Category Archives: 3 star books

Spinning Starlight

Spinning Starlight

Rating: 3 Stars

Synopsis via Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old heiress and paparazzi darling Liddi Jantzen hates the spotlight. But as the only daughter in the most powerful tech family in the galaxy, it’s hard to escape it. So when a group of men show up at her house uninvited, she assumes it’s just the usual media-grubs. That is, until shots are fired.

Liddi escapes, only to be pulled into an interplanetary conspiracy more complex than she ever could have imagined. Her older brothers have been caught as well, trapped in the conduits between the planets. And when their captor implants a device in Liddi’s vocal cords to monitor her speech, their lives are in her hands: One word and her brothers are dead.

Desperate to save her family from a desolate future, Liddi travels to another world, where she meets the one person who might have the skills to help her bring her eight brothers home—a handsome dignitary named Tiav. But without her voice, Liddi must use every bit of her strength and wit to convince Tiav that her mission is true. With the tenuous balance of the planets deeply intertwined with her brothers’ survival, just how much is Liddi willing to sacrifice to bring them back?

Haunting and mesmerizing, this retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Wild Swans strings the heart of the classic with a stunning, imaginative world as a star-crossed family fights for survival in this companion to Stitching Snow.

So disappointing.

I tried so hard to like this. A re-telling of a non-popular fairytale, The Wild Swans? Interesting, unique theme and storyline?

Check and check.

the Wild Swans by selinmarsou

I’d never heard of The Wild Swans before this book, but that didn’t matter. The theme, the engineering genius of all the siblings, the worlds, the single sister trying to save all her older brothers no matter what . . . I loved it all.

But something was still missing. The middle of the book just kind of dragged on for me, with Liddi unable to talk and communicate with other people, especially since she lives in a world so advanced that the written language is all but extinct. She was never taught how to write. (This sounds like a horror book at this point to me . . .)

She’s frustrated, and I get that. And she does everything she can to save her brothers, even with them telling her that they’ll take care of everything, that they just need her safe.

I loved the sibling love going on. In any book that has deep-rooted sibling connections – especially brother-sister connections for me – I applaud it. It’s hard to find nowadays.

“Like Durant always says, if someone knows something you don’t, don’t be proud—just get learning, quick.”

In that sense, this book is a five out of five stars.

But . . . that wasn’t all this book was about, unfortunately.

The romance left something to be desired. Tiav is nice enough. Kind, trusting enough. I didn’t have any issue with his character. I liked him. I just didn’t love him.

There was nothing about him that was memorable to me. Frankly, I would have been just fine with no romance involved in this, just sibling love.

I wanted more time with Liddi and her overprotective brothers. I wanted more backstory about Liddi and her life as the inheritor to the most prominent business in all the worlds. About her parents’ deaths. We do get little snippets in-between chapters of this, and I found that those were the parts I liked the best.

Liddi is a good character. She doesn’t make stupid decisions, doesn’t put her brothers in more danger with her choices. Sometimes she acts rashly, because she sees an opening and takes it, but only with the best of intentions that I could understand. I would have done the same.

While Liddi is prone to a bit of angst and self-loathing, it’s not too much. She gets over it easily enough.

But sometimes the world was a little difficult to understand. I found myself confused as to what scenes looked like. I didn’t quite understand the mechanics of a lot of the things that were going on in the story, about the engineering process and what these “portals” between the worlds look like, how the man-made ones were even created . . . Which wouldn’t be so bad, since Liddi herself doesn’t quite understand all that, but it got to the point where my eyes were skimming over paragraphs because I couldn’t understand what was going on.

I had a problem with the ending, too. It took me by surprise, I’ll give it that, but not in a very good way.

I think I was hoping for a story more like Stitching Snow, which was one of my top reads of last year.


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Cuckoo Song

Cuckoo Song

Rating: 3 Stars

Synopsis via Goodreads:

The first things to shift were the doll’s eyes, the beautiful grey-green glass eyes. Slowly they swivelled, until their gaze was resting on Triss’s face. Then the tiny mouth moved, opened to speak.

‘What are you doing here?’ It was uttered in tones of outrage and surprise, and in a voice as cold and musical as the clinking of cups. ‘Who do you think you are? This is my family.’

When Triss wakes up after an accident, she knows that something is very wrong. She is insatiably hungry; her sister seems scared of her and her parents whisper behind closed doors. She looks through her diary to try to remember, but the pages have been ripped out.

