4

Gemina: BOOK, HOW DARE YOU End Like That?!

bookreview

Gemina (The Illuminae Files, #2)Gemina
(The Illuminae Files #2)
by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
672 Pages
Science Fiction / Young Adult
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 18th, 2016
Get a copy here!

BLURB: 

The highly anticipated sequel to the instant New York Timesbestseller that critics are calling “out-of-this-world awesome.” 

Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminaecontinues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.

Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.

Once again told through a compelling dossier of emails, IMs, classified files, transcripts, and schematics, Gemina raises the stakes of the Illuminae Files, hurling readers into an enthralling new story that will leave them breathless.

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See my review for ILLUMINAE (The Illuminae Files #1) by clicking the cover below:

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1)

5Penguins
Quick Reasons: I SWEAR, these books will be the death of me!; super entertaining, snarky, and heart-wrenching; complex, frustrating, endearing characters; the roMESS in this read is SO WORTH IT; OH MY PENGUINS ALL THE PLOT TWISTS OF EVER; someone please tell me you’re buying me book 3 for my birthday?!

AHHHHH. AHHHHHHHHH. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! I feel like if I let myself, I could spend this entire review just screaming and none of you would even come close to understanding the amount of feeeeeeelings I’m feeling right now because words just…. they fail me. They fail me so hard core right now I can’t even. I am so…just… GAH, THIS BOOK SERIES! I swear, it’s going to be the death of me–all the plot twists and turny-loops and “you thought you knew what was coming?! you thought WRONG!” ness. Seriously, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff know how to weave a topsy-turvy, confusing, twisty tale…and keep readers enthralled throughout. This installment was absolutely no exception!

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These characters are super entertaining and endearing. While I found myself (inexplicably? or perhaps not, given how much I ADORED him in Illuminae) missing AIDAN through a large portion of this read. Of course, once he made his appearance (and stuck around!) I was a very happy penguin and could focus more completely on the rest of the crew, who were just as vibrantly written and stubbornly AWESOME as I’d been expecting. I don’t quite know how Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff managed it, but they wrote a sequel that both stands apart from it’s predecessor and yet somehow fills in at least a few of the questionable gaps. I just… I am in absolute awe.

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The plot is fast-paced and so twisty, you’ll find your heart has broken and been mended at least half a dozen times within the span of just a few pages. No, really Penguins–this is not an over-exaggeration at all! I was on the tippity tops of my toes throughout this entire read, begging to know what was happening while at the same time trying desperately to close my eyes to the events because SO MUCH HEARTACHE! I screamed at my book–numerous times. I pleaded, and threw tantraums (over facebook chat, at least), and laughed and rallied and then fell apart all over again. Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman are BRILLIANT at writing intensely entertaining, dramatically realistic, gut-wrenching shotgun reads, and OH MY PENGUINS, I cannot wait to lay my hands on Obsidio next year. I need it.

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I just… If you haven’t heard me wax poetic about the beauty that is Illuminae, hear me now. Pick up this series! The characters are entertaining and lovable, the plot is action-packed and so full of surprises, and you will–guaranteed!–find yourself flinging the book in anger at least once, but probably more like a thousand times, before the end. I definitely recommend this series to lovers of science fiction, uniquely formatted reads, and super epic world-saving journeys. The wormhole is open, Penguins; the fate of reality rests on your readerly shoulders now!

 

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0

Blog Tour and Review: Stalker, My Love

Stalker, My Love banner
This is my stop during the blog tour for Stalker, My Love by Zack Scott. This blog tour is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours. The blog tour runs from 21 May till 10 June. See the tour schedule here.

Stalker, My LoveStalker, My Love
By Zack Scott
Genre: Mystery/Thriller/ Romance
Age category: New Adult, Adult
Release Date: 14 May, 2017

Blurb:
Welcome to Pine Bridge, a small town where secrets are rife, personal is everyone’s business, and passion is high.

With the disappearance of Rosalyn Ray, tensions soar and fingers point in every direction: the lover, the mother, the best friend, and the stalker.

Frustrated by the search going nowhere, Rhett Calloway makes it his mission to discover the truth, find the girl, and win her heart. Some people in Pine Bridge say he’s obsessed. Some say he’s dangerous. Some say he’s hurt Rosalyn. All Rhett knows is he’s loved Rosalyn since they were kids and he’ll do what it takes to see her again.

Stalker, My Love is an untraditional love story where fantasy clashes with reality, and happily ever after seems like an elusive dream. Told through four POVs, the story follows those closest to Rosalyn Ray.

You can find Stalker, My Love on Goodreads

You can buy Stalker, My Love on Amazon

About the Author:
Zack is the author of the zombie apocalypse trilogy, THEIR DEAD LIVES, the horror comedy, ONE PISSED-OFF SHARK, and the untraditional love story, STALKER, MY LOVE. He’s licensed to practice law in the State of California. When he’s not writing, he enjoys baseball, avoiding LA traffic and playing with the dogs.

You can find and contact Zack Scott here:
Website
Twitter
Goodreads
Amazon


bookreview

5Penguins
Quick Reasons: I have a LOT of thoughts; this was a unique, one of a kind read; love the cyclical nature of the plot; I had no idea where the story was leading me, and I ADORED that; the bright, vibrant cover only emphasized the chaos within the pages

Huge thanks to Zack Scott and Lola’s Blog Tours for sending me a free digital galley of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

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I….have a LOT of thoughts about this book, penguins. Like, I finished this read last night and just sat here staring at my computer, my mind racing. I had to wait until this morning to be able to coherently put into words what I was feeling–and I’m STILL, even now, not sure I can manage. So be warned: I might, at any given time, become a blubbering mess of chaos. Bear with me, please–I’ll do my best to explain in a way your beaks might be able to handle.

