To The Girl Who Saved Me

We all have regrets.

Some of them are small. Some of them are large. Some of them are significant. Some of them are not. Some of them we fight to remember. Others we wish we could forget.

Every single one of us has done something that we wish we hadn’t or said something we wish we could unsay. We all have things in our pasts that we wish would just go away.

Personally, I’ve had my fair share of regrets. Unfortunately, I’ve got one regret that stands out above all of the others.

I used to go to a private school. It was very Gossip Girl-esque in a lot of ways, but it wasn’t nearly as snooty. While, yes, there were some snobs, there were also great people. People that would hug you in the hall on the way to class and make you feel like you mattered.

There was a girl named Natalie. She was one of those people that didn’t talk much in public, but would always smile at you when she saw you. She was a sweetheart, to say the least. You could tell she was shy, but she had a big heart and it showed. For the life of me, I cannot remember what brought us together. It was probably a play or a class or something. It was years ago and honestly, that wasn’t what stood out to me. She would always say hi and I would wave back and that’s just how it was.

I remember one day when I was having a rough time. I have no idea why I was upset, but I was. I was sitting outside the middle school on a bench instead of going to the cafeteria for lunch with the rest of the school. I was kind of a nerd, so I spent my lunch period filling out the pages of my science workbooks and reading whatever stack of novels I’d managed to check out from the library that week. That day I was too upset to do any of that. I remember sitting on that stupid bench and crying my eyes out.

And then Natalie sat down next to me. She asked me if I was okay and I shook my head. She didn’t ask what was wrong or what had happened. She just sat next to me and waited. I eventually started talking and she just listened. When I was done with my awkward mixture of crying and rambling, she nodded and said it was going to be okay. And the funny thing was, I believed her. She smiled and said it like it was a fact. It didn’t sound like the empty platitudes that you give people all the time. It sounded real and I knew she meant it.

She had barely known me. I mean, we were friends. We saw each other in the halls. We could have a conversation. We could make small talk. We knew each other. But we didn’t hang out in the same social circles. We were complete opposites in a lot of ways. She didn’t have any obligation to stop and talk to me. And, yet, she did. She stopped and sat down and made sure I was okay. She listened to me vent and she didn’t make me feel stupid about it. That was just the kind of person she was. And she was the kind of person I needed that day.

I think about that day a lot now.

Natalie took her own life on January 27th of 2015.

I had left Augusta Prep about a year after that talk. I started homeschooling and only went back to Augusta Prep once to reconnect with some of my old friends. It was my second semester at college. I remember I was sitting in the game room with Brendan when I saw a post on my Facebook feed. I remember freezing and Brendan asking what was wrong. I remember crying because it couldn’t be true, right? It had to be a joke.

It wasn’t.

I couldn’t tell you how long I stared at her profile, reading all the posts and trying to understand. I’d like to say that I was surprised. I’d really, really, really like to. But, honestly, I can’t. Looking back, I had known she was struggling. I’d even wondered a few times if I should message her and see how she was. Every time she posted something on Facebook, I would get the urge to open up a chat and tell her I liked her hair or let her know that she was beautiful. But I never did. And I will always regret that.

I’ll always wonder if it would have helped. If it would have been that one thing that changed her mind. Logically, I know that’s stupid and selfish. But emotionally, I just feel guilty.

Natalie, you were always nice to me. You were always there to smile and wave. I wasn’t close with you and I wasn’t a big part of your life. But you were still there when I needed someone to talk to.

You don’t know it, but you saved me. In the beginning of 2015, I was having a really hard time. I was struggling and my anxiety was all over the place. I was having suicidal thoughts and my depression was eating me alive. Honestly, I was about to give up.

And then I heard about you. And I saw all of the posts from your friends and family. I saw how people were breaking and I just kept thinking that it could have been me.

You saved me without meaning to. You made me realize how much it would hurt the people around me. You showed me that life is worth living because people are worth caring about. You matter. And you will never know how much I appreciate your small, but significant part in my life. Thank you for the smiles. Thank you for that day.

I hope you’re happy up there in Heaven. If anyone deserves peace, it’s you. I’m sorry that I never sent you that message. I’m sorry that it’s too late now. I hope you can forgive me.

You’re a shooting star, Natalie. You always have been. So shine on.

 

Book Review: The Naturals (The Naturals #1)

Summary:

Seventeen-year-old Cassie is a natural at reading people. Piecing together the tiniest details, she can tell you who you are and what you want. But it’s not a skill that she’s ever taken seriously. That is, until the FBI come knocking: they’ve begun a classified program that uses exceptional teenagers to crack infamous cold cases, and they need Cassie.

What Cassie doesn’t realize is that there’s more at risk than a few unsolved homicides—especially when she’s sent to live with a group of teens whose gifts are as unusual as her own. Sarcastic, privileged Michael has a knack for reading emotions, which he uses to get inside Cassie’s head—and under her skin. Brooding Dean shares Cassie’s gift for profiling, but keeps her at arm’s length.

Soon, it becomes clear that no one in the Naturals program is what they seem. And when a new killer strikes, danger looms closer than Cassie could ever have imagined. Caught in a lethal game of cat and mouse with a killer, the Naturals are going to have to use all of their gifts just to survive.

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4/5

(review may contain minor spoilers)

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes is definitely distinct in its subject matter. This novel deals with teenagers that possess extraordinary abilities. They are deemed “Naturals” because these abilities are not supernatural. For instance, our main character, Cassie, is a Natural Profiler. This means she has an uncanny ability to get inside the minds of killers. Another character, Lia, is a human lie detector. These teenagers are recruited into a section of the FBI that deals with solving cold cases. Or, in other words, cases that the FBI has not been able to solve on its own.

The novel opens up in a really interesting way by putting us in the mind of the main killer throughout the book.

YOU

You’ve chosen and chosen well. Maybe this one will be the one who stops you. Maybe she’ll be different. Maybe she’ll be enough.

The only thing that is certain is that she’s special.

You think it’s her eyes—not the color: an icy, see-through blue. Not the lashes, or the shape, or the way she doesn’t need eyeliner to give them the appearance of a cat’s.

No, it’s what’s behind those icy blues that brings the audience out in droves. You feel it, every time you look at her. The certainty. The knowing. That otherworldly glint she uses to convince people that she’s the real deal.

Maybe she is.

Maybe she really can see things. Maybe she knows things.

Maybe she’s everything she claims to be and more. But watching her, counting her breaths, you smile, because deep down, you know that she isn’t going to stop you.

You don’t really want her to stop you.

She’s fragile.

Perfect.

Marked.

And the one thing this so-called psychic won’t see coming is you.

It’s not the first time I’ve read books that show you into the mind of the villain from the start, but I really enjoy how Jennifer Lynn Barnes does it throughout the novel to keep you in the head of the killer. My favorite part about this type of narration is that when you find out the identity of the killer, you can truly feel the pieces in your head connect as you go back through their thoughts. It clicks and it’s really cool to watch.

Characters

First of all, our main character, Cassie is a girl with the ability to profile those around her. She can look at someone and tell you how they like their eggs and whether they play basketball or golf. But she can also get into the mind of a killer and tell you exactly why they did it. She can essentially see crimes in her mind and tell you what happened and why. While her ability is extremely cool (and slightly creepy) to watch, there were a few downsides to our heroine. First of all, she comes off as extremely detached and sort of bland. Her backstory is absolutely phenomenal, dealing with her mother’s disappearance/assumed murder, but it never seems to connect with Cassie. I love how she has reactions every time she gets inside our killer’s head to try and figure out their motives, but they never seem strong enough. Sure, she gets kind of lost and starts to lose control, but I wish there had been more. All around, I wish Cassie had been more.

The first Natural we meet is Michael. He is extremely sarcastic and kind of arrogant, to be honest. He has the ability to read people’s faces and emotions. He’s an interesting character and his confidence worked for his personality. However, I felt that he made unnecessary jabs at Dean all the time. We never find out why there is animosity between them and it just felt out of place in the story. Overall, Michael was not my favorite character, but he was well-written and fairly intriguing. I want to know more about his parents and the guy he put in a hospital.

My favorite character in this book would have to be Dean. He’s brooding, mysterious, and definitely a total hottie. Dean was shut off in the beginning because he was scared and I was on the edge of my seat waiting for him to finally reach out to Cassie and trust her with his past. When she finally finds out on her own and confronts him, I wanted to hug Dean and protect him for the rest of his life. I loved his personality and I absolutely adored his characterization. He was one of those characters that you just fall into and love with everything you have. I love his fears of turning into his father and I wanted to know more about what he went through. I wanted someone to take care of him like he was constantly taking care of Cassie.

“Briggs shouldn’t have brought you here,” he said finally. “This place will ruin you.”

“Did it ruin Lia?” I asked. “Or Sloane?”

“They’re not profilers.”

“Did this place ruin you?”

Dean didn’t pause, not even for a second. “There was nothing to ruin.”

Lia is a great teenage antagonist to Cassie. She pulls off the spoiled brat aspect really well and I liked the sibling dynamic between her and Dean. She is constantly flaunting her ability to detect lies and it seems like she was always trying to have the upper hand on everyone around her. I want to know more about her life before she joined the program. While she is fairly unlikable at times, she is also shown to have a slightly human side when she talks to Cassie about Michael and Dean.

“Dean would want me to tell you to stay away from him,” Lia said.

“And Michael?” I asked.

Lia shrugged. “I want to tell you to stay away from Michael.” She paused. “I won’t, but I want to.”

 Our last Natural is Sloane, the human computer. She can spout off statistics and numerical values like none other and is more than capable of hacking flash drives, as we see. I really liked the little things about her character, like her addiction to coffee and fondness for simulations. Sloane was a good friend to Cassie, even though she was not really sure how to act in emotionally charged situations. I really enjoyed her voice. It was mechanical, but with a childlike quality to it.

Sloane slipped an arm around my waist. “There are fourteen varieties of hugs,” she said. “This is one of them.”

Now, I am not a fan of love triangles. I kind of detest them, if I’m being honest. This novel featured more of a love square. Lia likes Michael. Michael used to like Lia, but now he likes Cassie. Dean likes Cassie. Cassie likes Dean, but feels something for Michael. It’s very dramatic at times, but it doesn’t completely overtake the story. It’s more of an afterthought most of the time. I didn’t completely hate it. I definitely side with Dean, but the rest of the love square doesn’t really interest me. I felt it slightly unnecessary. I did like the back and forth between Cassie and Dean though. It was very realistic, especially with both of their pasts.

Plot

I absolutely loved the premise and the story itself definitely delivered. It had a very Criminal Minds-esque feel to it and I was kept in suspense the whole time. Sometimes, characters did things that infuriated me to no end and I was left screaming how stupid they were being at my poor boyfriend. However, most of the time, they were realistically stupid things that teenagers would actually do. I loved the atmosphere and having little blurbs from the killer’s mind kept me on the edge of my seat.

Conclusion

I suggest reading this book as soon as possible. I’m quite fond of it and I’m definitely going to start the second book in the series as soon as I post this. While the main character fell flat at times, the other characters picked up the slack and kept the story interesting. I truly enjoyed reading this, even with its flaws.

I loved each of the backstories and I wanted to know more about every single character. For instance, what was meant when it said that Lia and Michael weren’t given the choice of whether or not to join the program? What happened to Dean’s dad? What about Cassie’s entire family? I was left with so many unanswered questions and I’m eager to see if the next book gives me any clues or answers.

Signed,

your favorite bookworm

What I Really Mean When I Say No

(Because there can never be enough blog posts about consent.)

When I say no, what am I really saying? Clearly there must be some hidden message for you to decode. Obviously I cannot actually mean no. Right?

Wrong.

There is an astounding number of people who don’t actually know what consent is. It’s one of those things that should be common knowledge, but, for some reason, isn’t. And, honestly, that is a terrifying thought.

Let’s look at how Merriam-Webster defines consent.

consent

noun | con·sent

Simple Definition of consent

  • : permission for something to happen or be done

  • : agreement about an opinion or about something that will happen or be done

As you can see, this definition really leaves no wiggle room. Consent is permission. It is the agreement that something will or will not happen.

That means that if you ask me something and I say no, you do not have my consent. For instance, let’s say my boyfriend asks if he can kiss me. I say no because I’m just not feeling it. Because I said no, he is not allowed to kiss me. Even if he really wants to, he has to keep his lips to himself until I give him consent.

Consent is an extremely simple concept, but there are a few things that need clearing up.

First of all, consent is not permanent. 

Just because someone has agreed to something once does not mean that they are agreeing to it forever. If I give you permission to hold my hand, that only applies in that one instance. You can’t just hold my hand whenever you want after that. You need to ask every time because my answer may change.

Second, consent is not implied. 

You cannot assume that you have someone’s consent. You have to ask them outright because the answer might be different than you think. This sort of goes along with the first point. You can’t assume that you don’t have to ask just because it’s happened before. People are allowed to change their minds.

Third, you are never entitled to someone else’s consent.

I cannot stress this point enough. There is such a thing as sexual assault by spouse or partner. You are not entitled to someone else’s body because you’re dating or married to them. Consent belongs to the individual and it is always required, no matter the circumstances.

Let’s go back to the example about my boyfriend asking for a kiss. Now, obviously, he doesn’t pause before he kisses me to ask every single time. We’re dating and I like to kiss him. However, if I tell him no, he respects that. He doesn’t get to kiss me anyway because we are dating or because we have kissed before. Consent doesn’t work like that.

Consent equals communication. You can’t assume consent, no matter what the situation is. You can be married to the person and that does not mean you get to decide what physical activity you get and when. That’s a joint decision that both parties have to agree with.

Consent is black and white; it is not gray. It is simple and people need to stop trying to change the definition of it. Consent is a verbal exchange in which two people agree to a certain action or activity.

There is a lovely little video that compares tea to consent. I highly suggest that everybody watches it because it is precious and cute and explains things very well.

Bottom line: Consent is a prerequisite, not an luxury.

Once Upon A Time…

I like fairy tales. I like them a lot. I’m a total sucker for happily-ever-afters and Prince Charming and glass slippers. And I like to think that everyone is living a fairy tale, whether they know or not.

I mean, think about it. Fairy tales aren’t just about the romance. They’re not just about kissing the right guy at midnight or turning frogs into princes. They’re about finding yourself and getting your happy ending because no one is going to go out and get it for you.

Look at Cinderella. Her life started out pretty horrible. She lost her dad and ended up with a stepmom who couldn’t care less about her. She was basically stuck in a life of abuse and neglect. She was in an absolutely horrible situation, but she refused to have a horrible attitude. She was kind and sweet and caring and never stopped dreaming. Obviously, having a fairy god-mother helped move things along, but Cinderella was the one that decided to go out there and make her dreams come true by attending the ball. She went out and danced her heart away until the clock struck midnight. She fell in love and fought with all of her heart to find her Prince Charming.

Image result for cinderella illustration

How many of us have lost a family member? How many of us have had that friend that gives us the push we need in the right direction to fight for what we want?

And what about Elsa? One of the most recent Disney movies, taken from a tale by Hans Christian Anderson, Frozen tells the story of the Ice Queen. After gravely injuring her sister  Anna as a child, Elsa takes her powers over ice and hides them under gloves and layers until she becomes Queen after her parents pass away tragically. Though Elsa wraps herself in shields of aloofness and coldness, it is clear that she misses her sister just as much as Anna misses her. She hides herself in her room for years, terrified that she will cause hurt to someone she loves unconditionally.

Image result for elsa anna

How many of us have had something that we are ashamed of that keeps us from relationships or even just friendships? So many people have done things that they regret and feel ashamed of that make them shy away from comfort and people. The fear of the past prevents an astounding number of individuals from moving on to the future.

This happened in the case of Elsa, though she eventually learned to “let it go” and just be herself. We can take the mistakes in our past and turn them into lessons. No one is perfect and we can’t expect to never mess up. The best we can do is apologize to the people we hurt and try to find a way to fix it.