Soon Triss discovers that what happened to her is more strange and terrible than she could ever have imagined, and that she is quite literally not herself. In a quest find the truth she must travel into the terrifying Underbelly of the city to meet a twisted architect who has dark designs on her family – before it’s too late…

I’m seriously in the minority here, but I just didn’t care for this.

“But scissors are really intended for one job alone – snipping things in two. Dividing by force. Everything on one side or the other, and nothing in between.”

The characters, setting, creepiness, uniqueness? All perfection.

But . . . there was just something missing for me. Something just didn’t click with me for this book, and I found myself wishing multiple times that the story was just over already. I had to make myself finish the book.

Which is awful, because this really had all the parts I like in a book. This should have worked for me.

This story is truly creepy. Moving dolls, an insatiable hunger of a thirteen-year-old girl that isn’t just for food,  missing her memory, a little sister screaming at all times that Triss is wrong, that she’s not really her . . .

“But scissors are really intended for one job alone - snipping things in two. Dividing by force. Everything on one side or the other, and nothing in between.”  ― Frances Hardinge, Cuckoo Song (Trista):

Every character matters in this story. There are no background characters. I love that.

The historical aspect of it was fantastic as well. A family torn apart by the loss of their son, who died right when he should have been coming home from the war. The things that can peak out in the dead of night in a historical England, old tall-tales and myths haunting grieving parents and whatnot.

It was all done to perfection.

“Perhaps illnesses could be left behind, just like small, badly concealed china corpses.”

A healthy dose of feminism was thrown in as well. Violet, the ex-fiance of the son lost in the war, who got a taste of freedom during the war when women had to help out in the workforce while the sons and husbands were dying in the snow. Her oddness at cutting her hair and not wearing the proper clothes and riding her motorcycle in an age women are only seen as dainty and full of swooning.

A shout out to good ol’ jazz and shorter skirts and calling a girl ill because she’s a little different.

“Believe me, I do understand that. And let me tell you – from one monster to another – that just because somebody tells you you’re a monster, it doesn’t mean you are.”

The family dynamics were perfectly done. A family that takes grieve and pain and wraps it all up in silent conversations and hidden truths and don’t-ask-don’t-tell about the ghost in the empty bedroom upstairs full of boy-ish things that will forever be an untouched museum.

It hit close to home. It’s full of sadness and parents who will never listen for no other reason than they could never bare to be wrong, because they’re grown ups and important and they’re parents, and therefore nothing could ever be wrong.

“Oh, why don’t we blame it on Pen?” Not-Triss heard herself snap, in a voice that sounded harsher and more brutal than her own. something had burst, and the words welled up in spite of all her attempts to dam them. “That’s what we always do, isn’t it? That’s what she’s for, isn’t it? We blame everything on Pen and then we change the subject. And nothing matters as long as we don’t talk about it.”

So why didn’t I like this more? I don’t really know. All the right factors and parts are here to make up a great book, but I never really loved reading about any of it.

That’s as good as I’ve got.

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Soldier (Talon, #3)

Rating: 3 Stars

Synopsis via Goodreads:

The price of freedom is everything.

When forced to choose between safety with the dragon organization Talon and being hunted forever as an outcast, Ember Hill chose to stand with Riley and his band of rogue dragons rather than become an assassin for Talon. She’s lost any contact with her twin brother, Dante, a Talon devotee, as well as Garret, the former-enemy soldier who challenged her beliefs about her human side.

As Ember and Riley hide and regroup to fight another day, Garret journeys alone to the United Kingdom, birthplace of the ancient and secret Order of St. George, to spy on his former brothers and uncover deadly and shocking secrets that will shake the foundations of dragons and dragonslayers alike and place them all in imminent danger as Talon’s new order rises.


That about sums up my feelings for this book. Eh. Not great. Not bad. Just . . . eh.

My feelings for Julie Kagawa are so mixed. I read her Iron Fey series when it first came out, waited with baited breath for each addition to the series. And then her next vampire series came out, and I was still a fan at the beginning, but the last book left something to be desired.

I liked the first two books of this series. I did. Almost no one else seemed to like them, couldn’t even finish them, but what always seems to get me coming back for more with Kagawa is her layout.

I love her worlds. In her Iron Fey series, especially. But this series didn’t have that. No, it has dragons.

Honestly, that’s about just as good.