So let’s start with the easy: this is, in my mind, EXACTLY how a mystery should be written. From the very first page, I was suspicious of EVERYONE. Nobody was safe from that part of my brain that likes to jump to conclusions and see secrets hiding in the shadows. The fact that we were given a look into multiple POVs only helped to make everyone shady. Zack Scott KNOWS how to write an excellent mystery, and he drew upon foreshadowing and vague word choices to, at some point or another, cast every character in a villainous light. I literally went from thinking such and such character had done it one page…to totally flip-flopping the next, and I absolutely ADORED the chaos. It made this so much more fun, knowing I had absolutely zero clue who I was supposed to be suspecting. It also made it feel much more authentic, for me.

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These characters are vibrantly written in regards to their personalities, though I honestly felt I couldn’t really *see* them. I feel, thinking about it this morning, that that might have been part of Zack Scott’s plan. While their personalities leaped off the pages, we weren’t given much to go on about them physically–we got small glimpses of their clothes, the way they stood, how they reacted to stress…but we’re never really outright told what they look like. This, in hindsight, allowed me to imagine them as ANYONE–and probably helped, in some instances, to confuse and mislead me, because hello, stereotyping and preconceived judgments. So the fact I couldn’t see the characters? NOT a bad thing in this instance–it actually helped to make this read more confusing and chaotic!

I just… I had a ton of fun stepping into this twisted, intriguing mystery, and cannot WAIT to see what Zack Scott does in the future! The plot was confusing enough that I followed red herrings several times, and I adore that I had pretty much no clue who to suspect through the journey (a rarity for me, to be honest!) The characters were vibrantly written, though also vague enough to bring a different sort of chaos to the read. Overall, I LOVED how one-of-a-kind this read was! I definitely, DEFINITELY recommend to lovers of mysteries, who-dun-its, and suspiciously shady characters. Follow the clues, penguins, and see if YOU can figure it out before the big reveal–it’s not as easy as you’d think!


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6

Blog Tour, Giveaway, and Review: Violet Grenade

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Violet GrenadeViolet Grenade
by Victoria Scott
366 Pages
YA / Contemporary
Entangled Teen
Publication Date: May 16th, 2017

BLURB:

Domino: A runaway with blood on her hands.


Cain: A silent boy about to explode.

Madam Karina: A woman who demands obedience.

Wilson: The one who will destroy them all.

Her name is Domino Ray.

But the voice inside her head has a different name.

When Madam Karina discovers Domino in an alleyway, she offers her a position at her girls’ home in secluded West Texas. With no alternatives and an agenda of her own, Domino accepts. It isn’t long before she is fighting her way up the ranks to gain the madam’s approval…and falling for Cain, the mysterious boy living in the basement.

But the madam has horrible secrets. So do the girls in the house. So does Cain.

Escaping is harder than Domino expects, though, because the madam doesn’t like to lose inventory. But then, Madam Karina doesn’t know about the danger living inside Domino’s mind.

Madam Karina doesn’t know about Wilson.

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VictoriaScott_Author PhotoAbout the Author:

Victoria Scott is the acclaimed author of eight novels for young adults including FIRE & FLOOD, THE COLLECTOR, and VIOLET GRENADE. She is published by Scholastic and Entangled Teen, and is represented by Sara Crowe. Victoria’s novels are sold in fourteen countries, and she loves receiving reader emails from at home, and across the world.

GIVEAWAY DETAILS:

* Signed paperback of The Collector, a signed paperback of Titans, and a signed galley of Hear the Wolves.*

CLICK HERE to go to the giveaway!


bookreview

5Penguins
Quick Reasons: darkly atmospheric; life-ruiner; heavy handed, mature topics; this read was a ticking time bomb just waiting to explode; intricate, complex characters; Domino and Cain are SO adorable, I can’t even; the snark is on point

HUGE thanks to Victoria Scott, Entangled Teen, Chapter by Chapter Book Tours, and Netgalley for sending me a free digital galley of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

VG Quote1

Okay, penguins. I have FULLY INTENDED to pick up a Victoria Scott book for, like…several years now. There are several I’ve had my eye on. I have one on my kindle just waiting for me to look its way. So WHY, OH WHY, did it take me so long?! I just… I honestly don’t have an answer. But I’ll start with this: I am so, so glad that I decided to start with THIS book. Because this book?! is a gem, and I’m not sure Victoria Scott’s other books would have touched me quite so deeply as this one. I will warn you, though: there are some very heavy, mature subjects broached in this read. This is a very darkly atmospheric, bone-chilling read, so if you’re all about the butterflies and unicorns and rainbows…this book might not be the best fit for you.

That being said, this penguin? absolutely ADORED the journey. It’s been a while since I last picked up a book that promised darkness and angst and hushed secrets in forbidden rooms…and that’s exactly what I found waiting here. Victoria Scott twisted and tore every page with emotion, and I am so blown away with how much her words wrung me out and left me bleeding. There is a loud, vibrant talent seeping through every sentence: the power to ensnare and enthrall readers. The ability to mute the real world and push the imagination to the forefront. Victoria Scott took me on a roller coaster, whirlwind journey…and I fell in love from page one.

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These characters are complex and intricate. The balance of snark with sensitively handled, heavily mature subject matter was beautiful and well-done. While there are a few characters that fall to the very bottom of the “redeemable” pile in my mind, I feel as if Victoria Scott did a gorgeous job in rounding each personality fully and showing them in several altering lights–to allow readers a more completed picture of them, as individuals and as a whole. And penguins, did they leap to life for me; not only was I ensnared by the gorgeous writing, the dark atmosphere, the fast-paced and thought-provoking plot… I was also swept up by the characters. And not just one or two of them– ALL of them.

I am just so, SO happy the first Victoria Scott novel I picked up was THIS one. Victoria Scott wrote a darkly mysterious, intriguingly painful read–and she wove the heavy subject matter so beautifully and sensitively into the journey. I definitely recommend to lovers of shady characters, questionable motivations, and atmospheric reads. I officially cannot WAIT to pick up my next Victoria Scott novel; if the writing is as gorgeous as in this book, I’m in for a real treat. This read’s a ticking time bomb waiting to explode; why don’t you open the cover and start the countdown, penguins? You know you want to.

