Review: What’s Left of Me by Kat Zhang

Title: What’s Left of Me
Author: Kat Zhang
Series: The Hybrid Chronicles series
Pages: 434 pages hardcover, 352 ebook
Rating: ★★★★

Addie and Eva share one body. They are two souls living in the same body and that shouldn’t happen. One soul is supposed to fade away and one soul is supposed to stay. Instead, Eva stays in the background, letting Addie live their life. While Addie gets to talk and be around other people, Eva’s only true companion is Addie.

It’s an interesting premise and I wasn’t sure how Zhang would pull it off. It could either be fantastic or completely confusing. Luckily, What’s Left of Me falls into the fantastic side of things.

I am amazed at how well Zhang managed to write two completely different characters and yet they are in the same body. It was easy to tell the difference between Addie and Eva. Their personalities are different and their growth as people is different. Even though they share the same body, they each experience everything in a slightly different way. It was fascinating.

Not only does Zhang manage to write one person with two souls well, she took on the challenge of making other characters the same way. At first, I wasn’t sure which soul was which; however, the more I read, the more I picked up on each soul’s different personalities. For Zhang to have done this is amazing. I wasn’t confused by the warring souls, but found myself drawn in and loving them.

This isn’t an action-packed novel, but it also isn’t a light read, either. There’s not a lot of fighting or other typical dystopian characteristics, but it never feels like things are moving slow. Something is always happening, even if it isn’t happening in big, elaborate fight scenes.

The only thing that had me a little confused was the time frame this story takes place in. Wars are referenced, but I was never really clear on when this story actually takes place. I’m hoping that was deliberate and in the novels to come, it becomes clearer.

What’s Left of Me is a novel that doesn’t disappoint. It’s different and thought-provoking and definitely worth a read. I’m looking forward to reading what comes next in this series.

If What’s Left of Me sounds like your kind of book, you can purchase it here:
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Review: Breathe by Sarah Crossan

Title: Breathe
Author: Sarah Crossan
Series: Breathe series
Pages: 373 hardcover, 384 paperback, 484 ebook
Rating: ★★★★

The concept of Breath isn’t all that new. Oppressive government keeping secrets, while a group of rebels who know the truth work to set the people free. But Breathe takes it a step further. In the world Crossan created, it is not fear of the unknown that keeps people from revolting; it is fear of suffocating to death. The people in Crossan’s world are ruled by their need for oxygen. The government doesn’t control the people using material items; they control the people by controlling a basic need. That’s that makes Breathe different.

The story is told from the perspective of three different people. Bea, Quinn, and Alina start out without an alliance, but facing the outside world quickly makes them rethink their relationships. Bea and Quinn are best friends, but Bea is just waiting for Quinn to see her the same way she sees him. Quinn is attracted to Alina, but she doesn’t even entertain the thought. When the lives of these three people start moving forward together, everything they thought they knew is put to the test.

Bea and Alina are considered part of what would be called the poor class. Life is tough for them, but they each make it work in their own way. Bea works hard in school, hoping to work her way up the ladder, even though she knows it’s a difficult road. Alina takes the rebel road, working against the government because she knows there is more to life than living inside the bubble.

Quinn is one of the lucky ones, born into fortune, not really having to worry about getting enough oxygen. Even his life isn’t perfect, though, living under the shadow of his father. He never knows if he actually earns his praise, or if it only given because of his father.

I was worried there would be an awkward love triangle when I first started reading, but I’m happy with how Crossan worked with having the three main characters. There’s a bit of a love triangle, but it doesn’t feel drawn out or forced. It’s flimsy and you know how things will end up. I liked how it was done.

Breathe is a unique take on the dystopian story. It has high stakes that bring the intensity level up. I’m looking forward to seeing how Crossan takes the story forward.

If Breathe sounds like your kind of book, you can purchase it here:
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Review: The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen

Title: The Maid of Fairbourne Hall
Author: Juile Klassen
Pages: 681 pages hardcover, 414 paperback, 353 ebook
Rating: ★★★★

Julie Klassen has an amazing ability to write Regency novels. She completely draws you into the time period and makes you forget the world around you.

