Artemis // A fast-paced sci-fi with a strong female MC

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Hello everyone!

Do you guy remember Andy Weir, the guy who wrote The Martian? Which, by the way, was originally a self-published novel?! Artemis is Andy Weir’s newest novel, and it is a book that I’ve aspired to read in 2018. I enjoyed this book, and I am excited to share my review with you guys.

34928122Jazz Bashara is a criminal.

Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.

Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she’s stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.

What I Liked

  • Jazz is a very badass woman. She is confident, smart and quick on her feet. She relies on herself and she works alone. Her character develops throughout the novel: She learns to trust her friends, and her relationship with her estranged father also grows.
  • The world-building is simply AMAZING. This novel is VERY thoroughly researched. It seems like the author has figured out the science and technology behind life on the Moon, and made it seem so believably real.
  • Love the diversity. Jazz is originally from Saudi Arabia and comes from a Muslim family. It is cool that there are pockets of Artemis where people of different cultures congregate, similar to neighbourhoods in real life.
  • Plot points are intricately interwoven with sharp twists and turns that keep you guessing.
  • Awesome audiobook performance.

What I Didn’t Like

  • There are many secondary characters who I don’t care much about. They just aren’t as cool as Jazz, and they don’t have much personality.
  • There is a LOT of scientific jargon. It’s good in that this is a highly scientific novel, and the technical details made it feel more realistic. However, sometimes I was just lost…
  • Because of the above, it was hard for me to get into the novel until halfway through.
  • Sometimes the dialogue lines made me cringe :’)

The Bottom Line: 3.5/5 stars

Artemis is a fast-paced and action-packed book with a strong female MC. You’ll love this novel if you are a fan of The Martian!

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Have you read The Martian or watched the movie?! What do you think of jargon – is there a place for it in science fiction?

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Review: Dear Martin

Hello everyone!

I absolutely loved The Hate You Give, by Angie Thomas. When I heard about Dear Martin, I snatched up the audiobook the first chance I got. I loved it SO much, and I can’t wait to share my review with you guys.

24974996Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates. Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up—way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack.

I love the characters in this novel. Justyce aspires to be like Martin Luther King, so he writes a series of letters to him. In these letters, Justyce talks about his struggles as an African American teen- the racist attitudes he encounters as a part of daily life, and also things like romance. It becomes apparent that Justyce is a person of principle. He strives to be the best person that he can and to do the right thing. The turn of events in this novel pits Justyce against his principles and he has to make a choice that will determine the person he will become.

As you can guess, this book talks about racism and police brutality. I love how the book allows for areas of grey and ambiguity, allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions. Yes, the police officer who shoots the innocent black kid is wrong to do so, and yes, he should be convicted and jailed. However, we get a glimpse of his point of view and where these biases originate from. Justyce and his friend, Manny, are good kids who are devoted to their future. However, Manny’s cousins and many of the other African American kids on the block are involved in gang violence, and it is because of this that the stigma of violence still exist. I love that we get a sense of where each character comes from: not just Justyce and his friends, but also the police officer, the gang members, and Manny’s friends who are racist.

The characters change and grow. Justyce at first has almost a naive vision of “doing the right thing”, and this philosophy is challenged as the series of events unfold in this novel. We see how Justyce struggles with this, how his perspective on racism deepens, and how it affects the person he becomes. One of the minor characters in this book develops as well. The message of this book is uplifting in that people and their attitudes are able to change. Problems continue and society is slow to change, but there are people out there who are kind, who do not discriminate.

I love how concise this book is. The pacing is just right. There isn’t a chapter wasted and I am never bored.

My one small complaint about this book is that I am not convinced by the romance between Justyce and his love interest. I like the idea of an interracial relationship and the fact that this exists in this novel, however, this romance feels a bit forced. I don’t quite sense the chemistry between the two.

The Bottom Line: 4.5/5 stars

Dear Martin is a phenomenal book that explores racism, gang violence and police brutality, showing us that it is more than black and white and there is no magic bullet. The key is to keep doing good. It’s a book that will stay in my head for long after I turned the last page.

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What is your favourite diverse book?