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10

Book Tour, Giveaway, and Review: Other Breakable Things

OBTTour

 

Other Breakable ThingsOther Breakable Things
by Kelley York and Rowan Altwood
YA/Contemporary/Romance
290 Pages
Entangled:  Teen
Published April 4th, 2017

According to Japanese legend, folding a thousand paper cranes will grant you healing.

Evelyn Abel will fold two thousand if it will bring Luc back to her.

Luc Argent has always been intimately acquainted with death. After a car crash got him a second chance at life—via someone else’s transplanted heart—he tried to embrace it. He truly did. But he always knew death could be right around the corner again.

And now it is.

Sick of hospitals and tired of transplants, Luc is ready to let his failing heart give out, ready to give up. A road trip to Oregon—where death with dignity is legal—is his answer. But along for the ride is his best friend, Evelyn.

And she’s not giving up so easily.

A thousand miles, a handful of roadside attractions, and one life-altering kiss later, Evelyn’s fallen, and Luc’s heart is full. But is it enough to save him? Evelyn’s betting her heart, her life, that it can be.

Right down to the thousandth paper crane.

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Purchase Links:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo
Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.ca | Entangled Publishing

AUTHOR INFO:

Kelley York

Kelley York

Kelley York and Rowan Altwood are a wife and wife writing team living in central California with their daughter and way too many cats.

Kelley is the author of Hushed, Made of Stars, and Modern Monsters ;

Other Breakable Things is Rowan’s debut.

Website

Kelley York Twitter | Rowan Altwood Twitter
Kelley York Goodreads | Rowan Altwood Goodreads

Giveaway Details:

Other Breakable Things Prize Pack:
Signed copy of Modern Monsters by Kelley York and an origami crane kit (US)
OR
eBook of Modern Monsters by Kelley York + a $25 Amazon Gift Card (INT)

Go to the giveaway RIGHT HERE!


bookreview

5Penguins
Quick Reasons: LIFE. RUINER.; this book HURT…and it hurt so good; this book left me in pieces; endearing, believable characters; such a strong, poignant, beautiful love; powerful look into life–and, flip-side of the coin, death; loveloveloved everything about this read

Huge thanks to Kelley York and Rowan Altwood; Entangled: Teen; Netgalley; and Chapter by Chapter Book Tours for sending me a free digital galley of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

OBT Quote1

Now, penguins–I’m sure you’ve noticed, I’ve read my fair share of chronic illness books in the recent past. Most of them dealing with heart transplants and heart failures. Why these books call to me, I can’t say–usually I don’t even realize that’s what they’re about until I pick up the book and start reading, because you all know I’m TERRIBLE about actually reading a book’s blurb before diving in. Case in point: for this book? I dove in because of the paper crane on the cover. Talk about basing my life on a snap judgement, right?! But I am so, so glad that I did–because this book? Absolutely BROKE me (which, I mean, I guess I say a lot…but it’s TRUUUE, okay?! Cross my penguin toes and hope I never lose my pebbles!)

Seriously, maybe I’m just a hormonal penguin right now, but this book really touched me. I’m not sure if maybe it’s because the ending wasn’t quite as trite/cliched as I expected it to be (there was no “consolation prize baby,” which YAY I’m happy about because seriously don’t do that). I loved every moment of the journey, as painful as I knew it would be in the end–and it was PAINFUL, penguins. This book is full-throttle, a race to the end, not because it’s filled with action…but because we go into this read knowing it’s a race against the clock. And that was heartbreaking, and beautiful, and so sensitively handled. There are, granted, some very mature themes and subjects explored–some of the ideas might be a bit heavy for certain readers.

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Kelley York and Rowan Altwood took my heart out of my hands and SHATTERED it–several times over. These characters are believable, endearing, and so adorable together I cannot even. I was rooting for them before I knew there was even anything there to root for, which is saying something. The romance is slow-kindling, but explosive once the spark hits–the best kind in books like this, I think. We were able to “see” the characters, and how they changed one another. I just honestly… so much about this book is beautiful, words fail me right now.

To sum it up… this book broke me, and it broke me hard, but it was so so worth the fall. I’ll just be over here trying to glue the tiny pieces of myself back together for now, okay? The characters are adorable; the subject is handled with sensitivity and tact; the whole read is gorgeous. I definitely recommend to lovers of contemporaries, heartbreaking reads, and life-changing journeys. I cannot wait to see what Rowan Altwood and Kelley York do next! Take a trip with me, penguins; you might learn something about yourself in the process.

In Collaboration With:

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0

Perfect: Brilliant Covers, Genius Series

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Perfect (Flawed, #2)

Celestine North lives in a society that demands perfection. After she was branded Flawed by a morality court, Celestine’s life has completely fractured–all her freedoms gone.

Since Judge Crevan has declared her the number one threat to the public, she has been a ghost, on the run with Carrick–the only person she can trust.

But Celestine has a secret–one that could bring the entire Flawed system crumbling to the ground. A secret that has already caused countless people to go missing.

Judge Crevan is gaining the upper hand, and time is running out for Celestine. With tensions building, Celestine must make a choice: save just herself or to risk her life to save all Flawed people.

And, most important of all, can she prove that to be human in itself is to be Flawed?

Flawed, Book 2
Dystopia / YA 

352 Pages
Feiwel & Friends/McMillan Children’s Publishing Group
Expected Publication Date:  April 4th, 2017
Preorder a copy here!

See my review of Flawed (Flawed #1) by clicking the cover below:

Flawed (Flawed, #1)

5Penguins
Quick Reasons: this series has RUINED me; life-ruiner; my poor penguin heart is still pitter-pattering; emotional, dramatic, and horrifying; the moral implications are just spot-on; whoever designed these covers is BRILLIANT; I need this duology on my physical shelves

Huge thanks to Cecelia Ahern, McMillan Children’s Publishing Group, and Netgalley for sending me a free digital ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

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Okay, penguins…. can we just TALK ABOUT the choices the cover designer made for this series?! I mean seriously…these covers? Say SO MUCH about the story without really saying anything until you’ve read the books. For Flawed, we see Celestine from the mouth down. She is sort of bland, an unknown from the beginning–until she steps up and sparks a revolution. In Perfect…she IS the revolution, so we see her from the neck up. The colors also sort of play on this. She was perfect, “pure”…until she was found NOT to be. It’s just…. GAH, whoever designed these covers? Did a fan-fracking-tastic job of it.

