Book Review: The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

Title: The Poppy War
Author: R.F. Kuang
Genre: Adult Fantasy / Historical Fiction
Publication Date: May 1st, 2018
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“A brilliantly imaginative talent makes her exciting debut with this epic historical military fantasy, inspired by the bloody history of China’s twentieth century and filled with treachery and magic, in the tradition of Ken Liu’s Grace of Kings and N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy.

When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .

Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.” (Goodreads)

Edit: I have finished my reread and still enjoyed it just as much! Even though I knew there would be some harsh things to read about (CW: Rape/Gore/Violence) I didn’t realize how much it would still cause me to cringe.

I don’t usually read much adult fantasy because its hard for me to find ones that I actually enjoy. I have heard mixed reviews for this book but I went with my gut and went for it! It was the best decision because it blew my expectations out of the water and left me needing more.

Rin comes from a troubled past. She is an orphan of war, helps her foster family with their drug business, and now they want to marry her off. She is determined to not make that her fate and starts studying for a test that if she passes will lead her to a military academy. There, she meets some really interesting characters and gets swept away into war, hatred, and power not from this world.

Rin doesn’t want to be like the other girls in her village. She doesn’t want to marry and instead forges her own path. As she becomes a woman, there is talk of her menstruating and a lot of books are doing this which is great because it is a natural function of the body and makes the characters more relatable. Because of her menstruation she also makes a decision which has some consequences later down the road.

One of my favorite characters from this book was Jiang the master of lore at the military academy. He was a bit on the weird/crazy side and did drugs which at times made him hilarious. Although he added comedic relief at times, he was a very important character and tried to ground Rin when her emotions would get the best of her.

The plot was nothing I had imagined and at times I wondered why it was fantasy. There wasn’t much talk of the gods they used to worship or magic in general but as I kept reading it finally appeared and we are introduced to shamans. It was refreshing to see them as there aren’t many books with shamans that I have personally read. There is also political issues and even the social hierarchy were poor is deemed as bad. This book is filled with war and it doesn’t shy from the gruesome reality of it. A times it was hard to read about what the soldiers did to villages and cities but it is supposed to make you uncomfortable and realize that although this is fiction, things that can happen in the real world.

Overall, I loved this book. It is gripping and full of humor, loss, and the tragedies of war. Rin is a strong and emotional character and I can’t wait to see where her story leads in the next book.

Book Review: A Reaper at the Gates (An Ember in the Ashes #3) by Sabaa Tahir

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Title: A Reaper at the Gates
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: June 12th, 2018
Publisher:  Razorbill




Beyond the Martial Empire and within it, the threat of war looms ever larger.

Helene Aquilla, the Blood Shrike, is desperate to protect her sister’s life and the lives of everyone in the Empire. Yet danger lurks on all sides. Emperor Marcus, haunted by his past, grows increasingly unstable and violent, while Keris Veturia, the ruthless Commandant, capitalizes on the Emperor’s volatility to grow her own power—regardless of the carnage she leaves in her path.

Far to the east, Laia of Serra knows that the fate of the world lies not in the machinations of the Martial court, but in stopping the Nightbringer. During the hunt to bring him down, Laia faces unexpected threats from those she hoped would help her, and is drawn into a battle she never thought she’d have to fight.

And in the land between the living and the dead, Elias Veturius has given up his freedom to serve as Soul Catcher. However, in doing so, he has vowed himself to an ancient power that demands his complete surrender—even if that means abandoning the woman he loves.” (Goodreads)

Edit: I have now read this a second time and my feelings are still true when it comes to this review. I never knew I could cry again for a book I had already read. The last 100 pages were just torture to get through with my feelings! Haha.

*Spoilers* To be honest, I feel sorry for Marcus. He may have done some bad things but I think by the end he had good intentions when it came to being Emperor. I still hate Keris and I hope she gets what she deserves! *End of Spoilers*

A Reaper at the Gates begins where A Torch against the Night left off. There are threats to the Empire and Laia, Helene, and Elias will stop at nothing to do their jobs and fight against the destruction the Nightbringer is determine to bring.

