Today I’ve got bite-sized reviews of a few of my recent reads. This was a great batch of books, so I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!
The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on May 16th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing, Deals with death and dying, Christian and LGBTQA themes)
When it all falls apart, who can you believe in?
Everything is going right for Lucy Hansson, until her mom’s cancer reappears. Just like that, Lucy breaks with all the constants in her life: her do-good boyfriend, her steady faith, even her longtime summer church camp job.
Instead, Lucy lands at a camp for kids who have been through tough times. As a counselor, Lucy is in over her head and longs to be with her parents across the lake. But that’s before she gets to know her coworkers, who are as loving and unafraid as she so desperately wants to be.
It’s not just new friends that Lucy discovers at camp—more than one old secret is revealed along the way. In fact, maybe there’s much more to her family and her faith than Lucy ever realized.
This book gave me all the feels and it was just what I needed right now. I’ve heard amazing things about Emery Lord, but I’ve never read her, and I have to confess that I was hesitant about this book because of the religious themes. Not because I don’t like religion in my books exactly, but because I’m always very nervous that Christianity is going to end up being slammed—it feels to me like contemporary books from non-Christian publishers tend to be skewed toward the idea that Christians are generally judgmental and possibly a little evil, so….
But I LOVED the progressive view of Christianity that was given in this book. It reminds us that Christians are not necessarily narrow-minded and conservative. That we all have our own opinions and our own interpretations and, yes, even our own doubts. I was a bit afraid when Lucy was questioning her faith that the conclusion was going to be that she was holding on to something that wasn’t real or that it was just her parents’ faith or something—but the themes in this book are much more subtle and complex than that. It shows us how sometimes friends and family and even faith can be messy. How we can’t always know everyone’s story and how we can question who we are without losing who we are. I think it’s important for teens to hear these messages.
I’m focusing a lot on the Christian aspects of this book because that’s the part that impacted me the most, but there are LOTS of non-Christians who highly recommend the book as well. Just take a look at Goodreads and you’ll see that many people who were hesitant to pick up a “religious” book were won over in the end. The book is wonderful and heartbreaking and all sorts of amazing! I give it 5/5 Stars. And it’s a new All-Time Favorite!
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
The Crown's Fate by Evelyn Skye
Series: The Crown's Game #2
Also in this series: The Crown's Game
on May 16th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Source: Edelweiss, Purchased
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing, some violence)
Russia is on the brink of great change. Pasha’s coronation approaches, and Vika is now the Imperial Enchanter, but the role she once coveted may be more difficult—and dangerous—than she ever expected.
Pasha is grappling with his own problems—his legitimacy is in doubt, the girl he loves loathes him, and he believes his best friend is dead. When a challenger to the throne emerges—and with the magic in Russia growing rapidly—Pasha must do whatever it takes to keep his position and protect his kingdom.
For Nikolai, the ending of the Crown’s Game stung deeply. Although he just managed to escape death, Nikolai remains alone, a shadow hidden in a not-quite-real world of his own creation. But when he’s given a second chance at life—tied to a dark price—Nikolai must decide just how far he’s willing to go to return to the world.
With revolution on the rise, dangerous new magic rearing up, and a tsardom up for the taking, Vika, Nikolai, and Pasha must fight—or face the destruction of not only their world but also themselves.
This book gave us a fulfilling ending to the duology, but it lacked a little bit of the magic of the first, in my opinion. (No, not the fantasy magic—it had plenty of that. I’m talking about that certain something that makes a book wonderful.) This book skews a little bit darker than book one. Nikolai is back, but he’s a shadow of himself (both literally and figuratively) and he’s thrown into the role of villain, whether he likes it or not. I really loved the scenes where we saw the conflict between Nikolai’s true self and his shadow self—I wish there had been even more of that! Vika is likewise conflicted because she’s now forced to obey Pasha (and his sister), and after the end of book one there are definitely some hard feelings between them. Vika’s struggle was another high point for me. (As was Pasha—I think I liked him even more in this finale than I did in Game.)
I think one thing that was lacking for me was the beauty of the first book—both the beauty of the writing (not sure why that was—maybe it was me?) and the beauty of the magic. Still, I did overall really enjoy this book and the drama and intensity of the climax was exhilarating! I give this book 3.5/5 stars overall.
As a side note, I received an alternate ending because I pre-ordered the book from Keplers and I really enjoyed it. It was a bit more romantic and sweet, and it left a lasting euphoric impression on my mind—a good way to end a book!
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
Published by Delacorte Press on April 5th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing, Some talk of sex)
Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?
It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.
In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?
Julie Buxbaum mixes comedy and tragedy, love and loss, pain and elation, in her debut YA novel filled with characters who will come to feel like friends.
When I started this book, I was a bit nervous because I’d just read Letters to the Lost, which I realized has a very similar concept (to be fair, this book came out first, but I read Lost first, so…) Luckily, I had nothing to worry about. While both books deal with the loss of a parent and have characters who fall for each other via written communication (this one is email rather than letters), the books felt very different, and I loved them both in different ways.
I felt so much for Jessie as she tries to navigate her grief and life in a new school where she doesn’t feel like she fits in at all. When she starts getting emails from Somebody/Nobody, she’s happy to have a little help. The emails between these two are absolutely adorable, and I challenge anyone to read them without falling a little bit in love themselves. SN is the one bright spot in Jessie’s life, and I pretty much loved every minute of their interactions—in real life and online. (Yeah, I figured out pretty early on who he was and wasn’t quite sure why she’d counted him out, but I still enjoyed the journey to her revelation.) This book is full of adorableness and I now can’t wait to read Buxbaum’s next book. I give this oe 4/5 stars.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Published by Delacorte Press on May 13th 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mysteries
Narrator: Ariadne Meyers
Length: 6 hrs 27 min
My content rating: YA (Characters have sex but it's not shown, Some serious themes---but they'd be spoilers!)
