The Sun is Also a Star

If you’ve read Everything, Everything, then you know just how realistic in both love and heartbreak Nicola Yoon can be. The Sun is Also a Star does not shy away from the desire for romance and understanding, and the devastation of losing that.

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The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
Published by Delacorte Press on November 1st 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Family, Coming-of-Age, Heartbreak
Pages: 384
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

Final Review: 4 out of 5 ★★★★☆


Nicola Yoon’s stories are unlike many young adult novels out there. They are not heartwarming. I do not set the book down after the last page feeling content. Instead, I am empty, devoid of all emotion because the previous pages have taken all of my feelings out of me already. I am somber when finishing one of her books; a book-hangover sure to set in at any moment. They are simply that captivating.

Like in Everything, Everything, Yoon starts off right away with introducing characters most readers are unfamiliar with reading about. For example, The Sun is Also a Star revolves around Natasha, an illegal immigrant from Jamaica, and Daniel, an Asian-American. Normally, being a white female myself, when reading I input my own thoughts and images for the characters unless they are greatly detailed and in Yoon’s stories, they are. By doing this, Yoon brings race into the story without even directly acknowledging it yet. Of course in this book race is a factor that Natasha and Daniel must deal with, but Yoon simply is creating a space for minority people to have their moment as the protagonist. Both Daniel and Natasha struggle with their identity. Who are they besides their race? Is Natasha really not American simply because she wasn’t born there? Is Daniel not American enough because he still likes Korean food and culture? Furthermore, how can the two of them have a relationship with the other when their parents are racist too?

Not only racial identity, but personal identity too. Neither understand what they want to do in the future. Daniel feels obligated to please his parents into getting into a highly ranked medical school, but he doesn’t feel passionate about that–not like he does with poetry. Natasha, on the other hand, simply found a path that has the best outcome for getting a job at the end.

All of the feelings Yoon weaves into the fabric of Natasha and Daniel are so real that anyone reading will connect in some way or another. Whether it because of race or the fear of deportation because of the US government today, or perhaps more simple, the desire to please our parents versus pleasing ourselves. And finally, to connect with someone so closely, so spiritually, that you love them literally within first sight. Just like how Daniel did with Natasha. That feeling is so strong and overwhelming; it’s desperate and urgent, forcing Daniel to blindly follow Natasha and demand to know more about her. Of course there are the skeptics, Natasha is one of them:

Natasha: The sheer number of actions and reactions it’s taken to form our solar system, our galaxy, our universe, is astonishing. The number of things that had to go exactly right is overwhelming. Compared to that, what is falling in love? A series of small coincidences that we say means everything because we want to believe that our tiny lives matter on a galactic scale. But falling in love doesn’t even begin to compare to the formation of the universe (page 203).

And when the day begins to wind down, a fight has ensued, and the light at the end looks grim and dull, Daniel too has his moments of doubt:

Daniel: Maybe it’s better to end things this way. Better to have a tragic and sudden end than to have a long, drown-out on where we realize that we’re just too different, and that love alone is not enough to bind us (page 195).

And yet, neither can let go. Yoon expertly creates a love story that doesn’t feel cheap or overdone. It feels raw, the energy ripping off the pages, almost taking the ink with it. It surrounds the reader, allowing them to become either Natasha, or Daniel, or both and experience their love first hand.

Daniel: I put my hand on he waist and bury my fingers in her hair. Anything can happen in the breath of space between us. I wait for her, for her eyes to say yes, and then I kiss her. Her lips are like soft pillows and I sink into them. We start out chaste, just lips toughing, tasting, but soon we can’t get enough. She parts her lips and our tongues tangle and retreat and tangle again. I’m hard everywhere but it feels so good, too right to be embarrassed about. She’s making little moaning sounds that make me want to kiss her even more (page 169).

The description of Natasha and Daniel’s passion for each other leaves me breathless. All I can think when reading these scenes is “Damn, I want to be able to write like that.” I would have given this book five out of five stars if it didn’t make me hurt so much inside. Please read this as well as Everything, Everything if you are interested in a real love story. Nothing about damsels or high princes; something that is instead raw and emotional, something that any reader anywhere can feel and connect to. Nicola Yoon, you have once again won my heart within the first chapters, stolen it like a cunning thief and then proceeded to crumple it like a piece of scratch paper and then smash it on the ground. You are wonderful.

