Firsts of 2017

It’s been a while (since October) that I posted regularly, so I wanted to inform my minuscule readers what I’ve been reading and up to while on hiatus. Mostly, I was too depressed to actually write, but I was still reading. My goal here is to compile a list of books that I read in the first few months that meant something to me. Now, I’ve certainly read books that have made me cry or made me go “what did I just read?” but these books are the first books of the year that I’ve read that made me cry or made me go “whaaaat?” So without further adieu, let’s get started.

2017’s Firsts


First Book I Bought for an Actual Reason: The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

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Disclaimer: the pink/white pills are joint medication for my cat; the purple round ones are children’s chewable ibuprofen; the two prescription bottles are obviously that–prescriptions written for me. This is a commentary on Carrie Fisher’s love of drugs, especially her own.

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
Published by Blue Rider Press on November 22nd 2016
Genres: Biography, Diary, History
Pages: 272
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

I’m not crying, you’re crying. I knew that when this book came out that I had to own it. It was over Christmas break, I was back home in Chicago while my cat and boyfriend were in our little cottage in central PA when we heard the news. Princess Leia has passed away. I didn’t grow up with Star Wars (I was stereotypically given dolls and not science things), but I knew of the impact these movies have had on future movies to come, Hollywood itself, and nerds of every age. I only saw the movies for the first time about two years ago, all in the rightful order of 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3 and then 7 and 3.5 when they came out respectively. I cried at the end of 7, The Force Awakens, because, though I didn’t see them as a child, I was already deeply attached to the characters and the harrowing story.

When Carrie Fisher died, I didn’t know what to think. She was older and clearly didn’t take the best care of herself, but she was an idol–is an idol–and will continue to be not only for fans in metal bikinis everywhere, but for those with mental illness that she made feel more normal with her hilarity towards her own problems. I didn’t even know much about her seminars and discussions, mostly because I don’t have bipolar disorder, but I know that she influenced many outside of the Star Wars franchise. Long story short, I had to have her book. I knew her also as an hilarious actor outside of the franchise–starring in 30 Rock as a crazy cat-less lady and the equally real and hilarious British show Catastrophe. I watched her with admiration as someone who accomplished so much in her life, while struggling with her own problems of stardom, mental health, unrequited love, etc.

I will continue collecting her works–I didn’t know she wrote so much, why did she have to leave us!–and forever remember her as fantastic woman.


First WTF is Happening Book: The Graces by Laura Eve

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The Graces by Laura Eve
Published by Harry N. Abrams on September 6th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary, Thriller, Romance, Friendship
Pages: 352
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

Has anyone read this book????? Can someone explain to me this book??? Laura Eve, you have done it. I have a literature degree and have been trained, for more than four years if we’re counting my excessive literature classes in high school, as well as getting my Master’s in literature starting in August and yet, you have stumped me. So thank you. Thank you, Laura Eve for completely and utterly confusing me.

I thought I had it all figured this out while reading this book, and yet once I got to that last chapter, everything I thought I knew went flying out the window. And it was so refreshing! I love young adult books, they’re my favorite genre–so much so that I write in this genre–and yet sometimes I can figure out the entire story during the first couple of chapters. And this is nice, don’t get me wrong, I can then just focus on the characters, love stories, familial ties, etc. and not have to worry about using my brain too much. But not with Eve’s ridiculous and outstanding tale.

Also, I can’t even disclose any of my confusion because it would give away the entire story, and I wouldn’t want to do that because the twist is so intense, so heart-stopping, that it would be an injustice as a book-lover to spoil. Please read this book if you have ever thought what it would be like to meet real-life witches, people you have read about in books and searched the internet for, and are desperate to be a part of that life. I can imagine Harry Potter lovers relating with River and her desperate need to know more about the Grace family. Who doesn’t want to be best friends with witches?

BUT THAT’S NOT EVEN THE HALF OF IT! If you enjoy murder mystery, surprise twists with characters, forbidden love and desperate lust, then read The Graces; it will do you well.

A close second for this category is Caraval by Stephanie Garber.


First Book I Cried In: The Problem with Forever by Jennifer Armentrout

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The Problem with Forever by Jennifer Armentrout
Published by Harlequin Teen on May 17th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Friendship, Family, Mental Health
Pages: 480
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

This book is beautiful. It does seem a little long in the beginning, and since it’s almost 500 pages long, it can seem like it’s dragging. But do not lose hope because the more you read, the more you discover. Armentrout carefully and artfully discloses only certain information at a time, never giving away too much, always keeping you on the edge of your seat. I fell in love with the characters–feeling so much for them that when the time is right I am going to consider adoption myself. I wanted to go into the book and hug Mallory and Rider each (even though the name Rider isn’t my favorite name for the character, but that’s just how it is).

Mallory and Rider’s relationship is so complicated and heartbreaking, but also extremely uplifting and hopeful. Rider’s unconditional love for Mallory, both as her boyfriend but mostly as her best friend, is so endearing and real. Of course he wants, needs, to protect her from the horrible things she’s seen, but he’s also there to watch her grow into the fully functioning and courageous woman she becomes.

Definitely a must read for those wanting a good cry, to feel something in their chest as they near the end of the story, and the aggressive need to keep reading.


First Book I Wanted to Like, but Didn’t: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows

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My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows
Published by HarperTeen on June 7th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary, Romance, Friendship, History
Pages: 512
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

Okay, I didn’t hate this book, that is much too dramatic. In fact, it’s quite silly and hilarious, making the reader laugh out loud. However, the main factor that I disliked was the constant intervention from the narrators. I’ve done my fair share of studying when it comes to the British monarch and while I hadn’t heard of all the characters, I did have a pretty good grasp on who was who. I would be reading, though, and suddenly the narrators would intervene to tell me that what I’m reading isn’t true. Well…duh. Someone didn’t actually have a horrible curse–that isn’t really a curse–that turns them into a horse every day break. That would just be ridiculous of me to think that was real. I love the idea of the authors taking over a story that we don’t know much of, and turning into something lovely, but the constant interruptions are a little jarring.

That being said, I did enjoy the adventure. This is an easy read, so though it’s a long 500 pages, it is a fast read. I didn’t need to fuss over it (other than it being heavy!). The characters, Jane and G are adorable and hilarious, but part of me (spoiler!) wanted Jane to end up with Edward! I know that there is an incest-problem there, but as the narrators dutifully point out, this was very common back then. And something about Edward and Jane seemed real. On the other hand, G and Jane are quite fitting for each other too–how G constantly teases Jane, calling her “love” even when they haven’t discussed their relationship other than their pure hatred for each other. I think this book would have been better if there weren’t so many interruptions from the writers–simply let the story be and you can either disclaim in the prologue or epilogue that none of it was real–as well as getting more in-depth with the characters. I wanted to feel something when reading about them, other than just laughing and enjoying my time. I want to worry about them, fear for them, love them.


First Book with a Love Story that Won Me Over: A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

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A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray
Published by HarperTeen on November 3rd 2015
Genres: Science Fiction, Romance, Friendship, Family, Suspense
Pages: 384
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

So even though I’ve given this book the title of winning me over with the love story, I actually don’t know if I’m going to read the sequel, mostly because I can’t take any more heartbreak between the main characters. Now I’m not the biggest science fiction buff, so it took me a little while to get into the whole “Firebird”, multi-demnsional travel, but I was able to get through it and I’m so glad that I did because Marguerite and the Russian Paul’s love is indescribable. I constantly go back to how I felt, my heart racing, sweating palms as I frantically read to make sure they made it out of the snow storm alright and into each other’s arms.

I don’t know if what I feel for this dimension’s Paul, for my own, or for both of them. I can’t tell the difference any longer, and in the moment, I don’t care…

“Paul,” I murmur, “call me by my name.”

