Here We Are Now

Here We Are Now – Jasmine Warga

After absolutely loving My Heart and Other Black Holes I jumped at the chance to read Jasmine Warga’s next book and this didn’t disappoint!

Despite sending him letters ever since she was thirteen, Taliah Abdallat never thought she’d ever really meet Julian Oliver. But one day, while her mother is out of the country, the famed rock star from Staring Into the Abyss shows up on her doorstep. This makes sense – kinda – because Julian Oliver is Taliah’s father, even though her mother would never admit it to her.
Julian asks if Taliah if she will drop everything and go with him to his hometown of Oak Falls, Indiana, to meet his father – her grandfather – who is nearing the end of his life. Taliah, torn between betraying her mother’s trust and meeting the family she has never known, goes.
With her best friend Harlow by her side, Taliah embarks on a three-day journey to find out everything about her ‘father’ and her family. But Julian isn’t the father Taliah always hoped for, and revelations about her mother’s past are seriously shaking her foundation. Through all these new experiences, Taliah will have to find new ways to be true to herself, honoring her past and her future.

Essentially this book is two separate threads of the same story, we have Taliah’s story of finally meeting the absent rock star father, of going on a trip with him to meet the family she has never known where we see her insecurities and anxieties play out in this situation. Alongside that, we get the backstory, the tale of her parents, how they met, how they came together and how they ended up where they are now, we learned the story alongside Taliah which made me feel like I could really get immersed in the story. Also, much like her first book, which beautifully tackled the subject of depression, this book realistically portrays Taliah’s anxieties and insecurities in a relatable and understandable way and her friendship with Harlow had me nodding along and going SAME every time she examined it further.

This doesn’t have quite the same emotional impact as My Heart, but is still a story that tugs on the heart strings. The book essentially ends, just as Taliah’s story is beginning, creating a wonderful tableau for the rest of her life. There is an argument that this is a bit style over substance, but you really don’t mind when the characters are as interesting as Tal and her family. Also, you’ve got to love a story with a diverse cast, Tal is biracial, having a Jordanian mother and white American father, her best friend Harlow is a lesbian. There were a lot of references to things like Hamilton which I wasn’t sure if I liked, like, I love Hamilton and I love a good reference, but also having it mentioned several times made me feel a bit… odd.

Overall though, this was just very cute and a bit fluffy and on these cold wintery nights, that’s all you want.

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The Year they Burned the Books

The Year they burned the books – Nancy Garden

It has been far too long since I’ve read a book by Nancy Garden, I read Annie on my Mind about a million years ago and although it was a little dated, I did enjoy it and am a little ashamed its taken me this long to pick up another of her books. As this book from the nineties is being re released I grabbed a copy from Netgalley!

When Wilson High Telegraph editor Jamie Crawford writes an opinion piece in support of the new sex-ed curriculum, which includes making condoms available to high school students, she has no idea that a huge controversy is brewing. Lisa Buel, a school board member, is trying to get rid of the health program, which she considers morally flawed, from its textbooks to its recommendations for outside reading. The newspaper staff find themselves in the center of the storm, and things are complicated by the fact that Jamie is in the process of coming to terms with being gay, and her best friend, Terry, also gay, has fallen in love with a boy whose parents are anti-homosexual. As Jamie’s and Terry’s sexual orientation becomes more obvious to other studetns, it looks as if the paper they’re fighting to keep alive and honest is going to be taken away from them. Nancy Garden has depicted a contemporary battleground in a novel that probes deep into issues of censorship, prejudice, and ethics.

I am sad to say that there are still people who have to live in this kind of community, where their education and their rights are diminished every day by fundamentalists, so even though this is a rerelease of an older book and feels a little dated in places, this is still a little bit too fresh in terms of the rampant homophobia that Terry and Jamie experience throughout the book.

What we have here is the perfect starter novel for anyone looking for YA LGBTQA+ fiction, Nancy Garden presents such interesting characters in these books. Jamie, our main character, is an intelligent high school student who decides to start running her own paper alongside the school paper to try and keep the town informed on the news she isn’t allowed to report on due to the censorship imposed by an extreme church group. The book deals with her struggles, not only with her sexuality, but with the issues of truth and opinion and the difficult line between the two, as well as the ideas of community and what brings people together and tears them apart. All tropes that Nancy Garden does so well.

Though this isn’t necessarily ground breaking or diverse, especially when surrounded by books released more recently, The Year They Burned the Books is still sadly relevant and is a story that needs to be told.

Also, that cover is vewy nice.

