Review: Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

V23 new typeface tagline.inddEverything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?

It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.

In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?

Julie Buxbaum mixes comedy and tragedy, love and loss, pain and elation, in her debut YA novel filled with characters who will come to feel like friends.

3.5 Drink Me Potions

(1) I just finished it and let me tell you. The ending was perfect. P-E-R-F-E-C-T. Others say it was a bit rushed and there could’ve been more, but I think it was the proper place and way to end it off because of the way Julie Buxbaum set it all up from the start.

Let me start from the beginning (in which it might make more sense with my ramblings that way).

(2) I initially didn’t like this book. At all. Was thinking it pushed 2 stars at most. It wasn’t necessarily ’cause Jessie’s all sad and lonely and nothing seems to be going right in her life with her familial situation. And not necessarily ’cause it was slow. It might just be a slow accumulation of all these things happening to her at the less-than-fast pace it was going. The only thing that kept me somewhat interested was the Somebody Nobody (otherwise known as SN, of course) angle which really kept me guessing (I’ll come back to this later).

Heck, around this time, I wished I was able to escape Jessie’s life as much as she did. I suppose that should account for something if the writing brought out such a strong emotion in me too.

It got to the point where I needed to take a week-long break from this novel at around the halfway mark. But when I came back to it, it was like opening my eyes to a whole new story. Yes, Jessie still was hurting from her change in environment and situation with her dad and steppeoples, but it didn’t feel like just whining anymore. She really was like a ninja, a kick-ass fighter who could maker he way through hard stuff alone even if at the time she didn’t realize she could be so strong.

Jessie grew a lot in the second half. And what made me inhale this part so fast was that she was relatable. No, I never lost a parent (and I don’t wish that to happen any time soon), but her insecurities and her with to be seen was all very real. The pain and loss she felt were also a huge part of who she was, and it may have been annoying at first when it was all that her character seemed to be, but I wouldn’t exchange this part of her now ’cause it helped her figure things out about herself and learn to take a step forward in moving on, little by little. She didn’t solve anything big about her grief for her mom, but the little things do matter. Like patching things up a bit with her remaining parent and learning to tolerate (may I even say “love” even?) her stepbrother and stepmom. Nothing is 100% wrapped up, but these things were a start to hopefully a realistic (but happy) story for Jessie.

(3) Now, my fav. part and what cemented this story together (in my honest opinion) was SN. And his identity. I thought I knew who he was from the start, yet Buxbaum made me guess and re-guess as she threw out red herrings and what not.

And I wanted to know because SN’s conversations with Jessie were absolutely amazing. Their little game of telling each other 3 things (where the title was obviously taken from) about themselves each day was fun yet also made opening themselves up to each other easier. Their honesty about what they feel was real. Their connection over loss and grief was potent, but they knew that the other understood. That even when they felt so alone in their every day life, they were still seen.

So the ending that seemed a little abrupt? I wholeheartedly disagree. It should end there, with SN’s identity. It’s one thing to connect and say all these well-edited words on a screen and not have the person staring back at you as you open up your heart of all that’s burdening you. Buxbaum even acknowledges that every time Jessie wondered whether her connection to SN was because she could so easily be someone different, someone better, on screen since she had the time to edit her words and change them if she didn’t like it. Real life is harder. There are no delete buttons and things pop out your mouth before you can filter them. So upon meeting the one person who kept Jessie grounded since she moved to Cali was very fitting. And knowing that their identity doesn’t necessarily change everything about their relationship.

Romance and grief aside (along with my not-so-humorous attempt to list 3 things this book was to me), this story also had its hand of strong supporting characters. Jessie had a pretty strong and distinct narrative voice, but still had that quality that made her someone I could connect with – a feat that is hard to create well. From her flamboyant, gay stepbrother to the wise and brave bestie she left back home in Chicago, this cast was well-developed, each with their own personalities and problems to overcome.

There were hints of a love triangle, even in the synopsis, but personally, it didn’t ever really feel that way. It can still be construed as one as you read it, but Jessie made it clear there was only one guy she was interested in that way from the start. So I’m not sure you can really count it as one. Ethan, her English partner, was totally a delicious character. His aloofness, hot-and-cold moodiness, plus being a rocker guitar player automatically lands him the bad boy status. But his sensitivity to poetry and smart comments about what matters in life beyond what rich kids at their school normally think are important made me wish I had an Ethan in my life too. He ranked pretty much as high as SN in this book for me.