My personal favorite fairy tale is the story of Alice in Wonderland. As most people know, this is not a typical fairy tale by any means. Some may not even call it one. I do, however. I love it because Alice is just a child driven by curiosity and wonder. She isn’t thinking about romance or love. She just sees a rabbit with a waistcoat and a pocket watch and wants to know where it is going. Obviously, she follows the rabbit and falls down the rabbit hole, finding herself in a new and strange world when she lands at the bottom. After experiencing a flood of her own tears, a tea party, and a trial, not to mention her almost execution, Alice is woken up by her sister, revealing that the entire story was a curious dream.

Image result for alice in wonderland novel

Whether you look at the story as a dream or not, we can all relate to Alice’s struggles. Her curiosity leads to her to new friends and a new place, but also gets her into trouble when she isn’t careful. We should never stop being curious, but we should always be careful to appreciate what we already have.

Fairy tales are full of morals and lessons, but if you look closely enough, you might find more of yourself than you thought in Ariel, Aladdin, or the Mad Hatter. Our lives are already fairy tales. We just have to treat them as such.

 

Book Review: The Adoration of Jenna Fox (The Jenna Fox Chronicles #1)

Summary:

Who is Jenna Fox? Seventeen-year-old Jenna has been told that is her name. She has just awoken from a coma, they tell her, and she is still recovering from a terrible accident in which she was involved a year ago. But what happened before that? Jenna doesn’t remember her life. Or does she? And are the memories really hers?

This fascinating novel represents a stunning new direction for acclaimed author Mary Pearson. Set in a near future America, it takes readers on an unforgettable journey through questions of bio-medical ethics and the nature of humanity. Mary Pearson’s vividly drawn characters and masterful writing soar to a new level of sophistication.

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐ 3/5

(review may contain minor spoilers)

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson is not a book that you can put into a box. It is a myriad of genres and a myriad of topics thrown into one novel. To be perfectly honest, this book was not one of my favorites. It did not deliver what was promised in the very intriguing synopsis. I have read a great deal of books that deal with amnesia in some way, but never one that took on a sci-fi perspective so I was excited to dive into this book. To be fair, the opening was very gripping and in general, the novel was well-written.

We start out with our narrator showing us what she knows right off the bat.

I used to be someone.

Someone named Jenna Fox.

That’s what they tell me. But I am more than a name. More than they tell me. More than the facts and statistics they fill me with. More than the video clips they make me watch.

More. But I’m not sure what.

I really liked Jenna’s voice from the very beginning. She was honest and blunt and you could feel the detachment coming from her as she acknowledged that she really didn’t understand herself. She was plain in the best way possible. Having a distinct lack of memories left her as sort of a blank slate and I really liked how she chose to fill it in.

Characters

To expand on the above point, Jenna was the kind of character you rooted for from the start. I wanted her to succeed and I wanted her to figure everything out. She had this quality about her that made you want to hug her and help her find everything that she was looking for. She was disjointed and completely realistic in terms of her narration. Jenna Fox woke up without any memory of who she had been before the accident. She didn’t even remember that there was an accident. She relied on what her parents told her and what she could pull from the pieces of memories that started coming back. She questions things that she doesn’t understand and it makes you feel for her.

A Question I Will Never Ask Mother:

 

I may not remember everything, but I know there should be these things.

Something.

I know when someone is sick that people check on her.

What kind of person was Jenna Fox that she didn’t have any friends?

Was she someone I even want to remember?

Everyone should have at least one friend.

Jenna refers to her parents as “Father” and “Mother” and I really like how it showed the audience how truly detached Jenna felt from her everything around her, including her family. She calls her grandmother Lily instead of by a term of familial endearment.

Jenna’s parents were rather bland and not in a good way. I couldn’t feel anything for them because they never popped for me. It was like they were just strangers to me. When Jenna figures out what they did, their explanation didn’t redeem them in my eyes in the slightest. They didn’t feel like a family to me, though the father was more endearing than the mother.

Lily, the grandmother, is the only member of the family that really stood out to me. I enjoyed her honesty and her reactions to the things that were going on around her. She was fresh and I liked it.

“I don’t hate you, Jenna,” she finally says. “I simply don’t have room for you.” Harsh words, but her voice is tender and the contradiction is a stony reminder that I am missing something vital. I know the old Jenna Fox would have understood. But the timbre of Lily’s voice calms me just the same. I nod, like I understand.

