Monthly Archives: May 2015

Book Riot’s 2015 Read Harder Challenge — Update #4 & Read-a-thon Outcomes

Hey guys! So it looks like I am overdue for a Book Riot 2015 Read Harder Challenge update. As you saw, I did not do one for April as I was swamped with tests and exams, so I am combining it with the May Update. In April, this was the only challenge I completed.

#10: Read a Microhistory

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At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson

For those of you unaware, I am quite the lover of Bill Bryson. He’s one of the few non-fiction writer’s out there who’s work I appreciate on so many different levels. I love the way in which he micros topics, making them accessible to those who may not be in the field of story or even just readable. He’s amazing in that he takes science, history, philosophy, and breaks them done in to easy-to-read chunks, offering a lot of humour and kindness into how he defines things. At Home is definitely an interesting read, though I found it to be a bit drier compared to some of his other works I enjoyed. The book has Bryson go through all the rooms of his Victorian home, and he basically goes into microscopic detail about how people lived or what the rooms were traditionally used for. It was both fascinating, and also boring. Still, I’m glad I read this chunker of a novel because when it was interesting, it was on like Donkey Kong.

In May I read…

#3: A Collection of Short Stories

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Phantazein, edited by Tehani Wessely

I admit, I have not read a lot of short story collections. It’s not that I don’t enjoy short stories, but rather I need to be in the right frame of mind to read and explore them. I was given this book as a birthday present by my darling Katherine @ Ventureadlaxre, who is always recommending great Aussie authors for me (I am going to try and seek some good Canadian Literature on her as well). This book comes from FableCroft Press, where Katherine interns, and a lot of the stories in this collection are fairy tale retellings or fantasy stories. My favourite story in the collection easily was The Nameless Seamstress by Gitte Christensen. Such a vivid and gripping story about a seamstress! Also Tansy Rayner Roberts did a story and it was also made of fabulous. Seriously, there’s some fantastic stories in this collection, and it’s worth checking out.

#20: A Book You’d Consider a Guilty Pleasure

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Into the Fire by Amanda Usen

I admit, I don’t really read sexytime novels very often. Oddly enough though, I got this from last year’s INSPIRE Book Fair (the author even signed it!) and I put it off until I could find a challenge that I could fit it into. This was actually better than I anticipated. Yes, this is not safe for the youngin’s as it’s pretty steamy, BUT the author did a great job of having two very stubborn, flawed individuals, and funny enough, those were the best moments in the story. If you like this sort of stuff, it might be worth checking out.


I also had the chance to participate in the #CrushYourTBR Read-a-thon, which happened from May 16th to the 18th, and it also overlapped with the Bout of Books Read-a-thon which started on the 11th and ended 18th. You can look at what I read for Bout of Books here. Here’s a picture of what I crushed during #CrushYourTBR:

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Lastly, I participated in Read Your Book Shelf-a-thon (#RYBSAT) which happened from May 18th to the 25th. The goal of this read a thon is you select a shelf and then go left to right reading the book next to it, and you keep going. I chose a weird shelf that didn’t have any organization just because I have so many ARCs to get through. So here’s my ARC cubbie!

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This is where my ARCs hide! Lots of great stuff on the shelf. Here are the three books I actually finished.

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So I am happy with my results. However, I think I may pick a different shelf next time and focus more on my own books instead of stuff I need to review. All I really read in May was lots of graphic novels and ARCs so my regular books are suffering. I need to fix that. :X


Reading Plans in June

So outside of the fact that River and I have a contemporary novel a week we need to read for Summer Contemporary Fling event, I still have two more challenges I need to complete that my husband gave me. Here’s a refresher for that challenge:

1. To read The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie – Not completed yet.

2. Pew Pew Lasers Sci-Fi — Mobile Suit Gundam: THE ORIGIN volume 1: Activation by Yoshiyuki Tomino — Completed!

3. “I don’t know what it’s called but the cover is blue.” — Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin — Completed!

