These Witches Don’t Burn (These Witches Don’t Burn #1)

These Witches Don't Burn

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Hannah’s a witch, but not the kind you’re thinking of. She’s the real deal, an Elemental with the power to control fire, earth, water, and air. But even though she lives in Salem, Massachusetts, her magic is a secret she has to keep to herself. If she’s ever caught using it in front of a Reg (read: non-witch), she could lose it. For good. So, Hannah spends most of her time avoiding her ex-girlfriend (and fellow Elemental Witch) Veronica, hanging out with her best friend, and working at the Fly by Night Cauldron selling candles and crystals to tourists, goths, and local Wiccans. 

But dealing with her ex is the least of Hannah’s concerns when a terrifying blood ritual interrupts the end-of-school-year bonfire. Evidence of dark magic begins to appear all over Salem, and Hannah’s sure it’s the work of a deadly Blood Witch. The issue is, her coven is less than convinced, forcing Hannah to team up with the last person she wants to see: Veronica.

While the pair attempt to smoke out the Blood Witch at a house party, Hannah meets Morgan, a cute new ballerina in town. But trying to date amid a supernatural crisis is easier said than done, and Hannah will have to test the limits of her power if she’s going to save her coven and get the girl, especially when the attacks on Salem’s witches become deadlier by the day.

Thoughts:

I went into this book not really knowing much about it. I didn’t read any reviews or anything. Just went into it which is the best way to be I think. I really enjoyed reading this book. I don’t think it necessarily did anything different with the witch trope, but it was still a highly enjoyable read that I’m pleased I made time for over summer.

It follows an Elemental witch called Hannah. She lives in Salem, hoping to avoid her ex-girlfriend Veronica over summer. However, dark magic pops up around town and Hannah wonders whether her past has come back to haunt her.

The plot is full of mystery and I thoroughly enjoyed following Hannah and her coven as the story twisted and turned. They had to find out the identity of the person or people behind the dark magic and try to stop it once and for all. Hannah’s also dealing with a crush on Morgan, a new girl in town. I think you’d enjoy this book if you love contemporary. It definitely has a contemporary vibe to it with magical elements which is ideal if you don’t want full on fantasy.

Hannah is a great character. I immediately warmed to her. She’s always trying to do the right thing. For me, she was a perfect balance of being incredibly caring towards others but she definitely had a feisty side to her. I loved seeing that side of her. I loved that there was a really strong friendship between Hannah and Gemma too. I loved reading their interactions. I’m all for strong female friendships in stories.

The only reason I haven’t rated this book any higher, is because despite the ending, I’m fine with not knowing how things end up in future books. There’s something about it that doesn’t compel me to continue the series. I don’t know if it’s just because I’m into standalones at the moment. It is probably a personal thing, so please don’t let that put you off if you’re on the lookout for a magical contemporary read.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A fantastic debut! 

Our Year Of Maybe

Our Year of Maybe

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone

Synopsis:

Aspiring choreographer Sophie Orenstein would do anything for Peter Rosenthal-Porter, who’s been on the kidney transplant list as long as she’s known him. Peter, a gifted pianist, is everything to Sophie: best friend, musical collaborator, secret crush. When she learns she’s a match, donating a kidney is an easy, obvious choice. She can’t help wondering if after the transplant, he’ll love her back the way she’s always wanted.

But Peter’s life post-transplant isn’t what either of them expected. Though he once had feelings for Sophie too, he’s now drawn to Chase, the guitarist in a band that happens to be looking for a keyboardist. And while neglected parts of Sophie’s world are calling to her—dance opportunities, new friends, a sister and niece she barely knows—she longs for a now-distant Peter more than ever, growing increasingly bitter he doesn’t seem to feel the same connection.

Peter fears he’ll forever be indebted to her. Sophie isn’t sure who she is without him. Then one blurry, heartbreaking night twists their relationship into something neither of them recognizes, leading them to question their past, their future, and whether their friendship is even worth fighting for.

Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this author’s debut, so knew I wanted to get around to her next book. Goodness knows why I took so long to read this book, considering that I had it from its release date in January. Rachel Lynn Solomon has crafted a beautiful story with Our Year Of Maybe. It really touched my heart.

