"What she needs are stories. Stories are a way to preserve one's self. To be remembered. And to forget. Stories come in so many forms: in charcoal, and in song, in paintings, poems, films. And books. Books, she has found, are a way to live a thousand lives—or to find strength in a very long one.” The invisibile life of Addie LaRue
Hello and welcome to my stop for “Anything but fine” by Tobias Madden. An huge thanks to Tbr and beyond tours for this chance and to the publisher for the earc!
Thank you NetGalley, Page Street Publishing and Page Street Kids, for the chance to read this book in exchange of an honest review.
TW: homomisia, islamophobia, grief, parental death (previous)
Luca Mason has everything planned. He’s going to be accepted into the Australian Ballet School and leave his private high school behind to become a ballet star. But when he falls down a flight of stairs and breaks his foot everything changes. His doctor tells him he will never be able to dance again, he loses his scholarship, he’s forced to transfer to a public high school, leaving all his previous life, ballet and friends included, behind. The only bright side in his new school is the friendship with the brilliant and nerdy Amina and his new crush, the apparently very straight school captain, Jordan Tanaka-Jones. While their bond become more and more stronger, Luca starts to ask himself who is he now, without ballet and what he will be.
Tobias Madden wrote a brilliant and deeply relatable story about a young man whose dreams are shattered and his heartbreak, rage and strength in moving on, in finding a new dream and path. Luca’s life rotated around ballet. His dreams, his friends, his scholarship and when a life-changing injury changes everything he’s forced to upturn his whole life, reacting in a pretty relatable way. His pushes away his ballet friends, couldn’t bear to listen to them talking about dancing and his old school and traditions, his own father, his old dreams to become a dancer. In a very realistic way for a teenager, Luca lashes out, he makes mistakes, he pushes people, loved ones, away, he obsesses over people who could hurt him, like his crush on a straight boy. Luca’s life is turned upside down and now he has to adjust to a new school, new friends, new possible heartbreaks, bullies, studying, exams and so much more and the way the author wrote about him is realistic, heartwrenching and so beautiful.
It was both moving and inspiring reading how Luca faces everything, every changes in his life with righteous anger and pain, but also finding the strength into making new friends and moving on, picking up the pieces, forging new paths, strengthening relationships, cutting abusive and cruel ones. This book was really inspiring and strong, I loved the author’s writing style and how, through Luca’s voice, I was able to understand his suffering and determination, his curiosity and love. I loved his relationship with the witty and funny Amina, with Jordan and, later, with Grace too and his bond with his father was really well written and moving, I loved how they understand, support and love one other, realzing their mistakes, apologizing and moving on.
An huge thank you to Edelweiss for the chance to read this amazing book. It is one of my most anticipated reads of the year and it didn’t disappointed me! It was unbelievably amazing.
Wesley Hudson is a comic book geek, he loves his job at the bookstore Once upon a page, chilling with his friends, above all with his best friend Nico, his secret crush. But articles about dating or online suggestions aren’t able to help him tell Nico the truth, too scared to lose his friendship with him and ruin everything. To top it off, the bookstore is threatened by a coffeeshop franchise that wants to buy it and his brother wants help organizing his wedding and his parents are pressuring him to choose what he wants to do in college. Wes is, so, forced to confront the reality, while trying to save his childhood heaven, the bookstore, navigating a strained relationship with his older brother and trying to conquer his crush’s heart.
I loved so many things about The Summer of Everything. I need to do a list.
The characterization is amazing. The story is told by Wes’s point of view and he’s such a relatable, complex and realistic character. His fears, his lists (I basically him, to be honest), his paranoias, his being uncertain about the future, what it means to be adult, what do to, everything was very realistic. I was really involved and able to identify in his feelings and thoughts. Wes is a wonderful comic book geek, I love his passions, his geekiness, his being so wonderfully complex, with his lists, his books and crush. He loves reading, he found in the bookstore a piece of heaven, a haven and when it threatened his world falls apart and he tries everything to save it, helped by his friend. Wes is burdened by the fear of the future, so relatable, because he doesn’t know what to do,what to choose in college and he feels pressured by his parents, above all his dad. He fears the changes and that’s so understandable.
Nico is an amazing and complex character, he’s funny, supportive, talented and his relationship with Wes is so pure, made of jokes, understanding, love, games, books. The way they get one other, how they help, support, understand and cuddle each other is beautiful. The way they act as boyfriends even before they are is so cute. There are so many fluffy and cute moments between them and I was constantly saying “AWWWWWWWW!” Nico is also burdened by his father’s death and his need to do something, to become a doctor to help people. He’s a loving friend and brother and an amazing skater. Seeing everything through Wes’s eyes it’s impossible not to love Nico too.
Ella is Wes’s other best friend and she’s a whirlwind, stubborn, boisterous, supportive. She also, as Wes, has complex and outiright difficult relationship with her parents, above all her mother, battling with her about her physical appereance, to be what she wants to be.
