Tag Archive | contemporary

Review: The Secret History of Us by Jessi Kirby

the secret history of us -jessi kirbyGorgeously written and emotionally charged, The Secret History of Us explores the difficult journey of a teenage girl who must piece her life together after losing her memory in a near-fatal accident.

When Olivia awakes in a hospital bed following a car accident that almost took her life, she can’t remember the details about how she got there. She figures the fog is just a symptom of being in a week-long coma, but as time goes on, she realizes she’s lost more than just the last several days of her life—she’s lost her memory of the last four years. Gone is any recollection of starting or graduating high school; the prom; or her steady boyfriend Matt. Trying to figure out who she is feels impossible when everyone keeps telling her who she was.

As Liv tries to block out what her family and friends say about who she used to be, the one person she hasn’t heard enough from is Walker, the guy who saved her the night her car was knocked off that bridge into the bay below. Walker is the hardened boy who’s been keeping his distance—and the only person Olivia inexplicably feels herself with. With her feelings growing for Walker, tensions rising with Matt, and secrets she can’t help but feel are being kept from her, Olivia must find her place in a life she doesn’t remember living.


3.5 Drink Me Potions


**The Secret History of Us came out August 1, 2017**

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

A heartfelt and fast-paced read, The Secret History of Us had me guessing along with Liv as she tried piecing her life back together without her memories. I’ve enjoyed many of Jessi Kirby’s previous books for their grit and ability to make readers think about the deeper questions in life, and likewise this one has been another interesting novel to ponder over.

What if you lost 4-5 years of your life’s memories? Do those experiences shape who we are today or is there something about you intrinsically that defines you?

The emotional journey Liv takes captured me. How loved ones who have your best interests at heart may still want to define you in a way that they think is best. How some relationships may come out of a single moment that might not be reformed in the same way again. These were things plaguing our protagonist and I’m glad that it was the focus of the book.

Relationships were a huge deal too. I liked that her family wasn’t your typical dysfunctional group, but your average American family with 2.5 kids. The family dynamic was still real as they too dealt with the loss of those years almost as personally as Liv did. The exploration of changing friendships such as with middle school besties was also interesting and posed the real question about how one can lose people without really intending for that to happen.

But the highlight of this story was on finding ones identity. Whether that be with what Liv loved to do or the guy she was dating, what made her her? The romantic aspect was present as she couldn’t remember her boyfriend, and there seemed to be a new love interesting forming, but this added to everything else the book was exploring. Can we find our way back to someone we fell for without the relationship history there?

It’s so hard to explain still, but the feelings and emotions reading Liv’s story was truly thought provoking. The only thing that could be improved was the length. Everything happened quite fast and organically, but I kind of wish that the ending was developed more. The romance with Walker was almost non-existent. Honestly, I would’ve been fine if she had decided she needed some quality time alone and single in order to better find herself again.

Whatever it may have lacked near the end, the journey throughout the rest of the book was quick and deep. Jessi Kirby is a master of producing stories that tug at my heartstrings with her almost-lyrical prose and expertly weaved plot that makes the romantic in me sigh.

Overall Recommendation:
The Secret History of Us was a compelling story that I flew through, a story about a girl finding out who she was again. Liv had lost 4 years of her life’s memories, crucial years in high school where so many things had shaped her into the young woman she was. Forgetting both people whom she loved and how she lost a best friend, the emotional journey she takes in figuring out what made her her was poignant and heartfelt. Though the story was a little short and the ending could’ve been developed more, Jessi Kirby makes another thought provoking book, and I’m still a huge fan of hers.


Reading this book made me really think. And the below is a question I’d like to pose to you too.

What events in your life do you think defines who you are? What if you one day lost them? Would you still be you?

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Review: Everything All At Once by Katrina Leno

everything all at once -katrina lenoFrom the author of The Half Life of Molly Pierce and The Lost & Found comes a magical new YA novel about 24 dares, 3 weeks, and taking a leap into the unknown.

Lottie Reeves has always struggled with anxiety, and when her beloved Aunt Helen dies, Lottie begins to fear that her own unexpected death might be waiting around every corner.

Aunt Helen wasn’t a typical aunt. She was the author of the best–selling Alvin Hatter series, about siblings who discover the elixir of immortality. Her writing inspired a generation of readers.

In her will, she leaves one last writing project—just for Lottie. It’s a series of letters, each containing mysterious instructions designed to push Lottie out of her comfort zone. Soon, Lottie’s trying some writing of her own, leaping off cliffs, and even falling for a boy she’s only just met. Then the letters reveal an extraordinary secret about the inspiration for the Alvin Hatter series. Lottie finds herself faced with an impossible choice, one that will force her to confront her greatest fear once and for all.

This gorgeous novel is perfect for fans of Jennifer Niven, with the scavenger hunt feel of Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes, and a dash of magic that evokes Tuck Everlasting.


3 Drink Me Potions


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

**Everything All At Once came out July 25, 2017**

[Books] help with everything. Books can make you live a thousand lifetimes, a thousand different lives. Books make you immortal.