All in all, Tell Me Three Things took me on a roller coaster ride that in hindsight I’m glad I continued all the way to the end. It may seem like just another romantic book on first love and dealing with loss, but Buxbaum crafted it realistically and beautifully.

Overall Recommendation:
A story full of emotion, Tell Me Three Things follows Jessie, a girl you may feel is quite familiar to you even if you haven’t experienced half of what she did, on her journey across the country to a brand new start she never wanted. From the excitement of conversing with an anonymous person dubbed Somebody Nobody and wondering at his identity, to dealing with the pain and loneliness of moving into her new stepfamily home, Jessie’s experiences moved from fun to heartwrenching in the next moment. Buxbaum makes the things Jessie’s going through realistic and the connections she makes with new friends in Cali are sometimes very deep and profound. After struggling for a good half of the novel, I will say that Tell Me Three Things thoroughly redeems itself, and by the end, left me sighing with an ending that was just right.

Review: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

Series: Starbound #1

these broken stars -amie kaufman & meagan spoonerIt’s a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone.

Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help.

Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever?

Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it.


3.5 Drink Me Potions

When author reviews called this book full of “dynamic characters”, they literally mean just the protagonists. ‘Cause honestly? This almost-400-page book only follows Tarver and Lilac in their journey of survival on some strange planet.

These Broken Stars wasn’t quite like what I expected. Of course, it’s hard not to have higher expectations when this book has been raved about by many reviewers. I reckoned there’d be more fighting or action type scenes. I was strangely wrong, but I think I enjoyed it regardless of the lack of action (or interaction beyond our two characters).

The novel drops Tarver and Lilac into the situation we are anticipating for – that being their impending crash landing onto a foreign planet as the sole survivors – quite quickly, and the little bits before the accident actually occurs helped to get a taste of what the dynamics in their relationship would be like upon realizing they’re the last 2 people alive and stranded in this world (literally, not just some expression you say).

The events on the planet are fairly straightforward and not that unpredictable. Or at least, the travelling aspect of their journey. Find ship. Find hopefully help, or at least equipment that could send for help.

But anything else beyond that? It was mind-blowingly surprising. I hadn’t read the synopsis very thoroughly when I picked up this book so the introduction to what Lilac fondly called the “whispers” were extremely astonishing. I was like, there’s paranormal activity on this planet too??? It transformed this place from Unknown Territory to Downright Eerie Let’s-get-outta-here-quick. This mystery was an essential part of the plot that kept me going.

Okay, so the dynamics between Tarver and Lilac? Not so good there in the beginning. And frankly, I’m with Tarver on that. Lilac was a total stuck-up know-it-all. Or at least, she tried to give that vibe since she didn’t want to look “weak” in front of a mere soldier, who for all she knew, would tell the tabloids and press about her moments of weakness later. From reading her POVs, I knew she didn’t suck quite as much, but it didn’t make me like her much more. She was making life so much harder than it had to be. I may be a girl and I kinda get her standpoint, but sorry, Tarver most definitely gets my sympathies there. The fact that he couldn’t stand the thought of leaving her behind, all helpless and possibly eaten by some scary, unknown creature, shows that he’s so much better of a character than I am.

So yes, their relationship wasn’t all that much fun to follow at first. They tolerated each other, at most. Star-crossed lovers? Yeah. Haven’t quite gotten to that stage yet. And what blew me away? Their love for each other kinda snuck up on me when it did eventually reach that point. Sure, being stranded as the only 2 people alive could spring up feelings, but I knew theirs wasn’t quite so simple. They contemplated even staying on this godforsaken place if it meant they didn’t have to face “reality” back in their own worlds, the lives they left behind across the universe. I just couldn’t pinpoint how, or the moment when, they finally realized what they felt for each other was love. I knew they would, but that’s not the same as feeling it with them when you’re caught up in their passion, in their story.

Ah well. Besides that minor contention, I enjoyed both their POVs quite a lot in the later half of the book. Their relationship was one that I think more YA novels should be like. They were equals, each giving their strengths into the relationship to support the other, while not hesitating to point the other’s weakness or flaws that need to be worked on.

