Sparrow by Mary Cecilia Jackson

Sparrow by Mary Cecilia Jackson
Publisher/Year: Tor, 2020
Format: ARC – paperback
Pages: 364
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


In the tradition of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, a devastating but hopeful YA debut about a ballerina who finds the courage to confront the abuse that haunts her past and threatens her future.

Though Savannah Rose–Sparrow to her friends and family–is a gifted ballerina, her real talent is keeping secrets. Schooled in silence by her long-dead mother, Sparrow has always believed that her lifelong creed–“I’m not the kind of girl who tells”–will make her just like everyone else: Normal. Happy. Safe. But in the aftermath of a brutal assault by her seemingly perfect boyfriend Tristan, Sparrow must finally find the courage to confront the ghosts of her past, or lose herself forever…

What I thought

Thank you to Tor Teen for the free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!

This was one of the best young adult books that I have ever read. Before I go any farther, I want to mention a few trigger warnings: domestic violence, child abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, grieving, and loss of a parent. Needless to say, this was not an easy read, by any means. I have to give Jackson credit where it’s due, however: I cannot remember the last time I read a book where I had such a strong, visceral emotional reaction to the story. Every time I’d put this book down, I felt like you do after a good long cry–hollowed out and raw and like I just got sucker punched. I just LOVED this book, even though I can’t quite place my finger on why. I think mostly it was because these characters came to life for me–every single one (and I think my favorite was Granny Dei rdre). I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that I hugged this book when I finished it. It made me cry, but it also made me laugh and even swoon, and it warmed my heart as much as it angered me at times. When it comes to a good book, can you really ask anything more?

The Twin by Natasha Preson

The Twin by Natasha Preston
Publisher/Year: Delacorte Press, 2020
Format: ARC – paperback
Pages: 375
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Ivy and Iris haven’t lived together for years–when their mother and father divorced, each parent got custody of one twin. But after a tragic accident takes their mom’s life, the devastated sisters are reunited, and Iris moves in with Ivy and their dad. Ivy promises that she can share her life now. After all, they’re sisters. Twins.

It’s a promise that Iris takes seriously. And before long, Ivy’s friends, her teachers, and even her boyfriend fall under Iris’s spell. Soon Ivy begins to think there’s something wrong with her twin. It’s almost like Iris is out to get her. Ivy tells herself she’s being paranoid. It’s not like she’s in any danger from her twin…

The Twin is an unputdownable read that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.

What I thought

Thank you to Penguin Random House and Delacorte Press for the free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!

What a wicked little book! This one is a slow burn, psychological thriller that is all about the entertainment value. You know those books that you can just see being made into a movie? This is one of those. The story starts out and the tension builds oh-so-slowly, but once it ramps up, the story goes to some pretty dark and sinister places. You can’t help but feel for Ivy, but I will say it takes a good author to get me, as the reader, to have moments of doubt surrounding her reliability at times. I’ve seen other readers say this book was predictable, but I, for one, didn’t know WHAT was happening. All I know is that once this book got going, I was perpetually STRESSED trying to guess what Iris’s next move would be. And that ending! I NEVER saw it coming, and I actually really like that Preston didn’t write the “safe” ending, but went the unconventional route. (Just keep that in mind if you don’t like open endings.)

If you’re a YA reader looking for an entertaining, slow burn of a psychological thriller, this book’s for you!

Fragile Like Us (Beautiful Broken Things #1) by Sara Barnard

Fragile Like Us (Beautiful Broken Things #1) by Sara Barnard
Publisher/Year: Simon Pulse, 2017
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 403
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


I was brave.

She was reckless.

We were trouble.

Best friends Caddy and Rosie are inseparable. Their differences have brought them closer, but as she turns sixteen, Caddy begins to wish she could be a bit more like Rosie–confident, funny, and interesting. Then Suzanne comes into their lives, beautiful, damaged, exciting, and mysterious, and things get a whole lot more complicated. As Suzanne’s past is revealed and her present begins to unravel, Caddy begins to see how much fun a little trouble can be. But the course of both friendship and recovery is rougher than either girl realizes, and Caddy is about to learn that downward spirals have a momentum of their own.

