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Review: The Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman

Series: Lady Helen #2

the-dark-days-pact-alison-goodmanJune 1812.

Just weeks after her catastrophic coming-out ball, Lady Helen Wrexhall—now disowned by her uncle—is a full member of the demon-hunting Dark Days Club.

Her mentor, Lord Carlston, has arranged for Helen to spend the summer season in Brighton so that he can train her new Reclaimer powers.

However, the long-term effects of Carlston’s Reclaimer work have taken hold, and his sanity is beginning to slip.

At the same time, Carlston’s Dark Days Club colleague and nemesis will stop at nothing to bring Helen over to his side—and the Duke of Selburn is determined to marry her.

The stakes are even higher for Helen as she struggles to become the warrior that everyone expects her to be.


 

4.5 Drink Me Potions


Mysterious, alluring, and filled with Gothic adventure in Alison Goodman’s latest Regency era novel, The Dark Days Pact was one of those books that actually lived up to the hype I built for it. Which is no small feat ’cause I’ve been waiting a year for this sequel to come out.

Oh, what an adventure

This beautiful sequel picked up quite soon where we left our protagonists previously in The Dark Days Club. Lady Helen’s got to train hard to become the Reclaimer she’s meant to be, a super-honed weapon against the Deceivers (aka monsters/demons of this world) that walk among them. The book may have felt a little slow in the beginning because it mainly focuses on her training (and lack of progress), but I swear, this only helped set the mood more for me.

The action really does pick up soon after when bureaucrat Mr. Pike sets upon our lovely band of heroes working with Lady Helen and gives her (and Mr. Hammond) a secret mission to embark on: to locate and negotiate for a mysterious journal that seems to have all the juiciest secrets about everyone, Deceiver and Reclaimer included.

Along for the ride is Lady Helen’s strange powers. She’s supposed to be an extra special Reclaimer, what with being a direct inheritor even though these powers don’t transmit genetically, but everyone’s always telling her that she’s nowhere near ready that she’s really starting to believe it too (I will get back on this point later). But you’d be glad to know that what transpires throughout the story isn’t some cliched moment where our girl suddenly comes into her own and becomes the strongest, fastest and least expendable person ever (okay, she’s still pretty important either way). As she fights to get her hands on this journal first before the Deceivers and others with less-than-noble motives, she starts to realize her powers are definitely MORE than what others have ever seen. And oh boy does that leave you with a surge of excitement in your mouth! It sure dose for me.

I personally didn’t think this book was very slow. It transitioned well between plot points with the overarching storyline centred around finding this journal. Oh, and of course, worrying about Lord Carlston’s descent into madness.

All the cool people, both historical or fictional, featured here

I loved Lady Helen. I probably mentioned that in my first review of The Dark Days Club. In 1812, a woman’s role was stuck to the household and doing mundane things such as walking around the park while daintily holding onto a friend’s hands. They were seen as weak and in need of protecting.

Helen beats all these stereotypes, while still working within the mold of 19th century Regency time in London. She had to dress like a man sometimes to go investigating (’cause of course poor little women couldn’t go off ANYWHERE on their own, even during broad daylight) and go around chasing bad guys (another taboo!) in public. Alison Goodman made her into someone to admire by her sacrificial actions. Lady Helen wasn’t some woman’s rights figure (a century too early) and she wasn’t hell bent on being different from other ladies. She still loved long hair and the occasional simplistic duties of a woman, so it wasn’t easy for her to give up some of these things. I loved Lady Helen because she knew she had a new duty to serve now and it was worth the sacrifice.

Alongside her is the amazing Lord Carlston. Okay, maybe not everyone loves him as much as I do, but I ship these two so hard. So beware that my excitement level for this book probably also comes from his presence here.

Lord William Carlston. Ah. Such a noble sounding name. Anyway, he wasn’t the stoic hero that was portrayed in book 1. At the climax events of the last novel, some bad things went down and he had absorbed too much Deceiver energy without letting it out. Such energy can lead to madness for Reclaimers if there’s enough collected within them. Throughout, he’s another major plot arc as the whole household has been left worrying about the state of his mind. There’s always this little piece of excitement about whether he’s truly sane at the moment or he’s just more lucid than at other times when the madness shows.

But as sweet as ever, you shippers of Lord Carlston will be glad to know that there are BEAUTIFUL moments with him and Lady Helen. Like, heartbreakingly touching because we know that he’s “technically still married” (recall that his wife disappeared many years ago and people called MURDER but without a body, there has to be some time in between to wait out before officially calling her dead). Even with potential madness looming on him (or maybe because of it), we see him let out his emotions a bit more and Lady Helen’s attraction to him makes it all the sweeter. I just can’t. I need the two of them together. Like now.

The rest of Carlston and Helen’s aides and friends are familiar people you may recall. Both their Terrenes (aka strong sidekicks in my mind) feature largely here, but the brother/sister pair of Mr. Hammond and Lady Margaret were my favourite. Particularly Mr. Hammond who was developed greatly in this story, probably because of the secretive mission he embarked on with Lady Helen, I love that Goodman gives time for secondary characters as well so that the world feels more real and fleshed out instead of solely focusing on Helen and Lord Carlston. The almost 500 page length is used up very well in my opinion on plot pacing and character development for everyone. Even the newest characters, like little Sprat who works for the bawdy house, comes to your affection eventually.

I will also advise that you read the Author’s Note at the end explaining her inclusions of very real characters living in 1812 in London or Brighton (which this novel features greatly in). From a famous dipper who, as the name would describe, dipped people into the sea waters around Brighton for health purposes, to a famous couple who met a grisly end, I truly admire Goodman’s research into these people and places to create a fantasy world that really “could have been”. Like, if I lived in 1812, I could totally imagine going to Brighton and finding myself a spectacular lady who was like no other in her day.

That non-existent love triangle though

Speaking of characters, I left one person out. The Duke of Selburn. I don’t consider the Duke of Selburn (whose first name is Gerard…like, I could’ve gone through this whole series without having to find out his name was Gerard) any contender for Lady Helen’s heart. It may just be a HUGE bias, but let me explain that.

