Review | Hood by Jenny Elder Moke

“Be braver than you feel. 4.5/5 stars!

Attention! This book contains: Lincoln green clothes, fires, archery trials, apples, silver coins, the Merry Man, mercenaries and disguises.

This was my first reading a Robin Hood retelling and I absolutely loved it. I never knew a lot about the original story of Robin Hood – only the Disney version -, so I was more than happy to pick this up. This retelling follows a girl named Isabelle of Kirklees, who is the daughter of Lady Marien and the famous Robin Hood. 

It took me some time to get used to the language used, but eventually it became easier to understand. It’s not necessarily a difficult book to read, but it’s written in a way that is reminiscent of the medieval times and that’s something I’m not used to.

How to describe Isabelle? She is an amazing, strong character and in this book she discovers her true identity and her place in the world. I just loved to see her development throughout the book and how she overcame her fears.

Speaking of characters, there was not a single character I didn’t like. I could easily say every character had its own charm and contribution to the story. Robin’s banter was very entertaining, the Merry Men were loyal friends who stood up for each other, and Lady Marien was even stronger – and badass – than I thought! 

Fortunately the romance was not the main thing about this book – which I really appreciate -, but it was cute and I really liked the chemistry between Isabelle and Adam. Yes, the story’s timeline is only a few days, but I would still consider it a slow burn romance. They took their time gaining each other’s trust and getting to know each other, which made a great addition to the story.

The only thing I can’t wrap my head around was the ending. I think the sad event that happened in the end was unnecessary to be honest. I understand how it would be “necessary” to have an excuse for the ending the author wanted, but I wasn’t a fan of that choice. That’s the main reason for me not giving this five stars.

Other than that, I loved pretty much everything about this book. I loved the characters, the romance, the story, the pacing… it was very entertaining. I’m starting to realize that I’m really into retellings. Give it a try and you may enjoy it too.

xoxo, Neide

Review | Meet Me at Midnight by Jessica Pennington

How much do you hate me right now? 4.25/5 stars!

Attention! This book contains: pranks, grocery shopping, constellations, chocolate chip pancakes, lipstick notes, college letters, garden statues, cherry kool-aid, mashed potatoes, rotten fish parts, painted rocks, unicorn chairs, morning swims and midnight meetings.

Cute book! For the last six years, Sydney and Asher have spent their summers together. Not that they want to because they are mortal enemies, but their parents became friends a long time ago and they spend their summer in two side by side lake houses. Since the kids don’t like each other, they usually spend the entire time planning and doing pranks on each other. As you can probably guess, a romantic relationship blossoms between them and it’s lovely to see.

I don’t know about you, but I love enemies to lovers romances. In this case it’s a softer kind of hate, because they spend a lot of time together and they don’t really hate each other, they just keep their distance and don’t get very personal. 

I really liked the chemistry between the two main leads. Sydney was an okay character – not my favorite ever, but she was okay -, but what I really didn’t like about her was how she kept saying Asher was tricking her and it was all a big prank. It happened so many times that it got old very fast. I felt bad for him because he was optimistic and actually made an effort to be with her. He was a great character and one of the main reasons why I liked the book so much. His easy going, fun personality shone all through the book!

The story is okay and I was entertained. There are some uncommon elements inserted into the book, like how Sydney painted rocks and was obsessed with garden statues, that kind of made the book more interesting. I would describe this as a cute, easy book to read in summertime.

xoxo, Neide

Review | My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

“Girls in those stories are always victims, and I am not. And it doesn’t have anything to do with what Strane did or didn’t do to me when I was younger. I’m not a victim because I never wanted to be, and If I didn’t want to be, then I’m not. That’s how it works. The difference between rape and sex is state of mind. You can’t rape the willing, right?” 4.5/5 stars!

Attention! This book contains: maple leaves, accusations, red hair, poems, polaroids, the book Lolita, cigarettes, fires, strawberry pajamas, hotel lobbies, kisses in the dark, cute kittens and a lot of secrets.

Well… this was disturbing. But I definitely took a lot from this book and I know I will never forget it. After finishing the book I didn’t know how to feel because even though I was very interested in it, I felt disgusted and uncomfortable at the same time. So I really needed time to collect my thoughts and feelings first so I could write this review. 