Laia is as strong as ever and is doing anything in her power to save her people. She has already lost so much and yet she still fights no matter what. She has really grown from the first book and I am here for it. Her brother, Darin, hasn’t played too big of a role but I am sure that will change in the next book. As for Elias, I am still heartbroken from what happened in the second and now am even more heartbroken by the path he has taken and what he has left behind. When it comes to Helene, I didn’t really care for her in the first book and she got better in the second but she has now grown on me and I ship her and Harper!

The plot grows and there is no shortage of fighting and heartbreak. We learn more about the Nightbringer and the jinn and am curious to see how his plot plays out in the next book. He is a very curious individual and I need more of him!

When I thought the series couldn’t break me anymore, Sabaa Tahir just crushes whatever was left. I may have shed a few tears and now I am just at a loss for words and can’t wait to see what happens in the fourth book, hopefully my heart will manage. If you haven’t read the series go do it!

Audiobook Review: Mark of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse

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Title: Mark of the Raven (The Ravenwood Saga #1)
Author: Morgan L. Busse
Genre: Fantasy / Christian Fiction
Publication Date: November 6th, 2018
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers




“Lady Selene is the heir to the Great House of Ravenwood and the secret family gift of dreamwalking. As a dreamwalker, she can enter a person’s dreams and manipulate their greatest fears or desires. For the last hundred years, the Ravenwood women have used their gift of dreaming for hire to gather information or to assassinate.

As she discovers her family’s dark secret, Selene is torn between upholding her family’s legacy–a legacy that supports her people–or seeking the true reason behind her family’s gift.

Her dilemma comes to a head when she is tasked with assassinating the one man who can bring peace to the nations, but who will also bring about the downfall of her own house.

One path holds glory and power, and will solidify her position as Lady of Ravenwood. The other path holds shame and execution. Which will she choose? And is she willing to pay the price for the path chosen? (Goodreads)

I read this for the first time as an e-arc in 2018 and really liked the story but never continued on with the series because at times I am terrible at it!

I have been trying to get better and that is why I am revisiting this series, but as audiobooks this time.

My reviewing skills back in the day were okay but I have changed a lot since then, haha. So I am also updating my review.

I still enjoy the two main point-of-views and the one from Lady Selene’s mother, but that one only happens a few times.

There is a lot of character development for Lady Selene who must decide where her loyalty lies and what she is willing to lose in the process of it all. That also includes losing herself to the darkness which clearly clings to her mother.

It’s always hard to want to please your parents but not give up on who you are as a person. I can understand the struggle well. Selene is always doing a balancing act.

I think my favorite part out of the whole book is the relationship. I mean, it’s not really a relationship but by the end she marries for convenience to another house lord and I’m excited to see where the relationship between them goes.

There is magic found within each house as well and I thought the magic system was cool and fun to learn about. Selene has dream walking and although some people would like her to use it for evil, I think that she will really let her gift shine in the next book.

Overall, I still enjoyed this book the second time around and look forward to actually continuing this series.

Old Review:

The cover and description is what drew me in but the plot and writing kept me glued. This book was so good that I read 80% of it in one day. Mark of the Ravens is filled with Assassins, murder, and twisted families. The main character, Lady Selene, is relatable as she struggles to not lose herself when the ones close to her ask for more. It also has multiple POVs which adds to any book and makes the development of the characters even better as you get to see their side. This book will leave you wanting more and I can’t wait for this series to continue! It is out now so go check it out!

Undercover Bromance: E-Arc Review

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46842429Title: Undercover Bromance (Bromance Book Club #2)
Author: Lyssa Kay Adams
Genre: Contemporary/Romance
Publication Date: March 10th, 2020

eARC provided by publisher through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

synopsis header
Braden Mack thinks reading romance novels makes him an expert in love, but he’ll soon discover that real life is better than fiction.

