Tag Archive | Books

Review: Alice

Title: Alice

Author: Christina Henry

Date of Publication: August 4th, 2015

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Goodreads Summary:

In a warren of crumbling buildings and desperate people called the Old City, there stands a hospital with cinderblock walls which echo the screams of the poor souls inside.

In the hospital, there is a woman. Her hair, once blond, hangs in tangles down her back. She doesn’t remember why she’s in such a terrible place. Just a tea party long ago, and long ears, and blood…

Then, one night, a fire at the hospital gives the woman a chance to escape, tumbling out of the hole that imprisoned her, leaving her free to uncover the truth about what happened to her all those years ago.

Only something else has escaped with her. Something dark. Something powerful.

And to find the truth, she will have to track this beast to the very heart of the Old City, where the rabbit waits for his Alice.

My Review:

Right off the bat, this was my perfect bloody fairy tale! I wasn’t sure what to expect from this, and honestly, I’ve seen the cover for years and didn’t know what the heck was going on there! But man, oh man, I should have read this sooner!

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This was pretty cool because it felt dystopianish but with magic and horror and a smidge of romance. I loved Alice so much—she was easy to connect with, and she was such a good MC. She helped, she killed, she protected, and she had a good heart. Hatch, my little murderious fiend, oh how my heart beats just for you. He was fierce and he was good, even though he wielded that axe like there was no tomorrow!

Overall, this is the type of horror book that I need more of. The writing and world were so well thought out, and I’m very much intrigued to see what will happen in book 2!

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What’s your favorite Alice in Wonderland retelling?

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Review: Unmade

Title: Unmade

Author: Sarah Rees Brennan

Date of Publication: September 22nd, 2015

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Goodreads Summary:

Powerful love comes with a price. Who will be the sacrifice?

Kami has lost the boy she loves, is tied to a boy she does not, and faces an enemy more powerful than ever before. With Jared missing for months and presumed dead, Kami must rely on her new magical link with Ash for the strength to face the evil spreading through her town.

Rob Lynburn is now the master of Sorry-in-the-Vale, and he demands a death. Kami will use every tool at her disposal to stop him. Together with Rusty, Angela, and Holly, she uncovers a secret that might be the key to saving the town. But with knowledge comes responsibility—and a painful choice. A choice that will risk not only Kami’s life, but also the lives of those she loves most.

My Review:

This final installment was so much fun! Magic, sorcery, romance, friendship, and tons of humor and emotion!

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Kami has been the perfect sort of main character—she’s funny, wrong about things, right about things, but truly grew as a character. Who I need to give a huge clap for is Jared because his growth was immaculate! And Rusty had to have been my favorite side character in this series—I loved him so much!

Without giving spoilers away, I highly recommend this series for an adventure full of fun and magic. Also, the dialogue by the author is seriously so good!

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Have you read this series?

YA Scavenger Hunt: Team Red

YA Scavenger Hunt

Welcome to YA Scavenger Hunt! This bi-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors…and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize–one lucky winner will receive one book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 72 hours!

Red Team

Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are Five contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the RED TEAM–but there is also a blue team, a green team, a gold team, and a purple team, for a chance to win a whole different set of books!

If you’d like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.

SCAVENGER HUNT PUZZLE
 
Directions: Below, you’ll notice that I’ve listed my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the RED TEAM, and then add them up (don’t worry, you can use a calculator!).
 
Entry Form: Once you’ve added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.
Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by April 7th, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.
SCAVENGER HUNT POST
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Today, I am hosting T.A. MACLAGAN on my website for the YA Scavenger Hunt!
T.A. Maclagan is a born and bred Kansas girl. With a bachelor’s degree in biology and a Ph.D. in anthropology, she’s studied poison dart frogs in the rainforests of Costa Rica, howler monkeys in Panama and the very exotic and always elusive American farmer. It was as she was writing her ‘just the facts’ dissertation that T.A. felt the call to pursue something more imaginative and discovered a passion for creative writing.
 
Find out more information by checking out the author website or find more about the author’s book here!
EXCLUSIVE CONTENT
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“An intricate, debut spy thriller…readers will keep turning pages, and the surprise ending will have them anxiously awaiting a sequel.” ―Booklist 
 
“…the intersection of action, espionage, and drama makes for solid…entertainment: readers will gladly sit back and watch Alexandra navigate the obstacle course that comes with playing her role too well. It’s a strong debut for New Zealand author Maclagan.” ―Publisher’s Weekly
Alexandra Gastone has a simple plan: graduate high school, get into Princeton, work for the CIA, and serve her great nation. She was told the plan back when her name was Milena Rokva, back before the real Alexandra and her family were killed in a car crash. Milena was trained to be a sleeper agent by Perun, a clandestine organization from her true homeland of Olissa. There, Milena learned everything she needed to infiltrate the life of CIA analyst Albert Gastone, Alexandra’s grandfather, and the ranks of America’s top intelligence agency.

