Such a Fun Age starts off with privileged, wealthy, (white) blogger Alix calling her (black) babysitter, Emira, asking her to take toddler Briar to the local market for distraction after a family crisis. There, the security guard accuses Emira of kidnapping Briar, and Alix’s efforts to right the situation turn out to be good intentions selfishly mismanaged. From there, we get to know Alix and her husband, Emira and her friends, and Kelley, Emiras boyfriend-to-be and also a person with whom Alix shares a (not so good) past, as things start to spin out of hand.
This book deals with really important questions like racism, diversity, hypocritical attitudes and ‘white saviour’ complexes in a genuine and objective way, and it was certainly an eye-opener in many aspects.
“I don’t need you to be mad that it happened. I need you to be mad that it just like... happens.”
The story was fast-paced and vivid (it’s a Reese’s Book Club pick and I couldn’t stop picturing it as a movie with Reese Witherspoon herself as Alix the entire time I read it…), thought-provoking, smart and sometimes funny, and a much-needed new voice. I had such high expectations for this book and I wanted so much to love it. But it wasn’t quite what I had hoped for, sadly, even though I still enjoyed it very much.
My main problem was that I didn’t particularly like any of the main characters in the end. It was interesting to see the relationship between Alix and Emira and how it evolved from employer/employee to something else, but after a while Alix’s obsession with Emira felt really unhealthy and questionable. And at the end some big revelations about Alix made me lose my sympathy for her completely. Emira was a much more likeable character, and I loved the empathic, tender and respectful way she treated Briar, but she felt very aimless and lost most of the time. If she was younger than 25, I would have understood it, but as it was now, I started to get annoyed by her lack of direction and for not even trying to find out what she wanted from life. I won’t go into the other characters in detail, but there is a cast of interesting characters in the story, but most of them not so likeable. As Kiley Read successfully manages to point out in her book, some people may have good intentions but sometimes as they are trying too hard to let everyone know they are not racist they manage to achieve the opposite effect…
But overall, Such a Fun Age is a really good novel with insightful, thought-provoking social commentary, an important message and well-developed characters. And even though I didn’t love it the way I had hoped for (I especially didn’t like the ending, that was way too abrupt for me and left me feeling disheartened and like something was missing in the book), I still enjoyed it very much and definitely recommend it! (And I can’t wait to see the movie, ’cause surely there will be one, right Reese?)
Find out more about the book and the author here: Kiley Reid
Ascension by Victor Dixen is something like The Selection taking place in space: The first trip to colonise Mars is made by twelve teenagers as contestants in speed dating show. Six boys and six girls are sent to Mars in separate compartments, but during the journey they meet up for live broadcasted speed dating session for 3 minutes a week, in order to find their future spouse. The idea is that when they arrive on Mars, they should all have coupled up to begin to establish a colony on Mars. So, even though this story takes place in space, it’s more romance than sci fi though.
Starting to read this book, I expected a light-hearted, cute and fun read, but there was a lot going on beyond the speed dating premise. In addition to the space parts, there was a part focusing on the business conspiracy on Earth involving the company behind the show and their leader with a secret mission to run for president. There was also a bit too much of unnatural explanations, and the speed dating parts were kind of rushed over. I wish there was more time devoted to the space travelers and their relationships (both the relationships between the six girls and the romance-buildings with the boys). I also missed out on representation, there were no same sex relations or queer characters at all. I feel like this book could have been really unique and mesmerizing, but the execution didn’t live up to the full potential.
But I did enjoy the book nevertheless, and it was full of suspense and with a main character, Leonor, that I couldn’t help root for. She’s a bold and strong-willed survivor of abuse and negligence, who doesn’t believe in love, but seizes the opportunity to create a better future for herself.
“What I want is glory and I know that I’m not going to get it here on Earth.”
I really want to know what will happen to her and the other contestants. Also, this book ended in a cliffhanger that makes me excited for the sequels. So, all in all, a solid three star read, but it had the potential to be so much more.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Victor Dixen
Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld was such a pleasant surprise. I didn’t have any expectations picking up this book, it was more a spur of the moment. But it was so good! And so funny!
Rodham is a creative re-imagining of what the Clintons are and what they could be in an alternate universe, telling the story of what would have happened to Hillary Rodham if she hadn’t married Bill Clinton. It’s written in such an inspired, light and amusing way that it completely draws you in. You don’t have to know much about politics or be a fan of Hillary Clinton or anything to enjoy this book. It’s not at all as political as you could have expected, and it sure does not shy away from criticizing or making fun of well-known persons like the Clintons, their friends and even Donald Trump, to showcase Hillary as a human being. She’s portrayed as a woman who is very clever and intelligent, but also as someone who makes mistakes, regrets them, tries to move on and who longs to be loved for who she is.
