better, their universe is being ripped apart by their manipulation of time and space.

All summaries are my own unless otherwise stated. Parts of the summary may be borrowed from goodreads.

I cannot tell you how enjoyable this series is. You would have to read it to understand the joy that this book is made of, all the jokes and friendship and adventure.
But this post is a review, so I’m going to at least give you a preview of everything this book offers. Keep in mind that the actual book? So much more.

One of the best things about these books is the friendship and the sense of community. While Sal and Gabi don’t start off on the best note, they quickly become amazing friends. The best part about it is that they are only friends, the author never tries to turn them into romantic partners, and it’s extremely clear that they are not going to, throughout the books. The adults in the books, especially Sal’s parents, suggest several times that Sal might have feelings for Gabi, but Sal quickly shoots them down. They’re friends. And, as Sal says, he is ‘not a sexual beast yet’. I was especially glad that it was acknowledged, even if it was quite quick, that Sal might be aromantic, because yes he is only twelve and this is a middle grade book, but despite what some people believe, alloromantic twelve year olds do, in fact, experience romantic attraction at that age. There are so many books in which a character hasn’t experienced romantic feelings until xxx comes along (mostly YA), or something like that, but it’s never mentioned that they might be somewhere on the aromantic spectrum and it was super refreshing to see it mentioned here. It wasn’t analyzed or discussed by anything, it was just a suggestion, a quick statement. It was also said very casually and no big deal was made about it, Gabi just said one sentence and that was it. I believe it was something like ‘if you were any more aro, I could shoot you from a bow’ and then they just moved on to the next topic.

I also mentioned the community in this book, and it really was AMAZING. Sal is surrounded by a lot of different communities and just the sense of belonging in these places, the familiarity among the people and how well most everyone got along, was so beautiful. I thought that his school was the best example of this. He attends a school focused on the arts, so there are a lot of times when very creative things are happening. The teachers are also very fun and get along well with the students which was cool! I think my favorite part centering around the school was in book two, when they are all putting on a performance. I won’t give you the specifics, but they end up doing it in an extremely unique way that first of all, sounds absolutely amazing, and second of all, required a lot of people to work together and it just felt like the whole school came together to help out and create something beautiful.

Sal was an extremely enjoyable character. At first, I was wondering if we’d get Gabi’s point of view as well, and I was a little sad when I realized that we wouldn’t, but it ended up being amazing anyways! The narration was really funny and I’m actually glad now that it was only from Sal’s POV because I feel like it would have been less entertaining if the voice switched every chapter or so. I also loved the author’s ability to describe characters, and give each one a very distinct personality. While Sal and Gabi were the only two main characters, there were many many side characters, some mentioned only once or twice, whereas some appeared continuously. A few were even our main characters but from another universe! And each one was very different and all amazing and entertaining in their own way.

The HUMOR. Once you read this book, you will not be able to get enough of the humor. Sal himself, as a magician, lives to make people laugh and this often gets the reader to laugh as well, but you will also find yourself laughing at his mishaps and the multiple amusing characters! I mean, his school’s logo is a rotten egg and there’s a giant statue of it on top of the school, complete with spewing smoke from a crack. There’s a talking toilet that can offer you life advice AND bleeps out any swear you come close to telling. The entire book is just extremely entertaining!

But the last thing that I wanted to hit on, is that despite the fact that the book is almost always very light and hilarious, it also touches real issues. Sal has diabetes and the books describe a lot about what that is like. There is also child abuse mentioned in the book, and It’s great how the author absolutely does not shy away from these things. There are a lot of middle grade books that are all light and fluffy, the only issues mentioned being those which assist the main plot of the book, and I think a lot of people are afraid that things like child abuse are ‘too heavy’ for people in the middle grade audience. Hernandez does none of this but also presents it in a more gentle manner than might be discussed in a YA book.

I would highly recommend the Sal and Gabi series to anyone looking for a fun book. Full of humor and brimming with creativity, this book is exactly what all middle grade books should be, and it’s fun for any age! My review absolutely does not do justice to this wonderful book and I encourage you to pick these books up to experience the full magic.

Have you read Sal and Gabi Break the Universe and its sequel? What did you think of it? If not, does this review make you want to pick it up? Let me know in the comments below!
As always, thank you so much for stopping by! Stay safe and keep on reading!

Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating: A Review

It has been 155 days since I last wrote a book review on my book blog.
Given this, I figured that I should probably write another book review.
I finished reading Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating on Tuesday and I LOVED it! I’m super behind on all my goodreads reviews and since I haven’t reviewed many books on my blog recently, either, I figured that I’d review this one.

Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating | Abida Jaigirdar

Published May 25, 2021

352 pages | ebook

Content warnings: Racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, toxic friendship, gaslighting, parental abandonment. (from the author’s website)

When Humaira, or Hani, comes out to her friends as bisexual, they invalidate her identity, saying that there’s no way she could know, never having kissed a girl. Wanting her friends to know who she really is, she tells them she is in a relationship with a girl–with Ishita (or Ishu).
Ishu has never been popular at school or with Hani’s friend group–she’s a total overachiever and gets set on becoming head girl to make her parents happy. There’s just one problem…to become head girl, you need votes from the other students, and Ishu is not exactly popular.
And so Ishu agrees to help Hani show her friends that she really is bi as long as Hani helps her become more popular. The two girls are complete opposites, but can they get along well enough to pull them off and help the other?

All summaries are my own unless otherwise stated. Parts of the summary may be borrowed from goodreads.

I was super excited for this book, coming into it, but I was also a little nervous. I’d just read The Henna Wars, by the same author, in May and I enjoyed it. I was really looking forward to reading another of the author’s books. However, I’d also read two books in May that had fake dating plots. They were the first two books featuring fake dating that I’d ever read and they really let me down so I was a little worried to start this one. But I actually ended up really enjoying this one, which is somewhat of a relief.

I loved our main characters, Hani and Ishu. I feel like they had very distinct personalities, which was really nice because oftentimes when books have dual POVs the characters end up sounding pretty much the same. Plus, they were very different people, which led them to having a very interesting dynamic at first as they struggled to get along with each other, which leads me into my next point.

This entire book explores relationships in a lot of different ways. The most prominent relationship, of course, is the one between Hani and Ishu. I loved the development between them, as they start with not liking each other very much, given how different the two of them are, and then begin to become friends before getting feelings for each other. In a lot of books, development is a rough spot because it really is hard to do it well. However, this book did it perfectly. It wasn’t obvious that the two were developing because it was so smooth, each new step in their relationship just flowed through. It was happening right before my eyes and yet at one point I just realized, ‘oh, they’re becoming friends now’.

I think that the relationship that I liked most though was Ishu’s relationship with her sister. At the beginning, Ishu doesn’t trust her sister at all. She thinks that she’s going to rat to their parents or use any information she gets as a bargaining chip. But as they talk periodically throughout the book, Ishu begins to see that her sister actually just wants to help her, that she’s changed a lot in her time at college and they develop a very special bond.

The other relationship that was pretty big in this book was Hani’s relationship with her friends. It was very clearly a bad relationship, which Hani definitely knew and was realizing throughout the book, but she still held onto them for a large part of the story. I think this is actually a really good thing to see in books because often when your friend or friends are toxic or just not right for you, you do sort of acknowledge it but it’s very hard to leave them. Especially with Hani, who has been friends with Aisling and Deirdre (or at least one of them–I forget who) since she was very young, it was hard for her to come to terms that they were not good friends and she was probably better off without them.