I’ve been waiting forever for a series with dragons that wasn’t high fantasy, Game of Thrones kind of book. I wanted characters as dragons, some fantasy weaved in to the world building maybe, but not all about quests and treasure and princesses and whatnot.

And I thought I’d gotten that here. Maybe it still will be all that and more.

But these characters . . . my gosh, these characters are making me struggle hardcore to still like this series.

I hate Garret. I’m not sorry about that. There is literally nothing about him that stands out to me. Is he a good guy? Sure, I guess so. I mean, he didn’t kill Ember, did he? But then again, he loooovvvvveeeeessss her, so that’s probably why.

He loves her so much, in fact, that he left her . . . Of freaking course. Because no good romance can ever exist without the guy leaving the girl for her own good. (*coughTwilightcough*)

There’s really nothing about the guy that stands out for me. All I know is he’s blond and has grey eyes. Yep.

Now there’s Riley. He’s the saving grace for this book . . . and those before it, if I’m being completely honest. I actually enjoy his POV chapters, while Garret and Dante . . . eh. Not so much.

He’s at least interesting. I enjoy his and Ember’s relationship, partly because they can be together in un-romantic ways. Saving the world comes before worrying about their sorta romance and attraction, and they both understand that, but there will never be a good time in the neat future to hash it out between them or figure what’s going on between them in a calm, non-chaotic setting. So they make time.

Their dragon bond is interesting, I’ll give you that.

And then there’s Ember.

I don’t hate her. I don’t even dislike her. She prioritizes, puts the important things above her romances, and I respect that. She’s affected by all the death and killing going on around her, and it shows in this book. I liked that it’s not skimmed over and Ember is never told to suck it up and keep moving, ’cause it’s war. She makes herself move and fight and learn even as she’s breaking apart.

Gotta love that in a girl.

But I miss the layout in this series that was always there in Kagawa’s other books. I miss the Nevernever. I miss Puck. I miss Jackal and a post-apocalyptic vampire world. I want those things back.

I even miss the humor. Kagawa always has this gift for putting humorous moments in high-tension situations, and it was great. There wasn’t all that much of it here, or in this series at all. At least nothing that stood out to me.

And there were these pointless chapters about Garret’s childhood and how he came to be in the Order. Yeah . . . don’t care. Really, I don’t. There was nothing interesting about it at all.

So overall . . . eh.

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Wink Poppy Midnight

Wink Poppy Midnight

Rating: 3 Stars

Synopsis via Goodreads:

Every story needs a hero.
Every story needs a villain.
Every story needs a secret.

Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbor girl, wild red hair and freckles. Poppy is the blond bully and the beautiful, manipulative high school queen bee. Midnight is the sweet, uncertain boy caught between them. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Two girls. One boy. Three voices that burst onto the page in short, sharp, bewitching chapters, and spiral swiftly and inexorably toward something terrible or tricky or tremendous.

What really happened?
Someone knows.
Someone is lying.

I’m so disappointed!

“All good Heroes are scared, if they know the evil they face.”

I mean, this was written by April. Gorgeous April. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is one of my all time favorite books (I don’t care what anyone else says about it). I’ve re-read it about a bazillion times! This cannot be!

The prose! The characters! The story! They were supposed to be so much more!

The first good half of this book didn’t even have a story going on. Literally nothing happened. Midnight (the boy of the story) moves across town into a rickety old house straight out of some old movie. His neighbor is Wink Bell from the Bell farm, the weird girl who just couldn’t give a flying hoot of what anyone thinks of her strawberry overalls. Midnight is just glad to be getting away from Poppy, love of his life who, coincidentally., also made it a living hell.

Starting off, let’s talk about those names, shall we?

Someone’s quite the little special snowflake, huh? Make that someones. Literally every character in this book has the weirdest name. Midnight, Poppy, Wink, Leaf, Briggs, Lee Bee, etc, etc, . . .

To be fair, I like unique names. To a point. If I ever read a book with characters that only have names like Brittany, Brad, Chad, Ashley, etc, etc, . . . it’s most likely going to loose a star off the bat with me. Not that there’s anything wrong with those names, of course, but just that a little diversity doesn’t hurt anyone, yeah?

The storyline didn’t really make sense. Like I said, nothing happened the first half of the book, and it was filled with nothing but gorgeous prose which actually was completely fine with me, since I’m already such an April fan already, but when we finally did get to the plot . . . it fell flat.

