Replica Review

I feel like the only books I’ve read lately are good books. The only reviews I’ve been leaving are either 4 out of 5 or even 5 out of 5 stars. Does this make me a bad reviewer? I’m too lenient? Perhaps. Or it just means that there are so many good books out there that deserve that 5 out of 5 stars on a nobody’s blog.

Replica is, obviously, not going to break this streak.

Fotor_149177542065658.jpg

Replica by Lauren Oliver
Published by Harper Collins on October 4th 2016
Genres: Science Fiction, Suspense, Friendship, Romance, Family, Coming-of-Age, Heartbreak
Pages: 544 (total); 284 (Gemma); 236 (Lyra)
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

Final Review: 5 out of 5 ★★★★★


It has been quite a long time since I have read a book so original (at least to me), so overwhelmingly new, that I had a hard to grasping it (note that the other recent book that made me feel like this would have to be A Court of Thorns and Roses). And I mean this literally, the book, being flipped in my hands every chapter to read from a new perspective is so refreshing and it gives my fingers a workout.

The storyline and characters are not the only unique quality of this book. Creative-genius Lauren Oliver doesn’t simply write this story, but instead puts a piece of art work in our hands. For once, the actual book is part of the story. Almost like a children’s choose-your-own-adventure, Replica is split down the middle; one half consisting of the tale told through normal girl Gemma’s eyes, the other half is the same story, just told through the Replica, Lyra’s, eyes. The reader can decide if they want to read one half and then the other, or, how I read it, they can flip the book over after every chapter, going through each scene with both girls.

Now I will admit that while I find this groundbreaking, it can be tedious. The storyline is just so good that the physical act of closing the book, flipping it, finding the right chapter, reading it, then flipping it again is sort of maddening. I just want to read! I want to absorb Gemma and Lyra’s lives into my own, to learn everything i can about them, and having to constantly flip the lengthy hardcover book in my hands is annoying. This face alone almost made me demote the book to only 4 stars. But Oliver’s story saved it.

Fotor_149177539501048.jpg

The conversation about AI and other robotics is bubbling over the hidden and obscure online sources into everyday talk. From philosophers to celebrities to idiots like me are talking about the the prospect of artificial intelligence in our near future. This is most likely made popular by the sudden stream of AI-related movies and shows like Ghost in the Shell, Ex Machina, Westworld, and others. Suddenly, it’s all anyone can think about in the science fiction realm. Which is why my brain instantly went to AI and the notion of consciousness in a robot when reading through Lyra’s tale. It seemed too easy, though, and it turns out, I was wrong. Lyra isn’t a robot (though all signs point to that in the beginning) instead she is something more grotesque, something more unearthly that confuses the reader to even consider. Sure, we are more accepting of Scarlett Johansson as a crazy, assassin robot that can become invisible, but now (spoiler!) human cloning that actually works? That is just insane!

And yet Oliver has thought of this world. She has done her research too, painstakingly providing details the reader didn’t even know they needed. As if she were playing God, Oliver creates all necessary information to convince both Gemma and those that help her, as well as the reader, that this is, in fact, really happening. From news articles and eye-witness accounts to a plethora of websites with information, Haven Institute becomes something I question why I’m not Googling it now myself. Much like how Tolkien completely births his world, as does Oliver. There are no loose ends or unanswered questions.

Fotor_149177533831311.jpg

So I’ve talked about the physical book itself, the craziness of the plot, meaning all that is left now is to discuss the beauty in Oliver’s characters. I’m not really sure which girl, either Lyra or Gemma, is my favorite. Probably Lyra because for being a clone with no knowledge outside of Haven, she is incredibly pensive and self-assured about herself. Even when the truth behind Haven Institute hits her square in the face, she is still the same girl. Even when her own truth, about her haunting past, arises before her, she is still a girl that loves The Little Prince and the stars, finds reading a necessity, and has such genuine emotions towards fellow clone, 72.