What I thought

I am a firm believer that no matter how many close friendships a person might have throughout their life, there is nothing quite like your high school best friend. At that age, you’re trying to figure out who you are and who you want to be in this weird thing we call life. And when you find the person who GETS you, all while going through their own weird stuff–it’s really something special. This book perfectly exemplifies that kind of friendship and delivers some pretty powerful messages at the same time.

Fragile Like Us touches on some pretty serious topics: child abuse, self-harm, attempted suicide, depression, and mental health issues. But it brings light to these topics in a way that’s authentic, showing not just the way that Suzanne is struggling, but also the effect of her struggles on those around her. I wanted to scream at Caddy, but that’s easy for me to say as a 30-year-old adult. Barnard’s use of Caddy as the narrator was so smart. As a teenager who is, for the first time, being exposed to someone whose life has been a struggle, of course Caddy would be naive and not know what to say or do, as frustrating as she could be at times. The thing is she, despite her mistakes, was just trying to love her friend through it.

As you can probably tell, this book has A LOT going on, despite feeling like the plot was dragging on at times, but it was all handled authentically and sensitively. I did ultimately feel like the friendship between these girls was written beautifully, and it had me reminiscing on my high school friendships. Plus, it was very refreshing to read a contemporary YA WITHOUT a romance, focusing instead on the love and relationship among friends. I’d definitely recommend this one (if you’re feeling okay with regards to the previously mentioned CW), and I’m looking forward to the follow-up to this one.

Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon

Of Curses and Kisses (St. Rosetta’s Academy #1) by Sandhya Menon
Publisher/Year: Simon Pulse, 2020
Format: ARC – paperback
Pages: 361
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐


Will the princess save the beast?

For Princess Jaya Rao, nothing is more important than family. When the loathsome Emerson clan steps up their centuries-old feud to target Jaya’s little sister, nothing will keep Jaya from exacting her revenge. Then Jaya finds out she’ll be attending the same elite boarding school as Grey Emerson, and it feels like the opportunity of a lifetime. She knows what she must do: make Grey fall in love with her and then break his heart. But much to Jaya’s annoyance, Grey’s brooding demeanor and lupine blue eyes have drawn her in. There’s simply no way she and her sworn enemy could find their fairy-tale ending…Right?

His Lordship, Grey Emerson, is a misanthrope. Thanks to an ancient curse by a Rao matriarch, Grey knows he’s doomed once he turns eighteen. Sequestered away in the mountains at St. Rosetta’s International Academy, he’s lived an isolated experience–until Jaya Rao bursts into his life. Sparkling and elegant, Jaya’s unlike anyone Grey has ever met. Still, he can’t shake the feeling that she’s hiding something. Something that might just have to do with the rose-shaped ruby pendant around her neck…

As the stars conspire to keep them apart, Jaya and Grey grapple with questions of love, loyalty, and whether it’s possible to write your own happy ending.

What I thought

Thank you to Goodreads and Simon Pulse for the free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Reader friends, the type of review I’m about to write is my absolute least favorite to write. The “it’s not you, it’s me” review.

I want to stress–this was a good book, and I think many young adult readers will enjoy this. And I did like it, I just didn’t love it like I had hoped. I appreciated the nods to Beauty and the Beast, and my favorite part of this story was Grey. I am all about angsty male leads, and he had my heart melting more than once! I do love a good slow burn romance.

It’s just…I think I am too big a fan of Beauty and the Beast to view this even remotely objectively. I went into this with BIG expectations. And it truly was a fresh take on the original tale, unlike many that I’ve read. I loved the boarding school setting, I guess I was just expecting it to be a bit more magical and a bit less contemporary. Again, I think this just comes down to my own personal bias.

Like I said before, I think plenty of readers will enjoy this one. And while I didn’t love this one, I did like it enough to want to continue with the series. I am genuinely curious to see where Sandhya Menon takes these characters next, I think I will just need to adjust my expectations.

Frankly in Love by David Yoon

Frankly in Love by David Yoon
Publisher/Year: Putnam, 2019
Format: Paperback (ARC)
Pages: 406
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ 1/2


Frank Li has two names. There’s Frank Li, his American name. Then there’s Sung-Min Li, his Korean name, which no one uses, not even his parents. Frank barely speaks any Korean. He was born and raised in Southern California.

Even so, his parents still expect him to end up with a nice Korean girl–which is a problem, since Frank is finally dating the girl of his dreams: Brit Means. Brit, who is funny and nerdy just like him. Brit, who makes him laugh like no one else. Brit…who is white.

