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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To All The Books I’ve Loved Before

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so of course i’ve heard of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and of course i was intrigued but honestly, i didn’t pick it up right away because i was hesitant. is this a book i would prefer in ebook format (and therefore cheaper)? am i really going to enjoy this or does it sound cliched to me? these questions always had me passing the book up for something else. it still sits, i believe, in my amazon kindle wish list, where it will stay until i clean that out.

all that hesitation aside, simply put, i adored this book. i seriously got a Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell vibe from Han’s writing and the characterization of lara jean. she’s timid, but loves her family deeply, doesn’t really seem bothered by boys because of her “letter solution” however there’s always one that can break that cycle. disclaimer: there is nothing wrong with putting off a Fangirl vibe–in fact, that’s amazing because i love that book too.

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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers reprinted on January 26th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Family, Teen
Pages: 384
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review 5 out of 5

 

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lara jean has a full family: two sisters (one older, and one younger) and their caring, single father. lara jean’s older sister, margot is leaving for university in scotland and decides to break up with her long time boyfriend, and family friend, josh. what margot doesn’t know is that her little sister has always had a crush on josh. instead of saying or doing anything about this crush, lara jean added another love letter to her collection of five. these aren’t love letters she’s received, but instead letters she’s written to the past loves of her life. once she seals that envelope, her feelings can dissipate and she can move on.

but then her letters somehow get sent to all five of her loves. what is lara jean to do with the most popular guy in school, peter, receives a letter from her and, the dreadful moment, when josh wants to talk about his?

follow lara jean try to cover up the letter fiasco while she finds out truly what loves is about.

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where do i even begin with my adoration for this book? as i said, i was hesitant in the beginning. i was really hoping that this wouldn’t end in a cliche and it TOTALLY DIDN’T. i am not going to give anything away (or at least try not to) but seriously, i was totally surprised. simply put, the book does not end wrapped up in a tight, neat bow and, in some way, it does not end in the traditional sense of “happily ever after.” han sets up her story perfect for the sequel, which i do still need to read, and in my edition gives a very cliff-hanger-y clip of P.S. I still Love You and it tormented me.

Why is it so hard to say no to him? Is this what it’s like to be in love with somebody? (page 286).

lara jean is like many average heroines we are reading these days. she is the middle child and isn’t the good or the bad one either. her older sister, margot seems like a handful but i suppose she had to be because their mother passed; kitty, on the other hand, is the youngest and therefore the rowdiest. lara jean simply rests in the middle–she reads books, bakes for her family, but also isn’t as goody-two-shoes like margot and doesn’t really know how to do all the housework.

she, like many young women, has had many loves. that one boy at summer camp in grade school, an old guy friend that seemed cute during middle school but isn’t anymore, etc. however, lara jean is too timid to act on these boys and han sets up the kicker that she actually loves josh–margot’s long time boyfriend. in the beginning, you wouldn’t even guess that that’s where this is going, but when she provides that tidbit of information, you know that the rest of the story is going to be rocky.

This is the moment I realize I don’t love him, that I haven’t for a while. That maybe I never did. Because he’s right there for the taking: I could kiss him again; I could make him mine. But I don’t want him (page 283).

every character in han’s repertoire can stand on their own. she craftily creates the characters to have enough stability to be isolated from the main story–even have their own offshoot–but not too much that they are taking away from lara jean’s journey through love. this is quite difficult to accomplish and i certainly applaud han for doing so.

i think everyone who loves a little slice of forbidden love and romance, but enjoys family reads as well should read this book. it seriously made me bawl my eyes out at like 10:30PM while my boyfriend was asleep next to me. i haven’t cried that hard from a book in such a long time that i am astounded that han was able to do it. i have completely and utterly fallen in love with peter and lara and kitty and all the characters that hold significance in han’s story. it is just so good i can’t even stand it.

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“Meh” on a Paper Airplane

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you are warned! this is not a very nice review because i have found a book i didn’t enjoy. i’m just as surprised as you are because you might have noticed i’ve really only been raving about the past couple of books, but this one really through me. and surprisingly it got amazing reviews on amazon and goodreads (nothing on barns and noble yet)! granted, there are only about 20 reviews respectively, and i do try to shine light on some good points, but overall this book is not worthy of my time or kindle.

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Kisses on a Paper Airplane by Sarah Vance-Tompkins
Published by Inkspell Publishing on May 14th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 83
Version: Advanced Reader Copy
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review 2.5 out of 5

 

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hannah evans is accepted into a prestigious acting school in london, england where she befriends her scandalous roommate julia. julia samples not only the english tea and country, but also the men, while hannah stays modest because she hasn’t even had her first kiss at seventeen years old. she is waiting for the most perfect moment and even more perfect boy. suddenly, hannah’s mother calls to inform her that she is now engaged and wants hannah to come back to the states, milwaukee, wisconsin to be exact, for the wedding. her new step-dad pays up and hannah flies first-class home from england, with a surprise flirt next to her.

theo callahan is a well-known british pop star with touchable red hair and an adorable accent. but he’s been hurt and is cautious about women now, however, on his way to NYC he meets a remarkable girl, someone who isn’t conventionally pretty but manages to steal his heart anyway in the first-class lounge. they get massages together and hold hands down the terminal before snuggling in for the long ride. he becomes completely taken by her, but what he doesn’t realize is that she might hurt him too.

will hannah ever get her first kiss? could it be with an international music sensation that she barely knows or recognizes at first? will theo ever truly trust a woman again? these questions are all answered in sarah vance-tompkin’s debut novella,  Kisses on a Paper Airplane.