This one thing happens. A stupid thing, none the less. It wasn’t even all that eventful.

Then it just got confusing. This is one of those books that you can’t tell if what you’re reading is the truth. Partly this seems to be due to the fact that some of the characters might generally be insane. 

I kid you not.

Normally, I’d love those things. Possibly insane characters, pretty prose, weird kids in a small town? So much potential.

“Wink kissed deep. Deep as a dark, misty, forest path. One that lead to blood and love and death and monsters.”

But it just didn’t work. Not enough went on; I never connected with any of the characters. Poppy was the most interesting to me, and by the end of the book, I felt the worst for her.

And then there was the fact that everything that I was reading somehow was connected back to some childhood fairytale that Wink is constantly going on about. The girl’s insane about fairytales.

“For your sake I have braved the glen, and had to do with goblin merchant men. Eat me, drink me, love me. Hero, Wolf, make much of me. With clasping arms and cautioning lips, with tingling cheeks and fingertips, cooing all together.”

Now, I have a thing for fairytales. I love it when old ones are incorporated into books or are based off them. But this was just ridiculous. I learned more about old tales than I did about this book.

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Tonight the Streets Are Ours

Tonight the Streets Are Ours

Rating: 2.5 Stars

Synopsis via Goodreads:

Recklessly loyal.

That’s how seventeen-year-old Arden Huntley has always thought of herself. Caring for her loved ones is what gives Arden purpose in her life and makes her feel like she matters. But lately she’s grown resentful of everyone—including her needy best friend and her absent mom—taking her loyalty for granted.

Then Arden stumbles upon a website called Tonight the Streets Are Ours, the musings of a young New York City writer named Peter, who gives voice to feelings that Arden has never known how to express. He seems to get her in a way that no one else does, and he hasn’t even met her.

Until Arden sets out on a road trip to find him.

During one crazy night out in New York City filled with parties, dancing, and music—the type of night when anything can happen, and nearly everything does—Arden discovers that Peter isn’t exactly who she thought he was. And maybe she isn’t exactly who she thought she was, either.

I’m kinda disappointed.

“Hurting people, really, deeply hurting them – that isn’t something you do on purpose. It’s just a by-product of living.”

Not too long ago I read Leila Sales’ This Song Will Save Your Life novel, and I absolutely loved it. It was so heartbreaking and real. But it was one of those books you know you’ll never re-read again, because it hurt so much the first time. But the good kind of hurt, ya know?

Anyways. I didn’t expect this book to come close to what I had with  This Song Will Save Your Life. Honestly I didn’t. I knew better than that.

But I still expected something good. Maybe not great, but still good. And this novel does have many good things about it. But also some bad things that I just couldn’t get past.

I understand this idea of being so loyal to a friend or family member that it’s like you write them a blank check for life. You want to love them so much and you want them to love you back just as much. But the thing is that it’s pretty rare to actually find someone who you love that loves you back just as much.

Sure, they might be your friend and you hang out with them, go to parties with them, talk about boyfriends/girlfriends with them, but would you do anything for them? Would you take the blame for them?

I have this thing called a “2 AM friend.” This is totally something I made up when I was in high school, when I was trying to explain to my mother why I wasn’t being a normal teenage girl and had absolutely no desire to go to parties or really hang out with a lot of my friends outside of school. It wasn’t that I disliked them or anything, but most of those friendships simply existed inside school grounds, but once you left that place, you knew that was the only thing tying you together.

Anyways, this “2 AM friend” is when you get a call at 2 AM from this friend and they need you to either help them or give them a ride or something along those lines, and it’s not life threatening but just something they need your help with, would you get out of bed and drive over to them and help them out? If yes, then you’re their “2 AM friend” and you love them to smithereens. And if your answer is yes, then you need to ask yourself if they would do the same for you.

Because this was the problem. I knew when I was in high school that I would be that “2 AM friend” to a lot of people if they needed me. If one of my friends needed to call me at this time to rant and cry about a boyfriend or something, I would be there, no question. If someone needed me to get in the car and drive somewhere to help them get home from a party because they’re hammered, I would do that.

But then I asked myself if they would do the same thing for me, and most of the time, I realized the answer was a big, fat no. I didn’t even have to think about it.

This novel had the same idea. Arden is the “2 AM friend” for everyone. She wears her heart on her sleeve with all her friends and would do absolutely anything for anyone, anytime. Sometimes they wouldn’t even have to ask, because Arden would just see something they might need and go ahead and help them without being asked.