Liv Papandreas has a dream job as a sous chef at Nashville’s hottest restaurant. Too bad the celebrity chef owner is less than charming behind kitchen doors. After she catches him harassing a young hostess, she confronts him and gets fired. Liv vows revenge, but she’ll need assistance to take on the powerful chef.

Unfortunately, that means turning to Braden Mack. When Liv’s blackballed from the restaurant scene, the charismatic nightclub entrepreneur offers to help expose her ex-boss, but she is suspicious of his motives. He’ll need to call in reinforcements: the Bromance Book Club.

Inspired by the romantic suspense novel they’re reading, the book club assist Liv in setting up a sting operation to take down the chef. But they’re just as eager to help Mack figure out the way to Liv’s heart… even while she’s determined to squelch the sparks between them before she gets burned.”(Goodreads)

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After reading The Bromance Book Club, I knew I needed to continue with this series. A book club made by men to read romance novels is so appealing! I also came to really Mack’s character because even though he did flirt a lot, I wanted to know his story. This book was perfect for that!

Just like in the last book there are two point-of-views: Braden Mack and Liv.

Braden Mack is a very charming and interesting guy. He loves to woo the ladies and at times it can be a bit overwhelming for them. Sometimes he relies too much on the romance books and doesn’t let the women he dates see the real him. He does try really hard to hide his family’s past and that does eventually catch up to him. I love how even though he is seen as this confident guy, he really is a soft teddy bear who just wants to find love.

Liv, like her sister Thea, has issues due to their parents. It’s hard for her to trust, especially men. I definitely could relate when it comes to trusting others. It’s hard and its even harder coming from a hard past. She uses her hard exterior to keep people at bay but who can resist Braden Mack? Seriously, these two together was everything I needed. They banter and they have to learn a lot about one another and also learn to let go of their pasts.

The plot for this one focuses on sexual harassment in the workplace. It’s a hard subject and one that isn’t talked about often but has been getting more press lately over the past few years. I think that it was handled nicely and it was good to see many of the guys in the book sticking up for the women and wanting to help them in any way they could.

My one complaint would be that this one lacked the pages of the book they read as a club. Only one small part was mentioned unlike the last book where it was throughout.

Overall, I think this was a great second book and that ending had me swooning!

 

 

Blood Heir: Book Review (Updated)

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Title: Blood Heir
Author: Amélie Wen Zhao
Publication Date: November 19th, 2019

eARC provided by publisher through NetGalley/ Purchased a book as well.

synopsis header
In the Cyrilian Empire, Affinites are reviled. Their varied gifts to control the world around them are unnatural—dangerous. And Anastacya Mikhailov, the crown princess, has a terrifying secret. Her deadly Affinity to blood is her curse and the reason she has lived her life hidden behind palace walls.

When Ana’s father, the emperor, is murdered, her world is shattered. Framed as his killer, Ana must flee the palace to save her life. And to clear her name, she must find her father’s murderer on her own. But the Cyrilia beyond the palace walls is far different from the one she thought she knew. Corruption rules the land, and a greater conspiracy is at work—one that threatens the very balance of her world. And there is only one person corrupt enough to help Ana get to its core: Ramson Quicktongue.

A cunning crime lord of the Cyrilian underworld, Ramson has sinister plans—though he might have met his match in Ana. Because in this story, the princess might be the most dangerous player of all.” (Goodreads)

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Edit:

I received an arc of this through NetGalley before it was pulled from publication. I wrote this whole blog post as a way to form my own opinion of the controversy. My review still holds true and it was just as good the second time. There are some slight changes from the arc when it comes to the parts that were put under fire but I don’t think that either way is better. I think that either would have been fine but I can understand why she would decide to change them.

If you would like to know the changes (it will contain spoilers) then read on after the review section.

