Posted in Book Reviews, Reading

Everland by Wendy Spinale

Everland by Wendy Spinale | Book Review

Title: Everland
Author: Wendy Spinale
Published: 
May 2016 by Scholastic Press
Genre: Young adult | Fantasy | Fairytale retelling
How I got the book: I downloaded it onto my Kindle

Summary:

The only way to grow up is to survive.

London has been destroyed in a blitz of bombs and disease. The only ones who have survived the destruction and the outbreak of a deadly virus are children, among them sixteen-year-old Gwen Darling and her younger siblings, Joanna and Mikey. They spend their nights scavenging and their days avoiding the deadly Marauders—the German army led by the cutthroat Captain Hanz Otto Oswald Kretschmer.

Unsure if the virus has spread past England’s borders but desperate to leave, Captain Hook is on the hunt for a cure, which he thinks can be found in one of the surviving children. He and his Marauders stalk the streets snatching children for experimentation. None ever return.

Until one day when they grab Joanna. Gwen will stop at nothing to get her sister back, but as she sets out, she crosses paths with a daredevil named Pete. Pete offers the assistance of his gang of Lost Boys and the fierce sharpshooter Bella, who have all been living in a city hidden underground. But in a place where help has a steep price and every promise is bound by blood, it might cost Gwen more than she bargained for. And are Gwen, Pete, the Lost Boys, and Bella enough to outsmart the ruthless Captain Hook?

My Review:

rp-first-thoughts

I love a good fairy tale retelling and Peter Pan is my favorite. So, naturally, I have to read all the Peter Pan retellings there are out there.

rp-plot

This was by far the most unique Peter Pan twist I’ve read. Instead of a lost girl or boy finding their way into Neverland, children are all around England orphaned from the war and a deadly disease that took their parents.

We go back and forth between Gwen’s first-person and Hook’s first-person. Gwen is trying to keep her younger brother and sister safe and they’re all trying to survive. Meanwhile, Hook wants his hands on the “cure” for the disease for the Queen who started the war in the first place.

When Gwen’s sister is taken by Hook’s crew, she comes across Pete and the Lost Boys. After a rough start, they decide to help one another out and go after Gwen’s sister and Hook.

This was certainly a different kind of plot than I’m used to reading, especially for a Peter Pan retelling. I enjoyed it though.

rp-characters

I didn’t fall in love with any of the characters. I found Gwen to be annoying at times. She flip-flopped a lot on her decisions and feeling. For a 15-year-old who has parented her younger siblings all the while trying to stay alive, I get why she was iffy at times. Still, there were times when I felt like she played the “I’m only 15” card and sometimes she seemed to play the “I’m older, therefore I’m in charge” card.

Pete was okay. He had a sad backstory, but there wasn’t much feeling behind it. Doc, one of the lost boys, explains Pete’s backstory to Gwen, but that’s about it. It’s just an explanation. Peter mentioned it once or twice to Gwen later on, but again, I couldn’t feel anything for it.

The supporting characters weren’t much better. I didn’t feel like I had enough time with any of them to really feel sorry or happy for them. Due to spoilers, I won’t say much, but I didn’t feel sorry for what happened to Jack or Pyro. I barely knew either one of them, so I didn’t care too much about what happened to them.

Overall, the characters didn’t really do it for me. And, to me, the characters are what makes a story.

rp-writing-style

The actual story was easy to read and to follow along. Each chapter alternated (for the most part) between Gwen and Hook. So, we knew his motives as well as hers.

Other than that, there wasn’t too much special about the writing. I thought it was pretty simple and straight-forward.

rp-overall

This book was just okay for me. The plot was interesting, but I don’t know if it worked well as a Peter Pan retelling. The characters were a little too bland for me. Also, there’s a quote in the book that’s in the original Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. It’s a wonderful quote, but for some reason that didn’t sit well with me. I feel like if the author wanted to add that in, she should have changed it a bit and made it more her own.

This is the first of a series. I may read the next book, but I don’t know if it would be anytime soon.