This book is about a teenage girl who has a secret relationship with her English teacher. Oh, and did I mention they have a THIRTY year age gap? You would think this is a very obvious problem, but it’s not a straightforward and simple book to understand. The goal of the book is exactly that: to be confusing and to make you question things, and maybe encourage you to start a conversation about it. While reading this book you will often wonder “is this abuse?” and “where is the line that defines what is okay and what is not?”, and that’s exactly what makes this book a great book. At first things start out very slowly and the advances made on Vanessa are very subtle, and even when things start to get serious it feels like a normal romance story. He always asks her “is this okay?” and “can I do this?”, which seems like he is asking for her consent and he was respecting her wishes. But I think my wake up call was when Vanessa and Strain had sex for the first time. During the act, Vanessa said:

“For everything he does, he asks permission. “Can I?” before pulling the pajama top all the way over my head. “Is this ok?” before pushing my underwear over (…). After a while he starts asking permission after he’s already done the thing he’s asking about. “Can I?” he asks, meaning can he tug the pajama shorts down, but they’re already off. “Is this ok?” meaning is it ok for him to kneel between my legs, but he’s already there (…)”

This small paragraph brought me to life again and from this moment on, my vision of Strain changed completely. At first, Strain looks very innocent and it looks like he was just unlucky to fall in love with a student, but you really start to understand how manipulative and abusive he really is and how Vanessa is a victim of all his manipulation. Vanessa was often confused about her feelings, and she defended Strain and her relationship to others saying there was nothing wrong about it, but you can tell she knew something was wrong about her relationship.

But even though I felt for her, Vanessa was not a likeable character for me. I know she was manipulated into this relationship with Strain and that I understand, but I just didn’t like her personality and I wasn’t a fan of her attitude in general. She was annoying and bratty, and very arrogant to others. Her attitude and the ending – which felt incomplete to me – were the main causes for me not giving this book five stars.

With that said, I’m very impressed that this is a debut novel. I listened to an interview with the author after reading the book and I was very impressed with her saying that she started to write this book when she was also a teenager like Vanessa. The author made a great job portraying what a girl would feel if they were in Vanessa’s shoes and I applaud her for it.

It’s not a perfect book and I didn’t like some of the aspects about it, but it’s one of those books that stays with you forever. I’m not going to lie, it’s a very uncomfortable, difficult book to read and you should keep that in mind if you decide to pick this up. But I honestly think it’s worth it and I highly recommend it.

xoxo, Neide

Review | The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

“Books were her salvation. As a child, she’d had a shelf of childhood favorites that she loved enough to read over and over again. But after, during the hospital stay and the long voyage and the cold days in Idlewild’s dreary hallways, books became more than mere stories. They were her lifeline, the pages as essential to her as breathing.” 4.75/5 stars!

Attention! This book contains: gifted radios, archive boxes, black veils, writings in book margins, whispers, newspapers, beautiful notebooks, concentration camps, police stations, dead bodies and a lot of mystery.

What a great book. For me this was very close to being a perfect thriller/horror book.

This story is told in two parallel timelines, one in 1950 and another one in 2014. In 1950, we are given the daily life of four friends that lived in a boarding school for “troubled girls” named Idlewild. There were rumours that the school was haunted by a ghost named Mary Hand, who knows all about the girls’ worst fears. The four girls share a room and they become close friends after sharing their fears with each other… until one of them disappears. Nobody knows what happened to the girl and the mystery was never solved… until 2014. In the present, a journalist named Fiona can’t let go of her sister’s murder. Her sister’s body was found twenty years ago in the famous boarding school grounds, but she never found peace about what really happened that night. She keeps investigating her sister’s case with her police officer boyfriend, but when an investor buys the property and starts the renovations, everything changes. A dead body is found and with that, a lot of secrets are also brought to life.

I really liked how the book made me wonder so much. While I was reading this I kept thinking about how the entire story would fit and where all the elements and facts would collide. Another thing I kept thinking was “is this a ghost story or are there really murderers”… well, you get the answer to that.

I loved the story, I was entertained the entire time, and I couldn’t put the book down because I was so invested in everything. Not only that, but the book was so creepy that after I put the book down I kept looking at the corners of my house afraid I might see something scary! It was an amazing experience that both intrigued me and made me anxious. The only “problems” I had with this book were the explanations given for the two deaths that happened in 1994 and 1950, and also the way the “Mary Hand” story is connected to the main plot. Don’t get me wrong, the story is really well done and some crazy elements were added that will make you say “WHAT!”, but I still felt the lack of surprises and shocks regarding the main events. And yes, some things come full circle which I liked, but some of them do not.  Basically there were some things that I wish were done differently but… oh well, what can you do?

