(Review) Now is Everything

 Now is Everything by Amy Giles
Publication Date: November 7th, 2017
Pages: 368 (kindle)
Genre: Young Adult
My Goodreads Rating: 3.5 Stars

Goodreads Synopsis:
Now Is Everything is a stirring debut novel told in alternating THEN and NOW chapters, perfect for Sarah Dessen and Jennifer Niven fans, about what one girl is willing to do to protect her past, present, and future.

The McCauleys look perfect on the outside. But nothing is ever as it seems, and this family is hiding a dark secret.

Hadley McCauley will do anything to keep her sister safe from their father. But when Hadley’s forbidden relationship with Charlie Simmons deepens, the violence at home escalates, culminating in an explosive accident that will leave everyone changed.

When Hadley attempts to take her own life at the hospital post-accident, her friends, doctors, family, and the investigator on the case want to know why. Only Hadley knows what really happened that day, and she’s not talking.

My Review: 
As a debut novel, this is a good one. This book had plenty of things that a good YA novel needs: drama, romance, insta-love, annoying friends...you get the picture. 

Hadley is a high school senior who seems like she's on the fast track for greatness. Only what everyone doesn't know is that Hadley's main focus is protecting her little sister from their abusive father. 

When Hadley starts dating Charlie things go from bad to worse. Her father has no remorse and doesn't care about anything or anyone but himself. Hadley's mother is an alcoholic and is completely useless. While Hadley confides in Charlie about her home life she leaves her friends out of the loop and it causes tension between them. 

I liked the alternating chapters of THEN and NOW and figuring out how we got to the NOW part. The THEN parts are hard to read, particularly because of the mentions of abuse within the narrative. There are also so cringe-worthy moments. The insta-love is one of them. There are many swoons and the love story seems kind of weak. 

The bigger part of the story is how Hadley tries, and fails, to protect Lila. There are some truly heartbreaking moments between the sisters and parents. The little bit of mystery is a nice addition and the supporting characters are...okay. I liked Noah a lot but Meghan was too much drama for me. 

All in all a strong debut. Check it out in November. 

Thanks to Edelweiss and Harper Teen for the ARC. 

(Review) Release

Release by Patrick Ness
Publication Date: September 19, 2017
Pages: 288 (kindle)
Genre: Young Adult
My Goodreads Rating: 3 Stars

Goodreads Synopsis: 
Inspired by Judy Blume’s Forever and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, this novel by award-winning author Patrick Ness is a new classic about teenage relationships, self-acceptance—and what happens when the walls we build start coming down.
Adam Thorn doesn’t know it yet, but today will change his life.

Between his religious family, a deeply unpleasant ultimatum from his boss, and his own unrequited love for his sort-of ex, Enzo, it seems as though Adam’s life is falling apart. At least he has two people to keep him sane: his new boyfriend (he does love Linus, doesn’t he?) and his best friend, Angela.

But all day long, old memories and new heartaches come crashing together, throwing Adam’s life into chaos. The bindings of his world are coming untied one by one; yet in spite of everything he has to let go, he may also find freedom in the release.

From the New York Times-bestselling author of A Monster Calls comes a raw, darkly funny, and deeply affecting story about the courage it takes to live your truth.

My Review: 
I'm a huge fan of Patrick Ness and was thrilled to get a copy of this book through Edelweiss. I think that Ness has a great way of incorporating those tough things that teens go through coupled with a dark humor that is still relatable. 

Release was a great mixture of exactly that. 

Adam is struggling with a lot of things. His very religious pastor dad, his perfect brother, his new boyfriend, and terrible boss. Life is pretty stressful for him and he's counting the days until he can get out of the town and away from it all. 

I liked Adam a lot. He's funny and weird. Things have to be a certain way and he has to plan everything. Adam is still trying to figure out his life and it kills him that his parents don't accept him. When Adam takes something very serious to his father, his father turns it around like it's Adam's fault. It's heartbreaking to read and you really feel for Adam. 

In spite of all of that, he is still strong and still himself. Adam has Angela and Linus to keep him afloat and it works well. Adam's brother plays a pretty big part toward the end and some of their interactions had me in tears and hit close to home. I believe a lot of people will relate.

There's a little mystery that goes along with the story, in true Patrick Ness style. A little ghost story follows the narrative and, while you think it has nothing to do with the actual story, they all sort of end up at the same place. 

I think this was a great little story about how to be yourself and how to understand that you can't make people accept you. It just has to happen. If it's meant to be, it will be. 

Thanks to Edelweiss and Harper Teen for the ARC. 

(Review) The Border

The Border by Steve Schafer
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Pages: 364 (kindle)
Genre: Young Adult
My Goodreads Rating: 3 Stars

Goodreads Synopsis:
One moment changed their lives forever.

A band plays, glasses clink, and four teens sneak into the Mexican desert, the hum of celebration receding behind them.

Crack. Crack. Crack.

Not fireworks―gunshots. The music stops. And Pato, Arbo, Marcos, and Gladys are powerless as the lives they once knew are taken from them.

Then they are seen by the gunmen. They run. Except they have nowhere to go. The narcos responsible for their families' murders have put out a reward for the teens' capture. Staying in Mexico is certain death, but attempting to cross the border through an unforgiving desert may be as deadly as the secrets they are trying to escape... 

