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Those Girls - Lauren Saft

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for the opportunity to read this book!

Those Girls takes three incredibly unlikable characters, makes them "best friends," and then throws them all together into one spectacularly messed up book. So to say the least, this isn't going to be the right one for everyone.

"With friends like these, who needs enemies?" describes this book really well. The three main characters, Alexis, Mollie, and Veronica, describe themselves as being best friends, but in reality, their relationship is extremely toxic. I felt from the start like they were definitely just friends out of habit, rather than because they actually had any affection for one another.

Going into the book, I thought it'd be a coming of age novel, but it isn't, not really. The book focuses mainly on the three girls' super messed up friendship, and their relationships with the boys in their lives. There's a lot the girls could come to terms with, but I felt like they never really learned from their mistakes, or learned much of anything at all. There were quite a few loose ends, some a bit more unsettling than others. I actually would have rated the book a bit higher, but I was pretty disturbed at one of the turns the book took, which wasn't resolved in a way I found at all satisfactory.

Those who like stories with unlikable narrators will likely find something to enjoy here, but the complete lack of real consequences for the girls' actions can be frustrating, and while Saft puts a lot of work into making them feel human, their complete disregard for each other at times undoes a lot of that. That said, I had a hard time putting this book down - it was hard to look away from the trainwreck the girls were setting up for themselves and I wanted to see how it would all be resolved. So, if you enjoy stories with unlikable narrators, toxic relationships, and a lot of shock factor thrown in, Those Girls may be the book for you. If those things aren't your style, you may want to steer clear of this one.

Material Girls

Material Girls - Elaine Dimopoulos

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for the opportunity to read this book!

I'm not big on fashion. I have next to no interest in it, really. But when I received an e-mail from NetGalley about Material Girls, I decided to give it a shot. The tagline ("Revolution never goes out of style.") interested me, and I really liked the style of the cover. I've also been trying to expand my reading horizons where I can, so I'm glad I gave this book a shot.

Material Girls is a bit of a mashup of fashion, science/speculative fiction, and satire. It also brings up a lot of points about sustainability in the fashion industry, society's obsession with celebrities, and worker's rights. I thought what it was aiming for was interesting, but the novel isn't super lengthy, and while it covered angles about celebrities, fashion trends, and environmental awareness well, there just wasn't enough time to focus on other aspects of the story, which left it feeling like it had spread itself a bit too thin. That said, I thought it excelled when it came to discussing issues of environmental sustainability and the downright absurdity of some fashion trends.

When I initially picked up Material Girls, I was expecting a dystopian society with a focus on the fashion industry, and that's sort of what you get, but there doesn't appear to be any kind of militaristic government or anything, like you might see with a lot of other current dystopian/speculative fiction novels. In Dimopoulous' novel, our current expectations of how the job industry works, and how a lot of major entertainment industries work, has been turned upside down, and she built her world's society around that concept. I really liked how she switched things up, but on the other hand, I REALLY wanted more history on how this society formed. While teens often start some of today's trends, their opinions and ideas also generally aren't treated seriously and aren't given the same weight that you would see from an adult, so how did the Junior and Superior Courts come to exist? I thought it was interesting that the teens in this society were given the majority of the power in the fashion, movie, and videogame industries - or at least, they had the illusion of it.

This book also has a TON of characters. I was a bit overwhelmed at first. It alternates between Marla's chapters, which are told from a first-person POV, and Ivy's are told from a third-person POV. Both of them have their own cast of characters in their narratives, and the number of names adds up really quickly. It would have good to see the cast culled a tiny bit, so we could see more of specific characters in the supporting cast - I felt like there were maybe a few too many to really get to know anyone outside of Marla and Ivy, with very few exceptions - but the characters Marla and Ivy associated with added much different tones to their stories, and I did like that aspect of it. It just would have been nice to see more development in the supporting cast.

The pacing is also fairly slow, so this book won't be for everyone. Toward the end, the pacing does pick up quite a bit, but while things are happening early on, the book takes a while to get where it's going, and that will make some readers turn away. That said, I thought the issues Material Girls explores are important ones, and I think it's worth giving this book a shot to see if it works for you.

There are some darker undertones to the story, and I would definitely like to see those explored more in future novels in this world, if possible. Material Girls seems like a deceptively light novel at first glance, especially compared to a lot of other novels that explore similar issues, but it's also quite unsettling once all is said and done.