Our Year Of Maybe centres around Sophie and Peter who are the best of friends. There’s always been something between them and they have such a close connection. Sophie is so close to Peter that she is desperate to help him. So when she’s found to be a kidney match for Peter, she gives him a kidney without a second thought. Peter’s quality of life immediately improves (although the transplant is not a miracle cure!) Even though Peter felt like he had feelings for Sophie, he finds himself attracted to Chase, a guy in the band that just happens to be looking for a keyboardist and Peter fits. Sophie still likes Peter, but different parts of her life like dancing opportunities are pulling her in a different direction to Peter. Both Sophie and Peter struggle with their relationship post transplant. Peter feels indebted to Sophie and Sophie doesn’t know who she is without Peter. One night changes their relationship for good and both of them now consider whether their friendship is worth all the pain.

I loved how Sophie and Peter grew throughout this story. You could feel their individual pain and see where both characters were coming from. I went from wanting them to be together to wanting them to find their own way separate from each other. The author really does take you on an emotional roller coaster.

This book is much deeper than you might think. It covers so many topics not commonly represented in YA like Judaism and bisexuality.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and was absolutely captivated by Sophie and Peter’s story.

Would I recommend it?:
Without a doubt!

A wonderful, emotional read. Highly recommended!

The Dangerous Art Of Blending In

The Dangerous Art of Blending In

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Evan Panos doesn’t know where he fits in. His strict Greek mother refuses to see him as anything but a disappointment. His quiet, workaholic father is a staunch believer in avoiding any kind of conflict. And his best friend Henry has somehow become distractingly attractive over the summer. 

Tired, isolated, scared-Evan’s only escape is drawing in an abandoned church that feels as lonely as he is. And, yes, he kissed one guy over the summer. But it’s his best friend Henry who’s now proving to be irresistible. It’s Henry who suddenly seems interested in being more than friends. And it’s Henry who makes him believe that he’s more than his mother’s harsh words and terrifying abuse. But as things with Henry heat up, and his mother’s abuse escalates, Evan has to decide how to find his voice in a world where he has survived so long by avoiding attention at all costs.

Thoughts:

I have been meaning to read this book for about a year now and I’m finally pleased to say that I finished it. I did have high hopes for this book and whilst it wasn’t quite a 5 star read for me, I still thought it was bloomin’ marvellous and a very accomplished debut. I will warn you that there’s some horrifying abuse in this story so beware if that content may upset you.

It centres around 17 year old Evan who is trying to find out where he fits in life. His Greek mother believes he’s a disappointment and regularly beats him. She constantly puts him down and the abuse he goes through is absolutely horrific. Evan’s mum is incredibly religious and uses religion as an excuse to beat her son who she believes God thinks is wicked and sinful. The reason why she feels this way is that she believes that her son could be gay. Evan feels terrible about himself and tries to be the ‘normal’ Greek son, even if it means hiding his true self. Evan’s father pretends the abuse isn’t happening as do others in Evan’s life and it’s absolutely heart-breaking.

Evan is an amazing character. I grew to love him really quickly and I hated to read about the abuse he suffered. His self-worth was obviously so low and I wanted to reach into the book and tell him his worth. I liked how the book showed the effects of his mother’s abuse on Evan. He clearly wasn’t used to nice and when it happened to him, he rejected it. My heart broke once more.

Evan and Henry’s relationship is very cute. It develops from a friendship and that’s my favourite sort. I also appreciated that Henry wasn’t a character to make everything better. Evan had to help himself and I like that. No-one wants to be reliant on another for happiness.

I thought that this book was such a good debut and I look forward to reading more from Angelo Surmelis.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

This book is heavy-going and intense but so beautiful!

Banned Books #57- Uncle Bobby’s Wedding

Banner made by Luna @ Lunaslittlelibrary

Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books. This month we read Uncle Bobby’s Wedding by Sarah S. Brannen.