My Review: 
This book is a little out of my genre of YA simply because of the subject matter. While interesting, the writing was sometimes a little too mature for my taste. I understand that this book was told from the perspective of teenagers, but the narrative didn't always catch my attention and I found myself skimming some of the pages. 

The story is about four Mexican teenagers who are fleeing the scene of a gruesome massacre in which all of their immediate family members die. The kids have no idea what to do with themselves so they run. They find themselves at he home of Sr. Ortiz who helps them get ready to cross the border. 

While Pato, Arbo, and Gladys don't seem to know much about crossing, Marcos does. Marcos is a tough character to read. It's obvious he wants to be the tough guy but you can also tell that he's scared. He wants to be in charge, only he makes terrible decisions and nearly gets them all killed multiple times. 

In addition to struggling through the desert and trying to stay alive, Pato and Arbo find out something about their father's that makes their grief even worse. It's a heartbreaking story. 

While I enjoyed reading about the crossing of the border and was glad to have some insight of what happens to people trying to find a better life, it felt like a lot of the story was repetitive. The same mistakes were being made and the same things kept happening. 

I would have loved to have seen a little into the future of the characters and their life after. Still a good informational read. 

Thanks to NetGalley and Sourcefire for the ARC. 

(Review) Mask of Shadows

Mask of Shadows by Lindsey Miller
Publication Date: August 29, 2017
Pages: 384 (hardcover)
Genre: Young Adult
My Goodreads Rating: 1.5-2 Stars

Goodreads Synopsis: 
Sallot Leon is a thief, and a good one at that. But gender fluid Sal wants nothing more than to escape the drudgery of life as a highway robber and get closer to the upper-class―and the nobles who destroyed their home.

When Sal steals a flyer for an audition to become a member of The Left Hand―the Queen's personal assassins, named after the rings she wears―Sal jumps at the chance to infiltrate the court and get revenge.

But the audition is a fight to the death filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and vicious ex-soldiers. A childhood as a common criminal hardly prepared Sal for the trials. And as Sal succeeds in the competition, and wins the heart of Elise, an intriguing scribe at court, they start to dream of a new life and a different future, but one that Sal can have only if they survive.

My Review: 
In theory, Mask of Shadows, is an interesting concept and brings a diverse character into the world of young adult novels. The idea of a gender fluid main character fighting for revenge against the people who killed their entire family and destroyed their homes is definitely something we should all get behind.

In actuality, the execution fell flat. This would have been a great story, had it more originality than simply making the main character gender fluid. To me, that's the only thing that stood out from this book. 

Sal is a thief and one day they steal a flyer from a passing coach and then decide to try and become one of the queen's most loyal assassins. Only until they see the flyer, Sal is only a thief and streetfighter, so the decision seems a bit impulsive considering they've been living this way for years. 

Once Sal makes it to the audition they, and all of the other auditioners, are to be in some sort of a culling. They're supposed to kill each other, but don't get caught killing each other. Which was kind of confusing to me. The game plays like this for several chapters and scenarios as the characters are weeded out. 

While they are auditioners, they are also only known as numbers, so it's a little hard to keep track of who is who. I didn't find myself interested or invested in any of these characters...except maybe Ruby, because he seemed badass. 

This story gets repetitive as the auditioners keep trying to kill each other, the whole time Sal is trying to find their revenge on the elite of society. It just felt like we've seen this story so many times before (The Hunger Games, Divergent, Red Rising) and Sal just didn't fill the shoes of those characters. 

Personally I would have liked the gender fluid aspect of Sal to be more prominent and made more of a main point in the book. To me, it seemed like a way to hook people in and not really focus on the main thing that was supposed to make this book special. 

It was a struggle to get through this one. Even some of the language and dialogue felt stunted and unnatural. I fond myself rereading sentences over and over in order for them to make sense. Part of me is interested in finding out what actually happens with the rest of the series, but most of me is okay with it ending here. 

(Review) The Darkest Part of the Forest

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
Publication Date: January 15, 2015
Pages: 336 (hardcover)
Genre: Young Adult
My Goodreads Rating: 3.5 Stars

Goodreads Synopsis: 
Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?

My Review: 
I've apparently had this book on my TBR list since 2015 and just realized it. I picked it up recently from the library because I love reading about magic (I've been on a kick this summer) and it sounded like it'd be just right. 

Hazel and Ben are great characters. They have a strong sibling bond that has less do with monsters and more to do with the fact that their parents kind of suck. Growing up in the town of Fairfold isn't easy for anyone really. The Fae are supposed to respect the humans that live there, but it isn't always the case. Case in point: one of their best friends, Jack, is a changeling. 

Weird things start to happen to Hazel with the horned boy in the coffin wakes up after centuries. She loses bits of time, wakes up with a bed filled with dirt, and keeps getting weird messages. All the while she keeps this from Ben and her relationship with Jack begins to blossom. 

I liked this storyline enough, but felt like it could have been more. Though Hazel is a great character, for most of the book she just feels like an impulsive little girl who wants to get her way. There's a whole other side of her that we don't even know about and I would have loved to have had some of those scenes of Sir Hazel. 

The relationships built in this book are great, however. From Jack and Hazel to Ben and Severin. There was always part of me that was guessing if someone was going to turn out to be the bad guy, so the suspense was there. 

All in all, it quenched my magical thirst and I'm glad I finally picked it up. 

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