“You know I cannot.”

“Just once”…

And we are lost. I’m the one who breaks the last rule, the final taboo–the one who kisses him. But then he surrenders. He holds nothing back. We tangle together, kissing desperately, clutching at the few clothes we still wear, hardly able to breathe or think or do anything other than those ourselves in each other (194-95).

I could go on, pretty much quoting this entire scene between Paul and Marguerite because I get butterflies in my stomach, rising up my throat, threatening to escape, but I won’t; I’ll let the beauty stay in the book. I don’t know how Gray does it, but I feel so enchanted with the characters and storyline. There is a sense of urgency, the rushing that Marguerite, Paul, and Theo feel trying to catch each other and get to the right dimension, that manifests in the reader, as if we are a part of the race.


First Collection: The Entire Works of William Shakespeare by Modern Library

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From left to right: The Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure, Much Ado About Nothing, The Taming of The Shrew, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Henry V, Henry IV Part 2, Macbeth, Henry VI Parts 1, 2, & 3, Richard III, Love’s Labour’s Lost, The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Winter’s Tale, Twelfth Night, All’s Well That Ends Well, Henry IV Part 1, Titus Andronicus & Timon of Athens, Coriolanus, Hamlet, King John & Henry VIII, Othello, The Comedy of Errors, The Tempest, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, The Sonnets and Other Poems; King Lear, Cymbeline, Antony and Cleopatra, Troilus and Cressida, Pericles, Julius Caesar, Richard II

 

If you know anything about me, you’ll know that Shakespeare is my true passion. I wrote my 30-page senior thesis on A Midsummer Night’s Dream and am now going to attend St. John’s University in New York for my Master’s and then Ph.D in literature with an emphasis in the Early Modern Period, or Shakespeare’s time. The collection I just bought is published by Modern Library and edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen.

There are many editions of Shakespeare’s work published; I have many different copies of the same play (particularly A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet) as well as the entire collection in one book by Oxford. However, I saw these editions on Instagram and fell in love. It took me so long to find them, but when I did, I knew I had to get them. They are not only beautiful covers, the editions themselves (footnotes, introductory information, etc.) are spot on. This is something I look for as a scholar and the main scene I double check is Act 2 Scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet. Most editions will print “etc.” on line 40, but this edition does print the “open arse” that is usually left out. A winner for sure!

I don’t normally buy collections, partly because trilogy, sagas, etc. don’t all come out at the same time unless you’re reading a collection that has been out for a while. My boyfriend buys many comic book collections (like March written by Congressman John Lewis), but I don’t have many completed collection, except for now! These plays will serve me well once I start school again this fall. Wish me luck!

Dear My New Best Friends,

Dear Jenny Lawson, Ruby Elliot, and Allie Brosh,

Dear award-winning authors,

Dear you crazy women,

Dear my new best friends,

I’m assuming you’ve heard this many, many, many times over (I’m hoping it doesn’t get old), but I want to thank each of you for the work you have done. To some, your work might seem like fun books with drawings and crazy taxidermy stories, and while this is totally true, your books have been so much more to me. I honestly don’t even know where to begin this review–and let’s be honest, this is hardly a review at this point but more like word-vomit colored with fancy sprinkles and googly eyes. All five books get five stars and if you don’t like that, you can leave. This is my website after all. If I must nitpick, I would give Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson five out of five stars and Let’s Pretend This Never Happened also by Lawson four-and-a-half stars simply because that’s how much I love Furiously Happy. So you get five stars! And you get five stars! Everyone gets five staaarrrsss!

But seriously, I am in awe of all of you. I think I might be in love with all three of you at the same time. Can we have a sleepover?

Did that come off as too creepy? I’m sure at a Barnes and Noble signing, you guys have heard worse–like someone’s comment about how your hair smells and you wonder how he knows. Or someone on meth asks you to a steak dinner with a note reading: Attn. pretty lady behind the counter. Wait…these things happened to me, not you. Anyways, dear god do not ever change. Please, for the love of humanity, keep writing, drawing, living your beautiful lives so nobodies like me, who frantically type up raves that no one will read, have something to do with their boring, depression-ridden lives.

You all speak to me–individually and together. We are having a conversation together, whether you intended for it or not.

Positive conversations between women are crucial today and by displaying all sides of yourselves, you three women (and I’m sure many more) are having a conversation with each reader, letting them know that everything they are feeling from mental illness to motherhood, from husbands/boyfriend/girlfriends to family issues and work issues, we are not the only ones. These feelings, emotions, dark and light thoughts are happening to women all around the globe. By publishing these stories, these non-fiction tales, Lawson, Brosh, and Elliot are letting me know that what I am experiencing right now, in this very moment, might be both horrible and hilarious, or the worst and the best. Because you all talk about these issues as everyday problems, and yet still a crucial part of you, you are normalizing issues that society has hushed. No experience from a woman is allowed to be discredited or silenced any longer.

With the changing of hands in our government, the repealing of Obamacare and the lack of care for mental health patients, I am scared that my drugs that keep me stable enough to live each day will no longer by supported by my insurance. I’m scared that those like me, that have problem waking up in the morning because of something dark sitting on their chest, will not receive the help that they, that we, need. Depression and anxiety might seem commonplace on the internet, it is still misunderstand or not wildly accepted as a real thing. Many do not understand, and choose to not understand because these illnesses do not affect them the way they affect us, and this scares me. However, thanks to you guys, you have made these illnesses even more commonplace and easier to explain. I can show RubyEtc.’s pictures or Brosh’s drawings to my boyfriend, so he can grasp what I’m feeling when words escape me. I can color in and hang a picture drawn by Lawson’s beautiful hand in a heavy-traffic space in my house, so I can see it every day and feel “normal.”

Like you, like many women, I struggle with my mental illnesses. In fact, I feel as if saying this is so commonplace that my readers will be like “Yeah, so? We all do. You’re not special in saying that you have mental heal issues.” However, it is so easy to feel alone in our own minds. Sure, logically I know I’m not the only one with depression, anxiety about time, etc. but since most of the people I surround myself with do not experience these crippling issues, I can feel more alone. You guys take that feeling away. I am not alone thanks to your books. I am normal thanks to your books.

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Order in which I read, starting on the left.

So to Ruby Elliot:

Thank you for putting pictures to my thoughts and feelings. In the beginning stages of my mental illness, I didn’t even know I had problems–I just thought I had temper tantrums, anger management problems, and tons of emotions because I was always crying. Once I started therapy and began putting names to the feelings, I felt much better. And you have done that again. If someone asks me how I’m feeling, I can just show them your book. Pictures are so much easier to digest and interpret. In our busy lives, sitting and reading an entire self-help book is unlikely (okay but I do this anyways), but being able to flip through your book to a dog-eared page and remember that you felt this way strong enough to draw it out for me to ponder on is remarkable. Here are some pictures (that I took myself) of your pictures that perfectly describe me (please excuse potato quality and my nail polish):

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To Allie Brosh:

I had one of my least favorite English professors recommend your book. He is a condescending arse-hole and actually got fired from my school. Now I’m assuming this has NOTHING do to with your book and more to do with the fact that no one likes him. However, once I started reading Elliot’s book and had read one of Lawson’s, everyone began asking me if I had heard of or read Hyperbole and a Half. I was always brought back to that classroom with my teacher saying he had found myself in your book (so condescendingly might I add) and I wanted to smack him. But trust me. I get it now. Sure he’s a prick, this letter isn’t about him, but goodness Ms. Brosh, I think I peed my pants while reading your book (I wouldn’t be surprised if many strangers tell you that). Not only this, but even though I’ve been on medication for four years now and have seemed to grasp my own problems as far as mental illness goes, you still have shed new light on what I once was feeling and what I still am currently feeling.