Here’s a man who’s very highly ranked (both Lady Helen’s family and Lord Carlston were earls) and likes to get his way. Okay, so the Duke isn’t a jerk who’s power hungry or abuses that power for his own selfish purposes. He’s not THAT bad. But in a world such as the Dark Days Club, he wouldn’t fit if he can’t take orders and abide by them for the safety of all involved. The Reclaimers have the say (except bureaucrats like Pike I suppose) as they’re the ones with the powers that can fulfill their plans so rank in society doesn’t REALLY matter. You can be a butcher’s son for all they care! So how would he ever be a good match for Lady Helen?

Then there’s that SUFFOCATING way that he likes to do EVERYTHING for Helen. He just wants to “protect” her from things, whether he understands who she really is or not, and ends up screwing plans up so badly because of it. He keeps spying on her because he hates Carlston and just wants to get her “away from that monster who allegedly killed his wife”. I honestly don’t like him, no matter how “noble” his motives are. I don’t understand why he keeps pursuing her even after she rejects him time and time again (bless you, Helen). Maybe it’s pride, maybe it’s his way of making sure no one else falls to their doom with Carlston (backstory here from book 1), but either way, please step aside Selburn or else I’m gonna throw a brick at you in the next book.

Honestly, no love triangle here. Not really. I don’t believe Helen’s heart was ever tempted by him. Maybe a little flattered by his attentions, but her heart’s for Carlston. As it should be.

So no middle book syndrome?

Whew, that was a long rant/review. It’s not very often I rate a sequel higher than the first one, but they’re both so good. With the background setting already laid out so nicely from book 1 (hopefully you remember some of it before embarking on book 2), it gives this book time to explore the plot as it ramps up for the conclusion. Plenty of intrigue still happens here with a touch more romance than before. Honestly, it seems Alison Goodman can do no wrong in this series. So more Lady Helen, please!

Overall Recommendation:
The Dark Days Pact lives up to all expectations with an action-filled plot at the centre and well-developed characters leading the way. With beautiful descriptions of the historical setting in 1812 and good pacing throughout the book, this would surely keep you flipping through the pages as fast as you can. You won’t feel the length of this book as you live through the craziness that is Lady Helen’s life as she fights for her incoming powers and follows through with her sacrificial duties for God and country. Oh, and pinches of romance throughout will have you grasping for the next book ASAP.

Review: By Your Side by Kasie West

by-your-side-kasie-westIn this irresistible story, Kasie West explores the timeless question of what to do when you fall for the person you least expect. Witty and romantic, this paperback original from a fan favorite is perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Morgan Matson.

When Autumn Collins finds herself accidentally locked in the library for an entire weekend, she doesn’t think things could get any worse. But that’s before she realizes that Dax Miller is locked in with her. Autumn doesn’t know much about Dax except that he’s trouble. Between the rumors about the fight he was in (and that brief stint in juvie that followed it) and his reputation as a loner, he’s not exactly the ideal person to be stuck with. Still, she just keeps reminding herself that it is only a matter of time before Jeff, her almost-boyfriend, realizes he left her in the library and comes to rescue her.

Only he doesn’t come. No one does.

Instead it becomes clear that Autumn is going to have to spend the next couple of days living off vending-machine food and making conversation with a boy who clearly wants nothing to do with her. Except there is more to Dax than meets the eye. As he and Autumn first grudgingly, and then not so grudgingly, open up to each other, Autumn is struck by their surprising connection. But can their feelings for each other survive once the weekend is over and Autumn’s old life, and old love interest, threaten to pull her from Dax’s side?


4.5 Drink Me Potions


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

**By Your Side comes out January 31, 2017**

Rating: 4.5 stars

You know a story is amazing when you zip through it so fast that you don’t even realize you’re almost to the end until you’re practically there. I thought By Your Side would take me longer to finish, but oh boy, was I in for a surprise! This is a contemporary novel that you should definitely pick up in the new year.

Autumn is the most relatable girl I’ve had the pleasure of reading about this year. Yes, I may love strong characters and those girls who do things I wish I could do as well as they do, but sometimes, you just need one of those girls who seem to understand you intrinsically.

Autumn is that girl for me.

She has anxiety attacks and that is really relatable to many young women, me included. But she is strong and tries her best to not let it deter her from living life. Being trapped in a library by herself that is barely staying warm over a long weekend, I’m sure most people would find it hard to remain calm too. (Of course, being that the building IS a library….it might be the best place to be in if I were to choose a building to be stuck in)

The boy she ends up being trapped with is a bit stereotypical. A hardened young man who is going through the foster system and a rough childhood, Dax is the picture of seriousness. But Autumn’s witty (and sometimes sarcastic) comments are like minor victories when they bring out a tiny smile or amused look on his face.

Their romance was beautiful. It was never rushed and totally done right. Kasie West is a genius when it comes to writing romances that make you wish the characters get together faster, but pull you in anyway as you anticipate nervously. This one was no exception. It was a glorious slow-burn process that had you hooked from the beginning. Their friendship was slow too, as Dax didn’t do commitments or attachments. He wanted freedom over anything else. He was just waiting for that time to come. Meanwhile, Autumn was hoping for a relationship to come about, although maybe with the wrong guy.

This story is beyond the simple plot of a girl and a boy being trapped in a library together and falling in love. It’s about falling for someone even when you least expected it. It’s about learning more about yourself, taking care of yourself sometimes even when others need you as well. It’s about courage in sharing our hardest secrets and hoping others will still look at you the same.

By Your Side is one story you don’t wanna miss in 2017. It’s the best yet of Kasie West’s stories. I can’t wait to see more.

Overall Recommendation:
I’m a huge fan of Kasie West’s works, but By Your Side blew me away. With a seemingly simplistic plot revolving around two very different teens stuck in a library together for a long weekend, this story is so much more than that. Autumn is such a relatable protagonist and her friendship (and later, romance) with Dax is honest and full of trust. This is what a relationship should look like in real life and in stories! How can you not root for these two through their journeys of self-reflection and love? You definitely must add this to your 2017 to-read list!

Review: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

Series: Monsters of Verity #1

this savage song -victoria schwabThere’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters.

