Tag Archive | contemporary

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: Geekerella by Ashley Poston

geekerella -ashley postonAnything can happen once upon a con…

When geek girl Elle Wittimer sees a cosplay contest sponsored by the producers of Starfield, she has to enter. First prize is an invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. Elle’s been scraping together tips from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck behind her stepmother’s back, and winning this contest could be her ticket out once and for all—not to mention a fangirl’s dream come true.

Teen actor Darien Freeman is less than thrilled about this year’s ExcelsiCon. He used to live for conventions, but now they’re nothing but jaw-aching photo sessions and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Federation Prince Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the diehard Starfield fandom has already dismissed him as just another heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, closet nerd Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.


 

4.5 Drink Me Potions


Geekerella is the best combination of fairy tale retelling and tribute to geeky fandom culture. What more could a girl ask for?

To make quick of the synopsis, this is the kind of story that I would dream of writing yet I feel Poston does it in a way I could never do justice. Elle is our heroine (aka Cinderella) with her awful stepmother who berates her for her love of Starfield, this world’s version of *enter your own favourite sci-fi/fantasy show/movie that you love/cosplay*. Her stepsisters Chloe and Calliope are not much better, particularly Chloe who constantly points out to the rest of their mutual classmates that Elle’s nothing.

Our dear prince charming is none other than an up and coming movie star, set to play the hero of Starfield’s movie remake. Darien is everything a girl can dream of in a prince, yet he also has his own unique character besides the prince-fitting mold. First, he’s a person of colour, and second, he’s not someone who’s so confident about himself. That’s not to say it was to the point that he was unattractively insecure of his own abilities and person, but it was refreshing to see that inside even Prince Charming’s head, he’s not so much godlike as he is still a human being with those insecurities. I suppose that it helps that Poston made it into 2 POVs so we could see into Darien’s head. Not many Cinderella retellings allow that so it’s good to see that inside such a perfect character, he still had flaws that were relatable and made the match with “Cinderella” understandable and more equal instead of being an image of Prince Charming sweeping down to save the poor, pitiful girl from her family.

Anyway, there are so many things to rave about this novel. I will try to keep this succinct and readable.

1) If you know me, then you’ll know that Cinderella is hands down my favourite fairy tale. I love how the happily-ever-after feels all the more satisfying because the transformation in Cinderella’s life is so great. And this book keeps to the essence of Cinderella so well, it basically pays tribute to the “original” tale as well. (By original, I don’t mean you, Grimm Brothers).

2) I know not everyone counts themselves as sci-fi geeks, and frankly neither do I, but I couldn’t help but smile every time a little popular culture reference made its way into the novel. A shoutout to Firefly fans – gosh, I love Nathan Fillion – and Star Wars (which is totally making a comeback with all the recent movies) and Lord of the Rings (honestly, please tell me someone else LOL’d when the entire Fellowship of the Ring was mentioned – or joking about Boromir – anyone???), I was fangirling myself.

I don’t know about you, but these little things connect us all, whether we were the hugest fans who cosplayed these characters to conventions (I will admit, I did cosplay once, but as Alice of course) or just appreciated the stories that went with them at one point our lives, I think this story paid tribute to so many greats that traversed the years and to the ones that only blew through the skies for too short a period yet still left an afterimage in some people’s eyes.

3) Lastly, Geekerella may have followed the traditional Cinderella route in plot, but I love the kinda story where the characters don’t know who’s on the other end of the line – whether it be through texts, emails, or notes – yet can’t help but fall for that person. I was rooting for these two for so long. The romance is just right. Not too much that it becomes unbelievable, but not too little that it feels unsatisfactory.

Everything about this book honestly can be summed into two words: just right .

Overall Recommendation:
Geekerella blew my mind beyond the stars. I’ve never truly considered myself a hardcore geek or part of any specific fandom, but I do appreciate the shows/movies that were referenced. This is a novel that does both a Cinderella retelling and introduction to sci-fi fandom justice in a beautiful blend within today’s world. It’s the perfect balance of both, while showcasing themes of personal growth and friendship. Honestly, whether you’re a fan of fairy tale retellings or geeky fandoms or not, this is one book that could honestly surprise you beyond the stars. And if you’re a fan of both elements… then what are you waiting for ? Go out and find a copy.


Question for you (aka the reader):

Part of a fandom? What is your favourite sci-fi/fantasy show/movie? Ever been to a convention? If yes, did you cosplay as someone as I did? 😉 Let me know in the comments below! (I’m genuinely curious!)

Review: Crash into You by Katie McGarry

Series: Pushing the Limits #3

crash into you -katie mcgarryFrom acclaimed author Katie McGarry comes an explosive new tale of a romance forged in the fast lane.