Everland by Wendy Spinale gets…
3 Stars 3 out of 5 stars

Favorite Quote:

“Oh, aren’t you cute? It’s absolutely… darling.” –Wendy Spinale, Everland

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Posted in Book Reviews, Reading

The Black Book by James Patterson

Title: The Black Book
Author: James Patterson
Published: 
March 2017 by Little, Brown and Company
Genre: Mystery
How I got the book: I borrowed it from my mom

Summary:

How can you prove your innocence when you can’t remember the crime?

Being a cop runs in Billy Harney’s family. The son of Chicago’s Chief of Detectives whose twin sister, Patty, also followed in their father’s footsteps, there’s nothing Billy won’t give up for the job, including his life. Left for dead alongside his tempestuous former partner and a hard-charging assistant district attorney out for blood, Billy miraculously survives. But he remembers nothing about the events leading up to the shootout. Charged with double murder and desperate to clear his name, Billy retraces his steps to get to the bottom of what happened. When he discovers the existence of a little black book that everyone who’s anyone in Chicago will stop at nothing to get their hands on, Billy suspects it contains the truth that will either set him free…or confirm his worst fears.

My Review:

rp-first-thoughts

James Patterson is a wonderful author, but I don’t read his books enough. My mom raved about this one so I decided to pick it up and give it a try myself.

rp-plot

Billy Harney, the protagonist, gets himself into a lot of trouble. He solves a crime with no true evidence and it’s because of that that people question him. Then he wakes up from a coma. He had been shot and was lucky to be alive. His partner, Kate, and the woman he was seeing, Amy, were not so lucky.

The thing is, Billy has no memory of what happened.

The only thing that can help Billy is finding a little black book that will reveal everything. That, and getting his memory back. He is now framed and accused of four murders, Kate and Amy included. While he can’t remember, he knows that he would never kill anyone.

This was a long and twisted plot, but pretty easy to follow along and it certainly kept my interest the whole time. Once you thought you and the characters had figured something out, something else would happen. It was suspenseful, real, and twisty.

rp-characters

I did enjoy all the characters. Billy, the protagonist, was my favorite. He seemed to be the only one who had most of his stuff together. He seemed to be the definition of a true cop, despite some cliches here and there (his wife and daughter had died).

All the other characters seemed to be in it for themselves, which made sense. They were all trying to protect themselves in the severity of the case. Kate was a cool character too, though she and Billy seemed to have a falling out towards the end which made me a little sad.

Patti, Billy’s twin sister, who is also a cop, was just an okay character for me. The book opens up with her and I thought she was going to be a protagonist as well, but she wasn’t really. She did have a few big parts, but other than that, she wasn’t in it too much.

rp-writing-style

I loved the way this book was written. It’s broken up into parts, the past and the present. Billy’s parts were told in first person, but he couldn’t remember the past. So we, as the readers, knew what had happened by reading the past, and then when we jumped back to the present, Billy was still trying to piece everything together.

It was a clever way of revealing everything, especially at the end when they all went to court. Everything started to come back to Billy and we learn the major climax through alternating between the past and present within the chapters.

It was clever, easy to follow along, and kept my attention.

rp-overall

This was a great read. If you’re into mysteries or suspenseful reads, this would definitely be a good one to pick up.

The Black Book by James Patterson gets…
5-Star Rating | Book Review 5 out of 5 stars

Favorite Quote:

“It’s easier to focus on someone else’s grief than cope with your own.” –James Patterson, The Black Book

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September 2017 Goals

September 2017 Goals for reading, writing, and blogging

Reading

Book reviews are going back to once a week on Saturdays, which means five book reviews for the month. One review has already been posted, so feel free to check that out.

For the rest of the month I plan on reading:

1. The Black Book by James Patterson
2. Be Light Like A Bird by Monika Schroder
3. Everland by Wendy Spinale
4. Stories On The Go by Hugh Howey

As always, these books are subject to change based on my mood. This is what I’m planning for now though.

Writing

There’s a lot that I want to do writing wise. I think I’m going to work on a little bit of everything because I don’t know which I should give the most attention. Basically, there’s a lot that I want to accomplish and I don’t really know where to start. So I’m just going to explore my options.

