Tag Archives: book reviews

Book Review: You Say It First

You Say It First is a book written by Katie Cotugno that focuses on Meg, an avid volunteer for a voter registration call centre. When she calls Colby, someone who has no interest in politics, they continue their phone calls with each other, leading to a long distance friendship turned romance.

This is the first book of my reviews that I don’t recommend. The premise interested me, especially knowing it considered politics which is a very big part of our lives over the last few months. But I ended up finding the characters fairly unlikeable, and I did not root for them to get together. The plot lines were fine, but the relationship between the characters was not good. They had bad communication, didn’t relate well to one another, and never fixed any of their issues through the book. I thought there was very little character growth for the two main characters.

The secondary characters were worse. These characters were so flat that I did not care about them at all. They were not likeable at all, and never redeemed themselves by the end of the book.

There was good back story to the two main characters. You learn about Colby’s father’s suicide and how he struggled with that, and Meg’s alcoholic mother and her father marrying someone else. I appreciated this part of the book as feeling more real and allowing me to sympathize with the characters more.

Overall, I think this book had the potential to be better but it just didn’t live up to what it could have been.

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Review: Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.

When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his true gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.

However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie off some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Hi everyone! Today I am back with another review, this time for Aidan Thomas’ debut novel, Cemetery Boys. I had been wanting to read this novel for a while after hearing exciting things about it in the YA book community. It was mentioned back in my October TBR post though I just finally read it as a coursebook for a gender, sexuality, and women’s studies class that I am taking this semester!

Overall, I really enjoyed Cemetery Boys! I did find it to be a little predictable and had some issues with the writing which is why I gave it 4 stars. However, it was fast-paced (takes place over 3 days from Yadriel summoning Julian to Dia de Los Muertos), important, and an atmospheric read. I would recommend picking it up if you are looking for a fun, diverse, magical realism/fantasy read. I hope more people continue to pick up Cemetery Boys; I couldn’t help but imagine how great it would be as an animated movie!

“Yadriel groaned and dragged a hand over his face. On the bright side, he had actually summoned a real-life spirit. On the not-so-bright side, he had summoned the wrong one.”

Now I will be delving into spoilers…


What I didn’t like about the writing: 

When it came to the writing it did read a bit young to me. This could be due to the fact that now that I am older, I am more critical of writing and relate less to protagonists that are 15/16 years old. Still, I think there were opportunities for greater depth in the descriptions of the character’s feelings. In particular, the chapter we get at the end of Julian’s POV sticks out to me where I felt his reasoning behind his reactions was lacking development. Not that Julian is a very eloquent individual, but I think his reasoning behind his inner turmoil could have been described with more eloquence. Maybe this is just my inner editor coming in, but there were a few times I wish I could’ve edited the sentences.

The twist:

So, I love a good twist in books which is why although Cemetery Boys had one, I was a bit disappointed as it was pretty predictable. Before it was revealed, I had a pretty good idea that Tío Catriz was behind the disappearances/murders as there wasn’t really anyone else it could have been. It definitely made me sad to consider this possibility though as we see him and Yadriel’s tight bond throughout the novel due to them both being outsiders but accepting each other. My friend brought up how this was similar to the plot of Spiderman into the Spider-Verse which I also thought of! Since Lita kept asking after the missing daggers which had the potential to grant extreme dark magic, I was able to put two and two together. Still, I did not see the fact that Julian was still (barely) alive and that Yadriel would be able to sacrifice himself for all of them, so I was still excited by that ending! 

Pacing:

One thing I loved was how fast-paced the novel was being set over just a few days. Even though this isn’t a lot of time, I loved how it still allowed for growth in the characters. Throughout the novel, there is that element of fear that they might get caught especially as Yadriel does the brujo ceremony on his own and hides Julian in his bedroom. The whole plot was probably one of my favourite parts of the book and it intrigued me from the moment I first heard the synopsis. It kept me hooked and I was able to read the book over four days. 

Heartwrenching & Heartwarming Moments:

There were so many heartwrenching moments in the book. I really admired Yadriel and how he went to find Julian’s friends and family, and even went to the bonfire for him even though it was clearly out of his comfort zone. I felt like I related to his personality the most out of the main cast while Julian is more of a daredevil and Maritza possesses unmatched confidence. 

Of course, there were many heartwrenching moments relating to Yadriel not being accepted at times by his family as a brujo or a boy, and the various other microaggressions he would experience in his daily life relating to his gender identity. This is an own voices novel which is important as the author is able to use their own experiences to write accurate representation. While it is a happy ending for Yadriel, the author doesn’t omit the struggles he does face for his intersectional identities. I felt Aiden Thomas did a great job of making the reader feel some of the pain Yadriel was experiencing in those moments. Even small scenes, like watching his father say, “Well done, mijo” to his older brother (when that is all he yearns for) really hit me with an emotional weight. Though I could not directly relate to being trans, I could sympathize with the feeling of not being seen for who you truly are. I am pleased to say this book does not end sadly and there were definitely heartwarming scenes to fill these wrenching ones. Some scenes that warmed my heart were Julian writing “Yadriel” over his deadname in the yearbook and the closing scene where Yadriel is finally accepted by his father and community as a brujo. 