I want to say more about the ending but that would only lead to accidentally giving away something, even the smallest thing, that would make it any less than what it was. What I can say is that it was heart-poundingly intense and haunting. The haunting part may have been enhanced by the fact that I was listening to a particular song at the time that gave me the chills, but I’m sure the novel had a huge hand in it too. Of course, you may already have guessed it, but it does have something to do with the mystery of the “whispers” I mentioned earlier. It was not quite what I expected, and a certain twist that I definitely did not foresee left me turning the pages faster and faster.

These Broken Stars may really have no supporting characters at all, but Lilac and Tarver’s personal growth as they challenged each other on this journey for survival was more than enough. This was a sci-fi novel with a beautifully crafted world (or should I say universe?) building and plenty of intrigue that most definitely wasn’t all answered yet. Gotta leave some things for the sequels, right?

But oh, how I was disappointed that my main question wasn’t answered by the end. Like honestly. What the heck brought down the Icarus onto this strange planet?

Overall Recommendation:
With an explosive ending I did not see coming, These Broken Stars mostly met those high expectations that awaited it in my mind. Tarver and Lilac were characters you may have felt you knew from other books, but the way they grew during their awful predicament and with each other was wholly original. They were more than enough to carry this story with their interpersonal dynamics and blooming love. However, what cemented this for me was the mystery at the very heart of the novel. The haunting quality of what awaits you there left me breathless many times throughout. This is a novel that’s equal parts well-crafted sci-fi and warm romance. I can see why so many love this.

Review: Shooter by Caroline Pignat

shooter -caroline pignatThe Breakfast Club meets We Need to Talk About Kevin

A lockdown catches five grade 12 students by surprise and throws them together in the only unlocked room on that empty third floor wing: the boys’ washroom. They sit in silence, judging each other by what they see, by the stories they’ve heard over the years. Stuck here with them–could anything be worse?

There’s Alice: an introverted writer, trapped in the role of big sister to her older autistic brother, Noah.

Isabelle: the popular, high-achieving, student council president, whose greatest performance is her everyday life.

Hogan: an ex-football player with a troubled past and a hopeless future.

: that socially awkward guy hiding behind the camera, whose candid pictures of school life, especially those of Isabelle, have brought him more trouble than answers.

Told in five unique voices through prose, poetry, text messages, journals, and homework assignments, each student reveals pieces of their true story as they wait for the drill to end. But this modern-day Breakfast Club takes a twist when Isabelle gets a text that changes everything: NOT A DRILL!! Shooter in the school!
Suddenly, the bathroom doesn’t seem so safe anymore. Especially when they learn that one of them knows more about the shooter than they realized…

3.5 Drink Me Potions

Shooter unites four (potentially 5) very unique narrative voices in a story that touches on loss, academic pressures and familial responsibilities. Initially, I thought this was going to be a scary, suspenseful mystery on the school shooter, and yes, it totally is that. But it was also so much more.

I at first came in thinking it would be a similar kinda read like Are You Still There which I read last year. In some ways, it definitely had that kinda vibe. However, there are so many more protagonists in Shooter and their own unique back stories that I’m not sure it’s fair to really compare the two to each other.

Each voice was very distinctive and true to that character. They weren’t simply cliched personalities I’ve read many times over in many other books. Alice can’t be simply narrowed down to “that book-ish Nerd Girl who can’t handle herself in the real world outside of her books”. Likewise, Hogan isn’t just the “jock with no brain and a tragic past to overcome”. Or Isabelle as the “popular It-Girl who cares about herself only” (although it sure seemed like she fit this portrayal very accurately at first).

Trapped in the men’s washroom while on lockdown, these 5 characters got to know each other a little better, maybe in a way that no one ever took the time to know them in this way before, all because of a shooter let loose in school building. So for the first half of the story, it wasn’t so much focused on the mysterious person shooting up the school. It was on these people who really didn’t “know” each other at all, even after so many years of school together. It was learning about what made them tick, what uncertainties they were facing at the end of high school, and just how much they had in common with each other no matter how different they were on the outside.

Alice was probably my favourite voice. This may be due to the fact that I associate myself most with her. I’m not as introverted, but she was also not just a simple cliche. She may love her book facts (that no one else cared about) and could care less about social media or school spirit but she had courage when it came to protecting her autistic brother Noah.

The way the other characters saw each other made them seem more real, like we as readers get the full glimpse of who they were because we can see the subjective (and biased view) they have of themselves and also the objective one from the others as they’re practically strangers at the beginning of the story.