1. Edit George Florence – Yeah, I know.
2. Write short stories – Not necessarily for the blog, but for other things.
3. Write a short story with George and Lilah – I want to write a short mystery with these two. It’ll be something different and I want to give it a try.
4. Write for Now Loading – I joined a gaming website a while ago and have written a couple of articles for it, but I want to start writing articles regularly for it.
5. Work on my picture books – I have a couple of picture books written. Some need editing, but some are ready to be queried. Why haven’t I started that? I don’t know…
6. Figure out Wattpad – I’ve been wanting to post something on Wattpad for a while now, so I want to plan something for that.

I don’t plan on getting all of this done in one month, of course. I’m hoping to work on at least three of those, maybe finish at least one. It’s a lot, but I have a lot of ideas. So, we’ll see how it all goes.

Blogging

Blogging will be busy as usual. My posts for September are just about done for both blogs. So soon I’ll start planning October. In the meantime, I’m going to work on revamping this blog with new graphics and such.

If you want to keep up with that process, sign up for my newsletter to follow along.

Overall

September will be busy, but productive. I’ve created a routine for myself. Hopefully I stick with it and it works. I should be able to get most of my stuff accomplished. It will be interesting to say the least!

What does your September look like? Let me know in the comments below!

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Pancakes And Corpses by Agatha Frost

Pancakes and Corpses by Agatha Frost | Book Review

Title: Pancakes and Corpses
Author: Agatha Frost
Published: 
January 2017
Genre: Cozy Mystery
How I got the book: I downloaded it onto my Kindle

Summary:

Soon to be divorced Julia South never expected to be caught up in solving a murder, until she discovered the body of her cafe’s most awkward customer. With a new smug Detective Inspector in town who underestimates her every move, Julia makes it her mission to discover the real murderer, before her village friends are dragged into the frame, and more bodies are discovered.

My Review:

rp-first-thoughts

BookBub had emailed me saying that this book was free for the Kindle. I love mysteries and, since it was free, I figured I’d give it a shot.

rp-plot

Julia runs her own bakery in the small village of Peridale. She’s in the middle of divorce all the while trying to find someone to help work the bakery. She bakes to make herself feel better, to make the time pass. Overall, she’s doing pretty well for herself.

It’s not until her bakery receives a bad review from an anonymous person that her life turns upside down. She has an inkling of who the person is and when she goes to confront them, they’re dead.

As most of these stories go, the protagonist ends up solving the case with no criminal justice background whatsoever. Julia finds connection after connection until everything finally steps into place for her.

This book is the very definition of a cozy mystery. It’s riddled with cliches, but it’s still enjoyable.

rp-characters

The characters are really what makes a story for me. While I enjoyed all the characters written into this book, I didn’t get close to anyone. Not even Julia.

There were so many village people Julia talked to throughout her investigation and it turned into a big soap opera. It got hard to keep track after a little while.

Detective Inspector Barker Brown was an interesting character. He is, of course, the love interest. He just moved to the town and already has a big murder to solve. Despite this being “cozy,” I felt as though he was a bit unrealistic as a detective. Julia figured everything out before him (and reported to him) which made him a bit incompetent.

rp-writing-style

This book is a tad over 200 pages. It’s short and sweet but also goes by pretty fast. Julia was figuring things out that didn’t seem obvious leaving me no chance to figure out the mystery myself.

Still, the writing was well done. Other than being a bit rushed, it did flow well and everything made sense in the end.

rp-overall

This wasn’t my favorite mystery, but I think I’ll be checking out the other books in the series. It was a fun, quick read if anything else.

Pancakes and Corpses by Agatha Frost gets…
4 stars book review 4 out of 5 stars

Favorite Quote:

“Just because she’s dead, it doesn’t mean she’s suddenly a saint.” –Agatha Frost, Pancakes and Corpses

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August 2017 Wrap Up

August 2017 reading, writing, and blogging wrap up

Reading

I actually read a good amount of books this month. It’s weird because this time last year I was ahead in my reading and now I’ve been finishing my books right up until their review date. But I’m still reading and enjoying the books, so that’s something.

I read and reviewed nine books this month, which you can check out on my Reading List.

Writing

What did I write this month? Not much. The most creative thing I did this month was my interactive Short Story Sunday. Thank you to everyone who read, voted, and enjoyed the story! It meant a lot to me and it was fun to try something different. I’m sure I’ll be doing more of that in the future.

However, even though I didn’t “write” much I made a plan for myself and organized all my writing stuff. I have so many story ideas floating around in my head and also jammed into my filing cabinet that I need to prioritize what to work on first.

