The Wrath & the Dawn

These last reviews I’ve posted have been read in chronological order (I started with The Cruel Prince, went to Everless, and finished with The Wrath & the Dawn) and have increased in likability too.

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The Wrath & the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh
Published by Speak on (reprint edition) April 5th, 2016
Genres: Romance, Power, Identity, Family, Royalty, Supernatural, Feministic
Pages: 432
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review:  4.5 out of 5 ★★★★☆


I hesitate to just go ahead and give this book five out of five and I’m not really sure where the hesitation comes from. To put it plainly, I enjoyed this book much more than certain others I’ve read lately, so wouldn’t this warrant a full five stars? I’ll begin by categorizing this book–or at least attempting to.

It would be hard to say that this book is YA. It’s not not YA, but it’s also not really YA. I’ll explain. The romance aspects of it seem a little cheeky and young-ish (in the sense that sex scenes aren’t drawn out, there aren’t any blatant “adult” topics, etc.), but then at the same time, it just doesn’t seem to fit that category for me. There aren’t really any super supernatural aspects that would make me think of the common fantastical YA, but I suppose, regardless of plot, the content does sort of remind me of Sara J. Maas’ work (yet again! Why do I compare everything to her? Ugh I love you, Sara) so perhaps, after all, it does fit in a YA shelf.

The best part of this book, while obvious, is the protagonist. I know this sounds simple, but really sometimes I hate the protagonist and wish he/she were written differently. But Shahrzad (or Shazi) is exceptional.

“It’s never been a question of who is going to let me behave a certain way; it’s alwasy been a question of who is going to stop me” (page 99).

She reminds me of an Asian rendition of Juliet, of course in the way that I read Juliet. She is super strong-willed, somewhat loyal to her family, but more so loyal to herself, and ultimately is determined. Shazi has volunteered to marry the boy-king who murders his new bride every sunrise. Why would she set out for a suicide mission? Because her best friend was chosen to become a bride and then was subsequently murdered the next morning and Shazi is out for revenge. Of course, nothing in the romance world is ever that easy and what if Shazi begins to develop feelings for the boy-king, Khalid? He spares her for many mornings in a row and their relationship deepens and blooms. But if Shazi is supposed to be a flower, she is a rose with many thorns. She does not take kindly to be treated traditionally and is openly “disobedient” towards her patriarch. She shoots bow and arrow, walks through the palace where she isn’t welcomed, and makes her presence known. She is a full affront to the traditional wifely duties and I love her for it. I want to be her when I grow up.

What some people might not like is (SPOILERS!) she does fall in love with Khalid. Can this really be a feministic text if the women falls for the man? OF COURSE! Sometimes, I believe that we forget that women can be both: Strong and dissident, but also in love. Those two don’t need to be separate and just because she develops feeling for Khalid, does not mean her strong and overbearing personality disappears, in fact, this is probably why Khalid loves her right back. She is the holder of their relationship, whether Khalid believes it or not.

Furthermore, the text discusses love in such different matters than I’ve generally seen in YA. By submitting herself to the will and marriage to Khalid, Shazi leaves behind her family and childhood friend, Tariq, who loves her deeply as well (Shazi is so great, she has two awesome dudes vying for her time). But besides that, Tariq and Shazi have to deal with the different version of love that arises:

“It is not a difficult question. It is a very simple one. The difficulty lies in the answer. Why do you love her?” (page 295).

The way I love my current boyfriend is not the same as how I loved my past boyfriend or the one before that. It’s not the same as I love my best friend or the hot dude on my favorite basketball team. And instead of simplifying love into one umbrella category (romance at its finest), Ahdieh forces us to look at love at different angles and question our own definitions of love and I think that this is something special that sets this book apart.

Overall? If you want a feisty, female protagonist but also a heartfelt romance, The Wrath & the Dawn is definitely for you. I will be picking up the sequel at some point, once I finish more of my TBR pile.

Everless

This a book that, though it took me a while to actually pick up, I preordered and was gracefully reminded of its existence when Amazon sent it to me.