Another thing that I think this book was very good for was showing culture from different places in the world. Hani’s friends believed that Hani and Ishu were just the same culture and the same ethnicity because they were from the same part of the world, but this was not true. The book did a great job of highlighting the differences between their cultures and I learned a lot! Plus, I think that Jaigirdar does a great job of putting religion and culture into her books as just…a part of the characters’ lives. It’s not the main part of the book, it’s not something only added when it helps the plot, it’s just there. Also, when Hani’s father is talking about how him and Hani’s mother sort of pushed their culture to the background when they moved to Ireland because there wasn’t really anywhere/anyway to practice it was a really good add because it definitely shows some of the sacrifices that people make when they immigrate. I think that that part also showed, however, how much certain parts of the world have changed in a kind of short amount of time. Of course it’s still not perfect, there are definitely so many things that still make people from different cultures not feel at home in different countries, but it really has changed quite a bit since the time that our parents were kids.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book–I liked it better than The Henna Wars, even! I would highly recommend that anyone read this book!

Some other reviews of this book that I enjoyed were Siena’s @Booksophobia, Ruby @Ruby Reads and Reviews and Isha @Paperback Tomes. Plus, The Quiet Pond did a guest discussion with the author, on family in YA!

Have you read Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating? What did you think about it? What are some other fake dating books that you’ve enjoyed? (I want recs!)
Thank you so much for reading and as always, stay safe and keep on reading!

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

So…you guys know how I did on my last review (hint: not well, since it was a month since I read the book).

Okay fine it’s been exactly a month (as of the day this post is published) since I read Cemetery Boys, as well.
Yeah, I really need to write my reviews sooner.
But I HOPE that I can still write this review pretty well because I LOVED reading this book.

Cemetery Boys | Aiden Thomas

Published September 1st | Swoon Reads

352 pages | Hardcover

Content warnings: Misgendering, dead naming, blood magic, self harm (for ritualistic purposes)

Rep: Trans gay Latinx MC, gay LI

When Yadriel’s traditional Latinx family puts off the ceremony that would cement him as a brujo – indefinitely – due to the fact that he’s trans, Yadriel becomes determined to prove to them that he is a true brujo. With the help of his cousin Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, before deciding to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.

And Yadriel does summon a ghost – but not the ghost he was looking for. Instead, he’s found the ghost of Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy and Julian most certainly does not want to go into death quietly. The cause of his death is uncertain and Julian needs to know what happened. Yadriel agrees to help him with the mystery as long as Julian will let Yadriel release him without a complaint afterwards. But the longer that Yadriel spends around Julian, the more uncertain he is that he really wants him to go.

All summaries are my own unless otherwise stated. Parts of the summary may be borrowed from goodreads

Let me tell you a little story.
I first heard about Cemetery Boys in…April? May? Anyways, I was just starting to get into the book community. And WOW it sounded SO GOOD. But it didn’t come out until September, which was quite disappointing to me (I was new, what can I say, I wasn’t used to waiting long times for releases!).
Then, September rolled around and it got released and I was SUPER excited. But September was this sort of awkward time because I wanted to own it and so I could ask for it for Christmas but Christmas was sooooooo far away. And I really wanted to read it right. then.
I decided to wait for Christmas. And in all this time, I was reading reviews, hearing people rave about this book, and that just built up all the hype in my mind. It was practically my favorite book before I’d even read it! I was recommending it to people, I even voted for it on the goodreads choice awards! I loved it before I even had my hands on it.
Aaaaaaaaaand…..

It totally lived up to the hype!

Yadriel was a great protagonist. Honestly, I think that he acted a lot like how an actual teen would act. He’s just a kid trying to make his family see who he really is. I’ve seen a review or two complaining that he can be a little whiny at times but honestly I feel like that’s pretty justified given his family situation.


Julian is pitched in the summary as ‘the school’s resident bad boy’. And I honestly think this is interesting and sort of gives insight as to how society labels us. The only bad things that Julian really did was skip school. He hung out places like under bridges with his group of friends because none of them had very good homes to go back to and just those two things were enough to make basically everyone have opinions about him. These kids at school didn’t even know him but were telling stories about how his brother took over the family drug trade and was selling it out of his mechanic shop. Don’t listen to everything you hear, kids. (tries to pretend she’s like 20 years older than everyone reading this even though she’s not).
But really, Julian is a super sweet person. He’s so loyal to his friends and worries about them so much even when he’s literally dead.


And last but certainly not least, there’s Maritza. I loved Maritza because she’s so close to Yadriel. I really enjoy reading strong family relationships and though Yadriel’s relationship with the rest of his family is not so great, Maritza’s always by his side, always supporting him.

Honestly, when I picked this up, I was expecting more plot than this. I mean really from the summary I wasn’t sure what kind of book to expect, aside from ghosts (spirit! Ghost is a derogatory term). But whatever it was, it was not this. I maybe expected some adventure, it’s talking about ‘agreeing to help Julian’ (goodreads summary) so for some reason that always makes me think of two people setting out on a quest to do blah and blah and blah
But, no matter what the plot actually was like, I enjoyed this a lot! It was a lot more…relaxed than I thought? I’m not entirely sure what that means since, like, there was a time limit and death and blood etc. but yep, that’s what I’m thinking about this right now. The mind of Phoenix works in mysterious ways, my friends.

And of course, we cannot discuss this book without discussing the awesome way that Aiden Thomas wove trans and LGBTQIAP+ issues into the plot. The way that these things were commented on in the book never slowed the plot down and yet it was still such an important part of the book. This was really awesome to see because I just don’t see many books that manage to do this so successfully.

Queer Folk are like wolves. We travel in packs

Quote from Julian. I just had to add this in here.

Characters: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 | Plot: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 | Romance: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Find some other awesome Cemetery Boys book reviews at Never Not Reading and The Bookish Mutant! Also, The Quiet Pond did an interview with the author, Aiden Thomas!

Have you read Cemetery Boys? What do you think of this post? I’d love to hear your opinion on my opinion–just as long as it’s respectful!
As always, thank you so much for checking out this post–it means the world. Stay safe and keep on reading!

Moxie by Jennifer Matheiu

…What! Phoenix is actually doing a book review???? What even is this? Ha, yes, I am back with my next book review! It’s certainly been a while for one of those. I’m sorry that it took me so long to get this next review out, but this is just the perfect book to do this post on! Moxie is such an important book and I’m not sure that I can do this justice but I’m going to try!
Also, I made a few changes to how my book reviews look, I hope you like it!

Moxie | Jennifer Mathieu

Published September 19, 2017 | Roaring Brook Press

330 pages| Hardcover

Content warnings: Sexism, harassment, attempted rape, sexual abuse,

Vivian Carter is tired.
She’s tired of the football team getting all the funds while the girl’s soccer team is left with uniforms from forever ago. She’s tired of the boys in the school saying whatever they want whereas the girls get busted in impromptu dress code checks for wearing too tight pants.
It’s gone on this way for years but when a new girl moves to Vivian’s school and speaks out against the boys, Viv realizes that it’s time to stand up.
Inspired by her mom, who was a punk rock Riot Grrrl in the 90’s, Viv creates a feminist zine to distribute around her school. She doesn’t expect it to do much–but then other girls actually begin to respond. Viv isn’t the only one who’s tired…and Moxie Girls Fight back.