In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.


5 Drink Me Potions


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

**This Savage Song came out June 7, 2016**

Monsters, Monsters, big and small,
They’re gonna come and eat you all.
Corsai, Corsai, tooth and claw,
Shadow and bone will eat you raw.
Malchai, Malchai, sharp and sly,
Smile and bite and drink you dry.
Sunai, Sunai, eyes like coal,
Sing you a song and steal your soul.


This Savage Song held high reviews from other early readers but the hype is really worth it. This novel was astounding. And I don’t say that lightly about most books.

Set in a world ravaged by crime and separated into little territories after decades of fights, this violent world has brought to life an evil that now breathes and destroys whatever is in its path. Monsters. Made of shadows and past crimes committed by humans, they’ve taken a form of their own. Or 3 forms, in fact. Corsai, Malchai and Sunai.

At first, the world and how it functioned was a little confusing, especially about the monsters and how they were created. But Schwab’s writing draws you in, wrapping you in this world that’s terrorized by creatures literally made of shadows and sins. Once you get past initial confusion, the details slowly fall into place and this world will amaze you at its simplicity – it’s like you know it so well by the end of it that you feel you lived there with them – and its imaginative detailing. Verity, or V-City, is one scary place to be in. And it’s been divided into 2.

Kate is the daughter of the man controlling the northern part of the city. I initially despised her. She’s human, yet she acts like a monster. She intentionally is cruel to others, willing to do whatever it took to please her very distant father and be worthy of their name. But over time with the horrid events thrown into her path in this book, she learns that there’s always a choice to be made, and maybe, just maybe, being her father’s daughter isn’t the most important thing to be in her life.

August works for the man who’s in charge of the southern half of the city, along with his brother and sister. They consider themselves one family, no matter if they’re not blood related. Because August is a monster. At first, I wasn’t even certain that he truly was. He’s gentle and hates what he is. It’s one huge part of his half of the story. Abhorring who he was, the very fabric of what keeps him alive, but he can only act human to a certain extent. His inner struggles were some of my favourite parts of This Savage Song. They were detailed and tug on your heartstrings for this poor boy who wished to be other than what he was.

 

It was a cruel trick of the universe, thought August, that he felt human only after doing something monstrous. Which made him wonder if that brief glimpse of humanity was really just an illusion, an echo of the life he’d taken. An imposter sensation.
Leo’s voice came to him, simple and steady. This is what you do. What you are.
Ilsa’s rose to meet it. Find the good in it.


I loved how much he developed as a character. Sometimes the decisions he made were necessary ones, and this story was so good at being unbiased about the white and the black, the light and the dark. Sometimes, there are just gray areas. Sometimes, you are just made of both light and darkness.

This Savage Song also didn’t have a huge array of characters. In fact, although there are a number of minor characters and a few more important supporting figures, this book really does only centre on Kate and August. And I’m perfectly fine with that.

Their relationship was initially brought about intrigue. Like the two of them could understand each other, no matter how different they were. Maybe it’s because they both understood what the world truly was like that they lived in. They weren’t pretending that everything was okay, that monsters didn’t just walk among them. But they also weren’t just cowering in fear until the day they died. They both wanted to live. No matter what living really meant in a world like theirs.

 

Whatever he as made of – stardust or ash or life or death – would be gone.
Not with a bang, but with a whimper.
In with gunfire and out with smoke.
And August wasn’t ready to die.
Even if surviving wasn’t simple, or easy, or fair.
Even if he could never be human.
He wanted the chance to matter.
He wanted to LIVE.


With prose like this and more, it’s easy to see why I absolutely adored Schwab’s writing. The descriptions aren’t long and tedious, but it gets you thinking and exploring what’s on the minds of both Kate and August. It’s not all clouds and rainbows, if any. They understand the harshness of life.

As their relationship progressed, you may think “hey, maybe a beautiful forbidden romance would bloom between them”. Well, guess again.

Their relationship maintains platonic throughout and although I’m normally a huge lover of a cute romance between protagonists, this just felt right. A romance didn’t fit in with everything else that was going on here. It would’ve taken away from the development of their individual characters with the problems they were dealing with. They needed to do it on their own without being clouded by the other’s opinions if they were thinking of each other in that way. Maybe in the sequel it might take a different stance, but here, this was perfect. A friendship that depended on one another, a trust that was built on danger but tested and solidified through the fire. I adored them both equally, but I also loved them together the way they were.

 

….a single shadow screamed and toppled forward from the mass, white eyes winking out, teeth raining down on the damp floor like loose stones.
“Any time now,” snapped Kate as the Corsai rattled and hissed.
“Can’t rush art,” said August as he rested the bow on the strings.

At moments, their interactions and banter were even a little comical (in the dry sense, of course) to take off some of the tension building.

 

“Listen to me,” he said, pulling off his coat. “You need to stay awake.”
She almost laughed, a shallow chuckle cut short by pain.
He tore the lining from the jacket. “What’s so funny?”
“You’re a really shitty monster, August Flynn.”


At the end of the day, This Savage Song explored what it meant to accept what you are but to also understand that you decide what you do with that. Your decisions are what warrant you a monster, whether you were born human or a monster. Victoria Schwab goes through this all by immersing you into the heart and minds of August and Kate, two people who became so real to me that I was sad to see their story ending for the moment. Until the sequel, then.

I shall end off this long review with another beautiful moment between Kate and August. Maybe you can start to see how I fell so in love with them both. Their ability to continue on even when it’s just so much easier to give up all hope.

 

The sky was on fire. He wondered if Ilsa had ever seen stars, which were so strange and perfect. One streaked across the sky, trailing light.
“I read somewhere,” said Kate, “that people are made of stardust.”
He dragged his eyes from the sky. “Really?”
“Maybe that’s what you’re made of. Just like us.”
And despite everything, August smiled.