Series Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

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Hello everyone!

This is my first series review! (Yay!!) But then again, how did I NOT write a series review since I started blogging in May 2017!?

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The true is that I don’t read many series, in general. I gravitate towards standalone books (because I like brevity and have commitment issues…… lol) That being said, I ACTUALLY LOVED THIS SERIES SO MUCH!

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them…all at once?

Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

One of my favourite aspects of this book is the characters. Lara Jean is such a sweet and relatable person. On the surface, she is your typical cute, innocent, happy-go-lucky girl. She loves to stay home and bake or work on crafts. Unlike her older sister Margo, who is a high achiever and wants to travel the world, Lara Jean just wants to stay close to her family and close friends. Lara Jean is much more gentle than her younger sister Kitty, who is feisty and sharp-tongued. As we read on, we learn that Lara Jean values her family above all. Lara Jean is different from me in a lot of ways, however, I can’t help but love her from chapter one.

The secondary characters each have personalities and are very real. I adore the members of Lara Jean’s family – Kitty, Margot and their father, who form the foundation of this entire series. The love interests are also interesting: Peter, the popular guy at school, Josh, the next-door neighbour and childhood friend, and John Ambrose McClaren, a member of Model UN who is very intelligent. Then there are minor characters that we hear less about, like Gen or Chris. Just when we think we know a character well, they surprise us for better or for worse, which I think is like real life. That’s what I love about this series – Each character is so believable and human, and I care about each and every one of them.

I love the family dynamics in this novel, and the focus on family. This is often ignored in YA novels, and I always ALWAYS praise a novel that does this well. The interactions between Lara Jean, Kitty, Margot, and their father are often laugh-out-loud hilarious or heartwarming (or both at the same time.) Sometimes the sisters get on each others’ nerves, but beneath it all, they love each other very much. It is touching to see how the girls take care of their father since their mother’s death years ago.

Like all families, Lara Jean’s family evolves and changes. When Margot moves away for college, Lara Jean will have to take the responsibility as the oldest child in the household. At the same time, Kitty is growing up and learning more about the world. And although their mother has passed away, her presence is felt throughout the course of the novel. Each of the Song sisters is shaped by their relationship with their family members. I love how family is the underlying theme of this entire novel.

The plot is somewhat predictable. Usually I can foresee what the main conflict of the book would be, although the resolution surprised me at times. Also, because I loved the characters so much, I wanted to keep reading regardless.

I adore the light-hearted, humorous, and easy-to-read style. The dialogues are witty and flow so well. On many instances I forget that I am reading instead of experiencing the novel. There is also more than one occasion where I stayed up at night to read JUST one more chapter.

The Bottom Line: 4/5 stars!

  • To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is an excellent start to the series, and got me hooked right away. ★★★★/5
  • P.S. I Still Love You is my least favourite book of this series- It feels like a filler since the main conflict of the first half extends from the last plot point of the first novel. ★★★/5
  • Always and Forever, Lara Jean is my favourite book of the series, and drew the series to an end in the most amazing way possible. (No spoilers here.)  ★★★★★/5

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a light-hearted romance and a coming-of-age story where about a girl becoming a young woman. If you love contemporary YA, this series will sweep you off your feet. 

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Do you prefer standalone books or series? Do you have a favourite series?

Strange the Dreamer and My Lady Jane // Beautiful world-building and a creative twist on history

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Hello everyone!

Today I am excited to tell you about two books that I’ve recently read:

To be honest, I was hesitant to pick up Strange the Dreamer, because I didn’t quite enjoy Daughter of Smoke and Bone as much as I thought I would. However this book did not disappoint!

Secondly, I never read historical fiction. Like, at all (it’s bad), however I thought I’d give My Lady Jane a try since I heard that it is a fun read.

Anyway! Without further ado…

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The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Welcome to Weep.

What I liked

  • The characters! I love Sarai, Feral, Ruby, Sparrow, and even Minya. It is a fun cast of characters who I want to continue reading about.
  • LOTS of imagination. The world building is amazing. I love how magic works in this world, and the terminologies used to describe it. It feels like a world that is vast and magical, and that we are just skimming the surface in this book.