There will be more on that later, but I think I have a plan.

Blogging

I was more focused on my blog this month than I was with my writing, which has been the trend lately. If you follow my newsletter, you’ll know that I’m in the works of reworking my blog. I’m giving it a complete makeover.

Starting next month, I’ll be giving updates about the process and sneak peeks. If that’s something that you’d like to see, please consider signing up for the newsletter. It’s easy and free!

Also, my biggest accomplishment this month was being on a podcast! A huge thanks to Annette for giving me the opportunity to talk about my writing and tell my story on The Magic Happens. The episodes are in alphabetical order, so you have to scroll down to find “Poli,” but please give it a listen if you haven’t already. It’d mean a lot to me. And please be sure to check out Annette’s blog as well!

Overall

August was a month of planning and prepping and trying to get my crap in order. There’s so much that I want to do and not nearly enough hours in the day, resources at my fingertips, or money in the wallet. So, I had to come up with a plan.

I’ve been following it slightly the past two weeks, but it won’t officially start until September. I thought summer would be easy, but no one is in a routine and social obligations get in the way. Once everyone is officially back at school and work, I can officially get back to my work.

Posts to Remember

1. How To Use The 5 Senses In Creative Writing
2. Time To Write: Sentence Starter
3. What Is Descriptive Writing?

How did August treat you? Let me know in the comments below!

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The Hidden Staircase by Carolyn Keene

Title: The Hidden Staircase (Nancy Drew #2)
Author: Carolyn Keene
Published:
1959 by Grosset and Dunlap
Genre: Young adult mystery
How I got the book: It was being donated and I took it

Summary:

Nancy resolves to help Helen Corning’s relatives solve the mystery of the ghost haunting their old mansion. A mysterious man appears at the Drew home to warn Nancy that her father, Carson Drew is in danger. This warning prompts a search for the missing Willie Wharton, a land owner, who can prove he signed away his land to the railroad and save the railroad from a lawsuit. Meanwhile, the disappearance of Mr. Drew, thefts and mysterious goings on at Twin Elms, and the discovery of a hidden staircase lead Nancy to solve these baffling mysteries.

My Review:

rp-first-thoughts

This second mystery was back-to-back the first one. I enjoyed the first one, so I figured I’d read this second one right away.

 

rp-plot

Nancy’s father, a lawyer, is kidnapped due to real estate issues about the railroad. Meanwhile, there’s a ghost inside a mansion that Nancy has to get rid of.

I found this plot to be a lot more in depth and suspenseful than the first book and I enjoyed it more. Nancy stays at the haunted mansion to figure out the “ghost” in the house all the while trying to find her father and solve that mystery.

Between the two mysteries, the plot moved along nicely and kept my attention.

rp-characters

With the help of Helen, Nancy explores the haunted mansion which is inhabited by Miss Flora and Aunt Rosemary. The four of them wander the house and investigate any happenings. They were all a great help to Nancy and I enjoyed following the four of them on the investigation together.

There weren’t too many other characters involved up until the very end as Nancy got closer to the truth, but I enjoyed the four main girls.

rp-writing-style

As a children’s story, the writing is pretty simple. The POV breaks a couple of times and there’s a lot of inner monologue from Nancy in which she states the obvious a lot.

Still, it’s easy to read and it’s relaxing in a way because even though you’re trying to help solve the case, you don’t have to think too much.

rp-overall

This was a fun read. It’s a nice, simple mystery with a few twists here and there.

The Hidden Staircase by Carolyn Keene gets…
4 stars book review4 out of 5 stars

Favorite Quote:

“It sounded as if Helen had picked the squeakiest spot on each step!” –Carolyn Keene, The Hidden Staircase

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The Secret Of The Old Clock (Nancy Drew 1) by Carolyn Keene

Title: The Secret of the Old Clock
Author: Carolyn Keene
Published:
1987 by Grosset and Dunlap
Genre: Young adult mystery
How I got the book: The book got donated and I took it

Summary:

Nancy, unaided, seeks to find a missing will, and the search not only tests her keen mind but also leads her into a thrilling adventure.