Besides Nico and Ella, Wes’s best friends, he’s surrounded by a group of miscellaneous characters. Cooper, boisterous, funny and obsessed with social media, Anna, described as a wood nymph, but with an amazing brain, Kyra with her energy and colorful sneakers, Zay with his friendship and music taste. I love their friendships, made of jokes, shared or not, discussions about music and foods, their bickering, their being so close to one other.
The rep in this book is absolutely fantastic. Wes is gay and biracial, Nico is Mexican-American and attracted to multiple gender, there’s a fat rep with Ella, Cooper is aroace, Anna is bisexual, Kyra is a Black lesbian, Manu is a queer Hawaiian and Lucas, a customer that bond with Wes and the others are non-binary.
The way the author deals with themes like responsiblity, being anxious and indecisive about one’s future, the uncertainty of the future itself is really realistic and relatable. Wes’s anxiety is absolutely understandable, above all if he compares himself to his friends and brother who know what to do.
His relationship with Leo, his older brother, is complex, strained because in time they grew apart from one other and now they are struggling to be again brothers. Wes has problems talking with his father and brother, but I love how this book is hopeful about reconnections and to try again to listen and understand one other.
The relationships in this books are sweet, cute and intense. Wes is surrounded by supportive, funny and amazing friends, he loves Leeann, his brother’s future bride and their connection is beautiful, full of understanding. Leeann is a strong character, ready to face the Hudson boys and to push them to talk and understand one other.
I loved the importance of books in The summer of everything, how books were and are for Wes an escape, a haven, a world where he belongs, how books can change someone’s life and how the bookstore was for Wes a piece of his childhood, a piece he wasn’t willing to let go, a constant in his changing life. Books and friends can change someone’s life.
I love the setting, in a bookstore, because I love books and I was really invested in this book. Wes is a captivating and realistic character and it was funny and heartbreaking seeing him pining after Nico, trying to confess his feelings for him, following unrealiable lists on Internet about dating.
The writing was really good and I could almost see Wes in the bookstore, admiring Nico skaterboarding, taking pictures of the sunset, smell the ocean’s salt, hear the music. It was really atmospheric and I love the way his characters jumped out of the book, because they were alive, relatable, Wes above all.
Wes and Nico relationship is wonderfully fluffy, made of jokes, games, food, understanding, love, pining and while reading this book I was constantly facepalming myself because they were two idiots too afraid to talk to one other, who clearly were pining for one other and love each other. The romance, the pining, the angst and the sweet and hopeful, heartwarming ending.
The summer of everything is a book about growing up, facing reality and at the same time, fighting to keep something from your past and childhood, some memories you will treasure forever. It’s about family, loss, friendship, adulthood, about adapting to changes and learning to move on and grow.
In a dystopic society, thanks to the Next of Kin law, people inherit their parents’ debts (if they are married) and they are forced to interact with the Office of Debt Resolution and sell themselves to work their debts. The ODR works with the Dociline, a drug that “helps” debtors to be docile and compliant while working and to erase their memory when under the drug. The Bishops invented the Dociline and the whole debtors’ system use it. In a world where the consent is “optional” and where trillionaires control, through Dociline and the ODR, the life of others, Elisha and Alex struggle to be themself and maintain their soul.
Elisha Wilder’s family is ruined by debt and his mother is under a Dociline state after spending 10 years paying part of her debts. To save his thirteen years old sister from the ODR, from selling herself (usually trillionaries seeks Dociles for sex), Elisha tricks his parents and he registers himself to the ODR, hoping to choose a kind Patron and a short term.
Alexander Bishop the Third works for his family company and he’s forced by his father and the Board to look for a Docile, since he pushed away their choice for him. After refusing the choices prescreened by his father and the Board, Alex is attracted by Elisha and decides to be his Patron, offering him a monthly salary for his family and a full life term. Alex feels the pressure of the society, of his father and his role as CEO and the creation of a new version of Dociline, that he wants to test on Elisha. But when Elisha uses one of the seven Docile rights, refusing to take the drug, Alex is put in a difficult position and he’s forced to show his father, the Board and his influential friends he can train an off-med Docile.
They begin, this way, a complex relationship, where Alex enforces rules upon rules on Elisha, telling him how, when and where to stand and sit, not to ask questions, not to be curious, how to dress, how to eat, molding him into a perfect Docile. And disciplining him with cruel punishments, like putting his knees on rice, when he misbehaves. Slowly, forced to obey because he fears Alex could stop paying his family the salary decided in the contract, Elisha lets him changing him, shaping him into a perfect Docile, making him taking cooking, piano, language lessons and so on.
Bit by bit, in six months, Alex erases his personality, his being Elisha, until Elisha can’t function by himself anymore, doesn’t how how to act or sit or dress and only wants only to please Alex, to make him happy, Elisha suffers from a kind of Stockholm Syndrome.