But lately Arden is beginning to realize that she has very few friends who would do the same for her. And she’s tired of it. People have grown to expect these selfless things from her and she’s exhausted.

“But that’s the thing: when you swear to take someone’s side no matter what, sometimes you have to go to war for them.” 

So she find this blog called Tonight the Streets Are Ours and begins reading about this boy, Peter, who is putting in words all these things Arden is suddenly feeling.

And here’s where I had my problems. Because Arden has a particularly bad day where she planned and spent so much money to make this one special thing work for her and her boyfriend and then he backs out because something else came up, she kind of loses it. And she drives to New York to track down Peter.

Now, before all this, I was thinking Arden was a smart, logical girl . . . And then she somehow thinks driving to New York – a city she has never been in before – to somehow track down this boy who she does not know and could very well be a serial killer, I lost all hope. She does not know Peter’s last name, but she knows he works at a bookstore somewhere in New York. So what does she do?

She gets her best friend to come with her and call every bookstore she can find asking if a Peter works there.

And by the minimal chance they do find a bookstore where a Peter works, who’s to say it’s the same Peter? And how is Peter going to react when Arden introduces herself to basically say “Why, yes, I do read your blog, which is basically reading your diary, and I love everything you write. I’m a fan. Want to get some dinner?”

Yeah, no.

But somehow, this all works out (lo’ and behold) and Arden meets Peter. And he’s not freaked out even slightly by Arden’s behavior. This should also be a hint to Peter’s true character.

I couldn’t buy this. I understand bad days. I understand that sometimes we do rash and stupid things when we meet our tipping point, but driving to New York to track down a blogger Arden has become obsessed with? No. Just no. That’s too far fetched for me.

Now, there are some very good lessons in this book. While Arden’s feelings of being underappreciated are valid and she has every reason to feel that way, there are always two sides to the same story. And this book is a perfect example of that.

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Reawakened (Reawakened, #1)

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Synopsis via Goodreads:

When seventeen-year-old Lilliana Young enters the Metropolitan Museum of Art one morning during spring break, the last thing she expects to find is a live Egyptian prince with godlike powers, who has been reawakened after a thousand years of mummification.

And she really can’t imagine being chosen to aid him in an epic quest that will lead them across the globe to find his brothers and complete a grand ceremony that will save mankind.

But fate has taken hold of Lily, and she, along with her sun prince, Amon, must travel to the Valley of the Kings, raise his brothers, and stop an evil, shape-shifting god named Seth from taking over the world.

From New York Times bestselling author Colleen Houck comes an epic adventure about two star-crossed teens who must battle mythical forces and ancient curses on a journey with more twists and turns than the Nile itself.

I think of Colleen Houck as my guilty pleasure author. I will almost never recommend any of her books to someone else because I can name a thousand-and-one reasons why her books are bad and have annoying characters and why I can so easily beat the absolute crap out of it in a book review . . . and yet I still read all her books.

I wrote reviews on all of her Tiger’s Curse books, and none of them were pretty. I make fun of her characters. I roll my eyes not even two pages into her books at the things the main character thinks and says. My inner snarky critic has a field day when reading one of Houck’s books.

But I enjoy her books in the same way someone might enjoy a really, really bad reality TV show. It’s absolute crap, and yet it still airs for seven seasons. Why is this? Because even though we could critic it and the people in it until the sun goes down, there’s still something inexplicably entertaining about it.

This book, I will confess, held my attention for all eight hours I read it in one sitting, despite it’s many, many flaws. I’ve been looking forward to reading this for some time now, ever since I heard about it coming out. It was one of my main looking-forward-to books of 2015.

Because here’s the thing: Despite The Tiger’s Curse series’ many, many flaws and annoyances and despite the scathing review I gave it (and that of which I still stand by), I’ve re-read the series. I checked it out of my library twice, because the idea of it was so good and so amazing. Because the creativeness Houck uses to imagine such an interesting world and with mythology woven in (accurate or not) impressed me.

(And, yes, I will admit it: I even enjoyed the romance between Kelsey and Ren.)

Amon murmured against my neck, “You taste like melted desert honey.”  

And when I started Reawakened and after reading the synopsis, I was thinking this was going to be practically a copy-and-paste of The Tiger’s Curse series. And – here’s the most messed up part – I was so, so very much hoping that was the case.