The girl with straight A’s and the perfect life—that’s who people expect Rachel Young to be. So the private school junior keeps secrets from her wealthy family…and she’s just added two more to the list. One involves racing strangers down dark country roads in her Mustang GT. The other? Seventeen-year-old Isaiah Walker—a guy she has no business even talking to. But after the foster kid with the tattoos and intense gray eyes comes to her rescue, she can’t get him out of her mind.

The last thing Isaiah needs is to get tangled up with a rich girl who wants to slum it on the south side for kicks. But when their shared love of street racing puts their lives in jeopardy, Isaiah and Rachel will have six weeks to come up with a way out. Six weeks to discover just how far they’ll go to save each other.


 

4.5 Drink Me Potions


Crash into You has that same Katie McGarry spark but has its own unique love story that is sweet and so, so very tangible. I fell in love as soon as I opened it.

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to read Isaiah’s story. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I loved Dare You To and he was just so sad as the girl he thought he was in love with, Beth, fell for another guy (who was so much better for her, to be honest). I always felt sad for him. His home life is awful, with foster parents that just didn’t care about his well-being so long as they got the money for taking him in.

And here’s the girl who was supposed to be good for him. A rich girl who loved cars. Now, I’m not a huge car lover – and frankly, I know crap about cars or their parts. I may admire a fast car but I’m no speed or adrenaline junkie. So I wasn’t sure if I could get into this book since it seems to centre on this connection Isaiah and Rachel had.

But I was so, SO wrong. And thank God for that. Their chemistry was so right and so present from the moment they both eyed each other.

Rachel was such an easy girl to love and understand. She has extreme anxiety and panic attacks, which makes her think that she’s weak. When you’re the youngest of 5 children, all of the rest being boys, and she being the replacement daughter for the one her parents lost to leukemia earlier, it’s a lot of pressure and stress to be “perfect”. That’s no good with anxiety. I understand anxiety and am so glad it doesn’t get as bad as hers did. But she tried. Honestly wanted to make her whole family happy, yet none of them seemed to realize just how hard it was to be this girl they all wanted her to be to make their mom happy and proud. The brothers called themselves protective but all I saw sometimes was a selfish yearning for her to continue pleasing their mom so that she didn’t sink into any depressive funk and forget about all of her remaining children. It goes to show that having money doesn’t equate to a lower probability on family dysfunction.

And Isaiah was equally likable. He had so much heart but he was so afraid of letting people in ’cause they only seem to leave and disappoint him. He had to face the mother who left him and got thrown into jail, letting him suffer in the system. But he found it in himself to still love Rachel, and he honestly would’ve done anything for her even if she didn’t ask. For a guy who wanted to scare the world and give them an impression that says “KEEP AWAY”, his heart had so much room for love if only the girl he cared for realized just how lucky she was to receive board in his heart. No matter how difficult life was for him at the moment, and most of these stem from financial problems and the unpredictable nature of his future after aging out of the system, he had somehow found Rachel and he didn’t ever want to let go, no matter what it cost.

These two broken individuals were so much stronger together than apart. They both developed so much in the course of the story as they conquered their individual demons together. Katie McGarry is just so good at giving her characters such strong voices and depicting the depth of their situations as if we were facing them along with them. I loved how these two came together, and fought alongside each other. I loved their first kiss and how they made up when they miscommunicated with each other. I just loved them.

And of course, there was the tense main story arc they both had to face: paying off a debt to some guy who was like a king of many different underground operations, including illegal drag racing. I read this in one go as I was desperate to see how it would all end, all the while drawing out the Isaiah and Rachel’s insecurities. I was never disappointed and coming up for air after finishing this book has left me in a little funk.

Honestly, I can’t really piece together the right words to describe the beauty of a story like this. McGarry is honestly a queen of contemporary YA. The ending wasn’t very predicable but it ended on a hopeful and happy note. And along the way, there were just so many feels for our protagonists. After falling so in love with Beth’s story previously, I have to say that I’m surprised Isaiah’s story has captured my heart just as much as hers did.

Overall Recommendation:
Filled with heart and emotions as it typical for Katie McGarry’s books, Crash into You was one speedy ride that tore at my heart for the pain our two protagonists faced in their very different lives. However, McGarry was able to craft together a wonderful connection between Isaiah and Rachel as they bonded over a common goal and enemy. And as they learned to let down their walls for each, the delicious chemistry between them from the start took over and another different kind of thrill took my heart on a ride. I honestly can’t think she could’ve done this book any better than it is. It’s a definite recommendation.