The beginning of my depression had been nothing but feelings, so the emotional deadening that followed was a welcome relief…But my experiences slowly flattened and blended together until it became obvious that there’s a huge difference between not giving a fuck and not being able to give a fuck…Which leads to horrible, soul-decaying boredom (124-25).

I feel like when I start therapy again once I move, I could simply bring in chapters from your book and say “This. Diagnose this, and you’ve diagnosed me.” On top of the mental illness similarities, you just totally understand the other weird shit that I feel:

It feels unfair when the other things in the world refuse to be governed by my justice system. [Brosh goes on to draw a panel about falling in love with an otter in a magazine, and then wondering why the otter has betrayed her by not being real and in front of her] (276-77).

Why do we feel this way? I don’t know, but thank you for pointing out a thing I do that I really didn’t even know that I did until you pointed it out.

Finally, to the mastermind Jenny Lawson:

Where do I even begin? You were my first; my first for a lot of things. Furiously Happy was not only the first book I bought that you wrote, it was the first “mental illness is a topic in this book” book that I bought, and I’m pretty sure it was the first book that made me laugh so freaking hard I wanted to throw up. Jenny,–I can call you Jenny, right?–I want to be like how you are to your own mental health issues. I know that that is kind of a shitty and fucked up thing to say, knowing your history with self-harm and just general issues, but seriously. You not only put to words feelings and emotions that leave me speechless and that I cannot describe to the lesser, normal people, but you then take it a step further and depict the ways that you are actually living with it. Your stories, particularly all those in Furiously Happy, have made me want to be a better person towards the issues that battle each other inside my cranium. You are so proud of yourself and the work you’ve accomplished–being a famous blogger, bestselling author, loving mother and wife, taxidermy animal collector–all while struggling with these non-curable problems. And you’ve done it so hilariously and real. I cannot thank you enough for being the type of person who is so true to herself and just also happens to have crippling mental problems and doesn’t use them as a crutch for her life.

I’m pretty sure I’ve dogeared my entire copy of Furiously Happy, so much so I can’t even find an appropriate passage to turn into a block quote here because I’m pretty sure I can’t insert the entire text–must be some sort of law. All I know is that throughout Furiously Happy and Let’s Pretend This Never Happened I was laughing so hard I was peeing and my boyfriend was wondering if I was going to make it out alive (uhh the pooping story in LPTNH??), I was nodding my head in complete and utter agreement with other tales, and for once in my life, dreaming about visiting Texas. And though I haven’t had the chance to fully go through You Are Here, I know while it might not be as hilarious as your tears-in-the-eyes stories you tell, it will only further complete my collection of your work.

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These are the things that I need to get through the day.

The Unexpected Relatable Andie Walker

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I know it’s been a little while since I’ve posted a review, but hear me out! I read The Red Queen and was not impressed, so then I picked up Matson’s book The Unexpected Everything which is hella long and it took me a while to finish! Expect a review for The Red Queen because I still believe it deserves a review. But let’s start with the more fun one.

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The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on May 3nd 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Friendship, Romance, Family
Pages: 528
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

Final Review 4 out of 5

★★★★☆
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Andie has planned everything in her young adult life thus far. Her calendar is packed with important dates, her day-to-day life scheduled out perfectly. She takes after her dad with this. Since he’s running for office, he has to be quite punctual and orderly. Though Andie isn’t a public figure, her tight schedule still remains true, whether it be about her summer internship or some the classic three-week point in which she ends things with whoever she’s dating at the time.
But what happens when Andie’s father is actually home for the summer? And he decides to start being a parent again? Andie’s carefree attitude towards life, but equally planned out inner mind is in for a treat when she has to relearn what it’s like to be a daddy’s girl.
Not only this, but other plans fall through. A glorious, resume-worthy internship opportunity collapses in front of her and she scrambles to figure out what to do in this gap of time. Her friends, though they take up a lot of her time, aren’t much help since they already have their summers planned out. S0 through sheer accident she meets a strange unplanned.
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So I’m going to be honest and blunt to start off with. I enjoyed Matson’s Since You’ve Been Gone more so than I did The Unexpected Everything. Not that I didn’t enjoy the book, it just didn’t capture me really until half-way into the book. Perhaps I was still reeling from my disappointment in The Red Queen or some other excuse, but I wanted to be sucked into this book and I really wasn’t until closer to the halfway point.
However, once I was there, I was in. Andie is super relatable, actually at times more so than Emily Hughes from Since You’ve Been Gone. In this modern day and age, our parents sometimes are busier than we are. What with running companies, running for office, or even simply with being a parent, but either way sometimes it feels like we (the children) are forced to create our own space and own way of upbringing. Andie is in this situation. Since her dad is running for a governmental position, which takes him on journeys to DC and other cities, Andie is forced to create her own summer plans. She is extremely regimented, much like her father, but in a different way. Everything has a deadline, from school and finding and internship, to how long she dates a boy. But this is to keep her safe. She is being raised by a single parent who is hardly there to begin with so she needs her own routine in order to stay safe.
I completely understand this drive to be independent which is indirectly brought on by a parent–or parents–not being present. Going through the same thing, I traversed California by myself doing my ripe college years and emerged as the woman I am today, only to move back home and be treated like a fifteen-year-old again. Not cool, Mom. So when Andie’s dad steps in and tries to be her “dad” again, Andie flips out–rightfully so. After what seems like forever, her father is now trying to parent her? I would flip out too.
Since I don’t have a parent running for office, I don’t know the trials and tribulations related to that, but I do understand the pain and heartbreak, but also pleasure, that comes from a friend group and a new boy.
Andie has both of these things. Her friend group, to me, seems like a handful, and as you see in the ending, it turns out sometimes friends don’t last. This is super relatable. We all have friends from high school, grad school, even college now, that we don’t talk to anymore. They were once and extremely important part of your life, almost to the point where life didn’t seem like “life” without them in it, and yet, something happens and it falls apart. You try to stay up-to-date on their life via social media, but it’s not the same. You’ve moved across the country to a rural town and they stayed in the city you once called home. This is what life is about.
Furthermore, the complete fear of falling in love is so real in Matson’s book that I could feel myself getting panicky while reading. At the last minute, Andie pulls away, she recedes back inside of herself in order to protect herself from the pain that she is too used to. YES. How many times have I done this in my life? Too many, let’s just say that.
He wrapped his arms around me, and for a moemnt I leaned against them and let my eyes close. There was a piece of me, a big one, that just wanted to let everything out. To hug him back, to cry on his shoulder, to tell him everything and talk about it together…and he’d tell me that everything was going to be okay. But that thought jerked me out of the fantasy, as appealing as it was. Because everything very possibly wasn’t going to be okay (page 442).
We are our own worst enemies — says every bland Instagram account or false quoting of a famous person on the internet. But, oddly enough, it’s true. Matson portrays Andie here getting inside her own head and potentially ruining everything she wants. Why do we do that? Does anyone else do that or is it just me and this fictional character. We can’t be the only ones. Matson accurately showcases how a woman, who feels like she knows who she is and how disastrous she can be, crumples in on herself in fear of getting hurt. That classic fear, one that no one will admit they have but we all secretly have night terrors about it. It’s easier to push away and be safe than to fall and get hurt.
But another part of me–a bigger part– felt myself pulling away, backing up, slamming all the doors tightly…This was already the longest relationship that I’d ever had. Did I really think I was going to be able to keep this up for months and months longer? I’d already mangaged to wreck the best friendships I’d ever had–of course I would wreck this, too. At some point he’d see who I really was, and then it would be over and I’d be worse off than I was now. So I pushed down what I was really feeling, all the hurt and hope and fear, and reached for anger instead (page 445).
It’s basically like Matson was a fly on the wall inside my head when I broke up with my ex-boyfriend and started to date / get closer to my current boyfriend. To this day I wake up with the fear that he is going to see me as a crippled by depression, fearful, angry at the world for no reason, person and he’s going to back away. So why not end things before they get to that point? I know that if I rolled over and saw myself in bed, I wouldn’t stay much longer. So while reading these pages, I felt all of Andie’s anxiety wash over me, realize my own thoughts about the matter, and begin freaking out in my own regard.
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However, it’s not all bad for Andie and her love interests. In fact, much like the anxious Andie, we also get the Andie that’s in love for the first time and it is truly beautiful.
But I didn’t turn away or walk in the other direction or stop the moment from happening…And then he leaned forward, or I did, and then his lips were on mine…It was a kiss that made me feel like I’d never been properly kissed before (pages 262-63).
Don’t we all want to fall in love like how Matson has her characters fall in love? Emily and Frank. Andie and Clark. It’s not fair that my life isn’t a Matson book.
You should definitely read this book if you found Since You’ve Been Gone a hilarious, quick but heartfelt read as well as if you love dogs. I cannot get over how perfect Andie’s summer job turns out to be! I want that job! If you’re looking for something that can swallow up a decent amount of time (in a good way!) then totally check this out. However, if something a little quicker paced, or more thrill-worthy is up your alley, than I would suggest snagging Since You’ve Been Gone or newer still Beware That Girl (please wait anxiously for me to read through that one too!).

Italy, Gelato, and Romance, oh my!

Let me just start by saying this book made me want to travel. End of story.

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The Regulars by Jenna Evans Welch
Published by Simon Pulse on May 3nd 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Friendship, Romance, Travel, Family
Pages: 400
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review 4 out of 5

★★★★☆

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Carolina, or Lina, isn’t having an easy life so far. Growing up fatherless, her mother and her share an irreparable bond. But when her mother suddenly gets diagnosed with pancreatic cancer with no hope for a long future, Lina’s life turns upside down.

So many questions swim through Lina’s head: What is she going to do now that her mother is gone? Who is her father? Why does her mom want her to go live in Italy? As her last request, Lina’s mom ships her off to Italy, to stay at a cemetery that is run by Lina’s mom’s friend Howard. Lina’s mom had never mentioned Howard before, but suddenly Lina’s grandmother says Howard is Lina’s father. This can’t be true, can it?

Following in her late mother’s footsteps, Lina begrudgingly takes on Florence, Italy. She wants to be swept off her feet by the magical city, but she can’t bring herself to want to stay. Howard is nice, yes, so are some friends that she meets, but she feels that her place is back home in the states. However, a lost journal of her mother’s winds up in her lap and she is forced to look at the city, Howard, and everything around her differently.

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This story is just so adorable, I love it. I plucked this book off of the shelf because of its cute, minimalist cover and two things one can’t not love: love and gelato. Although I wasn’t fortunate to visit Italy during my six months abroad, I knew that stepping foot into this little book would make me dream of going back.

After such a heavy and determined read of The Regulars, Welch brings me back to earth with her lighthearted voice and story. Perhaps lighthearted really isn’t the right word actually, Welch does have the power to make one crave gelato as they sob their eyes out. I actually had to stop myself from reading all the way to the end because I was crying so hard.

Though it took me a little while to fully feel absorbed by the story, once I was in, I was in. Lina became a young woman I could see myself in (although I won’t ever understand her hesitation to live in Italy. I mean, come on! It’s Italy!). Her mother passes, sending her into a totally understandable funk. Not only this but suddenly she is shipped off to a non-English speaking country to live with a man she’s never met and claims to be her long, lost father. Who wouldn’t be frightened of that life? She goes through the trials and tribulations of trusting the right and wrong people, finding out that there were many things she will never know about her mother and her time in Italy, and just who her father really is.

Of course there is a love triangle involved, every good story needs to have one:

He sat down next to me and I unwrapped the sandwich and took a bite. OF course I loved it. But it was nothing compared to how I felt about Ren.

And yes. I’d totally just compared the only guy I’d ever felt this way about to a ham sandwich (page 294).

If I had a nickel for every time I compared my boyfriend to food, I would be a healthier woman. But this isn’t just some silly way to compare her crush–Welch subtly takes her reader on a walking journey of Italy. We see the towns of Florence and Rome through Lina’s eyes and we are new to the strange, yet utterly magical world of Italy just like she is. We learn Italian words, mini history lessons regarding famous points of interests in the Florence streets, and of course how amazing real Italian food truly is. So instead of rehashing the age-old tale of “girl goes to live with an estranged father, meets a boy, falls in love, the end”, Welch spices things up by giving us a reason to want to follow Lina to Italy, eat gelato and fall in love as well.

Not only this but she gives us a reason to believe in love again. The love that Howard has for Lina’s mother is indescribable. Welch truly paints a beautifully broken relationship that hurts my heart just thinking about it.

He settled in, like he was about to tell a story he’d told a million times. “When I was twenty-five I met a woman who changed everything for me. She was bright and vibrant, and whenever I was with her I felt like I could do anything” (page 336).

I want someone to talk about me the way Howard talks about Lina’s mother–it makes me have faith in love and humanity again. It makes me want my parents, who are happily divorced and friends still, to tell me about their short-lived moment of true love. Welch breaks my heart by forcing me to know that even though things can work out for Lina because she’s still so young, sometimes love hurts like hell and it doesn’t work out, even in magical Italy.

“One day with Hadley was easily worth a lifetime in Italy” (page 344).

Love is difficult. It isn’t something that can easily be grasped by a gorgeous prince on a white horse. Sometimes we make mistakes in love and Lina learns this lesson the hard way. Her heart is broken by her mother’s death, by finding out deplorable things about her father, and by hurting someone she didn’t even realize she loved. But Howard says it perfectly: “A life without love is like a year without summer” (page 376). Regardless of how much it hurts, we all still pursue love constantly. From our parents to friends and finally to that special someone who may have been unseen at first, but now glows brightly every time we look at them.

Thank you Jenna Evans Welch for providing me with a story that melts my heart, just like gelato on a warm day.

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Take One Drop of Pretty, and Call Me in the Morning

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wow. just, wow. I cannot get over this book. I am totally blown away by how unassuming Clark’s book is, resting neatly on the shelf in barns and noble where I purchased it, only to completely mind-fuck me with each page turn.

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The Regulars by Georgia Clark
Published by Atria/Emily Bestler Books on August 2nd 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Feminism, Friendship, Romance, Beauty
Pages: 400
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review 5 out of 5

★★★★★

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Picture that episode of Sherlock where the victims of an unknown cause of death are to choose from two pills: one will kill you, the other lets you live. Now, The Regulars is certainly not that dramatic, but the choice of poison is still there. Would you drink a drop of Pretty, a powerful “drug” that once swallowed, turns the user into their most perfect, beautiful, “pretty” self.

Three friends, roommates Evie Selby and Krista Kumar, along with Willow Hendrickson, have been friends since their college days. Naturally living in NYC as three, young, talented, but unrecognized women can be difficult and bills need to be paid. Evie works at Salty, a magazine that seems loosely based on our world’s Cosmo. She is a lowly editor (wait, I want that job), but has dreams of writing big league stories on real women’s issues. Krista is a law-school dropout turned aspiring actress. She cannot seem to catch an acting break though and owes Evie quite a few dollars in bills. Finally, there’s Willow, who actually needs no help financially seeing as her father is a famous movie producer. She, instead, needs help finding her own, personal path of art without the help, and support, of her father.

When Krista is approached by an old classmate, whom she doesn’t recognize, and given a strange purple vial containing a liquid called “Pretty” the three girl’s lives will change. Pretty turns each user into their truest, best, most popular and overall prettiest self. It sheds pounds, gray hairs, unwanted overly large noses, and more. It changes hair color, length and texture, eye color, removes blemishes and even tattoos. It truly creates a person who is worthy of fashion magazines and prom queen titles.