I loved this book because I felt like it was so empowering. I think that one of the best things about this is that Vivian can be really anybody. Vivian could be that quiet kid at the back of the class or the most popular girl in the school. Or she could be you.
At the beginning of the book, Viv is just a high school junior who goes to a school in a town in Texas. She hears the remarks that the boys say, the things that they do, and she definitely dislikes it. But she’s never really thought of speaking out. The whole way the school is built is stacked against her. The principal is the father of one of the boys saying those things for goodness sake and he’s just as bad as his son.
But what changed?
Enter: the new kid trope.
Is that a trope? I do not know. But honestly, probably because there are a LOT of tropes out there. And if not, I’m making it one. 😁😁😁
Lucy Hernandez just moved from…oh darn I forgot, my brain is full of holes for anything I read more than one hour ago. Anyways. I think she moved from a city. It was Houston. I think. She’s interesting because she’s a new kid and Viv’s small town hasn’t had one of those since forever, but then she responds to a retort from one of the biggest jerks in the school. She stands up to him. And it’s really this that leads Viv to start making these zines.

I really liked both Vivian and Lucy. Vivian was really determined to fix things in her school and wouldn’t back down no matter the comments from other people or the threats of suspension or expulsion from the principal (yeah, you heard right. Their principal threatened to expel people standing up against sexist comments and more). But really, it was Lucy who I liked the best. She was the reason Viv did all this, she was the catalyst. And while Viv was staying anonymous and behind the scenes, still doing her perfect obedient girl act, Lucy was speaking out every which way, even taking the brunt for most of the actions caused from the zines.

Seth. Seth, Seth, Seth.
Well first of all let me say that I would have liked if the romance in this book was toned down a good bit. In general, I don’t like when romance is a big part of this book so it was just meh for me. I was reading this for the strong feminism, for the speaking up, not for the romance.
I also didn’t really like how Viv got a crush on him on sight (basically insta love, though possibly one sided? Since we don’t know Seth well at the beginning, I don’t know). If there is romance in a book (it’s hard to avoid usually), I like a slow burn (not too slow though) or at least not love at first sight. For me, it just doesn’t make a relationship very well developed and it feels more…based on looks than on personality.
It feels mean of me to say that I disliked Seth because of his cluelessness but…it’s kinda true. Seth was definitely a device character (I don’t know if that’s a thing or, if it is, if I’m using it right), used to teach people more about feminism and what not to ever ever ever say (for example, suggesting that an attempted rape was the girl’s fault).
I think the real reason I didn’t like Seth was his, ‘Not all guys…’ comments. Viv says more than once that she knows it’s not all guys but that doesn’t really matter in this situation, but he continues to say it. Dude, Vivian knows that you aren’t one of the football jerks, do you think she’d date you otherwise? But the fact that you aren’t is NOT the main point of what she’s trying to do! Because even though it’s true that not all guys are like the jerks, there are still jerks out there. Maybe not all guys are jerks but ALL GIRLS ARE STILL AFRAID OF BEING HARASSED/SEXUALLY ABUSED/RAPED
(on the topic, check out this post that Riddhi B. wrote about rape–it’s such an important and eye opening post to read).

I’ve talked so much about the characters and not the plot! I really enjoyed the plot, actually! I’m really impressed with the author’s ability to keep this book going–because I feel like there’s a lot of ways that this book could have kersplatted (that’s a word now, y’all). I mean, it’s mainly based in school, that can get boring real fast. I read when I’m done with school, so I don’t focus on my schoolwork, I don’t want to read about more school. But this book was still awesome! I especially liked the meeting/dance/market/whatever thing they hosted for the girl’s soccer team’s uniforms.

This book also…really had me thinking. I was wondering what I would do if I saw a zine appear in my school. If I would take action, if I would speak out. I like the first idea, with the hearts and stars, but wearing your bathrobe to school? I feel like I’m afraid of standing out at school, almost. I want to be known but I don’t want to be stared at as I walk down the hallway because I’m dressed differently or something. And would I do the walk out that was organized? I’d like to think that yes, that I would support a classmate, a cause especially as big as this one. But do I have the courage?
This, actually, makes me think of peer pressure (sorry for going off on a ramble here). Why would I be unwilling to do these things? It’s because I’m afraid of what other people will think of me, I don’t want to be different. Society pressures you to be one way and to be any other way makes you stand out. Can we stop this? Maybe. Hopefully. Whatever the case…Moxie girls fight back!

Characters: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 | Plot: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 | Romance: 🌟🌟 | Message: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Have you read Moxie? Do you want to read it? What do you think of this post? I’d love to hear your opinion on my opinion–just as long as it’s respectful!
Thank you so much for stopping by my little corner of the internet and checking out my blog–it means the world to me.
As always, stay safe and keep reading!

Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee

We have reached the last week in my ‘Beyond the Story Challenge.’ I know that not many people participated in the challenge but I had a lot of fun reading new books that I probably wouldn’t have found time to read otherwise. I hope that everyone else has found my book reviews just as fun as I have writing them!

Summary:
Sirscha is nothing. An apprentice to the Shadow, the queen’s royal spy, her whole life depends on coming the kingdom’s next shadow. But her plan is derailed when shamans attack and kill her best friend, Saengo.
And then, somehow, Saengo is brought back to life and Sirscha is the first soulguide shaman found in centuries. She is summoned into the Dead Wood to appear in front of the Spider King, the keeper of peace in the kingdoms. But the Dead Wood, an ancient forest possessed by souls, are growing more wild and threaten to take over all the kingdoms. Only a soulguide can tame them and Sirscha must learn to control her power if she wants to save her world.

The Characters:
Sirscha: She has no life. Like actually, she admits it herself. Several times. Her only goal is to become the Shadow and she’s oftentimes like, ‘if I don’t get it…I don’t know what I’m going to do. I have to get it.’ She has exactly one friend and a whole lot of enemies because apparently not having parents or a home makes people hate you? And she’s very loyal to her friend but…she doesn’t have much else of a personality. She’s good with dual swords. And NOT good at following orders. That’s all I can really say about her.
Saengo: I liked Saengo much, much more than Sirscha. Unfortunately, with Saengo being sick most of the book and Sirscha going off and doing her own things…we didn’t get to see her much. But she is a very good friend and I hope that, if I read the next book, she’ll be in it more.
Ronin the Spider King: What a name, right? And imagine having a spider king basically controlling all the kingdoms in the world. He lives in the middle of a forest so dangerous that you can’t get through it without him controlling the trees to let you through…unless your name is Sirscha or Theyen, conveniently two pretty prominent characters in the book. All in all, I can’t describe much of Ronin’s personality but I will say that he reminds me a bit of the Darkling…just with less humor. And more mysterious or whatever…if that’s possible. But the similarities are definitely there.
Theyen: He’s the humor and the personality in the book. He’s really the only one with a defining characteristic: completely insufferable. But like, that’s part of the reason why he’s one of the best characters.

The plot:
I…really don’t don’t know to describe the plot. It was….a whole lot. There were a bunch of things that were mentioned once fifty pages ago that Sirscha was supposed to be doing so I didn’t actually know what she was doing most of the time? There were just so many things going on all at once. I also felt, despite the fact that the book is 400 pages long, that it was fairly short once it got going. I know I said there was so much happening at once but I’m going to contradict myself and say that not much happened. Sure, she usually has a goal and is doing something, which is why the plot is kind of confusing, but she spends like half the book in a giant building in the middle of this enchanted forest doing research on….something that was mentioned 50 pages ago, or trying to control her powers. Which she tried like once. The other times she just wandered around doing things. However, despite my harsh words on the plot of this book, I will say that it was still enjoyable to read, and the times that I did understand what was going on were really interesting.

