Book Review: Confessions of a Murder Suspect (Confessions #1)

Summary:

On the night Malcolm and Maud Angel are murdered, Tandy Angel knows just three things: She was the last person to see her parents alive. The police have no suspects besides Tandy and her three siblings. She can’t trust anyone — maybe not even herself.

Having grown up under Malcolm and Maud’s intense perfectionist demands, no child comes away undamaged. Tandy decides that she will have to clear the family name, but digging deeper into her powerful parents’ affairs is a dangerous — and revealing — game. Who knows what the Angels are truly capable of?

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ ⭐ 5/5

(review may contain minor spoilers)

Confessions of a Murder Suspect is the first book in the Confessions series by James Patterson. I picked up this book at the store a few years ago, having recognized Patterson’s name from the Maximum Ride series. As I was going through my bookshelves for something to read, I came across this novel again and remembered how much I had enjoyed it. So, of course, I had to read it again and write a review!

This novel is not just a murder mystery. It’s much more complicated than that. It is the story of a family full of secrets and a narrator who admits that she might not be reliable–even she doesn’t know whether she should trust herself. It adds a unique element to the novel and makes you tiptoe the line between reality and fiction throughout each chapter.

The book opens with our narrator introducing herself– sort of.

I have some really bad secrets to share with someone, and it might as well be you–a stranger, a reader of books, but most of all, a person who can’t hurt me. So here goes nothing, or maybe everything. I’m not sure if I can even tell the difference anymore.

The night my parents died–after they’d been carried out in slick body bags through the service elevator–my brother Matthew shouted at the top of his powerful lungs, “My parents were vile, but they didn’t deserve to be taken out with the trash!”

He was right about the last part–and, as things turned out, the first part as well.

This opening featured just the right amount of mystery and suspense. We learn from the very start that secrets will play a huge part in this story, along with the fact that our narrator has a few things hidden as well. This intro immediately invested me in the story, so much so that I finished the entire novel in under an hour. I was curious about the secrets that were obviously spread throughout the Angel family and I wanted to unravel them and figure out what had happened to Tandy’s parents.

Characters

The Angel family is an immensely interesting set of characters. To start with Tandy, our narrator, I have to say that I absolutely adored her. I’ve seen some reviews that argue her blandness is overwhelming, but I disagree completely. She’s not bland. She’s simply trained herself not to show emotion. It’s a very integral part of her personality. I felt for her and I found myself trusting her, even though she implicitly stated that she didn’t know if she was trustworthy. I also really enjoyed Tandy’s voice. She was honest and blunt and matter-of-fact and it definitely worked for the story.

So as I sat in the living room that night, I took on the full responsibility of finding my parents’ killer–even if it turned out that the killer shared my DNA.

Even if it turned out to be me.

You shouldn’t count that out, friend.

Hugo Angel is Tandy’s younger brother. He appears to have a much more black and white view of the world than his sister. He was more prone to anger and it is pointed out that he sees the cops as villains. I thought Hugo was pretty adorable, even though it was clear he could break anyone like a twig if he really wanted to. I enjoyed his minor part in the story.

I found ten-year-old Hugo in his room. He was still wearing his Giants sweatshirt, and he was using a baseball bat to break up his four-poster bed.

As I entered the room, he swung the bat for the last time, splintering the headboard, then began working on the bed frame with karate kicks.

“Hey. Hey, Hugo,” I said. “Enough. Stop. Please.”

I dropped my lacrosse stick and wrapped my arms around my little brother. I dragged him away from the bed and more or less hurled him toward the cushy, life-size toy pony that Uncle Peter had given Hugo when he was born.

Harry Angel was also an interesting character. Though he is Tandy’s twin, the two are worlds apart in terms of personality. He was the more sensitive of all the Angel siblings and his characterization made him the most sympathetic character as well. Though each Angel eventually showed their grief, Harry was distraught the moment he was told that his parents were dead. I loved that he seemed to be more fragile than the rest of his siblings. It made him seem more real and tangible than the other siblings. It was also interesting to see his backstory and how it connected to his attitude and persona.

Harry also has a great smile. I guess I do, too, but I almost never use it. Harry uses his a lot. Maybe he’s the only Angel who does, actually.

Finally, the last Angel sibling is Matthew. Though it was apparent that he was honest to the point of harsh bluntness, he also seemed to genuinely care about his family. As a famous player for the NFL, Matthew brings an incredibly new element to the story. He had possibly the most caustic relationship with his parents, but his reaction to their death was raw and impassioned. He was angry at their death and you could tell that he was struggling with how to handle it throughout the book. His relationship with his siblings showed his caring nature, however, and I loved the little moments between the Angels.

When Matthew entered a room, he seemed to draw all the light and air to him. He had light brown dreadlocks tied in a bunch with a hank of yarn, and intense blue eyes that shone like high beams.

I’ve never seen eyes like his. No one has.

Other characters included Detective Hayes and Sergeant Caputo, the two officers assigned to the case. I thought that the author did an incredible job with both of these characters. They were polar opposites, a fact that our narrator pointed out as soon as she met them. It was a very interesting dynamic and it kept me on the edge of my seat as I wondered who would solve the murder first.