Which is awful of me. I mean, I don’t typically want to read the exact same story in two separate series. But here I was putting all my hope in that Kelsey was going to be Lily and Ren was going to be Amon. (Gosh, I’m going to loose so many points as a YA reviewer for this.)

And it was, for the most part. Lily meets Amon and is taken to a foreign land (in this case, Egypt) to concur an ancient evil curse that has to do with why Amon is alive and why he has special powers now. And, yes, Amon also has brothers, just like Ren did. And, yes, they are very attractive and seem to have a thing for Lily.

Now let me get to my snarky inner critic here.

Firstly, I was rolling my eyes and sighing not even two pages into this book. The same can be said for when I started The Tiger’s Curse. Lily can be annoying and very teenage girl-ish. And, obviously, she is a teenage girl, so this should be excusable for the most part, but there are times when I just wanted to slap her.

But, also, there are times when she says something or comes to a conclusion where I just think she’s very wise for her age. Lily never lets her emotions completely ruin her. She thinks things through. She doesn’t go running into trouble just for the love interest to save her. She also doesn’t think that without this newfound love for Amon she’ll shrivel up and die. If he rejects her, yeah, she’s going to be upset, but not crawl-into-a-ball-and-cry kind of upset. Instead, she thinks she’s lucky just to have been on this adventure and to be able to see Egypt in such a way.

And there are times when my inner feminist is just screaming. Times when I felt like Amon is just pushing Lily around and she’s just letting it happen. There are times when I want Lily to rage, to scream at him for doing this to her. Because while Lily agrees to go with Amon to Egypt to raise his brothers and defeat this darkness, she doesn’t really get a choice. Amon can literally command her to do whatever he wants, and because of the spell he cast on her, she can’t say no, no matter how much she might want to. He also put this spell on her without her permission, and a part of this spell along with never being able to physically defy Amon is that he can take her life force, which literally hurts her and could possibly kill her.

Obviously, Lily isn’t so happy with this. But if Amon hadn’t put that spell on her, he would have died and the darkness would have won. And so Lily lets it go and helps Amon raise his brothers in Egypt, literally dropping everything for this, trusting him enough to leave her parents without any warning to travel to a country she’s never been to.

So on one hand, I guess Lily’s actions could be seen as heroic and selfless. I mean, she saw that this spell Amon put on her as an evil for a greater good, I suppose. And I’m glad Lily can be the bigger person and see that.

But I would have liked for some more raging around then. I would have even liked Lily to slap Amon. He could have handled the situation better. I would have liked Lily to be a little more pissed off that Amon occasionally treats her like crap and she has literally put her life on hold because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time and now she has to help save the world and deal with a moody ancient prince. But that’s just me.

In terms of romance, I much preferred The Tiger’s Curse. In fact, overall I prefer The Tiger’s Curse series.

But that didn’t stop me from looking at my clock at 2:00 AM this morning, having gotten Reawakened the day before and not having put it down besides to eat, and realizing that I wasn’t going to bed until I finished this book. I didn’t even do the whole “I’ll go to sleep right after this chapter” crap. I just knew I wasn’t sleeping until I finished it, which wasn’t until about 4:00 AM.

I love the world building, both here and in The Tiger’s Curse. Partly this is due to my loving books that take place in present day, but in other countries. Even if it may not accurately portray that country and its cultures, it’s not like I’ll probably know any better and, hey, it’s fiction for a reason. Literary license and all that. So if the author wants to mix and change a country’s culture and layout a little bit, what do I care so long as it’s entertaining?

The other reason is because I love mythology, all types. I took a Greek mythology course my freshman year of college, and I loved it. I also love YA books that portray it or parts of it.

I know a lot of people who hate Houck’s books because she takes a literary license to the mythology she uses, and I don’t really understand that. It’s fiction for a reason, and so long as she’s creative about it, I don’t really care.

I can’t even stress how much I adore Houck’s creativity. It’s right up my ally. It makes up for the many character flaws and cringe worthy romance at parts. But, hey, it’s still entertaining.

My gosh, this was a conundrum of a review. Lots of good and bad here, but still enjoyable.