But Alex’s plan to change Elisha goes both way. When a cruel incident forces him to realize he’s falling in love with him and that he’s hurting him, Alex’s only choice is to get Elisha far away from him, to save him, to let him heal with his family and friends.
But at this stage, their relationship, their bond is too strong and complex. Their feelings, their heartstrings and the consequences of their actions get Alex’s company, his friends, his convictions involved, changing his perception of his world and reality.
Abused, changed and broken Elisha is forced to slowly heal himself, to live his life without Alex, forcing to accept the truth about their relationship, while fighting against a trillionaire system that wants to hurt him and his family, his feelings for Alex and how to be his own person again. Raw and moving is realizing how Elisha was so deep in their relationship, so coerced and controlled he couldn’t recognize the abuse.
Important in the life of Elisha and Alex are the Empower Maryland, an organization that helps poor people, assisting them, providing food and clothes, tutors and school, that fights against the Docile and debtors’ system. They contacts Elisha, when he becomes Alex’s Docile, to help them fight the Bishops’s Dociline. And then, when Alex’s family files a lawsuit against Elisha and his family, they helped him fight and get better.
Docile is a book full of intense and incredibly complex characters, written skillfully and set in a dystopian society. It’s a story about abuse, power, love, need and desire. Told by two POVs, Elisha’s and Alex’s Docile follows their relationship, how they change and grow up. It’s a book about relationships, how to be true to himself, how to maintain his own personality in a world where debts and need want to change you.
Elisa is one of the most relisient and stubborn characters I’ve ever read. He loves deeply and it’s his love for his family that pushes him to sign the contract with Alex. It’s chilling getting to know him and his personality and seeing it being chipped away by Alex’s rules and impositions. Elisha is forced by need and fear for his family to sign his contract with Alex and even though there is an undeniable attraction between them, his relationship with Alex is not consensual. He’s expected to have sex with him, he loses his virginity with Alex the first night, to satisfy his desires, sexual or not.
In Elisha’s society Dociles are seen like things and in the upper class society, the trillionaire’s one, with Alex’s friends like Mariah and Dutch, they are sexual doll. During one of the first society events Elisha is raped by Dutch and drugged to have sex with another Docile, and that was completely normal for them.
That Alex has feelings for Elisha, that he cares for him, more that he should have (according to the society’s way), is right away seen as weird, dangerous, not socially acceptable. Elisha is forced to be Alex’s perfect Docile, dressed like Alex says, doing whatever he wanted him to do. Elisha slowly changes, until his family, above all his father, can’t recognize him anymore, can’t believe he’s his own person. It is moving and awful reading how Elisha loses himself and struggles with rules and feelings, not knowing what he did wrong or how to function without Alex.
When Alex realized how much he hurts Elisha and lets him go to his family, Elisha’s world is destroyed, without him and he has to go through a painful process of reasserting himself, learning again how to ask things, how to like things without Alex’s brainwashing. Reading about this was so raw and moving, how he was helped by the Empower Maryland, by his family and friends.
Alex’s character, as Elisha’s, is complex and intriguing. Pressured by his family, the whole city to prove the effectivness of Dociline, he’s torn between his growing feelings for Elisha and his loyalty to his father, Board and legacy.
For me, it wasn’t easy to see Alex as a villain in Docile. He was shaped by the world he lives in, Alex is the product of a society where Dociles are seen as things and where he, as Bishop, has to act and be a certain way.
But Alex’s action are not justified by his being grown up in a certain way. Throughout the whole book Alex is forced to open his eyes and recognize his mistakes and actions.
While reading Docile it’s impossible not to compare both of them, to see Alex as the villain and Elisha as the victim, the abuser and the abused, the rapist and the raped. But they are so much complex that that. In a game of seduction, love, violence and hurt, they move and they live in a society that shapes them and wants to mold them in certain ways. Thanks to his relationship with Elisha, Alex begins to understand how his POV was biased, how his being rich and spoiled prevented him to see the truth, even when it regarded his closest friends. Jess and Dutch are Alex’s best friends, they work for the Bishop Labs and both of them were under Dociline, when kids.
Discovering Dutch’s and his Docile Onyx’s true nature and intentions was a surprise for me, so it was reading them helping Elisha get back on his own feet and forcing Alex to see what his family company did to debtors in general and Elisha and his mother in particular, pushing him to open his eyes and recognize his feeling and what he should do. Jess is another complex character, her expertise in Dociline helping Alex and Elisha, her friendship with them and Dylan sweet and sure.
I love how the characters grow in this book. Alex, from rich and spoiled and blind to others’ suffering and feelings, becomes a more mature version of himself, deciding to free himself from his father’s and the company’s clutches and owning the truth about what he did to Elisha, how he hurt and broke him. Reading how Alex sees that and at the same time that is ready to make amends, helping him and his mother, denouncing his family’s company was incredible.
