3 stars

Three Things I Know Are True by Betty Culley

Three Things I Know Are True by Betty CulleyThree Things I Know Are True by Betty Culley
Genre: Contemporary
Release Date: 7th January 2020
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: three-stars

This moving debut novel in verse about a teenage girl dealing with the aftermath of an accident that nearly takes her brother’s life is a stunning exploration of grief and the power of forgiveness.

The reminder is always there—a dent on the right side of Jonah’s forehead. The spot you’d press when you felt a headache coming on. The bullet tore away bone, the way dynamite blasts rock—leaving a soft crater.

Life changes forever for Liv when her older brother, Jonah, accidentally shoots himself with his best friend Clay’s father’s gun. Now Jonah needs round-the-clock care just to stay alive, and Liv seems to be the only person who can see that her brother is still there inside his broken body.

With Liv’s mom suing Clay’s family, there are divisions in the community that Liv knows she’s not supposed to cross. But Clay is her friend, too, and she refuses to turn away from him—just like she refuses to give up on Jonah.

In 2020 I’m going to be bringing back my Debut Showcase feature in which I showcase debut books and authors. Throughout the year there will be interviews, giveaways, reviews, and other fun things for you to take part in. Check out previous posts in this feature here, and take a look at my introduction post and my list for January’s debut books!

Three Things I Know Are True has the honour of being my first review of 2020, and my first featured debut book! I have to admit that I don’t usually care for novels that are written in verse. Something about it just stops me from connecting to the book like I would with normal prose.

This was still the case for Three Things I Know Are True. I really, really enjoyed it, but because I struggled with the format in which it is written, I couldn’t truly connect with it. That said, the book gave me a lot to think about and it has stuck with me for over a month after finishing it.

Three Things I Know Are True is a truly emotional story about a girl whose brother has been paralysed after playing around with a gum. It gave me so much to think about in terms of the topic at hand – gum control in the US. I don’t think the author advocated for either side of the debate overly strongly, but she did lay out the situation and the reasoning behind people’s opinions.

I really, really enjoyed this book, and I think if it had been written in normal prose, it would have hit me a lot harder. As it stands, I was still hit quite hard by the situation that the characters were in, but there was definitely some disconnect there.

I would highly, highly recommend reading Three Things I Know Are True, so please don’t be put off by my star rating. If you enjoy novels told in verse then this is a book that you should definitely read. The characters manage to draw so much emotion and the relationships between the characters was a joy to read about.

Review: What She Found in the Woods by Josephine Angelini

Review: What She Found in the Woods by Josephine AngeliniWhat She Found in the Woods by Josephine Angelini
Genre: Thriller
Release Date: 25th July 2019
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: three-stars

Running from a scandal at her New York private school, Magdalena heads to her family home to recover under the radar.

Over-medicated and under-confident, she's fearful she'll never escape her past.

Until she meets Bo out hiking. Wild, gorgeous and free, he makes her believe she might finally be able to move on.

But when a mutilated body is discovered in the woods, Magdalena realises she can't trust anyone.

Not even herself.

I mean, What She Found in the Woods was a good book. It was decent. I enjoyed it a lot, and it kept me engaged. But I don’t think this is going to be an all time favourite, and to be honest the most memorable parts weren’t the thriller aspects at all.

I really enjoyed what Josephine Angelini did with this book. The main character, Lena, was enjoyable to read about because there were so many sides to her personality. She has a mysterious past, and she has apparently done something really wrong, and it’s a slow journey to learn what that is. I really liked the slow burn and revelations about her past experiences.

The love interest, Bo, is so sweet and cute, and while I didn’t SHIP ship it (I almost never do any more), I thought his relationship with Lena was adorable… for the most part. I had a few issues with it, that I won’t go into because of spoilers, but I will say there was so much insta-love. So much.

I’m also questioning the fact that Bo’s family were basically less aggressive anti-vaxxers but hey, let’s not be a downer.

Overall, this was a decent book, but it’s not one I’ll immediately go to to recommend to thriller readers.

Review: Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things by Jacqueline Firkins

Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things by Jacqueline Firkins! The tour is hosted by the lovely ladies over at The Fantastic Flying Book Club, and a lot of other bloggers are taking part so you should check out the tour schedule and read their posts!

I received a copy of Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things by Jacqueline FirkinsHearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things by Jacqueline Firkins
Genre: Contemporary
Release Date: 17th December 2019
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: three-stars

Mansfield, Massachusetts is the last place seventeen-year-old Edie Price wants to spend her final summer before college. It’s the home of wealthy suburbanites and prima donnas like Edie’s cousins, who are determined to distract her from her mother’s death with cute boys and Cinderella-style makeovers. Edie has her own plans, and they don’t include a prince charming.

