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After the First Death

After the First Death by Robert Cormier – 4 🌟

Originally published in 1979

Genre: Thriller/Suspense

Robert Cormier gives you a fast paced thriller from 3 different perspectives. The first two are teens that are trying to understand who they really are. They have a few different disguises or masks, but they don’t know which one is the true them. The other teen grapples with the aftermath of traumatic event.

On the surface, the book is a thriller, a terrorist attack that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Underneath there are topics such as teen suicide, self-identification, bravery and cowardice. What makes a person bad or good? Is there such a thing as an innocent monster? Can a person not know they are a monster? Can innocence be evil? The author essentially writes a book that dwells in the mind of a teen psyche. One who question authority, morality, patriotism and what makes a good soldier.

Then you have the nature vs nurture argument. What makes a person evil? Are they nurtured that way and taught to hate? Or is the environment to blame? Is society and the world guilty of creating the monsters we see today?

This YA novel is not one to give you the answers, but makes you think about them. While you are reading, you are not just enjoying a fast paced thriller, but you are thinking about the world around you. You are thinking about the person you are becoming.

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Stay With Me

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo – ☕️☕️☕️☕️/5

Published by Knopf Publishing Group

Publication Date: August 22, 2017

Genre: Fiction

Where to even start? This book has so much.

One couple fighting against tradition of polygamous marriage while trying to have a baby and the mental toll it can take, male impotence, and government upheaval. I know a lot!

When I first began reading, I immediately began to sympathize with the wife Yejide. I’m a woman and can understand not wanting to enter a tradition that demands I share my husband so he can have children. I can see why the solution to this problem is to have children of your own. However, for Yejide and Akin, the solution was not all that easy.

Society can put such a toll on women in regards to having children. As if your life, purpose or job is not complete until you have not one, but a few. That kind of pressure and thinking can really mess with ones mental state. Now let’s say, you want a child, but cannot conceive one, then you are still to blame. What if you loose the child, then the child must have been evil and you must not think about said child. Yejide went through this up and down process of loving so much and losing so much. It broke her heart each time. As the reader, you cannot help but feel for her as she thinks hope is too heavy to carry.

What I thought was interesting was Atkin’s perspective. You hear his side of the story and you feel for him just as much as you do for Yejide. You don’t really see stories that highlight male impotence. In this story, in this tradition, if you could not get your wife pregnant, are you even a man at all? So you try everything possible.

The relationship between Atkin and Yejide portrays real life problems in terms of communication. You always expect the other to speak up first, or to know exactly how you feel. Then lies, betrayal, and secrets get thicker with each silent breath.

I think at the heart of the book, you have a story about love and family. Wanting and having that connection with another human being. Wanting someone to carry on your name. In a sense that you don’t cease to exist after you die, but have your spirit live on through word of mouth; stories.

Stay with Me is a novel worth reading. Yes it is sad and may make you cry, but the story is not like any other.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid – ☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️/5

Published June 13, 2017 by Atria Books

Genre: Fiction

First Taylor Jenkins Reid is now becoming one my favorite authors. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was so amazing! I have also read Maybe in Another Life by Reid and immensely enjoyed that read as well. What’s interesting, at first glance neither of these books seem to interest me. I thought eh, but then so many bookstagram loving people told me “It’s great!” “You should read her book next!” So I jumped on the bandwagon and I’m so happy I did. From the two books I’ve read so far, there is much more than just the fun and interesting premise the synopsis gives you. The surface is just a story, but underneath is a book that talks about real social problems (at least in TSHoEH).

I don’t think I will tell you because I want you, the reader to discover the story for yourself. There is nothing worse than reading a review and basically knowing exactly what plays in the book before you had even a chance to read it. I will say The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo has diversity. I know in the book world, diversity is what people are shooting for and what readers are looking for. The world is diverse, so books should reflect that.

In this novel, you jump between time periods, the present and the past. Starting in the 50’s set in old Hollywood. I’m so picky when authors do this because it can make a story great or totally confusing (well at least I think so). Reid did not disappoint, but rather spun a tale, that I could easily follow.

Now Evelyn, she is such an interesting and complex character. I say this because I did not love her in the beginning. I’m not going to lie, I may have judged her. However as the story continued and I thought about her life I was very sympathetic toward her. Being a woman in the 50’s, 60’s even 80’s is different than being a woman now. Obviously change still needs to happen in how we view and treat women. Sorry back to the character- she wasn’t a villain, but she wasn’t a good guy (or I should say woman) either. She was human and did whatever it took to make her life better for herself and those around her. Although sometimes good intentions are just that, good intentions. I also think Evelyn was a complex character because she had trouble with her own identity and accepting all of herself. She definitely was go getter and would take down anyone who got in her way, but she also was vulnerable.