 

And this book? The closure to this poignant, powerful, intense duology? Delivered a hundred percent what I’ve been hoping it would. There are SO MANY moral and societal implications explored throughout each of these reads, but this second book brings everything to a head and makes readers STOP, SIT DOWN, and THINK about what’s going on. It horrifies; it disgusts; it wrenches and tears in two every thought, every assumption, every feeling a reader could possibly be having at any point in the read. Everything is examined; everything is called into question, and then studied more, and then flipped on its head. And there was a LOT of head-flipping in this book; I think I gave myself whiplash trying to keep up with all the rapid changes and out-of-nowhere twists.

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This is an intense read, though. The moral implications, the examination and redefinition of “society”….there are some tough, mature themes happening throughout this book. There is abuse of power. Obsession. Determination to “hide” or “right” a mistake. There is judgment, segregation, and political motivation/power struggles. All of this comes together in a fast-paced, important revelation. The characters are strong-willed and head-strong, the plot is heavy and nonstop, and the ending…while perhaps a bit TOO tidy…a poignant powerbomb. I just… I am in awe, and need this duology on my bookshelves PRONTO.

 

Overall, my first and second foray into Cecelia Ahern proved some of the best decisions I’ve ever made. These books changed my outlook on a lot of things, and are so, SO important in the messages they carry. This is a series I am proud to have picked up and fallen in love with, and I definitely recommend it to lovers of dystopians, political agendas, and intense reads. Perfect is bound to brand you, penguins–grit your teeth and wear the mark with pride. I know I will.

2

Blog Tour, Excerpt, Giveaway, and Review: Lost Girls

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Lost Girls, by Merrie Destefano
Publication Date: January 3, 2017
Publisher: Entangled Teen

Yesterday, Rachel went to sleep listening to Taylor Swift, curled up in her grammy’s quilt, worrying about geometry. Today, she woke up in a ditch, bloodied, bruised, and missing a year of her life.

She doesn’t recognize the person she’s become: she’s popular. She wears nothing but black.

Black to cover the blood.

And she can fight.

Tell no one.

She’s not the only girl to go missing within the last year…but she’s the only girl to come back. She desperately wants to unravel what happened to her, to try and recover the rest of the Lost Girls.

But the more she discovers, the more her memories return. And as much as her new life scares her, it calls to her. Seductively. The good girl gone bad, sex, drugs, and raves, and something darker…something she still craves—the rush of the fight, the thrill of the win—something she can’t resist, that might still get her killed…

The only rule is: There are no rules.

Purchase Links:
Amazon.com  | B&N iBooks | Kobo
Amazon.com.au Amazon.com/uk | Amazon.ca 

Excerpt:

Chapter One

I remember last night perfectly.

I know what we ate for dinner. I know my little brother didn’t do his homework. I know Dad drove me to my ballet lessons, then waited for me in the Starbucks across the street.

I know that, later in the evening, I fell asleep when I was supposed to be studying geometry, my earbuds in while I listened to Taylor Swift’s latest album.

That was my yesterday.

The problem is, everyone, from my parents to my teachers to the police, says that stuff didn’t happen yesterday.

It happened last year.

I went to sleep with music playing, curled up on my bed, and wrapped in the afghan Grams knitted for me when she was on chemo.

I woke up in a ditch, half-buried in a pile of leaves. I was shivering and wet, a soft rain falling, icy drops hitting me in the face and running down my neck. Trees towered overhead, black branches scratching the sky, wind howling, and from somewhere nearby came the muted sounds of traffic.

I sat up, confused and scared, grogginess giving way to an intense adrenaline rush.

Then I screamed, louder than I thought I could. The sound ripped out of my lungs and wouldn’t stop; it went on and on until I thought I would collapse because I knew I couldn’t breathe and scream at the same time. And then—when I was sure I would fall forward, bent over at the waist, my lungs empty and spots dancing before my eyes—then I found some way to yell

again. At first my shouts were primal and there were no words, just terror and pain and a black pit in my stomach that wouldn’t allow me to have conscious thoughts.

I began to cry the same thing, over and over.

“Help! Somebody help me!”

I tried to stand, but the gully was so slanted that I kept falling back to my knees, every stumble forcing me to become aware of another injury—the raw skin on my wrists and ankles, covered with dried blood and stinging with each drop of rain; the muscles in my legs sore and weak, like I’d been running for days; the soles of my feet aching, my tennis shoes ripped and stained with mud.

I stretched out my arms, latching onto tree roots to gain my balance, and I pulled myself up the incline, foot by foot. Fingers now coated with mud, I perched on the edge of a highway, nearly blinded by headlights whenever a car sped past.

There I stood, waving my arms and screaming again, not knowing that my hair was matted or that there was blood and dirt on my clothes or that my photo had been on the news for the past two weeks.

Lost girl. Disappeared on her way home from school. Anyone with information, please contact the Santa Madre police department.

Two cars drove past, headlights splashing me with brilliant light. I hadn’t realized until now that the sun tipped on the edge of the world, ready to disappear, or that twilight shadows were already stretching across the horizon. Great pockets of violet darkness yawned between each pair of lights that hurtled toward me, greedy fingers of darkness that wanted me to tumble back into that gully and remain hidden.

Please, somebody stop and help me.

I was screaming again and some sort of weird survival panic took over.

I walked into the middle of the two-lane southbound road and stood there.

Go ahead, run me over. I dare you.

Wait, what was I doing?

Several cars spun to a stop, skidding sideways, tires squealing, metal crashing metal and rubber burning. The old me, the girl who fell asleep listening to Taylor sing about a broken heart, never would have done this. What was wrong with me?