4. Deadpool stuff — Deadpool Classic Vol. 4 by Joe Kelly et al. — Completed!

5. Spy fiction — From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming. — Not completed yet.

The other event I am going to take part in is #TBRTakeDown, which is happening from June 1st to 7th. This one is hosted by Shannon @ leaninglights. Here’s the Introduction Video below.

So Shannon has some casual challenges for this read-a-thon, which I am going to try and complete? Next week is a tad busy, but I want to get as much reading as I can done.

Challenges:
1. A book that’s been on your TBR shelf over a year! From Russia With Love by Ian Fleming (yes this is cheating)
2. An unread sequel sitting on your TBR shelf. Stone in the Sky by Cecil Castellucci
3. A first book in a series on your TBR shelf. The Night Has Teeth by Kat Kruger
4. An “out of your comfort zone” book on le TBR shelf! Seducing the Playboy by Amanda Usen (STOP JUDGING ME. I blame INSPIRE!)
5. A book from your most recent book haul! The Sign of the Cat by Lynne Jonell or Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella (which is also cheating)

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What are you planning to read in the month of June? Participating in any read-a-thons? Going to join River and I for our Summer Contemporary Fling? JOIN US. And have lots of fun! I can’t wait to find out what are some of your most anticipated reads that you cannot wait to get to this summer.

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ARC Review – Dancing with Molly by Lena Horowitz

23309639Title: Dancing with Molly

Author: Lena Horowitz

Rating: ★

Synopsis: Before, I was never the life of the party. I was the reliable one. The one no one had to worry about. The one no one had to think about. I was the one that everyone could ignore. Until that night, when everything changed and I finally became someone. Someone special. Someone noticeable. Someone Carson might actually care about, as much as I cared about him. But the cost of being someone is more than anyone can imagine. For every moment, there’s a price to pay. For every party. For every choice made. For every kiss. Ultimately, living a life of PURE ECSTASY might be no different from not living at all.

Huge thank you to Simon Pulse and Edelweiss for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I tried to like this book. I really did, but the whole story rubbed me completely the wrong way. I’m always interested in books when drugs are a subject matter because I like to see how the subject matter is handled, particularly in young adult fiction. Sad to say but this book was boring and the writing style was as well. I get mimicking how a teen would write in a journal, but it was awful to read and so awkward at times.

In that sense, the novel is actually successful. It’s writing style mimics the age the protagonist well, even if it’s awkward to read. I just have a hard time excusing lots of all caps and exclamation points, but it gets overused in this book a fair bit. Plus (and I’m sure again it was intentional) it was impossible to feel connected or empathic to any of the characters in this book. I had a hard time with the protagonist in particular because she turned to drugs to in a way “become someone.” But this book follows a very repetitive formula of drugs, drama, make outs, and more drugs. Thankfully, the book is short, because I don’t think I could have handled more than 200 pages of this monotonous story. I feel like stories that have drugs as a theme should be a lot more impact, but this one fell completely flat for me.

I can see why people would enjoy Dancing With Molly, but for me this should have been a story with a great message behind it, and I just felt the message and its connection was lost a lot of the time. Admittedly, the best part of the novel was the ending and how her habit had consequences, and I think that aspect was handled well. I just struggled to find any enjoyment from this story, I think there are much better young adult novels out there that deal with drugs in a much better way. This novel isn’t horrible and I think it will find fans when it releases, I just could handle the lack of substance and the writing style to save my life.

ARC Review – The Summer After You and Me by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski

25361152Title: The Summer After You and Me

Author:  Jennifer Salvato Doktorski

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: For Lucy, the Jersey Shore isn’t just the perfect summer escape, it’s home. As a local girl, she knows not to get attached to the tourists. They breeze in during Memorial Day weekend, crowding her costal town and stealing moonlit kisses, only to pack up their beach umbrellas and empty promises on Labor Day. Still, she can’t help but crush on charming Connor Malloy. His family spends every summer next door, and she longs for their friendship to turn into something deeper.

Then Superstorm Sandy sweeps up the coast, bringing Lucy and Connor together for a few intense hours. Except nothing is the same in the wake of the storm, and Lucy is left to pick up the pieces of her broken heart and her broken home. Time may heal all wounds, but with Memorial Day approaching and Connor returning, Lucy’s summer is sure to be filled with fireworks.