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so what can i say about Kisses on a Paper Airplane? this is another advanced reader copies i received on my shelf from NetGalley, even though the book has already debuted. it doesn’t seem to be very well known yet, and on amazon, one can only buy it as a kindle edition. this could mean that the book is only available digitally–i’m not sure though about that. obviously if a book is available exclusively digitally, this could mean a few things like this is vance-tompkin’s first book, a smaller publishing agency / house, etc. etc.

i wanted to like this book very much because so far NetGalley hasn’t given me a book i didn’t like (i’ve only read one so far though), however Kisses on a Paper Airplane was simply a swing and a miss for me. vance-tompkins writing style is decent, could be improved, but really we all can, so it’s really not that that threw me. in fact, the plot line and characters seemed great and had much potential, i just felt that they weren’t expanded on enough for me. the story seemed very surface-level if that makes any sense. it’s too easy; it’s too simple; it’s too perfect for it to seem real enough for someone to escape into.

He was like a solar eclipse. You know how they say it’s dangerous to look directly at the sun during an eclipse, and yet once you do, you can’t look away? I couldn’t tear my eyes away from his perfect face (location 101 on kindle).

also there were a few displays of my biggest pet peeve’s when it comes to writing: putting in real life people and objects. there are exceptions to this rule of course, but something that has always annoyed me is when a writer uses real-life object terms such as iPhone or iPod, blu-ray player, and really anything specific enough to need the brand name. to me, this feels like a product placement plug, as if the writer is trying to be noticed by Apple and they feature her book because she mentioned their smartphone. there are many other synonyms for iPhone that one can use instead of needing to say the actual brand name: cell phone works fine, even smartphone, or simply “phone.” now it isn’t just Kisses on a Paper Airplane that does this, in fact an old favorite vampire series, House of Night, did this as well. i’m not sure why i get so turned off by it, but it really pulls me out of enjoying the book when i feel like i am reading product placement ads.

Kisses on a Paper Airplane also did this with people, specifically the british boy band, One Direction. now i loved that band just as much as any other hormone-induced fan girl that cried at their songs (admit it, you did) but that doesn’t mean that i am going to place them into my story, or even take time away from the dialogue to mention how much “i’ve cried over zayn leaving the band.” this is sloppy writing to me; it demonstrates that the author either can’t come up with anything interesting to say in their own work that they need to use outside, unrelated notes in order to meet a word count. this also makes the narrator / main character a complete replica of the writer, so much so that they are having modern day thoughts that are not going to stand the test of time. at some point the iPhone is going to become obsolete (if it isn’t already starting considering there are 7 different generations of it) as well as boy bands that are mostly already broken up anyways. by writing these objects and people that are solely pop culture references, your book is basically going to stay in this one era, it will not transfer generations.

I dug through my backpack and found my iPod…The first song [Julia chose] for me was One Direction’s The Story of My Life. I’m a Directioner all the way. Not gonna lie. The day Zayn quit, I shed more than one tear (location 307 on kindle).

finally, and this contradicts what i said in my last review of Taking the Reins, but i felt that this story wrapped up too nicely. while vance-tompkin’s writing is quite simple, i found myself skimming more than actually engaging as i was trying to just get through the story, at the same time, the story was too unrealistic for it to even make sense. it could have been the main character’s, hannah evans, dream for all we know, that’s how ludicrous it seemed. and i’ve read stories about flying wizards and dragons alongside vampires and zombies–things that are perpetually unreal seem more realistic than the characters and storyline we see here.

i wouldn’t necessarily recommend this book to my friends, other than for them to have something easy, simple, and quick to read. because as i said in the beginning, the characters and plot line could have been good and i kept turning the page hoping for that good to jump out at me, but instead it seemed trivial and unrealistic.

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Professional Sequence in Editing Haul

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instead of posting my review of A Court of Thorns and Roses today (which is coming along!) i decided that i couldn’t really call this a lit major’s bookshelf without talking about some lit major things.

this past month i enrolled in UC Berkeley’s Professional Sequence in Editing certificate program and i am very anxious to begin in september. i already ordered all the books i would need for the four courses, even though i’m only taking the first two this semester and then the last two in the spring. i figured what better way to showcase what being a literature major is all about than to show you the course materials i need to get my certificate in editing.

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for the courses i need only four books, but i figured there was no fun in taking pictures of only four books, so instead i gathered all of my editing-related books and did this shoot. here are the books i’ve included, starting with the first four that i need for school:

now to the passerby, these are certainly not as interesting as say my haul of young adult books or my reviews and that is partly true. these books come with the boding sense of impending school ahead–a feeling i both love and hate. school to me is a sanctuary, a separate space for the intense learning that i crave on a daily basis. however, school is also a lot of work, as most of us know, and knowing that i need such large and in charge books for a simple certificate program is scary. however, some of these books, like The Subversive Copy Editor or the Grammar Girl’s collection are quite silly and entertaining to read. they are each written in a style that is easy to understand and follow and that slightly excites the reader to read on.

now of course there is a copy of the dictionary and the chicago manual of style which are not as fun to read–i am deathly afraid of the CMS and am not looking forward to having to learn in.

but these books are for my career–they are not supposed to be here for my enjoyment. it helps, though, that i am interested in the topic and am excited to begin classes. one day, hopefully soon, i’ll be a recognized editor who still does my own novel writing and book reviewing. this certificate is just the next stepping stone.

if you have any questions regarding editing program (i’ve basically looked at them all) or what it’s like to be a starving copyeditor, then please don’t refrain from asking. i only know as much as i tell people i know–which isn’t a lot, but i still like to chat about editing to anyone who’s interested!

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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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