I think what I enjoyed most about The Maid of Fairbourne Hall was the character development. Margaret begins the novel as a somewhat spoiled rich girl. She doesn’t give many thoughts to the lives of the servants, focusing more on her marital pursuits and material things. When she is forces to leave her home, she finds residence at Fairbourne Hall as a maid. She must do the work she had taken for granted for so long. Klassen doesn’t make it easy on her, but doesn’t make it unrealistically hard, either. Margaret must work for the first time in her life and grows to have a better understanding and compassion for those around her.

The two main men in the story are complete opposites. One wants what he can’t have and doesn’t let that get in his way. The other, while less exciting, is the true gentleman. While one is great for a moment, the other is great for a lifetime. The contrast was fantastic and made for an interesting story.

I felt there was a lot of silent buildup for a climax that fizzled a little bit. After what happens near the beginning of the novel, how it was tied up felt a little short and rushed. I know that the main purpose of this novel was to be a romance, and in that aspect, it was perfect. However, Klassen also added a little extra tension that either needed to be explored more or cut out.

The Maid of Fairbourne Hall is my favorite Klassen novel to date. It has mystery and romance all wrapped up with the drama of the Regency era.

If The Maid of Fairbourne Hall sounds like your kind of book, you can purchase it here:
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Review: Dreamland by Sarah Dessen

Title: Dreamland
Author: Sarah Dessen
Pages: 250 pages hardcover/paperback, 256 ebook
Rating: ★★★

When I started reading Dreamland, I felt like it was going to be a book I struggled to finish. I just couldn’t get connected to Caitlin and I felt like I was reading from a distance instead of being right there. About halfway through, that changed.

Caitlin has always lived in the shadow of her older sister, Cass. So when Cass leaves one night without warning, Caitlin feels like it is her responsibility to step up and fill in that “perfect child” role. At the same time, she doesn’t want to be Cass. She doesn’t want to have to be perfect. She’s confused and doesn’t know which way to go. Her confusion ends up leading her down the wrong road, sending her life spiraling down a hole she never thought she’d end up in.

In the attempt to step out of her sister’s shadow, she falls into Rogerson’s. The relationship between these two is heartbreaking, horrific, and realistic. Caitlin’s confusion over how she feels about Rogerson is what makes it all worse because I can understand her thinking. Reading about her struggles made my heart ache for her. He met her when she was already down and only brought her lower.

I think the reasons I didn’t find myself completely loving this book are because of that initial disconnect between me and Caitlin, as well as how blind those closest to Caitlin were. Out of everyone that knew and loved her, not one took enough notice of her downward spiral. I understand why it was done that way, but I still wish one of them had shown something more.

Dreamland is a quick read, but a powerful one. It shows that sometimes the weak are actually the strongest and that what we see on the outside my only be an illusion.

If Dreamland sounds like your kind of book, you can purchase it here:
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Review: The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley

Title: The Rose Garden
Author: Susanna Kearsley
Pages: 441 pages paperback, 428 ebook
Rating: ★★★★

Time travel is a tricky thing. A novel written around it can either be wonderful or completely fail. Thankfully, The Rose Garden falls into the wonderful category.

After losing her sister, Eva heads back to the home where they had spent summers growing up. It is where Eva remembers Katrina being happiest, where she wants to spread her ashes. While there, she is faced with the fact that the house will never be the one she remembers because it is missing her sister. She also learns she has the ability to jump through time.

She goes back to the home in 1715, when the owners were two brothers on the wrong side of the crown. They manage to stay just above the law, but there is always the risk of being caught and falling prey to the constable. The more time Eva spends with Daniel, the older brother, the more she starts to fall for him.

She continues to jump back and forth, helping Mark and Susan set up the home so it can continue to operate in the future, all the while realizing that she doesn’t belong at the house at that time anymore. The more she is in the present, the more her heart wants to go back.

Kearsley paints a beautiful picture with her words. I have never been to Cornwall, and yet I could picture everything clearly in my mind. I could smell the see and feel the ground beneath my feet.