The world building:
I think that part of the reason the plot was so confusing was because of the world building. There are so many places and things mentioned that it’s hard to keep track of everything. Sure, the world is extremely impressive. There’s a really complex magic system, there’s a bunch of kingdoms, there’s this cool-sounding and totally creepy forest…but if we’re not introduced to all these things gradually, it’s really really hard to keep track of everything. We get a few descriptions that border on info dumps at the beginning that describe the world and then we’re just…supposed to figure out what kingdom is what and where when they’re mentioned.

The magic system:
The magic system was info dumped and didn’t do an excellent job explaining it either? I get that there are five central different magics–or possibly six? Is shadows a magic? Sirscha said it wasn’t but then we met people who could magic shadows…anyways. But in those magics, you can do different things. So…Sirscha is a soulguide. She can guide souls to the underworld or back to life. But there’s also a soulrender, who can tear souls out of people and such. And both of those magics are light magics but when you develop powers you only get one specific power. And lots of different powers were mentioned throughout the book but I don’t know what they are or what magic they’re under or anything.

The romance:
Something I liked about this book was that…there was no romance! None. Nothing. Not even a, ‘he looks good in this shirt with his hair tousled,’ or anything like that. No, ‘a warm flutter starts in my stomach.’ It was completely focused on the characters which was a really nice change since I feel like some YA books really have a romance where…there doesn’t need to be one. Where it really changes the story because, ‘Oh, I love you *swoons*’ (no thank you).This was a very nice change.

The representation:
As far as race goes, I believe that all or at least almost all of the characters in this book are Asian. As far as sexuality and gender goes…well there was no romance and nothing about sexuality was mentioned and there are no characters whose pronouns were not she/her or he/him.

Final ratings: (out of five stars)
Characters: 🌟🌟🌟
Plot: 🌟🌟🌟
World building: 🌟🌟
Romance: N/A
Diversity: 🌟🌟🌟
I’m going to bump up the rating a bit because of the no-romance thing.
Final rating: 3 stars

Book info:
Title: Forest of Souls
Author: Lori M. Lee
Published by: Page Street Kids on June 23, 2020
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 400

Have you read ‘Forest of Souls’? What did you think about it? Do you want to read it? Did this review sway your opinion in any way? Have you read any of Lori M. Lee’s other books? What did you think of this review? I’d love to hear your opinion on my opinion as long as you are respectful! I’m always open to a bookish discussion in the comments–I don’t bite! And be sure to check out some of my other posts!
As always, thanks for stopping by. To take the time out of your busy lives to read this post means the world. Stay safe and keep reading!

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

We’re almost finished with my challenge, “Beyond the Story,” at this point! After this post, we only have one more week to go. I know that, in general, the challenge was not the biggest success but I loved that I was able to read a lot of books I probably wouldn’t have gotten to on my tbr otherwise. If you’ve stumbled upon this blog in the time since I posted about this challenge and think it sounds interesting, I’d love to hear about it! I’ll consider doing another one after a bit of a break because writing these book reviews on such short notice is, I’ll admit, exhausting.

Summary:
Elisabeth has lived in one of the Great Libraries of Austermeer her whole life. Training as an apprentice, she hopes to one day become a warden, protecting the magical books–grimoires–and the kingdom from their powers.
When an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire, Elisabeth is determined to stop it from destroying the nearby village. However, her intervention has labeled her as the saboteur and she must be transported to the capital to face justice. She realizes that only a sorcerer, Nathaniel Thorn, can help her as she becomes entangled in a conspiracy from centuries ago that threatens to kill hundreds of people. As she gets deeper into the conspiracy, she must question everything she’s been taught–about sorcerers, whom she’s told are evil, about libraries and about even herself. She, with the help of a few allies, is the only one who can stop all six of the great libraries from going up in flames with countless people among them.

The characters:
Elisabeth: Elisabeth has lived in a library her entire life. And not just any library, a library where books talk to her and secret passages are her main way of getting around. Just…stop and imagine that for a second. Living in a magic library. Surrounded by books your entire life. How I wish. However, it seems that living in this library has made her very naive to the outside world. She believes that sorcerers are evil. And she knows next to nothing about the demons that are bound to them. Elisabeth was a very interesting character. She was determined and she was extremely good with a sword. She was a very strong female character. Other than that….I don’t have much to say. I feel like, despite the fact that she had a sword, was basically friends with books and, well, was the main character of this book, she wasn’t very memorable (I know, I’m going against what I said before, but I really cannot think of something right now. I may think of something later…)
Nathaniel: Shockingly enough, Nathaniel, the male character, was my favorite character in the book. I think, mostly, it was his sense of humor. He also…reminded me of someone, but I’m not sure who. He’s had a traumatizing few years before Eliza came into his life and he relies on his demon for most everything. But despite the complicated relationship between Silas, the demon, and Nathaniel, you can see how much they care and trust each other.
Silas: The demon. But Silas is the most obedient, amazing, trustworthy, loving demon there is. Yes, he’s under a contract sort of thing with Nathaniel but you can tell that he really, truly cares. He’s gone through so much with Nathaniel. I don’t care what anyone else says about Silas but he is my favorite (well okay, maybe second favorite but like…I’m not sure. He may be up there as my favorite) and you cannot convince me otherwise.

The plot: This plot was very…twisty. It seems like at first it was one thing and then suddenly it was another. It was interesting, overall, but I feel like there were just some parts that were too convenient and some parts that just…weren’t needed. For example: Elisabeth needs to get a job at the Royal Library or whatever it’s called (I forget and that’s not good, given that I finished reading this less than an hour ago) to pull off part of her plan. Well, lucky her, turns out there’s a spot open because a maid resigned the day before. And the part with the fiends, when they arrive in the city or whatever…what was the point of that? It was just for Elisabeth to show off her awesome fighting skills and get in the paper or whatever. Why were there even fiends there and why did they target Elisabeth? She was with a sorcerer, wouldn’t they know to go for an easier-to-beat person?

The world building:
Pretty good! I was never confused as to where something was and there was never an info dump. I didn’t get to see much of the world…there was that time when Nathaniel and Elisabeth were traveling and Nathaniel talked a bit about it, but it wasn’t described as fully in detail as other books. I wasn’t sure exactly where things were, other than the fact that the Great Libraries formed a pentagon around the Royal Library (the sixth Great Library) but since they didn’t do much traveling, that wasn’t strictly necessary.

The romance:
Guys. This is…a shocker. I actually sorta shipped a straight couple. Sorta. I think I just felt like they got along well together and I liked Nathaniel a lot. But then….we get to the actual romance, that is, when they were kissing, and I didn’t like it much. I guess I only liked the idea of them together? I’m not sure. But all in all, the romance was…not awful in this book. Also; when Nathaniel finally admitted that he liked Elisabeth: ‘Silas has been rolling his eyes at me for weeks.’

The representation:
Hmm…it wasn’t great? But at least it wasn’t all straight people. Unfortunately, all three of our main characters are white, however there is a side character who is not physically there for most of the book but is mentioned quite a few times who is described as having brown skin. The same character is aro/ace and Nathaniel is bi, though each of these things are mentioned exactly once in the book. The main relationship is, however, m/f.