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Caraval

I actually don’t even know how to write a review for this book! There is just so much happening on every page and, at first, I really disliked it; there was too much going on, so many different characters and events to pay attention to, that I felt lost in translation. Perhaps I was overwhelmed because it’s been a while since I read a book that completely transfers the reader to a different time and place. There are many twists that lead the reader down different winding paths, allowing them to think they understand whats going on, but then completely changing what was originally going on. So while writing this, if I disclose any spoilers, I will make sure to alert before hand.

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Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Published by Flatiron Books on January 31st 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Thriller, Magic, Romance, Family, Mystery
Pages: 416
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

Final Review: Both 3 out of 5 (in the beginning) ★★★☆☆                                                             and 5 out of 5 (at the end) ★★★★★


In one of my previous posts, regarding the firsts of 2017, I mentioned the first WTF book I read of the year being The Graces by Laure Eve, and the runner up is this book here: Caraval. Welcome to the strange, yet mystical world of Caraval, where a fantastical circus meets a late 1800’s theme park, mixed with the game Clue. There are magical shops that sell one of a kind items only found at Caraval, dresses that are bought not with money, but with truths like biggest fear, most kept secret, etc from the buyer. Now while the people need to be invited to the mysterious island and city of Caraval, there are two ways they can participate: either the person can be a watcher and spend the five days exploring, shopping, and ultimately watching the game that’s taking place before them. Which is the other way the people can participate: by being a part of the game. The game is different every time Caraval opens and revolves around clues that the players need to discover. Which is where the main characters, sisters Scarlett and Tella Dragna, enter the game.

I’m not sure if this is planned, but Tella is my least favorite character. I mean, how dare she do this to her sister! I can’t give away what happens in the end–spoilers: there are tons of twists and turns!–though while Tella is annoying and selfish (to me) she is also brave and curious, leading Scarlett to amazement. I think what kept me the most entranced was the relationship between Scarlett and Julian. It’s the classic hatred turned love, and yet so much more. What about Scarlett’s relationship with the infamous Legend, even though she has yet to meet him, there is certainly a connection there. Scarlett’s love for both men is just beautiful:

She imagined loving him would feel like falling in love with darkness, frightening and consuming yet utterly beautiful when the stars came out…

She remembered thinking falling for him would be like falling in love with darkness, but now she imagined he was more like a starry night: the constellations were always there, constant, magnificent guides against the ever-present black (page 211 and 273).

The reader is taken on a wild goose chase throughout the canals and winding streets of Caraval as Scarlett and Julian are forced to search for the (spoiler!) now missing Tella. Much like Scarlett, the reader has absolutely no idea what’s going on and yet pushes through, desperate to understand what is happening in this strange game. Scarlett is certainly the most admirable character in the book–her only goal being to find her sister and right every wrong. She’s charming and innocent, but strong too; she’s strong enough to endure the craziness that Legend puts her through, the emotional ride that comes with Julian, and her own self-growth.

Garber’s world of Caraval is as captivating as the message of sisterly love portrayed by Scarlett and Tella. I want more from Garber and, though I’m not sure if there is a sequel coming out, the ending does leave much to the imagination and sets up for a sequel. I am desperate for more of Julian and Scarlett, and I still have no idea about Legend! So please, Stephanie Garber, give me some more! I want to feel the magic of Caraval envelop me again, it comes off the page and sucks the reader in. I can feel myself there at times, seeing the shops and bourgeois dresses, the scent of popcorn and candy mixed with apple cider and river, the laughter of the watchers as they observe the players scattering around. We feel all the emotions that Scarlett does, we are surprised with her too, just when we think we’ve figured it out, Legend has something else up his sleeve for us. The reader can feel it all as if she were a part of it, as if we were invited and are playing the role of the watchers.

Hope is a powerful thing. Some say it’s a different breed of magic altogether. Elusive, difficult to hold on to. But not much is needed (page 318).

If you were given an invitation to Caraval, would you be a player, or a watcher?

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PS I Still Love You Review

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I’m finally getting around to reading the sequels to some books alongside reading some comics in between, such as Jenny Han’s P.S. I Still Love You and A Court of Mist and Fury is next!

I LOVED Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Seriously. Loved it. Cried my eyes out and needed to know more, obsessed over Lara Jean and Peter forever. So here are my thoughts on their continued love story.