For seven years, “Alexandra” has been on standby and life’s been good. Grandpa Albert loves her, and her strategically chosen boyfriend, Grant, is amazing. But things are about to change. Perun no longer needs her at the CIA in five years’ time. They need her active now.

**In honor of YASH, ALEXANDRA GASTONE IS FREE on Amazon from April 2 to April 6**

Exclusive Content:

 

Prologue

Seven Years Ago

I stared at the video screen. At the girl with my eyes—one blue and one gray/green. I’d seen this video hundreds of times so I knew it by heart. It was of Alexandra Gastone walking home from school with a friend. I knew every laugh, smile and eye-roll. I knew when she would play with the locket around her neck and when she would swipe a piece of hair behind her ear, twisting it at the end of the motion. I swiped my own newly shorn hair behind my ear, once, twice, three times, always taking care to twist at the end. The action felt natural now. After months of watching the video it was ingrained. I smiled into the mirror at my side. Alexandra’s smile was crooked and mine now echoed hers, the left-side dipping down. I had to strain to keep the smile in place. Seeing a face in the mirror that was not my own jarred me every time. I let the smile fade and brought a hand up to trace my new jaw, studying the stronger angle. I ran a finger down my new nose. It was smaller now and more refined. The changes might have made me prettier, but I missed my old face. A part of me had been stolen.

I jerked as a cold hand came to rest on my shoulder.

“What is your name?” asked Mistress.

“Alexandra Gastone,” I replied, dropping my voice to match Alexandra’s deeper alto.

“What is your age? Who were your parents? Where are you from?”

Unlike many kids who liked to mumble, Alexandra spoke with great elocution, the movements of her mouth a lip reader’s dream. “I’m eleven years old,” I said, molding my mouth to each word.  At Compound Perun, Oline, my native language, had been forbidden within a few months of my arrival. I now spoke with a perfect American accent.  “My parents were Gregory and Tabitha Gastone. I live in Topeka, Kansas.”

“Who is your guardian?”

The video screen before me went black for a second and then a different face appeared. It was a new video I hadn’t seen although I recognized the silver hair, weathered face, and intelligent blue eyes. I glanced at my friend Varos who was controlling the feed. He offered me a smile, his chubby face pinched. I could tell that Varos was equally as nervous. I wasn’t the only one about to embark on a new assignment.

“My grandfather, Albert Gastone,” I said, turning back to the video. Back to the man whose life I was about to infiltrate.

“Where does Gastone work? What are his hobbies?”

“He works at the CIA. He’s one of the CIA’s public liaisons and is an analyst specializing in the Southern Caucasus. Albert likes to read, travel, and play strategic games like Chess. He has a gun collection.”

“When was the last time you saw your grandfather?”

“I was five years old. He was at my birthday party and gave me a chess set.”

Mistress squeezed my shoulder. I stifled a shiver as she kissed the top of my head. “Very good, my little silver fox,” said Mistress, bringing her icy hands to my cheeks. She turned me to the mirror, her face coming to within millimeters of my own. I could feel the wetness of her breath, smell the vodka. My skin crawled, but I remained still. We gazed at the mirror’s reflection. “You must think strategically at all times. Gastone has lived alone for years. It may be hard for him to accept you. Show an interest in his hobbies and do not disturb his quiet lifestyle. Position yourself as a protégé. Outside of your life with Gastone, you are to assess the strategic value of all those you meet. Befriend those of worth and discard the rest.”

“Yes, Mistress.”

“Milena Rokva is dead. You are now Alexandra Gastone. Remember that, every second of every day. Albert Gastone may not have seen Alexandra in years but he will inherit all the photos and videos that have ever been taken of her.”

I studied Mistress’s cold blue eyes. They were daring me to prove myself. I smiled Alexandra’s crooked smile. From deep within I pulled out a laugh, letting my breath catch almost immediately on it as Alexandra always did, as if shocked by her own amusement.     “I’m Alexandra Gastone, the girl next door. I like to play soccer, swim and read. I like school and my favorite subject is math.” I brushed my hair behind my ear, twisting it at the end of the motion. “I have a crush on a boy named Peter.”