In my opinion, Lyra’s use in this novel is to demonstrate the unworldliness that we treat our bodies and the bodies of others. Sure there is more science fiction to that, as well as plenty of other ways to read Oliver’s tale, but the body is so important, to Lyra and to Gemma, that one cannot read a page without thinking about it. Lyra is tempted to understand every anatomical drawing and reference sheet available to her eyes throughout Haven; Gemma is self-conscious about her weight, looks, and past illnesses. The Haven Institute itself is using bodies for biological warfare. Not weapons or computers, but people. The human anatomy is now both the trench and the battlefield.

What happens when we as a society put so much emphasis on the body that it becomes the norm to replicate it, to dupe others into believing that a body could be so meaningless and easily replaceable? How easy it would be, with the technology used at Haven, to quickly mass-produce “beautiful people” and do away with any “flaws” such as beauty marks, cellulite, crooked noses, imperfect breasts, eye color, hair color–all of which, today, we already do away with. There are doctors setting up right now for surgery on a person who doesn’t think they are pretty enough to be a part of society. A hair stylist is mixing pigment for a client who insists on having rose gold hair because she saw it on Pinterest and wants her Instagram followers to like her even more. There are lasers and zappers, at home DIY treatments and expensive, anesthesia-requiring surgeries that are performed every day for someone to change the way they were born, to change the way they were created. We take advantage of our bodies every second.

Lyra: She had never showered alone before and it felt wonderful: the big echoey bathroom, the space, aloneness of it. Was this how all people lived? It felt luxurious to her (130).

And then there is Lyra who doesn’t even know, isn’t even capable of knowing what is actually happening to her. And she is so enthralled by something so simple, like a shower, a cellphone, a children’s book, a chart of the heart, that we too, as readers, are forced to question the smaller things that we have always overlooked. Can you imagine how incredibly amazing our nervous system is? Working without us telling it to, without us really even noticing that it’s working at all. We would notice when it stops, of course, but for the most part, our brain is firing off signals all over our body and we’re too preoccupied with an online fail video to think about it.

Lyra is a child at heart, curious and questioning, ready to discover something new in something Gemma has considered old. Pens and paper, ready for anything, is Lyra’s playground. She doesn’t need a tablet computer, the new gaming console, TV streaming and what else. She craves knowledge from things we have since forgotten to care about: ourselves.

She is equally intrigued by the male body, and rightfully so. Since she hasn’t had any proper training on human anatomy, only peeks through books and charts, when she and 72 are no longer at Haven, but instead away from what seems like a concentration camp, Lyra begins to learn the true lessons of love: watch and wait or else you get burned:

Lyra: She’d been interested in the males, of course–curious about them–but shed also learned that curiosity led to disappointment, that it was better not to want, not to look, not to wonder (131).

How innate is that! For a girl, never allowed to interact with the boy clones, she naturally understands that being curious about someone else, someone that she doesn’t quite understand and ultimately finds attractive, can lead to failure and she is scared of that. We’re all scared of that.

Fotor_149177537483247.jpg

Gemma as an equally hard time figuring out who she is as well. She identifies as an “alien,” her and her best friend April are “aliens” compared to the pretty, popular girls at school. She believes she is a “freak” because of all the illnesses and surgeries she’s had, the scars showing out of her gym clothes, as well as her weight. She’s embarrassed by it all, and since the girls at school continue to make fun her for both, why shouldn’t she be embarrassed? Women, both young and old, are having to live to such ridiculously high beauty standards that the second someone steps out of line, whether it be with ten pounds extra weight or a scar from a life-saving surgery, they no longer fit the mold and are ridiculed. Ironically, Gemma’s “normal” world would prefer their women be like clones–mass produced and beautiful, not individually but as a whole. Whereas Lyra’s world craves individuality in the case with the scar on Lyra’s forehead, though ugly to her, sets her apart from the other–a clone that is different.