Overall Recommendation:
There is so much that I can say about Victoria Schwab’s This Savage Song but I’ll simply just say this. It’s a beautiful story depicting two teenagers who learn that there’s more to light and darkness than just what you’re born as or whose family you belong to. Finding hope in a violently torn apart world like theirs, Kate and August both grow in ways that make you hold your breath and silently root for them as they navigate decisions that are hard to make. I absolutely adored them both, and the mental journey they each took to the place they’ve reached at the end of the book. This goes to show that the YA genre doesn’t require a romance as a driving force for a good story. Their platonic friendship was beautiful in its own way and I cannot wait to see what else comes their way in the sequel. With plenty of action, imaginative creatures made of darkness and a world that sucks you in along with two very strong protagonists leading the way, this is one book you most definitely have to read.

*Note: All quotes taken from the ARC are subject to change

Review: A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

a mad, wicked folly -sharon biggs wallerWelcome to the world of the fabulously wealthy in London, 1909, where dresses and houses are overwhelmingly opulent, social class means everything, and women are taught to be nothing more than wives and mothers. Into this world comes seventeen-year-old Victoria Darling, who wants only to be an artist—a nearly impossible dream for a girl.

After Vicky poses nude for her illicit art class, she is expelled from her French finishing school. Shamed and scandalized, her parents try to marry her off to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky has other things on her mind: her clandestine application to the Royal College of Art; her participation in the suffragette movement; and her growing attraction to a working-class boy who may be her muse—or may be the love of her life. As the world of debutante balls, corsets, and high society obligations closes in around her, Vicky must figure out: just how much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dreams?


 

4.5 Drink Me Potions


A Mad, Wicked Folly has been on my to-read list for a long while, but I kept putting it off for who knows what reasons. So to my utter surprise, I realize I had set aside this long a book that spoke volumes to me. The historical YA genre has started picking up with better books lately, so if you like a dose of history (with clear evidence of research into the time period) along with a strong protagonist fighting for a cause, this is the book for you.

Set in the early 1900s, the women suffragist movement was picking up in both America and England. I always love a good novel set in London, and this Edwardian era novel is no exception. The times are changing and women are fighting for more freedom and equal opportunities as men. More education, getting their own wages and doing something more substantial than just hosting the next dinner party for their husbands. I never considered myself a huge feminist and just briefly studied the history of women’s rights. But this book really opened my eyes to the very realistic struggle that such women went through in order to make a better life for their daughters, their nieces and any woman who was radical enough to want something more for themselves for a change.

Vicky Darling was no exception as such a protagonist. She yearns to go to art school, to exhibit her work in galleries and get paid for it. She dreams more for herself than just being a docile wife to a man who thinks she has no brain or useful purpose beyond being an arm candy.

I loved Vicky. She was already bold for a girl in her social circle. Being an upper middle class young woman meant more pressures into being the traditional kind of lady. Marrying for title and for money. It was harder to break out of the mold. But she posed nude. For the sake of art! I’m not sure even I would be bold enough to do such a thing now, 100+ years after.

Not only was she courageous enough to do such a thing, she faced the resulting consequences with her head held high. She grew immensely through the events of the book. Sharon Biggs Waller did a great job of documenting the events of Vicky’s life after that single moment. Vicky initially didn’t align herself with the suffragettes but the focus of this book is mostly on their fight for equality.

Now, normally, I would think such a premise would make it kinda boring, right? And of course, there’s tons more to this story beyond the historical accuracies of the women rights movement for voting. However, this surprisingly (and I’m glad for it) took my breath away, at the emotion of the fight. It might connect more if you are also a woman, to understand that real women fought such things so that we could do things we take for granted now.

If that doesn’t satisfy you enough to want to pick up the book, A Mad, Wicked Folly also revolves around a love triangle of sorts. You know I abhor those, but this was more of a complicated situation. On one hand, Vicky needed to get out of her father’s control, and marriage to a suitable husband could provide that. Even if she didn’t love him.

On the other hand, you’ve got Police Constable William Fletcher. Ah, Will.

The blooming romance with him was amazing. And it mainly stems from how great (and hot) of a model he makes for Vicky’s drawings. Here is where the other great aspect of the book comes in. Wait for it? Is it the romance? Sure, it played a decent role in the plot and was very enjoyable, but what blew my mind? The art.

I don’t confess to know much about art, or have the greatest passion for it. I’m more of a writer, if this doesn’t already surprise you. But the details that went into describing Vicky’s work and seeing her world through an artist’s eye made it all the more breathtaking.

I think there’s a bit of everything all wrapped up in a beautiful novel set in Edwardian London. Don’t make the mistake I did to wait so long to read it. Sharon Biggs Waller writes in a manner that draws you into the time period and into the emotions of our protagonist and those surrounding her.

Overall Recommendation:
A Mad, Wicked Folly is another example of how amazing well-researched historical YA books can be. Vicky Darling is an artist, or at least she hopes to be if she could ever get the chance to learn more. But in Edwardian London, women aren’t allowed the same opportunities. Set in the time period of the women’s rights movement, it gives a wonderful picture of how hard real-life women in the past fought for things we may take advantage of now. Vicky’s journey and self-growth as she learns what it takes, what sacrifices she may need to make, in order to pursue her dream as a young woman in the early 20th century. Add a sweet romance with her model, I’m sure this book has something to draw just about anyone in. Who ever said history couldn’t be fun to read about?

Review: Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan

Series: Sword and Verse #1

sword and verse -kathy macmillanRaisa was only a child when she was kidnapped and enslaved in Qilara. Forced to serve in the palace of the King, she’s endured hunger, abuse, and the harrowing fear of discovery. Everyone knows that Raisa is Arnath, but not that she is a Learned One, a part of an Arnath group educated in higher order symbols. In Qilara, this language is so fiercely protected that only the King, the Prince, and Tutors are allowed to know it. So when the current Tutor-in-training is executed for sharing the guarded language with slaves and Raisa is chosen to replace her, Raisa knows that, although she may have a privileged position among slaves, any slipup could mean death.

That would be challenging enough, but training alongside Prince Mati could be her real undoing. And when a romance blossoms between them, she’s suddenly filled with a dangerous hope for something she never before thought possible: more. Then she’s approached by the Resistance—an underground army of slaves—to help liberate the Arnath people. Joining the Resistance could mean freeing her people…but she’d also be aiding in the war against her beloved, an honorable man she knows wants to help the slaves.