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Everless by Sara Holland
Published by HarperTeen on January 2nd, 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Family, Identity,  Romance, Power
Pages: 368
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review:  4 out of 5 ★★★★☆


I am on the fence with Everless. Much like when I read The Cruel Prince by Holly Black, every new YA fantasy novel to come into my possession is going to be compared to Sara J Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series because I am utterly mystified by her stories. This is definitely not a good trait to have, but we love what we love when it comes to books, don’t we? Of course, I understand that Everless is both everything and nothing like A Court of Thorns and Roses or The Cruel Prince or Six of Crows or A Darker Shade of Magic–all of these books, while in the same genre, are special and exciting in their own way and Everless is no exception. To begin, I can confidently say that I enjoyed it more than The Cruel Prince so I don’t think there is going to be as scathing of a review here as there was there.

The most amazing part of this story, and it seems so simple, is the storyEverless is incredibly original and I can’t get over that. With the sheer amount of “medieval fantasy” (i.e. not common day, villages, tariffs, serfdom, etc.) hitting the shelves each season, it is wonderful to see a book that is completely original in its making. Jules (which is the name of my cat, funny enough) is a young adult, struggling to make ends meet for her and her aging father. Aging perhaps isn’t the right word because instead of aging naturally, this world deals in time, which is taken from one’s blood. Jules’ father owes many debts and they simply do not make enough, so he has to pay the monthly taxes to Everless, the kingdom and royal family overseeing their village, via his blood/time. Jules actually grew up at Everless since her father used to be employed by the family, but as events unfold in the story, you see why Jules and her father had to quickly remove themselves from the castle and assume a life of poverty. And this is what I find so fascinating; there are certainly stories that discuss one’s life expectancy, but generally, those are cyber-punk, dystopian stories, not medieval fantasy.

So if I loved the story so much, why didn’t I rate Everless a full 5 stars? Well, a few reasons. The first is that the story is a little hard to grasp. Now this sounds ridiculous because it’s a fantasy novel that has people wagering their time via their blood–nothing about this is real. And yet, to me, there has to be something that can be grasped and that shows similarities between the book’s world and the real world in order to make the connection with the reader. If it’s not easily connected, then I feel like I’m having to work really hard to make the story understandable. Without disclosing too much information, when Jules learns of her true identity, which includes a convoluted–but interesting nonetheless–story, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of description for what is really going on. She has the normal scene where she struggles to accept it, but then she does and we move forward. Perhaps there will be more explanation and set up for her true identity in the sequel, which I am most likely going to read.

Another thought hits me with brute force: maybe I am a mystery–a secret–that needs unraveling, too. (215)

I also found not having a love interest as a risky move; I both appreciated it and shrugged at it. Jules is not at Everless to marry one of the princes–yes, the relationships they had as children are mentioned and important, but throughout the majority of the book there are no stolen kisses, longing sighs, or broken hearts. Jules is there for her father and her father alone. He is ill from lending too much of his time and she’s worried he doesn’t have much left, so she gets a job at Everless which will pay handsomely to be a servant. Sure, once she’s discovered as the Jules from Prince Roan and Prince Liam’s childhood, things get complicated, but a romantic relationship is not what drives this book. And this is refreshing! I’m pretty sure having a love interest is the cornerstone of a YA novel! Don’t get me wrong, there is tension between Roan and Jules and slightly between Liam and Jules, but it is about a chapter? Maybe? Even though I think this is a good thing, I also think this is a…”meh” thing. Let’s be real for a moment: the swirling, intoxicating, whirlwind of fantasy love is addicting and I am here for it. So while I loved that Holland chose to not include this, I was also looking for this in a story. I crave a relationship that will make me blush and sigh along with the protagonist so I did feel as if that was missing from this story.

Overall? I enjoyed it. Am I in love with it? No. Will I be reading the sequel? Most likely. If you’re interested in a medieval fantasy novel that’s a little different from everything else on the market, I would definitely recommend. If you’re looking for another Rhysand and Feyre, look elsewhere. I am left wanting to know more about Liam though…

Dangerous Lies

The Hush, Hush saga is probably one of my favorite series to ever be in books. I specifically remember the scene in the first book, Hush, Hush, when Patch comes over to Nora’s house and he lifts her onto the kitchen counter, and it’s all dark in the kitchen, and Nora turns Patch’s blue baseball cap around so she can get closer to his face and THEY DON’T EVEN KISS. But the build-up of that scene is so incredible that I can literally remember it and get flustered all over again just thinking about it. This series is the only books I have read by Fitzpatrick, so I was excited to read a different story by her.

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Dangerous Lies by Becca Fitzpatrick
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on November 10th, 2015
Genres: YA, Thriller, Family, Friendship, Romance, Fear, Identity
Pages: 400
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review: 3 out of 5 ★★★☆☆


So clearly, as you can see above, I wasn’t the biggest fan of this book and I truly wish I liked it more. While reading, I went back and forth between rating it a 3 or a 4 out of 5 stars; some scenes were definitely worthy of a 4 or even 5, but then other pieces of the book fell short. So I came to the 3 out of 5 because it’s just…average. The book itself isn’t bad, but it isn’t outstanding either.

I’ll start with what I didn’t enjoy first, get the hard stuff out of the way. I found some similar issues between Dangerous Lies and my recent review of Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, the main one being they both produced random information about the character at random times as if they didn’t have anything else to write about. For example, in Dangerous Lies, I am over 100 pages into the novel and I am just now learning that Stella was a successful basketball player on her high school team and that, upon going into witness protection, she clearly had to drop her basketball scholarships to collegiate programs and now is fearing she might never play basketball again. The only time basketball comes up again in the book is once more. To me, this is unnecessary information, seemingly added after the fact during drafts number four or five. Let’s make Stella more personable–she should play basketball! But then never talk about it again! The scene is set up because Stella is going to play informal softball with friends, which is fine enough, and she is suddenly hit with a wave of soberness as she realizes she left basketball behind in her previous life. It is just all so random to me.

Dangerous Lies also relies heavily on classic YA tropes, to the point that they don’t really add anything to the story and they’re really not that well executed. Case and point: Stella and Chet. I wanted to like Chet so badly, but to me, he’s no Patch and he’s really just…meh. I don’t not like him, the kissing and intimate scenes between Stella and Chet are Fitzpatrick’s expertise and are reminiscent of Hush, Hush (has she ever considered writing erotica? Because I think she’d be great at it). But Chet is just so cookie-cutter YA. He’s got a troubled past, lacking in a family, trying to make up for past wrongs, possibly a “bad boy” and he never redeems himself past these tropes. Perhaps Patch is portrayed the same way, but what’s different in the Hush, Hush saga is that there is the underlying current of the supernatural, which allows for some tropes to slip through the cracks. Fantasy sets up the novel to be looked at in a different light–we can’t apply the same thoughts when reading something based in reality to something that isn’t. Our expectations are different. With Dangerous Lies, Chet is just a classic example of mystery turned love interest.

That slow, liquid heat swirled faster in my belly. I felt dizzy, unsteady. I could come back from it now, I thought. It wasn’t too late. I could step outside and clear my head (258).

Moving on to the brighter stuff, truly the character I think I like the most, which might surprise most of you, is Stella herself. I was set up to not like her, not just from Fitzgerald, but from the fact that when I figured out I wasn’t the biggest fan of the book, generally it’s because of the main character. However, Stella (or Estella) is an actual good example of a character changing throughout the process of the book. Perhaps I like her because I find myself connecting more with her issues: drugs, mother troubles, identity. She gets placed in an excruciatingly rural area similar to my displacement upon my move to rural PA, and had to find a way to adjust from a city life to a farmer’s girl. She found things she liked in that tiny town and became determined to move on from her previous life, but of course, that isn’t how the plot continues.

Stella is the only character I see achieve any growth. Chet and Carmina, while great characters, I pretty much had them pegged from the get-go. Stella, on the other hand, still had some surprises up her sleeves, especially in scenes with her mother.

I didn’t want her to have this power over me…And then I’d come to Thunder Basin. The tide had receded. This summer had been a secret treasure. A guilty, selfish, gratifying escape. I’d been a fool to think it would last (343).

Would I recommend Dangerous Lies? Sure. It’s a fun, easy read that will keep you engaged. It is certainly not the worst book I have ever read by a long shot, it just did not live up to the Hush, Hush standard I had placed on it, which is, of course, not fair of me, but hey, I’m only human! And I think about Patch perhaps too much…

The Sun is Also a Star

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

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

Final Review: 4 out of 5 ★★★★☆


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Caraval

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jackaby

This is an old book! I’m not sure why no one has told me to read it, seeing as it has two sequels and it’s really good, but alas, I had to find it on my own and I’m glad I did.

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Jackaby by William Ritter
Published by Algonquin Young Readers on August 25th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Thriller, Historical Fiction, Romance, Friendship, Mystery
Pages: 304
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

Final Review: 4 out of 5 ★★★★☆


The quote on the front of the book, by the Chicago Tribune, somewhat accurately sums up this book: “Sherlock Holmes crossed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer”–I’m not sure I see the Buffy part, other than banishing demons, but certainly the Sherlock Holmes part. Particularly because Jackaby himself is quite quirky and odd, much like Sherlock or the eleventh Doctor.

The story follows immigrant Abigail Rook, who, coming from England, is searching for a job that can pay her enough so she can live, and seeing as it’s 1893, finding a place to sleep at night in the warmth is important. She stumbles upon an advertisement for Jackaby, an assistant in his investigative service, and the rest is the book. What really drives readers in is the mystery entwined with fantasy to the point that it seems real: there is some sort of demon on the loose, killing victims for their blood (oh here’s the vampire reference). Abigail, never having heard of any of this before, is of course bewildered but stays strong, thinking the murders are a mere sick joke.

What makes this book different however, which is important because the similarities to Sherlock Holmes are quite striking, is the charming demeanor of everyone but Jackaby. Of course he’s going to be odd, carrying around tons of random objects in his pockets, drinking potions that allow him to see through walls and what not–all of this is almost expected seeing as it is a piece of fantasy writing. However, having Abigail be a strong and smart woman–she wanted to be a paleontologist!–instead of necessarily a damsel in distress (she does have her few moments though, since we all do!) makes for an interesting pair. Ritter also could have made Abigail and Jackaby love interests to each other, and refreshingly so, he didn’t. Instead, there are certainly underlying backstory regarding Jackaby’s past, as well as Abigail’s, that keeps the reader turning the pages.

Furthermore, the non-lead characters, such as the ghost roommate, Jenny and the strange ghost-seer Hatun, are potentially more intriguing and just as influential as Jackaby. Women are important in Jackaby’s life, in fact all the female characters, save for a few classic strumpets who hate Abigail for not being more proper, are linked to the fantastical realm and are sought after by Jackaby. Hatun, for example, is described as:

see[ing] a different world than [Abigail] or [Jackaby], a far more frightening one, full of far more terrible dangers, and still she chooses to be the hero whom that world needs. She has saved this town and its people from countless monsters countless times. That the battles are usually in her head does not lessen the bravery of it. The hardest battles always are (104).

Hatun may be called the crazy lady that takes care of an invisible troll to the towns folk, but to Jackaby, she is truly necessary in solving this case. Jenny, the ghost roommate, makes Abigail feel more at home, being the one to talk her down when the magical realm becomes too much her to handle, and allows her to steal the clothes Jenny can no longer wear (since she’s a ghost). Miss. O’Connor and Mrs. Morrigan are, as well, crucial to the murder investigation. And, of course, Abigail, being another set of eyes for Jackaby at all times. Ritter may unconsciously or consciously alerting the readers that no man can ever truly do anything on their own, and when they do, in the case of the bad guy (no spoilers here!), they will undoubtedly get caught by a woman.

At first, I was really hoping this story would be an historical, fantastical twist on the classic Jack the Ripper open case. Jack the Ripper being some sort of fantastical, demon-like creature, that instead of stealing organs to do god knows what with, is either eating them or using them for something else, much like the strange creature Abigail and Jackaby face here. Then, Jackaby, being able to see things that no one else can, would understand that he is simply a misunderstood demon and needs to be sent forth from our world–that’s how I would have wrote this story and maybe in one of the sequels, the story continues (I wouldn’t know, I haven’t looked at them yet).

Please give this book a chance, given its age, if you’re interested in something fun and quirky to read. Jackaby is laughable and the character relationships are deep. I haven’t decided if I’m going to pick up the next two books, more because I have so many books to read already and less because I don’t want to. Jackaby doesn’t necessarily end on a cliff hanger, but it certainly does end with the reader interested in learning more about the dynamic duo.

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Firsts of 2017

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

2017’s Firsts


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

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

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

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

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

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


First WTF is Happening Book: The Graces by Laura Eve

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

“You know I cannot.”

“Just once”…

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

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


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

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

 

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

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

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

PS I Still Love You Review

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

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

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

Final Review: 4 out of 5

★★★★☆


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Unexpected Relatable Andie Walker

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

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

Final Review 4 out of 5

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

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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