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Review: All Things New by Lauren Miller

all things new -lauren millerJessa has always felt broken inside, but she’s gotten very good at hiding it. No one at school knows about the panic attacks, the therapy that didn’t help, the meds that haven’t worked. But when a severe accident leaves her with a brain injury and visible scars, Jessa’s efforts to convince the world that she’s okay finally crumble—now she looks as shattered as she feels.

Fleeing from her old life in Los Angeles, Jessa moves to Colorado to live with her dad, where she meets Marshall, a boy whose kindness and generous heart slowly draw Jessa out of her walled-off shell and into the broken, beautiful, real world—a place where souls get hurt just as badly as bodies, and we all need each other to heal.

ALL THINGS NEW is a love story about perception and truth, physical and emotional pain, and the messy, complicated people we are behind the masks we put on for the world, perfect for fans of ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES and THE FAULT IN OUR STARS.


4 Drink Me Potions


**All Things New comes out August 1, 2017**

Thank you NetGalley and Three Saints Press for this copy in exchange for an honest review

 

What if we could see how people are on the inside, the real, invisible truth, literally painted on their faces? Some people would look hideous, like Dorian (Gray). Awfulness telegraphed as ugliness in paint. But most of us would probably just look damaged. Broken in places. Bruised and cut and scarred.


Lauren Miller is a master of crafting ideas into stories that portray truths that we can all relate to. I’ve been a fan of both of her previous works, Parallel and Free to Fall. So with fairly high expectations, her latest work All Things New managed to still surprise me (in a delightful way) with the depth of the newest truth displayed in a beautiful YA story.

Jessa (what a beautiful name!) has anxiety. Not your run-of-the-mill stress. But a true anxiety disorder that affects daily living. I loved having her as the main character. I myself know what it feels like to have panic attacks, but the absolute emotion evoked in Jessa’s feelings when she was stressed gave me a glimpse of what it would be like when this kinda anxiety lived under the surface all the time. Her anxiety and fear defined her. She could try to hide all this mess inside of her as best as she could, but anything hidden deep down is going to be disastrous when they explode out into the visible light. And with her accident, now there were more problems added to her plate: hallucinating bruises and scars on other people’s faces.

The one thing that made me drop my rating a little was the little bit of slowness in the beginning. From the synopsis, we all know that the bruises and scars she sees on other people may be a representation of bruises to their inner self, to their soul. However, Jessa doesn’t get to that conclusion for a long time. It’s just another thing she’s deeply ashamed about herself, adding to the fear and another thing she has to hide from those who care about her.

But beyond this little thing, all else was AMAZING. Period.

There weren’t many secondary characters that really mattered in this story. The two people we get to know are twins, Marshall and Hannah.

Hannah wasn’t simply just Jessa’s “new friend”. She can’t be so simply defined. She wasn’t so two-dimensional. Hannah was broken inside herself. It may not have been so easily seen, as we all go through life trying to hide what we suffer on the inside, but going through this story, it wasn’t just a story of Jessa learning to deal with her mess, but the same went for Hannah. I loved that there was more focus on Hannah than other novels would put the effort into “the friend” character. Even if we didn’t relate to Jessa, maybe we could relate to Hannah’s type of problems. I know I could. Academic stress and being the twin less focused on by the parents. Different things stress different individuals, but this novel showcases the unity in learning to deal with our individual problems.

As for Marshall, he’s not just “the boyfriend”. He’s not just the twin with a physical hole in his heart. He’s good-natured and always looked at the bright side. He was one factor in pushing Jessa to deal with her problems instead of avoiding them. He’s not the only one, as life doesn’t always necessarily revolve around a magical solution in our significant others. But they can be at least one powerful motivator.

At the end of the day, All Things New demonstrated poignant ideas such as soul and mind, seeing the visible and the invisible in others’ lives, and the bruises we carry inside. Lauren Miller has done it again, and if you like stories that make you think with hints of hope and love weaved throughout, her stories are something you need to read.

Overall Recommendation:
All Things New tackles a difficult idea of symbolic bruises on our souls from the various stresses in our lives, becoming visible to our protagonist Jessa who herself has a lot of issues to deal with inside. While this story centres on this young woman’s journey in facing the scars she has – both physical and emotional – it also deals with influences of family, love and support groups for those with mental health illnesses. In the YA genre, all works of Lauren Miller’s is outstanding but All Things New is definitely recommended.


Have you read any other good books that deal with mental health in a similar way?