What I didn’t like

  • I’m not very used to the omnipresent narrator. It seems like the story is written through one character’s POV at a time, but often perspectives change within a chapter or even within a paragraph.
  • So far I’ve heard lots of praise about Laini Taylor’s writing style, so this is going to be an unpopular opinion. I feel a bit bogged down with the big words and the lengthy descriptions. (I like brevity, LOL!)

The Bottom Line: 4/5 stars

Though I am not used to the writing style and the POV switching, I enjoy the characters and the world building. This is a series that I look forward to continuing.

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Edward (long live the king) is the King of England. He’s also dying, which is inconvenient, as he’s only sixteen and he’d much rather be planning for his first kiss than considering who will inherit his crown…

Jane (reads too many books) is Edward’s cousin, and far more interested in books than romance. Unfortunately for Jane, Edward has arranged to marry her off to secure the line of succession. And there’s something a little odd about her intended…

Gifford (call him G) is a horse. That is, he’s an Eðian (eth-y-un, for the uninitiated). Every day at dawn he becomes a noble chestnut steed—but then he wakes at dusk with a mouthful of hay. It’s all very undignified.

The plot thickens as Edward, Jane, and G are drawn into a dangerous conspiracy. With the fate of the kingdom at stake, our heroes will have to engage in some conspiring of their own. But can they pull off their plan before it’s off with their heads?

What I liked

  • It’s a HILARIOUS book. Each characters have their own quirks – Jane likes books (a LOT), and Gifford is… well, a horse half the time. They make fun of each other and it’s all very funny to read.
  • Light and easy to read.
  • Unique writing style.
  • Creative twist on history. I like that this book is not bogged down on facts, which is what intimidates me when it comes to the historical fiction genre. This may be a good place to start for beginners to the genre (such as myself.)

What I didn’t like

  • TOO funny. And yes… there is such a thing. There are moments that are quite serious which is interrupted by a humorous commentary by the narrator or the intrusion of another character. It lightens up the mood, however it interrupts the flow of the scene.
  • I don’t feel a connection to the characters. It’s true that they each have their own personalities: Jane is a bookworm, Gifford is a poet who wants to hide the fact that he is a poet, Edward is sexist but learns the errors of his ways, Bess is really REALLY smart. However, I don’t always understand the motivation behind their actions, which is frustrating.
  • Pacing is slow. This is a fairly long book (almost 500 pages), and I felt impatient at times waiting for things to happen. (Again, I like brevity :’) )

The Bottom Line: 3/5 stars

My Lady Jane is a fun, light-hearted novel that made me smile and laugh out loud. However, I am frustrated by the slow pacing and the actions of the characters.

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You can probably guess by now that I like simple writing and fast pacing. Do you like detailed descriptions or do you prefer simple language? Do you prefer fast or slow pacing? Is there such a thing as TOO funny?

Mini-Reviews: Carry On & Our Dark Duet // Adventures that you can’t put down

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Merry Christmas everyone!

To be honest, during this time of the year, I fall off the everything wagon: The reading wagon, the writing wagon, the healthy-eating wagon, even the pole-dancing wagon. All my hobbies are on the back burner because there is less time (however, MUCH more food.) BUT I am making an effort to keep up with my blog posts at the very least :’)

Today I want to tell you guys about two books that I’ve wanted to read for the longest time, and finally had!!! I was not disappointed!

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From the Back Cover:

Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen. That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here — it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

Carry On – The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow is a ghost story, a love story and a mystery. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story – but far, far more monsters

What I liked:

  • Characters that make you care: Simon, who is sweet and kind-hearted. Bad, who is sarcastic and cautious. And Penny, who is logical and talented.
  • Incredible chemistry between the characters. I absolutely loved the tension between Simon and Baz.
  • Amazing dialogue.
  • Interesting concept of magic: words are power. For example, “up up and away” or “into thin air” are common sayings that have impact as spells.
  • Steady pacing that keeps you on the edge of your seat.
  • Enough plot twists to keep you satisfied about the ending.