Huge thank you to Sourcebooks Fire and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I’ve never read Jennifer Salvato Doktorski’s books before, but I knew many of my bookish friends have, and told me she’s a lot of fun to read. I admit, this book had some great moments and some not so good ones either. Truth be told, I actually read this book in one sitting, which is a testament to it’s readability. Doktorski’s writing is great for compulsive page turning, but I admit I wanted something a bit more for this book.

Part of what I had a hard time with in The Summer After You and Me was the characters — I struggled with them, only making minor connections. I never felt attached in the way I have other contemporary reads, and while I love some of Lucy’s quirks, such as her love of marine biology and her junior thesis (seriously, I loved those at the beginning of each chapter), I realized though that I just wasn’t having the connection I crave when I read contemporary. However, Lucy has redeeming moments in the story, and if there’s anything I want to really compliment her on, it’s her relationship with her grandmother — it’s beautifully illustrated throughout the story and I wish there had been so much more of that.

I also really wasn’t a fan of Connor, and I feel like you have to be a certain kind of reader to be attracted to him. He just wasn’t my type and at times, I found him to be… a bit of a tool. Just unlikable, frustrating, and sometimes I found his behaviour to be too much for me. Part of me struggled to see why Lucy was super into him, but he had his moments, which I suppose is something I can’t take from him. Weirdly, I liked Andrew just a bit more and I found him a lot more redeeming throughout the story, especially in the ending.

Seriously though, this is a great beach read. While it has the backdrop of Hurricane Sandy as part of the story, for me those were my favourite moments in the story. When Lucy shares her insight to the hurricane and how it affected her and others in her community, those were the moments in the story that I found to be of the most value. I think in the hands of the right reader this will be a knock out, but for me I found myself flip-flopping on my feelings a lot. I wanted more, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I definitely plan to check out the author’s other two novels. The Summer After You and Me has some very fantastic moments in it, but for me personally, it was just a decent read.

ARC Review – Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout

18484807Title: Hell, I Love You

Author: Katie M. Stout

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Grace Wilde is running—from the multi-million dollar mansion her record producer father bought, the famous older brother who’s topped the country music charts five years in a row, and the mother who blames her for her brother’s breakdown. Grace escapes to the farthest place from home she can think of, a boarding school in Korea, hoping for a fresh start.

She wants nothing to do with music, but when her roommate Sophie’s twin brother Jason turns out to be the newest Korean pop music superstar, Grace is thrust back into the world of fame. She can’t stand Jason, whose celebrity status is only outmatched by his oversized ego, but they form a tenuous alliance for the sake of her friendship with Sophie. As the months go by and Grace adjusts to her new life in Korea, even she can’t deny the sparks flying between her and the KPOP idol.

Soon, Grace realizes that her feelings for Jason threaten her promise to herself that she’ll leave behind the music industry that destroyed her family. But can Grace ignore her attraction to Jason and her undeniable pull of the music she was born to write? Sweet, fun, and romantic, this young adult novel explores what it means to experience first love and discover who you really are in the process.

Huge thank you to St. Martin’s Griffin & Netgalley for this ARC!

River’s Review:

Before I get into my review I want to state that I have lived in Asia. While I have never been to Korea (I was there for 2 hours in the airport during my layover last fall, but that’s it) I did live in Japan for seven years. I went to school there, worked there, lived there, got married there. I chose to go to Japan because I wanted to study there. I do understand that my experiences are mine alone and that I can’t say that everyone will experience things the same as mine. So any judgements I make on this book and on Grace’s experiences come from my observations of not only my experiences but others around me. People close to me and not. As a white girl in Asia. As a foreigner far from “home”. And yes, while I might have way more knowledge about Japan than Korea, I did spend a good portion of my undergrad years watching Kdramas, I dated a Korean boy, and I had a lot of Korean friends. I think I have a pretty basic knowledge and a pretty good handle on some of the more prominent cultural points there.