Xander, strangely enough, was also another POV I enjoyed immensely. The way he saw the world was very straightforward. He didn’t understand social cues very well. He just saw the world through his lens and tried to capture not the good and “positive” aspects of life, but also the negatives which make life all the more real. He captured the honest moments we have that sometimes are easier to deny than to deal with. The way the author described his photographed pictures of each of the characters trapped in the washroom with him truly captivated me, probably making it my favourite part of the whole story.

Through learning to understanding each other, these 5 protagonists captured my heart. I gobbled the story in one sitting. It was deep in certain ways. They all had something they were dealing with, something pressing on their hearts. Their lives weren’t perfect, weren’t simple. I couldn’t believe the supposed time span of the whole novel was only an hour. There was so much grit, so much heartfelt conversations that took place in that time period. They laid down their masks to show each other what was truly on the inside so that maybe, just maybe, true healing could take place.

And then the next half of the book came learning about who was attacking their school. It wasn’t as much of a mystery as I thought it would be. The name of the perp was literally given right in the middle, but it was learning who the person was and why they were doing this that made the story more exciting. Locked away in one of these characters’ minds and back stories was the key to figuring out how this day was going to end.

Continuing with the honest voices of each of these characters, Pignat made this novel more than just another bullying story that ended in violence. It was a story that really made these teenagers real and showed the brutal honesty of what high school life can be like. I am so glad that there is such a great Canadian author like her, and I can’t wait to see what else she may write in the future.

Overall Recommendation:
Told in 5 very unique and distinctive voices, Pignat made Shooter both a suspenseful story about a shooter let loose in a high school but also one that explored the lives of teenagers that were very different on the outside yet had so much in common once they learned more about each other. I enjoyed the different POVs, but most of all, I loved the way I got to see how such unique people lived with their day-to-day problems. It felt very real, like I could find an Alice or a Xander in my own life. At the end of the day, this novel brought out the honest moments of life as a teenager in high school, something I can still remember pretty clearly. This is one story I won’t be forgetting any time soon.

Review: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton & Jodi Meadows

my lady jane -cynthia hand, brodi ashton, jodi meadowsThe comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

Edward (long live the king) is the King of England. He’s also dying, which is inconvenient, as he’s only sixteen and he’d much rather be planning for his first kiss than considering who will inherit his crown…

Jane (reads too many books) is Edward’s cousin, and far more interested in books than romance. Unfortunately for Jane, Edward has arranged to marry her off to secure the line of succession. And there’s something a little odd about her intended…

Gifford (call him G) is a horse. That is, he’s an Eðian (eth-y-un, for the uninitiated). Every day at dawn he becomes a noble chestnut steed—but then he wakes at dusk with a mouthful of hay. It’s all very undignified.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane gets to be Queen of England.

The plot thickens as Edward, Jane, and G are drawn into a dangerous conspiracy. With the fate of the kingdom at stake, our heroes will have to engage in some conspiring of their own. But can they pull off their plan before it’s off with their heads?

3.5 Drink Me Potions

I came across My Lady Jane quite by accident, but I’m quite glad that I did find it. My initial reaction was one of major surprise. I hadn’t expected it to be a comical, almost-but-not-really true story of the real Lady Jane Grey. But once I passed the initial surprise, I found myself amazed by the 3 main characters these 3 amazing ladies have created in this hilarious historical book.

First off, comedies in books aren’t really my thing. Half the time, unless the author rubs me the right way, I don’t find the writing particularly….funny. It’s like watching a comedy but missing the punchline over and over again. Like, you’re sitting there asking yourself “what the heck’s so funny? Did I miss something?” and end up shaking your head in dismissal and slight disappointment (if you’re honest with yourself). ‘Cause who wouldn’t want to get the joke?

I felt a little like that at first with this novel. Yes, I could tell the story was meant to be funny considering the real life events in British history wasn’t quite so entertaining. Plus, there’s random magic that turns people into animals. Honestly, animals!Who wouldn’t find that weirdly funny? I just wasn’t expecting it at first.

Enter our 3 heroes with their distinctive POVs. King Edward was a poor boy who didn’t know what it truly meant to rule a kingdom at his young age. He just wanted to know and experience what every teenage boy was going through. Of course, he couldn’t. How could he, when he was a king? I liked him. Yes, sometimes he acted a little naively, but I suppose it was understandable. I’m sure the real King Edward found himself as flabbergasted by his deteriorating health as well.

