Review: Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga

I had extremely high hopes from Here We Are Now. I had previously read My Heart and Other Dark Hole and enjoyed it. I expected nothing less from Jasmine Warga’s newest novel. Unfortunately, my expectations were not met.

I did not hate the book. It was good enough to not feel any buyer’s remorse. It was a touching story that wasn’t repetitive or frustrating. However, my main issue with the book is that it barely touches the surface. It hints at many complicated and intriguing character developments, themes, and internal struggles but never manages to explore them. If they are explored, it doesn’t offer a satisfying or full exploration of them.

For example, Tal’s mom struggled with keeping true to her culture or conforming to American standards in the flashbacks. That’s big deal and seemed like something that would have impacted Tal’s childhood and the decision to keep Tal’s existence hidden from her father.

By not driving exploring the character’s psyches fully, I felt a disconnect. Character motive’s  felt weak and not real or raw. Why was Tal so upset that her best friend wasn’t around that much? How and why did Tal discover music? I have so many unanswered questions.

I expected this book to have a heavy emphasis on family. It mostly did. The story takes place in five days. It felt rushed, and didn’t allow time for the reader to develop an emotional connection to the characters or the story.

Instead, value time felt wasted on an unnecessary and uninteresting blooming relationship between Tal and the boy next door. The romance simply added nothing to the plot. Time could have been spent elsewhere.

I wanted more emotional bonding moments between Tal and her dad, Julian. Why did it take him so long to reach out to her? If it was explained, it was brief.

Final Analysis

Here We Are Now almost got it right. It felt as if many important moments, character development, and explanations were ripped from the pages and only the skeleton was left.

Review: On The Way to You by Kandi Steiner

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Buy on Amazon

This was unexpectedly an emotional journey. It hit me in the feels. Hard. I’ve read other books by Kandi Steiner before, so I immediately purchased this when I saw her name. I didn’t read the blurb, so I went in completely blind.  Which was an interesting experience because it wasn’t what I expected.

Cooper Owens is just existing until she can earn enough money to get away from her terrible parents and out of Mobile, Alabama. One day, an attractive guy, Emery, walks into the diner where she works. She’s caught off guard when he asks her one simple question- “What makes you happy?”

She doesn’t answer instead proceeds to take his order. She later learns that he’s heading to Seattle; the place she’s been saving for all these years. He asks her if she wants to tag along. Unlike before, she answers; hesitant but nevertheless, she says yes. The two embark on a cross country road trip filled with discovery, secrets, and love.

On The Way to You was unlike any road trip book I’ve read before. It didn’t feel silly or a great big fun adventure at times. The road trip was quiet, filled with emotional moments as the two leading characters developed a friendship and opened up to each other. It was nicely paced, which allows for readers to really soak in what they are reading and feel the emotions.

There were humorous moments, however, this book does deal with heavy subject matters and those humorous were perfectly blended without feeling overwhelming or taking away from the overall message of the book.

Characters

I was immediately on board with Emery when he asked Cooper, “what makes you happy?” It was such an odd question to ask a stranger, and I wanted to drive more into his psyche. I was intrigued by him.

Although, this book is in only in Cooper’s POV, we get a glimpse into his mind through his journals that Cooper secretly reads. He’s struggling with something personally. And it’s heartbreaking when his reasoning to going to Seattle is revealed.

I find Cooper to be refreshing. Despite, everything that she has been through, she remind extremely positive. That says a lot of about her. She was a hard worker, never giving up on her dreams. I will admit, Cooper felt younger than what she was at times. Her internal voice felt more like she was sixteen instead of twenty.

I had no trouble believing that Cooper and Emery were meant to be. They were a positive influence on each other lives and brought some much needed light in a dark world.

Final Analysis

On The Way to You is a beautiful story of a road trip that ends in discovery and love.

Review: Liar Liar by L.A. Cotton

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Buy on Amazon

This wasn’t my type of book. I finished a couple of minutes before I began writing this, and I’ve already forgotten the majority of the book, which is utterly disappointing. It’s going to be a tad bit hard to review this book.