A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from New York Times bestselling author, National Book Award finalist, and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.
I wasn’t sure about the style of this book when I first started listening. It has a sort of quirky, literary style that threw me at first with lots of extreme emotional descriptions described physically (at first I was very confused when Cadence described how her father shot her—it took me a minute to realize that she was describing her emotional pain and illustrating it in a physical way). Still, once I got used to this use of language, I settled in and began to enjoy the show.
So, this book is, at its heart, a mystery. You know from the beginning that something has happened to Cadence that has either traumatized her or physically harmed her or both. But she can’t remember that summer at all. The whole book is spent with flashbacks between the summer when it all went down and the current summer, two years later, when Cadence is finally allowed to go back to the island she’d always loved.
I have to say that I did start to pick up on some clues about what actually happened, so I wasn’t completely shocked by the ending, but I had never imagined the way it all played out. And when it was finally revealed, I was glued to my iPhone until every last detail was unearthed. LOVED the ending! Still, since it took me a little while to warm up to it, I ended up with a rating of 4/5 Stars.
I loved The Names They Gave Us!! I agree I was nervous how the religious aspect would play out but it was done so well. I loved Tell Me Three Things too. It was adorable. We Were Liars got me with the ending. I didn’t pick up on anything. Glad you had a group of good reads. Great reviews!
I was wondering if other people had caught anything about the ending of We Were Liars. I tend to guess endings, so…
I read We Were Liars a few years ago and felt kind of “Meh” about it. I think because I figured out the ending. I still need to read an Emery Lord book. People have recommended them to me.
I had mostly figured out the ending too, but there were still enough surprises that I enjoyed it.
I want to read The Names They Gave Us! I’ve heard a lot of mixed thoughts on it, but it sounds like something I would enjoy.
I thought Tell Me Three Things was super cute, but I had a hard time connecting with it. I blame it on the fact that I’m too old for contemporary YA, because if I were (much) younger, I think I would have loved it.
I really liked We Were Liars too. Like you, it took me a bit to figure out the writing style, but I loved the twist, the mystery, and the beautiful summer days.
I think I was expecting to be blown away by Tell Me Three Things—I really liked it, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t an all-time favorite or anything.
I really need to read something by Emery Lord. And I’m glad you liked We Were Liars; I really did too!
I’m glad I finally jumped on the Emery Lord bandwagon!
Tell Me Three Things and We Were Liars are two of my faves.
Sam @ WLABB
I really enjoyed both of them. I still wonder if maybe TMTT would have been even better for me if I hadn’t just read LttL, but I loved them both!
I felt a bit the same way as you about The Crown’s Fate. Just didn’t have the same impact as the first book. I thought the beginning was kind of slow, but loved the epic battle at the end. I read We Were Liars a long time ago. I liked it, but I remember it was unusual.
Yes, I just sort of wanted MORE. I felt like there were some parts of the first book that were just so beautiful and I was somehow missing that in this one.
I have legit NOT seen a review of The Names They Gave Us that was less than 5 stars. I am so excited to read it! I feel mostly the same as you in regards to The Crown’s Fate (now I wish I had that alternate ending haha). I also agree that it was just lacking that something special, but I still really liked it. Not as much as the first, but still.
We Were Liars… I have to wonder if the reason you saw the clues is… a mom thing? I can’t tell you the point I knew because it’s a huge spoiler, but it actually was something my baby-sitter did when she.. had the same experience. And I feel like it’s a very maternal response? I hope you know what I am talking about otherwise this just sounds crazy.
I also really want to read Tell Me Three Things. Great reviews!! 😀
Oh, I think I know exactly what moment you’re referencing here. Maybe? It was definitely a mom moment that tipped me off! Never occurred to me that it could be a mom thing!
I love the cover for The Crown’s Fate! It’s very eyecatching…
With all of the reading that all of us do, an all-time favorite definitely stands out. And as every one of us realizes, if it’s good, it doesn’t matter what the genre is or how old we are.
Definitely agree with you there!
I’m re-listening to The Crown’s Game in anticipation of starting The Crown’s Fate this month (well, in June). I’m about 3/4 of the way through it and everything is coming together and it’s just a great reminder of everything I loved so much in the first book. I’m sad to see the follow-up didn’t have that same feeling for you but I’m still hopeful that I’ll enjoy it enough to be satisfied with how it ends.
I loved Tell Me Three Things! So sweet, so adorable, while also tackling some more serious themes. I’m really excited for Buxbaum’s upcoming release!
Hopefully you’ll love book two as much as the first—plenty of other people did.
I get your hesitance over The Names they Gave Us as I had similar reservations but Emery Lord handled it all brilliantly. I really thought it might be a loss of faith book which would have been an interesting read but not what I would have wanted. Instead it was a really interesting examination of what faith means and how we all interpret it differently which was cool.
I wasn’t as big a fan of We Were Liars, though. It just… I couldn’t relate to the characters at all. I don’t know if it’s because I went in with high expectations or what but something just didn’t click. Although, I didn’t guess how it would all go down.
I wasn’t at all sure about We Were Liars at first either, but it grew on me.
I’m so glad that you enjoyed We Were Liars so much more than I did! I figured out part of the mystery too, but I struggled connecting with the characters. Which was a bummer because I actually loved the writing style. It always makes me so happy when people love a book I’m just okay about, I’m wierd like that lol! ?? Wonderful reviews!
It did take me a little while to warm up to the characters, but I was wrapped up in the mystery enough (even though I figured out part of it) that I was able to eventually connect.