Lady Jane obviously stood out in this story. She was a loveable, book-ish kinda girl who tried to do her best at what life threw her way. Come on, it’s not every day that you suddenly find yourself at the head of the royal succession line, let alone the ruler . Her POV was funny in its own way, but not the dry humor that was everywhere in Edward’s. She was brutally honest in how she saw things, and especially her comical reliance on the books she’s read (and their long and detailed titles) to guide her in how to do new things that came her way. But I think the real star that tied everything wasn’t her.

G was probably my favourite of the 3. I know, right? Of all the 3 protagonists, he’s gotta be the least popular and well-known. Also, his real life name was Guildford (like, what horrid name is this? I would prefer G or Gifford too). But I did really like him, and I honestly think he tied the other storylines together.

He was a horse. That threw me the very first time I saw this horrendously, simple sentence. I was like, “What the heck do they mean that he’s a ‘horse’?” No, seriously. He’s actually a horse. It’s a simple as that. That’s what the authors mean. My fav. character turns out to be part-man, part-horse. That’s such an odd thing to say, but it makes it no less true.

His magical background, his eventual acceptance as Lady Jane’s husband and his love for her that grew out of the craziness thrown into her life made the story more appealing to me. There’s comedy (hello, do I have to repeat the fact that the authors made him a horse man?) but this aspect can only carry the story so far. The romance here wasn’t explicitly focused upon, but it grew in the shadows of all that conspired against Jane (and Edward, although in REAL history, he’d be dead by now).

Overall, I can’t really describe what this story did to me. It was funny, weird at times, and outright odd, but beyond the comical play on history, it was refreshingly endearing the way these characters flounder to find their place in life and the sacrifices they made for each other. It makes me kinda wish history was more like this than the particular tragedy it really was for these 3 characters. I suppose that’s the highest compliment I can give it. I wish history was more like My Lady Jane.

Overall Recommendation:
A comical take on real events in British history, My Lady Jane was an unexpected read for me. Not because I didn’t want to read it, but because I had no idea what it truly entailed until I had it in my hands. Following 3 real-life figures in their separate POVs (and with a hilarious twist of magic thrown into it), this story was both funny, amidst the amount of treason and deaths that occurred, and romantic. After being initially uncertain about it, I found myself drawn into this alternate version of history, to the point that I wished this was the happily-ever-after that really happened. I think for anyone who likes history (and doesn’t mind it being botched up in many, MANY places for comical fun), this is the historical novel you need to read this year.

Review: Deliverance by C.J. Redwine

Series: Defiance #3

deliverance -cj redwineEverything hangs in the balance, and nothing is certain: Rachel has been kidnapped by enemy forces and is being taken to Rowansmark while Logan, imprisoned and awaiting trial, is unable to leave Lankenshire. Separated from each other and their Baalboden comrades, each must find a way to achieve what they desperately want: to rid their world once and for all of the Commander and the tech that controls the deadly Cursed One.

Fighting through her pain and embracing the warrior she’s become, Rachel will do whatever it takes to escape her enemies’ clutches and join Logan in his fight. But when she learns a secret that changes everything, she realizes that escaping Ian and his tracker friends is no longer an option if she wants to save the people she loves. Instead, she’ll have to destroy Rowansmark from the inside out—if she can survive the journey through the Wasteland.

Logan needs allies if he wants to thwart Rowansmark’s power grab and rescue Rachel. But securing allies will mean betraying his beliefs and enlisting the help of the man he hates more than anyone: Commander Jason Chase. Driven by his fierce love for Rachel and his determination to make their world safe, Logan may be just the weapon the city-states need to defeat the Cursed One.

But as Rowansmark bears down and uneasy alliances are tested, will Rachel and Logan’s love for each other be enough to surmount the unbelievable odds against them?


2.5 Drink Me Potions

I don’t know why I thought the conclusion to the series would be any more exciting or action-packed. It most definitely never reached the amount of excitement I was expecting for a finale. Let me put my disappointment into perspective for you.

Logan and Rachel were separated at the end of the previous book, Deception. Logan’s POV is his constant pining away for her alternating with all his Worst Case Scenarios where his enemy the Commander is concerned. Rachel’s isn’t a whole lot better as she’s just basically a punching bag for those who’ve taken her. Especially the traitor that was alluded to in the previous novel. So she’s taking in all this physical and verbal abuse. Some crazy stuff about pain atonement and sacrifice necessary in order to right one’s honour. A bunch of BS if you ever asked me.