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P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on May 26th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Friendship, Young Adult, Family
Pages: 352
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

Final Review: 4 out of 5

★★★★☆


Lara Jean is back at it again. Picking up right where we left off in book 1, Lara Jean’s love life is still as crazy as it was in Han’s first book. When Peter and her go back to dating, as cute as they were before, they both acknowledge that it’s far different from when they were just pretending. Lara Jean still has hesitation herself, and rightfully so. What is a girl to think when she sees her boyfriend consoling and hugging his ex-girlfriend? An ex-girlfriend who totally hates Lara Jean, by the way.

Of course Lara Jean has some concerns about her relationship with Peter, and like any young girl, she turns to another, attractive boy to help her out. One of her letters, the ones Kitty sent out? ends up getting a response. John Ambrose McClaren and Lara Jean become pen pals, friends even after years of radio silence between the two.

What happens with Lara Jean finds herself in love with two boys at once? One she knows is going to break her heart, and the other she doesn’t know if she can give her heart to.


Okay. Did I love this book? Yes. Did I love it as much as the first one? No. For some reason, I wasn’t as captivated by P.S. I Still Love You compared to To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Perhaps this is because the characters and story aren’t all that new to me anymore since I just read To All the Boys I Loved Before not too long ago, so the story isn’t as gut-wrenching as it was before.

Like snow globes, you shake them up, and for a moment everything is upside down and glitter everywhere and it’s just like magic–but then it all settles and goes back to where it’s supposed to be. Things have a way of settling back. I can’t go back (page 12).

I did, however, have intense anxiety pains whenever Lara Jean got anywhere near John Ambrose McClaren. Secretly, I wanted them to be together. How realistic? Of course Peter wouldn’t be able to get over his ex-girlfriend, Genevieve. That is some hard shit to do! Trust me. And even though this means breaking Lara Jean’s heart, I can see it happening. She would be able to explore a new life, a new not-so-naive life with John Ambrose. Maybe this could have happened if they were older, as in going off to college soon. This would prepare Lara Jean of the heartbreak but love again that could, and will, happen to her. Perhaps I’m too jaded and old to read these!

On a critical analysis standpoint, and watch out for spoilers here, I knew that Lara Jean and John Ambrose McClaren would not end up together simply by Han’s description of the two. When Lara Jean and Peter kiss, Han is extravagant in her writing, detailing every thought, touch, and experience that happens in that short second: “I kiss him before he can finish. Properly. Like I mean it. He kisses back like he means it too. Like it’s been four hundred years. And then I’m not thinking anymore and I’m just lost in the kissing” (page 21). Compare this to: “and then he kisses me. His lips are warm and firm against mine, and my eyelids flutter shut” (page 305). There is a clear difference between Lara Jean’s reaction to each kiss here and in a way, it foreshadows the outcome of her relationship with each.

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I do adore how Han seemed to get even more intimate with Lara Jean’s family. I liked that the story took a turn away from Margot and Josh (no offense, but they weren’t my favorite plot line). I loved how Kitty and Lara Jean tried, unsuccessfully, to get their father to start dating again–this is so real. How many children are raised by a single parent these days? I know it, even with two lovely parents that are divorced, that seeing them alone is sad and you want anything in the world to make them happy. And their dad just seems like the sweetest guy–I want him to be my dad! They are so sweet to him.

My dad said Peter isn’t the only boy in the world. I know this is true, of course it’s true. But look at Daddy. My mom was the only girl in the world for him. If she wasn’t, he’d have found somebody new by now. Maybe he’s been trying to protect himself from heartbreak too. Maybe we’re more alike than I ever realized (page 265).

Overall, P.S. I Still Love You is an adorable, must-read in order to complete Lara Jean’s story. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before leaves readers wanting more. Is she going to drop that letter off at Peter’s? Are they going to fall back in love–for real this time? Not only does it answer these pressing questions, but the sequel raises a few more. Is Lara Jean and Kitty’s dad ever going to find love again? What happened with the other letters Lara Jean wrote? And ultimately, are Peter and Lara Jean supposed to be together forever? All I know is that Han has amazingly insightful advice, hidden in Lara Jean and Peter, for us readers to take away:

I can see now that it’s the little things, the small efforts, that keep a relationship going. And I know now too that in some small measure I have the power ot hurt him and also the power to make it better (page 197).

Thank you, Jenny Han, for another whirlwind of emotion in P.S. I Still Love You.

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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!).