I wasn’t instantly drawn into this book. Yes, there was a mystery of the main character’s past but it was mentioned only when convenient, and I tended to forget about it and wasn’t in a rush to figure it out.  There were few hints about it.

Because of not being drawn in, it was hard to stay focus, and I felt disconnected from the book. I don’t want to blame the writing. It could possibly be it was the wrong book at the wrong time.

It felt entirely too slow for me and dragged on. I didn’t understand character motives and somethings felt too vague or too unbelievable.

Characters

I wanted this book to focus more on Becca. Something bad happened that caused her and her parents to move to a different town and try to start a new life. That premise has so much potential. However, unfortunately for this book, it did not live up to my standards. Becca’s psyche was barely touched. I wasn’t quite sure why she wanted to completely change or how the terrible event impacted her psyche.

Everyone in this book had a secret. And I wasn’t sure if I could trust any of the supporting characters. They all seemed likely to stab Becca in the back at any moment. Because of this it was hard to believe that they were Becca’s friends.

Evan quite frankly was annoying. He was very adamant that Becca not hang out with certain people or at certain places but never offered her a reason why she shouldn’t. His and Becca’s romance felt rushed. Their conversations were limited, and when they did talk it was hard to see the attraction.

He felt like a shady individual and followed her around. When they did eventually get together, they both seemed like they were holding back emotionally.

Final Analysis

Liar Liar was forgettable for me. I wasn’t sucked in. I wasn’t attached. Maybe if I reread this, my feelings would change.

Review: I Need to Tell You Something: Life Lessons From a Father for His Teenage Children by Bill Franks

Ideally, I think the concept of the book is something that everyone should do. You never know when you're not going to be around and it is a great way to share your wisdom and insight to your children.

The title of the book inspired by something his son said that was picked up later by his daughter when they were young. The concept of the book was inspired by a meeting with his financial adviser to outline their views on life that they would want to pass onto their children if something should happened to them. The initial intention was to write a book solely for them but through the process he was inspired to write this for other people, especially those who it could benefit from 12 to 22. Each chapter follow by questions to inspire conversations for dialogue.

I like the idea of what the author intended to do but I wish many of the concepts transitioned from personal to an objective point of view. Since the book was initially geared towards his own children, solely based on what I read, it would be perfect for them. Having your own opinion about certain issues and what you think they should do is fine but considering a broader base, there were moments that seemed a bit judgmental rather than personal insight on how to handle a situation. Some perspectives seem a bit antiquated considering a cultural shift in the dynamics of households that have changed over time influenced by cultural, economic, and social conditions that are not necessarily bad. In certain situations, I felt like certain people or situations were criticized for not be right, which I felt like there needed to be a little more open mindedness towards their situation. It's just what it is. People don't follow the same moral and cultural norms that were once ingrained in our society. You just have to adjust and accept it for what it is but be the best you can be and raise your family with great traditions being morally and ethically sound. 

Overall, there were many topics that would open up great conversation within families. Just wish it was a little more open minded in certain areas beyond his point of view and personal commentary to make it appropriate for a wider, diversified audience. This is my opinion and you might feel differently but..If the book was less persuasive towards his own opinion and more objective in the advice he wanted to bring insight to, it would have a broader base appeal. 

Review: Brake Failure by Alison Brodie

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Buy on Amazon

Here's the summary of the book:

“Is it too late to tell him you love him when you are looking down the barrel of his gun?”

An English debutante transforms from Miss-Perfectly-Correct to criminally insane as she breaks the bonds of her rigid upbringing. Sheriff Hank Gephart tries to reel her in - but she’s out of control and she’s not hitting the brakes.

What happened to the genteel lady in twin-set and pearls? And why did she shoot Mr Right?

Brake Failure is set in 1999 in the months leading up to Y2K “meltdown” when the US government was spending $150 billion preparing for Armageddon As Lionel Shriver says in her novel, We Have To Talk About Kevin: "1999, a year widely mooted beforehand as the end of the world."

This is one of those books that remind me of the chocolate with a delicious flavor in the middle, the more you eat towards the center, it just bursts in your mouth with flavor. For me personally, I felt my interest in the book increased as I read more of the story because the plot twits really kept me guessing and pushed my curiosity to want to read more. I will admit in the beginning I wasn't sure how I was going to feel because I thought it was going to go differently but it ended up being a pleasant surprise.