My heart thundered in my chest, but I refused to move, even when the wreckage screeched closer and closer, fenders crunching, bumpers twisting, windshields shattering. I stared all the passengers in the eye, glancing from one face to the next, coolly noting that none of them were hurt—nothing beyond a bump or a bruise.

You. Will. Stop. And. Help. Me.

Still the wreckage surged forward. I merely lifted one hand, palm up, signaling for them to stop. Like I was a traffic cop or something.

Everything finally slid to a stop, a few feet away from me.

Tears coursed down my cheeks and I began to shake uncontrollably. I sank to my knees, truly myself again. Frightened and alone and lost.

“Help me,” I begged, then buried my face in my hands.

Car doors opened: a strange cacophony of voices tumbled out, some yelling, some speaking in hushed tones.

“What’s going on?”

“Is that the missing girl from the news?”

“9-1-1, we have an emergency here—”

“Honey, you’re gonna be okay, don’t worry—”

An elderly woman with white hair and bright, pink lipstick pulled me close and draped her coat over me. When I glanced up I saw blood on her forehead, but she didn’t seem worried about herself. She smiled down at me, her face a map of connected wrinkles.

“We’re gonna get you home to your parents,” she said. “Do you want to call them?” She handed me her cell phone, but my fingers were shaking too much to dial. I told her the number and she punched it in, waiting while it rang. When a voice answered on the other end, the white-haired woman said, “I have someone who wants to talk to you.” Then she handed me the phone.

“Hello? Who is this?” It was my mom, a frantic tone in her voice that brought fresh tears to my eyes.

My words came out shaky, with long pauses between.

“Mom?”

Neither one of us could talk, not for a long time, because we were both crying. Then she finally whispered my name, like it was a magical word that could change the world.

“Rachel? Rachel, baby, where are you?”

I looked around. “I don’t know.”

“You’re on the 39, just north of Azusa,” the white-haired woman told me.

Flashing lights spun in the distance and sirens blared. An ambulance and a fire truck and two police cars were headed toward us. I blinked at the brightness, shielding my eyes with one hand.

“Rachel? Are you still there?” It was my father’s voice now, calling me back to the cell phone.

I pressed it against my ear. “Daddy?”

“Honey, when the ambulance gets there, you get inside and you stay there. Do you hear me? Don’t get in a car with anyone else!”

“I will—I mean, I won’t. I’ll go with the paramedics.” My teeth were chattering and I was shivering so much I could hardly hold the phone. I think I may have started talking gibberish, half-sentences with little meaning. I remember saying something about my geometry test and worrying that I wouldn’t make it to class tomorrow and I may have mentioned something about my biology class, too, because Dad interrupted me.

“Rachel, are you talking about the class you took with Miss Wallace?”

“Yeah. She always gives exams on Wednesday.”

There was a long silence. I wondered if we had gotten cut off. Meanwhile, the ambulance doors opened and someone wheeled a stretcher toward me.

“Honey, you had geometry with Miss Wallace last year. When you were a sophomore.”

I frowned. “But I’m a sophomore now.”

“Baby girl, you’re a junior. Don’t worry about it. All this will get straightened out when you get home—”

I dropped the phone. My hands were shaking too much to hold it. I glanced down at my hands, at the chipped red nail polish. But I hadn’t been wearing nail polish last night and I never use this color. I turned my hands over and discovered a tattoo on my inner wrist.

A tattoo?

Always and forever. That’s what it said. But there was no redness or swelling. I didn’t get this tattoo anytime recently.

The paramedics helped me onto the stretcher, and then the world was rushing past me, rain falling on my face, people staring down at me as the stretcher wheeled by, the air thick with the smell of oil and gasoline and burned rubber. Then another smell came suddenly and violently—a memory.

A thick, cloying scent of pine and cedar.

My stomach lurched and I couldn’t stop.

I started screaming again.

Check out the TOUR SCHEDULE here!

Giveaway Information:

Blog Tour: All prizes listed below will be given to one prize winner.
Prizes listed are for a US winner only; if an International winner is chosen, the prize will be a $50 Amazon gift card.
• 1 – Kindle Fire Tablet, black: 7″ Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB, 1.3 GHz quad-core processor, with the Alexa cloud-based voice
service—just press and ask.
• 1 – digital Kindle copy of LOST GIRLS
• 1 – Pack of 14 vintage-style Swan Lake postcards
• 1 – pr. Black Swan earrings, handmade by author
• 1 – “Always” temporary tattoo

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About the Author:

merrie-destefano

CURRENTLY A FULL-TIME NOVELIST and magazine editor, Merrie Destefano’s next novel, LOST GIRLS, releases on January 3, 2017. Her other novels include AFTERLIFE and FEAST, both published by HarperCollins, and FATHOM, which was self-published. The editor of Victorian Homes magazine, she has also been the editor of American Farmhouse Style, Vintage Gardens, and Zombies magazine, and was the founding editor of Cottages & Bungalows magazine.

With 20 years experience in publishing, she worked for a variety of publishing/broadcasting companies that include Focus on the Family, The Word For Today, and PJS Publications (now Primedia). Besides editing and writing, her background includes print buying, writing/producing radio promos, directing photo shoots, developing new products, writing jacket copy for books, creating sales media packets and organizing direct mail campaigns.

Born in the Midwest, she currently lives in Southern California with her husband, two German shepherds, a Siamese cat and the occasional wandering possum. Her favorite hobbies are reading speculative fiction and watching old Star Trek episodes, and her incurable addiction is writing. She loves to camp in the mountains, walk on the beach, watch old movies, listen to alternative music—although rarely all at the same time.

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5Penguins
Quick Reasons: life ruiner alert!; this book swept me up in a tidal wave of emotion, and refused to let go; awesome use of unreliable narrator; the mystery and intrigue was so beautifully-written and complex; this is a race head-first toward an explosive ending, and I adored every second of it; I need more of Merrie Destefano’s writing in my life

Huge thanks to Merrie Destefano, Entangled: Teen, Netgalley, and the crew at Chapter by Chapter for granting me free access to a digital ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

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After TWO MONTHS of no 5 Penguin reads…I’m closing out 2016 with a very high note. It’s New Years Eve for another hour, penguins (or at least, it is for another hour where I’m living now), and I’ve just closed the page on this read…and let me tell you, it was QUITE the whirlwind journey. I started this read this afternoon, thinking I’d get partway through it as this review goes live next week on my blog…and found myself instead finishing it off in one sitting. And OH, my heartstrings. This book? This book is life-ruiner material, and it RUINED me.

