Tag Archive | family dysfunction

Review: Firstlife by Gena Showalter

Series: Everlife #1

firstlife -gena showalterStep one…you die.


Tenley “Ten” Lockwood is an average seventeen-year-old girl…who has spent the past thirteen months locked inside the Prynne Asylum. The reason? Not her obsession with numbers, but her refusal to let her parents choose where she’ll live — after she dies. There is an eternal truth most of the world has come to accept: Firstlife is merely a dress rehearsal, and real life begins after death.

In the Everlife, two realms are in power: Troika and Myriad, long-time enemies and deadly rivals. Both will do anything to recruit Ten, including sending their top Laborers to lure her to their side. Soon, Ten finds herself on the run, caught in a wild tug-of-war between the two realms that will do anything to win the right to her soul. Who can she trust? And what if the realm she’s drawn to isn’t where the boy she’s falling for lives? She just has to stay alive long enough to make a decision…

2 Drink Me Potions

Firstlife had impressive ambition with its unique focus on the afterlife but all it really left me was a taste of mild interest.

What I do know and love about Gena Showalter is that there are always very intriguing (and hot!) guys in her stories. So it’s no surprise that the story starts off with two really good-looking guys fighting it out for Ten Lockwood.

While grappling and very sarcastic guys are totally my thing, lately it just hasn’t really hit the spot. And if I had to narrow down why this book just wasn’t doing much for me, I can probably point out 3 things.

1- Kieran, the main love interest, did not make me pity him at all. There was no “aww” factor or anything. Yes, his life sucked once. Does that excuse all his previous poor treatment of girls he was assigned to? No. Did I understand his attraction to Ten? Uh, if a girl doesn’t fall for your charm right away, yeah I guess she’s interesting but man, that romance really fell flat to me and I found myself grimacing half the time reading their interactions.

2- While you’d expect plenty of action occurring, it all boils down to one thing: Ten is trying to escape her tormentors and is on the run. Constantly. Because she cannot freaking decide where she wants to be after she dies. Like a pendulum, she swings back and forth constantly. Although from an outside perspective as a reader, it seems kinda obvious where she should go. So the whole point of the story dwindles to waiting for her to FIGURE IT OUT HERSELF.

3- There wasn’t enough storybuilding or character development left in here. The poor romance line took up so much time and space (of course, you gotta give many pages to Kieran’s attempts at sucking Ten in – and then when she does fall for him, many sappy heartsick moments there too). Ten barely changes over time, no matter how many dangerous situations she puts herself (and all the people around her) in. Honestly, I’m not a fan of hers at all.

So was this book redeemable in any way?

Yeah, sure, in some minute ways. That other hot guy fighting with Kieran? Archer Prince. Totally swoony in his own way. No, it was never a love triangle here ’cause he never tried to get Ten in that manner, but he’s the one redeemable character I liked reading about. Sacrificial in all that he did, taking all the crap Ten gave him when she couldn’t decide on anything, humble and all around amazing guy. If there’s a book on him, Gena, I will DEFINITELY buy it.

Honestly, the world building should’ve been prioritized more. I wanted to know more about Troika and Myriad. Their history. How they came to be. How it’s run. Yes, I get that it’s a trilogy but book 1 is there for us to learn the world a bit more. Otherwise the whole gist of this book wasn’t so much about the afterlife and more about Ten on the run while on Earth – which doesn’t really separate out much from the pack of thrillers who do a WAY better job.

I wonder what book 2 will be like.

Overall Recommendation:
Firstlife fell flatter than I had hoped with precious few moments dedicated to character growth and world building. While the focus was heavy on the romantic tensions between Ten and a certain Myriad Laborer trying to get her to his realm, the rest of the story just kinda fell off to the side. Constantly on the run with people attacking them, Ten and her group of friends don’t really have to do anything at the end of the day. This story felt like a filler waiting for Ten’s ultimate decision on her afterlife realm, with the only highlight being her friend Archer and the crumbs of information we get on what the afterlife is like. Will book 2 be any better? Heck, I sure hope so or else I may die of boredom next.


Review: Lucky in Love by Kasie West

lucky in love -kasie westCan’t buy me love…

Maddie’s not impulsive. She’s all about hard work and planning ahead. But one night, on a whim, she buys a lottery ticket. And then, to her astonishment—

She wins!

