Sadie by Courtney Summers

Rating: 5/5 stars

Sadie

Pages: 308

Series: N/A

Genres: Young Adult, Mystery, Contemporary, Fiction

I didn’t know what to tell her. That I tried not to think about that kind of stuff, because it was painful, because I thought I could ever have it, but when I did end up liking someone, it always made me ache right down to my core. I realized pretty early on that the who didn’t really matter so much. That anybody who listens to me, I end up loving them just a little.

I have to admit, getting this book as an AudioBook is the best call I made in regards to this story. The cast of the AudioBook is extremely talented and helps me jump into the story every time I can press play. I don’t think that I’d be able to follow the story as well as I have if I were reading it with eyes. Not to mention the fact that you’d be missing out on the amazing storytelling that comes with listening to a podcast type story rather than reading it on a page. In my opinion, if you’re going to pick Sadie up you should really try the AudioBook version of this story. It just brings so much to the story that you’d otherwise be missing.

Looking at the writing itself, I love the way that Summers deals with the “issue” of having a stutter and peoples reaction to it. My aunt is a speech and has dealt with many cases of stutters throughout her career. Because of this, I know how amazing of a job Summers does at depicting what having a heavy stutter is like. It’s not easy going about your days with a stutter and even worse when you know that people are looking down at you for it and there’s nothing you can do about it. The truth of the matter is not everyone has the luxury of visiting a speech pathologist, instead having to live their lives with something – like a stutter – knowing that there’s a chance something could have been done to “fix” it. Sadie does quite well for someone who is constantly looked down on and belittled for her stutter. And though it may not be in spoken words, Sadie has a strong mind and a lot to say.

Summers also did a good job at keeping me on my toes as the story progressed. It took me a while to get into the story itself but as soon as I did the fact that the story continued to switch between Sadie’s perspective and West McCray’s radio story keep me enthralled. I loved the way that the story flipped between the two, allowing for a glimpse into what happened from Sadie’s perspective and how each person she interacted with saw the situation, what they got from meeting Sadie.

If you’re looking for a great fast-paced mystery, I highly recommend picking Sadie up.

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Lodestar by Shannon Messenger

Rating: 5/5 starsLodestar.jpg

Pages: 688

Series: Keeper of the Lost Cities, Book 5

Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Young Adult

 

His cheer sounded forced. But she knew Fitz was trying.

That’s what they did now.

Try.

Wait.

Hope.

I don’t know what I expected from this book, but I certainly got more than I bargained for. More happiness, more stress, more heartache… just more. Messenger seems to do an amazing job at pulling emotions out of me and playing with them like that’s her job. Which, in a way, I guess it is.

You see, after reading Neverseen, I was really hoping for some good news in this series. Yes, there were some extreme highs in this book – and for that I’m grateful – but the lows were so much… lower than I would have expected. These lows were written so beautifully, so intrinsically to the story, that I can’t help but love them – even if I do hate that they’re there just a little bit.

Basically what I’m saying is this: if you’re going into this story hoping for a lighthearted and carefree read, you’ve got another thing coming to you. But wait! Don’t let that turn you off of this amazing story. Instead, be prepared for a dynamic cast and a world that is going to keep you guessing. Heck, even when things are rough for the main squad my heart is screaming out that I need more.

While yes this story can be dark at times, the joy that it brings me is endless. And, as I’ve questioned so many times throughout my life, what’s the good in good if you don’t have something compare it to? (Now this might just be the Philosophy major in me talking, so bare with me a second.) If you don’t have anything to compare joy to, how are you supposed to know you’re happy? Of course it sucks to go through hard times – even seemingly impossible times – but getting out of these struggles alive not only makes you stronger, it also makes you realize just how great other times in your life have really been.