First of all, I haven't laughed like this is awhile. There were so many laugh out loud moments that made this such a fun ride. This book had a different appeal. Like I said before, it's was a gradual appeal led made me to not want to stop reading. Ruby was such a rockstar in this book and you can't help rooting for her even though she went from good girl to girls gone wild. To see someone experience that much pain and everything she went through to claiming and defining her life was an awesome ride to take with her. Don't get me started on Claire, her stepsister. Not a fan of her throughout the book but towards the end earned some redemption when some major aspects of their lives unfolded giving the reader their ahah moment. 

Finding love, friendships and identity really drove some of the major aspects of the book. It really took me back to Y2K. I remember all the craziness everyone felt, so that was a blast from the blast. Overall, I thought the book was a really fun read that will definitely keep your interest. I'm looking forward to reading her other books and hope that you add this fun one to your tbr!

Review: The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley

I’m not going to lie and say that this was not an inspiring read. Because it was. After reading it you want to join the fight; you want to make a difference. In many essays, Kameron Hurley reminds you that it’s not going to be easy at times and not everyone made for it, but it’s important and rewarding.

The Geek Feminist was very straight forward. It makes you think. It didn’t shy away from many subjects that could be deemed as uncomfortable by many. It tackled them in a respectively matter without being offensive or uneducated. Kameron Hurley clearly did her research, and that definitely was refreshing, and you could tell that she knew what she was talking about.

This is very much a book about Kameron Hurley’s life. This isn’t a bad thing, but she spends a great majority of the book talking about her struggles, career, and personal life. Feminist is perfectly crafted into her personal stories so it isn’t like the book is all about her. It feels more personal this way because she’s providing firsthand accounts and examples.

It did get a little repetitive sometimes. The author mentioned many things multiple times in different essays.  But it isn’t too frustrating or distracting. It just registers in your brain that she’s mentioned that particular detail before and you continue reading.

Final Analysis

The Geek Feminist is roughly around 270 pages. There’s so much deeper she could have gone and so much more she could have included, so it does leave you wanting more. However, it’s still a good read, and does make you think.

Review: The Welcome Home Diner by Peggy Lampman

The Welcome Home Diner served the perfect recipe for an appetizing read. Starting with that gorgeous cover, there's something inviting about this book and once you start reading, you can't but feel that comfortable familiarity of someone inviting you into their home.

There's a lot to enjoy about this book. There were moments of joy and others were real moments that went a little deeper in reflection. There is nothing like family and friends. Whether it is defined by genealogy or manmade, the lessons and experiences that defined the wonderful moments shared together in the book make the novel more relatable and connect with the reader. Each character held their own and brought something special to the book individually and collectively as a whole.

The novel centered around two cousins, Addie and Sam, who decide to take a leap of faith to pursue their dreams. They take a chance and revitalize an old diner that was once the heart of the community. Like many cities that have fallen through hard times, there is a resentment with many neighborhoods of gentrification. In many of these situations, the community feels displaced and as a result loses their cultural identity which often leads to backlash and pushback. What was different about them was that their dreams included the community but no one wanted any part of that especially their neighbor Angus, which made them feel unwelcomed and often felt like maybe they made a mistake. Angus represents the past and they represent the future. Through love, patience, second chances and faith, these two ladies bring their family values and heart into a community that truly welcomes them home.

Overall, the book was really a nice read. There is so much to the book dealing with family, love, relationships, loss, and second chances. After reading this book, I really need to go back and read her first book because there was something special about the characters and their journey that for me personally really hit home. What made her characters perfect was that they were flawed. Everyone has a story and their experiences shaped their narrative which makes them more relatable and have some depth to them. Besides being such a nice read, there is so much that can be the root of some needed discussions. This would be a great selection for a book club. Nothing but love for this book and I’m recommending you add it to your TBR.