“I don’t know if this sounds pathetic or conceited,” I said. “But I always hoped a man would fall in love with me for my brain.”
Phyllis’s voice was kind when she said, “Hillary, no man falls in love with a woman’s brain.”
Even though this book is about how much better off Hillary would have been professionally without Bill, it is in no way idolizing or glorifying her. There are plenty of harsh descriptions of Hillary as a problematic figure (in both this reality and the alternative reality in the book), showing problems with racism, sexism and a naïve take on complex issues and it doesn’t try to blame Bill for all of it, as could have been expected. (Bill Clinton is described in a very negative way though as a sex addict and scrupulous womanizer with shady moral standards...)
All in all, this is a reflective and insightful imagination that highlights sexism and how far from equality we still are. It’s both an enjoyable, easy and funny read, and a book that hopefully will make it easier for the next woman to become the first female president. I really recommend it!
“Top-of-game alone. Sure. At times, I feel lonely because there’s only one of me. But the plus side is… there’s only one of me. I was born with special abilities, special creativity, and if it was 1850, I’d be out of luck. But it’s 1997, and the sky’s the limit. I can do it, and I am doing it.”
Find out more about the book and the author here: Curtis Sittenfeld
Chain of Gold is the first novel in a new trilogy by Cassandra Clare that stars the Shadowhunters of Edwardian London. Chronologically, this book takes place after The Infernal Devices (way before The Mortal Instruments), with James and Lucie Herondale, children of the famous Will and Tessa, as the main characters. For years there has been peace in the Shadowhunter world, but everything changes when the Blackthorn and Carstairs families come to London and awakens the demons waiting in the dark.
I put off reading this book for a while, fearing that I might be a little bit over this fandom. But clearly, I am not. This fandom still always draws me in. There’s something so addictive about Cassandra Clare’s writing and the characters she creates… As always there is drama, adventure, epic good vs. evil fights, crazy plot twists and characters you immediately root for. And of course, love conquering all.
“I am a Herondale. We love but once.”
“That is only a story.”
“Haven’t you heard?” James said bitterly. “All the stories are true.”
A lot in the story was predictive and reminded of similar plots and situations in the other books, but somehow it didn’t really matter, I was so intrigued nevertheless. What I especially love about this book is seeing Will and Tessa and their children James and Lucie and their group of friends, and Jem and Magnus Bane again and to get more of their background stories to connect the dots between the Infernal Devices and the Mortal Instruments series. I also really loved two of the new characters, Matthew and Cordelia, and hope things will get better for them as the series continues. (With the cliff hanger ending in this book, things will definitely be different for Cordelia at least… don’t want to say anything more to risk spoil anything though.)
And Anna. I have to say something about her. I think she’s my new favorite Shadowhunter character of all time. One thing that I especially appreciate about Cassandra Clare’s books is that there is a lot of queer representation and diverse characters. And Anna is one of the best and most fascinating and loveable characters I’ve come across lately (not only in the Shadowhunter world but in all books). She’s a lesbian in Edwardian London who seduces women and wears suits and questions just about any tradition and is so vivid and full of faults and intrigues that you know she will cause disaster wherever she goes. How can you not be completely floored by her? I can’t wait to read more about her adventures in the sequels.
“I thought you wanted to have tea!” objected Cordelia.
“No one ever just wants to have tea,” said Anna. “Tea is always an excuse for a clandestine agenda.”
I don’t know how Cassandra Clare does it, but once again she has left me desperately waiting for the next book.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunters
Tailgates & Twists of Fates is the fourth and final book in Haley Rhoades’ enchanting, sweet and heart-warming series following a group of High School friends in small town Athens from graduation until adulthood.
It’s almost impossible to write a review of a fourth book in a series without making any spoilers, so for those that haven’t yet read this series I want to say congrats for having this wonderful experience still to enjoy and that I recommend it with all my heart!
For those that have read the previous three books, we all know that it ended with Madison’s and Hamilton’s wonderful “first” date. I loved this part from the third book:
“We’re going to the spot where we began.”
The weight of his words warms me. We began that night I asked him for a favor; we met in the cemetery and it changed my life forever.
So, now Madison and Liberty have moved to Chicago to be with Hamilton and everything should be perfect, right? It should be time to enjoy the happy ending, but instead life continues to throw them curveballs… Trying to build a new life in a new town, while her book release approaches and Hamilton prepares to leave for spring training, Madison finds herself struggling.
Spoilers coming up…
The happy news about a new baby on the way are squashed when Hamilton is injured on the field and gets a concussion that leads to a personality change. Even though he starts to practice again his mood doesn’t improve. Madison worries that while he’s focused on physical workouts, he hasn’t healed mentally. She’s sure he’s depressed when he starts to withdraw from her and Libby. He’s irritable and has little patience with Liberty. On top of that, Madison feels the pull of her old hometown and a wish to give her children the life she and Hamilton shared while growing up.
