5 star, YA

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

4 star, YA

Review: Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Series: Arc of a Scythe #1

scythe -neal shustermanTwo teens are forced to murder—maybe each other—in the first in a chilling new series from Neal Shusterman, author of the New York Times bestselling Unwind dystology.

Thou shalt kill.

In a world where disease has been eliminated, the only way to die is to be randomly killed (“gleaned”) by professional reapers (“scythes”). Citra and Rowan are teenagers who have been selected to be scythe’s apprentices, and—despite wanting nothing to do with the vocation—they must learn the art of killing and come to understand the necessity of what they do.

Only one of them will be chosen as a scythe’s apprentice. And when it becomes clear that the winning apprentice’s first task will be to glean the loser, Citra and Rowan are pitted against one another in a fight for their lives.


4 Drink Me Potions


What can I say about Scythe?

Honestly? After taking a couple of days to think about it since finishing this book, I’m not sure I can put it into any better words. But here IS what I would say.

Scythe is deeply thought-provoking and makes you question bigger things such as morality and good and evil. Who is allowed to take a life? At what cost would this come? How does human nature tie into it all? Can you maintain your own soul when you are charged to take lives as a duty, over and over again?

All these things swirled in my mind as I was reading this book. And this book could be read pretty quickly but I had to take my time with it.

Citra and Rowan were both ordinary individuals living out their boring day-to-day lives. Very rarely do people around them die – otherwise known as being gleaned in this somewhat far off society on Earth. But then they both encounter a scythe and life as they know it becomes completely different.

I loved reading their stories from both their perspectives. It may not have been first person, but it was still really descriptive about their thoughts and feelings as they trained as apprentices to a Scythe Master. I loved the snippets at the end of each chapter that took insight into certain Scythe Masters’ thoughts about what they did and why they did it. Although they may seem random at first, everything tied together well in the end.

I felt that Neal Shusterman did an amazing job building this world that seems plausible as technology and data grows. But the most amazing feat he accomplished was the ability to capture complexity of human conscience and the in-between gray areas behind people’s intentions and actions. That is what kept me going throughout this book.

The only reason I couldn’t give this a full 5 star rating was my annoyance with Rowan at times. I’m not sure what to make of him nearer to the end, although I do hold out some hope that things are going to more than what they seem. Yes, I know that sounds vague but let’s not give away anything too much, right?

As for romance, I was so sure that there’d be more between Rowan and Citra but they weren’t together all that much in the story to truly develop anything stronger than attraction in my mind. I’m not sure what the ending implied but I look forward to seeing what’s to come for the both of them and the whole Scythedom as some crazy things really shake up its workings then.

Overall Recommendation:
Scythe provided a wonderful platform for a story about morality behind every action. As a Scythe or even as a simple apprentice, our protagonists Rowan and Citra learned so much about the workings of their immortal society and the role of scythes that is far more complex than simply killing a certain quota of individuals. In such a complex world that may not be so far off into the future, Shusterman did an amazing job building a believable society and its own problems that need to be solved. Overall, this story was one that made me think and it followed me long after I closed the last page.

YA

Review: The Secret History of Us by Jessi Kirby

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

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

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


3.5 Drink Me Potions


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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