I don’t really know what to say about Daniel and Eva’s romance because it was beyond words. It fell exactly how it should have been. They never knew how much time they would have together and so they made the most of it. Daniel did not expect Eva to conform to his society’s standards when it was just the two of them, and Eva gave Daniel a reason to be happy. It was like reading about two puzzle pieces finally fitting together.

The Rose Garden is a fantastic novel about love and what it means to be happy. It also reminds us that home is not always a place with four walls and a roof, it’s about the feeling you have once you find it.

If The Rose Garden sounds like your kind of book, you can purchase it here:
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Review: Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnik

Title: Epic Fail
Author: LaZebnik
Pages: 295 pages paperback, 309 ebook
Rating: ★★★★

I started Epic Fail because I was in the mood for a light, sweet read that would put a smile on my face and wouldn’t make my heart hurt at all. That is exactly what I got.

The story centers on Elise and her relationship with Derek. Derek is the son of two famous movie stars and despite her desire to not judge him based on that, in trying to do so, she ends up judging him the wrong way from the beginning. They go back and forth in liking each other and not, but it doesn’t get annoying or frustrating. It still holds that sweet feeling of high school romance.

The other reason I enjoyed this book so much was the relationship between Elise’s sister Juliana and Derek’s friend Chase. Those two are the initial reason Elise and Derek begin to hang out and even though they aren’t the main part of the story, I loved reading the little bits of their relationship as well. They have the high school drama as well, but once again, it wasn’t eye-roll worthy. It made the characters a little more real to have something like that happen, but they also didn’t break down like the “typical” teen in a book would do. Juliana brushed herself off and kept on moving forward.

Elise’s family was a little extreme, but they were made that way. Her little sister Layla is a lot to handle and even though she was one of the annoying characters in the book, in a way, her excessive amount of drama even made sense.

Epic Fail is a quick read book, but it is still a sweet look at high school romance in a unique setting. It made me smile and it’s the perfect kind of book for a pick-me-up kind of afternoon.

If Epic Fail sounds like your kind of book, you can purchase it here:
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Review: Hopeless by Colleen Hoover

Title: Hopeless
Author: Colleen Hoover
Series: Hopeless series
Pages: 486 pages
Rating: ★★★★★

Here’s the thing. There’s a lot about Hopeless I shouldn’t like. Holder was a little too perfect for my tastes, there’s a lot of drama, and the high school is stereotypical. The adults are a little too conveniently absent, there’s a friend you shows up occasionally…basically, a lot of the things that usually turn me completely off a novel are here and yet…I loved it. Hoover wrote everything in such a way that I didn’t care about any of that. I was completely engrossed in the novel and never wanted to put it down.

Let’s start with Holder first. I mean…they guy is practically perfect and usually, that bothers me. I like when they screw up and say stupid things and aren’t perfect. Holder knows the right thing to say, the right thing to do even before Sky knows it’s what she needs. I think in any other book, I would have been rolling my eyes and yet I found myself smiling each time he spoke of did something. I think I was okay with it because it wasn’t because he was perfect, but rather because he pretended to be and that confidence made everything work.

The storyline is filled with turns and even though I had figured most of it out pretty early on, I still wanted to see how everything played out. I wanted to see Sky face everything and see how she came out on the other side. I was rooting for her the entire time and her strength was amazing. She found that being weak doesn’t mean you aren’t strong…it only means you need a break before turning around and facing everything again. She found her strength in her weakness and I love it.

Hopeless is a book that I love more than I should. I love it more than I thought I would. It’s heartbreaking and yet impossibly sweet. Hoover’s novel sucked me in and I couldn’t put it down. Definitely an amazing read.

If Hopeless sounds like your kind of book, you can purchase it here:
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Review: The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani

Title: The Shoemaker’s Wife
Author: Adriana Trigiani
Pages: 475 pages hardcover, 496 paperback, 494 ebook
Rating: ★★★★★


That is the only word that was running through my head as I finished reading The Shoemaker’s Wife. I did not expect to feel as much as I did. This book grabbed me from the very first word and wove its way through my heart.