Otherworld

Otherworld – Jason Segal and Kirsten Miller

I have no idea where to start with this! Do you ever read a book where you like it, but not as much as you wanted to? So like, it was alright, but that sounds too much like I disliked it, which I didn’t… Man, do I have thoughts!

The company says Otherworld is amazing—like nothing you’ve ever seen before. They say it’s addictive—that you’ll want to stay forever. They promise Otherworld will make all your dreams come true.
Simon thought Otherworld was a game. Turns out he knew nothing. Otherworld is the next phase of reality. It’s everything you’ve ever wanted.
And it’s about to change humanity forever.
Welcome to the Otherworld. No one could have seen it coming.

I first heard of this book while persuing the proofs available to win at YALC back in the summer and I remember being mind blown that Jason Segal had his name on a book cos like, that’s Marshall from HIMYM (turns out he’s actually a bestselling author WHO KNEW?!?)

It was while I was at YALC that I first heard the premise and got a bit excited for this book, I’d read and loved Ready Player One and this sounded similar and there was a lot of hype about WarCross at the time too, so I figured books about games were going to be the new big thing. Well my experience of gaming is pretty much limited to Donkey Kong and Mario Kart 8 (I’m an insomnia, so Mario and I are very well acquainted) and now having read two books about gaming, I’m quite happy for it to stay that way. This is a great critique on technology being too relied on in society and the dangers that come from having so much information available and spending too much time in a virtual world instead of a real one. The action that takes place within the game and the mystery surrounding The Company and the Otherworld really drew me in. However, the romance wasn’t so great and I just didn’t really care about it and the story itself isn’t really that fresh or new, especially if you’ve read Ready Player One.

If you have read Ready Player One, this won’t be anything new to you. There is a VR game, our main character spends a lot of time there desperately trying to beat the game in order to finally be with the girl he loves. The world building in regards to the game is a bit similar, but much more nefarious and there is also an irl mystery going on, which kept the book moving, but did keep getting bigger and bigger and it was starting to test the suspension of disbelief a tad. Like, being faced with what humans would do when they’re living a virtual reality as opposed to real life is a big enough concept, but then there was also a conspiracy with the Company and the mystery surrounding all the people from the same town with the same rare medical needs, there’s so much going on with this book!

The adventure and the world building were amazing. Literally you can’t even pause for breath because the story whizzes along – its not really a book you can get bored of in that sense. It does fall short with the characters and the narration though. Because its not a character lead story, you don’t really get to connect with them. Simon is our protagonist, but I literally couldn’t tell you anything about him personality wise and I certainly didn’t care much for him. The same with Kat, I barely knew her, so I wasn’t that fussed about the romance or really understood why Simon was so motivated by her. Especially because come the beginning of the book, Simon has just returned from several months away at boarding school, during which time, Kat has stopped talking to him for reasons that were completely unknown for the majority of the book and don’t really make that much sense when they’re revealed. We’re also told in the first chapter that Simon has been been expelled from school and is on an FBI list because his room mate used his computer to do a spot of hacking, something that Simon took the blame for… Though why anyone would take the blame for something that serious, I’m not entirely sure. Why, considering this information, he was allowed early access to Otherworld is also a bit lost on me… It was kind of hard to understand his motivations at times. Most of the story’s big questions get answered in literally the last three chapters, this is a series so I’m guessing all the finer points will be ironed out later, but I did spend most of the book being like, come on, why was Kat a target? How does it make financial sense for The Company to be doing this? And so on. Also some of the reveals were a bit on the convenient side, so I’m hoping for a plot twist in later books.

Look, I said I had a lot of thoughts, it’s difficult when you enjoyed a book but also see problems with it. Basically, I liked this, it has a lot of good stuff going for it, but some of the pacing is weird and the characters aren’t that fleshed out. It reminded me a bit of the Death Runner series in that sense, lots of action, not enough character building. Also, and I swear this is the last thing I’ll mention that annoyed me, there is a moment really early on where Simon overhears two girls trash talking Kat, so he mansplains feminism and slut shaming to them and then hacks their phones and threatens to release their nudes. Like brah? You have not grasped the fundamentals of not slut shaming.

Anyway, Otherworld was a riot, thanks to Netgalley for the hook up and I’m interested to see where this will be going.

 

Yuki means happiness

Yuki Means Happiness – Alison Jean Lester

Have I ever mentioned how much I love Japan before?
Well… I love Japan. I’ve never been there but I find the whole culture and history of Japan fascinating, I think its because it is so far removed from what life is like in the UK and the fact that they’re so good at making manga and anime and sweets. Also mochi. The food of the Gods. Anyway, because I love Japan so much, I love reading books set there, which is, combined with the cover, why I chose to request this when it was available for review, so thank you Bookbridgr for sending me a copy!

