Review: Call it What You Want by Brigid Kemmerer

Title: Call it What You Want

Author: Brigid Kemmerer

Publisher: Bloomsbury YA

Pages: 384

Publication Date: June 25, 2019

Format:: Hardcover

Rob, a popular lacrosse player, used to be at the top of the world until his dad was caught embezzling funds from half the town. Now, he’s a social outcast. To top it off, his father had tried to commit suicide and failed, leaving Rob and his mother struggling to take care of him.

Maegan is an overachiever with the perfect life, until, in a fit of insecurity, she tried to cheat on the SATs, invalidating everyone’s score. Now the subject of ridicule and anger, she isolates herself. Her troubles are added to when her older sister comes home from college pregnant, yet another burden Maegan must shoulder.

When Maegen and Rob are partnered in calculus, neither one is happy, until they form a connection. However, that connection is threatened when Rob unintentionally comes across some money that doesn’t belong to him and passes it on to a needy student. Now, he’s faced with a dilemma: is it wrong to steal from the rich if you’re going to give to the poor? Or can he be a modern day Robin Hood and redistribute wealth to those who are truly in need?

This book was so good. I don’t read a lot of YA contemporary, and if I do, it’s usually queer lit, but this sucked me in. I felt so much for both of the main characters, although I do have to admit that I was a little more sympathetic to Rob. All of his problems he faces before the book begins were out of this control, and I felt so bad for him. However, I related to Maegen a lot more than Rob. I, too, am an overachiever and perfectionist who is trying to live up to a siblings seeming perfection. Both characters were deep and complex and so engaging.

I also liked the struggle Rob faced with taking money and objects from others. On the one hand, he was giving it to people who needed it and trying to make amends for what his father did. On the other, stealing is wrong. I liked his journey to realize what he had to do and what was right.

The ending was a little too quick for me. There was an overarching kind of mystery and problem and it was solved in the last few pages very fast. However, the book and the ending were so satisfying that it didn’t detract from the book at all. This is a great read and if you like YA contemporary, I highly recommend it.

ARC Review: Spellbound

Title: Spellbound

Author: Allie Therin

Publisher: Carina Press

Release Date: July 29, 2019

Source: NetGalley

Rory Brodigan has a gift: he can see the history of an object. The danger is he can sometimes get trapped in the history of an object and lose time, sometimes even days. When the woman he works for brings an object locked in a box and tells him the client, Arthur Kenzie said not to look at it yet, Rory’s curiosity is too great and he takes a peak. A very overwhelming peak.

Arthur is, at first, bemused by the young man who comes to him in a fury, but when he realizes what happened, his protective instincts are engaged. Having dedicated his life to protecting the world from dangerous objects and people with powers, protecting Rory comes naturally to him. Rory, however, vehemently doesn’t want to be protected. That doesn’t stop him from behind powerfully attracted to Arthur, an attraction that is returned.

Now a dangerous magical object is on the way to New York. Word of Rory’s powers have gotten out and he’s in danger. Now, Arthur and Rory have to come together to protect the city and each other.

So, I love this book. It is not only really well written, but the characters are just delightful. All of them. Even the villains were incredibly sympathetic and you kind of wanted to give them hugs even though they were trying to do horrible things. Arthur was amazing; I’m a sucker for hero who wants to protect everyone around him. He’s very well named and made me think of King Arthur in his best incarnation. Rory was wonderful, too. A young man, dealing with incredible powers and battling well-founded fears as a result.

This book also had a couple of my favorite tropes. One is a little spoilery, so I won’t say it, but the other is when characters call each other by special names. Not nicknames, but secret, earned names that just they can get away with calling the other person by. I just melt when that happens.

In summary: great plot that moves along at a great pace and keeps you wanting to read more, fantastic characters, good use of historical events (specifically Prohibition) and a good sense of atmosphere. This is definitely a series I’ll be keeping my eye on and following as it unfolds.

The Magpie Lord (Review)

Title: The Magpie Lord

Series: A Charm of Magpies (book 1)

Author: K.J. Charles

Publisher: Samhain/KJC Books

Format: e-book

Pages: 222

Lucien Vaudrey, the new Lord Crane, has been exiled to China for the past twenty years. The unexpected death of his brother has brought him back to England. Resentful and missing home, Lucien also finds himself under a curse that very much wants him dead. Desperate, he reached out for a local shaman, called practitioners in England, and winds up with Stephen Day, a short, scrawny, but powerful practitioner who hates his family. However, Stephen has a fierce sense of duty and honor and cannot let the curse on Lucien stand. Together, they travel to Piper, the family home, and Stephen soon finds himself not only fighting powerful forces, but his powerful–and requited–attraction to Lucien.

I really love this book. This is the third time I’ve read it, and it’s just as good as the first. Lucien is just amazing. He’s sleek, sophisticated, but rough around the edges and proud of it. In China, he was a trader and a smuggler, among other things, and he’s not ashamed of his past and refuses to hide it. He also doesn’t hide his attraction to men and goes after what he wants with single-minded determination.

I also love Stephen. His father had been wronged by Lucien’s father, and when he first goes to Lucien, he’s prepared to throw that in his face. However, he’s so good and dutiful and believes in justice that when he realizes the depravity of the curse on Lucien, he helps him without hesitation. I love the measures he goes through to try and deny Lucien, not out of lack of desire, but a sense of propriety. I also like when his defenses finally crumble.

The plot of this book is engaging and fun. The characters have great chemistry and the intimacy the grows between them is very real and natural. The sex scenes are scorching. Everything about this book just works for me and it’s definitely one of my favorite romances.