So that’s where the novel starts. These two scenarios. And basically these two scenarios continue along those same lines for like… the whole freaking book . It doesn’t matter where they each are, location wise. Inner monologue is the same. Logan’s trying to use the Commander and outsmart him once he knows his enemy’s gonna try to get rid of him. Rachel’s trying to outsmart her captors and even destroy anything that may cause Logan to lose his war against the city-state of Rowansmark.

All of Deliverance is also basically just travelling around the Wastelands. Logan and friends, plus the Commander tagging along, are moving around trying to build alliances to ensure a larger army against Rowansmark. Rachel and her captors are steadily moving towards Rowansmark. Once they’ve each done that, it’s practically the end of the book and that’s when “war” breaks loose.

And I do mean “war”. With the quotations.

For the epic climax of the series, this “war” wasn’t all that epic. The way their enemies were dealt with wasn’t all that satisfying either. Maybe I just have high expectations when it comes to how one’s mortal enemies are taken care of at the end of a long, strung-out battle of the wills (and physicality) that stretched over the span of a few books.

I suppose why I didn’t just DNF the series was simply due to the fact that it was an ebook that I read and I was feeling too lazy to flip through a hard copy novel at the time. Personality-wise, Rachel’s grown to understand healing requires opening oneself to vulnerability and feelings. She accepted that maintaining her humanity was worth the cost of the explosion of emotions that could assault her.

Plus, she had firsthand experience seeing what being consumed by revenge could do to someone when they blocked out everything but the darkness and silence inside of them. Too bad she came to this conclusion SO late into the series, considering this plot element started at the end of book 1.

All in all, Deliverance wasn’t the lowest of the low, but it sure didn’t have a whole lot going for it. Would I recommend this series as a whole? Or even just this one book?

The short answer? I dunno. It may just not work for me, but it seems it’s doing something semi-right with other readers. Either way, the journey Logan and Rachel took, both physically and emotionally, was one heck of a rollercoaster ride. I don’t regret going down this path with them, but I do wish that Redwine could make it more exciting and less angsty next time.

Overall Recommendation:
Deliverance doesn’t pack the proper punch for a series finale. With the usual slowness in plot development and hardly anything that was surprising to curb up the rating, it basically tied up all the loose ends in a predictable manner that ended mostly well for everyone. Logan and Rachel grew a lot, but I can’t say that it made up for the fact that they both just did a whole lot of travelling in this story (just like the last one – what does Redwine love about people walking ALL THE TIME in her stories?) with the same worried inner monologues wherever they went. I think a whole lot of things could’ve been tweaked for the better, but to be fair, it wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t finish it. Not sure that’s much better of a recommendation, but it is what it is.

Review: Deception by C.J. Redwine

Series: Defiance #2

deception -cj redwineBaalboden has been ravaged. The brutal Commander’s whereabouts are unknown. And Rachel, grief stricken over her father’s death, needs Logan more than ever. With their ragged group of survivors struggling to forge a future, it’s up to Logan to become the leader they need—with Rachel by his side. Under constant threat from rival Carrington’s army, who is after the device that controls the Cursed One, the group decides to abandon the ruins of their home and take their chances in the Wasteland.

But soon their problems intensify tenfold: someone—possibly inside their ranks—is sabotaging the survivors, picking them off one by one. The chaos and uncertainty of each day puts unbearable strain on Rachel and Logan, and it isn’t long before they feel their love splintering. Even worse, as it becomes clear that the Commander will stop at nothing to destroy them, the band of survivors begins to question whether the price of freedom may be too great—and whether, hunted by their enemies and the murderous traitor in their midst, they can make it out of the Wasteland alive.

In this daring sequel to Defiance, with the world they once loved forever destroyed, Rachel and Logan must decide between a life on the run and standing their ground to fight.


2.5 Drink Me Potions

If I could summarize Deception in one word, it’d definitely be angsty. Chalked full of Rachel’s spiraling darkness as she succumbs to the silence inside of her. Now normally I don’t mind a story focused on getting through the dark times in order to become a stronger person. But I swear every time it’s her POV, it’s just so annoying . It doesn’t stop!