In a flash, Maddie’s life is unrecognizable. No more stressing about college scholarships. Suddenly, she’s talking about renting a yacht. And being in the spotlight at school is fun…until rumors start flying, and random people ask her for loans. Now Maddie isn’t sure who she can trust.

Except for Seth Nguyen, her funny, charming coworker at the local zoo. Seth doesn’t seem aware of Maddie’s big news. And, for some reason, she doesn’t want to tell him. But what will happen if he learns her secret?

2 Drink Me Potions

I have to say, I was really disappointed to give any Kasie West contemporary novel less than 4 stars, but man, was this a hard one to continue with at times.

Lucky in Love mostly continues in the same writing fashion that I’ve come to love from Kasie West. But with a main character that I just couldn’t stand with on most decisions and a lackluster romance that didn’t really do much for me, I was left with only disappointment and resignation.

Maddie, full name Madeleine that’s pronounced the French way of “lynn” instead of “line”, was a studious girl who wanted nothing more than to win a scholarship to pay for university. Although she studied WAYYYY harder than I ever did (like, she and her friends “hang out” by having study dates at one of their homes), I initially felt some sort of kinship with her based on similar outward characteristics.

Then she won the lottery. Which of course we knew was coming.

What I didn’t expect was the amount of HORRIBLE DECISION MAKING that accompanies sudden fame, attention, and money. It’s like she wasn’t thinking! I will start by listing out some example things she thought was great and all.

  1. She decides to get a new car which isn’t a bad thing if you can afford a new vehicle after 50 million dollars has just dropped into your lap. But even with good intentions of getting a practical vehicle, she easily gets sweet-talked into buying some VERY flashy sports car after getting the chance to “test drive” it for a moment. Just drops a ton of money there.

  2. She tries FIXING things in her family way too much. She thought wiping away the family’s financial problems would 100% fix her parents’ inability to communicate without fighting. Of course, when she realized that didn’t necessary stop all the fighting, she goes and buys a $20K necklace for her dad to give to her mom to say that he bought for her. Like, what the heck? You’re ENABLING. And doing so in a very expensive and wasteful manner.

  3. Attitude problems seem to come with becoming rich. She didn’t seem to be one of those girls that looked down on anyone who was less fortunate, yet her 2 best friends were shut down as merely being “jealous of her money” when they were worried about her spending and the new people she was associating with now that her status had changed. And boy does her status change! You should read what she decides to do for her birthday party. It’s a wonder these 2 friends even still saw the same old Maddie inside.

Maddie’s naivety with money and how that affects people just really got under my skin. She drops big, FLASHY purchases here and there and doesn’t think there’ll be ramifications with those actions. She wants people to treat her the same but she doesn’t really ACT the same now, does she? I couldn’t understand her sometimes. I just couldn’t feel for her when things got bad because hey, it was YOUR decision to spend like this and treat people like this.

And then there’s Zoo Seth, the love interest. I liked him. On his own as a character. He’s Asian, so yay, that’s an awesome diversity I don’t see too often. He’s funny and easygoing and a really good friend, even when Maddie’s all awkward and really not easy to be around. He could’ve had more character development as I felt he was really just summed down to one little secret he didn’t divulge until the end that wasn’t much of anything, really. But compared to Maddie, he’s like godlike. The chemistry was kinda present, yet with all my annoyances with Madeleine, it was kinda hard to root for their burgeoning romance. It wasn’t much of victory when they resolved their issues and got their happy-ever-after ending. Honestly, at that point, I couldn’t have cared less.

Just because this book still has “Kasie West” on it and there were some VERY MINOR redeemable moments, I didn’t have the heart to bring this down to a 1 star. But really, if I were you, I’d skip out on this one if you only want good memories of Kasie.

Overall Recommendation:
Lucky in Love was harder to get through than I expected as the protagonist made all the worst decisions for the dumbest reasons that just made me wanna scream sometimes. Maddie’s win from the lottery did help her grow (in the end), but there were too many stumbles along the way and very stupid purchases that honestly had me rolling my eyes. With that kinda struggle, it’s no surprise that the romance with Seth Nguyen didn’t hit me much so all that’s really left in this book is how Maddie even remotely “learned her lesson” about money and its consequences in relationships and life. Which was not what I signed up for no matter how good the moral. You’re better off with any other Kasie West book. Promise.

Review: Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

letters to the lost -brigid kemmererJuliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother’s death, she leaves letters at her grave. It’s the only way Juliet can cope.

