Tag Archive | family

Review: Dream On by Kerstin Gier

Series: Silver #2

dream on -kerstin gierThings seem to be going well for Liv Silver: she’s adjusting to her new home in London; she has a burgeoning romance with Henry Harper, one of the cutest boys in school; and the girl who’s been turning her dreams into nightmares, Anabel, is now locked up. But serenity doesn’t last for long.

It seems that Liv’s troubles are far from over—in fact, suddenly they’re piling up. School gossip blogger Secrecy knows all of Liv’s most intimate secrets, Henry might be hiding something from her, and at night Liv senses a dark presence following her through the corridors of the dream world.

Does someone have a score to settle with Liv?

4 Drink Me Potions

Dream On continues along in the same thread as its first book with whimsical dreaming and the threat of dangerous entities waiting for our protagonists in their dreams.

There are many things I love about this book. First, for a second book in a trilogy, it sure was a fast read. Things have settled down somewhat since the crazy ending events in book 1, but there seems to be something hanging in the air that unsettles poor Liv. And while the danger that presents itself isn’t anything crazy (now don’t be thinking of demons and weird monsters and other fantastical creatures), it’s no less a dangerous threat to these sweet individuals I’ve come to love.

That brings me to this point. The characters. They’re just so…. lovable !

Liv and her sister Mia are fun and so real. They don’t necessarily act like mini adults that a lot of YA seems to portray their protagonists. They’re sweet girls who sometimes have a hard time adjusting to their new familial lives with the Spencer family. They make mistakes – no one’s perfect – but the thing is, neither of them are particularly special either. And they don’t have to be! I love them for how they are, their unique personalities that make them so tangible, without having those super protagonist powers that also are so prominent.

The secondary characters are all unique as well. From the eccentric but sweet au pair to the boys Liv hangs with and the completely intolerable Spencer matriarch, each one isn’t just a cookie cutter mold of someone else that is vaguely familiar.

I will admit that the plot is a bit slow at times, especially when it comes to isolating what this feeling of trepidation is whenever Liv and Henry are exploring the dream corridor. But the romantic tensions between them both drove me nuts and kept me reading like crazy. The progression of their relationship felt real. No need for weirdly complicated love triangles, dastardly plots trying to destroy their relationship or other crazy things that I’ve seen occur. Liv just had her doubts about Henry’s interest in her sometimes. And the trajectory of their sweet romance was a lot fun to follow, especially for you romance lovers out there! It was just enough to the story that added a bit of sugar on top.

I once said that this whole series reminded me of Wonderland. Maybe it’s the covers with the keyhole showing the other side of one’s dream door. Maybe it’s the whimsical and nonsensical nature of what goes on in dreams sometimes. Maybe it’s the innocence and curiosity of Liv that I see in Alice as well. I’m not sure if this extra layer could’ve coloured my view on these books, but either way, I think it’s another solid story added to the series and I can’t wait to see how things go for this wonderful eclectic family of dreamers.

Overall Recommendation:
Dream On has a bit of everything: suspenseful wait for what other dangers may be present, romantic relationships with a certain dreamer and the fun antics of a truly unique family. I loved every single bit of it, but especially the way that Gier makes her characters come alive. For any dreamer out there, I definitely recommend this book – in fact, the whole darn series – for you. ‘Cause in dreams, anything can happen. And the imagination can run wild, although sometimes a little too wild as these wonderful protagonists find out.


Review: Into the Bright Unknown by Rae Carson

Series: The Gold Seer Trilogy #3

into the bright unknown -rae carsonThe stunning conclusion to Rae Carson’s New York Times–bestselling Gold Seer trilogy, which Publishers Weekly in a starred review called “Simply terrific.” A historical fantasy brimming with magic, romance, and adventure—perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo, Sarah Maas, and Westworld.

Leah Westfall, her fiancé Jefferson, and her friends have become rich in the California Territory, thanks to Lee’s magical ability to sense precious gold. But their fortune has made them a target, and when a dangerous billionaire sets out to destroy them, Lee and her friends decide they’ve had enough—they will fight back with all their power and talents. Lee’s magic is continuing to strengthen and grow, but someone is on to her—someone who might have a bit of magic herself. The stakes are higher than ever as Lee and her friends hatch a daring scheme that could alter the California landscape forever. With a distinctive young heroine and a unique interpretation of American history, Into the Bright Unknown strikes a rich vein of romance, magic, and adventure, bringing the Gold Seer Trilogy to its epic conclusion. Includes a map and an author’s note.

3 Drink Me Potions

Into the Bright Unknown plays well as a wrap-up to Rae Carson’s latest trilogy but ultimately falls a bit flat in amping up suspense for an explosive finish.

What exactly do I mean by that? Well, with the ultimate enemy as I saw it, that being Lee’s Uncle Hiram, being dealt with at the end of the last book, there just wasn’t a whole lot left that threatened their existence now that everyone’s arrived in California. The first book had the action and pacing that came from the hard journey across the country. The second book dealt with the ramifications of coming to this supposedly wondrous land and Lee’s uncle catching up to her like a big dark storm cloud.

What’s left for this book, you may ask? Not too much, really.

The “enemy” is the man Lee made a deal with earlier who may or may not be altogether good. Turns out, he’s not. Yet their whole demise and plan to destroying their last enemy in the way of their happiness was the only thing in this book. It was too simple of a plot. I suppose there’s beauty in simplicity at times, but I was expecting more from a finale. Maybe too much of the action occurred in book 2 so now there really wasn’t much more to add to everyone’s problems to continue the story.

Alas, if suspense and action couldn’t sustain my expectations, maybe a dose of romance could? Yet the beauty in the tension and sometimes misunderstandings between Lee and her best friend Jefferson just wasn’t really there anymore now that things have settled between them. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE the fact that they finally are together and that they’re happy, but it’s like a bit of their chemistry was snuffed out in the process! Unlike Rae’s other trilogy with plenty of romance that was sustained even when the love interests got together, this was almost the exactly opposite. Maybe it’s the time setting. People weren’t as expressive of love before marriage as they are now? Yet I can’t help but think even historical fictions do fairly well in the romance section while keeping it fairly accurate.

Aside from these things, Into the Bright Unknown WAS a good ending overall. Things get wrapped up in a nice bow for everyone. Dreams that were half-formed in the beginning are coming to fruition, and even those we weren’t aware of initially are coming true. I do like myself some happy endings and an optimistic look towards the future. I do also admire the amount of effort it takes to research historical fictions accurately for the time period it’s set in. Rae has done an amazing job with this and I do feel like I’m there in the 1850s with these characters, excited about the prospect of gold and infuriated by the limited rights of the indigenous peoples, Chinese and African Americans.

Overall, it wasn’t all that I expected it to be, but it at least delivered a decent ending for a trilogy ensconced with characters that have captured my heart.

Overall Recommendation:
Things did not go all as I expected with Into the Bright Unknown. While still characteristically and historically accurate as is Rae Carson’s style, I felt it lacked in plot development. Where there are normally many layers to her previous plotlines, this lacked substance and came across as way too simple. Even the romantic aspects weren’t too satisfying now that the tensions are gone between Lee and Jefferson. I love Rae’s work overall, and this finale delivered a happy ending for the characters I’ve come to enjoy, albeit a light one.

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