Reading about Elisha’s depersonalization was awful and raw, so like reading his slow reasserting his own identity and personality, his indecision, his pain, his attempted suicide, his healing, helped by his family and friends. Every character is complex, flawed and utterly human in his faults, desires and needs. None of them is completely bad or good, but they are in the gray area of humanity, pushed and manipulated by a society and system that want to mold them, where debts create slaves and riches. Alex and Elisha change one other and, above all, Alex’s world and convictions are upturned.
The lawsuit was a brilliant way to force the characters to realize and talk about their own feelings and faults. I love reading how Dutch tells the truths about Docile, how the trial showed the fault in the Docile’s system and the debtor’s reality, how Elisha decides to own his own truths, admitting to himself and other to have been raped and brainwashedand how Alex realizes his faults and tries to fix it, testing himself with drugs and trying to find an antidote for Elisha’s mother. I was unbelievably proud when Elisha breaks up with Alex and they both realize it’s the right thing to do in that moment, because they need to heal and fix their relationship. I was proud of both of them owning their truths. I love reading how Abby, Elisha’s sister is supportive and how Nora, Dylan’s mother and David, Elisha’s father are so close to him, even after the first fights because Elisha couldn’t realize he’s changed. It was fun and interesting reading about the sex scenes, about the BDSM, about the poliamorous relationships.
I loved reading how Elisha and Alex change during the whole book, how they become different people, owning their own truths and faults. Their relationship is incredibly complex. Their love, born in a not consensual relationship, change both of them. Pushed Alex to realized how much he’s hurting Elisha and to letting him go to his family, understanding how, living with him, wouldn’t help. Elisha, after all he’s been through, still have feelings for Alex, strong ones.
After being so dependent in Alex, reading how Elisha reasserts himself, making his own decisions, asking his own questions, was absolutely amazing. So was reading how Alex owns his mistakes, his faults, his guilt, deciding to give Elisha space, to letting him heal, piece by piece. Their relationship change a lot throughout the book, from owner and owned, abuser and abused, from Elisha being dependent on Alex, to be his own person, again and starts a new relationship with him, without disparities, helping each other and seeing one other as how they really are, without pressures and social impositions.
I loved the ending. It was hopeful and sweet, social justice aside. I loved reading how both Elisha and Alex still have feeling for each other and they are willing to give each other space and time, while deciding to work together and be together.
“I want to be with you- want to be around you without the pressure”
“He kissed me again, and again, parting so slowly I feel dazed. Heady. Elisha leans his forehead against the base of my neck and I rest my chin on his head, the hood long fallen off. When he finally looks at me, he says “I’m not giving up on you, Alexander Bishop.” I don’t answer him, because I want him to feel like he can go on without me if he needs to. He’ll see me soon, anyway. We’re neighbours, now, and I think I promised to open a clinic with him. This isn’t a goodbye. It’s a beginning- one we’ve agreed on. Together.”
Docile left me breathless and full of things to say and write. I loved the plot, the characters, the themes. I loved Elisha and Alex and the ending left me so hopeful for them, showing how it’s possible to heal and starts love again even after awful experiences. How it’s important to be true to oneself and do the right thing, how it’s right to fight for what it’s right. Docile is a book with intense and skillfully written themes like abuse, power, consent and love. It’s raw, beautiful, heartbreaking and sexy. It’s impossible not to love Elisha and Alex.
Let me now what do you think! Will you read Docile? Are you excited as I am to have this book in your hands? Comment this post and share your thoughts.
I received this book from netgalley in exchange of an honest review.
POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD
I really loved reading Asperfell, this book is peculiar and the characters are intriguing and interesting. Set in a world called Tiralaen, a sort of medioeval one, where magic is real and people who possessed it are called Mages, the story starts when the main character, Briony, is only eight years old. When the king is killed by his heir Elyan, a potent Mage, able to siphon other’s magic and use it, he’s condemned to walk through the Gate, a passage into another world and to be exiled in the Asperfell prison.
The Asperfell is an ancient prison, created hundreds of years ago, the only one capable to hold the Mages’ magic. With the king’s death and the new one’s growing paranoia about and violence against who possesses magic, the world of Tiralaen is turn upside down and where reigned violence, suspicion and deaths.
Briony’s life, a young and stubborn daughter from a prestigious and influential family is sheltered and she lived with her family, her sister Livia, parents and uncle in the capital, Iluviel, at the court, her days spent learning how to curtsy, to sew and to do the things women are supposed to learn. When she survived a bad illness, Briony and Livia are are sent away to their aunt. Kept safely away from the capital, where her parents and uncle advised their mad and violent king, Briony’s world is changed another time 10 years later, when soldiers accused her to be a Mage, bringing her to the capital and sentencing her to death. Helped to escape into the Asperfell world, Briony promised her friend Cyprias to bring back the only hope for her country: prince Elyan, sentenced there thirteen years ago.