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Uncle Bobby’s Wedding by Sarah S. Brannen
First published: 2008
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2008 (source)
Reasons: homosexuality, unsuited to age group.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: No, no and no some more. I get so wound up when a book as sweet and inoffensive like this is challenged on grounds of homosexuality. I don’t understand it that as recently as ten years ago (which still feels to me like yesterday!) that individuals were challenging books for children because it featured gay characters. I think I would understand (but definitely NOT accept) the challenging if it was in less enlightened times when homosexuality was illegal and a lot of people had a problem with it. But to use it as a reason to restrict access to a book in the 2000’s. Really?

CHRISSI: What Beth said. I actually find it offensive that this book was even challenged! It is such a sweet story and it’s told in such a gentle way. What message does it send young children if a book like this is challenged/banned? That’s it wrong to have a homosexual in your family? Argh, it makes me so cross. I know a lot of children who do have two mothers and my heart hurts to think that they would believe it’s ‘wrong’. Children should see a representation of every type of family to open their minds and address stereotypes.

How about now?

BETH: I think you can already see from my previous answer that I very much disagree. Since 2008, I would have loved to believe we are becoming more accepting of individuals beliefs and desires but sadly, although I think there has been a lot of progress, there is still a lot more work to do. There will always be people who have quite extreme ideas about what is right and what is wrong and they’re entitled to their own opinion but when they use it to try and change other people’s minds/hurt the target individuals that they have a problem with, that’s when I have a problem too.

CHRISSI: I think there’s so much work to be done. Children are so much more accepting than adults and I wonder when that acceptance starts to get lost, or why it gets lost. When is it that we begin to judge so much? I know children don’t. When I get asked why a certain person has two mothers/fathers in class, the children accept it without questioning. Books like this NEED to be about so children know that it’s not abnormal to have a different family set up.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I found this book to be a very adorable and informative read, especially for younger children. It’s a fantastic way of introducing children to LGBT issues and the fact that people should be free to love/marry whomever they want. I would be happy to read it with any children I come across and would be delighted to see it in schools, available for children to enjoy.

CHRISSI: It’s adorable and I’d be happy to read it to any child in my school!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

Banned Books #53- King & King

Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books. This month, Beth and I read King & King by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland.

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Synopsis:

Once there lived a lovelorn prince whose mother decreed that he must marry by the end of the summer. So began the search to find the prince’s perfect match and lo and behold……his name was Lee. You are cordially invited to join the merriest, most unexpected wedding of the year. KING & KING is a contemporary tale about finding true love and living happily ever after, sure to woo readers of any age.

First published: 2000
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2003 (source)
Reasons: homosexuality

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: I was surprised to see there was only a single reason for this book being banned. Not because I think there should be multiple reasons for challenging it but because they normally come up with a few reasons, no matter how ridiculous to back up why it should be removed from a certain surrounding, like a library or a school. Now I could POSSIBLY imagine why homosexuality could be used as a reason one hundred years ago (not that I agree with it!) but to use that as a reason in the year 2000. We certainly do not live in the age of enlightenment.

CHRISSI: Like Beth, I can see why this book may have banned possibly way back when…but not 2000. That’s only 18 years ago. Why? It actually makes me really cross that this book is challenged. It’s nothing explicit. Just a gentle love story. The fact that it is challenged gives the impression that there’s something wrong with having homosexual characters. No, just no. That’s telling young children that a homosexual relationship is wrong. What if their parents are homosexual? Argh. It just makes me cross.

How about now?

BETH: Sigh. First of all, why are people challenging picture books for children? Like another of the picture books that we have read in our Banned Books series – And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson, books set in this format for the younger reader are often hugely helpful in bringing an important message to younger ears in a way they can understand and find fun. So no, I don’t agree with challenging/banning it because of homosexuality either eighteen years ago or right now. Why should sexuality be a reason to ban a book, no matter what age it is aimed at? Surely that’s more likely to enforce prejudices rather than accept the diversity of people?

CHRISSI: Definitely not. I feel so strongly about this book being challenged. 😦 I think it’s sad that in 2018, this book can’t be accepted by all. There’s nothing vulgar or explicit in this story. It’s such a gentle love story. I would have absolutely no problems reading this to young children. I think it explains that love is love no matter who you end up loving.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: As with other picture books I have read, King & King was quick and easy to read and I really appreciated the message it was trying to get across. The art was gorgeous and I found there was so much to look at, I could imagine children staring at the pages for a while, enjoying all the bright colours on offer. It felt for me like a quirky style where you could almost imagine you were seeing different fabrics – newspaper, cotton, silk etc and I can imagine this would be an interesting experience for youngsters too.