Review: On the Come Up

Bri has dreams of being a rapper, following in the footsteps of her father, who was killed before he made it big. Drawn to words and rhythm, craving the limelight, perhaps, most of all, Bri sees rap as her way out of her neighborhood and as a way to help her struggling family. After an incident at school sparks a song in her, the song goes viral, but starts attracting a notoriety that she didn’t quite intend. Now, there’s trouble in her family, trouble in her neighborhood, and trouble at school. Can Bri find a way out? Or will her dream be taken away from her?

This is such a fantastic book! Bri is so incredibly realistic and sympathetic. There were so many parts I got angry on her behalf and at the injustices that she faced. I admire her drive and her talent. I felt so sorry for her, trying to do what was best, being manipulated by outside forces, and dealing with things that no sixteen year old should have to deal with. She was amazing.

Like The Hate You Give, all the characters felt very real, like they were in my house while I was reading. I don’t know how Angie Thomas does it, but she breathes a life into her characters that I rarely see. They fell like flesh and blood people that she’s recording and jump off the page.

I just think this is an incredible book. It’s easy to relate to the characters and to feel what they are feeling. The plot is interesting, the songs are good, and the ending leaves you satisfied. Angie Thomas is amazing and I cannot wait to read more from her.

Review: The One

With the Selection down to just four girls, the competition is heating up. America lives in a constant state of tension, unsure if she really has Maxon’s love, afraid of the king and his power, and insecure about her place with the other girls. Then, the Northern Rebels approach Maxon and America and offer their support in return for help. At the same time, the Southern rebels start threatening the castes if the Selection is not called off. Times are tense and America has to learn to be strong.

I enjoyed this book so much more than The Elite. Not only did America stop taking dangerous chances with Aspen, but there was more of the politics involved. I do think there could have been more and the world could have been fleshed out more deeply, but for a mostly lighthearted book, I’ll take what I can get.

I thought the plot was good and I liked the inclusion of the Northern Rebels and their goals and aims. I wish there had been more involvement of the Southern Rebels and that they had been given a face, even just to vilify them. They stayed this shadowy threat the entire time, and I really would have liked to get to know them and their agenda.

I also really liked how America came into her own and started being proactive. What made it so great was that she wasn’t doing and saying things as part of the competition, but out of genuine concern for the people. It really showed that she’d be capable of being princess if she one.

Overall, this series was light and entertaining. I would never call it great literature, but it was a nice read and a fun time.

Review: Ever Alice

Title: Ever Alice

Author: H.J. Ramsay

Publisher: Red Rogue Press

Publication Date: August 1, 2019

Source: NetGalley

After returning from Wonderland, Alice can’t stop telling stories of her adventures. Unfortunately, not only does no one believe her, they think she’s mad. She’s put into an asylum with appalling conditions and a nurse that hates her. Desperate to be freed, Alice agrees to try an experimental procedure in another hospital. Once there, however, she changes her mind and escapes from the hospital with the White Rabbit, who whisks her back to Wonderland for one reason: to help the Aboveground kill the Queen of Hearts. Can Alice win the trust of the mad queen in order to get close enough to accomplish their mission? Or will a traitor in their midst endanger Alice’s life?

I really did not like this book at all. I want to be positive and point out something that was good, but nothing comes to me. The writing style was flat and choppy. None of the characters felt real or lifelike in any way. The author tried to be whimsical and nonsensical, but all the little things just fell flat or annoyed me. I was put off by the descriptions of the rotten food the Wonderland inhabitants ate. I wasn’t sympathetic to the queen, who was being haunted by her murdered husbands. Alice didn’t seem to have much agency; she just sort of did what she was told or stumbled into situations by chance. This was just such an unpleasant book to read.

It’s been awhile since I’ve read Alice in Wonderland, so maybe if you love that book, this book is for you. But if you are looking for a well-plotted adventure with a good prose and interesting characters, this is not that book.


Review: H is for Homicide

Title: H is for Homicide

Author: Sue Grafton

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Length: 305 pages

Source: Library

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After a a colleague is found murdered, Kinsey Millhone finds herself swept into a dangerous world. It begins innocently, with her trying to track down a woman named Bibianna Diaz, who is suspected of committing insurance fraud. Kinsey manages to find and befriend her under the guise of Hannah Moore. But an simple foray to gather information turns deadly and, soon, Kinsey and Bibianna are being held against their will by Bibianna’s violent ex-fiancee, Raymond.

Now, Kinsey finds herself in mortal peril. Trapped in an apartment and guarded day and night, she goes along with Raymond’s auto insurance fraud schemes and gathers information, hoping that eventually she’ll be able to turn it over to the police and get free.

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So, some slight spoilers in the review.

Remember how I said that every Kinsey Millhone book seems to be my new favorite? This is not my favorite. It was dark and disturbing and uncomfortable. It hits you right away when an efficiency expert is transferred to the insurance office Kinsey does her business out of. He’s rude and mean and you know that it’s not going to turn out well for Kinsey. And then things get worse when she’s not only kidnapped, but the woman she’s with is raped repeatedly. It’s never called rape, and I’m not sure it’s acknowledged as anything beyond Kinsey thinking how sad it is, but Bibianna’s life and safety is being threatened, and she has to sleep with her captor in order to not be killed or beaten. That’s rape, and it sucked reading it. I wish it had been left out because otherwise, the plot would have been less dark.

So, yeah. Reading about two women being held captive in an apartment, going out to crash cars to commit insurance fraud, and not seeing how Kinsey was going to get out of it was stressful. The ending was kind of a downer, too. Not every one can be a homerun, but this was just not my jam.

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two out of five stars