End of spoilers.
I loved the character developments in this book and that Haley Rhoades keeps making it hard for our beloved couple. It would have been so easy to make it all peachy and perfect, but Haley Rhoades kept it real. I also love how she involved the old friends more again, especially Savannah, in this book, and how the friends all supported each other.
And the wonderful, wonderful epilogue made me cry happy tears, it was the perfect ending to this amazing series. No spoilers, but I can say that after 15 years, Madison realizes something important about herself and the life she wants to live.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Haley Rhoades
When I heard that there was a new book by Stephenie Meyer coming this fall, my first thought was that FINALLY there will be a sequel to The Host. But sadly, that was not the case... But it made me think about The Host again and realize that I’ve never written a formal review of it. So, I therefore decided to reread it and I am so happy to say that it was still as amazing. I definitely think that this is Stephenie Meyer’s best book.
The Host is a romance-sci fi novel, with just the right balance of sci fi to not scare the romantics away, and not too much romance to bore the sci fi fans. Set in a post-apocalyptic Earth, humans have been invaded by aliens known as ‘Souls’, who take over the minds of human hosts while leaving their bodies intact. When Melanie, one of the few remaining wild humans is captured, she refuses to give up possession of her mind to the ‘Wanderer’. Instead, they have to share Melanie’s body as she slowly starts to push the Wanderer to save her love Jared and little brother Jamie.
Even though it might sound like it, this is not another Invasion of the Body Snatchers, it is so much more than that! It’s much more complex and focuses more on the relationships of the characters and the intriguing dilemma of two lives sharing one body. Not only is there the issue of Melanie loving Jared and the Wanderer loving Jared because of Melanie’s memories; we also have Ian, another member of the rebels, who starts to have feelings for the Wanderer for her beautiful soul. The story of Ian and Wanda is honestly one of the more beautiful things I've ever read because it was a totally emotional connection and not about the physical aspect at all.
All in all, I absolutely love this book and am so emotionally involved with the characters. It’s a very clever and addictive story that, even though it’s young adult, is definitely a recommended read for any age. It is an emotional ride from beginning to end and I really, really, hope that there will be a sequel after all soon. There is so much left to discover about this world and characters!
Find out more about the book and the author here: Stephenie Meyer
Tailgates & First Dates is the third book in The Locals series, and I think this is Haley Rhoades’ best book of them all, which is really something! I have loved this wonderful series from the very first book, immediately rooting for Madison and her friends.
Madison is such a brave, kind and wonderful person you just want the best for. But as you know, if you have read the first two books in the series, her life hasn’t exactly turned out as planned… In this third book, Madison has settled down and started to really build a life for herself alone with her big secret, while Hamilton continues his baseball career. Their cute distance love relationship is evolving in the right direction though and is getting stronger by the day.
Then a mis-step shakes the home Madison has come to cherish with the lovely elderly Alma and of course, we all know that when it rains it pours… so shortly thereafter another major event happens, forcing Madison to return to her old home in Athens. And once again Madison’s life is forever changed.
“With one fall, one accident, my entire world shifted.”
I don’t want to make any spoilers, but I am so happy with the developments in this book. So very happy! Yes, there are some major heartbreaks in this book too, but my biggest wish from the second book came true and I am forever grateful to Haley Rhoades for that. The writing in this book is simply brilliant. Haley Rhoades did such an amazing job to tie it all together while keeping the suspense. I was on the edge the whole book worrying about what returning to Athens would do to Madison. Would she be able to keep her big secret or how would her friends react if they found out? And what about Hamilton, could she ever face him with her secret without losing him for good?
But you know, sometimes something lovely comes from weeks of despair, and that is certainly the case here. Now I just worry about what Haley Rhoades has in store for my beloved characters in the fourth and final book in this enchanting series…
Find out more about the book and the author here: Haley Rhoades
The Boy Who Steals Houses is utterly heartbreaking. I felt so sad and emotionally invested in the main character that it was almost impossible to read this book, it just hurt so much.
“I had nowhere to go, he wants to say. I’m the boy of nothing and nowhere. I’m invisible and forgotten, a thief of dust and cobwebs and house keys.”
Sammy Lou is a fifteen-year-old boy who has been betrayed and abused by everyone who should take care of him and his older brother Avery who is autistic. Kicked out from his aunt’s house, he does the only thing he can to stay off the streets each night, look after his older brother and create something that reminds him of a home – he steals houses. But when Sammy steals a house that is occupied and is still there when the owners return, he somehow finds himself swept up in the big, loud and busy family who lives there. (So busy that they fail to realise they have another live-in friend to the kids.)