This book is about love and the different types of love you can have with different people. This book is about standing up for that love. Finding the strength within yourself when society tries to put a label on you.

All in all this book is amazing and I definitely recommend it.

Pieces of Happiness

Pieces of Happiness by Anne Ostby – ☕️☕️☕️/5

Published August 1, 2017 by Doubleday Books

Format: Hardcover

Originally published in Norway in 2016.

Translated by the author’s daughter.

This island getaway starts with one long lost friend inviting four others to her house in Fiji via a letter. “Leave behind everything that didn’t work out! Take with you everything that still matters” and so the story begins.

What follows is the journey of five friends in their sixties discovering their life didn’t quite turn out the way they thought it would. Each with their own story coming together to create a better future. A novel about sisterhood, being apart of something, second chances and chocolate.

Pieces of Happiness has two things, description and detail. The writing is so beautiful, you can hear the laughter and the sounds of crashing waves. You can feel the hot sun and gentle breeze on this island escape. What I don’t think I’ve ever seen before was how the author switched from first person and third person omniscient throughout the story.

What I thought was interesting was the dynamic of the friendship. Time and life pulls people in different directions and gives them different paths to follow. This story brings the ladies back together after being apart for so long. They may have drifted away from each other, but the tide pulled them back in. Their wasn’t an instant scream fest of joy, laughter and happiness when the ladies were brought back together. But a quiet understanding of okay we are here, let’s enjoy each other’s company and live out our days.

While this may be a book about five women on a tropical island making chocolate, it is not all oceans and warm salty sea air. Each woman has their own demons or secrets that they face. But learning to lean on each other, trust each other and in themselves, they each receive their own piece of happiness.

Always a Bridesmaid For Hire

Always a Bridesmaid For Hire by Jen Glantz – ☕️☕️☕️☕️/5

From the first few pages I could tell this was going to be a quite a story with a lot of funny moments. To go along with the laugh out loud moments, add in a few "I feel ya girl" and "I now exactly where you're coming from" or in some cases (if you're me at least), turn to the person next to you and say, "this is so me". All the while getting extremely hungry for pizza.

As the title states, this book is complied of stories about growing up, looking for love and walking down the isle for complete strangers. I do however wish there was more story about her business and how it grew to where it is today. It was more of pairing childhood memories with love stories or I should say, lack of love stories with a wedding she had worked. Which is fine, it made for a good and funny read. I just wish there was more of how this business is run. How does she keep her head while jumping into a new dress each weekend (sometimes twice) and not lose it? While the writing is humorous and relatable, it got a tad bit confusing when she jumped around.

What I liked most about this story was that she adjusted, reset and changed the "time" of her own biological clock that society says you must follow before it is too late. She saw an opportunity and ran with it. Now she is on this journey, sharing a little slice of herself with strangers -until they're not so strange anymore-helping those who needed that little extra push down the isle, stitch to cover the hole, or someone just to witness the magic and joy when two people say I Do. I think you have to be one special, kind person to work with strangers and make their day the best it can be.

I think the biggest take away is advice she received, "you're to scared to fail, so you don't even move". Because life and change can be so daunting, failing seems like the end. Instead of trying and moving, you end up stuck, stagnant and not enjoying life. No matter where life takes you, no matter your journey, move, flow, and make your own opportunities.

Links

Links by Lisa Becker ☕️☕️☕️☕️/5

A quick, light and fun read. Seriously this book can be devoured in one sitting. The characters and their quick wit banter make you breeze through the pages. All the while laughing and shaking your head at their antics.
A story about second chance romance after 15 years. The story follows Charlotte Windham and Garrett Stephens. In high school, Garrett was the star athlete with dreams of going pro. Charlotte was the not so popular girl tutoring said athlete. But alas high school was a time of unrequited love for Charlotte. Now fast forward 15 years and our high school star has gone pro and our lovable book nerd is a published author. As the fates would have it, these two just happen to bump into one another… and so their tale begins again.
The characters: I don't love them, but I also don't hate them. Garret is a playboy. That alone makes me cringe. Of course as the story goes on, he becomes more of a gentlemen. Still cocky and arrogant though lol. Charlotte almost seemed too good. A published author who helps the inner city kids and donates to charity. Obviously people like that exist, but when you pair both Charlotte and Garrett together, it's a little cheesy. Playboy, star athlete finally sees the wonderfulness of a kind hearted smart bibliophile and decides he must have her. Still a fun read though, especially since the story in filled with puns (sorry I love a good pun) and the writing style was on point. Anyway my favorite character is actually Charlotte's best friend. A lawyer with a bit of sass and plenty of sarcasm and love to go around.
In the grand scheme of things, this contemporary romance is about the chances you didn't get the first time around. I also think it is about starting a new chapter in one's life and letting the past remain in the past. Because to truly move forward with life, you have to stop looking behind you.

