4 stars · Book Reviews · Reading · Uncategorized · young adult

Review | With the Fire on High

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With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
Quill Tree Books, 2019
Young Adult
400 pages
4/5 Stars

GoodReads Synopsis:

With her daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. The one place she can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Still, she knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain — and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life — and all the rules everyone expects her to play by — once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free.

Review:

So, this was a hard book for me to rate. I went between four and five stars no less than three times, I swear. I really enjoyed it. The audiobook was incredible, and the imagery and descriptions really transported me. I loved the story. I loved the characters.

But. The ending disappointed me. I’m not sure what it is, exactly, it’s a fine ending!

I just felt like something was missing. It left me really wanting more in terms of Emoni’s journey, and not in a good way.

Besides that, though, I really enjoyed the book. I loved Pretty Leslie’s redemption arc, and when Emoni was cooking, I could truly feel her love and passion for expressing herself through food and creating food that moves people.

Perfect for aspiring chefs, foodies, and fans of ‘Waitress’ the musical.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

4 stars · Book Reviews · Reading · young adult

Review | The Girls I’ve Been

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The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2021
Young Adult
336 pages
4/5 Stars

Trigger Warnings: violence, abuse.

GoodReads Synopsis

Nora O’Malley’s been a lot of girls. As the daughter of a con-artist who targets criminal men, she grew up as her mother’s protégé. But when mom fell for the mark instead of conning him, Nora pulled the ultimate con: escape.

For five years Nora’s been playing at normal. But she needs to dust off the skills she ditched because she has three problems:

#1: Her ex walked in on her with her girlfriend. Even though they’re all friends, Wes didn’t know about her and Iris.

#2: The morning after Wes finds them kissing, they all have to meet to deposit the fundraiser money they raised at the bank. It’s a nightmare that goes from awkward to deadly, because:

#3: Right after they enter bank, two guys start robbing it.

The bank robbers may be trouble, but Nora’s something else entirely. They have no idea who they’re really holding hostage…

Review

I’m usually not a thriller reader, but when I saw this on Instagram, I knew I had to read it. A reformed con AND bisexual representation?? I don’t know, that sounds pretty perfect to me.

And I was NOT disappointed. This book had me on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next. It was absolutely incredible to watch Nora use the lessons she’d learned from the girls she’d been (get it?!) to save her and her friends’ lives. She is clever, crafty and quick, and because of her past, she has future.

I also LOVED Nora’s relationships with Wes and Iris. The night before the story starts, Wes, Nora’s ex-boyfriend (who had suggested Iris was interested in a relationship with Nora, and whose relationship with Nora ended because of a lack of honesty) walked in on Nora and Iris. I really appreciated that Wes wasn’t upset because his ex was moving on, or was with a girl, but because he and Nora were close friends, and she didn’t tell him. Also because he knew that Nora hadn’t been honest with Iris about her past yet. But it wasn’t anything to do with his pride, and only concern for his friendship with Nora and Nora and Iris’ relationship. Wes said no toxic masculinity in this house.

I also appreciated seeing Nora in therapy. Although she couldn’t be completely honest in her sessions, (because, you know, her life was in danger.) it was really powerful to see her trying to work through her trauma in such a healthy environment.

I absolutely loved this book. Here’s to hoping for a sequel in which we get to see Nora (with the help of Iris and Wes, because let’s be honest, they’re perfect) taking down more of her demons.

Perfect for Reputation era stans,

Rating: 4 out of 5.

3.5 stars · Book Reviews · Entertainment · historical fiction · Lifestyle · Reading · young adult

Book Review: “Lovely War”

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Lovely War by Julie Berry
Viking Books for Young Readers, 2019
Young Adult / Historical Fiction
480 pages
3.5/5 Stars

Trigger Warnings: Violence, War, Death, Sexual Assault, Racism, Race Related Violence and Death, Depictions of PTSD

GoodReads Synopsis:

It’s 1917, and World War I is at its zenith when Hazel and James first catch sight of each other at a London party. She’s a shy and talented pianist; he’s a newly minted soldier with dreams of becoming an architect. When they fall in love, it’s immediate and deep–and cut short when James is shipped off to the killing fields.

Aubrey Edwards is also headed toward the trenches. A gifted musician who’s played Carnegie Hall, he’s a member of the 15th New York Infantry, an all-African-American regiment being sent to Europe to help end the Great War. Love is the last thing on his mind. But that’s before he meets Colette Fournier, a Belgian chanteuse who’s already survived unspeakable tragedy at the hands of the Germans.

Thirty years after these four lovers’ fates collide, the Greek goddess Aphrodite tells their stories to her husband, Hephaestus, and her lover, Ares, in a luxe Manhattan hotel room at the height of World War II. She seeks to answer the age-old question: Why are Love and War eternally drawn to one another? But her quest for a conclusion that will satisfy her jealous husband uncovers a multi-threaded tale of prejudice, trauma, and music and reveals that War is no match for the power of Love.

Review:

I believe this was one of those “BookTok” made me do it purchases I made at the height of quarantine this summer. Lovely War has sat on my bookshelf for months, and when I needed to read a book with a pink cover for a read-a-thon I participated in in January, I knew it was finally time to read it.

When I first started reading this book, I was absolutely amazed by the Greek mythology , beautiful love stories, and music references. It was absolutely incredible, and I decided only a few pages in that this was going to be a five star read.

Alas, it is not. Pretty quickly, some things I wasn’t a fan of began to happen. There was a sexual assault that I was not prepared for, and while it was not violent, it was described as almost identical to my own experience ten years ago. It was very triggering, and I only wish I had been prepared. There was also racism and a race-related murder that I wasn’t expecting that was difficult to read, especially in today’s day and age. Finally, the endings seemed to be very rushed, which is kind of funny, considering the book is over 400 pages. The amazing detail and imagery that I loved in the beginning seemed to vanish towards the end.

I liked this book. I did. But the sexual assault scene really, really rubbed me the wrong way. I think this goes to show why trigger warnings are important. When I was triggered, I froze. I read the same sentence over and over again as my own trauma replayed in my head. I’m grateful that with a lot of therapy, I’ve come a long way to being able to cope when I’ve been triggered. But it wasn’t always like that. In high school, I stayed away from books and movies with certain themes. I would ask my English teacher to give me a heads up, and had a plan in place with my resource counselor as what to do if I was assigned a book that could trigger me.

This isn’t a weakness. It’s self-awareness. I know myself very well, and I know what can trigger me. Trigger warnings allow me to prepare myself and cope ahead. Half of the power of my triggers is that they can blindside me. Trigger warnings take the power away from my trauma and put it back in my hands.

In all the hype I saw for this book, I don’t remember seeing one trigger warning for sexual assault. Granted, I bought the book around six months ago, so I could be wrong, and his could be my own error. But another reason that the sexual assault really bothered me is that it seemed so needless. I think the scene was only thrown in for shock value, and I really didn’t appreciate that.

If you’d like to purchase this book for yourself, please consider purchasing from an independent bookstore, or if that isn’t possible for you, please consider using my Amazon Affiliate Link.

Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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