Ciro and Ezra grew up in villages just a few miles from each other and yet never met. Ciro and his brother are raised by nuns after their father dies in a mine accident in America and their mother is unable to care for them. Ezra grows up on the mountainside, taking on more responsibility than she is asked, growing up faster than the rest of her siblings. Their first meeting is filled with such sweetness in such a sorrowful moment that I couldn’t help but wish for them.

Both end up going to America; Ciro is to become a shoemaker’s apprentice after being banished from the mountain and Ezra is going so she and her father can make more money in order to build their dream home. Ciro and Ezra run into each other in New York, but once again, life has different plans for them.

Throughout the entire novel, my heart was with these two. There were so many chances, so many opportunities for these two to get together, but their timing was just never right. Their paths crossed, but didn’t entwine.

By the end of the novel, tears were running down my face. I simply cannot think of powerful enough words to describe how much this book touched me. Trigiani pulled me right in and I fell in love. Ezra and Ciro had such a perfectly imperfect, sweet, wonderful, powerful, all-consuming love for each other that it was almost as if I could reach into the novel and touch it.

The Shoemaker’s Wife will grab your heart and make you cry with how amazing it is. I truly do not have the words to say how much I love and adore this book.

If The Shoemaker’s Wife sounds like your kind of book, you can purchase it here:
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Review: Sever by Lauren DeStefano

Title: Sever
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Series: The Chemical Garden series
Pages: 371 pages hardcover/paperback, 384 ebook
Rating: ★★★★

I wasn’t incredibly impressed with the first two books of this series. Pieces didn’t feel right and some felt a little forced. I wasn’t really a fan of the Rhine and Gabriel romance and I wasn’t sure DeStefano would be able to wrap things up in a way I liked.

Sever was nothing like I expected. I thought I knew how I felt about everyone and every situation Rhine had gone through. DeStefano completely turned it all over and had me feeling things I never thought I would. She expertly wrote a story that shows that most people are not completely good, nor are they completely evil. Motivations can cloud judgements and what one person views as right, another can view as wrong.

Sever is not a book that focuses on romance, and I’m thankful for that. It focuses on character and looking at life in different ways. It looks at love and how it helps and hurts, how love can be different things to different people, and how love can move people to do things they wouldn’t do before.

So much happens in Sever, there is so much revealed, that as I got closer and closer to the end, I wasn’t sure how the story would be able to resolve. The last pages are touching, reflective and perfect.

The Chemical Garden series started out a little shaky for me. It felt disjointed and a little rough. Sever is by far the best book of the series. It is heart-wrenching at times, full of hope in the darkest times, and every other page has a new revelation. I’m glad the focus was on the characters instead of the romance. It wrapped the series up the only way it could have ended. I’m looking forward to reading more of DeStefano’s writings in the future.

If Sever sounds like your kind of book, you can purchase it here:
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Review: Evidence of Life by Barbara Taylor Sissel

Title: Evidence of Life
Author: Barbara Taylor Sissel
Pages: 304 pages paperback, 320 ebook
Rating: ★★★★

I’m not sure what my expectations where when I started reading Evidence of Life. I thought the plot sounded interesting and there were so many places the story could go that I was ready to sit down and enjoy the ride.

Abby is not always the most reliable character and I really enjoyed that. While some people would look at the storm that blew through and accept that her family was gone, she is driven to find the answers. She needs to know what happened and in her quest to discover that, she starts to doubt the life she thought they had.

Sissel wrote a story that weaves in and out, leaving little clues here and there, just to see if you can pick up on them. I thought I had the story figured out, but then something new would pop up and it would make me stop and think.

I think what I enjoyed most about this novel is how well Sissel wrote both a mystery novel and a look at the human character in the same book. One did not detract from the other; they only enhanced each other. In order to figure out what happened to Abby’s family, first you have to figure out what is happening with Abby. It was wonderful.

Evidence of Life is a fantastic novel that takes a look at how not knowing the answers can push a person further than they ever thought possible. It twists your heart at times and you can’t help but hope for a future for Abby.

If Evidence of Life sounds like your kind of book, you can purchase it here:
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Thank you to Mira Books and NetGalley for an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.