Mistress nodded at me while flicking a hand toward Varos. In response, new images flooded the screen. They were a visual torrent, a deluge to which I’d become well accustomed. The American flag, mansions, fancy cars, fat people living fat lives, money, money, money…the inundation continued driving deep into my psyche… American soldiers in Olissa, their tanks on our streets, their army base on our land. The images flew by…a reel of horrors…and then… without warning, they stopped. The image that remained would echo in my bones, forever and always. My mother—dead, a shot to the head.

In the photo, she lies on ground muddy with blood and I’m next to her, streaked in crimson, hugging a body that life left long ago. My eyes are hollow. Haunted.

I can feel it rush back to me, the crack of the gun, the sound of my mother’s body dropping, the warmth of her life seeping away as night fell. One bullet, less than a second, and everything changed. I was broken and she was gone. A week later, I was at Perun.

The image was a knife carving my insides, but I couldn’t look away. It slowly began to dissolve into the next slide, and I wished the memory of that day would fade as easily. A map of Olissa replaced the shattering photo of my mother.

A small country of ten million, Olissa had suffered centuries of oppression because it was nestled in between world titans. On the animated screen, the great country of Olissa began to shrink as it was devoured by powerful neighbors.  The video said it all. I served so that Olissa would not disappear. So that it would not be forgotten. Entranced, I actually flinched when the image vanished, replaced again by the picture of Albert Gastone.

I glanced at Mistress.

“A reminder,” said Mistress. “Of why you serve. What you are about to do won’t be without its trials. Everyday you must remember why you do this. Why you fight. It is for Olissa and her people.”

“I will remember. For Olissa. Always.”

For my mother. Always.

Mistress kissed my cheek and stepped away. “Very good. Now it’s time to prepare you for the accident.”

Despite my anxiety, I wanted to laugh at Mistress’s words. They sounded so casual. Like I was simply going to take a bath or pack a bag. I wanted, with all my heart, to serve and honor my mother, but was still frozen with fear. I’d only just healed from the plastic surgery and now there would be far more pain. I had to look like a girl who barely survived a car crash. Two men waited outside the door for Mistress’s orders. Trying to see past the pain that was looming, I glanced at the video screen and the man named Albert who would soon believe he was my grandfather. He looked like a good man. His face was gentle and his smile warm. I wondered briefly if he would come to love me, but then pushed the idea from my thoughts. His love didn’t matter, only his name. It was a name that would get me into a good college and then into the CIA, the very agency where he worked. One day, I would be positioned to pass strategic intel back to Perun.

Varos stood and cleared his throat, drawing our attention. “May I have a word in private with—” Varos looked to me. “With Alexandra. As I am her handler, I have a few final things to discuss.”

“Of course,” said Mistress, her words of agreement not matching the scowl on her face. Mistress liked Varos as much as she liked me, which was to say not at all. Seven years my senior, Varos was a chubby asthmatic. Mistress despised physical weakness and given the opportunity, would have loved to crush Varos into shape or watch him perish in the attempt. Fortunately for Varos, he was exceedingly smart and had high-ranking parents within the movement. Because of this, he was groomed for an advisory role at Perun instead of an operative position and was kept out of Mistress’s clutches. Only eighteen years old, he was about to become the youngest handler and operations leader in the field.

Mistress turned to me before leaving, “For the blood of the fallen, for the blood of the living. For Olissa we fight.”

I stood, bringing my hand up in a salute. “For Olissa we fight.”

Mistress left without further word, her hard-soled boots tapping out a steady rhythm on the floor.

I turned to Varos as he began to walk over and our eyes locked. I could feel myself shaking and was trying to regain control. All I wanted to do was race across the room and throw myself into his arms for one last moment of comfort, but I made myself stay rooted in place. I thought of Varos as my friend and would have once shared my fears with him. Now that he was my handler, however, that relationship had to end. Varos had told me so himself. He would have to keep his distance in order to remain objective about my performance.

Varos reached me after what seemed an eternity, time moving slowly but also coming too quickly. Behind the door, a beating awaited. I ran my fingers over the bell-shaped burn on my wrist—one of Mistress’s punishments. At Perun, I was no stranger to pain, but I knew those instances were nothing compared to what was only moments away.

Varos put a hand on my shoulder. Unlike Mistress’s, his hand was warm. Inviting. He pulled me to him and wrapped me in a hug. I felt a surge of relief that he could be my friend for just a few more seconds. “Albert Gastone is a kind man, Little O,” said Varos, using my nickname. “And I’ll be there to guide you. You were made for this. You have all the skills you’ll need.”