Each woman takes Pretty for a different reason and therefore create their alter-egos. Krista becomes Lenka Penka, a beautiful aspiring actress who needs a new agent and new movie. Evie becomes Chloe Fontaine, a new face for Salty‘s new live show Extra Salty where Evie hopes to influence people politically. And Willow turns into Caroline for the simple reason of trying it. She later develops a method to her madness in using Caroline as a model in her photographs.

Love interests bloom, careers expand, and overall good things happen to those that are pretty, all while the three aren’t really themselves. So why bother going back? Why not have it all? The brains and personality of a Regular but the look and taste of a Pretty? Who’s even stopping them? They are young and hungry women, eager to make a name for themselves in the big city and they have a secret potion that is going to get them there.

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Take this fanart  “There’s no such thing as ugly”; I understand the message they are trying to send–a classic case of “everyone and everything is beautiful” and while they’re not wrong in wanting to believe that, Clark’s characters echo through my mind.

In a rational world, a hopeful world, there wouldn’t be anything described as ugly, but on a realistic level, there are many, many things holding that description and it doesn’t even have to be women! Certain Lularoe legging patterns, the world’s ugliest dog [okay, but all dogs are cute, right?], insects, deep-sea creatures, those toaster cars, the lovely and inevitable acne, and the list continues. It is horrendous that “ugly” is commonly used to describe people or features of a person whether it be their hair or their personality. So instead of writing another tale about women’s bodies through rose-colored glasses, Clark writes about the good, the bad, and of course, the ugly.

If you are interested in a refreshing tale that will completely take you by surprise, then I suggest you picking up this pink book. Sitting perfectly on the shelf, just like a little jar of Pretty, it screams simple but edgy, it has something to say and boy does Clark say it.

Evie’s, or should I say Chloe’s, makeup artist at Extra Salty, Marcello, asks the question Clark poses:

“Does that annoy you?” Marcello asked, dotting Evie’s skin with foundation. “The fact you’re not in charge of how you look?” (page 256)

Aren’t we all a little annoyed that we can painstakingly work on profiles, lip proportions, chin jut outs on a Sim character, but not on ourselves? Of course, we are! We’re realists! Someone is always going to want bigger boobs, less bushy eyebrows, curlier hair, and the opposites to go with those. So, of course, we’re mad that with a snap of fingers, our face is rid of acne, age spots, dark spots, scars, wrinkles, and anything else women are told is ugly. But of course, we can’t do that. There is no magic pill, serum, or drink; this isn’t Wonderland and we aren’t Alice. We are real and our “ugly” features are real too; they are a part of us. And when we take those away, are we really us anymore?

Evie doesn’t seem to think so when she becomes Chloe Fontaine for the first time, but she brushes it away quickly:

The most unusual inclusions were two subtractions: first, she no longer needed glasses…And second, her tattoo was gone. This struck her as odd: she was fond of her tat, but the ink had spread over the years and was sun-faded. By comparison, the space where it used to be on her forearm resembled pristine carved marble (page 94).

Two vital parts of her are missing: first, her glasses, a necessary accessory that she had been wearing since 10 years old, and then her tattoo, a permanent piece of art that she chose to get for some reason at some point, was now missing. Sure these are minor, and in a way, we have the availability to rid ourselves of poor eyesight (contacts, laser eye surgery) and bad tattoos (tattoo removal i.e. a saw), but Evie didn’t necessarily see either of those features as ugly but the Pretty did and in order for her to become her perfect self, she must be rid of anything ugly–including things that made her feel pretty at one point.

I myself have 5 tattoos, all that have deep meaning to me. The reader doesn’t know what Evie’s tattoo is, but it begs the question of whether or not tattoos are “pretty” enough to be included in someone’s Pretty form. Clearly, Evie’s wasn’t.


Moving on from Evie, Willow/Caroline is probably my favorite character in the story. Although Evie seems to dominate Clark’s world, Willow, to me, seems the most relatable. Evie is a pronounced feminist and woman-rioter. She has short hair, is a blogger, and denounces her Cosmopolitain-like magazine. Krista, on the other hand, is extremely bubbly and overall annoying. She only thinks of herself when taking the Pretty (well, I suppose all three women only think of themselves when taking the Pretty…) and doesn’t seem to want to do any good with it. Finally, there’s Willow, who although she doesn’t use her new beauty for good, per se, the reader watches as Pretty completely shuts her down–a normal reaction I presume to such an addictive and overwhelming drug.

She notes spot on that by becoming Caroline, this alter-ego of herself, she isn’t Willow anymore. It doesn’t bother her that she is no longer the daughter or friend or girlfriend people in her life care for because now she can feel like a “normal” person in the world; her anxiety and depression don’t cripple her on a daily basis–she can create a person who doesn’t have any mental illness at all and this is exactly what she does.

There was something about being Caroline that was so incredibly freeing. Caroline didn’t carry herself with an invisible shield. Sometimes Willow felt like she was always conducting two conversations with the world: the one that was spoken out loud, and the one she carried with her, inside her head. Caroline wasn’t like that. Caroline didn’t hide her body. Caroline didn’t double-check her statements to make sure they sounded smart. Caroline knew how to flirt. Caroline was liberated (page 202-03).

Willow as Caroline, of course, makes mistakes–all of the girls do. She does stupid things, ranging from completely ignoring her two best friends for days on end to flirting with her own boyfriend as a different person. All of this is in the name of art, though. Her photography is what separates her from her father’s Hollywood movies and her friends “adult” careers. She finds peace in her photography, so imagine the inner peace she gets from being Caroline and taking pictures? This all spirals out of control, obviously, and Caroline starts to take over. Who are the girls now without their alter-egos? What if they decide to never be their old selfs again?

“And I know you think makeup sets an unrealistic standard and yadda yadda yadda, but the way I see it, I’m just helping people bring out their inner goddess. I can’t make you beautiful, Chloe. I can just help you see, with a little color here and a little color there, that you are already beautiful” (page 257).

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Being Regular wasn’t enough though for the three women and others in New York who are taking Pretty. Though Marcello’s words resonate with all of us, and Evie when he tells her this, their beauty standards are still impeccably high. Once Evie and Krista transform into Chloe and Lenka respectively for the second time, they notice that some features are not as elegant or brilliant as before from their first transformation. Krista/Lenka’s eyes are not as sea-green and Evie/Chloe’s chin juts out a little more than she remembered. Is this the beginning of the Pretty becoming the Regular? If taken so many times, what is to say that the Pretty version completely takes over the Regular version and suddenly the Pretty is actually the Regular version? We are always going to find faults with our faces, bodies, hair. I have days where I feel completely and utterly badass–strutting myself down the streets, feeling unstoppable. But the next day, a simple 16 hours later or so, another woman can feel the same way–strutting down the sidewalk past me–and totally shatter my self-esteem. Why doesn’t my winged eyeliner look that great? Are those honey-colored highlights? I should try that! She worked it so much better than me today, I’m a failure. These feelings flipflop, interchanging and always coming as a surprise. That woman, though, that made me question myself, was probably questioning herself just the other day too. She must have seen another woman online, in a magazine or person, who seemed to have it all and broke her self-confidence in one blink.

We are so hard on ourselves. A war wages before our eyes when we look in the mirror.

Taking Pretty opened up Evie, Krista, and Willow’s eyes and certainly the readers. I did not enter this book expecting such harsh, but at the same time optimistic commentary on women’s bodies in today’s world. Clark’s story is fresh and honest, it is not a simple remedy tale–in fact, indirectly she recommends taking a little dose of Pretty. Without knowing what our most perfect, most pretty self looks like–and thus the disaster that follows with that–how are we to appreciate our true selves?