But as Edie dives into schoolwork and applying for college scholarships, she finds herself drawn to two Mansfield boys who start vying for her attention. First there's Sebastian, Edie’s childhood friend and first love. He’s sweet and smart and . . . already has a girlfriend. Then there's Henry, the local bad boy and all-around player. He’s totally off limits, even if his kisses are chemically addictive.

Both boys are trouble. Edie can’t help but get caught between them. Someone's heart is going to break. Now she just has to make sure it isn't hers.

Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things is a retelling of Mansfield Park, but if you haven’t read the original novel, don’t let that put you off. I haven’t read it either! I still understood a lot of the references, and I don’t think that missing out on the original novel impacted my feelings towards this book at all.

I knew that Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things was going to be a light and fluffy read as soon as I heard about it. It’s a YA contemporary about a girl who’s in a somewhat complicated love triangle, and who is struggling to fit in with her posh family and in her posh school. I love me some rich people drama, so I signed right up for this.

I have to admit that the main character, Edie, got on my nerves a lot. She’s what stopped me from truly loving this book, with her superior attitude and constant classic book quotes. I really couldn’t connect with her at all, and it was such a shame.

Edie spends a lot of time looking down on her cousins and their friends for wanting to go to parties and dress nice, which gave off SO MANY “Better Than Other Girls” vibes. In addition to that, she was always coming out with random quotes from classic novels, which seemed to me as though she was showing off her superior intellect and looking down on people who don’t read. This really got to me, and I was not here for that.

I did, however, get really invested in the love triangle. I’m going to have to be vague here, because my ship didn’t end up together, but in my opinion Edie chose the wrong guy. A guy who she barely knew or spoke to. Instead of the guy who was quickly becoming her best friend. That was about as vague as I could be, so I’ll leave it at that. I WAS DISAPPOINTED.

Aside from all of that, I loved the Rich People Drama and the parties and all of the normal drama that was happening. This was a fun and fluffy book that I think contemporary readers will really enjoy.

Review: The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

Review: The Fountains of Silence by Ruta SepetysThe Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys
Genre: Historical
Release Date: 1st October 2019
Publisher: Penguin
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: three-stars

Madrid, 1957. Under the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, Spain is hiding a dark secret. Meanwhile, tourists and foreign businessmen flood into Spain under the welcoming guise of sunshine and wine. Among them is eighteen-year-old Daniel Matheson, the son of a Texas oil tycoon, who arrives in Madrid with his parents hoping to connect with the country of his mother's birth through the lens of his camera. Photography--and fate--introduce him to Ana, whose family's interweaving obstacles reveal the lingering grasp of the Spanish Civil War--as well as chilling definitions of fortune and fear. Daniel's photographs leave him with uncomfortable questions amidst shadows of danger. He is backed into a corner of decisions to protect those he loves. Lives and hearts collide, revealing an incredibly dark side to the sunny Spanish city.

Master storyteller Ruta Sepetys once again shines light into one of history's darkest corners in this epic, heart-wrenching novel about identity, unforgettable love, repercussions of war, and the hidden violence of silence--inspired by the true post-war struggles of Spain.

I am a massive fan of Sepetys’ work, and I have been ever since I read Between Shades of Gray when it first came out. I find her writing to be very emotional, so it was a shame when The Fountains of Silence managed to drag on for me and didn’t evoke many emotions at all.

My main issue with The Fountains of Silence was that it was far too long. At 140 small chapters, the plot both dragged and jumped around from person to person, and I found myself extremely bored in the middle and completely disconnected. I was often just getting used to one point of view before the book switched to someone else’s, and so I had a hard time getting attached to any of the characters. I also found the romance to be really unbelievable, but I’ve also been told that I’m too cynical so who knows? Although I’d like to point out that it wasn’t the YA romance that I had a problem with.

I normally adore Sepety’s writing style, but unfortunately The Fountains of Silence was rather bland. I have found that I tend to connect to her WW2 fiction more than her other work.

Having said all of that, I have given The Fountains of Silence three stars because I did really enjoy learning more about post-WW2 Spain. This isn’t a topic that was covered in school here in the UK (at least in my area), and I honestly had no idea that Spain was under fascist rule for so long after the Second World War ended. It’s definitely opened my eyes and it’s now a topic that I’d like to look into more. I had the same experience with Don’t Date Rosa Santos and Cuba, as Cuba vs. the US is another topic that isn’t covered by the curriculum here. It’s always nice when there are gaps in my knowledge to fill (lol).

I would recommend checking this book out if you’re an avid fan of Sepetys, just so you don’t miss out on anything. As I said above, it’s also a good read if you want an introduction to post-war Spain and the issues there. If this is your first Sepetys book, please don’t be put off by it, as her other books are so. much. better.