Harmonies of War

Harmonies of War by Ruby Fitzgerald – ☕️☕️☕️/5

3.5 Stars Actually
Harmonies of War is a fantasy novel revolving around magic, fear, loyalty (or lack there of), and betrayal. A fantasy book that does does not disappoint, but rather surprises you, with twists and turns in a plot full of love and manipulation.
For me, I can see inspiration deriving from Avatar the Last Airbender and Game of Thrones. One there are Descendants who have the energies of magic. Fire Sculptor, Water Weaver, Earth Grounder etc. Second there is a kingdom in which people are fighting for, but be careful of who you trust.
One thing I liked about the story, was the lack of sex. I was actually able to read a novel without reading about someones constant sex life. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a prude or anything, it was just a nice change of pace. Which is nice.
Like any book, there are characters that I loved, and others I could not stand. I'm interested in how the author will continue the story for these characters, especially Sylvia and Argus, as well as the King and Queen. I think the most interesting character was Queen Eleanor because she felt the most relatable to me (also the most flawed I believe). I won't spoil the book or her character growth for you, but I can understand how some actions may seem like they are rightly justified, but in the end you hurt people.
I gave the book 3.5 stars because the story seemed a little slow to me, but that could be just me. I was in one of those reading moods. Also I wished there was more back story revolving the queens mother and King Zagan. Some backstories for the other characters seemed kind of rushed at the end, as pieces were being put together.
I'm excited to see how this story continues though. Definitely worth the read if you are fantasy lover or someone who looking for a book to change up the pace.

Words in Deep Blue

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley – ☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️/5


If you like second hand bookshops, letters, and finding little notes in the margins of books, then this is the YA novel for you.

On a serious note the book is about love. Unrequited as well getting a second chance at a good thing. As you know love is insane and according to Henry, our fool in love, “love is fucking insane”! It is also about life after a tragedy. Remembering it is okay to live and be happy. Rachel, the dark soul, learns to live in the present while thinking about the future.

If I were to describe this book in one word I would use transmigration. In terms of the soul it means when the soul passes from one body to another after death. The latin word transmigrare means removed from one place to another, across, beyond or through. In this story, memories move from one place to another. Through books and letters, moments are shared and memories created. With these memories history is formed. Within the bookshop, the Letter Library holds those stories, memories, moments and creates a library of people that exist long after they are gone.

A contemporary that pulls at the heart strings, but also makes you giggle. Those who loved All The Bright Places or I’ll Give You The Sun, will enjoy Words Written in Blue. I know I did.

A Million Junes

A Million Junes by Emily Henry – ☕️☕️☕️☕️/5


A Million Junes is a genre all in its own. A Sarah Addison Allen meets Diane Setterfield for teens. Romeo and Juliet, ghost stories, secrets, mystical and magical lands. This forbidden love story takes place on a thin place. A place “both visible and hidden, where the veil between this world and the next is lifted and the light spills through. Space carved out to form the shape of God: holy ground”. A place where magical cherries grow and feuding families have their own ghosts that haunt them. When the youngest generation of the two feuding families start to fall in love, will they conquer their family’s past and put it behind them, or will they let it tear them apart? 

A beautiful story about the power of love and family. A story about grief and forgiveness. And a reminder that we must learn and live for ourselves.

The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield – ☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️/5


“I was spellbound. There is something about words in expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner.”

I was definitely taken prisoner by this novel. Diane Setterfield, weaved a story that I could not put down. I was captivated and in awe from start to finish. The story follows Margaret Lea, full time book lover and part time biographer. Vida winter is a best selling author and a recluse. Though her books and stories brought her fame, no one knows anything about Vida. Whenever someone would try to dig out the truth and find bits of her past, she would spin another tale, another story. Vida Winter’s life and past remained a mystery. After crying wolf so many times, she was ready to tell her story and so a letter appeared before Margaret.

As one digs and hunts for the truth in another’s life, you end up confronting your own truth, your own story. For everyone has a story. 

This novel was written so well, that you get to read the story from different points of view while jumping from past to present, without it being confusing or overwhelming. 

This story is a family drama involving complex and complicated relationships. This story is a mystery with its secret finally being written. The story is also gothic with it’s haunted house and ghosts. It’s a story of love and loss and when its all woven together, you get a tale like no other.

Without spilling all the juicy details and hidden messages of this wonderful story, I will stop here. The only thing left to say is, The Thirteenth Tale is a book for book lovers, for those who love the written word. A story for those who love to get lost in the pages of a book.