My Review:

rp-first-thoughts

Nancy Drew was a big thing went I was younger. Did I hop on that train? No. So, when my dad brought home some books from his work that they were getting rid of, I picked out this Nancy Drew story and thought I’d give it a read.

rp-plot

Nancy Drew is an 18-year-old young lady whose father is a lawyer. She by no means is an actual detective, but she certainly acts like it and actually gets the job done.

When a man named Josiah Crowley passes away, Nancy meets all sorts of people who were supposed to get money from his will, people who actually need the money. But of course, the only will that came to light was a will that gave one snobby family everything.

Nancy knows there’s a second will out there, an updated one, and goes on the hunt to find it. At the same time, she stops a band of robbers.

It’s a simple plot, but it worked. It certainly isn’t a “hardcore” mystery and there’s no murder involved. I honestly think this is the first mystery I’ve read without murder being involved. It was a simple search, almost like a race against time, and it was refreshing to read.

rp-characters

Honestly, Nancy wasn’t who I thought she’d be. She was a great character, especially as a protagonist, but there were definitely times I thought she was younger than 18. Still, I enjoyed reading in her voice.

Her father was an awesome character as well. He was kind and supported Nancy in anything she did all the while doing his job and helping other people.

There were various other characters in the book that all had a purpose and kept the story going. It was well done.

rp-writing-style

This is a short book being 180 pages. And, while it’s classified as young adult, I see it more as middle grade. There was a lot of inner monologue for Nancy, yet the third-person limited was broken a couple of times.

Still, it was an easy read. There were a handful of illustrations throughout the story and even though they were simple, they were fun to look at.

rp-overall

This was a fun read. I can’t believe I missed out on reading Nancy Drew as a kid, but I’m sure I’ll be reading the rest of the series in time.

The Secret of the Old Clock (Nancy Drew 1) by Carolyn Keene gets…
4 stars book review 4 out of 5 stars

Favorite Quote:

“I promise to be as careful as a pussycat walking up a slippery roof.” –Carolyn Keene, The Secret of the Old Clock

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Posted in Life, Reading

I Organized My Books… Again

I did it again. I organized my bookshelves.

And when I say I organized them, I mean I was too tired to alphabetize them or put them in rainbow order or anything fancy like that. No, I just went through my books and got rid of some.

Yes, I’m getting rid of some books.

I know a lot of people think it’s a sin to give away books. And honestly, I don’t like to give away books. If only because I want a library in my future home as big as my local library. Still, there are so many books of mine that just collect dust that I’ve never read before.

I took all my books off my shelves (six shelves total between two bookcases). There were plenty of books that I have read before I said to myself, “I’m keeping that,” and immediately put it back onto my shelf.

There were a few books that I had to think about. For example, a few of them I read when I was very young. Would I enjoy them now? Probably not. But I kept them for nostalgic reasons and I’m sure, if I read them again down the road, I’ll still appreciate them anyway.

There were a handful of books that I didn’t enjoy, but I kept them anyway. I like to keep books I don’t particularly care for a few reasons. One, someone I know might enjoy it down the road. Two, if I ever re-read it I might find a new appreciation for it. And three, as a writer, I think it’s good to keep books you like and don’t like. It’s a reminder, in a way, and you learn how you want to write your own stories.

Pretty much all the books I gave away were books I bought years and years ago and never read. Reading the summaries now, I know I most likely will never read them. I’ve held onto them for so long saying that I’ll get to it and never do. Instead of them collecting dust, I’ll donate them to my thrift store or library and other people can put them to good use and enjoy them.

It’s always a good feeling to go through your books. You find a lot that you forgot about.

How often do you go through your books? Do you tend to keep every single one of them? Let me know in the comments below!

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Jozi Flash by South African Writers

Jozi Flash: a Flash Fiction Anthology written by South African writers

Title: Jozi Flash
Authors: Candice Burger, Carin Marais, Nthato Morakabi, Sharon Parkinson, Nicholette Stephens
Published: 
March 2016 by Chasing Dreams Publishing
Genre: Flash fiction
How I got the book: I downloaded it for free when it first came out

Summary:

There are no zombie-dalek-rainbow-unicorns in this anthology. Not for lack of trying – they just wouldn’t play nicely with the other characters.

Instead you’ll find a genie with a unique wish, a border post between worlds, a light romance, an alien recorder and a very special chair, amongst others.