I rooted for Sammy right from the start and it broke my heart to learn about his story of abuse and neglect, and how he still kept himself going and taking care of his demanding brother. He is by no means perfect though. He makes a lot of bad choices, some that really raises questions of morality, and he has severe trust issues that make him hold back and miss out on chances for happiness.
But no matter how sad the story itself is, C.G Drews manages to write it in such a way that it’s also funny and with lighthearted, hopeful moments. I absolutely love the family that Sammy strangely became a part of (even though some parts of how that came to be and the reaction when he was found out was slightly unrealistic, but that’s just a minor objection), how loving and caring the dad was and the fun banter going on between the siblings. Finally Sammy got a taste of what a home and a family really means. And the romance that starts to blossom is so sweet.
“I like your eyes,” she says. “They look like infinite blue skies of possibilities.”
The Boy Who Steals Houses is not an easy read - you should be prepared to get your heart broken before entering into it. It’s a complex and emotionally devastating story that contains abuse, homelessness, betrayal and violence. But it’s also a story about the importance of support, family and belonging, and a story full of hope that will end up stealing your heart the same way Sammy steals houses.
Find out more about the book and the author here: C.G. Drews
Oh my gosh the angst, the passion, the forbidden love… this book is intense! Caught Inside by Jamie Deacon is the story about seventeen-year-old Luke Savage who is about to spend the summer with his girlfriend Zara at her family holiday cottage in Cornwall. But what should have been a simple, lazy, summer spent sunbathing and surfing, turns into a whirlwind of desire and betrayal and a discovery that makes Luke question everything he thought he knew about himself.
Luke Savage is a player, the boy who always get girls without even trying. His one true passion is surfing. Until he meets his girlfriend’s cousin, Theo, and is overtaken by a desire he’d never experienced before.
I absolutely loved Theo from the start. He’s so fragile and wounded that you just want to hug him and tell him everything will be fine. Luke on the other is not very likable to be honest. He’s selfish and immature, and the way he treats his girlfriend Zara is not okay. At all.
“It isn’t that I don’t care about Zara, that this will hurt her. I just don’t care enough to stop.”
I don’t really agree with the decisions that Luke makes or how he treats the people around him. The decent thing to do would of course have been to break it off with Zara immediately, and then later to reach out to Theo. But on the other hand, I do understand how he felt unsure of what was going on between him and Theo and that he needed to let it go a bit further first. That the thing between them was too new, too fragile, to leave unfinished.
And it truly is a beautiful, heart-wrenching love story. I read it in one sitting, it completely drew me in. It’s so full of tension, angst, passion and heart-breaking decisions that it was impossible to put it down. I read it with a beating heart, desperately needing to know what would happen to Luke and Theo. So, the writing and the love story makes this an absolute five star-read, but because of the woeful way Luke went about it all, I will lower my overall rating for the book to four stars.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Jamie Deacon
Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman is a dramatic, gripping and heart-breaking story that turns history on its head, and pinpoints racism and injustice in such a telling way.
This thought-provoking story is set in an alternative universe, where people of color called “Crosses” are the dominant rulers, with “Noughts”, people of European origin, as a despised underclass excluded from the best schools and work, even seen as nothing or “Blankers”. The story follows teenagers Sephy (a Cross) and Callum (a Nought) as their childhood friendship turns into a forbidden love with all the attendant difficulties that a racially divided world presents. The narrative switches between the two perspectives as they both try to make sense of the world they live in.
The story is so dramatic, gripping, emotional, shocking and tragic. There are many moments of happiness between Callum and Sephy, but there are also so many dangerous events occurring against a rising tide of Nought militarism and so many things happening to them that are just heart-breaking. The characters are so realistic and complex, with flaws and likeable and less likeable traits. I immediately rooted for Callum and his wish to change the world, whereas still being realistic about the limitations and risk for violence when challenging the current order. Sephy irritated me at times for being so childish and naïve, even though she tries her best to see Callum’s perspective. What I really liked about them both was how fair and unprejudiced they were, despite the values they’d been raised with and the judgement and bias they’d been surrounded by all their lives.
(On a side note, the book has been adapted for the screen in an HBO series that I actually think is better than the book in certain aspects, especially when it comes to Sephy. In the series she is much more likable and the role of her parents are better portraited. The love story between Sephy and Callum also makes much more sense as they are older when they really fall for each other and more aware of the consequences. On the other hand, the book provides more background to Sephy’s and Callum’s friendship, which I really enjoyed.)
All in all, Noughts & Crosses is a well written, unique and powerful story that really makes you think. I can’t wait to continue the whole series, especially after the very unexpected ending!
Find out more about the book and the author here: Malorie Blackman