 

So let’s talk nitty gritty, yes? I promise, I’m going to do my VERY VERY best to stray away from the icky spoilers territory…hopefully I can manage to convey how much I enjoyed this book, and the reasons why, without dropping some huge spoiler bomb or other. Hopefully. So…characters first, yes? Rachel is possibly one of the BEST, most effectively-written characters suffering from memory loss I’ve encountered in books in recent years. While I know this is a bit of a cliche trope…Merrie Destefano handles it so beautifully and makes it SO realistic, you’ll find yourself racing toward the answers instead of feeling bogged down by what little you actually know.

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The focus on relationships throughout is also astounding and deliciously done. There’s a thin line between trust and paranoia that gets played on throughout this read, especially in Rachel’s case. She is, for all intents and purposes, the perfect unreliable narrator–and that makes it so easy for readers to both be enthralled by her, while also side-eyeing her. I give HUGE kudos to Merrie Destefano for managing this so beautifully; humans are complex and confusing creatures even on our best days, so adding in memory loss and internal conflicts only heightened such vast emotions.

 

I was blown away by the complexity of this read, penguins. Rachel–and her relationships with those around her–goes through so many shifts and changes, so many trials and tribulations, you’ll find yourself biting your nails, sitting on the edge of your seat, needing the answers as much as being scared of them. And the ending! The ending was just… I have to admit, I didn’t see where the plot was going until we were already on the downhill track and racing fast to the crashing point. This book surprised me–immensely. That’s not such an easy thing to do, in my world.

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I am just… Speechless, might be the closest way to explain how this book left me after the close. Merrie Destefano explored some heavy-handed, important subjects (which I won’t get into, because SPOOOOOILERS, people) and wrote a complex, beautifully engaging whirlwind of emotions and life-ruination. I definitely recommend this to lovers of contemporary novels with huge bite, strong-willed characters who know how to keep fighting, and life-ruining reads that will leave them thinking, “woah.” THIS is one book you don’t want to miss out on in 2017; pick it up, and let the fight for survival begin!

 

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1

The Bone Sparrow: Poetic Prose, Heart-Breaking Plot

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The Bone Sparrow

The Bone Sparrow

Subhi is a refugee. Born in an Australian permanent detention center after his mother and sister fled the violence of a distant homeland, Subhi has only ever known life behind the fences. But his world is far bigger than that—every night, the magical Night Sea from his mother’s stories brings him gifts, the faraway whales sing to him, and the birds tell their stories. And as he grows, his imagination threatens to burst beyond the limits of his containment.

The most vivid story of all, however, is the one that arrives one night in the form of Jimmie—a scruffy, impatient girl who appears on the other side of the wire fence and brings with her a notebook written by the mother she lost. Unable to read it herself, she relies on Subhi to unravel her family’s love songs and tragedies.

Subhi and Jimmie might both find comfort—and maybe even freedom—as their tales unfold. But not until each has been braver than ever before.

Middle Grade/Diverse Reads/Contemporary
240 Pages
Disney-Hyperion Publishing
Publication Date: November 1st, 2016
Get a copy here!

5Penguins
Quick Reasons: GOODNESS, this book is so important; diverse characters/settings; this is a mid-grade novel with HUGE bite; super important moral/societal statements are made throughout this read; I just… I can’t find the right words; this is a MUST read; gorgeous, poetic, lyrical prose

Huge thanks to Zana Fraillon, Disney-Hyperion Publishing, and Netgalley for granting me free access to this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

I want to start this review off… with the dedication, because it’s gorgeous, and says so much in so little about what readers will find between these pages (or, at least, a small part of what they’ll find):

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Penguins… If you haven’t picked up a Disney-Hyperion book in the last year, you need to drop whatever you’re doing and GO DO IT. Right now. Go on. I’ll wait right here. Seriously, I have read a good number of books from them this year so far, and every. single. one. has pushed me, challenged me, and shown me the world from unexpected and diverse perspectives. Disney-Hyperion strives not just to bring a beautiful story to readers…but to shove readers off the cliff of comfort and make them see the world differently.

This book is no different in this regard, though it might be my favorite one so far this year. This is a middle grade read with a HUGE amount of bite, guys–this book sucks you in with the lyrical, gorgeous prose…and holds you hostage throughout. Subhi immediately endeared himself to me–his voice is unique, often hilarious, and (for a large portion of this read, at least) filled with that which so many of us go seeking in our later years: hope. This book takes a challenging, important societal flaw and puts it under a microscope–and forces readers to step outside their comfort zone in the process.

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Zana Fraillon broke me into a thousand tiny penguin pieces with this book, guys–and I am honestly just SO awed and glad to have been given the chance to experience this. The characters and setting are diverse and hard-hitting; the plot, while filled with the naive humor of children and told from a young perspective, takes on a dark and hopeless tone throughout. But above all else, this book makes you ask WHY.

There is a lot of abstract imagery and oral-narrative feel to the prose, so I suppose this isn’t the book for everyone. Personally, I adore stories that are poetic and haunting and abstract–they allow me to see the world in my own way, while still seeing it from another’s eyes. And when handed a topic as important–as heart breaking–as this one, sometimes the more abstract the better. This doesn’t mean the book shies away from the hard truths, or sugarcoats–it doesn’t. Not once. These characters are handed some terrible situations; they fight for their lives, for their memories, and for their rights to be seen, to be heard, to EXIST.

