So this book isn’t really a YA book, but I love it so much that I have decided to include it in my reading tips anyway. From Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon is such an amazing, beautiful, gripping, emotional and heartfelt read that I wanted to share it with you all.
This’is an epic love story during WWII between Angelo, a Catholic priest, and Eva, a Jew, as Hitler’s army is sweeping throughout Europe, inciting death and destruction.
Eva and Angelo were raised like family, but as the years went by, the two found themselves falling in love. But the church called to Angelo and, despite his deep feelings for Eva, he chose the priesthood. A decade later, with Gestapo closing in, Angelo hides Eva within the walls of a convent. But, Eva refuses to allow herself to be hidden away, allowing Angelo to bear the brunt of everything, while her family and so many others are being persecuted. With the world at war and so many in need, Angelo and Eva face trial after trial and so much death and danger, grief and heartbreak, intrigue and suspense, so many moral dilemmas and personal crisis of faith, so much sacrifice, so much yearning.
From Sand and Ash is a heartbreaking story, with evil and horror, but also so much love, hope and humanity. At times, it was painful to read, so intense and emotional, but in the end it really shows the strength of love. This story took my breath away and is one I will never forget. It is brilliant and by far one of the best books I’ve ever read. I recommend it with all my heart!
Find out more about the book and the author here: Amy Harmon
The Wicked King is the second book in the dark tale of Jude Duarte and her sisters, and their struggle as mortal in a Faerie world. Jude has been such a favorite character for me since the first book in this series, The Cruel Prince. She’s a complete bad ass, strong and fearless and never whining or feeling sorry for herself no matter what ill treatments and injustice she suffers. After all that happened to her in The Cruel Prince, I wondered (and feared) what more evil Holly Black could possibly to do her this time around? Quite a lot it turned out…
The Wicked King picks up five months after the end of book one and the jaw-dropping revelation that Jude’s little brother Oak is the heir to Faerie, and we get to see how Cardan has developed as a ruler, after several months’ worth of practice. We also discover how Jude’s deception has affected their love/hate relationship thing they have going on, since she’s bound Cardan to her and made herself the power behind the throne. No ruler is ever safe in Elfhame, though. Jude can’t let her guard down for a minute, having to navigate Faerie politics and deal with enemies from without and within the kingdom. As if that wasn’t enough, Jude is constantly at odds with Cardan, who takes every measure to humiliate or defy her wishes. At the same time, there is a spark, an attraction neither of them can get away from.
A LOT happens in this book, much of which I simply cannot tell you without spoiling the whole plot. We get to see new parts of Faerie that were only hinted at in the first book, like the Undersea. We are re-introduced to characters that I assumed were out of the story, in new unexpected ways. And there are upheaval of political alliances and feuds everywhere. The pace of the story is even faster than in the first book and the plot just draws you in completely. Holly Black makes an amazing job keeping her reader at suspense, and to always deliver the unexpected. The intrigue and power dynamics were so entrancing that I couldn’t put the book down until the very end. There were twists I never in a million years saw coming.
I have some mixed feelings about Jude and Cardan’s relationship though. It’s intriguing, for sure, but I don’t know if I want them to be a couple or not, which is a bit frustrating as a reader. I can’t see their relationship ever becoming a good one. There will always be this unhealthy undercurrent, a hint of violence and abuse, that you don’t want anyone ever get caught up in. Yet, some part of me want them to be together, to admit their feelings for each other. So, very mixed feelings for the book in that respect. Nevertheless, the book itself is so good and I truly recommend it and am now eagerly awaiting The Queen of Nothing. It’s simply impossible to not continue reading this series to see where Holly Black takes us and what more she will do to Jude until the end...
Find out more about the book and the author here: Holly Black
Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott is a bittersweet love story about two teens, Stella and Will, who struggle with sickness (cystic fibrosis) and the uncertainty of their futures.
Stella is an organized achiever who has her life in order and manages her medications and treatments efficiently. Will is the total opposite; a rule breaker, tired of medications, hospitalizations, and drug trials. When Stella and Will first meet at the hospital, they infuriate each other but, as in any true opposites-attract fashion, romance eventually blooms. The bacteria infecting Will is easily transmitted and drug resistant, and he therefore has to stay six feet away from the other patients, making a relationship impossible.