Asperfell is not what she could have ever imagined, though and the prison, full of true criminals and of innocent people alike, is awash with secrets, about itself, Briony and the whole world too.
I loved reading about Briony. She’s such a strong and brave main character. Unlike her sister and the women of their time and world, Briony is wild, curious, brilliant and she refused to be a pretty wife or to gossip at court or to learn how to be a housewife, how to sew and so on. I admired her curiosity, her drive to know more about everything, her refusing to be passive and remissive. I liked her friendship with Cyprias’, her father’s spy and how she kept herself informed while with her aunt.
Briony is resilient. When she is saved and pushed in Asperfell her promise to save her kingdom and country is strong and even in a different and peculiar world, surrounded by dangers and criminals, she learned how to adapt and how to discover more about her power and the prison’s secrets. It was really interesting reading about all the kind of Mages and their magic, about Briony’s power, so peculiar. Her eagerness, her curiosity, her need to learn more about her magic, to compensate and balance from her being untrained collided with the person she’s sent to save and free, prince Elyan, who is rude, cynical and a really powerful Mage.
I love their interaction, how Briony is not a simpering subject and she stood her own ground against him, pushing him to not giving up hope for their freedom. Elyan is a peculiar character, not the spoiled royal one could think he is. He’s rude and sarcastic and insufferable, irritating Briony with his attitude, but he’s a complex character, full of grief, pain and regret and, after being in that prison for so many years, his cynical side was brought forward. Briony’s eagerness and her scheming and plans overwhelmed him, crushing his reservations, or, at least, involving him into hoping for more. I really like their relationship, it’s really complex and not granted.
This book is full of interesting characters, like the Steward of Asperfell, Philomena and its Master Tiberius, Yralis, Phyra and Thaniel, who become Briony’s friends while she adapted and learned to care about her new home. I liked the riddles and mysteries of Asperfell and how some things were connected since the very beginning, with mulpiple twists and magical beings. It was really amazing learning everything about Briony’s world’s magic through her eyes and to follow her in her quest and journey.
Asperfell itself is an interesting place, where people learned to life, surrendering themselves to this exile, creating relationships and so on. It was peculiar reading about the Melancholy Revels, where past nobility is still grabbing at their illusion of power, even in prison and in exile. It was interesting reading about the power system, fueled by violence and power. I liked reading about Thaniel’s knights and the lower levels, too, the Sentinels and basically everything in this book.
In the author’s biography she says she wants “to smash the patriarchy one novel at a time, creating characters and worlds that inspire, empower and elevate women” and I have to say she’s done it really well with Asperfell.
The first book is amazing and Briony is an unconventional heroine, unconventional because as a woman, in her time, she did the opposite the world expected from her and it’s amazing and really inspiring. I can’t wait to read more about her, Elyan, Phyra and the others and their journey towards home and country.
Let me know what do you think about my blog and reviews in the comment!
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange of an honest review.
I’m a huge fan of Jussi Adler-Olsen and the Department Q’s investigations, so I was thrilled to read an earc of this new installment.
Everything starts with a dead body, named Victim 2117, the two thousand seventeen refugee to die in the Mediterranean Sea. Her death starts a huge plot, an international investigation and secrets long buried.
Connected to three different people, Victim 2117 is:
For Assad, ia link to his past and a way to tell the truth about himself, his family and his real name.
For Ghaalib, a cruel tormentor, the start of an awful terroristic plot.
For a troubled Danish teen, she represents everything he resents and a way to start to plot his murderous revenge against humanity.
Told by multiple POVs (Joan’s, Carl’s, Assad’s, Rose’s, Gordon’s, Alexander’s, Ghalib’s) the story is full of mysteries and plot twists.
Starting with the discovery of Victim 2117, the reader follows Joan, a depressed and unlucky journalist, who tries to discover what happened to the old woman and finds himself involved into a bigger plot, threatened, hurt and taken hostage by a dangerous and deranged group.
It’s through flashbacks the reader learns about Assad’s story, his relationship with Ghaalib and the family he thought he lost for good. In a race against time, Assad and Carl go to Berlin and, following clues and taunts, they try to stop Ghaalib, his plans, and to save Assad’s family and innocent lives, cooperating with the local police.
It’s thanks to Assad, Rose managed to starts to work again with the Department Q, after two years spent in her apartment, shocked by what happened to her in the last “adventure”. Her friendship with Assad pushed her to go out again and be involved into two different cases, Assad’s and Gordon’s unknown and dangerous caller.
While dealing with personal news about his love life and friends, Carl follows and help Assad in Germany, while the troubled teen, Alexander, torments Gordon, taunting him and revealing his plans by phone, Gordon and Rose starts an investigation to discover who he is and stop him before it’s too late.
Victim 2117 is a complex and intriguing book. Even though we have multiple POVs and storyline, the story is captivating and the reader can easily follow the double investigations and what happens in each character’s lives.
