Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate is a heart-breaking story of children being stolen from their families, about abuse and danger, but also about hope and love and the feeling of belonging. It’s a captivating and emotional novel that tells a horrible story in a beautiful way.
This novel has two parallel storylines; one in 1939 and one is present day. In 1939, Rill Foss and her younger siblings are stolen from their poor Mississippi Shanty boat and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director Georgia Tann, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together in a world of danger and uncertainty. In present days Avery, the daughter of a prominent Senator, returns home to help her father through a health crisis, when a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history. From here, the two storylines slowly unravel and come together.
The narrative switches back and forth between Rill and Avery, telling the story from their different angles and giving us pieces to what happened to Rill and her siblings both in a linear way via Rill’s parts, but also in hindsight via the discoveries that Avery does in her parts. Both storylines pull on the heartstrings, but I loved Rill’s parts the most. I think the part of the story taking place in modern day had a bit too much of chick lit romance in it to truly be my cup of tea, but it still added so much to the story with the mystery plot.
Before We Were Yours is an important story about a real-life scandal that needs to be told, but it’s also a wonderful novel on its own merits. It’s a bittersweet book that pulls on your heartstrings, with a lot of sadness and terrible things happening, as well as a story about hope, love and survival and about the strength in family bonds that cannot be broken, no matter what. I highly recommend this novel!
Find out more about the book and the author here: Lisa Wingate
The Witch’s Tears is the second book in the cute YA trilogy about sixteeen-year-old Merry, who is trying to be a normal teenager, while also being a witch and the problems that comes with that. The book starts off three months after where The Witch’s Kiss left off, with Merry and Leo still grieving what happened in the first book.
This second book is much darker and sadder than the first one. It’s also my favorite book in the series. I love how the story evolves, creating an intricate weave of dual times (modern and Anglo-Saxon) and deepening the characters. The plot felt more in-depth than the first, and there was even more action and magic in this book. When Merry’s and Leo’s grandmother, and leader of the coven mysteriously vanishes, the two of them must team up to get her back. Which is not an easy task, with Merry still being untrained and inexperienced when it comes to her witch craft, and with the coven distrusting her. And on top of that, Leo is still being consumed by his grief.
Oh, poor Leo! It was painful to see him suffer so much in this book. Really painful. Especially in the parts where he thought that he’d found someone else to love, but you as a reader can feel it in your guts that it will not end well… But still, I love that Leo got to be a bigger part of the story and the extra layers of depth that was added to his personality. He’s definitely my favorite book-brother of all times!
Just like the first book, this book is so well-written and full of action that you can’t stop yourself from flying through the pages. I was so eager and nervous to find out what would happen to the characters and how they would survive all dangerous situation they ended up in that I read this in one sitting. The suspense if they would succeed in finding the grandmother and if the newcomers Ronan and Finn were to be trusted, was killing me!
This is an enchanting YA series that I highly recommend! It is full with magic, adventure, love, evil wizards and old curses wrapped up in an amazing reading experience.
Find out more about the book and the authors here: The Corr Sisters
This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel is an absolutely wonderful book that I recommend with all my heart also to YA readers, even though it for most part has the parents’ perspective. This is such a witty, sweet, honest, gripping and thought-provoking read that addresses so many important questions.
The book is about the large, gorgeous, lively Walsh-Adams family and their five sons, and what happens when the youngest one, the extraordinarily verbal little Claude, explains that he wants to be a girl scientist when he grows up. Laurie Frankel does such an amazing job in describing how important it is for Claude to wear dresses to feel comfortable and as him/herself even though he is not yet clear with that he is a girl. She also explains so well how the parents find themselves on new and scary terrain, trying to balance Claude’s safety and happiness with the older brothers worry about the comments and bullying both they and Claude will be victims to. After an incident, the whole family moves to a new city, where Claude blossoms as Poppy. The problem is that they have kept the past a secret, allowing Poppy to be a girl just like anyone else, which makes things easier for Poppy in a way, but increasingly difficult on her brothers. The story takes a darker turn when she is outed and Poppy and her parents must find their footing again.
This is a wonderfully contradictory story. So painful at times, yet so heartwarming and joyful, written with such a humor and witty language. And with so much knowledge. Laurie Frankel has herself a daughter who was born a boy, which is evident from the depth and understanding of what the family goes through in the book. I know that I will keep coming back to this book and the questions about how to best support and protect a child who isn’t identifying itself as its genders, but still not entirely as the other either. I loved the way the book does not give any definitive answers, but rather opens of for discussions about what it really means to be true to yourself; suggesting that there are times when neither right nor left works and, instead, you have to go straight ahead, through the great unknown of the middle.