Review: Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson

midnight at the electric -jodi lynn andersonKansas, 2065 Adri has been handpicked to live on Mars. But weeks before Launch, she discovers the journal of a girl who lived in her house over a hundred years ago, and is immediately drawn into the mystery surrounding her fate. While Adri knows she must focus on the mission ahead, she becomes captivated by a life that’s been lost in time…and how it might be inextricably tied to her own.

Oklahoma, 1934 Amidst the fear and uncertainty of the Dust Bowl, Catherine longs for the immortality promised by a professor at a traveling show called The Electric. But as her family’s situation becomes more dire — and the suffocating dust threatens her sister’s life — Catherine must find the courage to sacrifice everything she loves in order to save the one person she loves most.

England, 1919 In the recovery following World War One, Lenore tries to come to terms with her grief for her brother, a fallen British soldier, and plans to sail to America in pursuit of a childhood friend. But even if she makes it that far, will her friend be the person she remembers, and the one who can bring her back to herself?

While their stories spans thousands of miles and multiple generations, Lenore, Catherine, and Adri’s fates are entwined in ways both heartbreaking and hopeful.


 

4.5 Drink Me Potions


Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

**Midnight at the Electric comes out June 13, 2017**

Going into this novel, I barely knew what I was getting into. Sure, the synopsis suggests that it’s like a 3-in-1 kinda book, right? 3 girls living at different times with their own set of problems.

But what I hadn’t anticipated? The amazing way that Anderson connected and intertwined the girls’ stories together in a way that was just so beautifully done.

There’s a little something for everyone in this novel. The futuristic side takes place with Adri’s story, living in 2065 where people can actually fly off to Mars to hopefully start over again as Earth has been ravaged with natural disasters and parts of cities have fallen. She’s not a very nice or social person, but her story really sets the foundation of this whole book. Coming to live with the only relative she’s got left in this world, Lily, as she’s about to embark on the opportunity (and journey) of a lifetime to Mars gets her reflecting about family. Enters the gorgeous introduction of the next girl’s story, Catherine, as Adri finds her journal.

Catherine’s story turns this book into a historical plot. With the horrible setting of the Dust Bowl that terrorized the farmlands in the ’30s, her story brought out the true struggles such families faced to even physically survive the amount of dust blowing into their lungs. With a tragic love story at the heart of Catherine’s plot, it kept me greatly entertained and as intrigued as Adri was in figuring out who this family was that used to live on Lily’s farm, and how they may possibly connect to them.

But WITHIN Catherine’s story was a link to Lenore’s story, our final protagonist. As Catherine’s mother’s best friend before she moved away, Lenore’s letters to her childhood bestie made me reminisce about my own childhood friends and the pain of wondering if time changed us no matter how we may’ve wished we stayed the same. Set in the aftermath of WWI, I really enjoyed Lenore’s story too, in a different way from the others. First, I adore letter formats for stories, but Lenore’s voice was so relatable. She wasn’t perfect and she felt far from it many times. There was a bit of romance in there, but it wasn’t essential to have her falling in love with someone for her story to be amazing the way it was. Figuring out how to move on from the pain of losing her brother to the war and feeling the closeness of her relationship with Catherine’s mother no matter how many years it’s been since they were physically together was more than enough. And some mysterious components that were present in Adri’s time could only unfold from as far back as Lenore’s time, which really excited me at the prospect of linking everything together.

But what did I love the most?

We have to go back to Adri’s story. As a person who didn’t know how to get along with others very well, it was how she grew from this experience of connecting to these people who had departed so long ago that touched my heart. She took what Catherine’s journal and Lenore’s letters gave her to realize more about herself and where she was at the moment with Lily. That family was important. And so is what we leave behind that stays beyond the finite length of our lives. It was so profound. And I may have even teared up a bit at the end.

I shall end off with some of Adri’s insights that resonated with me, as I hope they too will also resonate with you (especially after you read it in context of the full novel when it comes out).

“I’m not much on writing, and I always wondered why some people are so drawn to it. But now as I sit here trying to think of what to say, I think I understand. No one wants to disappear. Words pin things down and make them real, and they last so much longer than we do…

I wanted to tell you most of all that I think it’s our love that gets passed along. Onward and forward.”


Overall Recommendation:
Midnight at the Electric connects 3 girls and their stories together in a such a poignant way, touching on various matters from loss of a family member to struggling to save a loved one. Despite the time difference between the stories, they’re all connected somehow, and figuring out the links between them slowly was half the fun of this novel. For such a short length, Anderson really packed it in with just the right amount for each girl. I truly recommend reading it, no matter if you don’t like historicals or futuristic novels. It’s a book that weaves together what’s truly important to people despite the cultural context, and I guarantee this would be a read that keeps you guessing and an ending that leaves some parts up for the imagination.