Declan Murphy isn’t the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he’s trying to escape the demons of his past.

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can’t resist writing back. Soon, he’s opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate.

But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they’re not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.

5 Drink Me Potions

Where do I even BEGIN with this book?

Letters to the Lost is everything that I could EVER hope for in a YA contemporary. Brigid Kemmerer is an absolute genius. It’s like she gets the heart of not only teenagers – and how they react when cornered – but the general human heart. When have we not suffered from isolation, feeling like we didn’t belong; grief from the loss of a loved one; the need to talk our feelings out with someone – ANYONE – before we feel like we’d explode from keeping it all within?

This book has ALL OF THAT.

Juliet and Declan have both been dealt a crazy hand in life. With the loss of her photojournalist mother, Juliet found it was hard to let go of her so she wrote letters and placed them on her mother’s grave. Where surprise, surprise, a guy with a recent criminal record for crashing into an empty building while driving drunk picks it up while mowing the grass in the cemetery.

The beauty of this story lies in how our paths connect. That was how Juliet and Declan intersected with each other. Yet the story asks big questions! Do we have the power to make our own paths or are we destined to stay stuck in the awful hand that was thrown our way?

It never felt too dark. It was more realistic than anything. You can’t expect a light, fluffy little piece when the topics it covers are literally life and death. But alongside the heavier topics, friendship and family were very much highlighted. Juliet had a hard time dealing with her comparably more boring father who looked like he barely acknowledged her presence even after all these months since her mother died. Declan felt like he couldn’t fit in with his mother and stepfather as they seem to think he’ll never amount to much more than this hardheaded criminal who may repeat his crime. If it wasn’t for the fact that they anonymously found each other, and through letters and emails, were able to talk about the deepest stains on their soul.

It was just beautiful. And heartwrenching. And the exact right thing for both of them.

Aside from family, Declan’s friendship with Rev was a delightful thing. Rev too had his own demons and his own story (stay tuned for More Than We Can Tell to learn even MORE) was hinted at throughout Letters to the Lost. For a secondary character, he was very well-developed and definitely not your regular plain besties that are just featured but never really stand out. No matter his past, he was there for Declan and stood by him even when the world felt like it was crushing him on the shoulders. I loved that about him, and I can’t wait to see how he’ll fare as a protagonist.

Anyway, coming into this book, I thought the romance would be the highlight of it all for me. Oh boy was I wrong. I normally LOVE romance, but I’m so glad that this took a bit of a backseat here. Yes, they exchange messages all the time, and attraction of some sort grows. Here’s the thing. They don’t know who the other is and so the attraction isn’t physical per se. It’s the connection they have with each other. Later, even when they don’t know who the other is, their crossed paths show that there’s underlying chemistry there. A sense of pain that only the other fully understands. So who needs the physical stuff (kissing, etc.) when this relationship is built on just KNOWING the other? If only ALL of our relationships were more like Declan and Juliet’s.

I don’t know where I’m going with this. My heart is still somewhere in between those pages and those messages. And to top it all off, Brigid ends the story with a great message for us all. Yes, we can make our own path and change it if we’re just brave enough to do so with our unconquerable souls.

P.S. there are so many beautiful quotes in this book that I just can’t figure out where to start and how to group them all in this one review. So I’m not gonna post any and just tell you to READ this thing NOW.

Overall Recommendation:
Letters to the Lost is a gorgeously written story that evokes true emotion in its readers as we follow the tragic situations placed in Juliet and Declan’s lives. This is a novel that really punches you in the gut and heart as it depicts topics such as true friendship, grief, family, strength from our experiences and future growth. The romance was realistic and just PERFECT as their relationship was equal parts friendship, trust, and attraction. I don’t think anyone else can write this story any better. If you love anonymous letter/email messages between protagonists such as Tell Me Three Things, then this book is for you. If you have a HUMAN HEART, then THIS BOOK IS FOR YOU. I honestly don’t know how to be any more clear about this.

So, something different with this review happens to be that this book was provided to me directly from Brigid Kemmerer. Granted, I won the auction late last year for donations to Puerto Rico, but I am still so lucky that this is a signed and personalized version of the book in my hands. Honestly am so delighted that this book was physically in Brigid’s hands as well. This story just blew my mind and I am ecstatically the proud owner of such a beauty! Look below 🙂 Oh, and look out for a review of her next novel, MORE THAN WE CAN TELL, soon as it comes out in March!!

letters to the lost book