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Blood Heir follows Anastacya Mikhailov who is on a quest to clear her name with the help from a conman. As the crown princess, she must do everything in her power to keep her identity hidden and also keep her deadly secret that she has the ability to control blood hidden as well. She is out for revenge and no one can stop her.

The book is supposed to be a retelling of Anastasia but with a fantasy twist. There are elements seen before in other books such as elemental magic and even a darker side of magic that includes blood. Although magic isn’t welcomed and those who wield it have found themselves being sold into indentured servitude.

The two main characters each have their own PoVs and both come from different but troubled backgrounds. I enjoyed getting to know Ramson and Ana throughout the book and really felt for them when it came to the losses they faced. My one complaint about Ramson was that he is described as a morally grey character when introduced to him but that doesn’t stand true and I wish it would have. I love morally grey characters. Another thing I didn’t really care for was how it felt like Ramson was feeling more than friendship between himself and Ana. Nothing ever happened but again, it made him seem less of a conman if he was tricking her in the beginning but characters can evolve over time. It just wasn’t for me.

The author’s writing is beautiful and sweeps you into this magical but political world. There are lot great messages hidden in this wonderful book.

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Differences Between ARC and Book:

In the arc, May was described as, “”…tawny color of her skin, a shade darker than Ramson’s own North Bregonian complexion.”. She also had curly hair. In the newest version that is now published this whole quote doesn’t exist anymore. She is described with tawny skin a couple pages after she is introduced but not being compared to others. She also doesn’t have curly hair anymore, it is now just dark hair.

The author also changed May’s area of origin, no longer is she mentioned as Bregonian but now a new place called Aseatie Isle. Not sure what the reason for this change was.

When it came to the most controversial part, being compared to a Hunger Games ripoff, that scene is now a bit different. No longer is there any singing/lullaby. I think I much prefer the new version because it feels a bit more unique but also a more intimate moment between friends. I didn’t see anything wrong with the first version though.

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Controversy (Written In February):

Blood Heir has been scrutinized as being anti-black, the term some have used, and many have also questioned whether the author plagiarized when it came to a certain scene and also a sentence the main character spoke. I know of one author that criticized this book for those reasons and has read it, but when it comes to reviews on Goodreads I can’t tell you if everyone has read the book. I will try to explain as best that I can when it comes to these accusations.

One accusation was about the magic in this book. It was compared to Six of Crows/Grisha Trilogy. The use of magic in both books are comparable as they both have people that can change flesh (although I don’t remember if this sort of magic was ever used in Blood Heir, just mentioned). When discussing plagiarism, the definition includes ideas and so if we are getting technical then the Grisha Trilogy wasn’t the first to include this sort of magic. An example would be X-Men which has been around.

Another accusation that brings up plagiarism is the quote, “Don’t go where I can’t follow.” This particular quote is pretty famous if you are a fan of Lord of the Rings. It is word for word but with a quick google search you can also find songs that have included phrases quite similar to the original and even a book that’s title is literally that quote. Now, I am not saying it is okay to do so but this author isn’t the first to take a phrase and include it in their book. One author that many people love, SJM, has been found to minimally change phrases or get ideas for scenes and a google search comes up with a lot of blog posts including details and one as recent as her latest book. The book Children of Blood and Bone has been compared to The Last Avatar. Writers tend to be inspired by other books, movies, experiences and write based on those things which is great. My point is that if one author is publicly being scrutinized then it opens up a can of worms and all authors should be scrutinized for taking ideas.

The scene that is being talked about the most is one that is being compared to The Hunger Games when Rue dies. I will say that I have not read that particular book but my husband recently has and so I ran the scene by him and we came to an agreement. The only thing that compares is the main character singing to a younger girl. In Hunger Games, Rue did not die out of sacrifice like May in Blood Heir did. They sang different songs, were in different settings, and also sang for different reasons. The author may have found inspiration from The Hunger Games, but again that goes back to the last paragraph.

