Die for Me by Amy Plum

I’ve wanted to read this book for a while, but waited until the second book was closer to come out. I’m not the world’s most patient person, but the wait was worth it.

The story is unique, in my opinion. In the flood of recent Young Adult fantasy and supernatural novels, it was incredibly refreshing to find something that hadn’t been explored before. To make it even better, Plum has a wonderful way of writing that just sucked me into the story right away. I was equally interested in the revenant side of the story as I was the romance of the book. There was a perfect balance between the two and that can be difficult to come across, and I give Plum tons of credit for being able to pull it off.

Kate is a wonderful female character. She thinks about the consequences of her decisions and sets limits for what she can handle in a relationship (she even sticks with them). She makes sure she and Vincent are on as level playing fields as they can be and won’t take no for an answer when it comes to being kept in the dark. I just loved that she didn’t push herself aside for the relationship with Vincent and didn’t let him do it either.

Vincent is amazing. He’s romantic and yet the banter between him and Kate is just as wonderful as when he decides to be the deliciously sweet French boyfriend that he is. He cares so much for Kate that he’s willing to go above and beyond the call of good boyfriend duty to make sure she feels like staying with him is the right thing to do. He’s not overbearing and gives her the space she needs. I want a Vincent for my own life.

Die For Me was one of the best books I’ve read this year. It was romantic, sweet, and had enough action to keep me turning page after page. This is a book that doesn’t disappoint. Read it and you’ll fall in love with every word.

The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey

I’ve never read Jane Eyre. There, I said it. I’ve never read it and I was worried that might have an effect on how much I enjoyed this book. Would I be able to love it, even if I’ve never read the novel it’s a retelling of? Would I even be able to understand the impact of the original on this book? If the story has already been told before, would it even be a good book?

The answers to those questions are yes, yes, and yes.

I loved this book and it actually has me wanting to read Jane Eyre. I fell in love with Gemma and her determination to not be a victim of her past. There were so many parts of the story when it would have been completely acceptable for Gemma to take a look at her circumstances and life and decide to just give up hoping for better things. But she fought forward instead and took ownership of her life and made things happen for herself instead of sitting idly by and hoping something came along.

I loved how Gemma was developed as a person before introducing the romantic element of the story. Yes, she’s still young, but she knows more of herself than a lot of girls her age. She’s had time to grow before falling in love and she doesn’t let that love change the major parts of who she is. When something doesn’t feel right to her, she makes the decision to maintain who she is and what she believes, even though it ends up hurting more than anything else in her life.

I was a little worried I’d be too bothered by the age difference in the love story, but I surprisingly wasn’t. It somehow felt right and made sense. In the life of Mr. Sinclair, he has had to face just as many difficulties as Gemma, and even though it took longer for him to find a companion that understood and saw him for him, it fit and was wonderful to read.

I adored this book and definitely think people should read it. I can’t make any comparisons between Jane Eyre and The Flight of Gemma Hardy, but as its own novel, The Flight of Gemma Hardy was superb and certainly one of the best books I’ve read.

Endless Summer by Jennifer Echols

Yet another book by Jennifer Echols that I adored. As an added bonus, this was two books in one. So many wonderful words to read.

The first of the two books, The Boys Next Door, was simply perfect. It was funny, romantic, and pulled at my heart in the best way. I missed out on any teen summer romances, but in my head, what Echols wrote is exactly how I wanted those summers to feel. Feeling all that emotion–the happiness, the confusion, the love–is what summer love is all about.

Lori was trying to be the girl she thought her mother wanted her to be. She left her tomboyish ways behind and was trying to change herself into the girls she saw at school. This includes dating the guy she thinks her mother wanted her to be with. The realizations she comes to in this book were a little bittersweet, but they made her a better person who was more comfortable in her own skin.

Adam is a sweet guy with a touch of ADHD and a bit of a temper. It’s obvious in the beginning he cares for Lori more than she cares about him (at least in the romantic sense), but he’s able to at least push that aside a little bit. He doesn’t understand why Lori wants his brother so much, but he’ll only get in her way a little bit and hope she comes to her senses and turns to him instead. I felt for him through the whole ruse and was elated when Lori finally realized exactly who she wanted.

Endless Summer was the second book and it was more up and down than The Boys Next Door. It was a great demonstration of how first love isn’t perfect and can take some time to grow into. Where The Boys Next Door was about Lori and Adam falling in love, Endless Summer was about growing into it and fighting for each other.

Lori had to grow up and realize that acting like a teenager wasn’t the way to get her father to give her adult respect. She also had to understand that in order to keep something good, she had to take the mature route and not deal with things as she had done in the past. I loved watching her grow throughout this book, even if I wanted to shake some sense into her at times.

Adam owned up to his mistakes and started working on himself as a person. He got a taste of something wonderful happening in his life, and when it was taken away, he reacted badly. Endless Summer was him growing up and taking charge of the thing in his life he could. He started acting more like a man and less like a youngest child with control issues. It made me adore him even more.