Review: Lovers Like Us (#2 Like Us Series) by Krista & Becca Ritchie

Everyone who knows me knows that Krista and Becca are my favorite authors. I’ve never have been so impacted by characters or loved characters as much as I love theirs. There is something so beautifully flawed and human about all their characters. And you can’t help but want to protect them, cheer for them, and also want the best for them.

I read my first KB book back in 2015, and I never looked back. Every book is different, yet the same. Captivating.  Emotional. Inspiring. Always, always entertaining and always about family.

Like I mentioned earlier, I have a great love for the characters that KB create. Especially, the core six from the Addicted Series. I got to witness an incredible journey filled with humor, love, heartbreak, and magic.  Although, the Addicted Series ended last year, I’m emotionally invested in the stories.

And I’m so incredibly thankful that I don’t have to let go of these characters just yet. The Like Us Series focuses on the children of the core six. Mainly focusing on Maximoff Hale, Jane Cobalt, and Sullivan Meadows.

We’re two books in, and I’m loving every second of it. I’ve lost count of how many times I cried, cheered, and laughed. I was immediately drawn into this fictional universe. I can rave about this series all day long, but unfortunately, there are not enough hours in the day, so I’ll try to touch on as much as I can without giving away spoilers or being confusing.

Lovers Like Us takes these beloved characters on a tour as they stop in various cities meeting fans. The impact of book 1’s (Damaged Like Us) events still very present and negative.  Maximoff and Farrow are still secretly dating, and there is new threat hiding in the background.  

I thought the tour aspect of it was unique and fresh. Stuffing that many people into a tour bus is sure going to create an interesting and entertaining dynamic between characters. This is random, but I personally enjoyed the Q&A sessions. That was fun.

I’ve said this plenty of times in this review, but this was emotional. And I’m used to the heavy nature that does appear in KB books, but I was still impacted. No spoilers, but I did have to take a moment while reading. There is a certain kind of realness in all of their books. It does hit you hard.

Although I loved this book, I am aware that this is a journey. It’s hard to look at one KB book and analyze it to the fullest. When I think in terms of KB’s books, I think them all as individual chapters in one big book. When you read them separate you do see the clear developments (both relationship and character) and plot progression.

However, when you read them together as a whole, you see so much more. Call backs to moments from earlier in the series. Hints for what is going to happen next. Tiny moments that make your heart sing. And most of all, you see incredible grand character & relationship developments that you might have missed if you hadn’t read them together. It’s a ride that has a start, middle, and an end. And that’s the most rewarding part. And something I can’t wait to experience with this series.

Characters

I’d witnessed Maximoff, Jane, and Sullivan grow up in the Addicted Series, and to see them as young adults, discovering who they are, makes me emotional. I’m excited about where they are going to end up. I know it’s going to be tough at times, but it’s going to be beautiful in the end; I have faith.

The Like Us Series begins in Maximoff’s POV, which is fitting since his mother started the predecessor series. And in Lovers Like Us we’re still in his POV. Like all KB book, although you’re one particular POV, this doesn’t mean the other characters blend in the background. They’re still there; actively living their lives, developing contributing to the greater picture.

Maximoff Hale is so caring and protective. Like all the kids, you can really see the influence his parents had on him. He’s this smart, comic book lover who wants to do good in the world.

He has a strong presence in his sibling and cousins’ lives. I love his relationship with his family. He willing to do anything for them. It really touches my heart. Each relationship is different. For example, his relationship with Jane Cobalt, is much different than his with Charlie Cobalt. And although, him and Charlie don’t necessarily get along, at the end of the day, they’re family and will stand tall together like him and Jane.

As for him and Farrow? Of course, I have no complaints. They have this adorable, healthy protective relationship between them filled with cute moments and banter. You could really feel the love between them. I’m really curious to see what happens next. Like most things in life, their relationship is not going to be easy. It’s already complicated because Farrow is Maximoff’s bodyguard.

My love for Farrow grew this book. I’m still learning about him and his past. He’s protective, and I’m curious to see his friendships with the other bodyguards and children grow.

I don’t know the bodyguards as well as I know the kids because they are relatively new to me. However, I’m enjoying them and how they are their own little family. I’m excited to learn more about them and maybe possibly experience their stories. I did find it interesting and sweet that they have such a strong loyalty to the particular family that they protect.

