It Ends With Us

It is safe to say that I was not prepared for what Colleen Hoover would give me when I picked up this book.

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It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover
Published by Atria Books on August 2nd, 2016
Genres: Romance, Heartbreak, Motherhood, Identity, Friends, Trauma
Pages: 384
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barns&Noble

Final Review:  3.5 out of 5 ★★★☆☆


I am having a tough time rating this. On the one hand, I enjoyed it. Definitely worth the 4 stars, but I wasn’t IN LOVE WITH IT. But on the other hand, there were some definite over-cliched troupes involved and while I bawled (I’ll get to that later), I wasn’t fully satisfied. So maybe I’d actually rate this 3.75 out of 5? Can I do that?

Anyway, I do think Hoover was successful in some things. For starters, this is the first book that has made me cry–and I’m talking ugly cry, sobbing, maybe going to throw up it hurts so much type of crying–in a long ass time. I was thoroughly upset pretty much at the halfway point through the rest. So clearly, Hoover is excellent at building characters that you just cannot help but feel something for. I wasn’t even aware that I had latched on to Lily and was feeling personally victimized for her until it was already happening. In fact, I was worried I wouldn’t feel anything because it had been a while since I read a Nicolas Sparks-esque book and I thought there wouldn’t be much depth. Boy, was I wrong.

Lily is both a flat and a deep character at the same time. What I mean by this is she is exactly what you would expect of a woman in this type of novel; she is charming but also broken; she is working on making her own life better while running away from demons of her past. Her background is pretty self-explanatory and to be expected, and while I accept and agree with this, there is still something about her I can’t put my finger on that marks her as special. You really are rooting for her to win because maybe you see a little bit of yourself in her, perhaps not her whole story, but just a large-enough snippet that you feel yourself going through similar emotions and tribulations.

This is also what Hoover is successful at making her characters, setting, plot all seem real. For some reason, and I’ve only read a few, the Nicolas Sparks books seem to have a slight air of ridiculousness, not necessarily in a bad way, but in order to captivate the reader, there are a lot of poetic justices being made. I was expected some of the same in Hoover’s writing, and while some of it is there, for the most part, I felt like Lily could be my friend or next door neighbor, and I was almost witnessing her pain as a present bystander. Some of her development is a little silly: Lily Bloom being her full name is just too much, the fact that her first employee is not only a bored millionaire house-wife but also Ryle’s sister. These things are definitely over-the-top and fringing on ridiculous coincidences that I cannot actually see happening. But other than that, her life is touching: she is more caring than her parents combined, she is a child of an abusive home, she also finds herself in a similar situation to her mother–these things could and do happen.

Now for some spoilers so if you want to remain innocent, avert your eyes.

I think what is stopping me from giving this book a full 5 (or even a full 4 stars if we’re going with the 3.75 stars) is two things. The first: Lily’s pregnancy.

What can I say about this? First, I didn’t see it coming so bravo Hoover on that, but once it happened I realized “duh, of course this would happen. This is that type of book.” Which is fine! But I think that for a book that so far had been so empowering (standing up for yourself, the honest struggles of a physically abusive relationship, etc.) could have gone one step further and Lily could have had an abortion. She didn’t even think about it. When she finds out she’s pregnant with Ryle’s baby, she has already forced him out of her home for abusing her (go Lily!) and yet, it being near the end of 2016 when this book comes out, I would have thought–or at least liked to see–Lily have the serious conversation with herself about motherhood. I think even just discussing the option of an abortion already shows her being even more empowering–even if she decides against it. She finally gets her shit together enough to kick Ryle out, but there is no question about having his baby? She just accepts fate? That doesn’t seem so empowering anymore. Of course, I don’t know anything about Hoover and whether or not she is pro-choice, but I am and I want to see more of that displayed in these female-empowered books. If she really wants her readers–young women like myself who could or have been going through the same situations–present them with all the same options. Even if your character does not opt for the surgery, at least have her mention it as an idea. She lives in Boston! It’s not Utah.

Secondly, I wasn’t satisfied guys. Maybe that’s the point; as the onlooker I want Lily and Atlas to end up together and *spoiler* they kind of do. I’m saying “kind of” here because we don’t really know since the novel ends soon after they are reunited–again–after the birth of Lily and Ryle’s kid, but it all seems… rushed. After Lily has dropped over her child with Ryle, she runs back to meet Atlas who she has just passed on the street a second prior. They chat for a few seconds and then dive right into the tough questions (Does Atlas donate to charity and want kids?) and then they’re off. They finally get together and are awarded barely a page? I would have loved to see what happened in the epilogue happen in the last chapter, and then have the epilogue be a time jump to when we could actually see Atlas and Lily finally together, maybe they have a child together already and Ryle is happy and their daughter is happy. I get that this is probably for effect: it would be unlike her (at least to my understanding since this is the first book I’ve read by her) to tie everything up cleanly and nicely at the end. But can’t a girl dream?