An interesting fact is that the movie came first, rather than the book. In a way, you can sense that when reading the book, as it is very fast-paced and situation-driven. The love story part felt a bit forced in the beginning and I had some trouble connecting with the characters at first. But it picked up after a while and the characters gained more depth and their emotional struggles became more engaging as the story continued.
I liked the concept of the “non-touching” relationship and that the book brings attention to a severe disease that I don’t think everyone knows about. And I am a hopeless sucker for love, especially the forbidden Romeo-and-Juliet-kind, so I ended up loving this book much more than I’d ever thought. Even though there were some triggering tropes and the ending that felt quite unbelievable and too much out of character for Stella. But all in all, this is a really cute and fast-paced bittersweet story that deals with pain and sorrow, with a new and unique angle to the engaging forbidden love plot.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Five Feet Apart
You know the feeling when you just can’t put a book down and it’s making you all feverish and happy and scared that something bad will happen to the characters and laughing and crying at the same time? Birthday by Meredith Russo is that kind of book.
The topic of this book is heavy, dealing with things like the death of a parent, transgender, bullying and suicide, but Meredith Russo found a perfect balance between the hardship and struggles and still creating a hopeful story, heart-warming and oh so gripping story.
Birthday is about Morgan and Eric who are bonded for life after being born on the same day at the same time. We meet them once a year on their shared birthday as they grow and change: as Eric figures out who he is and how he fits into the world, and as Morgan makes the difficult choice to live as her true self. The story is told from both Morgan’s and Eric’s POV with snapshots of their birthdays from age 13 to 18. I really loved this concept of alternating POVs and how so much can be read into what has happened during the time between the birthdays. Over the years, they will drift apart, come together, fight, make up, and break up—and ultimately, when tragedy strikes, realizing that they need one another more than ever. While this novel hugely deals with Morgan being transgender, at its core this is definitely a love story. The relationship between the two is so beautiful and definitely one of my favorites ever.
I loved both of the main characters. My heart went out for Morgan already from the start, when he’s grieving his mother and having to go through all his problems without her to talk to. But I also really loved Eric too, he was such a genuinely good person and caring friend. It was so amazing how Eric supported Morgan, even before he understood what was going on with her. Meredith Russo did such a great job in describing how Eric subconsciously had feelings for Morgan as if she was a girl before she even knew if for certain herself. And then, when she came out to him, it was absolutely beautiful to see how Eric used immediately and completely natural used the she pronouns.
Meredith Russo has created a masterpiece in Birthday! I recommend it with all my heart. It’s such a realistic novel not avoiding any of the hardship (I cried so much!) but it’s also so full of hope and love and friendship, that it leaves you with this warm, happy feeling nevertheless.
I also loved, loved, loved Meredith Russo’s first book, If I Was Your Girl. It’s a story that has stayed with me since I read it, and which I will always remember. Both her books are such important eye-openers that they should be among required reading in school, but they are also such amazing, powerful, heart-wrenching and beautiful stories that deserves to be read on their own merits.
Find out more about the books and the author here: Meredith Russo
Salt for Air by M.C. Frank is a touching story about bullying, mermen and the beauty of friendship that will stay with you for a long time. I love this book so much, it was such an amazing, beautiful, gripping, emotional and heartfelt read!
Salt for Air is a story about a bullied girl, who writes fanfiction to escape her miserable reality. Having been bullied myself, I can relate (almost a little too much) to the living hell that is Ellie’s everyday life and what the bullying does to her. M.C. Frank describes this so spot on, you can really feel that the story is based on her own experiences. She does a remarkable job describing how anyone can be bullied for no particular reason (in this story Ellie used to be overweight, but even though she no longer is, the bullying still goes on) and what it does to a person. Some of these thoughts were manifested via chapters from Ellie’s blog on ‘Rule for surviving Bullies’, which was such a great take!
Did you know that when someone is bullied, they’re forced to become a different person than they would have if they hadn’t been bullied? When you bully someone, you’re basically robbing them of their future true self.