The ending:
This happens to me often, and it may be because I don’t read the most carefully. But I was confused. I didn’t exactly understand what was happening. (except for…for….Silasssssssssssssssssssss! *breaks down in tears*)
I also felt like the ending of this book ended rather abruptly. The last chapter we have is right when the action finishes, literally directly after. Then we have the prologue that spans over about one day but describes what happened in the past week or so. I don’t want to hear what happened, I want to read it as it happens. If you have that much explaining left to do, just add a few more chapters onto the end.
The last thing about the ending was that it was fairly open ended. One of those books that what happens next is pretty obvious but it doesn’t actually tell you. It annoys me when they do that, because does it hurt to write a few extra sentences, just to make it an actual confirmed happy ending?

Final ratings: (out of five stars)
Characters: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
Plot: 🌟🌟🌟
World building: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Romance: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Diversity: 🌟🌟
Final rating: 3.6 stars

Book info:
Title: Sorcery of Thorns
Author: Margaret Rogerson
Published by: Margaret K. McElderry Books on June 4, 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Young adult, Paranormal
Pages: 453

Have you read “Sorcery of Thorns”? What did you think about it? Do you want to read it? Have you read Margaret Rogerson’s other book, “An Enchantment of Ravens”? What did you think about this review? I’d love to hear your opinion on my opinion as long as you’re respectful! I’m always open to having a bookish discussion with you! And make sure to check out some of the other posts I have to offer!
As always, thanks for reading. It means the world to me that you would take the time out of your day to read this small and insignificant blog. Stay safe and keep on reading!

Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim

Week number two of my “Beyond the Story” challenge! First I want to thank anyone who is participating in this challenge–though I know not many people are participating, I thank everyone who is. Please, put your reviews for this challenge in the comments if you want to!

*Please note: I listened to this book as an audiobook so character names may not be spelled exactly correctly. If you see an incorrect spelling, please don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments. Thank you.*

Summary: When Amaya saves a mysterious man from drowning, she is afraid that her sentence on the debtor ship, which is almost up, will be elongated. Eager to get home, she believes she has destroyed her future. Instead, the man who she saved strikes up a deal with her: he’ll help her get revenge on the man who ruined her life and she’ll help him get revenge on the person who ruined his. And so Amaya is tossed into a world of riches and finery in a plot to murder both of the men. But the more she explores this new world, the more she dregs up the past that she thought was gone forever–and the more she realizes that no one can be trusted.
On the other hand, Cayo’s life is looking up. It seems he’s finally gotten rid of his gambling problem and his sister is about to marry a wealthy man, giving his family a boost. However, his sister collapses on the night that his father hopes to finalize the marriage and it’s soon confirmed that she has the deadly sickness that’s spreading around Moray. Just to make matters worse, it seems that Cayo’s gambling has lead the family to bankruptcy and now they have nothing to pay with for the expensive medicine. When word gets around that a rich Countess has arrived in the city, Cayo’s father insists that he try to get close to her for a little extra money.

The characters
Amaya: The first character we are introduced to is Amaya. When we meet her, we find her on a debtor’s ship, working furiously. Conditions aren’t great. But don’t worry, Amaya’s leaving soon. This girl is hard-working, tough, strong and loyal. I liked what a strong female character she was but there were a few things I didn’t like about her (more on that later).
Cayo: Shockingly enough, I enjoyed reading the chapters that followed Cayo’s perspective much more than I enjoyed those following Amaya. I think it is because Cayo is more…realistic. He actually has problems. Sure, Amaya has problems as well–I mean she was stuck on a debtor ship, practically a slave, for seven years. But no offense to anyone that this has actually happened to, this doesn’t happen very frequently. Meanwhile, Cayo’s problems are shown throughout the book. His sister is sick. His family is broke. He’s constantly on the urge of getting back into gambling. You can really feel him more than Amaya, this distant character who’s sort of…good at everything.
Boon: Suspicious. The entire time, he was so suspicious. No one just has that much money when you’re out at sea. About his personality….he was sort of ambitious. And broody. Despite the fact that he’s sort of the inciting incident, he’s not in this book much at all.
There were actually so many amazing characters in this book and I cannot name them all. In fact, most were just there for bits and pieces of it, but important nonetheless. Here’s a few more really minor characters I liked:

  • Liesl
  • Saraiya
  • Sebastian

The plot:
So…I’ll admit. I went into this book expecting adventure. Maybe it was the cover, maybe it was the synopsis. Whatever it was, I didn’t think that the characters would be attending parties and tromping around the city.
Revenge. That is what this book is all about. Revenge on the man who ruined Amaya’s life. Revenge on the man who ruined Boon’s life. And it keeps spiraling from there–it seems like everyone who has wronged Amaya a little bit, she’s eager to get revenge on.
I think that that is my biggest problem with this book. She is so eager to kill these people who have wronged her. Now, I am in no way standing up for any of the things that Captain Zharo did. He was cruel and abusive to people, even children as young as eight or nine years old. But Amaya jumps straight to killing in several circumstances. She kills the debt collector who brought her to the ship seven years ago. So much death, much of it that probably didn’t absolutely have to happen.
Revenge, death and non-adventure aside, I did, in fact, enjoy this book very much. I will be forever shocked at how easily authors can fill a bunch of nothing with a bunch of something but I guess if you become an author you get lots of experience making things sound fascinating. I feel like half this book was about people wandering the city, there wasn’t even much action, and yet it wasn’t an uninteresting book. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it was interesting! And yes, despite the fact that I didn’t adore this book, I will be reading the second one once it comes out.

The worldbuilding:
I absolutely loved the world building in this book! I never got an info dump explaining where places were and there were so many countries and kingdoms mentioned. We only got to see one city in this book, which I’m actually disappointed about. I would have loved to see more of this world. Hopefully, that’s what I’ll get in book two!

The romance:
So…I didn’t actually expect there to be romance in this book. I had heard, somewhere, that this book had an asexual/aromantic character and I just kind of assumed that it was Amaya, for some reason. My bad. So the fact that there was romance, even if it was a small amount, was a little surprising to me.
But…I actually liked the ship. I mean, I didn’t absolutely adore it, but it was bearable. That is definitely a shocker for me, who so rarely tolerates reading straight romance in books.

All in all, this book was a big barrel of surprises. It wasn’t my favorite, but it wasn’t awful, either. And I am, in fact, glad that I read this book.

Final rating: (out of five stars)
Characters: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Plot: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
World building: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
Romance: 🌟🌟🌟
Diversity: 🌟🌟🌟
Final rating: 3.8 stars

Book info:
Title: Scavenge the Stars
Author: Tara Sim
Published by: Little Brown Books on January 4, 2020
Genres: YA, fiction, fantasy, LGBTQIAP+
Pages: 383 (depending on edition)

Have you read “Scavenge the Stars”? What did you think about it? Are you hoping to read the next book? What do you think will happen in “Ravage the Darkness”? What about this blog post? I’d love to hear your opinion on my opinion (just be respectful!) I’d be so excited to have a bookish discussion with you! Plus, make sure to check out some of the other posts I have to offer!
As always, thanks for reading. To take the time out of your day to read my rambles and half-baked posts means the world. Stay safe and keep reading!