CHRISSI: It’s a gorgeous picture book with a wonderful, heart-warming message. I think it’s a lovely book to read to any child.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

The Universe Is Expanding And So Am I (Virginia Shreves #2)

The Universe Is Expanding and So Am I (Virginia Shreves #2)

How did I get it?:
NetGalley- thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing

Previously reviewed by the same author:
The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things

Synopsis:

Six months ago, Virginia decided to ignore the ‘Fat Girl Code of Conduct’ she used to live by and make her relationship with Froggy Welsh the Fourth official. But now things are getting complicated. She’s not sure she still likes Froggy, her mum has betrayed her to the meanest girl in school, and her brother Byron – she’s not she’ll ever know how to feel about him. And then she meets Sebastian. He funny, sweet and he doesn’t want to talk about family, and Virginia’s fine with that. But then a terrible secret comes out that could ruin everything. 

Thoughts:

I initially read The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things as part of a Banned Books feature that you can read here. I was intrigued to see where the follow up went.

The Universe is Expanding and So Am I follows Virginia and her relationships. Virginia isn’t sure she likes her boyfriend Froggy anymore. She has a difficult relationships with her family and then there’s Sebastian… a boy that intrigues her. Virginia’s family are dealing with the repercussions of what her brother Byron did.  I don’t want to say what he did in case you haven’t read the first book!

I’m not sure what I make of Virginia as a character. I think she’s relatable to many, for sure. I also like how she’s unashamedly herself. She is confident in her appearance even though she’s criticised by others for being curvier than her peers. However, I feel like she does body shame slimmer people and that’s never okay for me.

I do appreciate that this book covers some very important and sensitive topics. I like that it doesn’t shy away from topics that should definitely be discussed in Young Adult literature. I just wish the book was longer so it could have explored them in more depth.

This book is a fast paced read and it is easy to get through due to some light hearted humour alongside the more serious content.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

This book was so easy to read. It’s a balance of serious and light-hearted. A wonderful follow up to The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things.

Far From The Tree

Far from the Tree

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
Emmy & Oliver

Synopsis:

Being the middle child has its ups and downs.

But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including—

Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. Having grown up the snarky brunette in a house full of chipper redheads, she’s quick to search for traces of herself among these not-quite-strangers. And when her adopted family’s long-buried problems begin to explode to the surface, Maya can’t help but wonder where exactly it is that she belongs.

And Joaquin, their stoic older bio brother, who has no interest in bonding over their shared biological mother. After seventeen years in the foster care system, he’s learned that there are no heroes, and secrets and fears are best kept close to the vest, where they can’t hurt anyone but him. 

Thoughts:

I had heard amazing things about Far From The Tree so I was super excited to read it. I’m really glad I made time for it, because it’s a wonderful story about family- both biological family and family you can create.

It centres around Grace, Maya and Joaquin. They are siblings who finally meet after being adopted and fostered. Grace is an only child who was adopted at birth. Maya was also adopted early in life but has a younger sister. Maya’s grown up in a family or red-heads and feels very different to her adoptive family. When she learns about Grace and Joaquin she is desperate to search for traces of her in her biological siblings. Joaquin is their older brother and he was never adopted. He’s spent years in the foster care system and has secrets to hide. When Grace wants to find their biological mother, Maya and Joaquin are not so sure. As they get to know each other better, the secrets/traumas they have experienced start to reveal themselves.

These three characters are simply wonderful. I loved all of them individually. I loved how they grew together over time and slowly got to know one another. It’s too hard to say more about them without giving away their stories. It’s such a lovely story about family. I can see why it’s getting the praise that it is.

I think the representation of adoption is really positive in this story. Grace and Maya are both treated especially well. Joaquin may have been in the foster care system but his experiences are mainly positive. It’s clear that the family he is with during the story clearly love and care for him which is lovely to read.

This book is definitely worth reading if you’re looking for a hopeful story about adoption!

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

A wonderful story about family! I really enjoyed it. 🙂