These books made my heart feel incredibly happy and light. They’re quick, delightful reads that are perfect for the upcoming summer. I fell in love with Adam and Lori and people definitely need to read this book.

The One That I Want by Jennifer Echols

Jennifer Echols is becoming one of the few authors I think I will read anything they write. This was the first romantic comedy of hers I read, and I loved it possibly more than I did her romantic dramas. It’s right up there with Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door. Echols was able to take a storyline that could have been dried up and slightly overdone and make it completely sweet and wonderful.

Echols took a plot that a lot of books, movies, and TV shows use and managed to make it her own. She added her own twists and with her writing style, it seemed different. I really enjoyed that. She wrote characters I cared about and even though I knew how the story would eventually end, I still devoured every word she wrote.

I loved Gemma and I loved rooting for her. She was a teenage girl through and through. She had insecurities and wasn’t sure about the person she was after she lost some extra weight. She had spent the past several years mostly content with her life and how she was, but once she saw how her life could be if she took control and made things happen for herself, she wanted that life. It was amazing to see a girl that dealt with her life in such a real way. She wasn’t perfect and that was perfect.

The relationship between Gemma and Addison really brought out Gemma’s character. Gemma sticks with this friendship even though she knows it would be better for her if she left Addison behind. But Gemma is still growing into her new person and knows of Addison as her only real friend, even though she doesn’t treat Gemma like one. It’s safe for Gemma in the beginning, but as the story goes on, this relationship, more than any other, is what demonstrates just how much Gemma grows.

I loved Max. He was just the right mix of humor, sweetness, and romantic with a touch of the imperfect temper and foot-in-mouth syndrome. He goes from knowing the perfect thing to saw, to completely blowing it with one statement. He’s the teenage boy I wish I knew in high school.

The One That I Want was such a sweet read. It left me feeling completely happy and I had a huge smile on my face. I will definitely be keeping this book for another read whenever I need cheering up. It’s a book anyone who loves a bit of teen love without a ton of drama should read.

Voyagers of the Titanic by Richard Davenport-Hines

I have a huge, and at times odd, fascination with all things Titanic. It started when I first heard about it in the second grade and since then, I’ve read and watched as much as I can about the disaster. It’s hard to spring information on me that I don’t already know. However, this book was able to bring more depth to my knowledge and brought more people out in the story I hadn’t known much about.

The set up of this book was simple to follow and allowed for a lot of information about each different aspect of the ship and its people. The first section focus on the building of the ship and the people connected with its construction. The second section looked at the passengers, broken down by class and crew. The last section was the most difficult for me to read because it dealt with the sinking and the aftermath, both for those on the ship and those that had lost someone. It was heartbreaking to read and brought tears to my eyes.

This book was extremely well researched and detailed, but not to the point of reading more like an essay than a book. It brought an even more human element to the disaster. It’s one thing to know that so many people died, but this book brings to life those that sailed and passed away on that trip. It makes the tragedy even more real and important, even after 100 years.

I know this book isn’t for everyone, but if you’re looking for a book about the people of the Titanic, this is a great book to pick up and read.

Fever by Lauren DeStefano

I liked pieces of this book and I disliked parts of this book. It took me a little while to get through, since I only had a couple hours at most each day to read, and maybe that got in the way a little of being able to fully enjoy this. It just felt like there wasn’t much progress and I had a hard time connecting with the characters.

I’m still not a huge fan of Rhine as a character. Once she breaks free of the mansion, it becomes a focus of her thoughts, and she even refuses to take off her wedding ring; the last major thing tying her to the marriage with Linden. Where her quiet resistance in the first book made sense, in Fever, I kept wanting her to fight. To dig deep and find a way to fight for what she wants, to know she made the right decision in leaving and bringing Gabriel with her. It never happened and while a possible explanation entered near the end of the book, I’m not sold and I really hope DeStefano can make me believe it in the next book.

Gabriel still doesn’t interest me. In Wither, he was hardly around enough to form a real connection with. In Fever, he’s around more, but half the time he’s drugged and not himself, a quarter of the time either he or Rhine is sleeping and that last quarter is what he really is. I’m sure a lot of people are completely in love with him, and I see his potential, but he’s just not there. I haven’t seen enough of him as him to really feel the romance between him and Rhine.

The other thing that left me feeling disappointed was the plot. It felt like a lot of running and hiding, but there weren’t any answers to questions. It felt a bit like running on a treadmill. You’re doing something, but getting nowhere. Things happened, and I understand that they had to happen, but it just feels like it was a lot for nothing. And yet it somehow kept me interested and the ending has me ready to read the next book.

What I really loved about this book, though, were the secondary characters, especially Maddie. I fell in love with her hard this book. Lilac, Jared, Silas, and Claire were wonderful additions to the story and I found myself wanting to read more about them than I did Rhine and Gabriel. They were different and extremely wonderful to read.