Seed - Lisa Heathfield

Seed loves her.
Seed will never let her go.


I've had a really hard time writing a review for Seed. Part of it, I think, is that I'm afraid that for some reason, whatever I write won't be good enough. I really loved this book. It kind of horrified me, sure, but I also couldn't put it down.

Fifteen-year-old Pearl is part of Seed... and as it turns out, Seed is a cult that worships nature, led by a man known only as "Papa S." There's incredibly dark undertones throughout this book - even when things are calm and relatively "happy" from the narrator's POV, the reader knows something isn't right, and that was part of what made it so hard for me to tear myself away from this book.

When a woman, her teenage son, and young daughter join the cult from the "Outside," the son, Ellis, begins to make Pearl question some of what she's been taught.

This book isn't for the faint of heart - there were parts that definitely made me feel sick to my stomach while reading. I just wanted so badly for Pearl and the other characters to be safe.

I LOVED Heathfield's prose. I think it was one of my favorite things about the book. Pearl's voice is lyrical and innocent at times, and it really helped set the tone for the book. Some of the situations in the book, juxtaposed with Pearl's voice, really made it hit home that Pearl didn't know any differently from the way she'd been raised.

I was left wondering if there would be a second book, and I really hope there will be. If not, I know I'm definitely looking forward to Lisa Heathfield's next book regardless.

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for the opportunity to read this book!

Placid Girl - Brenna Ehrlich

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for the opportunity to read this book!

 

I live in a placid town by a placid little seaside, where everyone is born and bred to wear placid little faces. I live by a placid little bridge that goes up and down, separating one side of the placid little river from the other at placid little intervals. But I am a roiling-insides girl and I feel the tide coming in and I need to escape.

This book really surprised me! When I read the blurb, I was expecting a contemporary roadtrip-type YA, and while that's sorta what I got, I also got something entirely different.

I'll admit that it took me a while to warm up to Placid Girl. I had a hard time, initially, growing accustomed to Hallie's voice. Pieces of the prose definitely didn't work for me - I mentally stumbled a few times while reading because certain imagery just didn't work for me at all - but I pressed on, and I'm glad I did. This book was so much more than I first thought. The book is also a bit slow to start, but once things got rolling, I had a really hard time tearing myself away.

Music was a pretty huge part of my late high school & early college years, though not as much as it was for some of my friends... but the musical aspects of this story fit comfortably into that part of me. That was sooooo nice. I enjoyed the lyric snippets, especially. Some weren't to my taste, but I really liked others. There's also a really creepy undertone threaded throughout the book, which definitely kept me turning the pages, wondering what was going to come out of it.

Overall, Placid Girl is a slow build in the beginning, but it took me places I DEFINITELY didn't expect. I really enjoyed it.

The Raven Boys - Maggie Stiefvater

To be honest, I had to restart this book three times before I stuck with it. I kept getting to the 10-12% mark and putting it back down for other things. But this time, I got to 13%, and apparently that was the magic number, because this time I had a very hard time putting it down. The book does have a bit of a slow start, but it really gets going around 1/5 of the way through. And I knew there had to be something to love about this book because so many friends love it so much. So that helped. :)

I LOVED the characters in this book, particularly Adam (and Gansey). I haven't been this attached to a book's characters in quite some time. The Raven Boys throws a lot of characters at you in the early pages, so it takes a while to get to know them all, but they're all very distinct, and a lot of them are very likable.

This was my first of Maggie Stiefvater's books, and it definitely won't be my last. I loved her writing style, loved this book's twists and turns, and am REALLY excited for the second book to come off hold at the library. I'm #1 on the waitlist at the library, and this very possibly will be the longest two weeks of my life. XD I did NOT see a lot of the things in this book coming, and it was just so awesome and yay.

What Lies Within - James Morris

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for the opportunity to read this book!

 

As a warning, the blurb for this book gives quite a bit away!

What Lies Within drew me in right away. The opening scene was really creepy. After that, the book takes a bit of a step back, but not much of one. The pacing is pretty quick. Some of the language use felt a bit awkward to me at times, but generally, it flowed fairly well.

I LOVED the dialogue in this book. For the most part, it felt pretty genuine, and I liked the two main relationships the book focuses on (Shelley and her father, and Shelley and Wilson). They felt fairly authentic to me in a lot of ways. Actually, while reading this, I almost felt like I was watching a TV show or movie. It felt very movie-like a lot of ways. A lot of lines and scenes reminded me of things out of crime shows and whatnot. Not in a stereotypical way or anything, though.