What I didn’t like:

  • Not much.
  • Agatha, Simon’s ex-girlfriend, who is indecisive and plays the “damsel in distress” role. She makes some witty remarks which maybe redeems her?

The Bottom Line: 4/5 stars

If you love fantasy stories with amazing character development and a romantic touch, Carry On is a must-read!

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From the Back Cover

THE WORLD IS BREAKING. AND SO ARE THEY.

Kate Harker isn’t afraid of monsters. She hunts them. And she’s good at it. August Flynn once yearned to be human. He has a part to play. And he will play it, no matter the cost.

THE WAR HAS BEGUN. THE MONSTERS ARE WINNING.

Kate will have to return to Verity. August will have to let her back in. And a new monster is waiting—one that feeds on chaos and brings out its victims’ inner demons. Which will be harder to conquer: the monsters they face, or the monsters within?

What I liked:

  • Main characters who kick butt and break your heart at the same time. I love August, who has changed and matured since This Savage Song. I also love Kate, who is a strong, independent, and awesomely badass.
  • Secondary characters who are very cool, such as Ilsa and Soro (a new Sunai).
  • THAT ENDING (is all I’m going to say).

What I didn’t like:

  • There are numerous secondary characters. Although they seem to have interesting stories, they are not given the chance to develop throughout the novel.
  • August and Kate are great friends and perhaps more, however they do not spend as much time together as I would’ve liked. They are mostly out there doing their own thing. Then again this is coming from an avid contemporary reader 😛
  • As much as I love aspects of this world, I feel like more could be done to develop the Chaos Eater and explain how it works in the grand scheme of things.

The Bottom Line: 3.5/5 stars

If you love This Savage Song, Our Dark Duet will not disappoint. Be prepared for the story to steal your heart (and then break it.)

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How do you celebrate Christmas? Do you tend to fall off the wagon at this time of the year? How do you balance blogging and reading with Christmas activities? Do you like Christmas or are you a Grinch?

(To be honest, I am a bit of Grinch. Bah humbug!)

Mini-Reviews: Gone Girl, Sharp Objects & Dark Places // Edge-of-the-seat thrillers by Gillian Flynn

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Hello everyone!

I think I fell back in love with writing reviews. The secret? Mini-reviews! The truth is, I never have that much to write about a book, even one that I love very, very much. After seeing some bloggers nail this approach (such as Marie @ Drizzle and Hurricane Books, and The Orangutan Librarian), I couldn’t help but give this a try.

Gillian Flynn is one of my favourite authors. After reading Gone Girl on my plane ride to China, I couldn’t help but devour Dark Places and Sharp Objects as well. I am amazed by her writing style and her mastery at psychological suspense.

Gone Girl

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From the back cover

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

What I liked

  • Humorous and witty writing that makes you smile and wince at all the right places
  • Plot twists that keep you guessing
  • Main characters (Nick and Amy) who are flawed, messed-up, and very fascinating to get into the heads of
  • Sharp, quick pacing that will have you turning the pages

What I didn’t like

  • Without spoiling the story: The antagonist of this story is very thorough, methodical, and calculating in their ways, making it difficult to relate to this character

Overall: 4/5

Gone Girl is a roller-coaster ride without a single dull moment. It must-read for anyone who is a fan of the mystery and thriller genre.

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Dark Places

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From the back cover

Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice” of Kinnakee, Kansas. She survived—and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, the Kill Club—a secret secret society obsessed with notorious crimes—locates Libby and pumps her for details. They hope to discover proof that may free Ben. Libby hopes to turn a profit off her tragic history: She’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club—for a fee. As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started—on the run from a killer.

What I liked

  • The plot twists!! There is never a dull moment
  • Libby and her family. Even though Libby’s mother and sisters are dead in present day, we get to learn about their personality and quirks through Libby’s memory
  • The disturbing details of the backstory

What I didn’t like

  • Libby’s character isn’t immediately likeable – she is bitter and calculating. However, I feel that this is the intention of the author, and Libby grew on me over time

Overall: 4/5

Yet another amazing novel by Gillian Flynn. As much as this is a murder mystery about Satanic rituals, Dark Places is also a story about the love that underlies a family. I absolutely loved this novel, maybe even more so than Gone Girl.