The Future Was Now by JR Harber (Book Rant)

In which I lie to stress my point (please note that all lies are either unintentional or clearly marked).
Whew! Strap in, everyone, this is going to be a loooong ride. I certainly have a lot to say about this book!

Wow. Okay so if you saw my goodreads review (found here but it doesn’t actually say much about the book, just the rating) you know that I really did not like this book very much. When I say, “not very much” I mean not at all. It wasn’t the actual plot, though there were definitely many plot holes, but the little things. I’ve been observing more in my readings these days and this book….no thank you. Let’s get to it.
Please note: this will be a spoiler-filled review because there’s too much to talk about for it not to be. Do not read this review if you do not want this book spoiled (though I suggest if you’re looking to read this book at least give the review a try so you can know what you’re getting into).

Oh yeah also I’ll write a short synopsis I guess because why not:
The State is the only remnant of a world destroyed by human greed, a safe place with every need met. Asa has spent his life in one of the State’s farming communities. When he turns 21, officially becoming an adult, Asa decides to leave his small town and go to Horizon, a large city. When he arrives, he meets the ‘girl of his dreams’ [I got that from the goodreads description, not my own], Eve. However, an unexpected tragedy forces Asa and Eve to embark on a journey farther from the watchful eye of the state than they’ve ever gone before. Meanwhile Gabriel, one of the State’s Contract Enforcers is determined to track them down and deliver the State’s justice.

On the plot:

Nothing happens.
Wow I’ve already reached my first lie of the review. Okay so yes this is a lie because this book has what one might call ‘adventure’. But literally every single scene in the middle could be taken out. In fact, I could turn this book into a short story, right here: “Asa turned 21 and wanted to go to the big city since he was bored of his little town. Six days later, Asa returned to his little town with a pretty lady (more on this later), realizing that the big city was not where he wanted to live. The end.” You know how in books even if it starts and ends in the same place, the characters usually learn something, take something away from their adventure? Yeah, nothing like that happens even though there was a whole lot to be taken away from it. Hey Asa, guess what? The society you’ve lived in your whole life was actually created by some not great people. Also didn’t you see, there’s the excellent community outside of that society that will give you a good life! But nope, we gotta go back into the society.

Was there a climax?
This book was extremely anticlimactic. For a good part of the book the entire goal was to find this person who could clear their records since there was an incident where it looked like Asa pushed someone out the window (but the person actually committed suicide). They find the dude and talk to him for about thirty minutes before leaving again (he does clear their records though). Then Gabriel tries to shoot them. And he gets shot and fell in the river so okay he’s dead whatever let’s all go back to our peaceful lives.

The backstories did not add anything to the plot.
Okay guys when he was ten years old Asa fell in a river. All the bodies of water in this society are contaminated with an amoeba that will most likely get to your brain and kill you. Somehow, Asa survived. Wow, does he have some sort of immunity? Is he going to save his entire society from this amoeba, called the Bug, because he has this immunity thing? Nope. In fact, this was not even a part of the story aside from the fact that it was repeated at least three times in the first 40% of the book. Oh yeah, also? Gabriel’s girlfriend got stabbed by her former boyfriend and died. So he has PTSD and sometimes thinks about Naomi. Doesn’t stop him from doing anything he does and tries to do in the plot.

Asa needs to do some more travel planning.
“I’ve turned 21! I’m leaving my little town! Off to the city I go!” This is coming from someone who has never visited the city. Who has never left his tiny town. From someone who did nothing but pack his bags and get on a train. Look, I’m only a teenager and don’t know much about traveling/moving and maaaybe things are different in this society but don’t you need to do a little planning? Figure out a place to stay and/or live? And we can clearly see Asa’s flaws when he arrives. He literally walks out of the train station and starts wandering around. It’s getting dark and he walks into an alleyway? Nope, not concerned about where I’m gonna, you know, sleep or live, let me get a drink at this nightbar because I’ve heard rumors of the nightbars in Horizon. Apparently they’re dangerous. And things happen in them that people don’t want to talk about. So let’s go in here on my first day to the city at night!

On the characters:

I don’t even know what to call this part but there’s something seriously wrong with Asa (part one)
I seriously don’t even know where to start with this. Guys. He falls in love with someone he hasn’t even met because she’s ‘so very pretty’. Before he meets her he literally thinks, “there’s something different about her.” Because she’s so very pretty. Through the entire book I’m hearing how beautiful Eve is, and her amazing smile. Not once does Asa talk about the fact that Eve is actually smart. That she’s the reason she’s still alive because he never would have gotten out of the city without her. Nope, it’s just that she’s amazingly beautiful. I no joke just jumped to a random page and I see Asa talking about how, “I’m with the most beautiful girl I’ve ever met.” Really? Is beauty the new way to determine what a person’s like? Are you going to judge a person as a whole of their beauty?

There’s something seriously wrong with Asa part two
Let’s read these few sentence and I’m willing to hear your argument that there’s not something wrong with Asa afterwards. “Everyone knew there were men and women whose sexual appetites ran against nature; it was a defect they were born with….but to allow two men to live like a married couple or–worse–to raise a child together that way?” At first I was willing to forgive Asa for this. He has lived in a society that believed this his whole life. But now he’s outside this society so he’s going to learn new things, right? There’s about half the book left at this point. I kept waiting for him to come back, to realize he was wrong, to at least address this again, but nope. That’s the only page that says anything about this encounter. I don’t know if the author is homophobic or was trying to be ‘inclusive’ and just did really badly about it but this just made me so very angry.

There’s something seriously wrong with Asa (part three)
Whoop, more about Eve because she’s so very beautiful and Asa wants to be with her forever more. He’s so controlling, in my opinion. Near the end, when Eve is trying to decide whether to go back to the State or staying out in the Waste with her brother, Asa gets almost angry at her because she’s considering it. He’s basically like, “Eve, how could you leave me?” Well, here’s the thing, Asa. You’ve known her for about four days. You don’t really get to choose what she wants. And also? She just found out her brother was alive out here in the Waste. Who she thought was dead and also her only living family member. And you get angry at her for considering staying? Then, a little later on, he suddenly has this realization, like, “Wow, I’m actually only going to be happy if she’s happy. There’s no use going back if she’s not going to be happy.” And so he gets all ready to say, “Eve, we can stay if you want to,” yada yada. But, you know, he’s apparently already convinced her and she’s coming back. But I hated that scene because even though he had this ‘great realization’ or whatever, he still had been extremely toxic and trying to get his way.

The relationship is badly developed.
This book takes place over a span of six days. In this time, Asa sees Eve (day 2), falls in love with her (day 2, based on looks) actually has a conversation with her (day 3) and basically proposes with her (in a roundabout way. He doesn’t even ask her. He just tells someone that they’re getting married)(day 6). Now, I’m no expert on relationships but…doesn’t this seem a little soon? And from my point of view the relationship was barely even developed. It even felt a little one sided to me for most of the book. Asa is obviously obsessed with Eve–because of her looks. Eve seems a little hesitant for most of the book. Which I don’t blame her for. Her boyfriend just committed suicide??? And Asa is all snuggling up close to her, trying to get her to like him. It’s like the instant Daniel died, Eve was his. Hello???? Give her a little space, dude.
Yeah, you might argue that they ‘went through a lot together’ and that bonded them sooner. But there was still almost no hint of the relationship until the end of the book when suddenly…well you’ll see later on. Asa acts possessive and really jealous whenever he sees Eve with anyone else even though they’re not technically in a relationship. And also, she’s her own person. Let her make her own choices and she can defend herself and just…you don’t need to treat her like she’s a glass doll.