Gemma begins to realize, quite quickly too, that there are many more things to be worried about and to fuss over than her weight. When she meets a guy, two guys actually, who really don’t seem to care that she’s slightly over the normal weight of women, her thighs roughly caressing each other when she sits down, she can’t accept that they don’t see her that way. Then she meets Lyra and realizes that she’s been absolutely bonkers for thinking about her thighs when there have been people being experimented on. Strange, how it takes something so drastic for us to wake up and stop caring about how we look.

But Gemma is not a bad person, she is real. She’s a real girl suffering from self-doubt and her own issues. She is a great representer for young women today–dealing with body image, boys, family, school, friends, and moving.

Gemma: But she had already cried…and today she felt nothing but a strange, bobbing sense of emptiness, as if she was a balloon untethered from the earth, slowly floating away into nothingness (33).

Yet she experiences such dramatic and life-altering things that it’s surprising she comes out of it so strong. This book is definitely a coming-of-age tale, but not in the traditional sense. Gemma is forced into her coming-of-age. Instead of struggling with normal teen problems, like her body, Gemma is thrown into a whirlwind of horrors as she discovers her father’s secret. She realizes then that her own issues are minute compared to that of Lyra and 72’s. How can someone sit and obsess over their body when someone next to them is skin and bones because of experimentation? Gemma quickly matures from teen drama to heroine as she defends the rights of Lyra and 72, demanding her parents respect them and her.

Gemma: There was no time, only change, only atoms rotating, only Gemma and Pete and Rick Hairless and a love so turned around and imperfect and blind it could only be called faith (260).

She becomes insightful and courageous, something she never dreamed she could be. Her life obviously changes throughout this book, both for the good and the bad, as she discovers who and what she really is, what her family really is, and who she wants to be in the end.

If you are interested in anything science fiction, want a twinge of romance, and heart-stopping suspense then this is surely a read for you. Oliver has crafted such a unique tale that battles for recognition. It has been a while since I’ve read something so heartfelt and genuine and overall different in the Young Adult category. Thank you Lauren!

 Fotor_149177546530343.jpg

The Bone Witch Review

Finishing more than 400 pages, I am enthralled but also so confused–what even happened, Tea? Please tell me what happened to you. The story is written in such an interesting and different way. Every other chapter takes place in the present. This is where what a journalist would be from this world, named Bard, finds Tea in her exiled land, and is determined to learn her story. She tells him her past, how she became an asha and how she got to the strange and desolate place she is today, which brings the reader to the next chapter, told through Tea’s perspective and set in the past.

Fotor_149064697605845.jpg

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on March 7th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Thriller, Magic, Romance, Family, Mystery
Pages: 432
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

Final Review: 4 out of 5 ★★★★☆


Picking up this book off of the Barnes and Noble bookshelf initiated both curiosity and fear–feelings I think Tea had felt many times during her asha training. The description boded more fear than what I actually read; something about reading about someone who raises the dead, add a skull on the cover, and you have a scared Shelby. And yet…I needed to buy it. Perhaps Tea was speaking to me through the book, guiding me to her strange and enticing story. I am both very glad that I picked up this book, but also still confused.

I think the most amazing part of the book is that while creating an intensely detailed world, Chupeco still finds time to have an interesting gender-related conversation. Tea, being a young and inexperienced girl, gets immediately thrown into the frightening, yet glamorous life of being a bone witch apprentice after accidentally raising her brother from the dead. Though clearly terrified (and rightfully so), instead of being silent, Tea stands up to the women before her, making sure her small, but extremely significant voice is heard.

I never did understand why the role of an asha was restricted to women alone. In the course of my wanderings, I have seen men who could be just as graceful as women. Men who, with the constant training we have had to endure, could perhaps rival even the likes of Lady Shadi. Are there any male dancers in Drycht? (page 178).

Not only does she question why men are not allowed in the asha world, she also goes to wonder why women are not allowed on the battlefield alongside the men.

“Death seekers are aware of the risks they take whether they face off against an azi or a tiger cub, a monster or a human…[T]his must be left up to the men. They are prepared to sacrifice their lives; we are not prepared for you to do the same” (page 355).

And this is just one topic Tea decides to cover–she knows that she is here, in this world, to change something. Whether it is the way royals and high asha think of other genders, to how the asha and citizens look upon the daeva. Tea is going to change something. But once the reader gets the ending, we still don’t know what that might be.

Give this book a read if you’re interested in something completely new and different. Not only is the story unlike anything else I’ve read–Tea has so many dimensions to her and there are so many more characters besides her!–the story structure is original as well. This allows more characters to be introduced (like Bard) as well as even more information regarding Tea’s life.

The only thing that I didn’t enjoy about this book is that I still don’t really know what happened. Many things happened–raising dead rats here, old kings there, a brother before, and demon devas later–and yet, the ending. I was disappointed that there wasn’t more greeting me at the end. We learn through Bard that Tea is extremely strong and has a new plan of her own–it doesn’t include the relationships we have grown accustomed to in her storytelling. But then the book ends with Tea looking onward to the destruction she is about to generate. I read on Goodreads that Chupeco is planning on writing a sequel, and I believe this is almost necessary. I am left with so many stories about Tea and her sisters, Tea and Fox, Tea and her love interests, and yet, nothing to tie anything together to. I need something more!

PS. Chupeco, can we get a glossary of words in the back of the next book? I realize, while re-reading my review here, that I am unsure whether to try and describe what each word is, or if I should just leave it for my readers to figure out on their own.

“Everyone is a puzzle, Tea, made of interlocking tiles you must piece together to form a picture of their souls. But to successfully build them, you must have an idea of their strengths as well as their weaknesses. We all have them,” [Polaire said] (page 275).

Fotor_149064690428164.jpg

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.

Fotor_148933682709233.jpg

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):

IMG_20170315_115213481.jpg     IMG_20170315_115057850.jpg     IMG_20170315_115142086.jpg

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.

Fotor_14893692723202.jpg

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

PS I Still Love You Review

share_temporary.jpg

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.

p-s-i-still-love-you-9781442426733_hr

 

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.

PS-I-Still-Love-You-review.png

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.

share_temporary.jpg

 

The Unexpected Relatable Andie Walker

share_temporary.jpg

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.

the-unexpected-everything-9781481404549_hr

 

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

★★★★☆
__________
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.
__________
share_temporary.jpg
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.
share_temporary.jpg
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!).

Welcome to my Museum of Heartbreak

share_temporary.jpg

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.

the-museum-of-heartbreak-9781481432108_hr

 

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

___________

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.

___________

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).

share_temporary.jpg

“Meh” on a Paper Airplane

1471802677129.jpg

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.

29064447

 

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

 

__________

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.

__________

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.

Fotor_147180251675378

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

1470785348058

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.

911Xmhn9+rL

 

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

__________

[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.

__________

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.

1470765697811

First Book Haul

 

welcome to the new edition to shelbylueders.com! A place for me to put my talent to the test and see if how quickly i can read new books as well as how well i can review it.

here is the first haul for my new site.

during the month of july (and a tiny part of august) i purchased 18.5 books (i’ll get to that half in a second). that is quite a haul! normally i would peruse the shelves of barns and nobles and write some titles down and then see how much they cost on amazon kindle (usually much cheaper!), but recently i decided to just forgo that whole step and if i saw something interesting, i would just buy it. you only live once right?

1470680366308

so here’s a list of the books:

this haul, as you can see, ranges over many different genres, with the most being in the young adult category. even though i just got my degree in literature, young adult books, though mostly left out of schooling, is one of my favorite genres to read and write. they entertain me to no end, satisfy my romantic relationship needs, and generally don’t require much thought.

here’s the young adult books all together:

1470680792586

stay tuned for some reviews of a few of these books, and for more blog posts to come.

have you read any of these yet? what is your favorite genre to splurge in?