The only thing that REALLY irritated me about this book was 

Shelley's assumption that the police are somehow in on the whole thing with the motorcyclist. I didn't understand why she felt that way or how she justified it to herself. I felt like things could have resolved themselves much more quickly if she'd gone to the police in the first place. I also didn't really get why the cop blew her off so easily after she approached him about Matthew Ridge.

(show spoiler)

 

Shelley seems to have a habit of taking these HUUUUUUUUGE leaps in her reasoning and I felt like I was scrambling to keep up because I didn't get why that would be a logical thing to think. She's also very melodramatic, which was frustrating. I didn't exactly find her likable, but it's hard not to cheer her on as she searches for the answers to the questions she has about herself.

Overall, this was a decent, fast-paced thriller. A few things threw me, but it was pretty enjoyable, and I'd be up for more books from this author in the future. I'm definitely curious as to whether there will be a sequel.

I Was Here - Gayle Forman

I had high expectations for this book after If I Stay and Where She Went, and I wasn’t disappointed. I Was Here definitely won’t be for everyone, but parts of it resonated with me in a way I didn’t expect. There’s a lot going on in this book, both up front and beneath the surface – about secrets, family, friendship, and forgiveness, and Forman handles it beautifully.

 

The romance was a huge disappointment for me, but I also felt like the focus of the main story wasn’t on that, so I was mostly able to ignore it (thankfully). 

I hated how it was justified, but what can you do.

(show spoiler)

 

 

Cody’s mission to learn the truth behind Meg’s suicide really pulled me in and kept me turning the pages. Her anger and heartbreak fueled her through her journey, and the lengths she went to made me almost want to look away because the direction she went in made me so uncomfortable. 

I wasn't really surprised at the "truth" - I felt like it was put out there in plain sight throughout the story, but Cody didn't let herself see it - and I felt like it was part of how Cody could eventually forgive herself for what she felt was her role in everything. It was her closure... and that part of the story was really important to me. I felt like the closing line of this book sneaked up on me, and it left me in tears. Like... shit. :( Was not expecting that at all.

(show spoiler)

 

Overall, I thought this was a really strong book, if really tough to read at times, and I’m looking forward to reading more of Forman’s works in the future.

What Alice Forgot - Liane Moriarty

Alice wakes up on the floor of a gym believing she's twenty-nine years old, newly married, and pregnant with her first child... and completely confused that she would step foot in a gym in the first place. Then she learns she's actually thirty-nine years old, has three children, and is in the process of divorcing her husband.

This book really made me think about where I am now in life. If I were twenty, and thinking forward to now, there are some things I would have expected to stay the same that have changed, and others that I thought would have changed that have stayed the same. I'm definitely in a different place in life than I expected at that age, and while I had met my husband, we weren't dating yet. I suspect it would be a SLIGHT shock to learn that I ended up marrying the guy I met online six months ago, and that he had moved across the Atlantic Ocean to be with me. XD

I suspect some of this book's impact was lost on me, since I'm in a very different stage of life than 39-year-old Alice - my situation is a bit closer to that of 29-year-old Alice. That said, it was still a really interesting and intriguing read from that point of view - I found myself able to relate to 29-year-old Alice fairly well, and it made me wonder what my life will be like in ten years.

I loved the way Alice's memories inserted themselves into her life as she progresses throughout the book - the way her "old" self pops in with a completely different voice and attitude from that of the younger Alice. I loved the way Moriarty did that.

The only thing that didn't really work for me (at least, initially) were the way that Elisabeth's journal entries and Frannie's letters are inserted. I'm not sure if it was partially due to reading an eBook edition or not, but the ending of those sections was very abrupt and didn't look to be properly separated from the others, so that was jarring at first until I figured out that the indentation changing back indicated the end of the letter/entry. Their storylines also seem completely "off-topic" for the most part, considering the blurb on the back of the book, but they do eventually come together and help form part of the larger story. But until I figured that out and became interested in their storylines, those parts had a tendency to feel somewhat like they were tacked onto the story. In the end, though, I think they worked - just thought the implementation was not as good as it could have been.

I'm really glad my book club selected this book to read because I don't think it's something I would have picked up on my own, though I thought the blurb was really interesting. Overall, I really enjoyed this read and highly recommend it. I'll definitely be checking out more of Liane Moriarty's work in the future!