Everything All At Once was a poignant novel that took a deep look at life, or rather, how short one’s life can be. Lottie’s aunt whom she was really close to had passed away, leaving her with 24 letters instructing her on different tasks to carry out after she was gone. This was a unique concept that really drew me in. The voice of Aunt Helen was so real, it didn’t matter that she had technically never breathed a single breath during the time span of this novel. Her fears and hopes for Lottie were made clear and her love for those she left behind was written everywhere, both explicitly and implicitly.

Besides that wonderful fact, Aunt Helen was a novel writer, a famous one akin to J.K. Rowling in this world. The little snippets and excerpts from her children novels at the end of each chapter was so cute and the story of Alvin and Margo Hatter drew e in as much as the main story did. In fact, sometimes I looked forward to those little paragraphs more than the book itself.

Now, I absolutely adored Katrina Leno’s writing and prose. It was heartfelt but simple. The characters came to life. From Lottie’s funny but smart brother who had the most realistic sibling relationship I’ve read in a long while, to the family dynamic with the parents, I came to know this family. Not only that, but I bled for Lottie as she struggled with her anxieties, what made her different from the rest of her immediate family aside from her aunt, and the aftermath of the loss of a loved one.

Panic attacks and anxiety wasn’t made the forefront of this story, but its presence was still just as crucial as Lottie learned to take a risk occasionally, to be brave, and to seek help when needed. This was powerful. Especially with the way it ended.

And what an ending. I did not really see that strange aspect coming. The big secret Aunt Helen had kept from everyone. And likewise, how this interesting boy who came into Lottie’s life would also be more meaningful than just a love interest to check off for the protagonist. That brought up my excitement for sure.

That being said, I felt the book dragged a lot. I loved the idea of the 24 letters, and there’s one chapter for each task that Lottie embarked on for that specific letter. Occasionally, I just wished it went by faster so we could get to the exciting parts. At the end of the day, this book was 100% heartfelt but 20% suspenseful in carrying you through all of Lottie’s pain. It just needed something more in the beginning and middle to really get readers excited.

To close, I did enjoy this book no matter the crazy slow pace. It made me think a lot. About life and death. Big themes like immortality and what we leave behind when it’s our time. I think they’re important to discuss and this book did it beautifully.

The possibilities [of death] were endless, and it didn’t matter if you played it safe or not. Here one minute, gone the next.

Overall Recommendation:

Everything All At Once is one of those books that just seems to have a little bit of everything that may attract different audiences. It was heartfelt and real about loss, while also being a little bit explorative and fun with the letters Aunt Helen had left behind for our protagonist, Lottie, to carry out. With a cast of down-to-earth and genuinely real characters, this book would’ve had it all if not for the EXTREMELY slow pace it was set at. While I encourage you read this book for its overall big themes such as death and life, it may not be the easiest book to get through. But the little book within a book element may just be the thing to keep you going.

Note: all quotes are subject to change when published

Review: One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

one of us is lying -karen m mcmanusOne of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.

Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.

Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.

Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.

Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.

And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.


4 Drink Me Potions


One of Us is Lying was as good a mystery as its particular style of narration among 4 main characters. It was a delight to read!

I don’t know about anyone else but the synopsis initially reminded me of The Breakfast Club. A couple of students coming together in detention class, hmm? I find that’s what attracted me to this book in the end. A familiar feel to it while still being completely its own novel that wasn’t exactly like anyone else.

I adored the back and forth POVs between the 4 suspects – er, I mean protagonists. It gave us a chance to slowly discover each person’s backgrounds, and of course, their deepest secrets that Simon somehow found out. The slow reveal had my blood curdling. I couldn’t decide on who I thought was hiding something even from us, the omniscient reader. And that’s half the fun of it, right? For a mystery lover, the culprit wasn’t immediately made known to me and that’s what I love. The ability to guess. And change my mind as more details come to light.

And I think the who-dun-it answer would a) surprise some and b) be the perfect conclusion that made the most sense. I believe it’ll satisfy even the most hardcore of mystery lovers. Hopefully not be too predictable either.

Besides the mystery (which definitely takes the main stage), the amount of character development in these 4 were surprising. Come on. Look at that synopsis. They’re cliched stereotypes of typical high schoolers. The smart one/nerd. The hot jock. The most-envied blonde girl. The hot bad boy. Yet through this ordeal, each had to grow from their mistakes, their secrets. Some secrets were more surprising than others, and likewise, some personal changes were also more astonishing. Either way, this was brilliantly executed.

You romance lovers out there! Never fear. There’s a bit of somethin’ for you too here. Unsurprisingly, a potential love match was developing between Nate and Bronwyn. Maybe I’ve read too many Katie McGarry novels but this didn’t seem so out of the blue to me. It never overshadowed the main components of the book, but it was a relevant component of both their POVs and helped them deal with their own problems. It was cute and just the right amount.

What else can I say? Since the beautiful hook in the synopsis, I was reeled in deep. I might’ve expected something a bit more from this novel (hence the less than full rating) but it’s sure to be a winner for most people.

Overall Recommendation:

One of Us is Lying does not disappoint in its main mystery. From the fun cliched cast of suspects to the craziness of Simon’s death, the slow reveals of this novel kept me happily guessing at the real culprit. With plenty of character growth in each of the protagonists and even a blossoming romance between two of them, I seriously only have good things to say about this book. Mostly fast-paced and steeped in delicious secrets, I’m sure this book would delight you too.