At first, Evie felt self-conscious of the way her stomach bulged over the satin hot pants’ tiny waistband, the way her arms seemed heavy and thick in the sleeveless gold top. But none of the other early risers even gave her a second look. Not because she didn’t matter, Evie realized. Because in New York, everything was permissible. No one cared what you wore, how you looked. Only you cared about those things.

Her body was back. And she felt good about it (page 363-65).

 

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The Love that Split Me

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welcome to a book that is the epitome of the saying “never judge a book by its cover.” henry’s tale, what i expected to be a cliched, young adult love story, spins the storyline 180 degrees and forces the reader to turn every page, absorbing every word in order to clarify every painstaking detail henry provides.

i was not expecting more than half of what this book provides. every chapter brings a new twist, a new tiny blip in the plot that, though small to the readers, has major impact on the characters and what is happening between natalie and beau.

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The Love that Split the World by Emily Henry
Published by Razorbill on January 26th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Heritage, Fantasy
Pages: 400
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review 4 out of 5

★★★★☆

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natalie’s summer is running out. she has graduated high school and is ready to start her new, uninterrupted life at Brown. after changing the past year, she is eager to get away from the small town, Union, she calls home and everyone who inhabits it. however, grandmother returns, stopping natalie in her planned-out tracks.

born to a young, native american woman who wanted her daughter to have a better life outside of the reservation she lived on, natalie’s mother gives her up. natalie seems to have a normal life with her adopted family, but when she begins hallucinating in her sleep, seeing things she knows shouldn’t be there, and must go through intensive therapy in order to remove these images from her young brain, the reader realizes that natalie isn’t a normal teen. suddenly, the summer before her life is supposed to change, one of the main hallucinations to visit natalie over the years shows up again, three years after disappearing for what natalie thought was good. grandmother, natalie’s nickname for the old, weathered native american woman who resides in the rocking chair in the corner, informs her simply she has three months to save him.

what if there are two different Unions? what if there were two different versions of her best friend megan? ex-boyfriend matt? popular girl the reader loves to hate, rachel? everyone has a double in this overlapping dimension of union except for natalie and a strange boy, beau, who resides in the “other union.”

from there, the reader is bounced along on this tumultuous journey where natalie uncovers the secrets of union, beau, and herself.

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“I missed you,” she heard herself call to him–though was it possible to miss someone you didn’t know? (page 390).

honestly, this book would have gotten 5 out of 5 stars if i weren’t so biased about happy endings. naturally, i will strive to never give anything away, however the story does not end in the traditional sense of “happily ever after” which most of the time sends me over the edge. why can’t one small thing, as small as a book of 400 pages can be, end in happiness? is that too much to ask emily henry? now, this is certainly me being biased and a child because the ending does completely coincide with the entire over-arching plot. henry expertly adds in details of the native american people featured. there are creation stories and many other moments full of natalie’s heritage that i haven’t seen in any other young adult read. much like rainbow rowell’s book, Carry On, featuring the unorthodox two gay main characters, henry crosses the threshold of having an “ethnic main character” and creates a storyline unlike any other.

weaving her knowledge of native american tribes and stories, henry casts natalie as an adopted daughter with a troubled past. henry uses creation stories, as told by grandmother to natalie over the years, as clues for natalie to figure out what really is happening to her and her town. i’m not sure where henry obtained all of this information, or if it is correct to any specific tribe, but i can say that it surely is convincing. i was not expecting the creation stories and the journey they would take me on when purchasing this book.

of course there are romantic moments in the story, it isn’t all drama all the time. beau resides in the “other union” and their love seems not to be forbidden, but more impossible. their meeting is by chance, in a time where they both are unaware that there are other people who can jump through time and space. natalie only recently discovered her powers upon meeting beau, whereas beau has been jumping (for lack of a better word) since he was a young boy. but how are two people allowed to be together when they don’t live in the same world? without sounding like the 2006 hit movie, The Lake House starring sandra bullock and keanu reeves, henry creates an impossible world and has it actually make sense.

I don’t believe in love at first sight but maybe this is as close as it gets: seeing someone, a person you have no business loveing, on a football field one night and thinking, I want you to be mine and I want to be yours (page 183).

they can’t contact each other because cell phones can’t connect between realms. obviously even in this fictional world we are still having cell problems. as the summer continues and beau and natalie get nearer to their Closing, a time where they can no longer jump between dimensions, they begin to lose control of their powers. natalie is torn into different times without commanding it and beau can’t get into natalie’s world when he absolutely needs to. however, when the two are together, it really is magical. henry’s depiction of young and urgent love is spot on when it comes to these two.

It’s true that nothing has the potential to hurt so much as loving someone, but nothing heals like it either (page 235).

ouch, henry makes me want to cry with their such young and naive, but totally Gryffindor-like hearts. even though it certainly isn’t possible–crossing into dimensions and time traveling simply through a push and pull in one’s abdomen–beau and natalie are striking characters and my inner fangirl demands that they find a way to be together. cleverly enough, though the title was the first thing that swayed me towards buying this book, and assuming that i knew what it would be about, the title is quite accurate for what the story holds. we want a happy ending for natalie and beau, so in a way, their own creation story that could be featured in this book like the others slightly fantastical stories told. the title “the love that split the world” sounds like its own creation story, as if grandmother herself speaks directly to us when she tells this story.

if you are interested in a young adult book that is out of the box and far from ordinary, pick up henry’s The Love that Split the World. you will be blown away by her intelligence in a field some forget exist. she executes a perfect creation story of two young people, not only forced into the odd, but inevitable world of “growing up” but also the strange, parallel dimensions henry creates. natalie and beau’s struggle to fix their two worlds that are colliding ever so quickly into each other is palpable and you will fall in love with these two star-crossed lovers.

thank you emily henry for such a beautifully crafted edition to the teen reading section. i hope many other readers were as surprised as me by this small, earth-changing book.

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Welcome to my Museum of Heartbreak

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leder’s book has inspired me to create my own mini museum of heartbreak for this review. you can see different pieces of me, scattered across a handful of years, countries, and cities. this gifts came from friends, relatives, mentors, and exes have given me, as well as gifts to myself.

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The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder
Published by Simon Pulse  on June 7th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Teen Read
Pages: 288
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review 5 out of 5

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penelope marx thinks she knows about love thanks to the many romantic stories she’s read. she knows what loving best friends are like, as seen in her two best friends ephraim and audrey, and what loving the new, mega-cool boy at school must be like. she comes to realize, though, that those ideals of love are simply that: ideal and not reality. when she actually gets the chance to date the new boy, his lips are chapped and he is actually kind of rude to her. audrey starts picking the mean girl over penelope and eph is always out dating a different girl.

she begins to realize that heartbreak is in her future, but not just from the new boy. there will be fights on subway platforms of new york, in the hallways of their school, in the natural history museum where her father works, and other scattered places around new york city; fights that involve her parents, her friends, her boyfriend, and everyone in between.

follow penelope as she learns to overcome one of the hardest obstacles we must all face at some point or another: heartbreak.

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once again, i am pretty speechless about a book, same as i was with han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. i’m speechless for different reasons, of course, but speechless nonetheless.

first and foremost, leder’s writing is utterly and completely captivating. i, and i’m sure many other creative writers, have been told countless times to “show and not tell” when it comes to our writing. there is something so lame and pointless in simply saying “the rain fell” when you could be saying something more beautiful, more poetic such as “the sky gave way to thousands of dancing droplets that heated up my skin in their tiny splotches” or something to that affect. well now times that by ten and you have leder’s voice. there are endlessly highlighted sentences and dog-eared cornered pages of this book that i keep turning back because why can’t i write like this?

Keats invited me to his party.

