ARC Review: Nowhere But Here-Katie McGarry

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cooltext1889161239 copyAn unforgettable new series from acclaimed author Katie McGarry about taking risks, opening your heart and ending up in a place you never imagined possible.

Seventeen-year-old Emily likes her life the way it is: doting parents, good friends, good school in a safe neighborhood. Sure, she’s curious about her biological father—the one who chose life in a motorcycle club, the Reign of Terror, over being a parent—but that doesn’t mean she wants to be a part of his world. But when a reluctant visit turns to an extended summer vacation among relatives she never knew she had, one thing becomes clear: nothing is what it seems. Not the club, not her secret-keeping father and not Oz, a guy with suck-me-in blue eyes who can help her understand them both.

Oz wants one thing: to join the Reign of Terror. They’re the good guys. They protect people. They’re…family. And while Emily—the gorgeous and sheltered daughter of the club’s most respected member—is in town, he’s gonna prove it to her. So when her father asks him to keep her safe from a rival club with a score to settle, Oz knows it’s his shot at his dream. What he doesn’t count on is that Emily just might turn that dream upside down.

No one wants them to be together. But sometimes the right person is the one you least expect, and the road you fear the most is the one that leads you home.

cooltext1889171582 copy3/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Harlequin Teen (US & Canada).

Nowhere But Here is an unexpected glimpse into the world of the Motorcycle Club from the kids who were born into the legacy and will grow up to be members. 

PROS:

  • Emily is torn between the girl she feels compelled to be and the one she could become. Level-headed and determined, Emily is the quintessential good girl who never gets in trouble and has serious plans for the future. Emily’s dad’s side of the family, the MC side, is a dark blemish on Emily’s perfect image, one she tries to avoid at all costs. When Emily is forced to reconcile with that side, she grows exponentially. Emily discovers that everything she thought she knew was nothing compared to what it could be. Emily is feisty and moral. She likes to get her way and isn’t above manipulation. Emily’s sassy side is bold, fierce temptation. When Emily opens herself up to new experiences it’s exhilarating and hits with the force of epiphany.
  • Oz is HOT. Torn between a future he thinks is inevitable and passion for something that seems out of reach, Oz is idealistic and rational, he doesn’t dare to dream and limits his potential. A total sweetheart despite his rough exterior, harsh words, and brute force, Oz will sneak into your heart and take it hostage. 
  • Together, Oz and Emily are fire and ice, constantly at war with each other and made of sexual tension. 
  • The lies and secrets behind Emily’s mother’s past propel the plot forward. The reasons for leaving are cloudy and full of blatant danger. 
  • The energy picks up substantially towards the end of the book. Adrenaline-filled and action-packed, an unexpected twist will leave you slack-jawed and shocked. Did not see that coming.
  • Secondary characters are unique and memorable. Their subplots are interesting and complex. Nothing is what it seems on the surface. 

CONS:

  • The MC is more tame than I was expecting and kind of dull. When there’s so many expectations of how a MC should be, when it’s not, it rings false, even if it is the more accurate picture. Insight into the reality of the MC was muted, so much of the story was meant to be covered up to protect Emily that getting a clear picture was impossible. 
  • Scenes that should have been edge-of-your-seat, terrifying fell flat. The fear just wasn’t there.
  • The drama between Emily’s parents, the rival MC club, and territorial wars were built up so much that when the truth was finally revealed, it didn’t seem as bad as it was made out to be. 

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Pleasant reading,

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Review: We Were Liars-E. Lockhart

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cooltext1889161239 copyA beautiful and distinguished family.

A private island.

A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

cooltext1889171582 copy4/5 Stars

We Were Liars is a fragmented, dark mystery. Filled with broken memories and haunting clues, the suspense builds to a shocking crescendo. Everything is questionable and nothing is certain. Be prepared to reel. 