Fever had as much potential to be a great story as Wither, but it fell a little short. It’s still an interesting story, but I wish there was a little bit more to Rhine and Gabriel. There’s enough to the book to keep me reading, and I hope DeStefano can write a conclusion that blows me out of the water.

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

I think DeStefano has an interesting idea for a story. It’s a bit different than most of what’s out there and it has the possibility to explore some really great topics. If you know you’re going to die at a certain age, how would you live your life? What would you do, what you say, what kind of person would you be? Unfortunately, for as much as DeStefano tries, Wither comes up a bit short.

It was hard to connect with Rhine. I didn’t completely understand her motives behind wanting to leave so badly. If you only have 20 years to live, would you rather spend them hiding with your brother in a basement using a gun to protect you from intruders, or in a mansion where anything you want, you can get? I wish there had been more reasoning behind Rhine’s urgent need to leave. I just had a hard time making sense of her. Other than that, she’s a mostly likable person and there’s a lot of room for her to grow and I’ll be reading to see what she does.

Linden fell completely flat for me as a possible love interest. He’s completely oblivious to most everything around him and I found him to be just a little creepy. He has no problem taking on multiple wives, one of them barely into her teens. He has no clue about what his father does in the basement of the mansion and I found it hard to believe he’d never question anything his father told him. He had a lot of potential to be a strong character and it wasn’t quite reached.

Gabriel was hardly even around and while I found his relationship with Rhine a little sweet, it was still hard to believe they had more than an incredibly strong friendship. He’s there for a little while, and then disappears. It felt more like Rhine was attaching to him simply because he wasn’t Linden instead of having actual feelings for him. I hope this will be explored more in Fever.

I was really looking forward to reading this book and unfortunately, it was a little disappointing. It felt like it wasn’t quite finished because there was so much room for growth in each character and the plot. It tried, but it didn’t quite succeed.

Archon: The Books of Raziel by Sabrina Benulis

Archon is unlike any angel-centric book I’ve read recently. It’s darker, grittier, and more complex. It’s definitely not a love story with angel elements. It’s about the darkness that is so dark, the Vatican has created a special Academy designed to help them find and destroy the evil that has everyone so afraid.

Angela Mathers is an extremely strong and independent female character. She might start the novel suicidal and slightly off-kilter, but by the end of the novel, she’s powerful and steady. She’s faced demons, both personal and physical. Saying that she’s just a strong female seems like I’m diminishing her in a way; it feels more appropriate to simply label her an extremely powerful lead character, male or female. Not once while reading did she act like I thought she would. I devoured her.

There’s really not a good or bad side. Everything is muddled with personal reasons and vendettas. Just when you think you have someone figured out, they do something that makes you totally reevaluate them. You’re on your toes the entire time you’re reading, just waiting for the next twist that will leave you reeling.

There are a lot of things left open and a lot of confusion left at the end of this book. There’s not a completely cliffhanger ending, but it’s not sewn up prettily, either. The ending left me feeling content, and yet needing more.

Archon is unlike any book I’ve read before. It’s dark and moving, with lots of amazing action. There’s twists and turns where you least expect them and at times, it’s hard to tell which way is up. It’s an amazing book and I can’t wait to get my hands on the next novel.

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

This book is hardly unique. There’s been several post-apocalyptic, dystopian novel published recently. There’s a love story in nearly every Young Adult book. There have been a lot of “difference people can’t be together” stories out there. And yet, I am absolutely in love with this book and the way Rossi told this story.

The world isn’t completely described. Rossi gives enough information to start painting the picture, but information out and places open. There’s several things mentioned, but never really explained. It never gets in the way of the story, though, and it feels like she did this with a major purpose. She wasn’t avoiding filling in all the facts because she wants people to be buying the books to get the answers, but it feels like she was avoiding some things because they weren’t necessary to understand the plot. She didn’t want to dump a ton of information in the middle of the adventure and I’m so grateful she left little things out there. It only makes me more and more interested.

The characters are another amazing piece in this novel. They don’t immediately fall in love, like a lot of Young Adult romances do. There was a gradual build up to the first kiss and it felt right. The characters were in the right place for each other. They had grown separately before beginning things. It’s probably one of the best love stories I’ve read in recent memory.

Tied together with the romance is that of the action part of the book. Under the Never Sky is more about the journey these characters are taking, with a dash of love thrown in. It’s about two people wanting to find answers and find the people they love and through that, they begin to love each other. It’s about more than these two people falling in love and I really, really liked that. It made the book even more enjoyable and I really couldn’t put it down.

Under the Never Sky is an amazing start to a new trilogy. It’s fast-paced, yet never feels rushed. There’s an adventure and a love story. There’s major plot twists and several hold your breath moments. It’s everything I want a book to be and I’m so happy I read it.