A Song for Ella Grey - David Almond

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for the opportunity to read this book!

 

This book has been difficult to review. I felt like a lot of it went over my head, which doesn’t help – not sure it is easy to review a book when you feel like you just didn’t “get it” – but the structure was weird, as well. A Song for Ella Grey is a retelling of the tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice (Ella, in this story), told through the eyes of Ella’s best friend, Claire. I was intrigued but this setup, but I’m not sure it worked for me.

 

The writing was really lyrical, and the artwork interspersed throughout the book was pretty, but I had a hard time connecting to the characters and events in the story. The writing style seemed to take precedence over everything else – characters didn’t really talk the way I thought modern characters would, and sometimes events in the story felt very vague. I wouldn’t have minded that so much, but I did feel a bit lost throughout much of the story, and like a lot of the story’s events were going over my head, or that there was some deeper meaning of which I was unaware.

 

Even well over 85% into the book, I felt like the characters were strangers. I’m not sure if this is because it was a retelling or what, but having the main character distanced from so many of the events in the story was weird for me. I also felt like Claire had romantic feelings for Ella, and I wish that had been confirmed one way or the other, rather than just being left to wonder. It was hinted at several times, but I wasn’t sure if I was reading into it too much or not.

 

I found the last quarter of the book pretty enjoyable, but still felt like I didn’t quite get it. I’d be interested in reading another of Almond’s books in the future, though. I have a feeling this book just wasn’t for me.

Since You've Been Gone - Mary Jennifer Payne

This book and I got off to a really bad start. Within the first few opening pages, I was furious at the main character and her mother, wanted nothing more to do with either of them, and was sitting in tears at a table in the food court at work. But I forced myself to go on, and while I'm glad I finished the book, it fell short for me. I'm afraid my initial reaction to the book soured it a bit for me, which isn't really the book's fault, but I'll try to go into what I liked and didn't like, aside from the book's opening.

My main issue was with the main character, Edie. Over time, I've come to realize that the main character in a book doesn't necessarily need to be likable for me to enjoy the book, and Edie definitely fits the bill of an unlikable character. She's angry, lashes out often, and judges others pretty harshly. There have been plenty of other characters like her, characters that I have grown to like in spite of their cruelty to others, but I didn't feel that way with Edie for a long time. The Edie we see in some scenes seems completely separate from the Edie in other scenes, and I had a hard time reconciling the two. I wish we as readers got to know Edie better over the course of the book, that we got to know more of what her life in Canada was like, just... more.

The story itself, Edie aside, is enjoyable, but I wish it had been a bit longer. There's a lot of stuff crammed into this book, especially into the last few pages, and it felt a bit overwhelming. The book brings up some really good points, and it would have been nice for a lot of those issues to be given more page time or otherwise explained in a bit more detail. I think they would have had a much bigger impression that way. At times, it felt like the reader was getting too much at once, and other times, it was very frustrating to get little hints of what was going on when we were fairly late in the story and wanted to know much more.

I enjoyed Payne's writing quite a bit. I finished the book fairly quickly, despite my initial reaction, and would definitely read another one of her books in the future.

I received a copy from this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for the opportunity to read this book!

Etiquette & Espionage - Gail Carriger

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for the opportunity to read this book!

This was my first book by Gail Carriger, and it definitely won't be my last. This one was fun, humorous, and overall, really enjoyable. I really liked Sophronia, the atmosphere of the school was fantastic, and even at the times when I wasn't particularly enthralled by what was going on in the book, the pages seemed to fly by. It took me a while to get used to the voice of the book, but once that happened, it was hard to put down.

My only complaint is that the central plot of this particular book didn't really draw me in, but the concept of the school Sophronia had been recruited to intrigued me enough to keep reading, and I'm glad it did. I LOVED the idea of a school training girls in both etiquette and, well, espionage. :)

It took me a while to get around to reading this one, but I'm so glad I did, and the timing turned out pretty spectacular, because the other books in the series happened to go on sale while I was reading it. Looking forward to reading them when I can, and maybe catching up in time to read the fourth book later this year!

Fallout - Ellen Hopkins

This review is for the third book in the Crank series.  There are spoilers for the first two books in the review, but not for the third one.  My review of the second book is here and my review of the first book is here.

 

This book is really different from the first two books in the series, which really threw me off. While Crank and Glass tell Kristina's story from her perspective, Fallout is different in that it doesn't really continue Kristina's story, but that of three of her children.