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Just… trust me, penguins. Disney-Hyperion is doing beautiful things with their books lately, and I’m loving every single journey. If you’ll let them, books like this will open your eyes…and put a fire in your soul. If you’ll let them, books like this will change you for the better. I recommend this to lovers of lyrical prose, hard-hitting middle grade novels, and beautifully diverse reads with important things to say. I cannot wait to see what Disney-Hyperion–and Zana Fraillon!–do next. For now, I’m off to sweep my pieces off the floor and attempt to put myself back together.

1

Untitled Beauty: This is a Hard Read…But SO Super Important

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Untitled Beauty (Somewhere-in-Between #1)

Eleven. A name. A title. A sentence passed. If you aren’t a Beauty, you’re less than a person. You’re a commodity known as a Potential… and you only have so many chances to qualify as a human being.

In her seventeen years, Eleven has seen the best and worst in humanity. She’s been passed around and abused by the bad. She’s hoped and dreamed for the good. And she’s despaired for the hand she’s been dealt. Now she’s been purchased by a wealthy man who has the ability to improve her life and help her become a Beauty – if she can put up with his erratic and controlling personality for long enough, that is. Complicating things is the appearance of a stunningly beautiful young man with amethyst eyes who treats Eleven to the rarest form of attention for a Potential: kindness.

Does Eleven trust her powerful owner to help her escape this life of servitude and enslavement, or does she gamble everything on the enigmatic young man who seems to offer her more than she could ever imagine possible?

Somewhere-in-Between #1
Dystopian/YA/Romance
151 Pages
Expected Publication Date: October 13th, 2016
Get a copy here!

5Penguins
Quick Reasons: LIFE. RUINER.; C.E. Wilson tackles her most challenging, disturbing subject matter yet; warning: mature readers only, this book handles very sensitive subjects; realistic, emotionally-charged plot; characters that tug at your heartstrings, that disgust you, that perplex you, that enrage you; every facet of human nature and emotion is touched upon in this book

A very HUGE thank you, as always, to C.E. Wilson for granting me early access to this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

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I feel I need to start with the most important bit of this review first for this book: trigger warning! The plot contains and touches upon very sensitive subject matter, including: human trafficking; slavery; physical, emotional, and sexual abuse; physical and emotional degradation; and violent, traumatizing scenes. If you are a sensitive reader and are triggered by any of the above, PLEASE take this into consideration. I had quite a bit of trouble with some of the scenes, myself, and I am not as easily triggered as others. Please stay safe, penguins!

That being said. OH. MY. GOOD GRACIOUS PENGUINS! I have read several of C.E. Wilson’s works in the recent past, and have so so enjoyed how unique and inventive her ideas are. She always, ALWAYS layers a real-world issue (prejudice being a key one in her books) with a more abstract, often fantastical world-building. This helps both to soften and enhance the subjects she has chosen with such delicate care. BUT THIS BOOK. This book is raw, and gorgeously crafted. This book is hard to read, penguins–the subject matter is just so brutal. I mean basically, it’s human trafficking reimagined and molded to fit the world being built within these pages. It’s terrifying, and it’s plausible, and I struggled so hard with my emotions while feeling compelled to keep reading.

I did not step out of my comfort zone for this book; this book pushed me off the cliff and dove down after me. Were this book a parachute, it would have taunted me during the fall: “I can save you…but it’s going to hurt a little bit, too.” These characters are vibrantly alive…and realistically traumatized. Their emotions are raw, seeping from the pages to settle like an aura over every word, every sentence. The prose refuses to take prisoners, instead promising a sea of broken, sobbing readers left numb in its wake.

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This book is, above all, the most painful…and the most IMPORTANT…novel C.E. Wilson’s put out so far, in my opinion. The subject matter is approached with sensitivity and handled with care, crafted to both break readers and leave them thinking, leave them scarred, leave them changed. If you’ve promised to step outside your reading comfort zone at least once this year, you might consider picking this book up! I definitely recommend to mature readers; those seeking powerful and poignant reads; and lovers of real-world subjects with slightly abstract world-building. C.E. Wilson continues to take me by surprise; I cannot WAIT to see what she does next!

2

The Counting-Downers: Inventive, Perspective-Changing, and Beautiful

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The Counting-Downers

The stunningly poignant and life-affirming debut novel by A.J. Compton

Imagine if we could see how long everyone around us had left to live. But we weren’t allowed to know our own numbers…

Trying to make sense of life after the death of her beloved father, free spirit Matilda Evans meets Tristan Isaacs and discovers a marrow-deep connection with him.

No stranger to grief himself, lonely artist Tristan is in awe of Matilda’s fun and philosophical approach to life. With every second spent in her presence, he finds his views on life and loss changing, and begins to embrace the beauty of being alive.

As their friendship turns into something deeper, lessons are learned, memories are made, and legacies are created.

But with both of them knowing how long their soulmate has left in this lifetime, important questions have to be asked and tough decisions have to be made before time runs out.

The Counting-Downers is an inspiring story about life, loss, love, and making the most of every moment.

Goodreads Rating: 4.27 Stars
Contemporary/New Adult/Romance/Sci Fi/Fantasy
344 Pages
Publication Date: July 24th, 2015
Get a copy here!

5Penguins

Quick Reasons: life-ruiner!; this book is just… SO many feels, SO much to ponder, SO powerful; a poignant, beautiful story of life, loss, love, grief, death…but most importantly, LIVING; there are no words for how much I love this book; gorgeous, atmospheric prose; beautifully description scenes; a landscape painted of words and emotions; this book touched me, deeply

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Firstly: JUST LOOK AT THAT COVER, oh my penguins it’s so exquisite and gorgeous and just… gaaaaah, so much yes!

I just… I mean, it’s a bit early in my relationship with A.J. Compton to be certain, but I’m pretty sure I’ve found a new favorite author. A new auto-buy. A new person to watch out for with impatience and childlike wonder in the future. Because A.J. Compton? speaks to me, so deeply. I’ve read two novels by her so far, and have been ABSOLUTELY blown away both times. Why? Because she leaves me thinking. She challenges me to view the world, and the subject she’s chosen to focus on, in different and vastly unique ways. She challenges me to think outside the box, to examine my reactions, and to WONDER. And that is a gorgeous, wonderful, awe-inspiring talent, in my opinion.

