Always and Forever, Lara Jean

Always and Forever, Lara Jean (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, #3) by Jenny Han

My rating: five stars

Genre: YA, Romance

Edition: Paperback

Goodreads Summary: And there’s still so much to look forward to: a class trip to New York City, prom with her boyfriend Peter, Beach Week after graduation, and her dad’s wedding to Ms. Rothschild. Then she’ll be off to college with Peter, at a school close enough for her to come home and bake chocolate chip cookies on the weekends.

Life couldn’t be more perfect!

At least, that’s what Lara Jean thinks . . . until she gets some unexpected news.

Now the girl who dreads change must rethink all her plans—but when your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

I absolutely loved the first and second books, so of course I immediately picked up this one right after finishing P.S. I Still Love You!

Likes: This last book takes place when Lara Jean is trying to figure out a place to go to college, and this transition from high school to college is an interesting turn of events. Life in high school was so different than life in college that I enjoyed seeing how the characters changed and grew. I feel like I could relate to it more since I was in college a couple years ago. This book focuses more on the transition from childhood to adulthood instead of solely relationships which was a nice change of pace. Not that I don’t like the focus on relationships – because I definitely do, it was just interesting to see what other stressors are in Lara’s world besides guys. The journey of Lara trying to find herself when everyone in her life was telling her to do different things was so relatable. I could see myself in her, which is usually when I have the most fun reading books. This story was more relatable and more real to me than any of the other books, even though the first one still might be my favorite. 

Dislikes: This book was a story about finding yourself and choosing between following your heart or doing what your head – and other people – tell you to do. So obviously there were some people saying annoying things and butting in to Lara Jean’s life when they really should have been supportive and helped her find out what she wanted to do. However, that is life I suppose.

Like the first two books, I give this one five out of five stars. Also like the first two books, I will not deduct a star just because there are character traits or decisions that I do not agree with. When people love you they will try to do what is best for you, even if it doesn’t seem like they are at the time. In this story I truly believe most of the characters are making certain decisions because they love Lara Jean and want what is best for her. So though it is frustrating, I can see why they are acting the way they are. I would 100% recommend this series, it is one of my favorite romance series’, and I really hope they put the whole trilogy on Netflix!!

The Selection

The Selection (The Selection, #1) by Kiera Cass

My rating: five stars

Genre: YA, Romance

Edition: Kindle

Goodreads Summary: The first book in the captivating, #1 New York Times bestselling Selection series! Discover a breathless fairy-tale romance with swoon-worthy characters, glittering gowns, fierce intrigue, and a dystopian world that will captivate readers who loved Veronica Roth’s Divergent, Ally Condie’s Matched, and Lauren Oliver’s Delirium.

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape a rigid caste system, live in a palace, and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon. But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her, and competing for a crown she doesn’t want.

Then America meets Prince Maxon—and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

I have heard so many things about this series but I wasn’t really interested, simply because I thought it would be exactly like The Bachelor (which I have never been super into). However, I decided to pick it up because it was free on my Kindle and I was in the mood for some romance. I am so glad that I did!! 

Likes: I loved the pacing of this story. It was pretty fast paced through the entire book which did make me finish it much sooner than I wanted to, but it also kept me hooked the whole time. How the women are selected seems a little strange (very hunger games but with judges instead of picking randomly) but it was funny to see the theatrics all the girls go through to try and be picked. The whole time I was laughing at a lot of the women which was surprising. I honestly didn’t expect it to be a comedic book but it was! The women were really going at each other to try and be with the prince and I enjoyed reading about their endeavors. There was also a side plot that I didn’t expect with the government that was a nice addition to the story. The caste system was interesting but really sad. Basically, if you are a woman it is pretty bad if you marry below you because you are then that level caste. Depending on your caste you can only do certain work and make a certain amount of money. It made the romance at the beginning tragic. 

Dislikes: There was one girl character that was the absolute worst and I just don’t get why the prince didn’t eliminate her immediately. That part just didn’t seem realistic. Everyone in the entire castle knew how terrible this woman – except the prince apparently. She starts to do some horrible things to other girls and I don’t understand how she was getting away with it. 

Overall, this book made me want to fly through the entire series (if only I owned the other books…)! It was less superficial than I thought it would be, it actually had some depth to it. There were side stories that I enjoyed, and a complexity in the world that was unexpected. I still say that it is similar to the Bachelor, but with more intrigue and less pettiness.


Neverwhere (London Below, #1) by Neil Gaiman

My rating: three stars

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Edition: Audiobook

Goodreads Summary: Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, is going to find out more than enough about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre. And a strange destiny awaits him down here, beneath his native city: Neverwhere.

I actually read this book because it was a recommendation from my boyfriend. He doesn’t read books often but he does listen to audiobooks occasionally. This is one of the audiobooks he said that he actually liked, so I wanted to see what it was all about. 