Working against the one she loves—and a palace full of deadly political renegades—has some heady consequences. As Raisa struggles with what’s right, she unwittingly uncovers a secret that the Qilarites have long since buried…one that, unlocked, could bring the current world order to its knees.

And Raisa is the one holding the key.


4 Drink Me Potions


“One does not entreat the gods through shouted prayers or offerings, but through their greatest gift to us, writing.”


Sword and Verse was the unexpected read for me this year. A marevellous fantasy with layers of romance, this book focuses not on the expert swordsman as our heroine, but an expert writer.

Raisa is the daughter of a Learned One, part of the Arnath people who knew how to read the language of the gods. However, through extermination over the years by the Qilarites, there aren’t many Arnathim, let alone Learned Ones, that could still read and write this beautiful language. So becoming a Tutor for the future king, she forms an unlikely friendship (that turns into something more) with Prince Mati.

Okay, I will warn that this novel isn’t what you may expect of a high fantasy. Our lovely girl isn’t an assassin (like some YA books) or even wields some kind of power. Oh no, she’s as normal as can be.

Minus the fact that she holds the secret words her father gave her and the courage she has to learn the language of the gods even when it’s forbidden.

This book is entirely focused on the idea of language and how to learn its individual symbols. For that reason, if you’re someone who doesn’t really enjoy the intricate details of such knowledge, this may tire you a little in the middle.

But hold on tight! I swear, this book is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. In this land, words and writings are just as powerful as any sword.

Beyond that very intriguing premise, the romance is packed from the start. It’s not exactly insta-love, but the thing is, Raisa forms a crush on Mati even before the story really gets rolling as the plot covers approximately a few years. Mati also somehow feels the same way but it all seems quite fast as we as readers don’t get to spend all that much time with them to truly understand the depths of their feelings before they start confessing their love for each other. That was one minor bump I had to get over initially.

You know my opinions on love triangles. I don’t have much patience for them, and so I’m glad to see their romance doesn’t throw in that obstacle. However, it’s not like nothing gets complicated for them. Things happen in the middle that’s understandable but makes me wanna smack Mati in the head. In this way, Raisa has some romantic issues to overcome as well.

With a large cast of characters, this adventurous story draws us into this land of racial and class prejudices, remarkably similar in feeling to The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski. It explores the injustices the Arnath people face from the Qilarites, but it also takes a look at how the Qilarites are also trapped in their own roles and expectations just as much as Arnaths are slaves. I thought it covered these issues well, with Raisa being the perfect balance between the two groups. She’s Arnath, but she doesn’t group all the Qilarites into one anomalous blob that can’t be distinguished from each other. Mati helps her see that in each group there is good and bad. They are all human, after all.

The one thing that prevented me from giving it a 5 star rating is the huge secret that Raisa carries and the culminating acts that propels the story into its climax. I guess I was expecting a little more to the secret message, but overall, I’m still very satisfied with how MacMillan tied all the pieces together.

In the midst of Raisa’s story, at the beginning of every chapter, we see the beautiful story of the gods and goddesses of this world unfold and how they interacted with the mortals. The mythology crafted here was detailed and beautiful in its own way. Although they’re only small snippets per chapter, by the end of it, I wanted to weep with the gods as well for all they too had suffered and done wrong. It beautifully meshed in with Raisa’s story.

Overall, Sword and Verse showed that a heroine doesn’t have to be the best fighter or the strongest sorceress. She can be someone true of heart. A teacher. And a writer. As a writer myself and a lover of words, this message resonated with me. Words can be as sharp as a blade. And if you look carefully on the cover, the second symbol of Raisa’s name, Sa, is drawn onto the sword’s blade. Light of wisdom.

Overall Recommendation:
Sword and Verse is a beautiful story of the gods and goddesses of this world that created a rift between the mortal humans below. Raisa, an Arnath, has the privilege of being among the Qilarites in a capacity beyond a simple slave. She’s a Tutor. As the only Arnath to learn the language of the gods without being killed, she also holds a secret of her past. This book focuses on the gorgeous language completely imagined by MacMillan, including the different characters Raisa has to learn. If you’re not all that interested in literacy and languages, this may be a little tiring for you at times, but if you’re a lover of words like I am, it’s just perfect. Among her problems, her HOT but forbidden romance with Prince Mati leads to dire consequences that forces Raisa to be stronger than she ever had to be. Sword and Verse was a surprisingly endearing fantasy novel that crept into my heart. I duly recommend you give this a try.

Review: The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

Series: Lady Helen #1

the dark days club -alison goodmanNew York Times bestseller Alison Goodman’s eagerly awaited new project: a Regency adventure starring a stylish and intrepid demon-hunter!

London, April 1812. Eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall is on the eve of her debut presentation at the royal court of George III. Her life should revolve around gowns, dancing and securing a suitable marriage. Instead, when one of her family’s maids disappears, she is drawn into the shadows of Regency London.

There she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few chosen to stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons that has infiltrated all levels of society. Carlston is not a man she should be anywhere near, especially with the taint of scandal that surrounds him. Yet he offers her help – and the possibility of finally discovering the truth about the mysterious deaths of her parents.

Soon the two of them are investigating a terrifying conspiracy that threatens to plunge the newly Enlightened world back into darkness. But can Helen trust a man whose own life is built on lies? And does she have the strength to face the dangers of this hidden world and learn the truth about her family’s legacy?

Set in the glittering social world of the Regency upper crust, The Dark Days Club is a supernatural adventure that introduces New York Times bestselling author Alison Goodman’s Lady Helen Wrexhall – another heroine whom like Eona, readers can take to their hearts.


4 Drink Me Potions


The Dark Days Club reminds me of all the reasons why I adore historical fantasies. With the delicious and dark setting of the Regency era in London, we follow the perfect heroine in her journey into the paranormal world living right beside her.

Lady Helen wasn’t immediately what you would expect of a heroine in a high fantasy novel. She wasn’t necessarily abhorrent to the life of a lady in 1812. Countless parties, mindless gossip among the peerage and entrance into the society as a woman, she was groomed for this. Not some evil-fighting secret club. So it’s no wonder that she wasn’t exactly all gung ho for the craziness that tends to follow hunting inhuman creatures known as Deceivers.