When reading this book, my heart immediately went out for Ellie. I also loved her fanfiction writing (once again, I can SO relate!!!) and the amazing twist when she found herself rescued by the merman in her own stories; Ky, the emerald-eyed merman and exiled prince. M.C. Frank takes the popular Greek mythology and revitalizes it in a completely new and unique way. She also revitalizes the trope of the nerdy girl being rescued by the swoon-worthy hottie and turns it around. (Can’t explain too much, to risk making any spoilers, but all I can say is that Ellie is such a strong and fierce character.) I also loved the addictive writing style. The writing is so wonderful, fast-paced and captivating. And sassy! I loved Ellie’s snarky comments, for example when she hilariously refers to Ky as “fish boy”, and all the bickering going on between the two main characters.
You mean, that you thought you’d kiss me and I’d decide it’s ok to die for you?”
“It was a pretty good kiss,” he says.
Obviously, I loved the two main characters, but the supporting characters were just as amazing. I adored both Lorelei and Maia, who were both such strong and fierce warriors, looking out for Ky and Ellie.
But most of all I loved the way Ellie found the strength to believe in herself again, to be both the person she was before the bullying changed her and a new different, stronger one.
I recommend this book with all my heart. It is an amazing and emotional fairytale with such an important underlying message. It’s a book that you will not easily forget.
Find out more about the book and the author here: M.C. Frank
A Twisted Belief by Pearl Khatri is magical and heart-wrenching fantasy novel that will draw you in to a world of beauty and emotions, of love and hate, of betrayal and friendship and that will keep you on the edge until the very last page.
This book has it all: strong bad-ass females, Greek mythology creatures, witches, vampires, Kings and glorious Princes, transforming Empyreans, epic adventures, battles for life and death, Goddess Prophecies and destiny calling moments.
The plot was so exciting! I can’t say too much since I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but it is so well done and truly original, imaginative and gripping. And with so many twists that will keep you on the edge of your seat all the way through! There is not a dull moment ever in this book, it starts off with a flurry of actions and turns into a rollercoaster ride at the second half.
Please be aware though that this book contains mature content, both sexual and language-wise and that it is a NA, not a YA, novel. That said though, OMG the hotness in some of the scenes and talk in this book. Some scenes seriously make you blush! Not that I’m complaining. Not at all actually… The sex scenes are very well written, and even though they are very explicit, they are never even close to being cringy or cheesy. And just let me say that riding a centaur can get your imagination spinning…
And, the characters! The characters are the most interesting aspects of the story! The main character, Erabella is so strong and fierce, and yet insecure at the same time. I really like that she is not to the perfect princess-type, but that she has “chubby cheeks” and is “plumpy as a plum” and so bad-ass! The way she tells all the men around her off and how she never backs down from a fight, is just outstanding. And she showed such an amazing transformation throughout the story, dealing with all the bad and life-changing things that happened to her.
But there are so many other characters in this book that I immediately took to my heart too. The strong and honorable Aaron, with so much more than meet the eye, Prince turning King Vallian who stands up for Erabella in a time of need, Prince Johan who is so gloriously gay, sweet and wonderful, the protective minotaur Orion who is such a sweetheart, Elafil who reminds me of sweet Dolby in HP and Wance, the sexy powerful warlock. But of course, most of all the magnificent Ryan. He’s like Rhysand from the ACOTAR-series turned into a centurion and a vampire. Bad-ass and dangerous, hot, hot, hot and gorgeous, with a heart of gold. I just want more!
And the dialogues. The writing is engaging, captivating, and exciting. As I mentioned, the language is a bit crude, with plenty of use of the four-letter word and other cuss words, but it makes the dialogues snarky and hilarious and insanely enjoyable!
All in all, A Twisted Belief is a fast paced, hard hitting, epic ride that will take you on exciting twists and turns! I love the diversity, the intriguing story, and the imaginative characters and world. I can’t wait for the sequel to find out what happens after that excruciating cliffhanger ending!
I just have to mention one of the relationships in the end. Can’t explain too much, since it would spoil a lot of the plot twist in the book, but this m/m couple made me so warm at heart and solved a situation magnificently. I so want to read more about this gorgeous couple!