Carl with Mona and the coming back of Marcus, his former boss, as chief of homicide, Rose’s trauma, Assad’s wish for revenge and his desire to find his family safe and sound, away from Ghaalib’s clutches, Gordon’s involvement with the teen and his race against time to find him, Joan’s depression and the event that turned his world upside down.
It was interesting reading the POVs of the “villains” in this book, too, to see their reasons and their desires. The reader can follow Alexander’s deranged plan and see how he was tormented, beaten and abused by his father, how the indifference of his parents and the world pushed him to close in on himself and in his room, obsessed with death and revenge.
Ghaalib’s character is despicable and I couldn’t understand his POV or sympathize with his thoughts and plans, his obsession and revenge.
It was amazing reading again about the Department Q’s investigations. I missed Rose being sassy, Carl being determined and loyal, Assad’s wrongs sayings and his camels, Gordon’s awkwardness.
The book is beautiful and deals with important issues, like terrorism, fundamentalism, refugees’, their conditions, war, tortures, death, rape, threats and so on, while narrating a story of friendships, love and new beginnings too.
We used to be friends is very peculiar book, built in a curious and interesting way. There are two POVs, Kat’s and James’ and the book swings from month to month, starting with the end (or a beginning) and ending with the beginning. Kat and James are best friends since they were little and they can’t wait to go through their senior year, both of them full of hopes, plans and ideas for the future, colleges and boyfriends. But the senior year changes everything for them.
James’ life is turn upside down when her parents, together since high school and considered, by her and everyone else, a true love story, break up and her mother left her and her father to live in another city with another man. She isn’t sure anymore about anything, even her own relationship with Logan, now in college and she decided to break up with him, scared because her plans, inspired by her parents’ love, fell apart. Seeing their marriage’s outcome, she’s scared to love her boyfriend, bringing herself to pushing him away. To complicate things her best friend seemed less interested in hanging out with her and in trying to understand that something is wrong with James than to be with Quinn Morgan, who seems to have taken her place and Kat’s attention. Jealousy and heartbreak pushes James to distance herself from Kat.
Kat’s life, even though she wants others to think it’s perfect, is not. Her mother died for a heart problem, leaving her paranoid and scared about her own health, her father decided to start dating and her boyfriend cheated on her because he was bored when she was away during summer. Her only constant is (was) James, even though slowly their relationship deteriorate, and her new friendship with Quinn. When Quinn kissed her, Kat realized how much she loves her and starts a relationship with her, slowly and without realizing, pushing James away. Or giving her for granted.
This book narrated their story, talking about their relationships, school, boyfriend and girlfriend, parents dating, parents separating, prom and dresses, colleges, friends. It shows, while talking about their friendship, with flashbacks too, how James’ and Kat’s lives change in such short time, how they find way to be more sure of themselves, or how to seek help, how to realize people around them, how to grown up, even when everything changes around you and you lose your benchmark.
Kat is a bit self absorbed, but like James, her character is complex. She’s suffering, going through big changes in her life, her father dating, her bisexuality, her moving on after her mother’s death. Around others Kat pretends she’s perfect, she hasn’t problems and only James and then Quinn pushed her to be more herself, to be fragile when she needs to be. To accept things and learn from them.
James is complex, quiet and introvert. She and Kat are really different. Kat popular and boisterous, James contemplative, alert, with her plans and thoughts. It’s clear even in their writing style, because Kat uses upper cases and emoticons and esclamation points, while James is more accurate in writing and, when she slowly distances herself from Kat, her style becomes succint and almost cold. James found her world turned upside down and she’s forced to accept it, with her mother and friend. I love her relationship with Logan, who is an amazing, caring and funny person, always there for her, when they are a couple, when they are not and when they are figuring out, giving her space to sort herself and her feelings out.
I love how this book deals with emotions, heartbreak, grieving, funny moments and so on. I love how the ending left, at least as I see it, a sliver of hope for James and Kat and James and Logan. How it talked about jealousy, relationship,romantic and not, school and making choices.
Amy Spalding’s writing style is excellent and she swings skillfully between the two main characters and it’s clear who’s talking by word choices, sentences and expressions. I liked the way the book deals with important themes (divorces, depressions, seeking help and so on) and how it focuses on changes and growing up. Overall We used to be friends is a 4 stars reading for me, intesting, captivating and really well written.
Cemetery Boys was my first 2020 read and I couldn’t have started this reading year better.
Yadriel lives with his Latinx and traditional family, who’s struggling to accept his gender. To prove himself and to them he’s a real brujo, he decided, helped by his cousin and best friend Maritzka, to perform the ritual on his own, summoning a spirit and releasing him in the afterlife. Looking for his murdered cousin’s spirit, Yadriel finds himself with a different one: the spirit of Julian Diaz, the school bad boy. Determined to find what happened to his friends and himself, Julian and Yadriel make a deal, helping each other, so they can both reach their goals. But they will find themselves involved in a complex plot, a surprising “villain” and to realize saying goodbye it’s not so easy.