Diana is young and uneasy in a new relationship when she leaves America and moves halfway around the world to Tokyo seeking adventure. In Japan she takes a job as a nanny to two-year-old Yuki Yoshimura and sets about adapting to a routine of English practice, ballet and swimming lessons, and Japanese cooking.
But as Diana becomes increasingly attached to Yuki she also becomes aware that everything in the Yoshimura household isn’t as it first seemed. Before long, she must ask herself if she is brave enough to put everything on the line for the child under her care, confronting her own demons at every step of the way. 
Yuki Means Happiness is a rich and powerfully illuminating portrait of the intense relationship between a young woman and her small charge, as well as one woman’s journey to discover her true self.

So this is the story of Diana, who after spending time qualifying to be a nurse and falling into a relationship with Porter is offered a job in Japan as a nanny for a baby she helped care for at the time of her birth and as she has no idea who she is or what she’s doing with her life and is terrified of the intimacy that a relationship entails, she moves to Japan. What follows is a journey of self discovery alongside a beautiful friendship with the three year old in her care. There is also a bit of family drama and a hint of child abuse to help keep up the tension.

When I started reading this I wasn’t sure how I was going to get on with it, the narration was very odd, but it was concise and I think it summed up Diana’s character really well. It also created a beautiful picture of Japan and gave a real insight into the culture, and even though we are aware that the situation is an unusual one, I felt like I learned a lot about the setting, I want to read as many things about Japan as possible – send me recs!

Also, can we talk about that cover? The cover is beautiful!

Vivian Versus America

Vivian Versus America – Katie Coyle

I finally FINALLY got around to reading the second Vivian Apple book! I say finally because I read the first one two years ago! I did review it, which you can read here but if you don’t have time for that, here is a brief recap: Vivian is a normal every day teen living a normal every day teen life in America who’s parents join the Church of America and get a bit too into it, Vivian remains a non believer up until the rapture is predicted and 3,000 Church of America supporters disappear, seemingly off to the promised land. Vivian and her best friend, Harp, go on an adventure to find out what happened to everyone, meet a cute boy along the way and discover the terrible truth of the rapture.
So, what happens to her next?

The predicted Rapture by Pastor Frick’s Church of America has come and gone, and three thousand Believers are now missing or dead. Seventeen-year-old Vivian Apple and her best friend, Harpreet, are revolutionaries, determined to expose the Church’s diabolical power grab…and to locate Viv’s missing heartthrob, Peter Ivey.

Oh – I should have said, this is also known as Vivian Apple needs a miracle. Just so you know.

This book picks up exactly where we left off with Vivian and Harp having escaped the Church of America and being separated from Peter, the pair of them join a militia group and the adventure begins yet again.

I find books about religion fascinating, there is something about the exploration of how people become believers, how they find solace in something that isn’t tangible, something I think Katie Coyle does really well with this duology is that they aren’t preachy or anti religion any more than they are pro atheism or pro religion. Though it does call out toxic fundamentalism and charlatans, there is nothing about these books that shames those with faith.
Honestly, the best things about these books are the characters, Vivian and Harp are brilliant and I love them and honestly, if you were going to be left behind after a rapture, these are the two you’d want to be stuck with. I think I preferred the first book but only because it was such an interesting premise and this one, though not unnecessary, didn’t need to be as long as it was and didn’t add anything new to the idea. Was still an enjoyable read and I kind of wish I’d read them both one after the other, that might have worked better! Next time, I won’t leave two years between sequels!

Come Sundown

Come Sundown – Nora Roberts

I was sent this by the publicist working on the book and I’ve FINALLY got around to picking it up. Sorry. I’ve had this sat in my inbox for far too long. Honestly, a book that begins with a girl relieving herself behind a tree has to be one met with intregue and from there it only got better, who doesn’t love a murder mystery set on a ranch in the south of the USA?

Bodine Longbow loves to rise with the dawn. As the manager of her family’s resort in Western Montana, there just aren’t enough hours in the day – for life, for work, for loved ones. She certainly doesn’t have time for love, not even in the gorgeous shape of her childhood crush Callen Skinner, all grown up and returned to the ranch. Then again, maybe Callen can change her mind, given time…
But when a young woman’s body is discovered on resort land, everything changes. Callen falls under the suspicion of a deputy sheriff with a grudge. And for Bodine’s family, the murder is a shocking reminder of an old loss. Twenty-five years ago, Bodine’s Aunt Alice vanished, never to be heard of again. Could this new tragedy be connected to Alice’s mysterious disappearance?
As events take a dramatic and deadly turn, Bodine and Callen must race to uncover the truth – before the sun sets on their future together.