Likes: I really enjoy the writing style of the author. It is quite different from most books that I read and I found that refreshing. He had a quirky way of writing that kept things interesting and he made sure to describe things in depth which helped me picture the world. Speaking of the world, London Below was SO neat! It was so similar to London but at the same time different. I don’t know how Neil Gaiman thinks up half of the things that were in this book but they were awesome! For example (not a spoiler), there are a society of mice that hire these people who are basically their translators for humans. It was pretty funny. There were many more unique ideas like this and it made the story a lot of fun to listen to. 

Dislikes: The main negative thing about the book was that it was confusing. I think it was partially the story line and partially because I am more easily confused when I listen to audiobooks. When I read physical books I can go back and reread something if I don’t understand it, whereas in audiobooks that is more difficult to do. So the fact that this world was so different than ours, and so many things were going on in the story line, I was a little confused at times. I think the audiobook version of the story just didn’t allow me to fully immerse myself in the story and I would love to get the physical copy so that I could re-read it. There aren’t any negative aspects to the story that I can think of, I was mainly turned off because of the confusion and complexity. 
Overall, I did really enjoy this book. It was a fun world and story line, I had a great time listening to it. The two main antagonists were a funny duo, their personalities were conflicting and it caused some comedic scenes even though they were ultimately terrible people. I would recommend this story, the characters were well flushed-out, the world was amusing, and the story line was a fun journey. I still would like to read the physical copy to see if I am less confused though. 

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

My rating: five stars

Genre: YA, Romance

Edition: Paperback

Goodreads Summary: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

I was first interested in this book after I saw the Netflix movie – which I highly recommend by the way. The movie was being advertised everywhere and the trailer looked cute so I eventually watched it. I am glad I did! The movie was so adorable and heart warming I immediately bought the entire book series because I just knew I had to read it. Fast forward many, many months later, and I was finally able to read it!

Likes: Though there were several big issues in the relationships between the characters in this book, I love how most of the relationships evolved and grew as the characters matured. There is a lot of character growth from the beginning to the end that I really appreciate. This growth affects the relationships between the characters. It shows how just because there are problems with relationships that does not mean that the relationship is not worth fighting for and that they will not get through their problems together. The book also shows struggles with friendship and family relationships. This story goes into so many topics and hardships between people, I feel like it is a very easy story to relate to, even if you don’t have a significant other. It was just a really cute, lovable story that gave me the butterflies on the inside, while at the same time making me bawl my eyes out.

Dislikes: So, the only thing I really disliked about the book was the lack of communication between all of the characters. However, that is part of their growth. Throughout the story characters start to communicate with each other more and talk their problems out. This leads to resolution and problem-solving. This isn’t really a dislike that I have for the story – because mis-communication and lack of communication is very realistic. It’s just that as a reader we can see how communication would fix everything and it is frustrating. I love it at the same time though because it makes it more believable and it shows how the characters grow together. 

Overall, I gave this story five out of five stars because it is such a heartwarming story that really makes my belief in love, and the ability to get through bad situations in relationships, stronger. I would recommend the movie too, it was different but adorable! I look forward to the second one that is coming out soon!

We Hunt the Flame

We Hunt the Flame (Sands of Arawiya #1) by Hafsah Faizal

My rating: three stars

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Edition: Hardcover

Goodreads Summary: People lived because she killed. People died because he lived. Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the king. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways. Both are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya—but neither wants to be. War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the king on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds—and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine. Set in a richly detailed world inspired by ancient Arabia, We Hunt the Flame is a gripping debut of discovery, conquering fear, and taking identity into your own hands. 

This book was one of the Barnes and Nobles YA Book of the Month picks which is why I picked it up. I originally hadn’t heard much about it, but after reading the summary I was definitely intrigued. 

Likes: The storyline was so unique, I was extremely interested in reading it after seeing the summary. I love the idea of a forest that is expanding so quickly it will eventually take over the whole land – and only one girl can enter it. The Arab elements really taught me a lot – for I have not read many books with them. The different clothing, food, and landscape really immersed me into the book. I love learning about different cultures and this book is perfect for that (if you don’t mind using Google, I will discuss this later). I honestly did like the love aspect to it – even though the characters and relationships were extremely frustrating. The descriptions of the world and surroundings were great, I could picture everything! There were so many fantastical elements and Hafsah did a wonderful job of creating the world. 

Dislikes: There was no glossary or anything to translate the foreign words, food, and clothing. Since I do love learning about different cultures I am not satisfied with just skipping over words that I don’t know and just assuming what they are. I want to know the meaning of the words, what the food has in it, and what the articles of clothing look like. I usually wouldn’t mind searching around for this information, but it really got in the way of my reading at the beginning because I would have to stop and research in the middle of the story. A friend eventually did show me that there is an online glossary for the book, but until then it was a little frustrating. Another thing was the style of writing. I know Hafsah is a relatively new writer, but her way of writing was a little rushed. As stated before, I really liked the idea of the love between the main characters. However, it seemed forced, and a little unrealistic due to events that happen early in the story. I would think these events would cause the main character to not want anything to do with Nasir, but it doesn’t faze her as much as I think it would in real life. People’s reactions as a whole seemed unrealistic and seemed changed to make the story go along. I like when I can actually imagine characters as real people, but it was difficult for this story. 