As Frank falls in love for the very first time, he’s forced to confront the fact that while his parents sacrificed everything to raise him in the land of opportunity, their traditional expectations don’t leave a lot of room for him to be a regular American teen. Desperate to be with Brit without his parents finding out, Frank turns to his family friend Joy Song, who is in a similar bind. Together, they come up with a plan to help each other and keep their parents off their backs. Frank thinks he’s found the solution to all his problems, but when life throws him a curveball, he’s left wondering whether he ever really knew anything about love–or himself–at all.

In this moving novel, debut author David Yoon takes on the question of who am I? with a result that is humorous, heartfelt, and ultimately unforgettable.

What I thought

Thank you to Putnam and Penguin Random House for the free ARC of this book! This does not affect my opinion presented here in this review.

It has taken me three full days to decide on a rating for this one. On one hand, I loved Frank’s dorky self, and in many ways, this book took me back to my own high school days as an Apey. On the other hand, I’m not quite sure I understood all the hype, and at times, I had a hard time remaining objective about some of Frank’s less admirable moments. I just keep going back and forth (damn you, Goodreads and your lack of half stars!)

To name some of the things I enjoyed, I’ll start with how much of an unabashed dork Frank was, and as someone who used to struggle with her own dorkiness, I wish I could go back and shove this book into my long-ago teenage hands. I also feel like this really was a solid YA debut. Written in a genre that many tend to dismiss, Frankly in Love proves that there is more to this genre than people think. David Yoon tackles racism, cultural identity, parental/family issues, sickness, friendship, sexuality, and unexpressed feelings, among other topics. And he handles it all in a way that feels very natural, instead of pointed or preachy.

Where I struggled with this book was, as I mentioned above, in trying to remain objective. I had to keep, reminding myself that this is a story told from the perspective of a teenage boy, and teenage boys (hell, all teenagers, really) are not always likeable. If anything, that should be a nod to David Yoon–he wrote a very realistic teenage boy. And the thing of it is, anyone who has ever seen a single rom-com could tell you what was going to happen here upon reading the synopsis of this book. It’s just that I wasn’t a big fan of Frank’s actions, realistic though they may have been, and it tainted my feelings about the relationship he ended up having. As a reviewer, I tried to remain impartial about it all, but as a reader, I couldn’t help but feel icky about it.

All things considered, I did think this was a great book, and it’s one I’d certainly recommend. Be advised, while yes, there are rom-com elements to this story, this is actually a multi-faceted book that deals with a lot of heavy stuff, too. This book is for those going through the throes of teenage life and all that comes with it, but also those looking back and remembering those teenage years for all their awkward, mind-boggling, exhilarating worth.

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1) by Holly Black

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1) by Holly Black
Publisher/Year: Little, Brown and Company, 2018
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 370
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Guard your mortal heart.

Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Holly Black comes the first book in a stunning new trilogy filled with twists and enchantment, as one girl learns the meaning of true power when she finds herself caught in a web of royal faerie intrigue.

What I thought

You know what one of the best feelings in the world is? The feeling when you love a book so much that you can’t even put into words why you loved it so much. For me, this book was pure perfection. If you had asked me to describe my ideal book, it would be this one. I knew from the moment I held this book in my hands that I was getting ready to fall in love.

Holly Black has managed to write a story that feels like I’ve opened up an old book of fairy tales and stepped inside. The writing is luscious and gorgeous and intoxicating. I absolutely hated to put this book down. I wrote down at least 20 quotes–I just couldn’t get over how stunning Holly Black’s writing is. Upon finishing this book, I could have flipped to the front and read it all over again–that’s how much I loved it.

Not only that, but this book was also the perfect amount of “dark” to be a true fantasy story of the Fae. The deception and the trickery and the cruelty felt less Disney and more Grimm–and I lived for it! All of the characters were perfectly complex and untrustworthy, which was so great because it led to so many plot twists that I never saw coming.

At this point, I’m just gushing. Suffice it to say that The Cruel Prince will be one of my top reads for the year. If you love fantasy and the Fae and dark, twisted fairy tales–read this book!