And I was so moved by Laurie’s explanation about the inspiration behind the book and the differences between a novel you write and your own life, in that the novel should be perilous, unpredictable, full of near misses and heartbreak, but the latter you want as plotfree as possible and a world where anyone can be who they are and become their most wanted , loved and appreciated selves.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Laurie Frankel
The Witch’s Kiss is the first book in the cute YA trilogy about sixteen-year-old Merry, who is trying to be a normal teenager, while also being a witch and the problems that comes with that. This is such an enchanting story, full of magic, adventure, love, evil wizards and old curses that will draw you in from the very first page!
I love the setting in present days and the combination of witchcraft in modern times (like how Merry’s grandmother contacts her witch-friends via Facebook...). It gives this series a unique touch. And the characters are so realistic and loveable. I love that Merry is allowed to be a normal teenager with teenager problem while also being a witch and struggling with understanding her powers (which is extra hard since her mother has prohibited her from using them). Merry is such a great main character. She’s fierce, strong and smart. And the relationship with her older brother, Leo, is adorable.
Merry and Leo must be the cutest siblings in history! I love their strong bond. Leo was overall one of my favorite characters in this series. He was so kind and protective of his sister, even though he sure had his own shares of problems to deal with. His struggle with being in love with his best friend and trying to find a good way to come out of the closet to tell him was so well described and made my heart ache for him.
The book is very fast-paced, with a lot of action as Merry has to defeat and ancient curse when the King of Hearts, who has been hunting Merry’s bloodline for ages, once again rises. When the boy she’s been dreaming about suddenly materializes himself, Merry faces another problem. How can she fight the curse if she’s attracted to the boy under its spell?
I love how the story evolves to be told in parallel timelines, with a fairytale explaining the origin of the King of Hearts by the heartbroken Gwydion in Anglo-Saxan times. And how the love story between Merry and Jack has been a long time coming, over generations.
The ending was a bit of a surprise though. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I had thought that the title of this book would have some meaning that would have made the book end in a different way. But it sure made you eager to continue the series...
All in all, this is an absolutely wonderful YA fantasy book, with strong and loveable characters, magic, adventure, ancient curses and forbidden love that I highly recommend!
Find out more about the book and the authors here: The Corr Sisters
The fact that the events described in The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth even exists, and that families actually send their loved ones to conversion therapy camps to “cure” them from being who they are, makes me so angry I want to cry. This book is a heart-breaking reminder that even though so much has been gained the past decades we must keep on fighting for everyone’s right to love, freedom and justice.
That said, I so wished I would have loved this book. This book is so important and it was well-written, but it wasn’t a read that pulled you in. It wasn’t bad, but it had so much potential that it didn’t quite meet, sadly.
Cameron was a likeable enough main character and I really appreciated that she was allowed to act like a real teenager; selfish at times, irresponsible and contradictory, but she didn’t steal my heart. The main problem was that the book was so wordy and that every single thing Cameron did or thought was described in detail, which slowed the story down and created a distance to the characters.
There is also another objection that I felt after finishing this book, and that is that the book, nor Cameron, doesn’t condemn the correction therapy clear enough. This kind of camps, and the idea that someone can be “cured from homosexuality” or that “homosexuality is a sin” are completely unacceptable, and I wished that it had been made absolutely clear and condemned in a much harder way.
But all in all, it is an important book that deserves to be read and discussed.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Emily M. Danforth
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys will make you cry and will haunt you forever, in the best possible way. It’s a master piece, a gripping and beautiful story of hardship, humanity, loss, love and survival during WWII. This book is both heart-breakingly sad and hopeful at the same time, showing both the best and worst of humanity, and with so many wonderful characters you immediately fall in love with and want to rescue from the brutality and horror surrounding them.
The book takes place during the Winter of 1945 when four persons paths converge as they try to escape the horrors and survive the war and all the terrible things they have experienced. Joana is a Lithuanian nurse who struggles with demons for leaving her family behind, Florian is a German with secrets of his own and revenge on his mind, Emilia is a Polish teenager running from the betrayal and abuse she has suffered at the relatives who were supposed to keep her safe, and Alfred is a Nazi soldier with something to prove and a mind that works in a not completely sane way. There is also the sweet “shoe poet” Opi and the boy Klaus and other lovable persons in the small group of refugees travelling together, trying to reach the coast and get passage aboard a ship to safety and freedom.