The door hinges whined as two of Perun’s enforcers entered the room—Negar and Raykom. Raykom had been one of my Sambo instructors, Negar weaponry. They carried several props with them to aid in their work—straps, a glass window, a two-by-four. My injuries needed to mirror those of a car accident. There were no shortcuts.

Varos pulled away after kissing my forehead.  “For Olissa we fight. For your mother,” he said, offering his own salute.

Unable to speak or coordinate my actions, I only nodded in response. The pain was for a greater cause and because of that I would bear it with pride and dignity. I would do anything for the cause and for my country. It was an honor. Varos smiled weakly. “See you on the other side, Little O.”

I watched each step Varos took in leaving the room. Fifteen in all.

It took Raykom ten steps to reach me. Negar only eight.

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And don’t forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of books by me, Candace Robinson, and more! To enter, you need to know that my favorite number is 13. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the RED TEAM and you’ll have all the secret code to enter for the grand prize!

CONTINUE THE HUNT
To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next author! AUSTIN ASLAN
Note: some authors will offer an additional, individual giveaway. If you want to do this, please feel free to do so.
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Are you joining in on YASH today to try and win the giveaway?

Review: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Title: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Author: Fred Rogers

Date of Publication: March 19th, 2019

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Goodreads Summary:

For the first time ever, the beloved songs from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood are collected here in a charmingly-illustrated treasury, sure to be cherished by adults who grew up with Mister Rogers, and a new generation of children alike.

Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood had a revolutionary impact on children’s television, and on millions of children themselves. Through songs, puppets, and frank conversations, Mister Rogers instilled the values of kindness, patience, and self-esteem in his viewers, and most of all, taught children how loved they were, just by being themselves. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhoodreimagines the songs from the show as poetry, ranging from the iconic (“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”) to the forgotten gems. The poem are funny, sweet, silly, and sincere, dealing with topics of difficult feelings, new siblings, everyday routines, imagination, and more. Perfect for bedtime, sing-along, or quiet time, this book of nostalgic and meaningful poetry is the perfect gift for every child–including the child in all of us. 

My Review:

Literally one of the greatest human beings to have ever existed! I grew up with the television show and hearing Mr. Rogers speak, and he was always so genuine. He was also so amazing with adding diversity to his shows and the world!

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I loved these poems! They were so incredibly encouraging not only for children but adults. It’s okay to feel sad sometimes and it’s okay to feel happy too because that’s what makes us human. Some of the poems showed love about being different, about loving yourself, about being yourself—so much encouragement.

Not only were the poems great but the illustration matched really well! Overall this is a must read from a man who wasn’t a social media giant but spread his word through love and stories!

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Did you grow up watching Mr. Rogers?

Review: Call it What you Want

Title: Call it What you Want

Author: Brigid Kemmerer

Date of Publication: June 25th, 2019

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Goodreads Summary:

When his dad is caught embezzling funds from half the town, Rob goes from popular lacrosse player to social pariah. Even worse, his father’s failed suicide attempt leaves Rob and his mother responsible for his care.

Everyone thinks of Maegan as a typical overachiever, but she has a secret of her own after the pressure got to her last year. And when her sister comes home from college pregnant, keeping it from her parents might be more than she can handle.

When Rob and Maegan are paired together for a calculus project, they’re both reluctant to let anyone through the walls they’ve built. But when Maegan learns of Rob’s plan to fix the damage caused by his father, it could ruin more than their fragile new friendship…

This captivating, heartfelt novel asks the question: Is it okay to do something wrong for the right reasons?

My Review:

I’ve only read A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer, but I think I’m starting to become a fan! I also saw her speak at a pannel and she seriously seems like such a funny and an incredibly down-to-earth person!

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Two character POVs. First we get Maegan, who I will admit I was frustrated with at times, but I genuinely did get the way she thought. She was brought up by a cop with a sister who was good at everything, of course the pressure would be on. But now we get to my baby boy, Rob! Dear stars, I felt so bad for this boy. And I seriously loved him with all my crooked heart! He went through so much and I honestly got the choices and decisions he made. Nothing in books and real life is black and white. EVER! And I think the world needs to think about that sometimes.

This book made me really think about the gray lines and the characters actions. I would think one way, but then think from the other angle. There was just so much in this book, emotion, swoon, friendship, enemies, forgiveness, beautifulness! I’m actually going to have to go backward and read some more of Kemmerer’s books because I can’t get enough!