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter #3) by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter #3) by J. K. Rowling
Publisher/Year: Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 435
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


For twelve long years, the dread fortress of Azkaban held an infamous prisoner named Sirius Black. Convicted of killing thirteen people with a single curse, he was said to be the heir apparent to the Dark Lord, Voldemort.

Now he has escaped, leaving only two clues as to where he might be headed: Harry Potter’s defeat of You-Know-Who was Black’s downfall as well. And the Azkaban guards heard Black muttering in his sleep, “He’s at Hogwarts…he’s at Hogwarts.”

Harry Potter isn’t safe, not even within the walls of his magical school, surrounded by his friends. Because on top of it all, there may well be a traitor in their midst.

What I thought

I honestly think that this will always be my favorite book of the series. There’s too much that I love about this one for it to be otherwise. I loved the first two books enough as it was, but it was really with PoA that my love for the series turned to obsession. The writing in this one takes on a different tone–less childish, if you will. But even that goes to show Rowling’s brilliance because the tone of her writing changes along with her characters as they grow in age. I digress.

One of the things I love the most about PoA is the character development of the trio. They aren’t just a Scooby Doo-esque group of friends who always get the bad guy in the end. They, too, are flawed and face things like fear, stress, anger, betrayal, and disappointment.

Of course, I also love the introduction of two of my favorite characters (Remus and Sirius), which brings me to another point. Something I’m noticing during this re-read in particular is that this movie is the first that really starts to leave things out from the books (at least in my opinion). Remus, Sirius, Crookshanks, Hogsmeade, Snape, Buckbeak, the Marauders, the Time-Turner–literally all of my favorite parts of this story have so much extra depth to them in the book.

I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that my copy of PoA is the most battered out of the rest of the books. It’s just my favorite, without a doubt. I love it dearly!

Mirror, Mirror (Grace #1) by Staci Stallings

Mirror, Mirror (Grace #1) by Staci Stallings
Publisher/Year: Spirit Light Publishing, 2014
Format: Kindle
Rating: ⭐⭐


A Contemporary Christian Epic-Novel

California golden girl, Sage Wentworth’s life looks perfect from the outside looking in. She’s got money, friends, and all the social status a girl could want. But underneath the glitz and glamour, Sage’s perfect existence holds many dark secrets–secrets even she herself doesn’t know. When she is unceremoniously sent to live with her biological father’s family in North Carolina for the summer, Sage finds herself swimming in very unfamiliar waters with seemingly friendly sharks poised to eat her alive on every side. Can Sage navigate these treacherous waters long enough to get back home, or has life for this golden girl changed forever?

Luke Baker has always considered himself a slacker of the first order. He’s not particularly athletic, musical, talented or intelligent. In fact, his “talents” such as they are run more in the vein of helping people when they most need it, and right now, that talent is much-needed by his best friend, Jaycee Lawrence who is facing the arrival of the stepsister she had gladly forgotten ever existed. A whole summer trying to talk Jaycee down off the ledge while simultaneously fighting like mad not to fall for her gorgeous, unattainable older sister? Yeah, this should be fun…

What I thought

Sometimes those free Kindle books turn out to be winners for me, and sometimes, unfortunately, they don’t. Sadly, this was one of those books that just wasn’t for me. I did like the story well enough to finish. Admittedly, I did want to see how things would turn out with Sage and Luke. However, as a whole, I think this novel was in need of some serious editing. I felt like it was entirely too long, and there were quite a few typos. The writing has heart, but some of the minute-by-minute detail could have been eliminated without being too detrimental to the overall plot. And I’m sorry, I know this is something so minor, but if I had to read the phrase “Eep!” or “He put his hand to his beltline” one more time, I could have screamed.

I truly don’t enjoy disliking a book, but unfortunately, this wasn’t for me. It had a sweet message, though, so even though this wasn’t my favorite, plenty of other readers have enjoyed it. I’m a firm believer in the fact that there’s a reader for every book, so if this sounds like something you might be interested in, I say go for it!

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter #2) by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter #2) by J. K. Rowling
Publisher/Year: Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic Press, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 341
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


The Dursleys were so mean and hideous that summer that all Harry Potter wanted to do was to get back to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he’s packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike.

And strike it does. For in Harry’s second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor, Gilderoy Lockhart, a spirit named Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girls’ bathroom, and the unwanted attentions of Ron Weasley’s younger sister, Ginny.