The four main characters alternate in telling the story from their point of view, thereby sharing their secrets, backgrounds, hopes and dreams with us, if not to each other. The different POVs really add to the story and brings an extra dimension to story, spinning it around in all angles, and revealing the ever-changing dynamics between them. Three of the characters, and the side-characters, are lovely and make your heart go out for them and their hardship. I felt so so much for them and their struggles it kept me on needles to find out what would happen to them all. (The fourth, Alfred, is an idiot. Even if he can justify his actions to himself, no one else can. That’s all I have to say about him.)
The book is based on a true story, the sea evacuation Operation Hannibal and the sinking of the ship Wilhelm Gustloff. This is the deadliest disaster in maritime history, with Soviet torpedoes destroying and sinking the ship carrying nine thousand people, the majority being civilians (of which, about five thousand were children). The losses dwarf the death tolls of famous ships like Titanic, but yet, this disaster is almost unknown. Ruta Sepetys surely will make that change now. You can tell how much research and thought she has put into this story to inform people about this devastating tragedy.
The writing is exquisite in the face of such brutality. The way Ruta Sepetys told the story was just beautiful, how she created this weave through the different POVs and slowly, slowly revealing their secrets and reasons for their actions.
I finished the book crying my eyes out and my heart aching for the characters in the story, as well as the real lives they mirrored. It is a pretty intense book for being YA, but I cannot recommend it enough! This is one of the best books I’ve read and definitely the best historical fiction ever! Just be prepared to cry and to be hit by a tornado of emotions.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Ruta Sepetys
I’m really late to the party here, but I finally read Love & Gelato and understand what everyone’s been talking about. This book was a supercute, fast-paced and addictive read.
In short, this is a romantic and mysterious story about Lina, an American girl who loses her mother to cancer and gets sent to Italy to live with her until then unknown father, Howard. When Lina arrives, she finds her mother’s diary from the time she spent in Italy and met Lina’s father all those years before. But in the diary, the man is only mentioned with an “X” and their relationship is kept a secret. Soon Lina realizes that “X” might not be Howard and there is a reason why her mother never told her who her father was.
Love & Gelato and is a fun, cute read, with the setting in Italy and the romantic troubles with next door boy Ren and his friend Thomas adding extra flavor. The main characters are heart-warming and the diary plot draws you in. I read this book one afternoon on the beach, skipping the swimming just to find out who Lina’s dad really was and how things would go with Ren and Thomas. There were some tropes, but not as many as I had presumed. And even though it was not that difficult to see the plot twists coming, I’m very happy about the ending. All in all, this is a gorgeous summer read!
Find out more about the book and the author here: Jenna Evans Welch
The Red Scrolls of Magic is such an adorable book! I had this happy, goofy, smile all over my face reading it. I love Magnus and Alec together and it was such a bonus pleasure to get a whole book just focusing on the two of them.
Before reading this book, I actually thought I was ready to leave the Shadowhunter realm, but oh no, this book sure drew me right back in again. It’s an additional book to the Mortal Instruments series telling the swash-buckling romantic adventures of Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood on the vacation mentioned in City of Fallen Angels (the 4th book in the series).
When Cassandra Clare originally wrote The Mortal Instruments she had to hold back on love scenes between Magnus and Alec to not risk getting the books be considered ”inappropriate”, which I now realize in hindsight is why the relationship between them felt a bit thin and not so engaging at times. But not in this book! I’m so glad I decided to read this gem! Even though the romance is constantly getting interrupted by demon attacks (very frustrating!), the romance is definitely not thin anymore! I love the way you could follow how their relationship deepens and how Alec is worried about his lack of experience, but still NEEDS to take things further. He shows so much vulnerability and there are so many amazing softer scenes. Like kissing, cuddling, getting to know each other without any pretend or acts. The book was so adorable and queer and so fun and fast-paced. It I absolutely loved it!
And an extra adorable bonus was the meeting between Helen and Aline! Knowing from The Mortal Instruments series that they would become a couple it was so amazing to read here about their first meeting.
So, if you’re the slightest fan of the Shadowhunter world, or if you ship Malec, or even if you know nothing about the Shadowhunters but are just really wanting to read a LGBTQ+-led romantic story for once, this is the book for you! I truly recommend it, it’s a gem not to be missed!
Find out more about the book and the authors here: Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunters