My Top Ten Books of 2019

IT’S FINALLY HERE. It’s time to list my top ten books of this year. This list was so hard to create and I sat down last night writing out possible picks and narrowing it down. I think I finally have a finished top ten list that I can share so without further ado, here are my favorite books I read in 2019 in order!

Honourable Mentions:

  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I really started to read more horror/thriller this year and I found that I really enjoyed Gillian Flynn’s writing. I read Sharp Objects by her and the Grown Up (a short story) and liked them both but they were nothing like Gone Girl. It was so enticing and I loved reading it!

  • Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Listen, I had a hard time not putting this in my top ten. This was the one Rainbow Rowell novel that I hadn’t read yet because I was waiting to see a used copy in my local bookstore. Eventually, I scored a copy at a newer bookstore near me and decided it was finally time to read it. I ended up loving it, so much so that it’s higher up on my favorite Rainbow Rowell book lists.

  • Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Reid Jenkins

This book was so well done and creative in the way it was written that I couldn’t ignore it this year. If you like Almost Famous the movie, you’ll probably love this book.

  • Josh & Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren

This was one of my favorite romance novels I read this year. I love the characters in this book and I could seriously see myself re-reading this book for pure joy. However, it didn’t make my favorites list because the ending wasn’t my favorite. But, everything before the ending deserves to be on this list!

AND NOW ONTO MY ACTUAL LIST!

10. Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky

You guys, I read more thrillers/horror this year than I ever have. I couldn’t believe that I even read Imaginary Friend, a 700 page horror/thriller and I LOVED IT. I have an entire review here.

9. The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

This was one of my highly anticipated books of 2020 even though I hadn’t read the Handmaid’s Tale at the beginning of the year. I pre-ordered this book and drove to pick it up right when my manager had called me to tell me it’s in. I binge read it in like three days and I loved every minute of it! I think it’s much more entertaining than the first one. I have a review for it here.

8. Frankly in Love by David Yoon

I just recently read this book and I was amazed at how much I ended up loving this book. It was marketed as a rom com but it’s soo much more than that. It’s a beautiful story of living in a Korean family in America with a bit of relationship stuff in it. I totally cried reading this book and I highly recommend it!

7. Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas

I finally finished Throne of Glass this year and I can’t believe it’s over…This series might be one of the biggest fantasy series of the decade for me. I loved it so much at the beginning and I was growing away from it near the end but honestly, this finale was everything I wanted and more.  I’m so glad it ended on such a great note. If you haven’t read this series yet, it’s truly worth it.

6. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

I also FINALLY got around to reading the Hate U Give this year and like all the other books on this list, I loved it. I listened to most of it on audio and it made me laugh at times but also sob in other parts. This is a book everyone should read.

5. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

YOU GUYS! This is the last book I read this year and I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did. I’ve had it for awhile and I try to save my historical fiction reads for the winter because that seems to be my favorite time of the year to read them. I knew this book was sad but I didn’t know it would make me cry so much. I loved Isabelle as a character — she’s so strong, independent and outspoken. Seeing such a strong female character like her during WWII was inspiring nonetheless. I understand why everyone has read and loved this book now.

4. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

I’ve been meaning to read this classic for awhile now and I finally got around to it this year. I’ve read and loved other things written by Sylvia Plath but somehow had never read her only novel. This book doesn’t read like a classic honestly and I was shocked at how oddly relatable the main character is. It is a really sad book (like most things she writes) but it kept me entertained throughout. I actually read this mostly in one sitting so that definitely says something about this classic.

3. The Great Alone my Kristin Hannah

This is the book that introduced me to Kristin Hannah near the very beginning of this year. I had gotten a copy of it on super sale from Book Outlet and decided to start the audiobook. I would listen to the audiobook on my hour long drive to work and it’s all I would listen to. I never really listen to audiobooks in the car because I prefer singing to music but this book had me HOOKED. I love books set in Alaska or the Pacific Northwest so the setting was absolutely perfect. I have a review for it here if you want to know more about how I felt.

2. We Are Lost and Found by Helene Dunbar

I requested this book the day it had went up on Edelweiss because I was in love with the cover and I saw that it was comparable to Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. If any of you know me, you know that’s one of my favorite stories. I ended up reading this book with my close friend Amber and we both really loved it. I could go on and on about this book but I have an in-depth review that you can read here.

1. The Library Book by Susan Orlean

This is kind of a weird favorite book of the year for me but I think it really was. I don’t own a copy of this book (sadly) because I got it from the library (hehe see what I did) and I really loved it. I picked this book without knowing what it was even about but I remember working at b&n when it was really popular. It’s also a part of Reese’s book club which I tend to enjoy books from so I gave it a shot. This book was so well written considering it’s a non-fiction that I absolutely devoured. I wanted to know what happened next even though it was a cliffhanger type of book. I just loved reading it so I wanted to keep reading. This book isn’t just about the Los Angeles Library fire, but about the histories of libraries themselves and some other library fires in history. She also writes about the case of figuring out who did start the fire but I found the information about libraries so fascinating. It made me want to be a librarian even more…I even just recently applied to volunteer at my library because I love everything librarians do. I want to contribute to my local community in the way that librarians do. So, in a way, this book changed my life a bit. I highly recommend it!

 

What were some of your favorite books of the year? Have you read any of these? I’d love to know!

 

Find any of these titles at your local bookstore!

To hear my thoughts elsewhere, follow me on social media: Goodreads | BookTube | Instagram | Twitter

We Are Lost and Found [REVIEW]

43298077A poignant, heartbreaking, and uplifting, story in the tradition of The Perks of Being a Wallflower about three friends coming-of-age in the early 1980s as they struggle to forge their own paths in the face of fear of the unknown.

Michael is content to live in the shadow of his best friends, James, an enigmatic teen performance artist who everyone wants and no one can have and Becky, who calls things as she sees them, while doing all she can to protect those she loves. His brother, Connor, has already been kicked out of the house for being gay and laying low seems to be his only chance to avoid the same fate.

To pass the time before graduation, Michael hangs out at The Echo where he can dance and forget about his father’s angry words, the pressures of school, and the looming threat of AIDS, a disease that everyone is talking about, but no one understands.

Then he meets Gabriel, a boy who actually sees him. A boy who, unlike seemingly everyone else in New York City, is interested in him and not James. And Michael has to decide what he’s willing to risk to be himself.”

Edition: Hardcover

Release Date: September 3rd, 2019

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Source Books Fire

My Rating:  stars 5 ★★★★★ out of ★★★★★ stars (5/5)

 

I was kindly sent a physical copy of this book by Source Books Fire  in exchange for a review. Thank you, Source Books! Any opinion is my own.

 

This review is SPOILER FREE!

TW: homophobia (unaccepting parents)

We Are Lost and Found is one of the rare books that I found the day it was posted to Edelweiss and emailed the publisher immediately. It had everything that I love in the description — it was compared to Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, it’s a coming-of-age story, it’s set in the 80s and it follows LGBT+ teens during the AIDs epidemic. Not to mention, the cover is stunning.

Coming-of-age is one of my favorite genres for so many different reasons but I love how real the stories feel even if it’s fiction. There’s so much character development and personality throughout these types of stories. We Are Lost and Found was no different. As the reader, you follow Michael and his two best friends as they grow up in the middle of New York during the 1980s. Michael goes to this club often that’s called the Echo, where he finds himself always dancing and forgetting. He’s always hanging out with either Jamie — the performer and artist or he’s with Becky, an strong female character who’s going through a lot at home.

Helene Dunbar was able to write such an interesting and fully developed cast of characters in about 300 pages. I loved all of them — Michael, Jamie and Becky. They each had their own backstories and were nowhere near being flat side characters. They also felt incredibly realistic. I find that sometimes,  in YA specifically, friend groups just seem so unrealistic and have me thinking “these people would NEVER be friends in real life” but this set of characters makes perfect sense. Jamie and Becky are never toxic and are so supportive. They’re the most unproblematic side characters ever and I ADORE them.

Not only are the friendships in this book fantastic, but family is such a huge theme in this book. Michael’s relationship with his parents and his brother plays a big part in this book. His brother is such a great character and I feel as if I relate to both of them. A lot of the times in YA books, families are often nowhere to be seen or also just incredibly unrealistic. It was a joy to see his family play a part in this book, even if it wasn’t exactly for the best reason. I really enjoyed seeing Michael’s relationship with his brother. Seeing them grow and have a healthier relationship near the end of this book is so rewarding and refreshing. On the other hand, Michael has a tough relationship with his parents and he never knows where he stands with them after knowing what they did to his brother. He feels trapped and it’s so hard to read but it’s so well done. I think a lot of readers, especially LGBT+ and closeted readers, will appreciate this.

Since this was the first ever book I’ve read by Helene Dunbar, I had no idea what to expect in terms of her writing style. I opened this book and quickly realized, “There’s no quotations marks.” I had been buddy reading this with Amber and I texted her about it immediately because to be completely honest, I think this might be one of the first non-classic books I’ve read with no quotation marks. I love dialogue and I’m not going to lie, I find myself skimming pages and just reading dialogue. Since this had no quotation marks, I obviously couldn’t do that. This story is written in beautiful vignettes and yes, there’s no quotation marks but DAMN, is it wonderful. I quickly fell in love her way of writing. I ended up marking up my review copy with pencil everywhere. I underlined anything I found funny or lyrical. I have so many quotes that I adored from this book and can’t wait to like them all on Goodreads. Let me share some little quotes I underlined:

(please note that this is from an unfinished copy and that some of these quotes may be taken out, edited, or completely changed)

  • “Happy. And that’s the odd thing. Not being happy, but realizing it. Because how often, when you’re happy, do you have the chance to step back and notice?”
  • “Becky says to stay away. That sometimes wanting is better than having — Whatever that means”
  • In this scene, he’s talking about playing guitar. “Somehow, everything I play sounds like the same thing: longing.”
  • “It’s like I left some important part of myself at Pride, and I don’t know how to get it back.”

Also, if you’re wondering why she wrote her book this way, this is a great interview!

Now to talk about a significant part of this book, We Are Lost and Found is set during the 80s and the AIDs epidemic. I’m usually hesitant when it comes to books set during real life events that are as heavy and difficult to talk about like the AIDs epidemic. Let me just say this: This is such a well researched YA novel set during this time. Since I got to read this book so early, I’ve been able to talk to Helene Dunbar herself and she’s truly so passionate about this subject and the book itself. I strongly suggest you read both the Afterword and Acknowledgements when finishing this book. Also, read the interview I linked above. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t know much about the AIDs epidemic besides the fact that it certainly did happen. This book exposes the most difficult and uneasy events that took place during the epidemic. There’s a few scenes in this book that I marked because they were truly excellent and captured the experience of a young, LGBT+ boy in the 80s. One of the scenes is near the beginning of the book when Michael is reading the newspaper and reading the statistics and result of AIDs. Throughout the entire book, Michael is so utterly scared of AIDs — whether it be him somehow obtaining it or his friends and brother. Another heartbreaking scene that captures the pure fear of the AIDs epidemic is when another side character ends up getting AIDs and his family doesn’t even visit him even though he’s dying because they’re scared they’ll get sick. These are such poignant scenes but they truly set the reader up for an eye opening read.

I’m planning to read more books about the AIDs epidemic since this one. I loved it even more than I thought I would. The writing was absolutely beautiful. Helene Dunbar wrote a book on such a complex topic and did it while being both poetic and light hearted at the same time. Don’t get me wrong — this book is a heavy read but it’s well worth it. There’s so much depth within this book that I didn’t quite expect but I really enjoyed it.

On a more random note, I think this would make the perfect book club book. I really love reading this along with Amber. It gives you so much to talk about and makes for incredibly interesting conversations! As a reader, you also learn so much about the AIDs epidemic from the point of view of an LGBT+ teen. Truly remarkable!

I can’t wait for this book to be released (I pre-ordered it right when I finished) so all of you can read it and hopefully love it as much as me! The description of this book seems quite accurate. I think this book has all of the things Perks of Being a Wallflower has so if you are a fan of that book, don’t hesitate to pick this one up! You might love it as much as I did.

Find We Are Lost & Found at your local bookstore! It comes out September 3rd, 2019.

 

To hear my thoughts elsewhere, follow me on social media: Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter

Required Reading that I Loved

School is back in session and I’m so thankfully not attending high school ever again! I decided I would talk about some of the required reading that I loved in high school because it seems as if most people hated the books they read in high school. For me, some of these books became my favorites.

I want to clarify that I went to school in Florida and I took mostly advanced English, AP Lang, and a dual enrollment college course in high school. This means my required reading might be a little different than what some people may have read in high school. For example, I never had to read To Kill a Mockingbird. I know, shocker right? I’ve never read Animal Farm either! So, if you’re wondering why I might’ve not mentioned one of your favorites or ones you remember, it’s most likely because I didn’t have to read them.

1. Hamlet by Shakespeare

329519“Among Shakespeare’s plays, “Hamlet” is considered by many his masterpiece. Among actors, the role of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, is considered the jewel in the crown of a triumphant theatrical career. Now Kenneth Branagh plays the leading role and co-directs a brillant ensemble performance. Three generations of legendary leading actors, many of whom first assembled for the Oscar-winning film “Henry V”, gather here to perform the rarely heard complete version of the play. This clear, subtly nuanced, stunning dramatization, presented by The Renaissance Theatre Company in association with “Bbc” Broadcasting, features such luminaries as Sir John Gielgud, Derek Jacobi, Emma Thompson and Christopher Ravenscroft. It combines a full cast with stirring music and sound effects to bring this magnificent Shakespearen classic vividly to life. Revealing new riches with each listening, this production of “Hamlet” is an invaluable aid for students, teachers and all true lovers of Shakespeare – a recording to be treasured for decades to come.”

Listen, I’m not a huge Shakespeare fan. But, I did read quite a few of his works throughout high school. I mean, didn’t we all? I’m pretty sure I had read: Romeo & Juliet, Othello, King Lear, and Hamlet. Hamlet was the last one I read since I read it in my Comp I class senior year of high school. When I tell you I loved Hamlet, I LOVED Hamlet. It’s actually on my Favorites list on Goodreads. Hamlet is such a great character. The play is actually intriguing, family drama, literally everyone dies, and it’s funny. What more could you ask for? Oh, and I know what he meant by “To be or not to be” now.

I also remember my English professor showing us this scene from the Simpsons to summarize Hamlet and it was golden. “Nobody out crazies Ophelia!” made me laugh so hard.

2. 1984 by George Orwell

40961427. sx318 Among the seminal texts of the 20th century, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a rare work that grows more haunting as its futuristic purgatory becomes more real. Published in 1949, the book offers political satirist George Orwell’s nightmare vision of a totalitarian, bureaucratic world and one poor stiff’s attempt to find individuality. The brilliance of the novel is Orwell’s prescience of modern life–the ubiquity of television, the distortion of the language–and his ability to construct such a thorough version of hell. Required reading for students since it was published, it ranks among the most terrifying novels ever written.

 

I wanna say that I read this book during sophomore year of high school but honestly, I can’t remember a damn thing about high school. I just remember we read a lot of dystopian and the only Orwell thing I ever had to read was 1984. To be quite frank with you, I loved everything about this book. I read ahead like I usually do and I remember being excited for the discussions. I’m finally glad to understand this book and all the references made in 2019.

 

3. The Crucible by Arthur Miller

17250. sy475 “I believe that the reader will discover here the essential nature of one of the strangest and most awful chapters in human history,” Arthur Miller wrote of his classic play about the witch-hunts and trials in seventeenth-century Salem, Massachusetts. Based on historical people and real events, Miller’s drama is a searing portrait of a community engulfed by hysteria. In the rigid theocracy of Salem, rumors that women are practicing witchcraft galvanize the town’s most basic fears and suspicions; and when a young girl accuses Elizabeth Proctor of being a witch, self-righteous church leaders and townspeople insist that Elizabeth be brought to trial. The ruthlessness of the prosecutors and the eagerness of neighbor to testify against neighbor brilliantly illuminates the destructive power of socially sanctioned violence.

Written in 1953, The Crucible is a mirror Miller uses to reflect the anti-communist hysteria inspired by Senator Joseph McCarthy’s “witch-hunts” in the United States. Within the text itself, Miller contemplates the parallels, writing, “Political opposition… is given an inhumane overlay, which then justifies the abrogation of all normally applied customs of civilized behavior. A political policy is equated with moral right, and opposition to it with diabolical malevolence.”

We actually read this out loud in class as if we were the cast of characters. I remember being picked to read Elizabeth and my only other friend in that AP class read John Proctor. I wasn’t usually excited to read aloud but it was so fun reading this play. Even though this events took place SO long ago, they were so fun to read about. I think I would probably re-read this today if I felt like it.

4. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

26238021

In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter. How McCandless came to die is the unforgettable story of Into the Wild.

Immediately after graduating from college in 1991, McCandless had roamed through the West and Southwest on a vision quest like those made by his heroes Jack London and John Muir. In the Mojave Desert he abandoned his car, stripped it of its license plates, and burned all of his cash. He would give himself a new name, Alexander Supertramp, and , unencumbered by money and belongings, he would be free to wallow in the raw, unfiltered experiences that nature presented. Craving a blank spot on the map, McCandless simply threw the maps away. Leaving behind his desperate parents and sister, he vanished into the wild.

Out of all the books I’ve read in my life, Into the Wild remains in the top three. It’s funny because I originally only rated this book four stars and in my review, I mentioned not loving it. It’s been a few years since I read this book (I think I read in it 2016?) and it still manages to stick with me. I think about it often and I like to re-read a few passages of this book whenever I’m feeling upset. I left this book feeling so much and learning so much from Jon Krakauer and Chris McCandless. This is my bookseller rec at work because I just want everyone to read it. I’ve seen the movie and it was okay but I’ll never forget the feeling of reading it for the first time. I love this book for so many different reasons — it’s so atmospheric, it reads like fiction even though it’s not, it brings up the topic of transcendentalism, and some of the writing is just truly unforgettable.

 

What was your favorite required reading? Sometimes they’re hit or miss but I ended up really loving these!

 

 

 

June Wrap Up | 2019

GUESS WHO’S FINALLY READING AGAIN? I finally picked up several books this month and finished them. I’m so excited to finally be able to talk about books I just read so let’s get into it!

 

  • We Are Lost & Found by Helene Dunbar  ★★★★★ (5) /  ★★★★★ (5) stars

I absolutely loved this book. I read it with Amber (I’ll link her Booktube & Instagram here) and it was so fun. I knew I was going to love this book but wow, I ended up loving it more than I thought. I will have a full length review up closer to the release date. The actual date of the post will be on my blog soon! Just check under the “Upcoming Reviews” tab!

  • the Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood ★★★★ (4) / ★★★★★ (5) stars

So glad I ended up getting to this book. I’ve been wanting to read this feminist classic for so long but never got around to it until now. I was supposed to be reading this for the Feminist February book club but I had to discontinue it due to personal stuff in my life that happened that month. I ended up really enjoying it.

  • Autoboyography by Christina Lauren ★★★ (3) /  ★★★★★ (5) stars

Listen, I had really high hopes for this book. So many people told me it’s their favorite book and how wonderful it is but I just didn’t get it. I’m going to be posting a review soon! I promise.

  • Vengeful by V.E. Schwab ★★★ (3) /  ★★★★★ (5) stars

I’m kind of sad about this but I didn’t love Vengeful as much as I loved Vicious. I might write a review for it so I’m not gonna give all my thoughts but it didn’t feel like a solid sequel to me. It felt more like a companion novel.

 

 

Where I End & You Begin [MINI REVIEW]

41736961“Ezra Slevin is an anxious, neurotic insomniac who spends his nights questioning his place in the universe and his days obsessing over Imogen, a nerdy girl with gigantic eyebrows and a heart of gold.

For weeks, Ezra has been working up the courage to invite Imogen to prom. The only problem is Imogen’s protective best friend, Wynonna Jones. Wynonna has blue hair, jams to ’80s rock, and has made a career out of tormenting Ezra for as long as he can remember.

Then, on the night of a total solar eclipse, something strange happens to Ezra and Wynonna–and they wake up in each other’s bodies. Not only that, they begin randomly swapping back and forth every day! Ezra soon discovers Wynonna’s huge crush on his best friend, Holden, a five-foot-nothing girl magnet with anger management problems. With no end to their curse in sight, Ezra makes Wynonna a proposition: while swapping bodies, he will help her win Holden’s heart…but only if she helps him woo Imogen.

Forming an uneasy alliance, Ezra and Wynonna embark on a collision course of mistaken identity, hurt feelings, embarassing bodily functions, and a positively byzantine production of Twelfth Night. Ezra wishes he could be more like Wynonna’s badass version of Ezra–but he also realizes he feels more like himself while being Wynonna than he has in a long time…

Wildly entertaining and deeply heartfelt, Where I End and You Begin is a brilliant, unapologetic exploration of what it means to be your best self.”

Edition: Hardcover

Release Date: June 4th, 2019

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

My Rating:  stars 4 ★★★★ out of ★★★★★ stars (4/5)

 

I was kindly sent an e-arc of this book by the publisher through NetGalley. The opinion is my own.

This review is SPOILER FREE!

I requested Where I End and You Begin by Preston North solely because the description got me immediately. Except, I don’t really know what I was expecting. I just know it wasn’t this. This book was so interesting, quirky and hilarious while also tackling things like depression and finding yourself when you have no idea who you are.

While mimicking Twelfth Night and Freaky Friday at the same time, it deals with the main character, Ezra, being completely confused about his identity. Not only is Ezra lost, but he also is dealing with his mental health and his situation in which he never sleeps. I think this book could’ve felt much heavier than it was but since it was still able to be humorous, it became a much lighter read.

I loved the author’s writing style because he gave his characters SO much personality. It was so fun reading Ezra’s constant thoughts even if they weren’t the happiest sometimes. I especially found it unique whenever the book finally hits the play. I think this type of writing is almost lyrical in sense that it’s so quotable. I highlighted so many lines on my kindle and it sucks I can’t share them all!

The only problem I had with this book was the mention of Johnny Depp’s abuse case. As of now, Johnny Depp has laid out endless evidence about how he was abused by his ex wife. I understand that while the author was writing this, he might’ve felt the need to mention that since Ezra was a huge Johnny Depp fan. I just don’t think it fit well within fiction. It disconnected me a bit but I still enjoyed the book nonetheless.

Overall, I would recommend this to anyone looking for a hilarious yet meaningful read like Me, Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews. Their writing is reminiscent of each other! Also, if anyone’s looking for a book about identity exploration, this book covered is so well.

 

Find Where I End and You Begin at your local bookstore!

 

To hear my thoughts elsewhere, follow me on social media: Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter

 

 

 

** I wanna note I wrote this LONG after reading it so it’s probably messy. I just needed to get a review back to NetGalley. I meant to write it after I read it but life got too crazy.**

Again, but Better [SPOILER FREE REVIEW]

81kW7J18kvL“Shane has been doing college all wrong. Pre-med, stellar grades, and happy parents…sounds ideal — but Shane’s made zero friends, goes home every weekend, and romance…what’s that?

Her life has been dorm, dining hall, class, repeat. Time’s a ticking, and she needs a change — there’s nothing like moving to a new country to really mix things up. Shane signs up for a semester abroad in London. She’s going to right all her college mistakes: make friends, pursue boys, and find adventure!

Easier said than done. She is soon faced with the complicated realities of living outside her bubble, and when self-doubt sneaks in, her new life starts to fall apart.

Shane comes to find that, with the right amount of courage and determination one can conquer anything. Throw in some fate and a touch of magic – the possibilities are endless.”

Edition: Hardcover

Release Date: May 7th, 2019

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Wednesday Books

My Rating:  stars ★★★★ out of ★★★★★ stars (4/5)

 

I was kindly sent an e-arc of this book by the publisher through NetGalley. The opinion is my own.

THIS REVIEW IS SPOILER FREE!

I have been following Christine on social media for so long so I’ve obviously been following her writing series since the beginning. If you’re not familiar, Christine has made writing videos from the moment she started her book and they’re still ongoing. It’s been such an interesting journey to watch Christine struggle with drafts and rewrites to finally getting to sign her first ARC at Yallfest. Once we were finally given the description of her book, I pre-ordered it immediately.

I loved the idea of uncertain 20 year old who decides she’s going to study abroad in hopes to meet new people, make new friends, and learn about something she’s truly passionate about. Also, maybe find an incredibly cute boy on the way. As a clueless almost 20 year old, I needed to finally read something like this.

I’m going to quickly get out some of my more negative thoughts and disclaimers first before anyone thinks my rating doesn’t match up. I gave this only 4.0 stars because I had some minor issues with the book that I would if this was any author. I’m not being extra nice because I follow Christine and love her. I truly did love this book but we’ll get into that in a second.

  • First, this didn’t ever seem like a YA novel. I think this would be better off marketed as a New Adult novel instead. The main character is 20 years old and in college, studying abroad where drinking is legal. There’s nothing in this book that makes it unreadable to Young Adults but it just makes more sense? It gave me the feeling of a New Adult novel too but the category of New Adult is just now beginning so who knows.
  • Second, I felt a shift between the first and second half of the book. The writing seemed to drag a bit in the beginning and I could obviously tell this is someone who doesn’t have experience writing novels. The writing at the beginning is quite lack luster but it’s not terrible. It just could’ve been better and I’m sure as Christine starts writing more, it will. This could have something to do with that not much happens in the first half of the book. It’s a lot of introducing of new people and experiences. The second half of the book was so, so entertaining and brilliant. The writing gets better almost instantaneously for some reason that I couldn’t tell you. I ended up finishing this book in one night because I was so excited to keep reading after I finished part one. I just think the writing is amateur and awkward. She uses phrases like “what the fudge” and the word “Epic!” a lot and I wasn’t a fan. It doesn’t make sense for the character to use the phrase “what the fudge” while other characters did curse. Maybe it’s just a quirk — but it was excessive and annoying.
  • and a quick Disclaimer, this book is VERY Christine. But, I feel like nobody would notice this if her life wasn’t online. This is her first book and she’s worked so hard on it. It feels like this book is reminiscent of her own experiences and memories she may have. Her main character, Shane, is quite similar to her but I wouldn’t say exactly. I obviously do not know Christine besides her Youtube channel but Shane and Christine definitely have the same quirks (loving Lost, the username and love of writing, etc.) I don’t think this is at all wrong but just a personal preference. Some people might find it a bit lazy, but I think it makes the reading experience even more fun.

Now, onto the things I loved!

Christine did a WONDERFUL job with character development and growth. Christine was able to portray Shane’s inner thoughts constantly but not in a way it was overwhelming. Shane is a very anxious and thoughtful person. She’s in her head a lot and she comes off as almost naive or innocent? She’s extremely passionate about writing and knows the direction she wants to go in, but is held back by her family. I feel like Christine’s style of writing went perfectly with the personality of her main character. She’s funny but also incredibly nervous that makes the situation awkward but not too awkward. Since her character is funny, this book made me laugh out loud a few times. I even laughed reading the acknowledgements.

As for Pilot (the love interest), his character fell flat for me. He wasn’t that interesting or anything. He was an average character who played character. I found their banter really cute and they have some adorable interactions but overall, he’s just okay. It’s hard to talk about their relationship without spoiling anything but I feel like people blame Shane too much for his actions. It’s common people always blame the woman but I hope future readers understand her situation more than the reviews I’ve seen recently. Oh, they also totally remind me of Ross & Rachel from the TV show Friends. I’ll go more into this in my spoiler review. I also can’t forget her roommates! I liked the Disney roommate but I found it hard to like them in the second half of the book. Nothing against the book personally but some of their actions just royally upset me. You’ll understand immediately whenever you read the book.