But each of these seem minor annoyances when the real trouble begins, and someone–or something–starts turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects…Harry Potter himself?

What I thought

Y’know, my instinct about Chamber of Secrets has always been to say that this is my least favorite of the Harry Potter books. And truth be told, it is. I still love it though. I will always have love for any foray into the wizarding world. I can’t speak for anyone else, but after this re-read, I have to say that I don’t think I give CoS enough credit, and here’s why. Now having read the series and having watched the movies, I can see that this little installment is pivotal for the rest of the series.

As I’ve said, I will forever love anything J. K. Rowling writes, and CoS is just as near and dear to me as the other books. But even I will admit, the reintroduction of everything in the first few chapters makes the beginning a little slow going. Other than that though, there is so much to unpack in this one, and it really does develop our story in such a necessary way. First and foremost is the development of the trio’s friendship, as not only do they head on another adventure together at Hogwarts, but also as Harry is welcomed further into the Weasley family with his visit to the Burrow. Additionally, the plot takes a darker turn in CoS as the reader is introduced to magical racial tensions for the first time (full bloods, half bloods, “mudbloods,” squibs), which ultimately is a very important aspect of the series’ overarching plot. On a more positive note, it’s with CoS that we are first introduced to Dobby’s angel self and his unconditional loyalty. And who can forget the first horcrux? But we’ll get into that another day.

Anyway, what I’m getting at is that although this is my least favorite of the Harry Potter books, I still love it and find it immensely important for the sake of the series. I always have a genuinely great time reading these books. And it still stands out as an exemplary addition to the fantasy genre. Regardless of what anyone might say, this is and will always be a 5-star read for me! On to book #3!

The Alchemyst by Michael Scott

The Alchemyst (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel) by Michael Scott
Publisher/Year: Delacorte Press, 2007
Format: Paperback
Pages: 375
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


He holds the secret that can end the world.

The truth: Nicholas Flamel was born in Paris on September 28, 1330. Nearly seven hundred years later, he is acknowledged as the greatest Alchemyst of his day. It is said that he discovered the secret of eternal life.

The records shows that he died in 1418.

But his tomb is empty.

The legend: Nicholas Flamel lives. But only because he has been making the elixir of life for centuries. The secret of eternal life is hidden within the book he protects–the Book of Abraham the Mage. It’s the most powerful book that has ever existed. In the wrong hands, it will destroy the world.

That’s exactly what Dr. John Dee plans to do when he steals it. Humankind won’t know what’s happening until it’s too late. And if the prophecy is right, Sophie and Josh Newman are the only ones with the power to save the world as we know it.

Sometimes legends are true.

And Sophie and Josh Newman are about to find themselves in the middle of the greatest legend of all time.

What I thought

Update 2019

Having read and reviewed this book before, I don’t actually have too much to add to my original review. I will say that I’m glad I read this one again because I think I actually enjoyed the story much more this time around. I suppose I could chalk that up to knowing more and understanding more of the mythology now that I’m a bit older.

The Alchemyst is one of those books that I enjoyed more for the actual story than for the writing itself. The story is a lot of fun and a romping good adventure, but the writing felt a little “young” to me. I hesitate to call this middle grade, but it’s definitely on the younger side of YA. None of this is a bad thing, I’m just staying that it’s more along the lines of Percy Jackson than Harry Potter. The only thing I wasn’t really a fan of was the twins, especially Josh. They felt a little generic to me, and Josh just got on my nerves. This could be due to the fact that this first book in the series took place over a span of two days, which doesn’t allow for much growth. I’m definitely going to continue on with the series, so we’ll see.

All in all, this was a fun read and one that I think would appeal to a lot of readers, particularly younger readers or even those who might be a bit more on the reluctant side. This was a quick read, full of mythology and adventure, that had be flipping the pages. I was immediately dropped into the action, and the magic built from there–it was hard to read just one chapter! I’m not sure why it ultimately took me so long to read this. I think maybe it was just going by so fast that I didn’t want it to end! I’m truly looking forward to seeing where the series goes, what between seeing some of my favorite myths and legends brought to life and learning about ones I had never heard of before.

If you’re looking for a light, but not necessarily fluffy read, look no further! This was a great beginning to a promising fantasy series. And as I mentioned, these books would be great to encourage younger readers to fall in love with the magic of reading!