Find out more about the book and the author here: Pearl Khatri
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell is an adorable and heart-wrenching coming of age story.
One extraordinary love.”
That quote from the blurb is a very good summary of this lovely, but sad, love story. It was not the best of Rainbow Rowell’s books (I loved Carry On to pieces!) but I really enjoyed it nevertheless. This is a cute and fluffy YA contemporary read but it also has a lot of serious moments with child abuse and negligence.
My heart went out for both Eleanor and Park while reading this book. They both had so much to struggle with, especially Eleanor with her horrible home life and her mother, and her own appearance (“Red hair, wrong clothes.”).
I also really loved the pop references and that the book took place in the 80s.
I am not sure how I feel about the ending though, I both love it and hate it… I think the book would have benefited from a more bombastic ending somehow. All the time while reading, I kind of waited for something more or bigger to happen.
All in all, if you haven’t read any of Rainbow Rowell’s books I would recommend you to start with Carry On, but after that, this is a really cute read as well.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Rainbow Rowell
My reading tips this week is the adorable, sweet and quirky feel-good YA romance To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. I flew through the pages of this cute chic-lit love story, not able to put it down until I’ve read it all. Lara Jean is now one of my favorite characters ever, and I absolutely love the Song family dynamics. This book is just as much about family bonding as it is about teenage crushes.
In short, this is a story about Lara Jean Song Covey, the middle girl of three in a half-Korean family, where the mother died about ten years ago. To deal with heartbreak and to get over her crushes, she writes love letters to all the boys she’s loved, then hides the letters in her hatbox. Until the box goes missing, and suddenly the boys, including her sister’s ex boyfriend Josh and the school hottie Peter Kavinsky, which sets in motion a chain of event that will change Lara Jean’s life.
Lara Jean is such an outstanding main character, I can’t think of any other character like her. I love her quirkiness, her innocence, how she loves to stay at home and how she deals with heartbreak and the love and devotion she feels for her family. She feels like a real person in so many ways. It is so refreshing with a quiet, shy person who is allowed not to be boring! Lara Jean is the opposite of boring, she’s funny and witty and curious and comes up with so many snarky comments you laugh straight out at times. Especially in the bickering conversations with Peter.
I can relate to so many things about Lara Jean. Like what it’s like to be shy, to prefer staying at home and baking (or in my case, reading books) over going to parties, to feel both older and so much more childish than your same age friends. And of course, her hate for driving. I’m still a lousy driver, totally get her aversion to driving!
I also totally adored the whole Song Covey family. Lara Jean’s dad is amazing, I love the relationship he has with each of his daughters and how he makes sure their mother is still included as a vital part of the family even though she’s been gone for so long. One of my absolute favorites though is Kitty, the feisty little sister. She’s hilarious and adorable, and a total brat at times. I love her frankness and smartness and how she is just completely in her own skin all the time. I did not bond as much with Margot, the oldest sister, but she added a good mix to the family dynamics. So while this novel is also a romance, I felt that it focused on family more, which I truly appreciated. It is very rare in YA that the family gets this much focus, often the family is more or less left out. But here it was at the core of the story.
I like both Peter and Josh, but I think I enjoyed Peter’s character just a little bit more. (At least in the movie, where Lana Condor and Noah Centineo have such a sparkling chemistry. In the book Peter is sometimes a bit too douche-y for my liking.)
All in all, this book is super sweet, with more emotions than expected. The dialogue is great. It really feels realistic and like the characters in this series talk like real teenagers would. There is also great character growth. When the letters come out, Lara Jean had to go through a lot and really changed and grew from the experience.
I definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for an adorable and quirky coming-of-age story with a cute romance and heartwarming family ties. I can’t wait to continue the series and hang out more with Lara Jean!
Find out more about the book and the author here: Jenny Han
This week I’ve read Restore Me by Tahereh Mafi, the fourth, additional book to the original Shatter Me-trilogy, that has now most likely been turned into suite of six books. I really, really loved the original trilogy, so I was so excited when I found out that the series continued in Restore Me. But unfortunately, I didn’t love this book quite as much as the previous ones.