Honorary Mentions…

I think I’ve summed up most of my feelings by now but I did want to give a few acknowledgments to a few other scenes I really enjoyed…

  • The scene where Julian is flickering in and out was definitely a heart-wrenching moment for me and I could help but compare it to the “Stand Tall” scene in Julie and the Phantoms :’). 
  • The scene where Tito goes maligno and attacks Yadriel in the cemetery. This one just caught me off guard, but I was suddenly super excited to have some action in the book. 
  • The details! One thing that really touched me was how Julian explains to Yadriel that he doesn’t speak Spanish because it was the language he spoke with his father before he died and it carries a sort of intimacy. But then of course we see him use it later when he asks if he can kiss Yadriel which also is a moment of intimacy. Then near the end when Yadriel got Julian to pick all his favourite foods so he could make him his own ofrenda… Okay :’)
  • And lastly, here’s a Tik Tok I made of this scene because I thought it was appropriate with this song that’s currently popular: 

If you’ve made it this far, have a pat on the back! What were your thoughts on Cemetery Boys? Could you also picture it being turned into a movie? Animated or live-action? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Review cover photo by Anna Sullivan

Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once. At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Being a fan of Holly Black’s Folk of the Air trilogy, I was thrilled when I read that The Darkest Part of the Forest actually takes place in the same world. I was also intrigued by its unique synopsis. I ended up reading it over the winter break as a virtual book club with a few friends, so I soared through it eager to discuss. However, even though it was a quick read, I found The Darkest Part of the Forest to be a bit disappointing. Although it wasn’t particularly painful for me to get through, I could tell it lacked the depth that we see in her later Folk of the Air series. There were some interesting twists, but the way they were dealt with felt predictable and anti-climatic, especially compared to the twists we see in Folk of the Air. (If you know, you know)! I think the ideas behind the book were really compelling, just at times, the execution was off. Though fantasy does require some suspension of belief, there were moments that felt undeveloped and interrupted the flow of reading as it was hard to believe. Other times it felt like it was a result of flat characters that certain plot points even happened.

Overall, I found The Darkest Part of the Forest to be entertaining but nothing life-changing or particularly memorable. I feel like if I had read it a few years ago, I may have enjoyed it more, but now that I am older I have become more critical and have higher expectations when it comes to fantasy. If you are looking to read a novel by Holly Black, I would recommend skipping over The Darkest Part of the Forest in favour of her Folk of the Air series. 


“They were in love with him because he was a prince and a faerie and magical and you were supposed to love princes and faeries and magic people. They loved him the way they’d loved Beast the first time he swept Belle around the dance floor in her yellow dress.”


!Spoilers up ahead!

What I did like:

The sorrowful school scene – this was cool. It had a good amount of creepiness, mystery and excitement. My friends and I also had a good laugh at the whole spinny chair situation and how they put Molly in it instead of hoisting her up on their shoulders.

The Ansel Reveal – Okay, so I didn’t quite see this one coming. I liked the folk tale that went with this reveal as well. I did find the whole Night/Day Hazel situation a little confusing as it isn’t really clear at first as to what happens to her memory or how the Alderking is taking time from her.


What I didn’t like: 

Hazel and Ben’s parents… I’m a sucker for well-written parent/parental figure and character relationships in books but this just wasn’t it. They were extremely flat characters and it seemed like only for the sake of the plot. They were neglectful artists which led to Hazel and Ben adventuring and doing dangerous things (parading through the forest with a sword to hunt faeries) on their own. Later Hazel says, “they’re better now,” but they still don’t notice their kids coming home late covered with wounds or leaving the house? There also is no explanation for why the parents are the way they are or what the reason is behind their change in behaviour.

I also found it a bit unbelievable that they barely react to Ben staying in Faerie at the end of the book because “there’s not much we can do.” I think that this was supposed to be an emotional scene, (and had the potential to be) but ultimately with their characters (or lack of), it just fell flat. While we’re on the topic of parents… it also seemed highly unlikely that the whole town would gather to discuss sending Jack to the fae in his own home. It also seemed a little superfluous for them to let this whole debate go on only to say they had no intention of sending him away.

Missing details – There were also small details throughout the book that tended to bother me, as they did not seem entirely thought through and interrupted the flow of reading. For example, Jack and Hazel literally stand in the back of his house for minutes while the townspeople discuss his fate and no one even looks up to notice them or see them walk in? Similarly, there is the scene where Hazel tells Ben they need to drive to the scene of the crime because she left her bike there, but when they go by, her bike isn’t even mentioned. Though these are tiny details, I found I stopped each time to consider them which jolted me out of the overall story.