This is what you get when you challenge five talented South African writers with a series of prompts and strict word limits: Jozi Flash – an anthology of 29 bite-sized stories with a huge amount of heart.

As unique as the narrators, these tales range from the macabre to heart warming in fewer words than it took to write this blurb.

The zombie-dalek-rainbow-unicorns ate the rest.

My Review:

rp-first-thoughts

When I saw that my good friend Nthato was publishing an anthology with a few fellow writers, I knew I had to read this.

Because this is an anthology of flash fiction, this isn’t going to be a typical review.

 

rp-writing-style

Jozi Flash is a flash fiction anthology. This 50-page book holds 29 flash fiction stories created by five South African writers. It’s a quick and easy read, and also refreshing. There’s a lot of good writing jam-packed into this small space.

Each flash was written with careful thought and clever words. Some stories had happy, satisfying endings and others didn’t. A few had surprise endings. It amazed me how these stories were wrapped up so well, especially since they contained such few words.

rp-overall

I enjoyed reading the various writing styles of different writers, even if it was for just a short amount of time. I highly recommend giving this a read. My only complaint is that I wish there were more.

Jozi Flash by South African Writers gets…
5-Star Rating | Book Review 5 out of 5 stars

Favorite Quote:

“She laughs while I wonder how I know what dancing is if I am only a mannequin.” –Carin Marais, Jozi Flash

Buy the book:

You can download the book for free through Nthato’s website here: Jozi Flash

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Unbelievable by Sara Shepard

Unbelievable by Sara Shepard

Title: Unbelievable
Author: Sara Shepard
Published: 
June 2008 by HarperTeen
Genre: Young Adult
How I got the book: I bought it

Summary:

Four pretty little liars’ charmed lives have turned into living nightmares. Emily’s been shipped off to Iowa to live with her überconservative cousins. Aria’s boyfriend is behind bars—because of her. Spencer’s afraid she was involved in Ali’s murder. But Hanna’s fate is far worse: She’s clinging to life in the hospital because she knew too much. These liars have tried to keep their scandals secret, but the truth is about to rock their pretty little world!

My Review:

rp-first-thoughts

While I like this series enough, I have to be honest… I wasn’t getting my hopes up for this one considering how the previous three books went for me.

rp-plot

Unbelievable is book four in the Pretty Little Liars series. It’s the last book in the first arc of the series, which means we find out who A is at the end.

The book begins with right where we left off at the end of book three, Perfect. The four main characters, Aria, Emily, Spencer, and Hanna, come together now that Hanna is in a coma thanks to A from hitting her with a car. After three whole books, the girls finally begin to get somewhat close again.

Tensions rise as the four girls continue to deal with their own problems all the while trying to figure out who A is and why this person wants to hurt them.

As Hanna pieces it all together towards the end, they figure out who A is. The first arc of the series comes to a, surprisingly, climactic ending.

rp-characters

Spencer continues to deal with the plagiarism of her stealing her sister’s essay that ends up submitted into a prestigious contest all the while suspecting her sister for murder.

Emily tries to find acceptance within her family as she too tries to accept herself for being gay as she dates Maya, but gains a crush on another girl.

Aria tries to get her family back together now that her parents have split and her father is dating another woman all the while getting through her art class with their arch enemy, Jenna.And Hanna attempts to regain her memory after she wakes up from her coma.

And Hanna attempts to regain her memory after she wakes up from her coma because, before A hit her with a car, Hanna had figured out who A was.

A lot more happens with the girls in this book than the previous books. It kept me on my toes and wanting to read more.

rp-writing-style

The writing is no different in this novel than it was in the previous three books. We still follow each girl individually in the third person for each alternating chapter. And, for some reason, I felt as though this book was written more “adult-like” than the casual “high school drama.” I definitely enjoyed that more.

rp-overall

As I said before, I wasn’t getting my hopes up for this one as per the trend of the series. However, being the “ending” to the first arc of the series, Shepard really delivered. It was a nice wrap-up allowing some questions to remain.

Unbelievable by Sara Shepard gets…
4 stars book review 4 out of 5 stars

Favorite Quote:

“It’s more fun to think of the future than dwell on the past.” -Sara Shepard, Unbelievable

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