Cemetery Boys is the kind of book you don’t want to end. It’s the book you decide to read over and over, committing to memory quotes and pages and squealing in delight and fear because you’re so involved with the story and its characters. It’s the kind of book you have to finish, because you need to see what will happen next. And at the same time you don’t want to, because its world is full of magic, its characters amazing and you wanna know more and more.
I loved many things in this book. First of all, I have to admit: I’m a sucker for learning new traditions, new things, new stories. I’ve never heard anything about the brujeria. It’s not a surprise, since I live in Italy and I don’t know much about Yadriel’s world. So it was absolutely incredible and interesting learning about the traditions, about Lady Death, Bahlam, Xibalba, brujos and brujas. Aiden Thomas wrote a book so realistic, so incredibly engaging you could almost taste and smell Yadriel’s world, almost see the cemetery with the spirits, Tito and its marigolds, the calaveras and the magic. I loved reading about Lady Death and the brujos’ and brujas’ powers, their portaje; it was fascinating and thrilling learning their view of death and afterlife. The idea of being able to see a dead loved one was incredible.
The characters in Cemetery Boys are beautifully written it’s impossible not to love them or relate to them. Yadriel is the main character. He’s a trans boy, he’s gay and he’s struggling to be accepted by his family and community as a boy and a brujo. The only person able to understand him completely was his mother, who died last year and his cousin Maritka, always ready to support him and to be involved in his plans. Yadriel hates not being fully part of the brujx’s life, but he’s not the only one in his famiy who’s alienated. His uncle Catrix, even though should have been the leader of the brujx, was excluded because he hasn’t many powers. With Maritka, Tio Catriz supports and loves Yadriel, accepting him for who he is. Surrounded by his family, his brother Diego, his father Enrique and his Lita, Yadriel struggles to find his place with them and in the community. Yadriel is brilliant, funny and it was hard reading how he’s struggled (and struggling) against prejudices, transphobia and misgendering. He’s incredibly strong and he loves and respects his traditions and their powers, but he’s tired to fight to be himself, tired to accept others’ mistakes and to be the one out in his community. But Yadriel loves it and his family, so he’s ready to do anything he could to prove them who he is. It was a delight reading about a complex character like him.
Maritka is another complex and peculiar character. Both she and Yadriel are the black sheep in their community. Yadriel, because he’s trans and gay, Maritka because she’s vegan and to use the bruja’s powers she should use animal blood, so she’s refusing her healing powers. She’s smart and I love her pink and purple hair. Unlike his cousin, who is more introvert and hates bringing attention to himself, Maritka is extrovert, boisterous and really funny and supportive.
Julian. What can I say about Julian? Julian is the spirit Yadriel accidentally summoned and he’s obnoxious, loud, chatty and right away he’s seen as a “problem” to Yadriel and his plans. Yadriel needs to find his cousin, to release Julian’s spirit, to make his community and his family accept him in time for the Dia de Muertos. His days are few and his deal with Julian, promising him to check on his friends and find out what happened to him, make everything even more complicated. When Yadriel starts to realize he’s falling for Julian, attracted by his being fierce and protective, his being full of energy and fire things become even more difficult. Julian is an amazing character. I loved his energy, his fierceness, his questions, his curiosity his love for his family and friends. I have to admit, he wan’t what I expected him to be after reading the blurb and learning he’s the school bad boy. But he’s an amazing surprise. Julian is so pure, funny and I laughed so much reading about his interactions with Yadriel and Maritka or when he tries to learn his haunting powers.
I really liked how the book is stratified. Yadriel is struggling to prove himself to his family and community, but the murder of Miguel and his disappeareance and Julian’s presence lead him and Maritka to be involved into a complex and surprising plot and plot twists. I loved how the author wrote about important issues like transophobia, prejudices, racism (the difficulty of Miguel’s parents and Julian’s friends to fill a missing report and to make the police looking for missing kids), the importance of the family (not only the blood one, but the family one can create).
Written in third person, by Yadriel’s POV, I loved every page of Cemetery Boys. I enjoyed the mistery of the missing kids, learning new things and traditions. I really loved the relationship and love story bewteen Yadriel and Julian, their jokes, their bickering, their bond.
I fell in love with Cemetery Boys. I enjoyed the story so much. It was full of plot twists, revelations, gods and magic. It was the perfect book for me. The love story between Yadriel and Julian is sweet, complex and I loved every moment of it, leaving needing more about them. I loved their relationship, how they made a deal to help each other and slowly they get to learn more and more about themselves, their stories, their families, falling moment by moment in love with each other in a impossible situation. Julian is without filter and he was a surprise to Yadriel, who struggled all the time to be accepted. After his mother and his cousing, Julian becomes a person Yadriel can be himself with, without filters or explanations. Their trust in each other is complete and refreshing. Reading about him and Yadriel on the bed, listening to music and talking all night was one of my favourite part ever. I enjoyed a lot his relationship with Yadriel and I found myself so involved I squealed, cursed and cried in more than one occasion. It was beautiful seeing them falling page after page. This book is brilliant, heartbreaking and so important, full of characters brimming with life and energy, so intense you could almost touch them. I can’t wait to have this book in my hands.