Original review 2011

I first started reading this a couple years ago when I stumbled across a free .pdf version of this on Amazon. At the time, I thought it was decent, but it was different than what I expected. I ended up not finishing it because my computer crashed, but that’s a story for another day.

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago when one of my friends from work recommended this to me and even let me borrow his copy. It did not take me long to become engrossed in these pages.

For fans of Harry Potter and mythology, this is a must-read. Personally, I think the magic elements and the mythology are one of the stronger elements of this novel. It was definitely cool to see the myths “come to life,” some I was familiar with and some that were new to me. You can really tell that Michael Scott knows mythology inside and out, but it’s not like he’s smacking you over the head with endless details about them. There is just enough to understand the myth and its importance to the story without feeling like a history lesson. Not only that, but the Flamels and Dee were real people, which was an interesting twist. With the setting in our own world, too, Michael Scott makes it easy to imagine this story taking place in a world parallel to our own. And that’s truly what this novel really is–quite imaginative. I would definitely recommend this to young readers because it is so easy to envision all that’s taking place among the pages.

Another thing working for this book is its pacing. The events of this first book take place over a mere two days. Right off the bat, you find out that the Flamels will die within a month without the Codex, so you know it will be fast-paced. The pages definitely flew by for me, and now I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of the second book. There is constant action, and there are constant twists and turns. This is one of those books where you’ll find yourself saying “Just one more chapter…just one more chapter…” and end up staying up way too late at night reading.

I’m glad I finally gave this an entire read–it was definitely worth it! This is without a doubt a series to check out for those who are fans of YA fantasy!

The Next Together (The Next Together #1) by Lauren James

The Next Together (The Next Together #1) by Lauren James
Publisher/Year: Walker Books, 2015
Format: Paperback
Pages: 356
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


How many times can you lose the person you love?

Katherine and Matthew are destined to be born again and again, century after century. Each time, their presence changes history for the better, and each time, they fall hopelessly in love, only to be tragically separated. 

Spanning the Crimean War, the Siege of Carlisle and the near-future of 2019 and 2039 they find themselves sacrificing their lives to save the world. But why do they keep coming back? What else must they achieve before they can be left to live and love in peace? 

Maybe the next together will be different…

A powerful and epic debut novel for teenagers about time-travel, fate and the timelessness of first love. The Next Together is told through a mixture of regular prose, diary entries, letters, “original” historical documents, news reports and internet articles.

What I thought

The Next Together was, by far, one of the most unique and creative books I’ve read so far this year. And I have to say, it blows my mind (and makes me feel a tad bit old) that this was written by someone who’s 26! That just seems impressive to me because I can’t fathom what it takes to write a book!

Anyway, first thing’s first–I simply adored Katherine and Matthew, and I couldn’t help but root for them. They were just so cute and in love, and (not to get sappy) but as someone who’s very much in love with her own husband, their relationship felt very genuine. I loved reading about their adventures through time, and I have to say I’m glad there’s a sequel because I’m not ready to be done with Katherine and Matthew yet! 

As for the story itself, I thought the multiple timelines flowed smoothly, and I loved the little touch of having each timeline being written in its own font. I also loved the use of multimedia. I’ve always been a fan of epistolary novels, and even though this isn’t one, the little “extras” (like the maps, the articles, the sticky notes, etc.) had that kind of feeling to them–plus they were really fun and added so much personality to the story. 

Overall, I tremendously enjoyed this novel. It was fun and different (especially for a genre that sometimes feels monotonous). And there’s something here for everyone–contemporary, romance, historical fiction, science fiction, time travel, and more! This was a great read and one I highly recommend! 

**On a side note–I just discovered on Lauren James’ website that she has Spotify playlists for several of her books, including The Next Together–how fun! I wish I would have known that before reading this one. I’ll include the link here. Have fun listening! 

Not Just Voodoo by Rebecca Hamilton

33980880Not Just Voodoo compiled by Rebecca Hamilton
Publisher/Year: 2017
Format: E-book
Pages: 487
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟


Summary (from Goodreads)

To celebrate the release of Something Like Voodoo by New York Times bestselling author Rebecca Hamilton, we’ve put together this paranormal fantasy collection of short stories that include works from some of her favorite authors!

Most of the stories in this specially curated collection are brand new, exclusive content–never before distributed anywhere else and yours for the taking!