The story is a fairly simplistic one. Maybe too simplistic, actually. It starts right where we left off in Defiance. For the most part, the plot’s all about travelling through the Wastelands to another city-state after the destruction of their home, Baalboden. The only excitement from the endless walking, people complaining and Rachel’s endless thirst for revenge stems from the mysterious entity that’s testing Logan and hurting his people as they travel. I’m always in for a good mystery element in a story, and I think this was the only thing that saved Deception from completely dying in my eyes.

Anyway, Rachel was cutting herself off from anyone, especially Logan, as her need for vengeance against the Commander continues to grow. But her inner monologue doesn’t really suck because of this one thing. Oh no, it’s also due to her own self hatred. How could she have done such a horrible thing at the end of Defiance? How can she live with her actions and seeing the consequences of it? How can she continue on feeling anything after losing her father and Oliver? It didn’t matter that Logan was hurting from what happened as well. She wanted to cut herself off from everything, including him.

Half the time while I was reading, I wanted to just knock some sense into her head. Maybe denying herself from the horrible feelings welling up inside her was a temporary relief, but it was making her very unstable. And frankly, a not-so-nice person to follow around in her head. I’m not sure how Logan could even stand the way she was.

Though I suppose he did have bigger problems to deal with…

Logan continues to become a better protagonist in my opinion. I love his POV, and not just because they seem so much better in comparison to Rachel’s. He’s such a strong character, even before all the events of the previous book occurred. His background story was never pleasant but seeing him taking responsibility for so many people way older than him – he’s only 19 after all – and doing his very best to become the leader he never expected to be was amazing. I loved the gradual change and growth in him through all the craziness that occurred from the mysterious enemy tracking them. Which by the way, its identity completely took me off guard even though in hindsight it also made 100% sense.

Without giving away too much, the last bit of the story really picks up for the finale of the series. Meeting new characters and a surprising twist, I will at least say that Deception does know how to end well. If only the rest of the story could have matched this faster pacing and plot development.

Or cut out most of Rachel’s parts of the story.

Overall Recommendation:
C.J. Redwine’s Deception falls flat from expectations. And I can completely pinpoint its failings on Rachel. Her constant ramblings about revenge and the way she cut herself off from ALL feelings made her overall struggle to regain her humanity a very hard thing swallow as a whole without getting completely exasperated. That was already really bad, but the plot was a little too slow, stuck on their journey across the Wastelands. The one thing I enjoyed was the element of surprise as some mysterious enemy was methodically killing off Logan’s people as they travelled. Overall, it suffered greatly from Middle Book Syndrome, but the ending was worth it, wracking up suspense for the conclusion of the series.

Review: The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine

Series: The Impostor Queen #1

the impostor queen -sarah fineSixteen-year-old Elli was only a child when the Elders of Kupari chose her to succeed the Valtia, the queen who wields infinitely powerful ice and fire magic in service of her people. The only life Elli has known has been in the temple, surrounded by luxury, tutored by magic-wielding priests, preparing for the day when the queen perishes—and the ice and fire find a new home in Elli, who is prophesied to be the most powerful Valtia to ever rule.

But when the queen dies defending the kingdom from invading warriors, the magic doesn’t enter Elli. It’s nowhere to be found.

Disgraced, Elli flees to the outlands, home of banished criminals—some who would love to see the temple burn with all its priests inside. As she finds her footing in this new world, Elli uncovers devastating new information about the Kupari magic, those who wield it, and the prophecy that foretold her destiny. Torn between her love for her people and her growing loyalty to the banished, Elli struggles to understand the true role she was meant to play. But as war looms, she must choose the right side before the kingdom and its magic are completely destroyed.

3 Drink Me Potions

“Our lives aren’t ours, darling. We are only the caretakers of this magic. They call us queens, but what we really are is servants.”

The Impostor Queen was surprisingly borderline entertaining to me. I had higher hopes for it, but I shall do my best to break down what I enjoyed and what potentially gave me pause.

The world building was uniquely done, albeit a bit vague in certain areas.What? you may ask. I’ll clarify what I mean in a second.

The Kupari people have a queen – known as the Valtia – that has an unequaled power in all the realm. It’s made of a balance of both fire and ice magic. When she dies, this strong magic doesn’t fade from existence with her. Oh no, it transfers to another girl, thus making her the next Valtia.

The whole idea of the Valtia and the way fire and ice magic exists in varying quantities (whether balanced or not) among the peoples was very interesting. Different and, at least to my knowledge of books, not very overdone in the YA genre. Fine does a great job of going into detail about fire wielders and ice wielders, and what happens when they are unbalanced with a whole lot more of one type of magic.