On a personal level, this book is incredibly relatable. There isn’t enough college related books so being able to read a college student with pretty obvious anxiety was nice. It also makes me long for studying abroad even more. It brought me into a world I wish I lived in for awhile but took a spin near the end. There is a plot twist that most probably won’t see coming but I did. It seemed pretty obvious to me from the moment a certain character was introduced but I think this ending makes the book so much better. I think it helped the story a ton and was definitely the best part. If this book didn’t take that turn, this would’ve been a three star book for me. But, I ended up finishing this book all in one sitting once I reached part two. I loved it. It becomes so much more emotional and raw than the beginning and it had the type of ending I loved. It’s those endings you never see coming or the ones you don’t exactly wish for. Christine did an excellent job of ending this story and wrapping things up. This book portrayed a lost college student in the most satisfying way. From dealing with her family, her major, her friends and her love life, it was all so lovely. I definitely can’t wait for others to read this to hear their thoughts!

 

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What If It’s Us [REVIEW]

This is an archived review. For the original post, here’s a link to Goodreads post.

36260157Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is?”

Edition: ARC e-book
Page Count: 488 pages
Publish Date: October 9th, 2018
Publisher: Harper Teen
ISBN13: 9780062795243

Rating: ★★★★/★★★★★ (4.5/5 stars)

 

I was so kindly sent an early copy of this book by Harper Teen in exchange for a review.

“I don’t know if we’re a love story or a story about love.”

I am so excited for this book to be shared with the rest of the world! I got the honour to read and review this book early and as always, these authors didn’t disappoint me. While I don’t read many contemporary books anymore, I always end up reading both Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera’s books. They both write quite differently as Adam Silvera writes incredibly deep and emotional books and Becky’s books can get emotional but are usually pretty lighthearted. This book is a perfect combination of what real love feels like when it hurts and when it’s the only thing you can think about.

It all begins with two teenagers named Arthur and Ben meet in a New York post office on accident. It’s definitely a bitter sweet meet-cute considering they flirt but don’t exchange any contact information, not even a name, so all they do is think about each other afterwards. They search craigslist, have a friend internet stalk one another, etc. and soon enough, they’re together again on their first date. As the expectations are high, things start to disappoint when their multiple dates don’t end up as planned. But, they keep trying anyway to make their story as picture perfect as possible. Unfortunately, love isn’t always that simple. Was the universe helping them or not?

I have to admit: Arthur and Ben’s messy love story was hard to read at times but it’s definitely worth it. It shows that not all relationships are perfect and there’s definitely struggles whenever it comes to love but it’s the ride that counts. They did over their first date in attempt to have the perfect one but it never seemed to work out. Arthur was jealous and insecure at times and Ben didn’t quite understand. They were troubled and made many mistakes but that’s the reality of it all. It wasn’t insta-love or perfect like they wished but it was real. That’s what makes this story so genuine and heartfelt.

The characters alone didn’t need each other to be interesting because of how descriptive and intriguing their personalities were. Becky Albertalli wrote Arthur, a broad-way obsessed teen who’s living in New York over the summer. The mentions of Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen were an excellent plus. Adam Silvera wrote Ben, a New Yorker who just got out of a relationship and is struggling with summer school. Not only are these characters both gay but Arthur is a Jewish boy with ADHD and Ben is Puerto Rican. As readers, we explore Ben’s struggle with his racial identity because he doesn’t exactly look Puerto Rican. Not only that, but we get insight on Arthur’s personal struggle living with ADHD. As we get introduced to both Ben and Arthur, we meet several side characters who play important roles in their lives and are diverse. We meet their closest friends, their significant others and their families but it’s still crucial to the plot. We experience their families meeting at Arthur’s home and their world’s colliding. It was so wholesome seeing their parents talk about each other as a couple.

The only problem I found while reading was that Arthur and Ben felt a lot older than they were (I believe they’re like 15-16?). They felt much older, like college students but it might’ve been the fact they’re living in NYC and they were quite independent. Also, some of the conversations were just weird (those roommates?? lol).

It was so refreshing to read a LGBT+ love story that was genuine and normalized. It was a bitter sweet romance during the Summer in New York. I could see the ending clearly but I didn’t want to believe it. What’s better than a realistic romance in New York with two incredibly diverse characters with outstanding personalities? Not to mention, I fell in love at all of the broadway references and how they mentioned real bookstores like Books of Wonder. It was like the icing on top of the cake (cliche, I know) but I loved everything about this book.

I sincerely cannot wait for it to be released so everyone else can understand how lovely it is as well. I think we all need a good LGBT+ love story by the king and queen of YA contemporary.

Have you read this book? Are you planning to? Let me know!

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TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN [REVIEW]

This is an archived review. For the original post, here’s a link to my old blog.

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“It all begins with a fugitive billionaire and the promise of a cash reward. Turtles All the Way Down is about lifelong friendship, the intimacy of an unexpected reunion, Star Wars fan fiction, and tuatara. But at its heart is Aza Holmes, a young woman navigating daily existence within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

In his long-awaited return, John Green shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity.”

Edition: Hardcover
Page Count: 288 pages
Publish Date: October 10th, 2017
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
ISBN13: 9780525555360

My Rating: 5/5 stars ★★★★★

 

TW: This book does portray OCD in a very realistic way so if that’s something you’re uncomfortable reading, I would stray away from this book.

 

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

All spoilers in this review contain BOLD brackets around the text like this [EXAMPLE]. Feel free to skip around these to avoid spoilers. 