Plot

Confessions of a Murder Suspect is quite honestly one of favorite novels. The tension is palpable throughout the chapters and it is written in a way that makes you crave more. I loved the story and I was right there with Tandy the entire time, trying to figure out the truth behind the death of her parents. This book was really interesting because it puts you in the mind of a narrator that isn’t sure if even she can be trusted. I went back and forth between characters, trying to decide who the real killer was. I did eventually guess the ending, but it took me much longer than it usually would and I couldn’t figure out all the details.

The plot was filled with mystery and I was constantly  trying to find clues that I was missing. Another extremely interesting thing about this book is the intertwined Confession chapters. In between every few chapters, there are chapters entitled Confession where we get to see into the past from Tandy’s perspective. It’s really interesting and gives us a way to delve into the secrets and pasts of the entire Angel family, even Harry and Hugo.

Conclusion

I absolutely adore this book and I highly suggest you pick it up as soon as possible. It is filled with danger and disaster and dysfunction, not to mention the twists and turns of the investigation. James Patterson and Maxine Paetro truly created a masterpiece and I believe that if you enjoy suspense or crime, you should definitely give it a try.

Signed,

your favorite bookworm

Book Review: Fatal Frost (Defenders of Justice #1)

*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:

Following in her absentee father’s footsteps in a law enforcement career, U.S. Marshal Mercy Brennan has just recovered from being shot in the line of duty. And, unbeknownst to her, her father’s recent reappearance in her life has put her in the sights of St. Louis’s most powerful gang. Her boss assigns Deputy U.S. Marshal Mark St. Laurent-Mercy’s ex-boyfriend- to get her out of town until her safety can be guaranteed.

Unaware of the extent her boss and Mark have been keeping her in the dark, it isn’t until a freak ice storm strands them at a remote location and out of contact with the district office that the full severity of their situation becomes clear. As the storm worsens, the forces of nature combine with a deadly enemy to put them in great danger. Can they survive long enough for help to arrive-if help is even coming at all?

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4/5

(review may contain minor spoilers)

Fatal Frost by Nancy Mehl is a novel about cops and U.S. marshals, along with gangs, drugs, and criminals. It takes place in St. Louis where cartels and criminal activity are running wild. When I first read the premise of this book, I was interested, but not expecting much, to be honest.

The first chapter starts out by introducing us to the overall atmosphere of the city.

The seemingly deserted street was lined with empty houses, their windows as blank and vacant as the eyes of those who had become casualties in St. Louis’s war on heroin. Deputy U.S. Marshal Mercy Brennan gazed out the window of the black van as cold tendrils of rain slid down the darkened glass next to her, reminding her of tears. It was as if the tortured city of St. Louis wept because of the treacherous drug that had invaded her. The influx of cheap heroin had turned neighborhoods into war zones. The gangs that claimed ownership over their communities were killing men, women, and children for the right to rule. Crime was out of control, and many good people were trapped in their homes, praying they or their loved ones wouldn’t be the next victims of the violence that raged around them.

One particularly interesting thing about this novel was that it did not just follow Mercy’s point of view. We also saw snippets from the gang members, cartel leaders, and other detectives and marshals. It was a really intriguing way to let the reader see the thoughts of the lesser characters.

Characters

Our main character is a U.S. Marshal named Mercy Brennan. She is strong-willed and stubborn with a tendency to keep people at arm’s length, as we see in her relationship with Mark. Mercy is extremely prepared and organized, not to mention always armed with a back-up plan, which is just the thing that ends up saving her life, as well as the lives of every else involved. We get to see her transition from a young woman who is scared to let anyone get too close to an emotionally vulnerable person that isn’t afraid to cry or get a dog. Throughout the story, I was rooting for Mercy and I wanted her to find her own piece of happiness.

Another major character is Lieutenant Tally Williams. Tally and Mercy have been friends since they were kids and though Tally is married with his own children, the two are still as tight as ever. In fact, they’re neighbors. I really liked Tally. His character was warm and kind and just a great guy in general. I also adored his wife Annie. I wish we could have been introduced to his kids and seen his family more, but his part in the story worked very well. He was a very honest and sincere person and it was absolutely precious to see how much he cared for Mercy.

He was angry with himself for not seeing through his charade. Now Mark and Mercy were in terrible danger. He loved Mercy as if she were his own sister. Knowing she was in trouble and that he had no way to help her grieved him to the very center of his soul.

Now for the love interest. Deputy U.S. Marshal Mark St. Laurent. Aka Mercy’s ex-boyfriend. Talk about awkward an awkward situation… Anyway, I absolutely loved the dynamic between Mark and Mercy. I thought it was a really great balance of tension and familiarity between the two and I enjoyed how we got to see the reasons behind their break-up. Though I did keep screaming, “Stop being idiots and just make out already!” And, lo and behold, they did…after a few chapters of confessions, gun fights, mortal danger, and terror. It may have taken awhile, but the point is, they did it. I loved the little moments of their relationship from the past that was interwoven in the current story.

Mark pulled Mercy’s cellphone from her purse. “What’s your code?”