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This book? Focuses on some very difficult and abstract subjects. Time, for one thing–and how to handle the passing of it, when you can see exactly how much time everybody but you has left. The subject and plot of this book is so uniquely different from anything I’ve ever read before, because the characters start this book KNOWING that the world around them is dying. Knowing that they, too, have a finite number of minutes, even though they don’t know that number exactly. These characters are flawed, but courageous despite their fears. These characters are well-rounded, vibrantly written…and so, so heart-wrenching.

The world A.J. Compton has written within these pages is both believable and vibrant. There are some grammatical errors–things like missing words are a bit of an issue, though it’s easy enough to figure out from the context what words have been dropped, and it didn’t in any way hinder or take away from my reading. This journey–the growths, the strengths and weaknesses, the love of these characters–took me for a wild, thought-provoking ride. This is yet another book that’s bound to haunt me for years to come, and I adore that so much. I adore how much this one read has changed my perspective, has made me reconsider the world.

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If you guys haven’t picked up an A.J. Compton book yet… GO DO IT! Seriously, what are you waiting for?! Her writing is descriptive and vibrant, her characters are heart-wrenching, and the journey is ALWAYS inspiring and perspective-shifting. A.J. Compton knows how to make her readers think…and that’s a beautiful talent to have. I definitely recommend this book to lovers (or haters) of time; to readers seeking an unexpected but beautiful journey; and to those who think they need a new outlook on living and dying. Seriously, guys–don’t waste any more time. Pick this book up NOW; I swear it’s worth the risk!

8

Everything That Makes You: Is Everything that BROKE Me!

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Everything That Makes You

Goodreads Rating: 3.80 Stars
346 Pages
Katherine Tegan Books Publishing
Publication Date: March 17th, 2015
Get a copy here!

One girl. Two stories. Meet Fiona Doyle. The thick ridges of scar tissue on her face are from an accident twelve years ago. Fiona has notebooks full of songs she’s written about her frustrations, her dreams, and about her massive crush on beautiful uber-jock Trent McKinnon. If she can’t even find the courage to look Trent straight in his beautiful blue eyes, she sure isn’t brave enough to play or sing any of her songs in public. But something’s changing in Fiona. She can’t be defined by her scars anymore.

And what if there hadn’t been an accident? Meet Fi Doyle. Fi is the top-rated female high school lacrosse player in the state, heading straight to Northwestern on a full ride. She’s got more important things to deal with than her best friend Trent McKinnon, who’s been different ever since the kiss. When her luck goes south, even lacrosse can’t define her anymore. When you’ve always been the best at something, one dumb move can screw everything up. Can Fi fight back?

Hasn’t everyone wondered what if? In this daring debut novel, Moriah McStay gives us the rare opportunity to see what might have happened if things were different. Maybe luck determines our paths. But maybe it’s who we are that determines our luck.

5Penguins
Quick Reasons: I don’t… I can’t… WHAT did I just read?!; there might be tiny pieces of my heart embedded in the carpet where it dropped out of my chest while reading; why isn’t this book talked about more?!; beautifully heart-wrenching; I LOVE the juxtaposition of these two “what if” situations

I don’t… Guys, I don’t know how to write this review and make ANY semblance of sense. I’ve been sitting here SCREECHING in my head for the last twenty minutes and I cannot… CANNOT…make this review come out coherently. This book, guys… This book twisted everything that is me into teensy tiny pieces and then made paper cranes out of them to string from the ceiling. I do not even know… I just… Screw this, okay?! Bear with me if things get a little bit confusing.

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Okay. Seriously, guys, the juxtaposition Moriah McStay employed throughout this book? PURE. GOLD. I seriously, I have never in my life… Okay, that’s a lie. We get a teensy, tiny taste of this juxtaposition in The Love That Split the World, by Emily Henry. But THIS BOOK! I don’t know what it is, but somehow this book did it BETTER. Which is crazy talk, because I adored Emily Henry’s version too, but… THIS BOOK IS BETTER! Er. Somehow? I think, honestly, it has to do with how the side characters were handled. In TLTSTW, we weren’t given much in way of side characters–we focused mostly on the main ones. In THIS book, though, we get ALL the characters–in both versions–and are able to see the many different ways time can branch off and change people, change relationships, change everything.

 

And that… THAT is what I think needs to be taken from this read. We make tiny decisions and big decisions alike every single day…and sometimes, those decisions change literally everything. Sometimes, those decisions change people and situations we, ourselves, don’t ever see. Sometimes, those decisions don’t change anything at all. There is a poignant, beautiful moment in this book where I literally stopped, gave in to the cold chills, and understood EXACTLY what Moriah McStay was trying to say with this book. It’s a moment I feel every reader needs to experience.

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No, Fiona/Fi are NOT the same character. Each side of her was written and constructed in a uniquely individualized way, catered to and molded by a vastly differing series of events. With this, every relationship they forged throughout was called into question, reshaped and reconstructed–redeveloped entirely, in certain instances. Moriah McStay knew, without a HINT of doubt, what she was doing when she ventured down this journey–and she made it into a gorgeously human experience that every reader can empathize with and grow from.

 

Don’t get me wrong–there are no real “pulse-stopping” dramatic moments. This is a more subtle, quiet read on the plot-mountain scale. Yes, there is tragedy. There is heartache, and angst, and drama. There are moments you’ll question everything, including yourself. There ARE moments your heart will skip a beat. But overall, this journey? It’s meant to be felt with the heart, not with adrenaline. It’s meant to seep deep beneath your skin and BREATHE there. It’s meant to make you think–and it will, if you let it.

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I don’t know why I waited so long to pick this book up. This book literally is tied for “top favorite read of 2016” right now–it is SO, SO good. It is SO, SO life-altering. I’m not afraid to admit that it totally broke me into about a trillion pieces. If you dig contemporaries, juxtaposed “what if” scenarios, and earth-shattering reads…this book is for you. Pick it up. Pick it up now. Don’t wait.