Final Analysis

Lovers Like Us is very much a Krista and Becca Ritchie book. The characters are lovable and incredible. The love story is amazing. You’ll want to laugh on one page and cry on the other.

Review: Break Line by Sarah E. Green

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Buy on Amazon

I think my favorite thing about Break Line was how easy Emery and Sebastian were able to fall into a relationship. It felt right and natural from the moment they met. Because of their chemistry and compatibility it was easy to believe that they were in a relationship.

I didn’t find myself second guessing them. The author did not add any unnecessary drama to keep them apart or a ridiculous love triangle. It would have been a disservice to both characters if she did, and it wouldn’t have worked.

As for the actual plot of the book, I have mixed feelings. Basically the plot of the book, is that something happened to Emery a couple of years ago that caused her to quit surfing. You find out very early on in the book that she actually did not quit, but still surfs unbeknownst to her family.

Sebastian, or Bash, is a famous surfer who escapes to a small Florida town because he needs a break and is losing his motivation for the activity. Sebastian and Emery meet at a party one night and the story progresses from there.

Both Sebastian and Emery’s story had potential to be emotional and impactful, however, the plots were thrusted in the background and rushed to be wrapped up at the end. For example, one important moment for Emery happened off scene and was casually mentioned, although it was built up in the beginning to be this huge situation.

And the most frustrating thing is that out of Emery’s entire arc this situation was the most believable and relatable because it was hugely centered on her family. The other, Emery’s reason for quitting surfing for a while, was worthy of a raised eyebrow.

This happened a lot. The author introduced plotlines and either skimmed over them or dropped them completely. Another example of this is related to an earlier scene with Sebastian. Another character had to force him to take his medications. The reason to why he takes them is never told, and the medications are never mentioned again.

For a book about surfers, it barely describes the activity at all. Instead, it focuses more on the romance and attempts to focus more on the character’s relationships to each other.

Characters

I liked Sebastian, and I liked Emery. I liked them more together than I did apart. Separate they felt a little undeveloped. Who’s Emery without Sebastian? And who’s Sebastian without Emery?

It is worth mentioning that it was a little rude that Emery ran off to see a dog in the middle of her best friend pouring her heart out.

Although, I enjoyed Emery and Sebastian, I’m still on the fence about whether I want to read the second book in the series. It’s going to be in POV’s of two supporting characters from this novel.

The supporting characters all blended together; I didn’t connect with them, or care about their relationship to the main characters. There were a lot and it was hard to tell them apart from each other.

Two characters in particular seemed to have something serious going on with them. One is Sebastian and his mystery medications. And the other is Nori, Emery’s cousin. There were so serious red flags with her throughout the book that ended up being explained poorly with a throwaway line. It was frustrating because as a reader, you know something is wrong, however, it was brushed over and never explained.

Final Analysis

Break Line has a quality romance, however, if you look deeper it’s hard to find anything else as well developed as that. It’s full of plot holes with cheap explanations and unbelievable events.

Review: Ink Garden by Alexandria Ryu

I’ve been really into poetry books recently, so I wasted no time buying Ink Garden. Ink Garden felt very much like a diary of someone’s poems as they traveled the world. It felt very free and not restricted to one certain area.

This is a book that feels wrong to read in your room on a rainy afternoon. It needs to be read as you travel and experience the earth. At best, the poems should be read outside.

Because of this, I didn’t really connect to it. The poems felt like an adventure, and it was hard imagine myself there. I felt a little left out, unsure how to react or interpret the poems. The poems aren’t long, and there are only so much you can describe in a couple of sentences.

This really hindered my reading experience. If I had read this as I was on one grand adventure, then I would most definitely would have enjoyed it. Instead of just reading and continuing, I would have spent more time actually analyzing the poems and relating it to my own experiences.

This book had very beautiful poems; each one different than the last.  And it was interesting that the author included photos after each poem. The photos added to the simplicity and adventurous feel of the poems.

Final Analysis

Ink Garden is a poetry book about adventure. It works best when you’re actually living the experience and exploring.