There wasn’t as much action as I would have expected for the length of the book, but where it lacked in exciting fights, the extreme detail of the time period was amazing and not as tedious as one may think. The descriptions into Lady Helen’s world really immersed you into this time period of London. I will admit, I’ve always loved a good book in historical London. Normally it’s Victorian London, but Regency London was absolutely perfect for the setting of the novel. Civil unrest was coming what with the illness of the King and the antics of the French with Napolean Bonaparte. This was perfect for an evilness creeping into the world that the Dark Days Club was hoping to avoid.

There is a whole lot of background setting for the series in this first novel. It gave a chance to understand the numerous characters that were introduced. Helen was very easy to like. Hung under the black cloud that was her mother’s traitorous reputation and her uncle’s very male-dominant views, it wasn’t easy to be a less-than-submissive woman. I loved her strong belief in her mother, and later, her hard decisions when it came to figuring out what she was. Her want and loyalty to treat others kindly, including those who were under her on the societal ladder like her maids, made me admire her more. She was a nice balance of learning independence without being overbearingly arrogant of herself but still being a team player requiring support from others at times.

As for the romance part of this story, unfortunately there wasn’t a whole lot of it. Lord Carlston was, however, the perfect potential partner for her. He himself had a scandalous reputation to the rest of society, that wasn’t fully explained yet in The Dark Days Club. One can hope it’ll be fleshed out in the next one ’cause I’m very anxious to know the answer. He was a great mentor to Lady Helen, but the delicious undertones of other possibilities to their relationship made me very hopeful that there’d be TONS more to the two of them next time. (Here’s to hoping, at least. Please, Ms. Goodman?) In a way, I’m kind of glad romance wasn’t a huge part in this book. It may have taken away from the glorious introduction of the world of Deceivers and the people born to fight against them.

A historical fantasy novel may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but hold that yawn for a second and give this a try. Goodman’s thorough research into the era and depictions of certain real life figures in that time period enhanced the setting while still making it her own unique creation. Lady Helen’s adventures will suck you in as she dives into a dark world of monsters living among men. There may have been the odd moment of slower pacing, but overall, The Dark Days Club is everything and more that it promised to be. Intrigue, a bit of murder mystery and hints of romance, this novel is purely a delightful read.

Overall Recommendation:
The Dark Days Club features a protagonist learning to be courageous in a world of evil that has just opened up to her. With both familiar historical figures and well-thought out characters, Goodman presents a beautifully realistic setting in Regency London. Well-paced and immersive, we follow Lady Helen’s adventurous introduction into inhuman creatures known as Deceivers, all the while mentored by the mysterious and handsome Lord Carlston who may also hold more than just friendly feelings. Although explicit romance was kept to a minimal, the dark intrigue and descriptive feel of the novel provides more than enough excitement to last the length of the novel. Here’s to hoping for more of Lady Helen’s adventures (and a bit more romance with Lord Carlston) in the coming sequel! A definite recommendation.

Review: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Series: The Witchlands #1

truthwitch -susan dennardIn a continent on the edge of war, two witches hold its fate in their hands.

Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home.

Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she’s a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden – lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult’s true powers are hidden even from herself.

In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls’ heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.


4 Drink Me Potions


I will be honest. When this book first came out in stores, my friend and I admittedly thought it sounded a bit cheesy. Upon seeing all the great ratings and reviews, I thought I would check it out for curiosity and amusement’s sake.

I’m never as happy to admitting that I was wrong as I am in this moment.

Truthwitch feels like the high fantasy story that I’ve been waiting for this year. It has all the components that make it a wonderfully entertaining journey. Immediate action right from the very start, hot and steamy flirtations, a world of intrigue and magic that’s wonderfully developed.

And at the heart of it, the perfect friendship between an unlikely pair that speaks of true loyalty.

Here are my pointers of what I absolutely adored about Truthwitch.

1) Beautifully complex characters
I’m gonna run through the 4 main characters of the book and what was so great about each and every one of them, individually AND together.

Safiya was initially hard to relate and connect to. She’s wildly impulsive, reckless in her actions and quick to temper. Her gone-awry plans led both her and Iseult into a ton of problems. But I loved that she had a huge heart for her Threadsister. She took the blame for things she caused and aimed to fix whatever she could. She’s not just simply defined by her recklessness. She tried to plan ahead, examine her surroundings and get to know her enemies as she and Iseult dived head into the beginnings of war.

I loved that out of everyone, she had the most personal growth. Sometimes she came off as very independent and selfish. She thought of others after it was too late and the consequences of her actions had caught up to them. It wasn’t that she meant to, though. It was just her impulsiveness to dive head into action before fully thinking it through. However, by the end of it, she truly did her best to put others first, to change the world as maybe only she had the power to do, what with her special witchery powers.

Her other half, Iseult, was a wonderful complement to her reckless. Iseult was a Nomatsi girl, a tribe living outside of big populated cities that kept to themselves. I kinda pictured it akin to a gypsy-type of peoples, which made her more intriguing. It never quite said why people hated her kind so much, but it characterized her actions. She was easier to understand and relate to. As a Threadwitch, she saw the connections between people and the emotions of the world. And she could also see how much people didn’t want her around. All except for Safi and her close friends. Iseult felt too much emotion, things she was not supposed to feel with her witchery. She always had to live up to the failure of being less than what she could be with her power.

Things get crazy with her in the story. She, like Safi, was endlessly loyal to her Threadsister. They may be total opposites, but together they could face the world. A world that was coming close to the brink of major changes and war. Although she may have been the quieter main character, she was never eclipsed by Safi. Her narrative was just as enjoyable, the thoughts and worries flitting through her mind a beautiful glimpse into her unique character.