If you are worried about not knowing about what really happened in the end, I would say that I didn’t consider this to be a book with an open ending. With that said, there are “small” things that are never explained. I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone, but let’s just say that if you are a naturally skeptical person, you probably won’t like some of these “small loose ends” – if you can even call it that.

I really liked it. Dark, full of mystery, very atmospheric, super creepy and Halloween perfect! Like I said it’s not a perfect book but, to be honest, it was a really close call.

xoxo, Neide

Review | Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly

“Don’t you see? A pretty girl must please the world. But an ugly girl? She’s free to please herself.” 5/5 stars!

Attention! This book contains: life maps, pearl necklaces, burnt bread, monkeys with pistols, amber eyes, cut out toes, swordplay, equations, black stallions, fires, gold coins, wooden soldiers, thrown eggs, cabbages, smelly cheeses, queens, theatre plays, forgiveness and pieces of a girl’s heart.

By far one of the best books I’ve read this year! Where do I begin with this book? I have to admit I had a difficult time writing this review and that’s the reason why I took so much time doing it. The truth is that there is so much going on with this book that I don’t think I could write a review that would express fully my thoughts and feelings. But one thing at a time! 

This book is a dark Cinderella retelling, but it’s not about Cinderella. Here we follow the story of her “ugly” stepsister, Isabelle. The book starts where the famous Cinderella story ends, with her sisters cutting their toes to fit the glass slipper. After Cinderella tries the shoe on and goes to live happily ever after with her prince, her sisters keep living in their home with their mother. So everything was like it should be, right? The ugly sisters live their ugly lives, while the beautiful girls live their deserved best life. But fortunately, Isabelle is given a chance to change her future and escape her destiny. To become whole and herself again, the only thing she needs to do is to find the three pieces of her broken heart.

What surprise me the most about this book is that it’s a feminist book. Isabelle was an amazing, strong, inspiring main character. Her entire life was molded by what her mother and people in her village made of her, and of course she started to believe what they said and thought about her. I know she is known for being an ugly, mean girl, but she was so much more than that. It was really easy for me to connect to her because I saw her potential and how good she really was. The world was cruel to her, and that broke her heart and made her bitter. She made an effort and she turned her destiny around, by remembering who she really was – a brave, happy girl who loved horseback riding and swordplay. She freed herself from the other people’s opinions, and after healing her heart, she finally was happy and she was okay with who she really was. I honestly loved her character growth so much because of how inspiring it was. It was definitely one of my favorite things about this book.

I also fell in love with so many quotes, it’s insane. I am going to leave a few of my favorites below, because I know I will regret it later if I don’t.

Call a girl pretty once, and all she wants, forevermore, is to hear it again.

““They cut away pieces of me,” she whispered in the darkness. “But I handed them the knife.””

History books say that kings and dukes and generals start wars. Don’t believe it. We start them, you and I. Every time we turn away, keep quiet, stay out of it, behave ourselves.

Here are the things girls die of: hunger, disease, accidents, childbirth, and violence. It takes more than heartache to kill a girl. Girls are tough as rocks.

Should you ever decide, in those small dark hours, to hang yourself, well, that is your choice. But don’t hunt for the rope until morning. By then you’ll find a much better use for it.

I fell in love with this book. Great characters, great pacing, strong story, beautiful lessons… what more could you want? This is a book about accepting yourself regardless of what other people may think about you, and knowing that there is always beauty in yourself – not necessarily in looks. I know it’s a book I will take with me for a very long time, and I would talk about it forever if I could. 

If you like retellings, fantasy books or books with strong female characters, you should definitely pick it up. But seriously, even if it looks like it’s not your cup of tea, pick it up anyway. it’s a very underrated book and I highly recommend it!

xoxo, Neide

Review | Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As longs as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.”

Attention! This book contains: rotten potatoes, politics, new friendships, jam, thieves, rules, goodnight kisses, hunger, fear, courage and a lot of diary entries.

How do you rate a teenage diary? I don’t think you can analyze and rate something that wasn’t meant to be published in the first place. I’m not sure if Anne would want to share her private diary with the world, but I’m glad it was because it helped me understand what it was like to be a jew during the war.