I received this book from Netgalley in exchange of an honest review.
POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD
The night country, sequel of The hazel wood, is a perfect ending for this captivating, wonderful and thrilling story. It’s a mix of fantasy, thriller, murder investigation, dark fairy tales and it’s absolutely enthralling. It starts a year after the events of the first book. Alice is free from her own story, away from the Hinterland, helped by Ellery Finch and saved by her own stubborness; at the end of the first book she found herself on Earth, after being disappeared two years. At the beginning of The night country, Alice is trying to live a normal life.
She wants to live like an ordinary girl, studying, getting a diploma, working, living with Ella, her mother. But her escape from the Hinterland prompted other Stories to do the same and the Hinterland is dying, without its stories (and Stories). Alice is divided between two worlds in this book. Hinterlanders live in the city, people from Earth who choose to live in the Hinterland and came back, all of them meet regularly to try to adjust to their new life. All of them trying to adapt to their new world, new existence, free to make their own choices, without being subject of their plot. But the presence of Dafne, an agitator, an ex Story, forced Alice to choose between her two worlds. And she chooses her mother’s. A series of Hinterlanders murders, killed with ice, pushed the others to suspect Alice and mysterious letters from a person she thought she lost forever turned her life upside down another time.
This book has two POVs, Alice’s and Ellery’s and they narrated the story from two different timelines and worlds. Alice, on Earth, investigates the murders, trying to unsmear her own name, fighting to understand who’s the culprit, why blame her and how protect herself and her loved ones. Meanwhile, Ellery Finch was in the Hinterland and saw the world dying, his decision of breaking free Alice having created an avalanche of Stories running away. When a mysterious traveler, Iolanthe, offered him a way out and the choice to travel through other worlds, he accepted. The Night Country story, told separately by Ella to Alice and Iolanthe to Ellery is from a children’s picture book, a real story and world that connected Alice and Ellery, during the book. During all the book Alice’s and Ellery’s stories run on different tracks, parallel ones, connecting each other only through magical letters and coincidences, bewteen worlds and times. Like The Hazel wood, The Night country contains fairy tales, creepy ones, like Ilsa’s story, Alice’s best friend called Sophia on Earth and like The night country, stories full of blood and sacrifices and, like the first book, Alice found herself in a world where there’s no difference between fantasy and reality. And the stories, and Stories, have teeth.
It’s an wonderfully complex book, like a peculiar mosaic, where things are seen from two point of views until you can get the whole image. It’s formed by tracks, parallel ones, worlds, deaths, blood and stories. It’s the ideal conclusion for this story. Both the main characters are grown, are changed. Alice is more adult, more aware of the world around her and the Hinterland and, as before, she’s driven by her love for Ella, choosing to be away to protect her. Her relationship with Finch is a peculiar one and more present this time. Ellery’s letters find her and from different times and worlds they miss each other, they want to get back and give each other another chance, to have more time to be together. Ellery’s need and want to travel prompted him to live in the Hinterland, to trust a stranger, to find a library full of doors for another world, to become something else, risking everything to save his own world. I love how everything connected, how the ending wasn’t a sad or an happy one, but an hopeful ending/beginning. Amazing, brilliant. This book is another ode to stories, reading and traveling. Like Alice’s and Ellery’s journey, it is almost a push to search, to discover, a celebration of fantasy, imagination and love.
“I want to hold your hand. I wonder if I’d be brave enough to say this to your face.” […]I want to write to you again, but what I want even more is to watch your face when you look up from a book one day and see mine. One day soon. I’m gonna be so shy when I see you again. It’s just, by now, I’ve said as much to you in letters than I did in life. Be patient with me, okay? When I see you and my tongue tangles up. Be patient. I’ll see you after the Night Country.”
“Stay. Stay where you are. Let me find you.” […] I want to find you. I want to walk between worlds with you. I wouldn’t mess it up this time, I wouldn’t hide inside my own head. I wouldn’t let you hide inside yours.”
We’re something formidable now. I’m an ex- Story, the girl who got away. He’s a Spinner who survived the rise and fall of his world. We’re both survivors, the two of us. We’re wanderers. We could make a home in any world.
The Night Country is the perfect conclusion of The hazel wood saga and this world, these worlds, will stay with me with their characters for a long time. I wish there could be more, because this story is addictive. And I love everything about it. Alice and Ellery will stay with me for a very long time, I’m sure.