As for the men, there’s obviously a love interest you can totally root for. But Prince Merik wasn’t just simply a “love interest” to dangle like a pretty flower. He had depth too. He loved his dying country, but was thrown away as useless by his power-hungry family. He didn’t get along with Safi immediately, which made their angry banters such fun to read between the lines. He, too, was also quick-tempered, but no one could ever question his loyalties to crew and Thread family. Merik, altogether, was a wonderful male lead, but my heart wasn’t as intrigued by him as the other male protagonist.

Enter Aeduan, the Bloodwitch. I know, right? The synopsis made it sound like he was absolutely evil, the type of villain you’d easily hate and root for their horrible demise. Aeduan was nothing like that. He has secrets, yes, which slowly get hinted at and revealed bit by bit, but his choices into mercenary actions weren’t necessarily his fault. Where else would someone with Bloodwitchery be left alone and unharassed? In some ways, I think he and Iseult would really understand each other, what with being marginalized by society in the same way, just for being born different. I don’t think I’m reading too deeply into it, but I’m positive Dennard has something hot and steamy planned for the two of them. Iseult and Aeduan would make a very powerful couple, and I think they could learn and grow a lot from each other’s experiences. Here’s to hoping. *Fingers crossed*

2) Consistent action and well-paced plot
It never got boring or dragged. Right from the very first page, Safi’s got the two of them in deep crap. And from there, they individually get into more troubles as the world they know may just be falling apart at the seams.

Magic curses, mythical sea monsters arising, a new formidable foe who could raise the dead, and whole kingdoms chasing them around the world. Things couldn’t get any crazier. There were generous hints for plot arcs that would obviously continue into the next books, but oh how I wish I could read more about them now. Shows how thoroughly thought out Truthwitch was.

3) Incredible Worldbuilding
I know one reviewer mentioned the need for a glossary for all the types of witchery there are. I would agree. There are plenty.

Initially, when I first picked up this cover in early January, I thought the sound of a Truthwitch who could tell lies and truths apart sounded very cheesy and uncreative. However, there are so many more witcheries out there that I will happily eat those thoughts back. From Wordwitches being incredibly persuasive to Ironwitches who can control iron like it’s malleable putty and Bloodwitches taking hold of others’ blood and scent, the Witchlands seem to have more to offer than I had ever thought.

The downside to it was that the first 50 pages was like an information overload, with me flipping back and forth to the map and wondering what the heck some of these terms mean. If you can just roll through that part, it gets a TON easier to understand and more entertaining, I promise you.

4) Uh, romance anyone?
I said above that there were steamy romantic moments. Well, they were more like steamy flirtations with things that had to be read in between the lines. But I absolutely adored it. Things don’t have to get physical to be sweet, and for Threads of deep connection to be built and bound between people. Safi and Merik were a very fun couple to read about as they got to know each other, amidst the arguments and hot tempers. And if I have anything to say about it, Aeduan and Iseult’s small moments were already so lovely. I honestly ship those two together so hard. It better come true, Susan Dennard!

To conclude this longer than necessary review, I will give you a tidbit of such loveliness to dwell upon (and to urge you to read it for yourself if you want more of what’s here).

Then Merik reached across the map to tap at a snaking line of blue. His arm brushed hers.
It was a seemingly accidental touch, yet Safi knew – knew – from the way Merik moved, confident and determined, that it wasn’t accidental at all.
Frantic, she couldn’t seem to meet his stare. In fact, she stared at every part of his face but his eyes. He had stubble on his chin, on his jaw, around the curve of his lips…It was the hollow of Merik’s throat, though, that grabbed her attention – the pulse that she thought she saw fluttering there.
Finally, she risked flicking her gaze upward – and found Merik’s eyes roving across her face. To her lips. To her neck.
The door flew wide. Safi and Merik jerked apart.
Evrane strode in…then instantly reared back. “Am I….am I interrupting something?”
“No,” Safi and Merik intoned, stepping apart two paces. Then a third, for good measure.


Overall Recommendation:
Truthwitch was nothing that I had initially imagined. It’s anything but cheesy. From endless dangers, kingdoms chasing them around the world, dark curses, a potential enemy who could kill and raise the dead, and wonderful loads of different witcheries, this book has absolutely everything. The four main characters all are intriguingly complex, each adding something to the overall story. Their friendships and hinting buds of romance tie all the adrenaline-heavy action together into one book that you won’t easily forget after the last page’s been turned. I fully recommend it.

Review: Ruined by Amy Tintera

Series: Ruined #1

ruined -amy tinteraEmelina Flores has nothing. Her home in Ruina has been ravaged by war. She lacks the powers of her fellow Ruined. Worst of all, she witnessed her parents’ brutal murders and watched helplessly as her sister, Olivia, was kidnapped.

But because Em has nothing, she has nothing to lose. Driven by a blind desire for revenge, Em sets off on a dangerous journey to the enemy kingdom of Lera. Somewhere within Lera’s borders, Em hopes to find Olivia. But in order to find her, Em must infiltrate the royal family.

In a brilliant, elaborate plan of deception and murder, Em marries Prince Casimir, next in line to take Lera’s throne. If anyone in Lera discovers Em is not Casimir’s true betrothed, Em will be executed on the spot. But it’s the only way to salvage Em’s kingdom and what is left of her family.

Em is determined to succeed, but the closer she gets to the prince, the more she questions her mission. Em’s rage-filled heart begins to soften. But with her life—and her family—on the line, love could be Em’s deadliest mistake.


4 Drink Me Potions


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

**Ruined comes out May 3, 2016**

I am a huge fan of Amy Tintera and her latest novel, starting an epic new trilogy, is no exception. Ruined is the fantasy book I’ve been waiting for this year. It is action-packed, brimming with betrayal and love and fear, as we follow one young woman’s quest in taking down a nation who nearly wiped out her whole race.

Em was a kick-ass heroine. She is one of the last of the Ruined’s royal family still alive. In this land where Ruined were graced with immense power and magic, they are now sought out and hunted as the other kingdoms feared what they are capable of. Out for revenge, she plots this absolutely crazy plan to take down her enemies, almost single handedly.

And the craziest thing of all? She doesn’t even have any Ruined magic in her.

Yes, this book sounds a little like Red Queen but Continue reading

Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Series: The Illuminae Files #1

illuminae -amie kaufamn and jay kristoffThis morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.