It’s hard to explain, but this book felt a bit off somehow. The characters that I had loved so much for their complexity suddenly felt one-dimensional and the plot was kind of slow.
I was so taken by the character developments in the series, especially in Ignite Me. It was amazing to see a character grow as much as Juliette did and I really loved the new, stronger her. And the way we got to know Warner, how he revealed his true self bit by bit. I absolutely loved all the Warner and Juliette moments and the feels, the attraction, the way they were equals and supported each other, how they opened up and were vulnerable and honest to each other. But in Restore Me, most of that seems to be gone.
I think the main reason that I’m feeling a bit disappointed is that the story kind of reverted in some major aspects. The strong Juliette that we got to know in Ignite Me is replaced by her old insecure and whining self again. And the romance with Warner just doesn’t fly this time. They are both too occupied with themselves to really connect. And the plot was much slower this time. Honestly, I don’t think very much happened other than spending time with the characters. Not until the end that is. The end was a completely shocking cliff-hanger!
Don’t get me wrong, this book wasn’t bad. It was just not as fantastic as the previous books in the series!
Overall I did enjoy it and to be back in the world of Juliette and Warner and Kenji. I also really enjoyed the flashbacks to Juliette’s diary, the added a great extra dimension and connected the dots to the first book. But I’m still a bit confused about the purpose of the book and the ending?
But with that cliffhanger... really, I can’t wait to read the next book! I hope that it will get the story back on track, so this can continue to be my favorite dystopian of all times!
Find out more about the book and the author here: Tahereh Mafi
The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee was one of my most anticipated releases this year. It's the sequel to one of my favorite books ever, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. I loved, loved, loved the first book about the Montague siblings, and it was so wonderful to be back in their world again.
Ever since I read The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue last year, I’ve been fangirling about this amazing, unique and completely addictive read. It is one of my favorite books of all time, and the sassy, hilarious Monty and the sweet, darling Percy is one of my favorite OTPs ever as well.
So, it’s no exaggeration saying that this sequel was one of my most anticipated releases this year and that I was dying to get back to the wonderful world of the Montague siblings once again.
This time, the story is told from Monty’s sister Felicity’s side, and focuses on her ambition to study medicine and her problems to be taken seriously as an intelligent woman and be admitted to a medical school. Just like in the first book though, adventure comes knocking and the story takes us from Edinburgh to London to Stuttgart and Zurich… and to dragon hunting in the Atlantic… I liked the headstrong Felicity already in the first book and can certainly relate to her and how she’s not able to do what she really wants, as opposed to what society dictates she must do. So I was happy to get a chance to get to know her even better in this book, but I must confess that I really missed Monty’s POV. A lot of what made the first book so amazing and hilarious, was that it was told in Monty’s engaging, sassy voice. When the story is told from Felicity’s POV this time, it loses that unique way of telling the story and, sadly, makes it much less fun.
The story was also much slower this time. Especially the first part of the book, which dragged a lot, until the more adventurous part kicked in. It felt unnecessary that this book was over 500 pages, it would have been better without a hundred of them or so. Where The Gentleman’s Guide felt like a wild roller-coaster ride, this story at times felt too serious and straight forward. I get that some of that is due to the fact that the story is told by Felicity, who is a much more serious person than Monty, but it was still disappointing that the magic and the unique tone and humor from the first book was missing in this one.
But, overall, it is still a really good book! There are wonderful story twists, amazing characters and adventures. And strong women, friendship, love and pirates. And dragons! I loved that part of the book, it added some of the magic from the first one again. The best parts of the book where the ones that Monty and Percy were in. My heart melted every time and I had this goofy smile all over my face! So even though this book did not fully meet my expectations set by the previous book in the Montague series, I still really enjoyed it and certainly recommend it!
Find out more about the books and the author here: Mackenzi Lee
Hi! I'm Annie, a Swedish bookworm, YA addict and coffee lover, who writes romantic YA books in English. I'm the author of the Angelheart Saga series (First Came Forever and Forever Disguised).
I love YA books and want to share what I read with you too, so check out my reading tips here!
Below you can find the reviews per author as well.