But here’s where the vague part comes in. The magic element is ALL that Fine focuses on. Yes, it takes up a huge part of the plot and it makes sense to explore this part of her world, but whenever there’s a pretty map drawn out of the world with other places marked on it, well it’s just natural to want to hear about those others places too, right? But oh no, none of those places were really mentioned beyond in passing. And nearer to the end, there are certain questions brought to light about magic that just fizzled into nothing before answering them. I’m not sure if they’re planned to be answered in the sequel, but since I don’t feel very strongly for this novel, I’m not too picky about it.

I think you can already tell that this review’s starting to take a bit more of a sour note. I will start with the characters.

Elli, the protagonist, initially frustrated me to no end. She was naive, spoiled and sheltered. Her curiosity about magic and her future role as the Valtia was understandable, but something about her just grated on my nerves. I’m glad she grows as the story progresses. As she learns to fend for herself for the first time in her life outside of the temple, I rejoiced with her in her tiny victories. And I do mean tiny victories. From learning to wear a dress to grating corn to sewing worn through clothes, she bore each new task with a tired but triumphant smile. This was the kinda girl I could stand behind.

Then there was the love interest. Fine downplays it a lot, and never once does she ever voices it out for what it is, but Elli’s first love was her handmaiden, Mim. I’ve never read a book with a bisexual main character so it was a different experience. Fine doesn’t let it define Elli, for which I’m glad. She’s more than who she may be attracted to. Anyway, Mim’s not even the real love interest anyway.

Enter Oskar. Oh, Oskar. He barreled into the book right where I was starting to get exhausted with the slow pacing of it all. Talk about perfect timing. He’s similar to a lot of male leads of fantasy stories such as this. He’s brave, strong but honorable. So of course I really liked him, maybe even more so than Elli.

Their romance wasn’t fast, yet it was also rather slow. I don’t necessarily enjoy insta-love attraction, but this slow burn was a little TOO slow. Like it took forever to boil over and be ready. I almost couldn’t comprehend their passion for each other near the end since I hardly FELT the heat between them. Sure, there can be compassion but that’s a different thing. Over time they started trusting each other with their secrets. But the depths of their “love” didn’t quite hit me.

Don’t get me wrong. I still liked Oskar and Elli together. I think they truly do balance each other out (haha, that’s a reference joke), but a romance is always more enjoyable when I feel the intensity of it like it’s pressing into my own heart.

Oskar was also more than just the “love interest”. He’s cooler than that. He’s also special in his own way – of which I can’t tell you without ruining some things. And he’s not the only one. As these special characters’ lives collide together due to the events happening, things get slightly more exciting knowing that their destinies were fated in the stars long before they were anything more than dust and ash. If this gets your heart racing at the sound of it…..well, I hate to ruin your excitement, but it takes a while to get to this point in the book.

As I mentioned quickly in the above, the pacing was slooooowwwww. The first several chapters are pretty much expected due to the synopsis. On one hand, this made the world building a little more easily understood as it gave it time to explain itself a bit more, but it could also bore you out before you even got to the good parts.

The plot is only saved when things really start packing heat (and ice!) right near the climax of the story. Unfortunately, that means the story ends with not-quite a cliffhanger, but many questions and major plotlines still left hanging unresolved. It’s good there’s gonna be a sequel, but I’m not sure how I feel that Elli and Oskar aren’t going to be playing major roles. All in all, The Impostor Queen wasn’t as great as my initial expectations had elevated it, but its unique premise makes up a bit for it.

Overall Recommendation:
The Impostor Queen packed a punch with its world of fire and ice magic, and those that are fated to wield such power. Elli was set to inherit the strongest of such power, but when things somehow go awry, she had to learn to deal with a world that literally just turned upside down on her. I initially disliked her a bit, but her growth in self confidence and power in her own way redeemed her in my eyes. With a male lead and love interest that’s equally (if not more) interesting to see grow and develop, I think these characters help make up for the slow pacing. Great powers are rising as this world created by Fine comes to the brink of war. There’s a lot of potential for greatness. This grain of greatness starts here in The Impostor Queen and hopefully it’ll bloom into something more breathtaking in the next one. If you can keep this bigger picture in mind, I think it’ll make the reading of it go by faster