Marcy rattled off the numbers before realizing what she’d done. She searched Mark’s face, but he didn’t seem to notice anything unusual. She breathed a sigh of relief. She was still using the date he’d first told her he loved her. She’d meant to change it many times but just hadn’t gotten around to it. A voice inside her whispered Liar! She ignored it and steeled herself to concentrate on the situation at hand. 

As for the minor characters, I thought we got to see some nice background for even the smaller characters, like some of the gang members and crooked agents. It was interesting to see that a lot of the minor characters were connected in ways you couldn’t even begin to expect. While I guessed who the mole was pretty early, it was still a great read and I was surprised a few times.

Plot

I truly did enjoy this novel. However, I would have enjoyed it a lot more without the religious aspect thrown in. Now, I have read my fair share of novels with a Christian component and it usually doesn’t bother me. In this particular book though, it felt out of place. I wasn’t expecting it and it threw me for a loop at first. It was hard to equate religion with the situation and the characters. My mind just sort of skimmed over everything that had to do with religion because it seemed to take away from the story. I felt like it was a distraction and I think the book would have moved along much more smoothly without it. While it was important to understand that Mercy went through an enormous transition, it wasn’t necessary to show this through religious faith and church. We could see it in the little things, like Mark and Pippin and her demeanor.

Conclusion

This book was wonderful. I am giving it four out of five stars because of a few small things. First, I wish that we had more characterization of the minor and some of the major characters. We got to delve into their psyches a little bit, but I wanted more. I wanted a more concrete definition of the things that made them tick. Second, the religion aspect seemed foreign with the plot line. If it had been introduced earlier in a more subtle way, I feel like it could have worked, but as it was written, it felt forced. Because of the relationships and plot, however, I would definitely recommend this book.

Signed,

your favorite bookworm

 

 

Of Mental Breakdowns and Time Management

Well.

It’s that time of year again. The point in the semester where everything feels like it’s building up and preparing to squash you like a bug. And, to be honest, it probably is.

Midterm.

Ugh.

Not only does this mark the point where you actually take your midterms, but it also means that you’re halfway through the semester. Halfway to finals, which can make or break you.

If you’re not careful, this time of year will drown you. It will eat you alive and then spit you back out with stresses that you didn’t even know you had. It’s that point during school where every professor seems to be assigning extra homework, papers, and projects at exactly that same time. Personally, I’m about ready to crawl under a rock and hibernate until Thanksgiving Break.

Realistically, however, that is not exactly an option. So, here are some tricks for surviving the semester without your mind spectacularly exploding.

Tip #1: Breathe.

Before you start any paper or assignment, take a deep breath. If you start to feel overwhelmed or stressed, take a minute to just inhale and exhale until your heart rate goes back to normal and you feel some semblance of calm.

You’re not going to get anything productive done if you spend the entire time worrying and convincing yourself that whatever you come up with won’t be any good. You can do this. You just have to take it one step at a time.

Tip #2: Stay ahead.

Try to make time for your homework the day before it’s due. Finishing things early keeps a load of stress off your back and allows you a little bit of time to relax before class instead of hastily answering those last few questions.

Tip #3: Time Management is crucial.

College isn’t just about keeping up with your assignments. It’s about knowing when you have exams, quizzes, or papers due. It is about being able to plan your time in a way that you have a little bit of breathing room for if a commitment or activity goes longer than you thought it would. When you have everything you need to do laid out in front of you, whether in a calendar, planner, or online scheduling app, it takes a load off your shoulders because you can physically see what you need to do.

This allows you to stay on track much more easily than if you were just trying to remember everything.

Fun fact: Today in Psych, we talked about how the brain can actually only remember 4-7 bits of information at a time.

Tip #4: Take a break.

While it’s important to get everything done in a timely manner, it’s also just as important to give yourself a break when you need it. Don’t be afraid to plan out time for a Netflix episode or an hour of video games. It’s okay to do something completely pointless to get your mind to stop working so hard. Even the smartest of us need a break sometimes.

It doesn’t make you any less intelligent or any less capable because you took a few minutes between Math homework and your English essay to fangirl over the new Gilmore Girls trailer or to go on a short nature walk.

As long as the ratio of productivity to breaks leans more towards the former, it’s okay to take a breather. Your mind works a lot better when it has time to rest.

Tip #5: Get a good night’s sleep.

Yes, you’re in college, the time of adventuring and late nights. But adventures can happen during daylight too. Staying up til 3am seems like a great idea until your alarm goes off for class the following morning. Stay up on the weekends if you really want to, but try to get a decent amount of sleep on school nights. When you are awake and alert, your mind is more likely to retain information that you learn during class.

Bottom Line

College is tough. It will make you want to pull your hair out, especially during these midterm months. But if you stay focused, get enough sleep, and allow yourself some downtime, you should survive fully intact and no longer on the edge of a mental breakdown.

When you feel like crying, look up dumb puns on the internet or YouTube videos of cats. I promise that the semester isn’t as hard as you think it is. You aren’t actually drowning. It just feels like it right now.

You are smart and successful and you can do this. 🙂

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.