I wanted to hug the acne-ridden freshman passing by; I wanted to dance with the football dude laughing at a dirty joke across the hall. I wanted to burst into a full musical number, complete with a choir of singing unicorns and my cat, Ford, tap-dancing across the hall with a top hat and cane. I wanted to kiss a baby on the cheek, draw chalk tulips on the sidewalk, and buy grape popsicles for everyone in the city of New York.

Keats invited me to his party (page 68).

the story is ever so slightly cliched, but you know what, who cares? i still give it my whole five out of five stars because of leder’s writing style, characters, and storyline, though cliched yes, still captivates. truly captivates. i found myself loving each character in a different way: whether i was loving to hate the new love-interest keats (i mean come on, who doesn’t use chapstick these days? and seriously your shit with cherisse??) but also love to hate and pity and love eph because ugh eph. in a way i didn’t want the book to end how it did, but also cherished the ending as well. siiigh. i want a dreamboat, skateboarder, with beanies and long hair, and smooth lips, but also a coy smile cause he know’s–i don’t know what, but he know’s it.

He kissed me, and I thought of tearing mint leaves, of licking salt water off my lips, of the mornings you wake up heart alive, no alarm (page 140).

i found myself relating more and more to penelope as the book continued. we’re both literary nerds, we both fall in love with the wrong people at the wrong times, we put our trust into the wrong people as well, but still have close-knit group of friends that no matter who or what happens, we’re still friends. leder creates penelope to be a little like all of us–so we can see ourselves through her and her journey. we’ve all had to deal with heartbreak before, it’s one of the worst pains in the world by far, and somewhere deep we know that our heartbreak, at the ripe age of 22, is only just beginning. there’s going to be rejection letters from schools, boys or girls that decide they don’t like us anymore, a death, a disappointing parent or friend or mentor, even the inevitable end to a fantastic, noteworthy time in our lives: these are all cases of heartbreak we all encounter on a daily basis. leder simply broke it down into tender, charming little pieces for us to swallow and take with us as we curate our own museums of heartbreak.

It was Sunday, and I had never felt so pretty, so noticed, so delirious, like every part of me was light and perfumed and lovely (page 160).

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The End of the Summer Before Forever

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here’s a review that is actually on-time! melissa chamber’s new summer teen romance was just released yesterday so here is my review for it; i hope you enjoy.

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The Summer Before Forever by Melissa Chambers
Published by Entangled: digiTeen on August 22nd 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 274
Version: Digital Advanced Reader Copy
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review 4 out of 5

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chloe drives herself, and of course her almost famous best friend jenna, to florida from her home in tennessee in order to live with her dad and his new finance for the summer. oh and her new almost step brother landon who turns out to be super hot.

while trying to understand her parents divorce and both of her parents dating other people now, chloe begins to see something in landon besides a bother. jenna decides chloe needs a summer bucket list that will end all summer bucket lists forever; this list will include things that are totally out of chloe’s comfort zone, but when landon wants to help out with the list, chloe comes around.

landon and chloe have their own challenges to face separately, but what if they decide they want to face them together? how would landon’s mom and chloe’s dad feel about how they aren’t feeling brotherly or sisterly at all–quite the opposite in fact. follow their journey as they try desperately to overcome these challenges of pain, family, and of course love.

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okay sooo i ended up falling in love with this novel. i started on shaky ground, since i read this after reading Kisses on a Paper Airplane. that novella left such a bad taste in my mouth that it transferred over, i think, into the beginning of this book. i was super hesitant while reading it, especially with the whole slight incestual relationship plot line that takes me back to shakespearean studies, but overall, to put it simply, i enjoyed this book!

i think those that enjoy fun, easygoing, but also suspenseful novel for the beach or end of summer shenanigans, will love chambers’ The Summer Before Forever. this book, though it didn’t really keep me guessing in the sense that i couldn’t figure out that the two characters could end up together in the end, but instead, they each developed their own, real-life problems that needed to be sorted out that i wasn’t expecting. most of the time, books that fit into this genre of young adult contemporary romance end in a cliche, the characters are too perfect, and everything reads like a poorly written copy of a nicholas sparks book/movie. however chambers’ story differs from that. chambers’ creates main characters, chloe, landon, and jenna, that bounce off of each other and complement each other in fantastic ways. landon, well every woman needs a landon in her life. he is sensitive, sweet, and caring, but also gorgeous–he’s definitely a reason to keep reading.

She looks up at me, and I catch her focusing on my dimple. I forget that thing’s there until I see a girl notice it (location 1581 on kindle).

though he, too, has a problem that is holding him back that i’m sure effects many other people that could be reading this book.

I stand and start counting them out. I’m somewhere around seven or eight when a kid behind me starts yelling at another kid, and I lose count, the numbers dissolving away in my brain. My face is hot, and I think beads of sweat are forming on my forehead (location 1253 on kindle).

and then there’s the main protagonist chloe. chloe is super intriguing to me because while she can come off as a cliche–the shy timid mouse compared to her slightly famous and super outgoing best friend jenna–she also has real moments too. chloe has problems at home with her dad and her parents divorce: this is a real life situation that impacts many of us. chloe is learning how to adapt to this new life that has been placed before her and everyone can relate to this whether it be because of a divorce, moving to a new town, losing someone, or anything.

Fear courses through my body as my stomach wrenches itself into knots. I’m basically a ragdoll in this dickhead’s arms. He could take me under that dock over there and rip off my clothes (location 364 on kindle).

i would say, slight disclaimer, that if you are looking for a good “bucket list” themed summer romance read, i would direct you to Since You’ve Been Gone by morgan matson. this one i felt captivated the whole summer bucket list theme much better than The Summer Before Forever did. i felt as if jenna’s bucket list was simply added to the plot to keep it going–now this worked out well for chambers because i did still enjoy the book and had a great time with the characters.

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Bitter Romance, Bitter Family: Review of Vinegar Girl

good morning friends! at least for those that it is still morning. trying to continue my adventures in posting a review every, single day (trust me i already almost forgot about that today!), here is another review!

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Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
Published by Hogarth Shakespeare on June 21st 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Family
Pages: 240
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review 3.5 out of 5

 

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Kate Battista is the head of her house but not by choice. her younger, high-school aged sister, bunny, is more interested in boys than her family and their father is a hardwokring, but slightly crazed scientist. when he comes to his eldest daughter about a problem at work, he wants kate’s help in something she doesn’t think she could do: marriage.

mr. battista’s prized assistant is about to be booted out of the country because his visa is up. however, if he finds a woman to marry him, his green card will stay in tact and mr. battista can continue the scientific breakthrough he claims he’s having. kate, feeling like she is in a rut, contemplates the idea of helping her family, or herself.

taking on the infamous Taming of the Shrew by none other than shakespeare himself, tyler puts a modern spin on the classic play.