Let’s go back to the fact that Eve’s boyfriend just committed suicide.
This book seems to both revolve around Daniel (the boyfriend) and completely forget him. I seriously think that Daniel’s suicide was only there for the inciting incident. Maybe I’m taking this too far but they did nothing? I mean Eve cried for like five seconds after it happened. But then they just went on their way to find his grandfather so that he can clear their records since it looked like Asa pushed Daniel instead of Daniel committing suicide. Like it’s all great and stuff that they need their records cleared but they cannot just forget about Daniel! He was a strange person but it was obvious that Eve loved him–if not in the ‘I want to marry you’ way that Daniel obviously thought of her as, in the ‘you’re like an older brother’ way. She’s known him for so many years. You don’t just leave someone behind like that! Plus, this teaches a terrible lesson about suicide. Again, they barely mourn him. Guys. Just…just no.

On other stuff:

Umm….the graphic sex scene?
I did not need to read this. I did not ask to read this. I did not want to read this when I picked up the book and I do not want to read this when I pick up any book. Guys, I got this book from a goodreads giveaway in which it was listed as YA. I don’t know if it was goodreads or the author or the publisher or what who listed this book as YA but maybe they should check again. A scene like this should not be found in a YA book.
And the thing is, the rest of this book? It’s totally YA. There’s nothing in the rest of the book that could be classified as adult, just this scene. Here’s another thing: this scene was not needed. At all. It was as if the author just wanted to include a sex scene in there. It was sudden, didn’t fit into the story and just didn’t make sense in any way, shape or form. There was no incentive for it or anything. And let me repeat, you guys. Asa and Eve have known each other for about four days at this time. Plus, while it was obvious that Asa liked the pretty lady, there wasn’t even much romance between them. A hug, a kiss on the cheek, that’s it. Then Eve just walks into the room, wakes Asa up and begins making out with him like her life depends on it. And some.
Despite all the things I’ve listed about this book, this might be one of the worst. I know I keep repeating this but this thought keeps coming back in my head. There was no point in this scene!!! And the author just stuck it in there. It was so sudden it was like he wrote the scene outside of the book and just wanted to include it so he put it in the most ‘convenient’ place. As if someone was sewing a yellow quilt and wanted to include a red patch so they just stuck it in the middle of the quilt, not even bothering to conceal the thread.

The good parts
Well I suppose I ought to point out the good parts of this book as well. This book was pretty easy to read, it wasn’t boring enough to put down, but that’s not saying much given that despite how easy it was to read, the plot was still barely existent.

Please note: I may be a little bit biased on this book. I’m really nitpicking through it and finding all the tiny things–maybe they aren’t very important at all. Still, this is not an exemplar book for so many reasons and I think it is my job to call this out and let other people know so that they don’t have to read this book which could be, possibly, mildly offending for people of certain communities. Maybe only in small ways that you can only see if you know to look for them but…it’s not something we ever need.

Final Ratings: (out of five stars)
Characters: 🌟
Plot: 🌟
Romance: .01🌟
Diversity: Nonexistent
Final rating: .105 star

Book info:
Title: The Future Was Now
Author: JR Harber
Published by: Greenleaf Book Group on March 6, 2020
Genres: Science fiction, dystopian
Pages: 320 pages

That’s the wrap on my very first book rant! Was it an interesting one? Do you think I dug too deep? Did I get repetitive? (this happens often when I’m trying to stress my point). Have you heard of the book “The Future Was Now”? Read it, even? What did you think? Please let me know any opinions in the comments below and consider following my blog for future reviews, book giveaways, author interviews and more! Thank you so so much for taking the time to read this post–the fact that you have happened upon this blog or even decided to follow it means the world to me. I appreciate anything.
Thanks again, everyone, and stay safe!

The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow

Alright everyone, it’s week one of the “Beyond the Story” challenge! For the first challenge, “Judge a book by its cover,” I chose to read “The Sound of Stars” by Alechia Dow. This cover is one of the most amazing that I’ve ever seen. I mean, look at it!

Want a closer look? Here:

I hope that was close enough for you! Anyways, you can probably see why I chose this book for the challenge I did! But what did I think of what lies beneath this beautiful cover?

First impression: When I read this synopsis, not even having started this book, I thought it sounded rather…odd. On the cover it literally says, “Can their love of books and pop music save the world?” To me, that didn’t sound like a young adult novel. Another reason I was hesitant with this book is because it’s sci-fi. Not saying that I don’t read sci-fi, I just don’t read it very often and I just enjoy fantasy so much more. Science fiction and dystopian novels, I feel like, can get really down into all the ‘government-y’ stuff which I don’t like reading that much.

The beginning: This book started out a bit slowly. We meet Ellie and learn about her secret library. We then get to know MoRr1S and understand his love for music. All in all, the actual adventure doesn’t start till about 100 pages in and I’m not sure some of the things before that were needed.

The middle: The middle is where the actual adventure happened! I probably enjoyed this part most of all. Our main characters traveled across the country together, sometimes encountering Ilori, or humans, all of whom really wanted to capture Ellie and Morris.

The ending: The ending was…weird. I’m not going to pretend that I understood all of it? But it was interesting. There were definitely several plot twists especially THAT ONE PLOT TWIST that if that happened to me EEEEE and AAAAAH

On the characters:
Ellie: I enjoyed reading about Ellie a lot. She’s a fun protagonist and extremely relatable. She loves reading books so much that she is willing to risk her life just to run an illegal library! She was a strong female character and it seemed like everyone liked her–I mean, an alien of a species trying to take over earth fell in love with her! She also cared about her family so much which I really liked. When she was traveling across the country, she was constantly thinking about them, wondering if they were safe, feeling bad because she felt like she left them behind. 

Morris: I have to admit, I liked Morris less than I liked Ellie. Maybe it was because we got Ellie POV and while it did follow Morris as well, it wasn’t from first person which might have made me feel less connected to him. I do admire his willingness to work against his entire species, work against a lot of what he grew up around. However, I almost feel like he cared about Ellie…too much? Well let me first say that this is not a thing, caring about someone too much. But, sorry Morris, there are only so many times that I can hear the words ‘I love you’. This may be a part that I admit I’m sort of glad the book wasn’t from Morris’s point of view because I have a feeling throughout most of the book I’d just be reading, “IloveyouIloveyouIloveyouEllieIloveyouIlovethisgirlsomuch.”

Avrola: I know that Avrola wasn’t a very major character but I liked them. They also didn’t have that much emotion, just like most Ilori, but I still sensed a deep admiration and willingness to do whatever for Morris in them. I’ll say it again, they weren’t a very major character but without them, none of Ellie’s family would be living. So in that sense, yes, they were very major.

Ooh wait. Did you guys want a synopsis before I just dug right into the book? Oops, sorry about that. Well, you can read my sort of horrible one right here:
The world has been taken over by aliens of the name Ilori. Humans have been tracked down all over the planet, either being killed or collected and kept together in centers where Ilori can control their every aspect of life. Janelle, better known as Ellie, lives in a center in New York City and every day has to watch her parents crumble under the Ilori rule. The only thing that keeps her going is the illegal library that she runs. Meanwhile, MoRr1S, or Morris, is an Ilori. Ilori are not supposed to feel emotions or enjoy any form of art but MoRr1S does. One day he finds Ellie’s secret stash. As an Ilori, he is duty bound to turn her in, but he finds himself drawn to art the same way that Ellie is. Desperate for more music to listen to, he strikes up a deal with Ellie–her and her parents’ safety as long as she finds more music for him. But humans are in big trouble as Ilori draw closer to the vaccine they need to control mankind once in for all. Morris has a solution–but it is thousands of miles away. Now every single person’s lives rest in the hands of him and Ellie as they try to make a near impossible adventure to overthrow the Ilori and save the future of humans.