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Have you read any books by Brigid Kemmerer?

Review: Untold

Title: Untold

Author: Sarah Rees Brennan

Date of Publication: August 29th, 2013

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Goodreads Summary:

It’s time to choose sides…. 

On the surface, Sorry-in-the-Vale is a sleepy English town. But Kami Glass knows the truth. Sorry-in-the-Vale is full of magic. In the old days, the Lynburn family ruled with fear, terrifying the people into submission in order to kill for blood and power. Now the Lynburns are back, and Rob Lynburn is gathering sorcerers so that the town can return to the old ways.

But Rob and his followers aren’t the only sorcerers in town. A decision must be made: pay the blood sacrifice, or fight. For Kami, this means more than just choosing between good and evil. With her link to Jared Lynburn severed, she’s now free to love anyone she chooses. But who should that be?

A darkly humorous take on Gothic romance, Sarah Rees Brennan’s Lynburn Legacy weaves together the tale of a heroine desperate to protect those she loves, two boys hoping to be saved, and the magical forces that will shape their destiny.

My Review:

After that intense ending to book one, I had to dive right back into this world and see what the heck was going to happen! The sorcerer concept is really cool along with the Gothicky vibe which is my favorite!

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Oh my, I wanted to shake Kami and Jared so many times! But no matter how many shakes I wanted to give them, I loved them so much. Kami just has the coolest and quirkiest personality while Jared is a bit harder but when humorous things slip out of his mouth, I’m like, yes!

Rob is still a douchebag, trying to do douchey things. So Kami and her friends have to gather themselves to figure out how to stop this looney idiot! There was so much humor, magic, swoon, friendship, and emotion in this one! This author literally has the best witty dialogue I’ve ever read! Can’t wait to start the last book!

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What is your favorite Gothic novel?

Review: A Very Large Expanse of Sea

Title: A Very Large Expanse of Sea

Author: Tahereh Mafi

Date of Publication: October 16th, 2018

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Goodreads Summary:

It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped.

Shirin is never surprised by how horrible people can be. She’s tired of the rude stares, the degrading comments—even the physical violence—she endures as a result of her race, her religion, and the hijab she wears every day. So she’s built up protective walls and refuses to let anyone close enough to hurt her. Instead, she drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons break-dancing with her brother.

But then she meets Ocean James. He’s the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know Shirin. It terrifies her—they seem to come from two irreconcilable worlds—and Shirin has had her guard up for so long that she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to let it down.

My Review:

So Shatter Me is my favorite series ever, yet it took me a while to read this one. Why, you ask? Because contemporary is iffy for me. Most of the time I like my contemporary light and fluffy. But this was time! Oh, and breakdancing is awesome!

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Here’s where things get tough for me. I was seventeen and in high school in 2002. I remember everything as clear as day, so I was confused by several things. First, the texting? I don’t really remember anyone texting back then. It was mainly AIM and landline phone calls! Also, I feel like most of us still had CDs vs MP3 players! Also, if Shirin’s family didn’t have a lot of money then how was she always using this cell phone that didn’t have unlimited minutes or texts? Why not just use the landline????

Next gripe, I felt this book was over dramatic. I don’t want people to think that all schools were racist like this. In fact, if teachers would have acted like this to any student at my school, they would have probably been fired! Right after 9/11 kids at my school were NOT like this about Muslims and I live in SE Texas. In fact the only separation we ever had was between the preppy kids and the metal kids, but it was more of a “let’s just hang out in our own social circles!” This book kind of reminded me of the movie A Walk to Remember, when popular dude dates nerdy girl and the kids in school get all hostile toward Mandy Moore’s character after they start a relationship. It just baffles my brain and doesn’t seem real.

It was super hard for me to connect to Shirin, and I was so sad about this, but the fact was that she was just as prejudice as these other kids. Yes, she had been through a lot, but she was just so very angry. I’m just a big fan of showing kindness over that anger! Ocean, for example, was nothing but sweet to her, and at first she was pretty mean to him! Also, she mentioned in her head that he should be with a blonde. Why a blonde???

As for side characters, I seriously loved Navid and his group of friends. They were so cool and awesome and I literally wanted to breakdance with them! I will say that Shirin does grow as a character by the end, and I really loved that! Ocean, dear Ocean was so sweet but he got a bit over dramatic, too! I just don’t even know what to say except I still feel confused here, but I seriously love Tahereh Mafi’s writing more than anything.

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Can you clearly remember where you were during 9/11?