PROS:

  • Cadence suffers from debilitating migraines due to PTSD from an injury she has no memory of. E. Lockhart does a stellar job channeling the frustration, the helplessness, and the sense of loss that comes with this disorder. It’s hard to control and brutal in the way it takes over Cadence’s life. Cadence fights with everything she has to beat it and it’s a slow, agonizing uphill climb. 
  • The mystery is killer. It pushes and pulls, forcing you to piece together clues as quickly as Cadence, the need to solve the puzzle is addictive. 
  • There’s a small thread that deals with diversity and how upper class white families with old money regard people with dark skin. At first, this seems like a tiny plot point but it grows and festers, building into something much more. There’s an exploration that allows for the reader to come to their own conclusions. Where to place the blame and who the victims really are is up to the reader.
  • First love. Cadence’s wonder and romance are heartwarming. The way she views Gat as someone who can open her heart and make her a better person, who opens her eyes to the world is beautiful and sweet. 
  • THAT ENDING. Wow. 

CONS:

  • Some parts are lackadaisical and slow, they ooze pretension and lazy opulence. While it does fit with the overall story, the pacing makes it easy to lose interests at a few points. The random insertion of flashback and memories pushes the story through the slumps. 
  • Cadence’s entire identity is colored by her big name and nostalgia. Who she is as a person without the constant influence of the other Liars is unclear. It seemed that every time there was something unique or creative about her, it was leached from another character-the writing on her hands, her love of books, the need to give. I thirsted for more of the real Cadence, a Cadence that I could believe in and root for, instead it was more smoke, mirrors, and illusions to others. 

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Review: And We Stay-Jenny Hubbard

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cooltext1889161239 copySenior Paul Wagoner walks into his school with a stolen gun, he threatens his girlfriend, Emily Beam, and then takes his own life. Soon after, angry and guilt-ridden Emily is sent to a boarding school in Amherst, Massachusetts, where two quirky fellow students and the spirit of Emily Dickinson offer helping hands. But it is up to Emily Beam to heal her own damaged self, to find the good behind the bad, hope inside the despair, and springtime under the snow.

cooltext1889171582 copy3.5/5 Stars

Trigger Warning: Deals with heavy themes like abortion, suicide, and hostel situations.

And We Stay is an emotional journey into recovery and forgiveness that reads like an eulogy and bleeds out poetry. It’s raw, poignant, and heart-wrenching. The poetry is astounding and in some ways channels Emily Dickinson herself. 

PROS:

  • The poetry is timeless. It’s full of agony and inspiration, beauty and quiet tragedy, the death of the soul, reincarnation of self. Gripping, powerful, there are some that are simply written and thought-provoking and others that have so many components you could analyze and discover something new each time. 
  • Emily and Emily Dickinson are soul sisters. They parallel one another, in many ways they’re the same but diverge in leaps and bounds. There’s a particular scene that very well might have changed my life, as cliche as that sounds. When Emily sits in Emily Dickinson’s bedroom and stares at her desk. She evaluates her life, her choices, and what could have been different and she thinks about the fragility of life, the wounds we cause ourselves and those that come no matter what we do to save ourselves. This was my favorite: 
    • “So if she sits at a desk, scrawls words on paper, are the words as lonely as she, or do they sow seeds into a soul across time, across centuries? Was Emily Dickinson ever able to thread the words together in such a way that she was beyond the need for stitches?”
  • And We Stay deals with important and tragic themes like school shootings, suicide, depression, and abortion. The poems are dynamite. They compile all the emotions of these incidents in precise, short poems. They make you think and feel more so than the scenes of the events themselves. 

CONS:

  • I struggled with how to rate this book. In some ways, it was a five-star read, in others it was a solid three. The story, which is supplemented by the poetry, is moving but the way it’s presented lacked the emotional pull of the events themselves. The moments at Amherst were bland, dull, and forgettable. The secondary characters were average, expected, and didn’t hold your attention. They sort of flitted in and out like phantoms without substance. In some ways, the story would have been better had it only featured Emily and her kinship with Emily Dickinson. 
  • Emily doesn’t deal with her problems. Yes, she writes poetry and bleeds out into beautiful, hypnotizing words but it’s roundabout. The scenes with the shooting, at the abortion clinic, it’s like she numbed herself and brushed them off, as if to shrug and say, that’s the past no need to drudge it up. Her poetry says different. Emily is crying out, she wants to express her emotions but doesn’t have the courage yet. Through Emily Dickinson, Emily starts to accept that feeling, though painful, is a necessary evil, that it can be salvation. 

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Pleasant reading,

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