Okay, tangent over (for now). In a more directly related to Lodestar itself thread, I continued to be shocked and amazed at the maturity and brilliance that the squad shows. While only teenagers, they’re willing to risk everything in order to help save people – and not just the people they care about. Sure as teenagers they don’t always go about things the right way. But what’s more important than that is their willingness to risk it all to help people because it’s the right thing. Sophie might just be a fourteen year old from a race that lives much longer than I can comprehend, but she is wise beyond her years. Heck, if she wasn’t so grounded I’d worry that the series was unbalanced.

Thankfully, Messenger manages to break my heart time and time again by proving she doesn’t really believe in plot armour. (Yes, that sentence was a touch sarcastic – but the wound is still fresh!) I say this hoping it doesn’t spoil the emotional impact of Messenger’s words. I say this as praise to Messenger, for keeping me on my toes no matter what I expect to happen. Even when it hurts, it hurts so good.

On a much happier note, I love the little teasing bits of relationship drama that gets thrown in during the strangest times. Heck, as someone who was once a teenage girl myself, I know any relationship conversation with your dad is going to be awkward. But a conversation about boys with your dad and your bodyguard while you’re trying to figure out how to save people? BIG OOF. Of course I felt a touch of secondhand embarrassment during these scenes, but I couldn’t help but grin at Sophie’s reactions to boy talk.

I also love how dynamic Messenger makes her characters feel. Even someone as happy and bright as Sophie can sometimes have a dark side, which is how people are in real life, too. Seeing the extent to which Sophie and her friends are willing to go for those they care about, ignoring the consequences, makes them feel real to me. Your loved one is a bad guy? Don’t worry, you’ll have a chance to punch them in the face.

The final non-spoilery note I’d like to make on this book is how Messenger isn’t afraid to touch on hard subjects. One of these that is touched on in Lodestar is the topic of verbal abuse. Many people brush off the severity of verbal abuse because there’s no tell-tale signs that it’s happened. Some lump it in with toxic masculinity and think that if they let it get to them then it’s making them less of a man/a person. (Yes I know these issues can be handled separately, but I find it important to point out they can go hand in hand.) Messenger isn’t afraid to call out verbal abuse when it happens – even if we are talking about fictional characters here. It’s important to show real people that these things happen, that it’s okay to acknowledge that it’s affected you.

Now, I know I’ve said this before but it won’t be my last time saying it: don’t be scared away from this series simply because it’s classified as “Middle Grade”. Yes, the characters are young. But so were the characters in Harry Potter and that doesn’t stop people from all ages loving the story and its world – or getting something out of the tale. The KotLC series is just like this. It’s filled with morals and lessons for both the young and the old[er]. It’s filled with jokes that children will understand… and a couple for when you’re a bit older (but don’t worry – nothing crude!). If you haven’t already picked up this series, I highly recommend you do. Who knows, maybe you’ll find a new favourite series like I did.

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The Rising by Kelley Armstrong

Rating: 4.25/5 stars

The Rising.jpg

Pages: 406

Series: Darkness Rising, Book 3

Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Romance

 

“Claws in, little cat,” he said, still grinning. “Just like a cat, aren’t you? Rescue you and get scratched for my trouble.”

I can’t imagine having to come to terms with your whole life being a lie. Okay, not necessarily a lie, but living with a very big secret the whole time. Sure, finding out you’ve got supernatural powers can’t be the easiest thing in the world, but that’s got to be easier to swallow than finding out you’ve been part of one big experiment your entire life.

It’s also got to be hard being on the run, unsure of who you can trust. Is it even safe to visit your family? Can you contact them, let them know you’re alive? Or is it safer for them to think that you’re dead the way the people you’re running from want them to believe?

Yeah, it’s got to be hard knowing your family thinks you’re dead and not being able to do a damned thing about it.

I greatly enjoyed the way that the supernatural world is explained in this story. While I came into this already being accustomed to this world, other may not. I can see how there’d be an overlap between readers of this series and Armstrong’s other series in the world, allowing them to already understand the way the supernatural world works, but I can also understand how someone is coming into this series without prior knowledge. That’s the benefit of being a companion series and not the continuation of a previous series.