5 Drink Me Potions


Kady Grant: He said, “You picked a hell of a day to dump me, Kades.”


I don’t lightly give 5 star ratings, but Illuminae has swept my breath away. It is literally a piece of art, with the unique layout of pages from hacked memos to re-routed secret IMs to black and white pictures of space. But it’s not just an ordinary piece of art. It’s a masterpiece, crafted in such a creative manner like nothing else I’ve ever read before.

It starts off with a storyline that you think you’ve heard before. Girl dumps boy for some reason that is hinted but not revealed yet. Okay, sounds familiar enough. But all hell breaks loose literally hours after, with fire falling from the skies as a rival company drops out of nowhere to attack their tiny planet on the edge of the known universe.

Sweet. So our characters, Kady and Ezra, rush up into spacecrafts fleeing from the enemy. Okay, it still sounds familiar enough. Life on a spaceship hurtling through the universe? Might have seen something like that before.

But it’s WAY bigger than that. Action is ratcheted high within the first several pages. You’re flipping through the pages of documents and transcripted interviews trying to figure out what the heck went down. And as things start making sense, like who attacked them and why this company would do such a thing, there are still so many uncertainties open.

Ezra and Kady get separated on 2 different ships so our two exes ignore each other for a while. Of course, that doesn’t last. As things get worse as they journey for help in the distant universe, Kady with her hacker skills turns to Ezra as he’s the last person in the world she has left. Their IMs were some of my very favourite part of Illuminae. For most of the story, they’re apart and so we really get to see how they interact with other people around them beyond each other. Their personalities become real and tangible. Not just some hero or girl-who-broke-his-heart or however they are with each other. They feel like REAL teenagers that you and I may have bumped into or have known.

But with each other? It’s priceless. It’s clear their chemistry hasn’t died down with the months and distance between them. The love there isn’t just driven by desperation or fear or craving for familiarity in a world that has turned upside down. Amidst all the craziness (and oh boy, is there craziness!), this tale is still a beautiful love story of two people who would do anything for each other.

 

Still there is no time for sorrow. She knows he is in here somewhere, the one she risked everything for.
The only one she has left. The one she loves true.
“Ezra?”

 

And goodness. Ezra Mason is one funny and romantic dude.

 

Mason, E, LT 2nd:Damn, I still remember first day in her class. You were checking me out HARD, Grant.
ByteMe: U. R. DELUSIONAL. u kept asking me stupid questions about hydrogen bonding
Mason, E, LT 2nd: confession: hydrogen was not the kind of bonding on my mind

Continue reading

Review: I Was Here by Gayle Forman

I was here -gayle forman

Cody and Meg were inseparable.
Two peas in a pod.
Until . . . they weren’t anymore.

When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.

I Was Here is Gayle Forman at her finest, a taut, emotional, and ultimately redemptive story about redefining the meaning of family and finding a way to move forward even in the face of unspeakable loss.


4 Drink Me Potions


I Was Here left me breathless and stunned with the simplicity of Cody’s journey. It left me wishing that there was more after the last pages faded from sight, although it did end on a good note.

Cody was left devastated after the sudden – and unforeseen – death of her best friend, Meg. Now, I haven’t personally been touched by a loved one who even made an attempt on their life, and I generally don’t read a lot of novels on suicides, but I Was Here resonated deeply with me. Meg was her best friend, her better half. To not have known something so huge happening in someone who played such an integral role in her life left her shattered.

 

“I recently lost someone. Someone so integral to me, it’s like a part of me is gone. And now I don’t know how to be anymore. If there’s even a me without her. It’s like she was my sun, and then my sun went out. Imagine if the real sun went out. Maybe there’d still be life on Earth, but would you still want to live here? Do I still want to live here?”

 

I may not personally understand that feeling, but Gayle Forman writes in a way that realistically draws you in. Even without having read the Author’s Note at the end, it was obvious that this novel was inspired by someone who might have actually gone through an experience like this. It was poignant and, well, real.

Cody was also a very interesting heroine. Right off the bat, you knew she wasn’t some scared, weak girl who wanted to cry. She was tough as nails. And maybe more than a little bit angry at herself and Meg for killing herself.

 

“Meg’s parents look blasted into heartbreak, the hollows under their eyes so deep, I don’t see how they’ll ever go away. And it’s for them I find my least stinky dress and put it on. I get ready to sing. Again.
Amazing Grace. How Vile the Sound.

 

But she also was fighting a lot of grief and guilt. She was the best friend. Shouldn’t she have known? Shouldn’t she have been the one telling Meg life wouldn’t be the same without her?

Enter Ben McCallister into this turmoil. He had history with Meg, one that Cody personally did not like. They had a rough start, but there was something drawing them together. Maybe it was this shared guilt for Meg’s decision. Whatever it was, this romance wasn’t some silly-nilly attraction. It was based on a shared understanding on how messed up their lives can get, the same need for someone to just listen and get it. Get them.

I loved how they interacted and the fact that they’re both imperfect. Ben’s not some great guy. He used girls, albeit regretful and a little ashamed afterwards. Cody’s…well, she’s just angry deep inside. Mostly at herself, but this causes her to lash out and distance others. Oh, and both have mouths like sailors.

But together? They lit a tiny spark. A spark that may just be hope for the future. And realizing that Meg’s death wasn’t their fault. They just had to learn to forgive themselves. After all, forgiveness is a miracle drug for the soul.

With this thought in mind, I Was Here was the perfect name for this novel. ‘Cause at the end of the day, what better message for anyone to leave behind than “I was here”?

Overall Recommendation:
Gayle Forman does it again with another sweeping tale of heartache, guilt and a personal journey in finding a way to forgive. Cody was an imperfect heroine who went in search of the reasons why her best friend would kill herself. Without telling her. Without even knowing it could happen. Although she hoped to find a way to give justice to her best friend, if not in life then in death, it leads her to finding herself, as well as a particular guy who may just understand exactly what she’s going through. I Was Here is a poignant story that dives deep into the psyche of someone considering to kill themselves, and how people closest to them would deal with the aftermath. I would definitely recommend you read this touching novel.