Review

I’ve been thinking about this book a lot. The day after I finished it, it’s the only thing I thought about. I thought about it so much and how it impacted me, it was hard to handle. I told myself I’d write a review when I’m comfortable coming back to it with my feelings all together. They’re not and I don’t think they will ever be? This isn’t a bad thing. In fact, I love it when books make me feel this way. These are the books that become my favorites. I’ve sat down and recorded a few videos of myself talking about it because no one had finished it yet and I needed to figure out what I’d say in my review. I had so many things to say, definitely on the spoiler-y end, but if I have to say anything, it’s that it was real and I loved it.
John Green has always written books that interested me. From Paper Towns and the wanderlust angst, to The Fault In Our Stars and the love it showed me. But they felt like stories to me. These books just felt like books and nothing more. I’d re-read them occasionally and meet with the characters again. With Turtles all the Way Down, I feel like I’m stuck with Aza. I’ll think about this book a lot. Whenever I’m having a “thought spiral,” I’ll probably think of the ending and maybe I’ll try to calm down. John Green has mentioned that this book is personal to him and you’re able to see feel that whenever you’re reading it.
Before I get too deep into personal thought, let me talk more about the book itself. We follow Aza, a girl struggling with OCD and her best friend Daisy, as they decide one day they’re going to try and solve the mystery of the billionaire who recently went missing in their town in order to receive the reward. A long the way, Aza gets in touch with the billionaire’s son, Davis, who she used to be friends with as a kid. Aza’s OCD is very much shown through her constant fear of disease or specifically, C Dif. Feel free to look it up. It’s complicated.
While I am going to talk about the characters and plot individually, I want to talk about her OCD and anxiety first. It’s obviously something very important to this book as we follow her life having OCD and we’re in her head a lot, just like she is in hers. You get to see the broken down rawness of her OCD a lot in the first chapter, which is a brilliant idea. Props to John because we refer back to that first chapter through out the entire book whether it’s mentioning the disease itself or her story life metaphor. The thoughts she has going on in her head are hard to read. I’m not going to lie to you. It’s difficult and frustrating because you feel like it’s your mind. It’s how mental illness should be displayed. John Green doesn’t dumb it down and he doesn’t make it look easy. It’s not romanticized, it’s unbearable. This aspect is important to me in a novel because the romanticization of mental illness is YA literature has been around for so long and as someone with mental illness, I want something real. The only reason this book was tough to talk about afterwards was due to the fact it made me think of my own anxiety. While she does have OCD and I can’t mention if he directly states anything about having anxiety, it’s definitely there in her actions at some points. There’s a scene that stood out to me and my anxiety where she tells him about a mathematician,

“I told him about this mathematician Kurt Gödel, who had this really bad fear of being poisoned, so much so that he couldn’t bring himself to eat food unless it was prepared by his wife. And then one day his wife got sick and had to go into the hospital, so Gödel stopped eating. I told Davis how even though Gödel must’ve known that starvation was a greater risk than poisoning, he just couldn’t eat, and so he starved to death… He cohabited with the demon for seventy-one years, and then it got him in the end.” (pg. 203)

I wish I could thank John personally for this. His writing style is so unique because of all these littles things and metaphors he’ll add in order to explain something that just make so much more sense than if you were to simply explain it. That’s one of the beauties of this book.
Now while this book does follow a mysterious plot, I think the most important and climatic scene in the book is Aza dealing with her OCD at the end of the book. Obviously, John mentions how “Mental illness is a story told in past tense” but THIS ONE ISN’T. Aza even talks about how she feels like she’s in some kind of story and how she’s the author and this isn’t past tense. [SPOILER: The climax to this book was definitely the part: where she’s in the hospital after the car accident and she swallows the hand sanitizer. I hate even thinking about putting hand sanitizer near my mouth and so does Aza but she does it anyway because she’s scared and she feels like she has to and so she does. This scene was absolutely heartbreaking because she rather die from drinking hand sanitizer than the possibility of actually getting C diff (the disease she talks about).]

Now, this book had excellent character development. I actually felt this book to be very character based and very much in their heads so the development is great. I’ve mostly already talked about Aza’s character development but now I want to quickly talk about Daisy. Daisy was honestly my favorite from the start. She’s a fanfic writer who’s dedicated to writing Star Wars fanfic and is actually quite popular online. She has some really good parts that just had me laughing out loud so I’m going to share some. There’s this scene where she’s talking about a boy who possibly likes her and she says he’s that vast boy in the middle,

“The whole problem with boys is that ninety-nine percent of them are, like, okay. If you could dress and hygiene them properly, and make them stand up straight and listen to you and not be dumbasses, they’d be totally acceptable.”

or even the scenes where she’s talking about drawing the short stick and having to wear the Chuckie costume. That minimum wage teenage job struggle is real. (lol)

While I found her character hilarious and a great sidekick, the ending was pretty sad. [SPOILER: It hurt to read her fanfic when Aza realized there was a character very much like her and it was almost insulting. Yet, I think I understand Daisy. Yes, it was wrong but it can be hard to deal with people with mental illness but it’s never okay to treat them unfairly for it. She used her fanfic as an outlet and never thought Aza would make the connection. It hurt even more when she told Aza that “You don’t even really know me. What’s my parents’ names?” One of the worst parts is when she quoted Mychel,

“…you’re like mustard. Great in small quantities, but then a lot of you is. . . a lot.” 

which is even more heart breaking because a few pages beforehand, she thought, “I now saw myself as Daisy saw me– clueless, helpless, useless. Less.” ]

To finally wrap this up, (this review has been unfinished for awhile because wow, it was a lot), I really loved this book. I still stand by everything I said. I think this is John Green’s best book and I am nervous/excited for the movie version. If the ending of this book made me feel a certain way for days, I don’t know what the movie version is going to do to me.

If John Green is writing another book, I have no idea how it’s going to be as raw, relatable, and revolutionary as this one.