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alright so i really wanted to like this book. i really wanted to. The Taming of the Shrew is such a classic play and one really cannot grasp shakespeare’s portrayl of women without reading that play. there have been a few modern reconstructions of the performance, the first, and probably best that comes to mind is the movie 10 Things I Hate About You starring the late heath ledger and julia stiles. to say that i heart that movie would be an understatement. so i was very excited when i discovered this hogarth shakespeare and their modern adaptations of the centuries-old plays. however, tyler’s rendition left me slightly unsatisfied–but in a good way.

allow me to explain. [please note: this might be considered spoilers] if you haven’t read the original play, please do, you will not only understand me better as a person, but also better your life. that being said, the play has much controversy over what katherine does to herself. she willingly submits to a brute and marries him, seemingly silencing her forever. (thats the short version obviously). now, in tyler’s rendition, it seems that her kate does something similar.

in the age of third-wave feminism and everyone talking on facebook about women’s rights (the fact that we’re about to potentially have a female president) it’s only fitting that this modern retelling would have the opposite ending that the play portrays. however, it doesn’t. i was disappointed in kate’s decision to marry the lab assistant instead of doing what she wants–much like how the katherine in the play does. so perhaps i am upset because tyler did exactly what shakespeare did: allow us to question the role women play in families and marriages.

on the other hand, and the bright side, tyler’s writing style is elegant and soft. it wasn’t a difficult read, however it didn’t fully suck me in either. perhaps this is because of i wasn’t too enthralled with any of the characters. bunny is supposed to be annoying and tyler captures this well–she doesn’t care about her family at all until what seems like it’s too late. mr. battista is a groveling father who also doesn’t care about his family, just his research, leaving his young daughters to not only take care of themselves, but also him. pyotr, the foreign lab assistant, is just that: foreign. he doesn’t seem to understand the social graces and concepts of the battista’s home and village and america in general. he is forward and only slightly charming. when i have romantic characters, i want them to be charming and fire-y and yet neither pyotr nor kate are those things. finally kate is submissive and nonchalant. she doesn’t seem to care, not about her family, but about herself. she only aims to please her family and those around her, which is not necessarily an endearing quality.

She walked into work every day feeling starkly, conspicuously alone. It seemed that everyone else on the street had someone to keep them company. someone to laugh with and confide in and nudge in the ribs…Kate pretended not to hear. If she ducked her head low enough, her hair would swing forward so it completely hid her profile (page 71).

so i wasn’t that impressed with Vinegar Girl, but i did still enjoy the read while finding it challenging and true to the original. it was easy enough, short enough, that i could have finished it in a day if i felt that it suck me in, but it didn’t really so i did struggle with that. i would still recommend it of course, especially to those who are shakespeare lovers like myself. to read a modern interpretation is to allow oneself to remember and relive the first and original story. it’s a beautiful thing.

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Nostalgia at it’s finest: Review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

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what better way to start off my new website reviews than with the highly coveted Harry Potter and the Cursed Child? such a fitting way to profess my love of young adult literature and newfound talent in review-writing.

a bit of background if you don’t mind (and if you do, then place skip on ahead. this is a free country after all). brace yourself: i was never into harry potter as a child. GASP! UNFOLLOW! I HATE HER! i get it. i’m a horrible person and therefore have no right to review the next chapter in the series. however! i do think that this is my website–last time i checked–and have within the past five years read the seven book series multiple times. i enjoy the movies, owning the 8-bluray collection. i have even been to harry potter world in two different countries. the first, obviously the wonderful wizarding world of harry potter in orlando, florida BUT! also, the making of harry potter at the warner brothers studio in the united kingdom. so to say that i am a fan, though late, is an accurate statement.

i sought out this book the day it was released from my local barnes and nobles and was pleasantly surprised, but also fearful, at how “instock” they were. i didn’t have to bargain with the manager for the last copy, nor have to fight some fan-girl in glasses. instead, i walked right up to an overflowing display, plucked a copy off the shelf, handed one to my awaiting boyfriend, and we proceeded to the checkout. easy. perhaps the locals, mainly older folk, are just not that interested in this wonderful wizarding world? anyway, after completing the play in two days, i figured it was best to write a review of it.

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books on July 31st 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Death & Dying, Fantasy, Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review 4 out of 5

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[caution: slight spoilers below!]

being harry potter has never been easy, especially when he is an overworked, father of three Hogwarts-aged children. his middle child, albus severus, is giving him the most trouble and, since he is harry potter, he doesn’t necessarily know what to do about his tense relationship with his son. albus, on the other hand, does not feel at home at school, he befriends draco malfoy’s son, scorpius, and worries he’s a complete disappointment to the infamous harry potter.

deciding to pursue an illegal magical item and taking matters of death into his own hands, albus and scorpius in tow, sets out to make the past right in the eyes of his father. of course, nothing comes without a price in the wizarding world and a new, unexpected but extremely dangerous foe rises from the ashes completely under the noses of the ministry of magic and all our heroes and heroines.

instead of simply ron, hermione, and harry teaming up to battle at the end, the three sets of families must work together to right the past and the future.

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perhaps my least favorite part of the play, and i think the main reason i didn’t give it a five-star rating, is because of the stage direction. majoring in literature during my four-year stint in college, i made my rounds through literature and i homed in on the most famous playwright of all time (not J.K. Rowling) but Shakespeare. soon, the early modern period of england and europe became my livelihood and my lit courses revolved around those subjects. so to say i have a little experience in reading plays that are meant to be performed is an understatement. however, in Shakespeare’s plays there is hardly an stage direction and that’s okay because at least it is consistent. in this new installment to the series, there is inconsistent stage directions. at first, it seemed fine and started out alright. but then the stage direction began to sound more like omnipotent narrator and less like the director controlling the cast. a play cannot have it both ways. one is able to find the tone simply in the words a character uses, even if we cannot hear him speak them out loud. the context helps provide the tone, and the context can be found in the conversation. no where does the stage direction really provide context expect to clue the audience in on where the characters are and with whom. other than that, the stage directions should be silent. and in this play, they are not. for an example: The room transforms around them, becoming darker and more desperate (page 241). how exactly is a room supposed to become more desperate and even if i were watching this scene performed, how would i see a room become desperate? this is a classic case of what i was told to never do while writing: telling and not showing. the play teeters the line between wanting to be a novel but sticking to what it originally calls itself.

now, that is not to say that i didn’t enjoy every crafted word, every beautiful scene, every bit of dialogue. i loved the play just as much as the next gal holding her own copy. it stayed true to many of the notions that rose out of the first seven books. for example, i could hear harry’s and ginny’s, hermione’s and ron’s voice all while reading; both as i imagined them while reading the books on my own and how their expertly casted actors played them. each, now older, classic character that shows up is exactly their same as their younger counterpart, just now with some gray hair and other signs of aging. harry is still in the middle of things, unaware of what to do; ron is still hilarious but endearing; hermione is still quick-witted, smart, and the only one with her head on straight. now there are a few character changes, too. draco and harry have an unexpected, but totally perfect relationship but this is not the main point of course. the main plot revolves around harry’s son, albus.

HARRY (failing to contain his anger): If you were trying to do as I did, you went the wrong way about it. I didn’t volunteer for adventure, I was forced into it (page 203).

the two boys, albus and scorpius, the sons of harry and draco respectively, are excellent as the main leads.  Rowling’s original voice in the first seven books is channeled here by having the world revolve around a confused, emotional, and scared young boy who has a troubled family, is unsure of who he is and who he’s supposed to become.

SCORPIUS: You’re Albus Potter. She’s Rose Granger-Weasley. And I am Scorpius Malfoy. My parents are Astoria and Draco Malfoy. Our parents–they didn’t get on (page 16).

i think people should read this eighth book because it reminds the reader of why they enjoyed the first seven to begin with. it’s been a little less than ten years since the last book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was released, and not that any of us have forgotten why we love the characters and this world, but The Cursed Child gives the reader an opportunity to look into harry’s and all our favorite characters lives nineteen years later. so if you’re wondering if harry and ginny are still married after the short epilogue Rowling gave us in the The Deathly Hallows [spoiler: yes] or if draco is still a mess [spoiler: maybe]. the harry potter generation, which i am proud to be a part of, is all grown up now as well, with their own lives, children, and other adulthood things so it only makes sense that harry potter would have to deal with those things too. and not to mention how comforting this is–our childhood, though ages ago now, is still with us thanks to The Cursed Child.

i cannot even imagine what it must be like to watch the performance live, which is how this eighth book is supposed to be perceived as: seen, not read. when visually experiencing it, the problems i have with the stage direction will (most likely?) be irrelevant because, well, one is actually watching the actors instead of trying to envision it. so, if anyone wants to score me some tickets, that would be super cool.

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