“In the future…if by some miracle you ever find yourself in the position to fall in love again… fall in love with me.” (Atlas to Lily, 309)

Overall, if you are a fan of a book that makes you sob and want to throw it but that could also easily be read in a day, then go ahead and grab the tissues. I do have another Hoover book on my list, Without Merit, but I don’t think it’s going to be one I pick up right away. I need to wait these emotions out for a second.

 

Hunting Prince Dracula

I know I’m kind of late in the game, seeing as Escaping from Houdini is coming out this year (September, guys!), but I’m obsessed. I loved Stalking Jack the Ripper and this sequel is no exception.

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Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco
Published by Jimmy Patterson on September 19th, 2017
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance, Science, Death, Feministic, Thriller
Pages: 448
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barns&Noble

Final Review:  5 out of 5 ★★★★★


It’s strange, though, how weird and difficult it is to write a review for a sequel. I loved the first one, and I loved the second one, and I’m probably totally going to love the third too! So to not just rant about nothing, this “review” will probably be short and I’m going to discuss what I think makes Maniscalco’s stories so successful.

I’m hoping that since you’re here, you’ve either read the first one, or you’re lost. Either way, I will need to discuss some potential spoilers of the first novel. Audrey Rose and Thomas have successfully cracked the Jack the Ripper case, though it wounded Audrey Rose more than she is willing to admit, seeing as her brother was the serial murderer. Audrey Rose’s life has already been difficult: her father’s health is failing, her mother has already passed, and she’s too much of a modern woman for her time since Audrey Rose would rather be elbows deep in a cadaver than a tea party. When the first novel comes to a close, Audrey Rose and Thomas are invited to attend a prestigious science academy in Romania and here we begin the sequel.

First, how is Maniscalco’s writing so dreamy when talking about such macabre topics? I don’t really have an answer for this, or even a direct quote I’m thinking of, but just overall Maniscalco is extremely triumphant in this accomplishment. These two stories, Hunting Prince Dracula in particular since it is fresher in my mind, are a perfect combination of horror, thriller, romance, cheekiness, and excitement. They feature gruesomely beautiful scenes (I’m picturing here the ending which is way too important for me to spoil) filled with blood and gore, and yet Audrey Rose still shines. I want to stress that these scenes are perfectly balanced–they are not too creepy that suddenly this book is an actual horror tale, nor are they too bland that the reader does not get a full picture in their mind’s eye.

If romance wasn’t a distraction we could ill afford, I’d live in the rush of this moment for all eternity. (346)

Moving right along to probably the best part of the book, and it overlaps with the writing, is Thomas and Audrey Rose’s relationship. *Insert swoon here*. I cannot handle them; they are too cute. The best part is that Maniscalco does not sacrifice their love for the story. Generally, when two people finally get together at the end of the first book, something always happens to them in the sequel: someone leaves unexpectedly, they break up horribly, someone else is involved, etc. So I was expecting the same to happen between Thomas and Audrey Rose, but *slight spoiler I guess?* it doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong, there are some tumultuous times between the two, but this only shows their relationship as more real and the slow process it takes to open up and trust another person with your secrets and life.

His eyes fluttered shut, and the desire I’d seen in them was enough to undo me right there. I lifted my face, allowing the slightest, briefest contact between our lips. It was nothing more than a shadow of a kiss, but it ignited a fire throughout my body. (345)

I mean, seeerrrriiouuussllly, Maniscalco. It’s just not fair! We’re three-fourths of the way done with the book and here we finally have Thomas and Audrey Rose ALMOST, BARELY kissing. Don’t worry Audrey Rose, you two ignite a fire throughout my body too. Maniscalco has perfected here the patience one needs to sustain a true romance throughout a series. Unlike a novel where the main focus is romance and the two characters immediately date or begin other nefarious activities right in the second chapter, Maniscalco makes us wait, just as she is making Thomas wait for Audrey Rose. This series is definitely about their relationship, but it is not what it is solely about. In fact, even throughout their travels and secret meetings to almost kiss in the hallway, Maniscalco is still writing a feminist text. Audrey Rose should not be about to kiss Thomas secretly in the hallway, she shouldn’t even be at this academy, let alone in Romania. If it were up to society, she would be needle-pointing and hosting parties or, better yet, already married off. And while the setting is two hundred years earlier, the message still rings true as women in our 2018 still battle a patriarchal dominance. We are supposed to be doing things, according to society, and, like Audrey Rose, we are pushing against them constantly. And her relationship with Thomas is no exception; just because she has found (and I’d like to hope) the man of her dreams, does not mean she is giving up on her other ones, nor would Thomas let her:

“You are yours to give.” (422)

Overall? I loved this. Why wouldn’t I? Maniscalco is an excellent reminder and example of YA that actually gives something back to the reader, other than a wondrous experience. If you enjoyed Stalking Jack the Ripper, or even just kind of enjoyed it, definitely give this sequel a chance. I know that I am going to preorder Escaping from Houdini right now.