I was initially somewhat annoyed by this change. I wanted to know more of Kristina's story, to see if she would ever break free of the cycle, and Fallout answers that question in a way much different way than I was expecting.

The narrators in this story are Hunter (born at the end of Crank), Autumn (whom the reader learns about at the end of Glass), and Summer, a completely new character to previous readers of the series. Hunter lives with Kristina's mother and stepfather, Autumn lives with Trey's father and sister, and Summer lives in a foster home. Between sections of the story, the book also includes newspaper clippings which reveal what happened to characters from the previous books over the past twenty years.

Each of Kristina's children has his or her own story, and the book tells them in alternating sections. Hunter's story revolves around his job as a radio personality and his life with his girlfriend Nikki. Autumn yearns for a relationship with a family she knows she has but has never contacted. Summer has come and gone from various foster homes.

One thing that really confused me about this book is that I felt the vibe from the foster homes was overwhelmingly negative, verging on abusive, with few positive aspects. I found myself wondering if Hopkins' other books are the same way, or if that was just this particular book. Some of Hunter's comments about Kristina's rape also made me really uncomfortable. I also found it a bit difficult at times to differentiate between Autumn and Summer's stories because I found their voices to be very similar.

Hopkins' goal with Fallout, apparent from the title, seemed to be showing the effect drug use could have on the user's family, not just on the individual, and I can see why she would have changed POVs in this way if that were the case. While the reader was able to see that kind of thing in the first two books, it was difficult to see the extent of it through Kristina's eyes alone, and through the eyes of three of her children, the reader gets to see the "fallout" of Kristina's actions through a much wider scope. That said, it took me a while to come to terms with the large changes to the POV.

Overall, I felt like there were several things that weren't quite tied up to my satisfaction, but on the other hand, I guess that isn't really what the book was about, so I can live with it. I enjoyed reading this series in general, and would be interested in reading more of Hopkins' books in the future.

Cheat - Kristin Butcher

I felt like this book was written for a much younger audience than a lot of other YA, which is fine, but it surprised me a bit. This one was a really quick read, though... took maybe an hour, hour and a half to read altogether.

I felt like this book set out to send out a message to its readers, so things like characters weren't given a lot of thought. They don't have much depth, and there's not a whole lot of character development and whatnot here. But I also kind of felt that toward the end of the book, the message wasn't so much about cheating, but about the consequences of doing whatever it takes to get what you want without regard for others. I thought that was a message worth expressing, but since it was muddled up with cheating, it left me a little conflicted and confused.

I didn't really know a whole lot about this book or the author when I picked it up - just spotted it in the new eBooks at the library and figured I would pick it up when I was done with the book I had been reading. It was definitely on the lighter side of things tone-wise compared to the other books I've read lately, so that was a nice change for me. I definitely would have liked more development all around, though, to make things feel more authentic, instead of a bit of a vessel for the author's message.

I enjoyed the book well enough, having read it in one sitting, and would be interested in reading more of Butcher's books in the future, despite having mixed feelings about this one.

Boy Nobody - Allen Zadoff

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for the opportunity to read this book!

 

This book is apparently known by at least three different titles (Boy Nobody, I Am the Weapon, and The Hit), which confused the hell out of me at first. Once I sorted that out, though, I was good to go.

I had an extremely difficult time getting through the beginning of this book. It wasn't boring, it wasn't badly written, none of that stuff, but I still struggled. I must have reread the beginning sections three, four, maybe even five times before I finally got through it for good and read the rest of the book. Before that, I kept putting it down in favor of other things. The beginning of the book made me so nervous because I was afraid it was going to be violent/gory beyond what I could handle at the time, and I couldn't figure the main character out. I didn't know what his motivations were or why he was doing any of this, and I don't like seeing bad things happen to good people, through no real fault of their own, which, of course, happens in books all the time... but seeing it from the POV of the "bad guy" made me kinda go, "Oh no, oh no, oh no," and put the book down... repeatedly. I generally love books that do this kind of thing, but for some reason, in this book, it just made me super nervous and it was really difficult to continue.

Thankfully, the book wasn't too gory or violent, and once I actually got through the beginning and continued on, I found it to be a really enjoyable book. There were still scenes that made me really uncomfortable, but I think that was the point. The main character has a really unique voice, and I liked that a lot. His observations let the reader see things in a different way than if another person were telling this story, and I thought that gave the story a lot of character and let it stand out.