Review: Dividing Eden by Joelle Charbonneau

Series: Dividing Eden #1

dividing eden -joelle charbonneauFrom the author of the New York Times bestselling Testing trilogy comes a sweeping new fantasy series, perfect for fans of Victoria Aveyard and Sarah J. Maas.

Twins Carys and Andreus were never destined to rule Eden. With their older brother next in line to inherit the throne, the future of the kingdom was secure.

But appearances—and rivals—can be deceiving. When Eden’s king and crown prince are killed by assassins, Eden desperately needs a monarch, but the line of succession is no longer clear. With a ruling council scheming to gain power, Carys and Andreus are faced with only one option—to take part in a Trial of Succession that will determine which one of them is worthy of ruling the kingdom.

As sister and brother, Carys and Andreus have always kept each other safe—from their secrets, from the court, and from the monsters lurking in the mountains beyond the kingdom’s wall. But the Trial of Succession will test the bonds of trust and family.

With their country and their hearts divided, Carys and Andreus will discover exactly what each will do to win the crown. How long before suspicion takes hold and the thirst for power leads to the ultimate betrayal?


4 Drink Me Potions


Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

**Dividing Eden comes out on June 6, 2017**

A game. A fight for the throne. Power plays behind the scenes by unknown third parties? That sounds just about up my alley.

But to be honest? This rating barely managed to ramp up to 4 stars if it weren’t for the last half of the book. Here’s why.

You know the whole Carys versus Andreus thing because the ones in line for the throne all suddenly died? Well, that doesn’t really start to come into play until 50% of the way into the novel. Talk about a slow start where none of this was surprising ’cause, hey, the synopsis RUINED it all for you.

Ok, so I sound a little bitter at that aspect. I was just impatient. But I get it. Charbonneau did a good job of setting the scene. Here’s a land that seemingly relies heavily on being well-lit in order to drive away the evil things that lurk in the darkness. The people truly believe in the work of the light, including setting up “engineers” known as Masters of Lights. But beyond all that, they believe in the power of the wind and the One who could command it. That person would be the seer, and in this book, the seer played a bigger role in the plot than I initially pegged her to do.

Unbeknownst to the twins at first, there are far darker things present in their kingdom that have no need to hide in the dark but rather walk boldly in the light. It’s frustrating to be the third person, omnipotent viewer sometimes as there’s pieces of information found out by each twin but the other doesn’t know. This all funnels into one giant snowball of miscommunication that ultimately pits the two against each other.

No longer sure they could trust each other, the game FINALLY commences and really picks up. Carys is honestly my favoured twin. She’s always been the one to protect her brother from the others as he has a secret that couldn’t be found out by any one. A previous seer predicted one of them would be cursed before they were born, and their mother always believed it was Andreus. But is it really? That’s one of the wonderful things that’s hard to know for sure, and definitely an element that kept me rapidly flipping through the pages.

Anyway, with Carys always taking the blame for Andreus in order to draw less attention to him, this whole twin against twin thing was both interesting from the competition standpoint but it was also heartbreaking to see Andreus truly turn on Carys due to misunderstandings that he wouldn’t allow her to explain away.

The action ramps up by like 110% in like the last 30% of the book. Not only is there a physical game being played by the twins in order to win the throne and keep the tumultuous times in Eden at a low, but there are other invisible strings being pulled in the background with unknown players pulling them. The mystery hasn’t been fully solved, so that’ll be intriguing to see carry on to book 2. It doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, per se, but it definitely leaves things unresolved as it would look like those invisible players had won by fixing the game in order to control the kingdom better. Then there’s also the matter of the cursed twin and what exactly that entails. Many great things are introduced in Dividing Eden and it was definitely a different kind of read. Overall enjoyable but the first half may need to be skimmed a little to get to the truly good stuff.

And before I forget, I didn’t mention romance at all so far in this review, but fear not romance lovers. There’s a smidge of romance going on in this novel, with a love interest for both twins (albeit one relationship I despised more than the other – I’ll let you guess which one that would be). But heavy romance honestly wasn’t necessary here. At the heart of it all, this was a book about a sibling relationship and what was worth risking all for the sake of a crown.

Overall Recommendation:
Dividing Eden may have started off a little slow with its world building, but it amped it up to be well worth the wait. Pitting twins Carys and Andreus, who always had each other’s backs, for a chance at the throne of Eden was more than just an exciting competition. The stakes were so much higher than that with behind the scenes power plays being made by mysterious figures, and a greater destiny for one twin who may indeed have been born with a curse. This book was ultimately about family and what it would take to save each other, even if the cost was their kingdom.