When it comes to the race issue, I am white so my experience may be different than someone of color. I just want to address what I found in the text and explain my opinion on the subject. Again, I think that everyone is entitled to make their own informed opinion.

The character in question is May. She is described as, “…tawny color of her skin, a shade darker than Ramson’s own North Bregonian complexion.”. She is also described as having turquoise eyes and brown curly hair. Tawny is an interesting word to use and from just that and my experiences I wouldn’t know what race that would describe. May comes from South Bregonian while Ramson is from the northern part. I am not sure why Ramson wasn’t talked about more and why only May was mentioned. If the author made it more aware as to what nationality they were described as I am not sure. I can only say what is written in the book. There was mention of one of the indentured slaves being from the eastern isles and having jet back hair but I don’t recall any mention of his skin color.

Another issue was with the oppression in the book. The slavery was described as indentured servitude which has been used in many countries. The ones being oppressed were the ones with magic and not all magic users had darker skin than Ana. Ana was a magic user as well as others she knew that were high up in the hierarchy. There are many books that have oppression as part of their plot. The two I can think of that I have read recently are An Ember in the Ashes series and The Winners Trilogy. The ones being oppressed in these books did not have magic and were oppressed for being a different nationality than the ones doing the oppressing.

The author had said in a letter at the beginning of the book that she wrote the book due to feeling like an other living in America. She wrote it with her experiences in mind and I believe she also made a statement about writing it about the oppression still in place in her country of origin. There were a lot of underlying meanings written in Blood Heir about this topic. When it came to May’s death, she wasn’t just saving Ana. She was helping with a revolution to stop the oppression of the magic users.

I am not one to follow blindly and I read Blood Heir because I wanted to make my own informed opinion about the contents. I wrote this informative review because I feel that it was important and to give others another perspective of the issues some had with this book. Hopefully this was helpful to those that read this very long post!

There is a great video on this controversy on youtube which I will link here.

 

 

Shadow of the Fox: Book Review

thegeekishbrunette review

 

36672988Title: Shadow of the Fox
Author: Julie Kawaga
Rating: 3 stars

->Click for Synopsis<-

Shadow of the Fox follows Yumeko and her unlikely allies as she tries to keep a thousand year old scroll out of the hands of ones who would use it for evil. With demons on her heels it will take everything including using her half kitsune side that she has been told her whole life to keep hidden.

This is a really hard review to write. I had very high expectations and although there wasn’t anything remotely wrong with this book, it just lacked any connection for me.

The characters were well thought out and each had an interesting background that were used in the bigger scheme of things, especially Suki from the first chapter. Yumeko reminded me a lot of Disney’s Rapunzel and Kage Tatsumi as Flynn Rider because of how she is not sure how the world works since she has been in a monk temple all her life and obviously Tatsumi has his own agenda. There was never any romance and it’s great to find a book that doesn’t use that for the plot.

The plot was interesting and nothing I have read in a book before. The Japanese legends and lore was fun and kept the book interesting.

But, even though there were great things included in this book it just lacked in connection for me. It wasn’t a book I wanted to continually read. It just wasn’t for me.

Fire & Heist: Book Review

thegeekishbrunette review

 

23510085Title: Fire & Heist
Author: Sarah Beth Durst
Rating: 3 stars

->Click for Synopsis<-

Fire & Heist follows Sky Hawkins and her not so normal life. For starters, she is a were-dragon and that can make normal life complicated. Her families reputation has been tarnished and her mother has disappeared. With the help of her friend and ex-boyfriend, Sky will take on the biggest heist of her life in hopes to get some answers she has been waiting a long time for.

This was a new release book I have seen a few times on Instagram and when I went to the library and saw that they had it I checked it out. I didn’t really have any expectations going into it and I am not even sure if I read the synopsis before starting but it was an interesting read.