Overall I gave this story three out of five stars. The confusion with a lack of a glossary made it difficult to get into the story smoothly which made it slower in the beginning and caused me to not get as invested in the story. Then the character decisions not being realistic also took me out of the story and made it unbelievable. I did like the book, and I think most of the things I didn’t enjoy could be fixed as the author gains more experience, so I would recommend as long as the reader realizes that she is a newer author and has the glossary website pulled up somewhere.


Renegades by Marissa Meyer

My rating: five stars

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Sci-Fi

Edition: Audiobook

Goodreads Summary: Secret Identities. Extraordinary Powers. She wants vengeance. He wants justice. The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies — humans with extraordinary abilities — who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone… except the villains they once overthrew. Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice — and in Nova. But Nova’s allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both.

I first became interested in this book when I saw Marissa Meyer at a panel at BookCon and she talked about the storyline and characters. The heroes versus villains aspect really intrigued me and I always love a good book with super powers. (I used to play the game City of Villains/City of Heroes which got me into super powers)  

Likes: The plethora of superpowers was incredible! There are some that I have seen before that Marissa used in a unique way and there were some that I had never heard of! My favorite is probably Adrian’s power, the ability to draw anything to life sounds so cool. Plus, the secret second ability of it is wicked! I also enjoyed how good and evil wasn’t black and white. Just because a character was a villain didn’t make them evil and just because a character was a hero didn’t make them good. The complexity to each character really brought the story together. 

Dislikes: The story towards the end got a little confusing and it just seemed like some scenes were really strange and didn’t make much sense. I don’t want to spoil anything so I will just say that there were some parts towards the end that I didn’t really care for. 

Overall, I gave this book five out of five stars because it was incredible! I was sucked into this story and felt such an attachment to the characters. The relationship between Nova and Adrian is so complex but adorable, I felt so bad for them for the situation they were in but at the same time I was rooting them on. The end scenes that felt out of place may not have been my favorite, but they didn’t put a dent in how much I loved this book. I can’t wait to read the next one!


SLAY by Brittney Morris

My rating: five stars

Genre: YA

Edition: ARC

Goodreads Summary: By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is an honors student, a math tutor, and one of the only Black kids at Jefferson Academy. But at home, she joins hundreds of thousands of Black gamers who duel worldwide as Nubian personas in the secret multiplayer online role-playing card game, SLAY. No one knows Kiera is the game developer, not her friends, her family, not even her boyfriend, Malcolm, who believes video games are partially responsible for the “downfall of the Black man.” But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, news of the game reaches mainstream media, and SLAY is labeled a racist, exclusionist, violent hub for thugs and criminals. Even worse, an anonymous troll infiltrates the game, threatening to sue Kiera for “anti-white discrimination.” Driven to save the only world in which she can be herself, Kiera must preserve her secret identity and harness what it means to be unapologetically Black in a world intimidated by Blackness. But can she protect her game without losing herself in the process?

I actually received an ARC of SLAY at Book Con in New York. I am so thankful that I was able to receive this, and just in case anyone is nervous about seeing a review for it, this review will be spoiler free – as all of my reviews are. 

Likes: I honestly love books that speak about topics that can sometimes make people nervous to talk about. This book in particular talks about racism and about the feeling of not fitting in anywhere. I love how well this book speaks about these two topics. Though I cannot relate to the exact situation that Kiera is going through, I can relate to not feeling completely welcome by people. The author really puts the reader in Kiera’s shoes to show how she feels. Going to a primarily white school really affects Kiera’s everyday life – in positive and negative ways. The beauty of her online game SLAY and how it makes her feel at home and where she can truly show who she is is inspiring. I have a friend who went to a primarily white school while being black and while reading this book, the things that Kiera goes through are some of the exact things my friend went through. I just love how real this story is! I am also a gamer so I love that Kiera expresses her emotions and shows her true self through gaming. I can really connect with her through that and honestly, her game sounds amazing! Also, her boyfriend… I honestly did not like her boyfriend at all but I thought it was brave of the author to show how Kiera wasn’t only receiving negative reactions from the white community but also from black people that were close to her heart. It shows how there are so many different ways that people celebrate being black and so many ways that people think being black should look like. It was very tenacious of Brittney and I respect her so much for that. 

Dislikes: I honestly don’t have any dislikes for the book. I love the story line, the characters, the writing style, everything about it. I don’t like the boyfriend Malcolm but there was definitely a purpose to his character and he was used in a clever way. 

I rated SLAY five out of five stars because it was honestly brilliant. There were so many different world views in this book and they were displayed so beautifully. It showed insecurities in a multitude of forms and it showed how characters overcame those insecurities. The story had character growth that made me respect the characters so much. I would read this story again and again and would recommend it to everyone!