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Sharp Objects

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From the back cover

Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows, a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.

What I liked

  • Amazing prose and dialogue
  • A well-developed main character (Camille) who has depth and flaws
  • An intricately woven story line with plot twists that will keep you guessing

What I didn’t like

  • For a thriller, the pacing was incredibly slow. Nothing much happens for the first 80% (and then it is like %&$*#?!)
  • Repeated use of certain phrases, like “she is the type of woman who holds your hair back when you vomit”, and “smell like sex”

Overall: 3/5

If you can put up with the slow pacing, Sharp Objects tells a haunting tale about dead (and very, very sick) people that will raise the hairs at the back of your neck.

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PS.

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Are you a fan of the thriller/suspense genre? Have you watched the Gone Girl movie? What do you like writing better: full-length reviews or mini-reviews?

Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga // A heartfelt contemporary YA novel

18336972One day, while Taliah’s mother is out of the country, Julian Oliver, the famed rock star, shows up on Taliah’s doorstep. This makes sense – kinda – because Julian Oliver is Taliah’s father, even though her mother would never admit it to her.

Taliah and her best friend Harlow embark on a journey to Julian’s hometown, where Taliah meets Julian’s father – her grandfather – who is nearing the end of his life. But Julian isn’t the father Taliah always hoped for, and revelations about her mother’s past are seriously shaking her foundation. Through all these new experiences, Taliah will have to find new ways to be true to herself, honoring her past and her future.

Young Adult / Contemporary / 304 pages

Ever since reading (and loving) My Heart and Other Black Holes, I’ve been eagerly anticipating this new novel by Jasmine Warga. Here We Are Now did not disappoint- This novel is about love and loss, and hellos and goodbyes. It will pull on your heartstrings, while being grounded in reality.

The characters are the highlight of this novel. They each have their shortcomings and mistakes, which make them all the more real and loveable. I also love how the relationships between the characters change and grow over the course of the novel.

“I think with some people you can just tell you’re going to have a history with them. Even if that history hasn’t happened yet.”

Taliah lives a simple life with her mother. She is a kind-hearted girl, though she builds a wall between herself and the other people in her world. The only people that she lets in are her best friend and her mother, Lena. Taliah has never met her father, though she is convinced that he is no other than Julian Oliver, the lead singer and guitarist of a famous rock band. One day, Julian appears on her doorstep and invites her on a road trip to meet his father who is dying. At first, Taliah is hesitant to trust Julian. After all, how can you trust a father who has never been in your life? As the story progresses, their relationship strengthens.

This novel also tells the story of Lena and Julian’s relationship, how they met and fell in love, and the events that occurred leading up to the present day. Lena was a modern woman who was ambitious and independent. She immigrated to American from Jordan, choosing to pursue her dream while giving up her family and her home. Julian loved music from the bottom of his heart, and he would rather be a musician than carry on his family business. Lena and Julian found solace in each other, because they were both defying their roots in pursuit of a dream. I absolutely loved that there is focus on the parents in this novel- Yes, once upon a time, parents were teens and young adults, and they had their own love stories too.

He reminded her of America. Of her American dream.

There are some elements of romance, but it does not dominate the story. This is refreshing because it is true in real life as well: romance plays a significant part of our lives, but it doesn’t occupy all of our waking moments. I love that there is focus on other important relationships, such as those between family and friends.

I loved Jasmine Warga’s writing style in this novel. There are few characters, and the story is a simple one. Even the scenes and dialogue are written in a simple style that flows. However, it is a story that is rich in meaning, that made me reflect about people and relationships. This novel reminds me that a great story can be written using simple language.

“I like trees.”

“And what do you like so much about them?”

“They’re good listeners. And they know how to let go.”

The Bottom Line:

Here We Are Now is a subtle and heartfelt story that will make you smile, maybe even shed a tear (or two). It is guaranteed to give you the warm and fuzzies.

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Here We Are Now is one of my favourite contemporary YA novels this year, and Jasmine Warga is one of my favourite authors. Do you have any favourites?