When it comes to Sky Hawkins, I am impartial to her. At the beginning she was very annoying as she basically just pined over her ex-boyfriend. She talked about him throughout most of the first third of the book and I am just not a fan of pining. She did eventually get better in the second half of the book but I wouldn’t say I connected with her. The other characters were alright but some of their dialogues felt the same and some of what they said felt very cliche at times.

The plot is what saved the book from being a 2 star. It was a fun take on dragons and it makes sense for them to being doing heists if they love treasures, mainly gold. Although, I felt that there could have been more heists than what was included.

Overall, it was a decent read but I wish there would have been more action and more from the characters in general.

The Phantom of the Opera: Book Review

thegeekishbrunette review

 

1132643Title: The Phantom of the Opera
Author: Gaston Leroux
Genre: Classic Adult Fiction, Horror, Mystery, Gothic
Rating: 4 stars

->Click for Synopsis<-

When it comes to classics, sometimes it is hard for me to be able to get into them because of the way they are written. I haven’t read many classics that I have enjoyed. One of my all time favorite classics is Dracula and so I figured it was time to read this one and hopefully like it.

When it came to writing style, it was very easy to follow along and it made it easy to understand the plot and what was going on. It also contained letters between some of the characters which made the mystery part of the plot quite intriguing!

The characters were interesting and easy to connect with. Although some felt less developed than others, it didn’t take away from getting invested in the plot. I would say that the Opera Ghost was my favorite character and reminded me a lot of Shakespeare characters.

Overall, it was a good read and will definitely be up there near Dracula on my favorite classics list. If you haven’t read it yet I would highly recommend it.

Ross Poldark: Book Review

thegeekishbrunette review

 

25365667Title: Ross Poldark (Poldark #1)
Author: Winston Graham
Rating: 3 stars

->Click for Synopsis<-

Ross Poldark follows Ross as he comes back from war in America to find the woman he loved is about to marry his cousin. He must now find a way to start his life again in England.

This book was for a readalong hosted by Sweet Sequels and BookishStarDesigns on Instagram. I had not heard of this book or the series before this started at the beginning of February and althought I am not one who loves historical fiction I thought I would give it a chance.

The characters in this book are interesting and sometimes act quite irrational. Many come from troubled pasts just like Ross and he tries to help them out in any way he can. I enjoyed Ross because even with the news of the wedding he still manages to pick himself up and come to terms with it and by the end has found himself a new love interest. He felt like a genuine character and I really liked that about him.

The writing in this book is quite lyrical and there are many quotes I wrote down from it. My one complaint about the writing would be that at times I was not sure about the PoV. It seemed to switch when a new paragraph started and it was hard to keep track when this happened.

Overall, it was an okay read but I am not sure if I will continue the series. When it comes to Historical Fiction, it is a hit or miss for me and this one just didn’t really keep my attention.

Trail of Crumbs: NetGalley Review

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(Warning: includes talks of rape)
Title: Trail of Crumbs
Author: Lisa J. Lawrence
Genre: YA Contemporary
Rating: 3 stars
Publication Date: March 26th, 2019

eARC provided by publisher through NetGalley.

->Click for Synopsis<-

Trail of Crumbs by Lisa J. Lawrence is a story about a High School senior named Greta who is trying to keep herself afloat while dealing with an awful stepmother and the terrible realization of what happened to her one night at a party. Luckily, she has a twin brother, Ash, and unexpected friends to help her along the way.

Greta is such a tragic character from the beginning. It is constantly one thing after another that goes wrong and at some points she just can’t deal with it any longer. This book takes us along for a ride of heartbreak and rebuilding of oneself. She is a character of real emotion as well as her brother as they both cope with the issues they face in different ways. The book also teaches us that it is okay to ask for help and even tell others of an incident because that in itself can also help the healing process.

The writing style for this book was a little confusing because at times it would switch from the present to something that happened in the past and I would have to reread a couple sentences to understand what happened.

Overall, it was a good short read and I would give it 3/5 stars. If you like contemporaries with hard issues I would recommend this book which comes out March 26th, 2019.