It breaks my heart to know that to this day, people are judged by their religion. The Holocaust was brutal and there was so much cruelty back then… and for what? They were punishing innocent people just because of what they believed in. But I digress. 

Anne was a very smart girl. At first I wasn’t her biggest fan because of how bratty she sounded and the way she talked about other people when she started her diary. But in a short amount of time you see how much she developed as a person and how she always tried to do better. I guess that’s what happens when you are forced to grow up quickly and you start to understand what’s really important and what really matters. At the end of the day she was still a teenage girl who had no choice but to hide with her family to survive all the cruelty that was going on. She lost her home, she starved, she couldn’t make noise, she couldn’t go outside, she had nothing to do and she had to share her new home with another family… for two years! I don’t think I would be strong enough to keep myself sane like she did. She went through very difficult times, and I respect her and her family very much for it.

The outcome was really sad and my heart broke when her diary finished abruptly, but I believe Anne accomplished one of her biggest dreams: becoming a writer. Her book was already read by millions of people and that is somewhat comforting to me.

I think I picked this book for the first time when I was about ten years old, but I’m glad I read it again as an adult because now I fully understand it. There is a lot that you can learn with Anne Frank, and her entries should be shared with the world. If you are thinking about picking it up, I would say to keep in mind that this is not necessarily a book to enjoy, but a book to learn from. Not a should read, but a must read.

xoxo, Neide

Review | Odessa by Jonathan Hill

Odessa | Book by Jonathan Hill | Official Publisher Page | Simon & Schuster

“The world ended, right? But it didn’t. We’re still here. Things never end. They just change.” 2/5 stars!

Attention! This book contains: earthquakes, explosions, boat trips, talking bottles, trades, bears, jynx roots and gangs.

Odessa takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where three siblings try to find their mother, who abandoned them and their father after the earthquakes started. This journey starts when Ginny, the older sister, receives a birthday present from her mother. She wonders where she is and why she left her family behind eight years ago, so she decides to go look for her and try to get some answers back. Without her knowing, her brothers followed her and now they team up to try and find her.

To be honest I was not the biggest fan of the story. The art and color scheme were cool and very appropriate for the post-apocalyptic world, but the story is very slow-paced and nothing interesting happens. The characters were okay, but I feel like I would appreciate the book more if there was more character development.

To be completely fair, I didn’t think the book itself wasn’t bad, it was just not that interesting for me. I probably won’t be continuing this series.

***A big thank you to NetGalley and Oni Press for the free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review***

xoxo, Neide

Review | A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

“But sometimes remembering isn’t for yourself, sometimes you do it just to make someone else smile. Those lies were allowed.” 5/5 stars!

Attention! This book contains: black coffee, interviews, recordings, printed threats, camping sites, lies, clues, drug dealers, abbreviations, secret cell phones and missing golden retrievers.

This was so entertaining, I was hooked from the beginning until the end! 

In this book, a girl named Pippa decides to make a project about a muder that took place in her town five years ago as her final year project. In that cold case, a girl named Andie went missing and her body never was found. The main suspect for her possible murder was her boyfriend Sal, who was found dead in the woods a few days after she went missing. Nobody knows exactly what happened, but the entire town truly believes Sal murdered Andie and then killed himself because he felt remorse for killing her. Pippa was always intrigued by this case and she is not convinced Sal did it, so she decides to make her own investigation. Of course, she finds a lot of interesting things the police never found out, and she starts to get texts and printed threats warning her to stop. Even though she’s afraid, she teams up with Sal’s brother, Ravi, and she keeps going. She continues investigating and day by day she becomes closer to uncover the truth to what happened to both Andie and Sal.

I had to give this book five stars because I loved it so much. What was so great about this book for me is how I was always guessing what happened and trying to connect all the pieces of the puzzle. You never get bored because at the end of each chapter you learn about a new shocking detail that you need to fit in the story. There are so many suspects and so many motives that you will never know for sure what happened to Andie nor Sal. Not only that, but I was also a big fan of the main character, Pip. If you follow my reviews, you probably know by now that I really like strong, intelligent and motivated female main characters, and she was definitely one of them. Also… I can’t be the only one who thought about Regina George as Andie the entire time! I mean c’mon… beautiful and popular blonde mean girl? It would be impossible not to imagine Rachel McAdams as Andie… or it’s probably just me.