Keeping this in mind, Armstrong does a great job at giving the reader enough information to understand the world without regurgitating the information she’s given out previously. While this series gives more information into the supernatural world in this world that isn’t said in her other series, it also gives enough information that’s covered in them to properly tie them all together. I’ve got to say, having read the Women of the Otherworld and Darkest Powers series, it’s a pretty thought out and defined world.

She also wonderfully reintroduced characters from her other series, cementing the fact that they all take place in the same world at the same time. Oh, and that the people with morals continue to have morals outside of their direct conflicts.

Overall, if you’re interested in a story about coming to terms with having powers and the fact that people in your life aren’t always going to tell you everything, I’d recommend giving this series a try. Armstrong has a way with words and it’s apparent in this series.

Of course, I’d recommend starting with The Gathering if you’re reading this series.

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The Calling by Kelley Armstrong

Rating: 3.5/5 stars The Calling.jpg

Pages: 326

Series: Darkness Rising, Book 2

Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Romance

 

Like a cougar with a cache, I knew where we’d left Corey. Hayley said they’d moved a little, but he’d he close enough for me to find him.

While this book feels fast paced at times, it doesn’t add much in the way of plot to the series. In this way, it definitely suffers from second book syndrome. There’s lot of the crew walking around the forest, trying to get somewhere and find help. Every time it seems like they’re moving ahead, it becomes apparent that they’ve only moved sideways.

It becomes more and more obvious to that the crew doesn’t know who they can trust. Are they even able to trust each other?

More importantly than that, are there any adults that they can trust? It’s become apparent that the quiet life they thought they knew wasn’t as perfect as they’d always thought. As Maya and her friends start learning the truth about the town they grew up in and themselves, they’re left with more questions than answers.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read. It’s nothing too intense, and the focus of this story is more heavily on the characters and their interactions than it is their supernatural powers. If you’re interested in a story about friendship and trust, with a hint of mystery and the supernatural thrown in, try giving this series a try. It’s a cute story with an interesting premise, and I definitely enjoyed every second of it.

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The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong

Rating: 5/5 stars

The Gathering.jpg

Pages: 350

Series: Darkness Rising, Book 1

Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Romance

 

When I was little, my grandmother used to tell me this story about how I came to live with my family. She said my real mother was a cougar who’d had a late summer litter. She’d been an old cat and know the signs that it would be a long, hard winter and her cubs wouldn’t all survive. So she’d begged the sky god for mercy and he turned her smallest cub into a human girl and told the cat to take her into the city. She’d left me at the hospital, but before she went, she’d pressed her pay to my hip, leaving me a mark to remember her by.

One of the things I can appreciate about this story is Armstrong’s dedication to explaining the intricacies of indigenous heritage within Canada. She does this in a very simple way for the reader, explaining that being “native” does not give you a single identity. Rather, each group of indigenous peoples has their own identity and beliefs that they follow. Maya’s adoptive mother knows which group she comes from and so raises Maya with the understanding of their traditions, but Maya herself does not know which group she hails from and thus has no direct ties to her own heritage or their traditions.

While I appreciate Maya’s mother’s attempts to share some form of indigenous heritage with her daughter, I can understand how Maya still feels disconnected from her roots. Armstrong makes this point even stronger by making an example that people are more likely to be able to understand – while both Caucasian, English and Irish people are still distinctly different groups. It’s important to understand these groups as different peoples, and I’m thankful that Armstrong took the time to go through this distinction.

On a much lighter note, this story has a relationship aspect to it that I enjoyed reading. Maya’s love interest is your typical teenage boy who doesn’t fully understand how he should act or what he should say. Sometimes, it felt as if he put his foot in his mouth three times in the same situation without realizing it. Sounds like a teenager to me.