As for other characters, I felt most of them were unnecessary. I enjoyed Bender and I enjoyed Ethan. It felt like Dane was completely pointless. He had half a story line. He’s just this jerk that shows up once or twice with no backstory or explanation for his behavior. It was out of the blue and paused the story for no reason. Allys was interesting to a point and then she just became annoying and seemed to have no motivation. For all of the other minor characters, it felt like half their characterization was missing. They were just kind of there.

Plot

The plot itself could have been a lot better. As I stated before, the premise was extremely interesting to me, which is one of the reasons I was so disappointed. Every plot twist was easy to see coming and it felt like the story was mainly Jenna thinking to herself about what she was and where she belonged. Her narration was flawless for the most part, but I wanted more action. I wanted more characterization and more plot.

The ending absolutely pissed me off because of how rushed it was. It was like we finally get to a conflict that has the potential to cause major panic and it was completely skipped over. The conflict is introduced and boom! The conflict is suddenly resolved and we’re looking at things over a hundred years later and everything is just dandy. It was ridiculous and I hated it. When I first read it, I thought I’d accidentally skipped a few chapters. This was not the case.

Conclusion

I have to give this book 3 stars because Jenna’s narration was beautiful, as well as Lily and Ethan’s characterization. However, everything else fell flat. The minor characters were boring and the plot itself was laughable at parts. There was really no conflict except for Dane’s random appearances and Jenna’s existence. However, neither of these conflicts were given the chance to really blossom and lead to character development and a climactic turning point. Bottom line is this book was extremely disappointing. There were some high points, but in the end, too many things were missing to make this an enjoyable read. Sadly, I would not recommend this novel.

Signed,

your favorite bookworm

That Thing I Typically Avoid Talking About

Alright, guys. Here it goes. I’m gonna do it.

I’m gonna talk about politics.

Ugh, I freaking hate politics, first of all. I hate how it makes people act, like they’ve forgotten every lesson their parents ever taught them about correct, decent behavior. I hate how much power politics has over people and how much power it gives people that have no right to it.

A few days ago, I was walking with my boyfriend through the streets of my little town. We were on a nature walk, which, as you can probably guess, was supposed to be a way to relax ourselves after a stressful week. We were peacefully strolling through my neighborhood when a car screeches past us with the windows down and a kid leans out of the driver’s seat and screams, “VOTE FOR TRUMP.”

What.

I’m sorry, but this kid looked like he wasn’t even old enough to drive, so there was no way he was old enough to vote.

This experience scared me, to be honest. It made me fear for my country.

I do not know a lot about politics. I know that there are two main parties– Republicans and Democrats. Now, most of my family is Republican. Most of the politicians that made my parents scrunch their noses and frown were Democratic.

I am… neither. Both. I don’t know.

I don’t want to be either of those.

I just want to be Molly.

I think it is the absolute dumbest thing ever for the two parties to fight over issues like Marriage Equality, Abortion, etc.

Since when does government get to dictate happiness and agency? Since when does someone else get to sit there and tell you what you can and can’t do with your life? Excuse me, you stupidheads, but did I ask you? No? Then stop talking about it!

Do I support gay marriage? Yes.

Am I pro-life? If you are asking if I support the creation of life, then yes. If you are asking if I think I have some convoluted say in what a woman does with her body, then no.

You are allowed to not like something. You are allowed to not like people. You are allowed to not want something for yourself.

This does not mean you get to condemn anyone else who has a different viewpoint.

For instance, some religions strongly believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. This is fine, but no one has the right to decide whether or not a homosexual couple can get married.

Let’s say I believe in the traditional sense of marriage. Okay, fine. I’m entitled to my own beliefs. However, my entitlement ends there. I can make the decision for myself, yes. I can decide that I am straight and that I desire to marry a man. I have made that decision. However, I have no grounds to make that decision for anyone else.

I do not understand why this concept is so hard to grasp for the rest of the population. We are human beings. Each of us has the ability to make choices. If someone does something that does not hurt anyone else, but makes them happy, why are we so determined to find a problem with it?

If I have two male friends that decide they are in love and want to get married, is it going to affect me?

Heck yes, because I’m going to have to buy a dress for when I go to their wedding and tell them that I’m glad they’ve found someone that they want to spend the rest of their lives with!