If you’re in the mood for unique magic and familiar creatures, this anthology is sure to add spark to your day!


Margo Bond Collins – Major Arcana
When a teenage fortune teller in a traveling carnival meets up with an attractive townie, she finds new magic in her tarot cards.

Erin Hayes – I Wish I Weren’t A Djinni
A djinni who is summoned by a young man has the power to grant any of his wishes, he simply has to believe her enough to ask.

Aileen Harkwood – Splintered Magic
Though Saige McMullins may feel like nothing more than a half-witch freak, when evil with a nasty appetite threatens the beach town of Lost Cliff, she knows she’s the only one who can stop it.

L. C. Hibbett – Wicked Witch
Destiny isn’t a good witch. She lies, she cheats, and she dances on the dead. But Destiny has a secret that might just change everything…

Megan J. Parker & Nathan Squiers – Journal of Abigail DiAngelo
As a hunter in training and high school student, Abigail DiAngelo would much rather live a normal life than fight monsters with her father, but when an unexpected chance for change arises, it’s up to her to take charge…

Katerina Martinez – The Witch and the Thief
When Nicole Harriman receives an urgent prophetic vision, it’s up to her to protect what is hers.

K. N. Lee – Awakened
A young witch betrays her darkest secret and risks her crown, life, and soul for the love of a human.

Nicole Zoltack – Gavin’s Gamble
Gavin thinks nothing can be worse than having a witch hunter for a father until he experiences possibly magical phenomena…

Debbie Cassidy – Deadtown
A pocket of crazy, a town hostage to magic, and a mysterious warlock boss equal a recipe for disaster.

Alicia Rades – Visions Among Frost
Crystal Frost can see ghosts and predict the future, but when her friends pull out a Ouija board at their sleepover, it’s up to her to clean up their mess.

Monica Corwin – The Dying of the Light
When Charity dies on the first day of her new job, she rallies with the help of her new reaper partner, and her eight remaining souls, to take down the criminals responsible.

Jasmine Walt – Tested by Magic
Shifter and bounty hunter Sunaya Baine would much rather chase after hardened criminals, but when a child goes missing in her magical city, she’ll stop at nothing to find her before she falls prey to the real things that go bump in the night.

Thea Atkinson – Reaper’s Redemption
A grim reaper’s next fare might be her last.

Rebecca Hamilton – Leaves Like Magic
A young witch joins forces with a shapeshifting ally in a race against the clock to save her best friend from vampires.


What I thought

I’m going to intentionally keep this short. I don’t want to review each story, but I did keep track of what I’d rate each of them, which I’ll list later. As a whole, I liked this collection, hence the 3 stars. While I really liked some of the stories (4 stars), there were quite a few that I simply liked (3 stars) or thought of as just okay (2 stars). I admit that I didn’t find this to be the strongest anthology, and even though it took me a million years to read, I didn’t have a bad time reading this one. Actually one of the things I enjoyed most was just trying out new-to-me authors. I do think this collection would be more accurately named as a “sampler” because most of the stories were prequels. Overall, while this might not have been an all-time favorite for me, I am glad to be walking away with some new authors that I want to check out!

“Major Arcana” by Margo Bond Collins 🌟🌟🌟🌟
“I Wish I Weren’t a Djinni” by Erin Hayes 🌟🌟🌟
“Splintered Magic” by Aileen Harkwood 🌟🌟🌟🌟
“Wicked Witch” by L. C. Hibbett 🌟🌟🌟
“Journal of Abigail DiAngelo” by Megan J. Parker & Nathan Squiers 🌟🌟
“The Witch and the Thief” by Katerina Martinez 🌟🌟🌟🌟
“Awakened” by K. N. Lee 🌟🌟🌟
“Gavin’s Gamble” by Nicole Zoltack 🌟🌟🌟🌟
“Deadtown” by Debbie Cassidy 🌟🌟🌟🌟
“Visions Among Frost” by Alicia Rades 🌟🌟🌟
“The Dying of the Light” by Monica Corwin 🌟🌟
“Tested by Magic” by Jasmine Walt 🌟🌟🌟🌟
“Reaper’s Redemption” by Thea Atkinson 🌟🌟
“Leaves Like Magic” by Rebecca Hamilton 🌟🌟