One of the things that I’ve found Armstrong is amazing at, no matter the age or personalities of her characters, is making them feel like real people in the world. She really seems to understand her characters – their motivations, what makes them tick, etc – which makes it even easier for them to jump off the page. This makes me love reading Armstrong’s writing – and this story was no exception.

Overall, this book is fast paced and filled with little clues about the characters and the world itself. If you’ve read the Darkest Powers series, you’ll be able go catch many callbacks and clues thrown in that you’d probably miss otherwise. As this is the companion series to that one, I love the way that they’re interconnected.

This series follows other characters in the same world, instead of dealing directly with the same characters from the Darkest Powers trilogy(my review of the first book in the trilogy here). Not only does this allow for a wider range of understanding of the world itself, it also allows for a wider range of supernatural abilities and personalities.

If you’re a fan of stories where supernatural elements take the backseat, this would be a great book for you to check out. What I gather from this, the first book in the trilogy, is that the supernatural elements in this story is going to be a slow burn. If you’re interested in seeing where these unique powers will take you, I think you’ll enjoy this read.

The Gathering focuses mostly on building the characters of the story and their relationships with each other, rather than building the personalities around the powers. Which I, for one, love. It allows the mysteries in the story to take center stage, making them what grabs the reader’s attention right away.

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Antebellum Awakening by Katie Cross

Rating: 5/5 stars Antebellum Awakening.jpg

Pages: 300

Series: Network, Book 2

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Witch, Paranormal, Magic, Fiction

 

I have to admit, I was a little worried that Antebellum Awakening wouldn’t live up to Miss Mabel’s School for Girls since I enjoyed that read so much. Instead, I’m happy to announce that I fell even more in love with this world than I had been before. Now I feel as if my worries were misplaced (because oh boy were they!) and I’m even more excited to continue on with the series than I was before. The High Priest’s Daughter, here I come! (Seriously this time – no months long pause, I pick it up tonight!)

Why did I wait 4 months to dive back into this series?

On a more serious note, what I like most about this series is probably all of the clues that Cross is able to sprinkle around. If you’re working hard enough to put the clues together as you’re reading through this story, you’ll be shocked at what shocks you. At least I was. Cross was able to keep me on the edge of my seat the whole time I was reading just by this simple fact. When would the clues fit together in my head? 

Cross’s writing has a way of pulling me into the world with no problem at all. It doesn’t matter how long I’ve been away from the page, a sentence in and I feel like I’ve never left. The descriptions of the events are beautiful and the character interactions have me hooked. Not to mention the plot manages to keep me guessing at every turn. 

This story is jam packed with everything I could have wanted. Getting a deeper understanding of the different types of magics in the world and the uses for them along with a more comprehensive history lesson of the world itself had me reluctant to put the story down for any reason. Yes that meant I pushed sleep back a couple hours to devour a rather gripping scene, but you won’t hear me complaining!

I would highly recommend this read to anyone that’s looking for a great story about witches. It’s an action packed read full of emotion and you can just feel the love that Cross has for her characters flowing through this story. 

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Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

Rating: 4/5 stars Why Not Me.jpg

Pages: 228

Series: N/A

Genres: Nonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Humor

 

Talking about looks isn’t important. It’s just supposed to be fun.

This book has little gems like this hidden throughout its pages. Little sentences or sayings that help put things in perspective just a little bit. Worried about not having a personal tailor? Not a problem. You need to work hard to live up to your potential? Please, go right ahead and do it. Don’t coast along just because you can.

I have to admit, I find it difficult to fairly rate nonfiction tales or biographies of any kind. However, I definitely enjoyed my read through of this story enough to rate it the way that I did.

Overall, I think this is a good book to pick up if you’re interested to see a unique take on fame and celebrity status. While Kaling makes it clear she only expects females to pick up this book, anyone could pull something out of these pages. Whether you need that assurance that not everyone on TV has such thick, luscious locks or you’re interested to see how this comedian made it, why not pick up Why Not Me? and give it a try?

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