Other than that, no. No, it does not. Two people have found happiness. It’s not like their getting married will suddenly invalidate any marriage I may or may not have in the future. It’s not going to cause all heterosexual marriages across the world to disintegrate.

To put it extremely simply, imagine you don’t like carrots. You think they’re a disgrace to all other vegetables and you hate them, so you never eat them. This is perfectly fine. But when you start preaching to the rest of the world that carrots are damned and should be burned at the stake and never eaten again, you turn into a lunatic.

Listen to yourself, people. You’re literally complaining about someone else’s life choices that IN NO WAY AT ALL HAVE ANY IMPACT ON YOUR LIFE.

You don’t have to sacrifice your beliefs.

But you desperately need to sacrifice your hate.

My generation is full of dreamers and creators and open minds and hope. The generation before me is filled with hatred and oppression and judgement.

If something doesn’t change, my generation is going to be broken. The hatred is going to sink down until it blackens every once youthful heart. It is going to stop people like me from sticking up for those that society deems “wrong” in some way. It is going to cause us to start attacking instead of defending.

Someone on my Facebook feed posted a status recently about how hatred isn’t illegal.

They were right. It isn’t. I don’t like the word “hate,” but I’ve definitely had strong negative feelings towards people before. I’ve glared and rolled my eyes and wished they would move to Canada so I would never have to be in the same room as them again. But you know what? I didn’t dislike them because of their choices. I didn’t dislike them because of their skin color or their religion or their beliefs. I disliked them because they wronged me in some way or because they stared at my boyfriend.

Hatred isn’t illegal, but it is wrong.

The world needs to stop looking at people and their pasts. Instead of their sins, look for their goodness. Instead of skin color, look at their hearts.

People are fundamentally different. We all work in different ways. But we also all breathe the same air. We all walk on the same Earth and we all have the same right to be here.

We all deserve to be happy and that’s not something anyone has a right to change.

So when you vote in the Presidential election, please please please, do not choose hatred. Do not choose someone purely because they are in your political party or because they share some of your beliefs. Choose human life. Choose happiness. Choose equality.

But most importantly, choose kindness and love. Choose acceptance.

Book Review: Heist Society (Heist Society #1)

Summary:

When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her on a trip to the Louvre…to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to Austria…to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own—scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. Unfortunately, leaving “the life” for a normal life proves harder than she’d expected.

Soon, Kat’s friend and former co-conspirator, Hale, appears out of nowhere to bring Kat back into the world she tried so hard to escape. But he has a good reason: a powerful mobster has been robbed of his priceless art collection and wants to retrieve it. Only a master thief could have pulled this job, and Kat’s father isn’t just on the suspect list, he is the list. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat’s dad needs her help.

For Kat, there is only one solution: track down the paintings and steal them back. So what if it’s a spectacularly impossible job? She’s got two weeks, a teenage crew, and hopefully just enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in her family’s history–and, with any luck, steal her life back along the way.

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5/5

(review may contain minor spoilers)

Alright, so I read this book right when it came out a few years ago. I remembered thoroughly enjoying it, so I decided to reread it this week. At just under 300 pages, it’s a nice length and manages to finish the story well.

The novel opens with an introduction to the Colgan School, our main character’s current residence.

No one knew for certain when the trouble started at the Colgan School. Some members of its alumni association blamed the decision to admit girls. Others cited newfangled liberal ideals and a general decline in the respect for elders worldwide. But no matter the theory, no one could deny that, recently, life at the Colgan School was different.

While this opening is not as fast-paced as some other spy/crime novels, it definitely intrigued me. I was immediately drawn to the prestigious atmosphere of the school and the way Ally Carter described it. She writes it in a way that makes you feel like you’re there watching everything unfold. With the first sentence, I wanted to know what the “trouble” was referring to. And it did not disappoint.