If you like mysteries or murder stories, this book is a great one to pick! I had no idea of who had done it and I was hooked until the end when I finally knew what happened. I highly recommend the audiobook version for this book. There are a lot of interview recordings made by Pip so there are some cool sound effects and a full cast of narrators. Please be aware of the following trigger warnings before reading the book: rape, drug abuse, kidnapping and violence.

xoxo, Neide

Review | The Wrong Side of Kai by Estelle Maskame

“Captain Wasington and Nessie versus the world.” 3.75/5 stars!

Attention! This book contains: spy nicknames, scenes at parties, bicycles, green SUVs, pumpkin mailboxes, hashtags, rumours, nudes, flat tires, videos, online dates, a lot of pranks and double standards.

This was not at all what I expected. I had the wrong idea of what the book was about because the title itself defined the book for me before I even read it. If you know nothing about this book, you probably think just by the title that this would be a romance book that features a bad boy named Kai. You’re wrong, just like I was. Kai is in fact featured in the main romance, but he is actually a really nice boy who had to show his “wrong side” in the book – which, to be honest, it wasn’t even that bad.

This book is about a girl named Vanessa who lost her mother a few years ago and her life crumbled after it happened. She knows how much her father suffered with her mother’s loss, so she has trouble committing to relationships. She decided to never have boyfriends, so she just fools around with boys for fun. One day, the boy who she was seeing betrays her and shares a private video of her that he filmed himself. Everyone at school sees the video and of course she’s very embarrassed of what happened. She’s very angry with the boy who exposed her and she decides to get her revenge. Incomes good guy Kai. He also has bad blood with the same guy, so together they turn on their “wrong side” and become partners to get revenge on the bad things they have been through.

This is one of those books that really show the power of double standards. Vanessa was sleeping around with guys often, but when the video was shared with the entire school, she was the only one who became a target of criticism and not the boy who filmed her. And mind you, he was also sleeping around with several girls! I think the book really captured the essence of how quickly girls get judged by what they do and how boys are praised by doing the exact same things. So yeah, I thought that was interesting and the book did a great job showing that difference between genders.

I think what really stood out the most for me in this book was Kai’s personality. His back is probably hurting for carrying the entire book – sorry, this was lame. I know I probably won’t remember this book forever because the story isn’t the most memorable, but I will never forget Kai’s character. He is a very peculiar, fun boy who deals with his problems with humour and jokes. He was a ray of sunshine during the entire book, and a very memorable and special character who basically made the book, in my opinion.

I’ve recently read the DIMILY series from Estelle Maskame and I really liked it as well. I’m really liking her style of writing and I will definitely read more of her books in the future. This is a really cute book! I read it in one sitting and I regret nothing.

xoxo, Neide

Review | The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

“I remind myself that there is no saving of people —people can only save themselves. The best you can do is help when they’re ready.” 4.25/5 stars!

Attention! This book contains: post it notes, cruise ships, measurements, stress baking, wedding proposals, flower bouquets, leukemia, scarfs, prison letters, red lingerie, toxic relationships, beaches, bright clothes and shared beds.

For an adult romance… this was really good. Adult romances are not my favorite books to read so I was skeptical when I picked this one. But in the end, I actually enjoyed it and I thought it was a very fun and different book.

I really liked the concept of a romance blossoming by two people sharing the same space without actually crossing paths. They got to know each other not only by the notes they left, but also by their habits, leftovers and the other one’s trace around the apartment. I’m also a big fan of slow burn romances, and this is a great example of that. Even though Tiffy and Leon share the same flat and bed and they communicate via post it notes, they only physically meet halfway through the book! And I have to say their encounter was one of my favorite parts of the book. Kudos to the author for creating the perfect encounter scene. It was so funny!

I also liked how the characters were described and their personality. Tiffy is like a ball of sunshine, she’s a very caring, energetic and fun person to be around. And I would describe Leon as cool, calm and collected. They balanced each other in a perfect way, and I enjoyed their relationship a lot.

I also thought it was cool how the subject of toxic relationships was added in here. Tiffy was in an abusive relationship before and like so many other people, she didn’t think much of it because it wasn’t necessarily physical abuse. Her ex boyfriend was very manipulative, controlling and abused her mentally. I’m very happy this was brought up because I know it’s a reality for a lot of people who don’t even realise it, and maybe it would enlighten someone who’s going through a similar situation after they read the book.

Like I said before, it’s not easy for me to find an enjoyable adult romance, but this was very funny and well made. It definitely lives up to the hype!

xoxo, Neide