Fantasy · Fiction · Paranormal · Romance · Young Adult

A Violet Fire

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Title: A Violet Fire

Author: Kelsey Quick

Page Count: Unknown

Series: Vampire in Avignon

Publishing Date/Publisher: December 9, 2019 by Kelsey Quick

Format: eBook

Review: I typically do not have high expectations for self-published books, but this one surprised me.  I found it to be an easy read, and I enjoyed the concept of living vampires.  I also enjoyed that humans could not be simply be turned into vampires.  They could in theory make offspring with vampires, but they were genetically different enough that a human could not become one.

In some ways this book follows the typical tropes of paranormal romances, but it was different enough that the story kept me engaged.  I felt that the weakest aspect of the story was the development of the central romance.  It’s not insta-love, but not a lot of dialogue is shown between the two characters to help the reader understand the relationship.  The reader is aware that time is passing, but aside from a first interaction and a final interaction, there isn’t much substance in between to make the relationship feel real.  In fact, when the final twist is revealed, I was not at all affected because I was not made to be invested in the relationship in the first place.

I will say, however, that I liked the direction the story was moving in, and I would most certainly continue reading the series if it were to become available to me.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_Gold

Contemporary · Fiction · Young Adult

What Unbreakable Looks Like

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Title: What Unbreakable Looks Like

Author: Kate McLaughlin

Page Count: 336

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: June 23, 2020 by Wednesday Books

Format: eBook

Review: This book tackles a very difficult topic: human trafficking.  The book felt very well-researched, and it goes into a lot of detail about how young women (and men) are groomed and eventually coerced into sexual slavery.  What I liked about this book is that this process is shown through what happens to Lex, rather than the author simply explaining it.  It can be difficult to understand why people fall into these traps, but when you see it happening in the story, it becomes abundantly clear how easy it is.  Anyone is susceptible to this sort of coercion, and it is very insidious how these pimps lure youth into a life of prostitution.

Lex is a deeply scarred character, both physically and emotionally, and my heart broke for her so many times.  The topic of human trafficking in the United States is not widely addressed in YA literature, although I think it should be.  It is unfortunately more common than people realize, and could be very well happening in their own backyard, so to speak.  Other things happen in this book that demonstrate the lack of education in regards to this topic, and the ignorance of people who choose to look at forced prostitution as a choice.  This book is largely about Lex accepting her self-worth, healing, creating personal boundaries, reclaiming her sexuality, and recognizing what makes healthy relationships.  At the start of the story, she is broken and recovering from addiction, but by the end, she is learning how to build herself back up and how to stand up to her abusers.  It is a painful and beautiful story, and I hope to see more like it in the future.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_Gold

Fiction · Historical

Cilka’s Journey

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Title: Cilka’s Journey

Author: Heather Morris

Page Count: 352

Series: The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Book 2

Publishing Date/Publisher: October 1, 2019 by St. Martin’s Press

Format: eBook

Review: I was beyond thrilled when I saw that Heather Morris would be publishing a book about Cilka.  Like many other readers, I was intrigued by her character and utterly heartbroken by her unjust sentencing after the horror of the concentration camps.  It did not feel right leaving her story untold, and I am glad that the author felt the same way.

This book reads so smoothly that I flew through it over the course of a couple days.  Morris has an incredible way of writing that evokes such strong emotion while still being incredibly straightforward.  I actually found that I enjoyed this book even more than The Tattooist of Auschwitz because it covers a topic in history that I know almost nothing about.  I have read many books about the Holocaust, but I have never read one about the work camps in Russia.  I was appalled that these camps operated for decades in terrible and dangerous conditions completely unchecked.  It is staggering how many people were sentenced to these camps and how many of them died.

Cilka was an incredibly brave and resilient woman to have survived both camps.  I would have very much liked to meet her, and it makes me happy to know that the legacy of her extraordinary life will live on through this book.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_Gold

Memoir · Non-fiction

Ordinary Girls

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Title: Ordinary Girls

Author: Jaquira Díaz

Page Count: 336

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: October 29, 2019 by Algonquin Books

Format: eBook

Review: Every so often I get in the mood to read memoirs.  I am especially interested in coming-of-age stories, so this one immediately appealed to me when I read the synopsis.  I did enjoy the book, especially the parts that took place in Puerto Rico, but I found that Díaz jumps around too much in the chronology for my personal taste.  As a reader I found myself getting frustrated by the tangents she would go on in the midst of telling a story.  I find that a lot memoirs take place in snapshots of a life; however in this case it was just too many things at once and it was difficult to get a clear picture.

At the conclusion of this book, I couldn’t help but feel that it was unfinished.  It is clear that at some point Díaz pulls herself out of the cycle of poverty and self-loathing she grew up in, but this is not really explored in this memoir.  Each time I thought she was going to make it out of the tunnel of darkness, she would throw herself back in.  Clearly she achieved her goal of becoming a writer and I just wanted to know more about that journey. I wouldn’t consider this book uplifting or particularly inspiring, but it was very real and didn’t sugarcoat anything. Díaz seems to have a lot of self-awareness in writing this memoir, so it was overall an interesting and revealing read.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_Gold

Fiction · Historical · Young Adult

Across a Broken Shore

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Title: Across a Broken Shore

Author: Amy Trueblood

Page Count: 360

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: November 5th 2019 by Flux

Format: eBook

Review: The setting for this book was lovely, but I found the plot to be painfully slow and I did not find any characters to be particularly compelling.  This falls into the rare category of books that I did not finish (I stopped at 42% completion).

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_GoldAll_Star_Gold

Contemporary · Fiction · Young Adult

How to Build a Heart

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Title: How to Build a Heart

Author: Maria Padian

Page Count: 352

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: January 28, 2020 by Algonquin Young Readers

Format: eBook

Review: There are so many things about this book that I love.  It is a very thoughtfully written book and it feels very authentic.  I have very little in common with the main character, but I could totally relate to her.  There was a lot about her that reminded me of myself at her age.

I recently reviewed another book that had very similar themes to this one; a biracial girl navigating grief and struggling to define herself.  I personally felt that this book did a much better job of tackling these topics and I was honestly disappointed when it ended.  This is not to say I wasn’t happy with the ending, I just wanted to follow her life longer! I look forward to reading more books by this author.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_Gold

Contemporary · Fiction · Young Adult

I’m Not Dying With You Tonight

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Title: I’m Not Dying With You Tonight

Author: Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal

Page Count: 272

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: October 1, 2019 by Sourcebooks Fire

Format: eBook

Review: I was eager to read this book because the two authors have done something that Kym and I have talked about at great length, and that is co-authoring a book from two different character perspectives.  It worked well for this story, and I thought it was appropriate that the two characters were written with very distinct voices.

This book isn’t very long, so it was a quick read.  In fact, the whole story takes place over the course of a single night.  The conflict is established quickly, and the “action” is pretty consistent throughout the story.  I was never bored and I would say this is a pretty timely novel considering our current political climate.

My biggest criticism is that I had hoped for a stronger character arc with both characters, so when the end came, my first thought was, that’s it?  After undergoing such a traumatic experience, I had expected there to be more discussion of the aftermath and what it meant for each of the characters.  I really think this story would have a greater impact on readers if this aspect was more thoroughly explored.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_Gold