Anyway, going into this book I did not have high hopes for it. Often books written about Asia with the ‘white girl goes to Asia’ plot don’t work for me. Most of the time they’re filled with stereotypes and ideas taken from pop culture. With the promised Kpop angle in this book and knowledge that the author loves Kdramas I figured it would be same-ol-same-ol. I did tweet her and ask if she’d ever lived in Asia (she said yes, China), so I was hoping that she’d have a good handle on the ‘white girl in Asia’ part at least.

And overall it wasn’t bad. I actually only really felt the need to nitpick a few places. I think thought that, unfortunately, that was because a lot of the time Korea is shockingly absent from this book that takes place in Korea. And if you go into this book expecting Kpop IDOLS (like Big Bang, Shinee or Super Junior) this is not going to deliver. While the band in this book is described as playing Kpop, they don’t do the whole singing/dancing/wearing ridiculous costumes bit. Instead they play instruments and sing poppy songs. I had a hard time placing this band in my mind because I’ve never really thought of anything less than an IDOL group as “Kpop”. (Much like I don’t think of a lot of non Johnny’s groups in Japan as Jpop). But alas it is “pop” music and can be called as such. But don’t get your hopes up TOO high if you’re expecting lots of singing and dancing.

So let me talk about the characters. Grace is our white girl going to Asia. She’s from the south and apparently has no knowledge of Korea. She’s running from her family and what you later learn is a dark secret where she thinks she did something horrible, and randomly choose Korea. This just seemed odd to me from the start, and it really bothered me that Grace had no actual vested interest in the country. Why didn’t she go to Europe instead? She’d still be hours away, but she’d be living in a place where she can communicate and not have to worry about the food (as much). No, she just chooses Korea because it’s far. And this took me out of the story a bit because it didn’t feel like GRACE chose Korea, but the author. So I would have liked to have seen a LITTLE more interest.

Also Grace has seemingly no trouble fitting in and has very little culture shock. And this bothered me A LOT. Not only did it take me months to get used to Japan (a place that I had a vested interest in, had studied about for YEARS and had two years of language study under my belt) but I had a good six months of severe culture shock. And yes, I know that my experience was much different, but a lot of my friends had trouble as well. I do blame some of this on the fact that Grace was pretty much in a bubble. She didn’t really have to do a lot of stuff on her own, she had two VERY westernized friends taking care of her, and she only went out into actual Korea a few times. But it did bother me that she was able to do things like ride the subway for the first time by herself (and you say what? But STEREOTYPES. Why CAN’T she figure these things out on her own? 1. Because she didn’t even have jet lag! How did she not have jet lag?! And I don’t think she had a lot of experience with subways in Tennessee) or just wander off with no knowledge of where she was. Also, did we HAVE to go there with the ‘white girl can’t use chopsticks well’ trope? That one gets to me all the time. I spent seven god damn years explaining to Japanese people that us ‘MERICANs can use our thumbs to hold chopsticks and actually get food into our mouths.

Before reading this I heard a lot of noise about Grace being very judgmental. I did think that she went a little overboard at times with being scared of the food and saying that Kdramas aren’t interesting and what-not. I kinda feel like with her, she chose to go to Korea, so she really shouldn’t be as wary of the food as she was. I worked hard in Japan for people to accept that yes, us Westerners can eat the same kinds of food as Asians. So when people go to other countries (not just Asia) and they aren’t willing to be positive about the food and at least give it a fair try, it bothers me. I did enjoy the part with the squat toilet though. It took me a good two years to work up the courage to use one in Japan!

I also didn’t like how Grace was always expecting that people should speak English to her. YOU ARE IN KOREA. LEARN SOME DAMN KOREAN. She was just so AGAINST learning Korean and just UGH. Yes it’s hard, but study it! SPEAK IT! I know that the book was in English and that having a ton of translations would be annoying, but there are ways to have them speak Korean without losing stuff in translation or even having to write the Korean out! So her poor language abilities (and I don’t mean her insistence that she’s not good at languages) aside, she just didn’t try hard enough.