I would say this was a mystery rather than a suspense novel and follows four generations of the same family, beginning in 91 with Alice Bodine and then going to her niece, Bodine, who has never met her thanks to a rather horrible thing that happens to her right before the book begins and features members of their extended family and community.

It reminded me a lot of American soap operas, kind of Dallas like but with elements of the The Room thrown in. It swung between being melodramatic and creepy, I was never really sure which was going to come next! So if that sounds like it might be up your street, give this a go, but do be warned, you know I like to give you trigger warnings, there is abduction, murder and sexual assault in this. Some of it is hinted at, mostly its not that subtle.
A great thing about this, if like me you’re new to Nora Roberts, is that this is a stand alone. Why is that good news? Well, the woman has written over 200 books, many of which are in a series. So, if you wanted somewhere to start, this is the perfect book for that.

Mirror Mirror

Mirror Mirror – Cara Delevingne (and Rowan Coleman)

She’s a model, an actor, a singer, she has the most impressive eyebrows in the western hemisphere and now she’s a novelist, is there a pie Cara Delevinge doesn’t have her fingers in?

Friend. Lover. Victim. Traitor.
When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
Sixteen-year-old friends Red, Leo, Rose, and Naomi are misfits; still figuring out who they are and who they want to be. Life isn’t perfect, but music brings them together, and they are excited about what the future holds for their band, Mirror, Mirror. That is until Naomi vanishes before being pulled unconscious out of the river.
She’s left fighting for her life in a coma. The police claim it was a failed suicide attempt, but her friends aren’t convinced. Will Naomi ever wake up? What -­ or perhaps who -­ led her to that hospital bed? And how did Red, the self-styled protector of the group, fail to spot the warning signs?While Rose turns to wild partying and Leo is shrouded by black moods, Red sets out to uncover the truth. It’s a journey that will cause Red’s world to crack, exposing the group’s darkest secrets. Nothing will ever be the same again, because once a mirror is shattered, it can’t be fixed.
Cara Delevingne, the voice of her generation, explores identity, friendship and betrayal in this gripping and powerful coming-of-age story. For fans of WE WERE LIARS, THIRTEEN REASONS WHY and THE GIRLS.

Most people say this is like Paper Towns, I think its more Pretty Little Liars set in London crossed with Paper Towns, if you mix those together, you have a Riverdale-esque teen mystery with actually a very impressive premise, a believably teenage narrator and is actually a fairly decent first novel full of twists and turns, which although had a few moments that felt a little contrived, kept me on my toes the whole way through. (Though, admittedly, I did figure out who the bad guy was fairly early on, but I was hoping that I was wrong!)
This is the story of a teenage band, Mirror Mirror, featuring Rose, Red, Leo and Naomi. Perhaps Cara Delevingne was inspired by her turn as Margot in the film version of Paper Towns, for we’re told that our missing student, Naomi begins life very much like Margot, forever running away and then reappearing, however, this time around, she was happy, had friends and unlike her previous disappearances, had a complete change of character beforehand. The four kids are pushed together and end up becoming best friends, who are then rocked by what happens to Naomi and our narrator, Red, teams up with Naomi’s sister to try and figure out what happened to her and why.

This features a diverse cast, enough twists and turns to keep you guessing even if it does get to PLL levels of ridiculous at times. IDK if you’ve seen PLL but seriously, how many underground bunkers are there in Rosewood? There were moments that were getting close to that in this book, but I still found it enjoyable. Much like PLL I guess.

Red can be read as trans or as androgynous and actually, their narration doesn’t lead you to believe in any particular gender until their identity reveal, which I really liked, their sexuality and gender identity weren’t made a big deal of and while I’m not trans or non binary myself, and someone who is might think differently, I think their character was great. Cara seems to be part of the write what you know club, as she acknowledges Red and Rose’s middle class privilege without letting it diminish or take over from other problems they experience during the book.

Its actually really teenage, which some books featuring teenagers seem to forget to allow the characters to be, while Red and co are dealing with their own individual issues and the mystery surrounding Naomi they also spend a lot of time concerning themselves with bullies and Instagram and all that kind of thing, I read the egalley of this but I think the paperback would be great because it includes Insta and Snapchat posts and text communications between the characters which is a little lost in the kindle edition.

While I don’t know how much of this CD wrote herself, I think it is a strong debut novel. Some reviews seem to really hate it, but I thought it was an enjoyable and gripping novel, if a little convoluted and rushed towards the end. There is a little q and a section with her at the end where she talks about the possibility of writing more and I certainly wouldn’t discourage it!