Though I didn’t particularly love The Darkest Part of the Forest, I still had fun reading it and discussing it with my friends. I think discussing it with them in a fun but critical manner made me realize how much I had to say, and what important points there may be to look at while editing other’s work in the future.

Have you read The Darkest Part of the Forest? What did you think of it? Should I check out more of Holly Black’s books? Let me know in the comments below!

The Diamond Girls Book Review & Nov. 26 Reading Update

I wanted to update you all on my reading progress, and also post a book review for a book I just finished last week, so I thought I would combine them both into one post again. I’ll talk about the book review first, and if you continue reading, the update will be underneath it!

Book: The Diamond Girls by Jacqueline Wilson

Genre: Children’s/Middle Grade Fiction, Contemporary

Thoughts/Review: I loved reading Jacqueline Wilson’s books when I was young. She was one of my favourite authors, and I had a TBR (to be read) list with all of her books on it. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to read them all, but I loved all of the books I read by her! I was extremely excited when I found a book club that featured her books, so I joined right away, and The Diamond Girls was this month’s read.

This book is from the perspective of a little girl, named Dixie. She has 3 sisters, and they all live with their mom, who is once again pregnant with a baby boy. Their mom is very excited to welcome a boy into the family, and they move into a new house, which isn’t exactly what they had expected it to be. The Diamond girls have to find ways to adjust to their new living arrangements, and very quickly their mom is off to the hospital to have her baby. While their mom goes through having her new baby, one of Dixie’s sisters gets into fights, another is hiding a secret, and the last is beginning to date. Dixie also meets a new friend. When her mom returns, Dixie is the only one who notices that something is wrong, and must navigate how to deal with all of the difficult problems she encounters.

I really liked this book! It was a fun, easy read, and I really missed Jacqueline Wilson’s writing. I’m so glad I was able to read this book by her this month! There were so many things going on in this story, and I found myself being frustrated by so many of the characters, specifically Dixie’s sisters and mom. It was difficult at times to read about how each of them was trying hard to hide what they were going through, and not talking to each other about it. I loved the subplot of Dixie’s friend, and the ending was really nice and sweet. Bruce is also a very fun character, that is introduced originally just to help the Diamond girls move into their new house, but ends up becoming family very quickly. He becomes Dixie’s Uncle Bruce, which was super sweet to read.

This book discusses some important topics, but from the perspective of a 10 year old girl. I won’t go into details because this is a no-spoiler blog, but within this story readers see discussion of pregnancy, mental health/illness, abuse, and dating at a young age. These are all important topics that I was surprised to see within this book, but it reminded me that this is one of the things I love about Jacqueline Wilson’s books. That she writes children’s/middle grade fiction that addresses important topics, and speaks about the perspectives of young people who are struggling or facing new challenges. I would definitely recommend this book, if you’re looking for an easy and sweet read! Reading this was a really was a nice way to end long, busy days because it was a light read before sleeping.

Rating: 9/10 Stars

Reading Update:

I just started reading Gulliver’s Travels, for a class, and also The Invisible Life of Addie Larue, for another book club. Gulliver’s Travels is an interesting read so far, and I’m curious to see what happens next. I’m absolutely loving The Invisible Life of Addie Larue! It is so well written! It’s the first book by VE Schwab that I’m reading, and I definitely understand now why her books are as popular as they are. It caught my attention as soon as I read the first page. Hopefully I’ll be able to continue reading that this week, but it’s starting to get busy with classes again, so I’m not sure if I’ll be able to finish it before December. Even so, it’s amazing, and I can’t wait to continue it!

That’s all from me today, but thank you for reading this, and I hope you’re having a lovely day!

Dust Bowl Girls: A Review

Dust Bowl Girls: A Team’s Quest for Basketball Glory Author: Lydia Reeder Publisher: Algonquin Books Genre: Nonfiction Oklahoma. The Dust Bowl. Women’s basketball. The season that made history. The 1930s were a hard time for many, but none so much as the farmers of Oklahoma. At the time, poor families made dresses out of grain…

Little Nothing, by Marisa Silver

Little Nothing by Marisa Silver Penguin Group/Blue Rider Press “The silence is so dense that it is just as hard on the baby’s eardrums as is any sound. It is the silence that will become the refrain, when a stranger falls speechless in the child’s presence, or when a villager pushes her children behind her skirts…

The Wolf Road, by Beth Lewis: A Review

The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis Published by Crown Publishers, Penguin Random House Elka hasn’t had much luck in her life. Between the nightmare of the thunderheads that keep her awake at night, and the raging memories behind the locked doors in her memory, she can count the people she’s cared for on a single…