 

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The Great Alone [REVIEW]

Screen Shot 2019-04-24 at 4.39.54 PMAlaska, 1974.
Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed.

For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival.

Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.

In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska―a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature.”

THIS REVIEW IS SPOILER FREE

Edition: Hardcover, Audiobook
Page Count: 435 pages
Publish Date: February 6th, 2019
Publisher: St. Martins Press

My Rating: 4/5 stars ★★★★

 

TRIGGER WARNINGS: alcohol abuse, domestic violence, violent death of animals

 

“Books are the mile markers of my life. Some people have family photos or home movies to record their past. I’ve got books. Characters. For as long as I can remember, books have been my safe place.”

 

Review

 

I’ve had a fascination about Alaska (Particularly, living in Alaska) since I discovered Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer in high school and loved it. It’s an incredibly fascinating place so of course, reading about it is always fun. I picked this book up because I know it was a bestseller for awhile and it takes place in Alaska during the 1970s.

I’ve heard of Kristin Hannah before because of her most popular release, The Nightingale. People at work (I’m a bookseller) always tell me how much they love the Nightingale and how it’s the best book they’ve ever read. I haven’t read it yet but this one seemed a bit more interesting to me so I picked it up first. As Max said in his review, she makes Alaska feel like it’s own character.

I read both the physical copy and listened to the audiobook. The narration is done beautifully by Julia Whelan. I loved listening to the audiobook on my way home and back from work. It was captivating throughout the whole story, even if not much was going on. This isn’t just due to the narrator but of course, Kristin Hannah’s writing. Her writing is so enticing and lyrical.

Unfortunately, if her writing hadn’t been so beautiful, it would’ve been hard to make it through this book. Not much happened between page one up until about page 250. It wasn’t exactly boring but it wasn’t too exciting either. Things really started going at the 200 page mark but it was A LOT. Most of the shock value and climax is near the end of the book. Big things kept happening one after another in only such a short span of time. The book does skip ahead years which might be a reason for this but it felt like a lot.

I did cry reading this book which is weird because I haven’t gotten so emotional while reading in a long time. I think a lot of this has to due with the discussion of grief in this book. Leni, the main character, talks a lot about dealing with grief and dealing with her dad’s PTSD and his abusive behavior. As someone who understands domestic abuse and has seen it themselves, it was really hard watching her mom talk about how scared she was to leave him. This is why I included the trigger warnings in the review because for some people, this might be a lot.

Other than that, this was still a really great read. I didn’t hate it  — I just didn’t love it. It was enticing, emotional, and overall a great story about life and everything that comes with it.

Have you read this book? Are you planning to? Let me know!

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Daisy Jones & The Six [REVIEW]

“Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity . . . until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock and roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnanMt, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.”

Edition: Hardcover
Page Count: 368 pages
Publish Date: March 5th, 2019
Publisher: Ballantine Books

My Rating: 4.5/5 stars ★★★★½

“I had absolutely no interest in being somebody else’s muse.
I am not a muse.
I am the somebody.
End of fucking story.”

Review

 

Ever since I finished this book, it’s the only thing I’ve been thinking about. I went into this basically having no idea what this book is about except that I knew it was set in the 1970s. I love reading about the 60s/70s so I decided to give it a whirl after only seeing it on bookstagram every five seconds. I truly bought this book because of the hype.

I haven’t read Taylor Jenkins Reid’s other books so I wasn’t exactly sure if I’d like her writing style or not but it turns out, this book is written much differently.

It’s written as an oral history of the band, Daisy Jones & the Six from the very beginning. It’s like you’re reading their responses in a Rolling Stone interview but it intertwines and creates a beautiful story.

It starts off from when the Six was just becoming a band to the very end. There’s several different main characters but I’d say the main ones are Daisy, Billy, and Billy’s wife (I can’t remember her name). As the reader, you’re thrown into the life of a band during the height of rock n’ roll and fame. It’s so atmospheric — between the setting, the writing style, and the personality of each character, it truly feels like a real band. I’m pretty sure it’s based off Fleetwood Mac but I still googled if Daisy Jones & the Six were a thing (lol).

While this book does highlight all of the great aspects of rock n’ roll and it’s time, it also shows you the devastating factor of drug abuse. There’s a lot of substance abuse in this book so if that’s nothing something you’re comfortable with reading, I’d steer clear of this book. Billy is an alcoholic and Daisy abuses pills and other hard drugs like no tomorrow. While Billy is trying to be sober throughout this book, it’s still a heavy topic and hard to read at times but worth it in the end. This story doesn’t glamorize drug addiction and substance abuse. It doesn’t just shame it entirely — it shows that there is a path to recovery and both characters explore it.

Also, I’ve added this to my Feminist list on Goodreads because I’ve never read such empowering female characters in fiction. Every single one of the women in this book (Karen, Daisy, and Camila) are so uniquely powerful in their own ways and I loved it. Karen’s story, in particular, resonated with me. I wish we got to read more of her story because about half way in, I loved her so much. She doesn’t take any sh*t from anybody and is willing to do what’s best for her and it’s admirable.

The only reason I gave this book 4.5 stars instead of a complete 5 is because I felt the ending was lack luster. I didn’t predict the ending but it was a little bit of a let down after what I had just read. It was clever in a way but unfortunately, not my favorite type of ending. The bands ending in itself was foreseeable, though. I just wish the ending was a little bit bigger?

Despite that, this book makes for one hell of a reading experience and I can’t wait to finally listen to the audiobook. I’ve had it on hold at my library and I’m just waiting for my turn because I’ve heard it’s even better. I also can’t wait for this mini series adaptation so I can finally hear all the beautiful lyrics out loud. “Regret Me” by Daisy live? I’m here for it.

 

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