I really liked both Jason and Sophie. I did not like that they were always using their Western names. It just seemed odd that nobody else had them and they did. I understand that in the USA it’s common for Korean and Chinese people to choose English names, but for everyone to keep using them in Korea was, idk.

I liked that Jason was hot and cold and broody. It matched his “rock star” persona. I did not like that Grace had to describe every. Single. Detail. of his appearance every time she saw him. I get it. He’s hot. He’s Korean. He’s fashionable. I did like Sophie, but there were times when her blanket statements about Koreans or American’s were annoying and stereotypical.

And Jane. I loved her as a sister. Hated her as a Japanophile/Koreophile. All of her talk about ‘bring me a cute Korean!’ made my blood boil. Like you can just go to the store and “pick up a cute Korean!”. I have my own issues with this though, so I’ll just leave it there.

As a story and a contemporary novel it hit all the right notes though! The writing was good, I got caught up in what was happening and I really enjoyed the interactions between the characters! I liked the topics that were dealt with (family, depression, friendship, love) and the way that Grace and Jason were friends for the majority of the book. I liked the side characters, hated the mother (but I think we were supposed to, so that was well done!), and did enjoy the few times we got a glimpse of Korea.

Overall I would have liked this better if Grace had been less dramatic, had a more vested interest in Korea, and her life in Korea had been a bit more realistic.

ARC Review – The Good Girls (The Perfectionists #2) by Sara Shepard

23171368Title: The Good Girls (The Perfectionists #2)

Author: Sara Shepard

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Mackenzie, Ava, Caitlin, Julie, and Parker have done some not-so-perfect things. Even though they all talked about killing rich bully Nolan Hotchkiss, they didn’t actually go through with it. It’s just a coincidence that Nolan died in exactly the way they planned . . . right? Except Nolan wasn’t the only one they fantasized about killing. When someone else they named dies, the girls wonder if they’re being framed. Or are they about to become the killer’s next targets?

Huge thank you to Harper Teen for this ARC!

River’s Review:

So some weird things about me reading this book. First off, I would not have read it if Harper Teen hadn’t sent it to me. Second off, this is my first Sarah Shepard book! (I know, crazy right? I used to not like contemporary!) Third off, the only reason I was able to read it NOW is because for some reason I had downloaded THE PERFECTIONISTS off Edelweiss last year… and never read it. So I basically read THE PERFECTIONISTS and THE GOOD GIRLS back-to-back over the course of two and a half days. Which is so weird for me because I almost never read books back-to-back. I like to have a little space between them.

Buuuuut, I couldn’t wait! After joyfully whipping through THE PERFECTIONISTS I had to, no I HAD TO, know what was going on! And what was the twist?!

Basically in these two books a group of girls come up with a list of people they hate and how they’d like to see each person die. There’s one boy that they all hate and were hurt by, so they decide to prank him at a party. Only he ends up dead… exactly they way they’d fantasized. Then other people on the list start to drop and the girls start to question those around them and even themselves.

Sadly I saw the twist coming. I actually kinda guessed it at the end of THE PERFECTIONISTS, but kept hoping that it wasn’t true. I don’t like that kind of twist and it was already used in a book that came out a couple of months ago (didn’t like it in that book either). Aside from that I really loved the rest of this. It was suspenseful, dramatic (but not TOO dramatic) and I can totally see it as a TV show (and will watch it when it comes out!)

I’m not sure how these two books hold up against Shepard’s other books, but from what I know of PLL & TLG (from what I’ve seen on TV) it seems pretty similar. Pretty people doing bad things, getting caught up in murder and mysteries.

But the end, the VERY END… I’m not sure what to make from that. And I guess it’s up to the reader to decide if things are real or not.

Overall this was a fun way to spend my weekend and I’m so glad that I had the chance to pick these two books up!