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All the Truth That’s in Me

All the Truth That's in Me

Rating: 3 Stars

Synopsis via Goodreads:

Four years ago, Judith and her best friend disappeared from their small town of Roswell Station. Two years ago, only Judith returned, permanently mutilated, reviled and ignored by those who were once her friends and family. Unable to speak, Judith lives like a ghost in her own home, silently pouring out her thoughts to the boy who’s owned her heart as long as she can remember—even if he doesn’t know it—her childhood friend, Lucas. But when Roswell Station is attacked, long-buried secrets come to light, and Judith is forced to choose: continue to live in silence, or recover her voice, even if it means changing her world, and the lives around her, forever. This startlingly original novel will shock and disturb you; it will fill you with Judith’s passion and longing; and its mysteries will keep you feverishly turning the pages until the very last.  

To me, this was a very odd story. It’s written in fragments, in second person narrative, and there are many times in the beginning where I felt Judith was telling me exactly what happened and who cut out her tongue, but it was done in such a way where it was unclear. I couldn’t tell if Judith was telling it as it was or if she was just going insane or if her memories were also in fragments.

“I don’t believe in miracles, but if the need is great, a girl might make her own miracle. Even if that means enlisting the devil’s help.”  

We’re placed in Judith’s life in Roswell Station, some time after Judith came stumbling out of the woods were she had been for the last two years. But now she can no longer speak, her tongue having been halfway cut out.

Judith’s mother orders her to never attempt to speak again, to never show anyone what was done with her. She is now known as a mute and soft in the head. It is assumed her maidenhood was taken from her, and she is treated how any old village would treat an unmarried girl who lost her virginity, even though she has made it clear that was not the case.

“Strange how my body and its purity have become the town’s sacred possessions, yet they spare me no pity. It’s as if they were the ones wronged, not me.”  

Judith is silently in love with her childhood friend, Lucas, who might have been more if she hadn’t disappeared two years ago. Now she watches him, unnoticed by everyone in town. She is without a tongue, and a woman without a tongue and who is assumed to not be a virgin is less than nothing during this time. It is assumed she will never marry.

Quote from ALL THE TRUTH THAT'S IN ME by Julie Berry

But while Judith came back two years ago from the woods, Lottie did not. Instead her body washed up in the river, naked and with bruising around her neck.

And Judith knows who kept her for those two years, but she does not say who. Her mother has forbid her, she no longer has a tongue and can only barely write, and so she becomes the taint on the village, keeping her silence.

Her mother cannot look at her and can only barely tolerate her. She thinks the worst of Judith, and no longer calls her by her name. She, too, sees Judith as a harlot.

I was reminded of The Scarlet Letter a bit here. Judith wears her silence and mutilated tongue like Hester wears her scarlet A.

While the village condemns Judith and treats her as the village idiot, Judith is silently saving them, going to great lengths to save her village from foreign threats, even if it means going back to her kidnapper.

And that’s what really got me here. This girl has absolutely no reason to care or feel anything for the people of Roswell Station, yet she never carries any anger. She’s almost disconnected from feeling bitterness or resentment. And it’s not because she’s a pushover or because she has bought into this mindset that she is less because of her gender and because of the morals dictated to her by a world run by men and pastors who enjoy the task of preaching about ungodly things and hell and the evilness of the fairer sex.

“And what rules of economy dictate that a boy without a foot is more whole than a girl without a tongue?”  

If any of the people of Roswell Station are godly children, it’s Judith.

Despite everything, she loves her village. She loves the boy who barely looks at her anymore, who doesn’t know what to do with the girl who was once a close childhood friend. She loves him even as he breaks her heart, and yet she still does not ever become bitter about any of it.

“The people you save won’t celebrate you. They’ll gather the wood and cheer while you burn.”  

And even when Lucas begins to understand what happened to Judith during those two years and begins to understand that he may be in love with her as well, Judith doesn’t jump at the chance. She doesn’t want to be the mistake he makes because he feels sorry for her. The village people might thinks she’s broken and that she’d be lucky for any man to take her as his wife, but Judith knows better, and she has enough love for herself not to let men take advantage of her, even if they’re like Lucas and have decent intentions at the beginning. Because, ultimately, it wouldn’t take much for the village people to point their accusing fingers at Judith if she should slip up.

Judith gives the benefit of the doubt to Lucas, because in many ways he is a victim as well. It is different for him, since he is a man and she is a female, but that doesn’t mean he’s without accusations. This is a Puritan village, and no one is ever shameless or victimless in a Puritan village.   

“I nod. Young love is not always forever. I know.”  

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