The main character is a type of assassin working for The Program, an organization which appears to work for or be part of the government. This book covers what happens when that assassin starts to question things. It's hard to go into why I found this book so unique compared to similar stories without spoiling anything, though. The premise of the book itself isn't unique by any means, but it still stood out from a lot of books I've read recently, and I'm still thinking about it long after finishing it.

Overall, I found this book pretty enjoyable once I was able to get through the beginning and get a sense of what was going on with the main character, and I'm definitely looking forward to reading the next installment in the series!

Glass - Ellen Hopkins

No spoilers fromt he first book in the review. :) My review from the first book is here.

 

Glass was pretty similar in tone and style to its predecessor. It picks up a short time after the events of Crank. This book is also written in verse (I believe all of Hopkins' books are, though I could be wrong), which made for a relatively quick read, if not necessarily easy, due to the subject matter.

In terms of format and layout, Glass was easier to read than the first book. I guess the poem layout was maybe a little less creative, but it definitely helped me understand the flow of the words better, and I didn't need to do nearly as much rereading as I did during the first book. There were a few things that I wasn't sure were intentional - italics generally seemed to be used for dialog, but sometimes, in the middle of what appeared to be someone's sentence, they would be dropped, and then come back again. Not sure if that's a mistake or not. So in a lot of ways, the paperback would probably still be easier to read than the eBook, but there were improvements made in that department. I ended up reading the book with my Kindle on its side with the font at the smallest size, and that seemed to preserve 90% of the originally intended layout.

Kristina's choices over the course of the book are predictable, but frustrating. As with the first book, knowing it is based on a true story is difficult and sad. My only real issue with the book itself was that the dialog didn't seem realistic to me a lot of the time - sometimes, it was great, and other times, I felt like it was a major miss and Kristina didn't feel like an authentic teenager.Crank had some of the same issues, though, and I guess it would have been even more jarring to change some of that in the second book.

I am interested in continuing the series and seeing where it goes from here.

A Promise of Magic (Silver Moon Saga 2.5) - Melissa Giorgio

As a disclaimer, I know the author.

 

This review is for a novella in the Silver Moon Saga which takes place between book two, The Soul Healer, and book three, The Shadow Stealer.

 

It was great to read this one while waiting on the release of The Shadow Stealer! A Promise of Magic is a collection comprised of one novella and two shorter stories. The novella centers around one of the main supporting characters in The Silver Moon Saga, Evan Underwood, and is followed by two stories taking place after the events of The Soul Healer.

"A Promise of Magic" takes up the majority of the collection, and spans eight years of Evan's life. It chronicles his magical education in Silver Moon and his relationship with Alex. I LOVED this. I loved getting to learn more about Evan's past and loved being able to see the beginning of his relationship with Alex. She's a character that we've heard a lot about at this point in the series, so it was great to actually meet her. I also liked being able to see some major events in great detail that we've heard a lot throughout the series.

The pacing of the novella is a bit up-and-down, though that makes sense, since a lot of it takes place during Evan's childhood. We get to read about the beginnings of his friendship with Rafe, which was nice to see, especially after the events that took place during The Soul Healer. Several other characters also make appearances, and in a way, it was nice to see them through another character's eyes. Gabi can be a bit quick to judge (to say the least!), so it was nice to meet some characters, such as Charles, from the POV of someone who didn't flat-out hate them right out of the gate.

As Evan ages over the course of the story, we get re-introduced to the jokes and whatnot that we're used to seeing in the other installments in the series. I love the humor in these books and I kind of can't get enough of it, haha.

"The Favor" is a short story told from the POV of Philip, one of the characters introduced during The Soul Healer. It was nice to get to see more of Kain, one of my favorites of the new characters, and I thought the story itself was really sweet. Looking forward to seeing more of both of them in the next book!

"An Unbeatable Team" is told from Gabi's POV. I LOVED this story, and didn't realize how much I was missing Gabi's narration until I started it. Her voice is definitely unique, and she's sassy from beginning to end. I loved it. The story takes place during Valentine's Day weekend, and readers can definitely expect some cute moments. Some of them made me a bit nostalgic thinking of the earlier parts of my own relationship. This story was absolutely adorable and left me wanting more. I flew through the last installment in this collection for sure. It almost felt too short!

I can't wait for the next book to come out! Very excited to see where the series is going next. :)