The plot: This was a very interesting plot! I felt like there was almost always something happening, we didn’t get periods where the book went, “we drove. We passed a field. We drove some more. I wonder how those cows survived the aliens. Oh look another field. Watch out for that chicken crossing the road.” etc. There was enough action to get a 426 page book and it never felt drawn out or repeated or boring. One thing I do have to say about the plot, actually, was that it was fast. Well, not the plot, perhaps, but the traveling. Perhaps I missed something, but do Ilori cars move extra fast? Or do I just have a bad sense of distance (or maybe both)? Because they reached Illinois awfully fast. And Texas from Illinois. This also brings up the question of why on earth they were even in Texas. If you’re going from New York to California, I don’t think that Texas is exactly on the way. Especially if you’ve reached Illinois, why go down instead of across? 

The romance: Sorry. I didn’t like the romance. Perhaps this is just me with all (straight) romance but I just–didn’t like it. That’s all I have to say. I feel like Morris was just way too ‘IloveyouIloveyouIloveyou.” I don’t need to hear that he loves Ellie all the time, no matter how much it is true.

The ending (we’re covering it again): *Note: This is a spoiler-y part of the review. Do not read if you haven’t read the book*
Okay okay okay let’s see what I have to say about this ending.
First of all: I feel like the fact that Brixton was with the rebels would be more of a plot twist if we knew him better. Like he sort of just pops onto the scene after following Morris and Ellie across the continent, pretends to be on Orsa’s side for a bit and then suddenly, “Oh yeah I’m actually working with the rebels, bye Orsa.” Did even Morris know that Brixton was on his side? Because he seemed a little panicked that his brother was following him across the country. And then like…I dunno. It just seemed
Second: Imagine finding out that your favorite band wrote all their songs just for you. Like honestly I read that and just….wow, that wold be amazing. I wish.
Third: Did anyone ship Cecil and Alastor or was that me? I know, I know, it sounds weird. Cecil and Alastor only interacted about two times? And they were arguing one of those times. Also I’m pretty sure that Cecil and Rupert are dating. But still. Sorry, Rupert, but I think that Cecil and Alastor would be great together.
Fourth! I actually do not like books in which the book ends with the main characters leave earth. Yes, I have read a book in whihc this happens before. No, I will not tell you what it is, but it’s a pretty popular series. Anyways. I’m not entirely sure why I dislike it. It’s like…like the main characters are running away from their home? But not exactly that. I mean I think it’s just that they go through all this effort to save earth and then at the end of the book they just…leave. It’s extremely unsatisfying to me and it actually makes me like the book less.

Final ratings: (Out of five stars)
Characters: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟
Plot: 🌟 🌟 🌟🌟
Romance: 🌟 🌟
Diversity: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟
Final rating: 3.75 stars

Book Info:
Title: The Sound of Stars
Author: Alechia Dow
Published by: Inkyard Press on February 25, 2020
Genre: YA, science fiction, romance, LGBTQIAP+
Pages: 426 pages (depends on edition)

Have you read “The Sound of Stars”? Do you want to read it? What did you think of my review? I’d love to hear your opinion on the book, on my opinion and on the book’s opinion (wait. That doesn’t make sense…). Please put anything you want to say in the comments and I’m always happy to conduct a bookish discussion! Plus, make sure to check out some other blog posts that I offer!

I’ll Give you the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Two posts in one day! And finally, my next book review! I haven’t reviewed a book on here in a while and I’m excited to get back to it! Now, I wrote a short summary for the beginning of the book, but in my opinion neither this summary nor the official one does the book justice so get ready to dive very deep into this masterpiece in order to teach yourself that you need to get this book right away.

Noah is quiet and keeps to himself. He hides in the pictures he loves to draw and lets his twin sister do all the talking for him. No one notices that he’s falling in love with the boy next door. Meanwhile, Jude does more than enough speaking to make up for her brother’s silence. She’s a daredevil, a surfer and a sky diver who wears lipstick and kisses boys just to spite her mother. However, three years later their worlds have flipped upside down and their personalities have changed drastically. Now, both are each other. Jude is the quiet one, hanging out with no one and obsessed with art. Noah has immersed himself in the world that Jude had been in, with friends and late night parties. Each of them are dealing with the gap that has emerged between them in wildly different ways and each of them only hold half the reason that the gap is even there. Only if they can piece together the story can they find their way back to each other.

I loved both of the characters in this book. “I’ll Give You the Sun” is an extremely character driven novel and throughout the story both Noah and Jude absolutely shone.

The book starts with the introduction of thirteen-year-old Noah. At this age, he’s shy, quiet, keeps to himself. He loves to draw and is constantly coming up with what pictures should look like in his head. In this same chapter we get to meet his sister, Jude. It’s immediately obvious that Jude does not have a good relationship with their mother and does everything she can to spite her. Jude is loud, a risk-taker, basically everything Noah isn’t and I think this is why they fit so well together–it’s as if they were one person who was just split in half. They need each other.

Which is why reading the next chapter is so very jarring. Suddenly it’s three years later and the story is being told from Jude’s point of view. The twins have practically switched places in life; suddenly Noah is the one going to all the parties and Jude is estranged from everyone. And both are estranged from each other. And yet through Jude’s point of view you can tell that they still need each other. That they need to find each other again in this mess we call the world.

And thus goes the book, weaving through the lives’ of thirteen-year-old Noah and sixteen-year-old Jude, piecing together what happened in between those years that made them break apart so shockingly. There are many layers to the time between and it takes time to unearth them all.

I think that the next thing we should focus on is the writing. Oh, the writing. Jandy Nelson makes a book come to life in your head. I have never read a book that was so full of color and images, I could perfectly picture every single scene in my head–it was like watching a movie that only I could see but it was so much better. Movies have the pictures, they can show things, but when you are reading a book and you are inside someone’s head like you are when you read a story told in first person, you get a whole other level of feelings and this is magnified tenfold by Jandy Nelson. Reading this book, I felt like I was Noah, I was Jude. I felt like I was living their lives, the happiness, the hurt, all the emotions. “I’ll Give You the Sun” is, quite possibly, the best written book that I have ever read.

Let me say one thing: this review does not do this novel justice. It is very hard to do this story justice because it is so unlike anything and it is so much more than any book I have ever read before. It is impossible to describe this book to someone else without shoving said book into their hands and sitting them down on a comfy chair, standing guard over them as they read for the next three or more hours. So if my review didn’t convince you to go get this book and read it, go get it and read it anyways because let me tell you, it is worth it.

More information on IGYTS:

Title: I’ll Give You the Sun
Author: Jandy Nelson
Genres: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Amazingness
Publication date: September 16, 2014
Representation: Gay main character, strong female main character
Page Number: 371

What did you think of this review? Did you like it? Have you read “I’ll Give You the Sun”? What did you think? Do you want to read it? Post in the comments and be sure to give this post a like if you enjoyed this book review!