Characters

I absolutely adored our main character, Katarina Bishop. She’s spunky and feisty, but best of all…she’s real. You can feel her struggle throughout the book as she goes from trying to be a normal girl  who’s had anything but a normal life to trying to save her family and pull off her biggest job yet. It says in the first few pages, “Some called her a hero; others called her a freak.” I really enjoy her characterization because you can feel what she feels. You can feel the sheer desperation that Kat has throughout the book from attempting to keep her father alive. You can feel the hope slipping away as things get more complicated. You can feel the acceptance as Hale drags her back into the “family business.” Kat is a strong character, but I love that we get to see her inner thoughts and experience her small moments of weakness. We get to see her almost break down, but hold it together and move on. She was written extremely well and I loved delving into her mind.

Hale. Oh my word, I think I found another guy to add to my “Characters to Marry” list. He’s suave and sophisticated and handsome and definitely a bit sneaky. After all, he did manage to convince Kat to rejoin the gang for some criminal fun. He is full of confidence and charm, not to mention the weight of his family’s wealth hanging over his shoulder. He’s the perfect love interest/best friend towards Kat and I love what he adds to the story. Not to mention, the way Kat describes him and his attributes is absolutely beautiful.

Kat sometimes wondered if that kind of self-assurance was something only very old money could buy. Then she wondered if it was something you could steal.

Kat’s family, including her father Bobby, Uncle Eddie, cousin Gabrielle, the Bagshaw brothers, and many other colorful characters provide for a hilarious cast. From the dry wit of her father to the sultry sass of Gabrielle, these supporting characters add so much to the story. They all play an important role and it’s extremely interesting to see how people tie into a sort of ‘crime family.’

The main villain is named Arturo Taccone. When his prize pieces of art get stolen, his prime and only suspect is Bobby Bishop. However, he is more than willing to use Kat as a middle man when Bobby is in a bit of trouble of his own. I honestly enjoyed Taccone. I felt like I understood his motives, even if I was frustrated at him for not listening to Kat half the time. I felt like his actions were given reason and that he was a force to be reckoned with. However, we also saw his shortcomings, which was a gift in and of itself. I like the dimensions to him, as well as the other characters.

Plot

The story-line for this novel was very intriguing. It featured the right amount of suspense and thrills, as well as a little comic relief and romance. By using such lively characters, Ally Carter managed to create a world that was realistic and unbelievably interesting. The really cool part about this novel is that it is something that could be happening right now. Crime rings exist all over the world, along with notorious families. I really enjoyed following Kat as she tried to make it through the countless obstacles thrown in her path. The conclusion and resolution was believable and everything fit together in a way that made you smile and shake your head because it was so ridiculous that it just had to work.

Favorite Quotes

“You need me,” Gabrielle said. There was no doubt in her voice. No flirt. No ditz. She was in every way Uncle Eddie’s great-niece. A pro. A con. A thief. “Like it or not, Kitty Kat, the reunion starts now.”

It is an occupational hazard that anyone who has spent her life learning how to lie eventually becomes bad at telling the truth.

But Hale was still moving, shrinking the distance between them. He seemed impossibly close as he whispered, “And I didn’t choose it, Kat. I chose you.”

“Oh.” Hale smirked. “That’s simple.” Kat wasn’t moving— wasn’t dancing—and yet it felt like her heart might pound out of her chest as she watched Hale lean farther into the shadows and say, “I’m the guy who happened to be home the night Kat came to steal a Monet.”

Hale was Hale. And not knowing what the W’s stood for had become a constant reminder to Kat that, in life, there are some things that can be given but never stolen.

Of course, that didn’t stop her from trying.

“Some people understand the value of an education.” Hale stretched and crossed his legs, then settled his arm around Kat’s shoulders. “That’s sweet, Kat. Maybe later I’ll buy you a university. And an ice cream.” “I’d settle for the ice cream.” “Deal.”

Conclusion

Ally Carter is a wonderful author. On her website, she says that she wrote the Heist Society books as a way to keep her older readers entertained once they became too old for Gallagher Girls. Personally, I love both series, but that’s not important. I think that Heist Society is full of suspense in all the right places. It’s a great read with wonderful language. I love that she tells you names of cons and you’re essentially rooting for the criminals. The way Carter crafts her characters is beautiful and I can’t wait for the fourth book to come out. And Kat and Hale? Three words. I ship it. This series is perfect for a long car ride and I highly encourage you to pick it up soon!

Signed,

your favorite bookworm