Summer Contemporary Fling! – Introduction

Two years ago, River and I decided we wanted to read two solid months’ worth of contemporary novels together. Thus Contemporary Summer Fling was born! Unfortunately last year, both of us were in insane situations (River moving back to America, I was getting married) and the event just didn’t take off. This year, however, we’ve decided to bring it back into full swing! The event runs from June 2nd to July 28th and we are encouraging others to read some of these gems with us. With a mix of new releases and older titles we’ve both been meaning to get to, we hope many of you will join us for discussion! Whether it’s by comment, or using the hashtag #scfreadalong, or just even tweeting us! And yes, at the beginning of July, there will be a giveaway for some of these wonderful reads.

Here’s the upcoming schedule of what we’ll be reading, reviewing, and potentially fangirling
over. This can help you figure out when a book likely should be read by, though the discussions/review posts will be open throughout so don’t feel like you have to participate on an exact schedule (that’s our job! :P).

June 2 – The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler (Releases on that day)

June 9 – Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella (Releases that day)

June 16 – Nowhere But Here (Thunder Road #1) by Katie McGarry

June 23 – Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

June 30 – 99 Days by Katie Cotugno

July 7 – Love and Other Unknown Variables by Shannon Lee Alexander

July 14 – The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

July 21 – Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid

July 28 – Winger by Andrew Smith


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What do you think of our choices? Are there some of these you own and are dying to read? Did you manage to get an ARC of the three above that have yet to release? Whatever the case is, we hope you’ll join us in some contemporary beach reading fun. Though, I admit, I have a funny feeling a few of these many just leave me with all the emotional feels (Trish Doller and Emery Lord, I am LOOKING AT YOU). Let us know if you want to participate or if you’re interested in our picks in the comments. We’d love to hear from you guys!

ARC Review – Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider

23149128Title: Extraordinary Means

Author: Robyn Schneider

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: At seventeen, overachieving Lane finds himself at Latham House, a sanatorium for teens suffering from an incurable strain of tuberculosis. Part hospital and part boarding school, Latham is a place of endless rules and confusing rituals, where it’s easier to fail breakfast than it is to flunk French.

There, Lane encounters a girl he knew years ago. Instead of the shy loner he remembers, Sadie has transformed. At Latham, she is sarcastic, fearless, and utterly compelling. Her friends, a group of eccentric troublemakers, fascinate Lane, who has never stepped out of bounds his whole life. And as he gradually becomes one of them, Sadie shows him their secrets: how to steal internet, how to sneak into town, and how to disable the med sensors they must wear at all times.

But there are consequences to having secrets, particularly at Latham House. And as Lane and Sadie begin to fall in love and their group begins to fall sicker, their insular world threatens to come crashing down.

Huge thank you to Harper Collins Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I am not going to sugarcoat this book — it will wreck you. It will make you sad, happy, angry, and basically play with your emotions like a yo-yo. It’s actually why I loved the book so damn much. Robyn Schneider understands the ins and outs of TB as a illness, but tries to provide the readers an almost unfiltered experience of what it means to be separate from the ones you love, only in turn to fall in love with a new group of people who are the same as you.

Truthfully, what drew me into the story was writing. There’s a cheekiness to Schneider’s writing that is both gut punching as it is poppy, and I dig that. I loved both lane and Sadie’s voices and they were both very distinctive, very clear, and uniquely their own. Overall, I’d say I actually enjoyed reading Lane’s chapters just a bit more, if only because I found him very easy to gravitate towards, he’s a little sheltered, but part his growth is undeniable.

What I love about the title of this book is that it fits both the growth of Lane and Sadie’s character development, as well as the illness they both suffer from. Both Lane and Sadie grow as individuals and together through extraordinary means, and the fact that they could love each other knowing their survival rate was slim was both heartbreaking as it is honest. Especially how Lane views it — in a lot of ways there’s nothing sweet about their relationship, yet Schneider makes them a fun and interesting couple. It might also be that the supporting cast is quite strong, especially Charlie and Nick who I found to be quite memorable.

This book made my heart hurt, but in a good way. The ending is a tad predictable, but it really couldn’t have ended any other way. Regardless, the story, the situation surrounding TB, and how important having hope is, are all strong messages found in this novel. While I admit to this being my first Robyn Schneider novel, I really loved her writing style and know it won’t be my last.