May 2018 Wrap Up

It didn’t really hit me until now…it is the end of May.

I’ve been trying to get back to the place I was before the beginning of this year: not dwelling on time and living my life. Don’t know if I’m quite there yet, but I have graduate school to look forward to and books, writing, and temp jobs keep me preoccupied until then.

I feel like I wrote more for my blog in May than I did in April. I did more book reviews, which I’m really happy with. Except I feel unfortunately meh towards most of the five books I read this month. I don’t know if it was just the mood I was in or it was the books I was reading. I’m starting to wonder if my TBR is getting the better of me.

(And, as you will see in my June book haul in a few weeks, it’s my own fault.)

In May, I read:

 

Freeks by Amanda Hocking

2.5 stars

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Freeks is a young adult paranormal novel reminiscent of the Twilight era. Set in the 1980s, it follows Mara and her family of travelling circus performers that end up in a small Southern town where nothing is what it seems. While I did have quite a few problems with the novel, such as a heavy amount of insta-love and a weak plot, I was filled a surprising amount of nostalgia. Freeks is a super easy, fun read, but I think I would have given it 4 stars instead of a 2.5 stars had I read it when I was sixteen. For my full thoughts, check out my review.

 

RoseBlood by A.G. Howard

2 stars

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RoseBlood is a retelling of The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux set in a French boarding school. Rune Germain is born with an extraordinary singing voice, but whenever she uses her gift, she feels physically drained afterwards. Her mother sends her to RoseBlood, a conservatory in Paris, in hopes training will help Rune with her affliction. Except Rune has been brought to Paris for a dark purpose by the Phantom and he uses his dashing protégée Thorn to lure her into his web.

RoseBlood has been high on my TBR for a year. I went into ignoring whatever lackluster reviews I heard, wanting to have my own opinion on it. A.G. Howard has a beautiful writing style; if you like atmosphere and descriptive writing, you will definitely enjoy this book. I especially love how it was set in modern-day Paris, a place I have never been. She also did a good job going from first-person to third-person, though I admittedly liked Thorn’s third-person perspective more than Rune’s first-person. Between the two of them, his arc was the most interesting. Rune also finds a solid friend group midst the catty competitiveness at the school and I enjoyed those characters.

Unfortunately, within the gorgeous writing there was more telling than showing and there were big time gaps never explained. While I liked Thorn, Rune was OK; her character was underdeveloped in my opinion. The romance was borderline insta-love (Hi, my name is Jillian and I hate insta-love). A pet peeve of mine in young adult literature is the “fated lovers” where they have dreams about each other before meeting. I don’t know why, per say, but that trope really irks me. Lastly, the plot was confusing and weak in some spots. I did not hate RoseBlood; right now, I’m chalking it up to “read at the wrong time,” because this book had so many elements I usually enjoy in other books.

 

This Heart of Mine by C.C. Hunter (library book)

4 stars

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Without a doubt, This Heart of Mine was my favorite book I read in May. It is a young adult contemporary novel following Leah Mackenzie, a seventeen-year-old with an artificial heart until a donor miraculously appears. Only that donor is Eric Kenner, a popular boy in her school that allegedly committed suicide and the twin brother of Leah’s long-time crush, Matt. When Leah starts having dreams about Eric’s death, she and Matt team up to find answers.

I went into This Heart of Mine with low expectations. I have not heard good things about C.C. Hunter and this book promised a blend of too many genres—contemporary, mystery, and magical realism—I had no idea how she would make it work. Somehow, she managed to blend them all together, though the contemporary elements were stronger. But for me, the most surprising thing about this novel was how much I loved the romance. Plus, the topic of transplants hits home for me and I was happy to see it represented in young adult literature. Check out my review for my full thoughts.

 

The Memory Trees by Kali Wallace (library book)

3 stars

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I went into The Memory Trees expecting the same emotional punch as The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. That was no one’s fault but my own.

            Sorrow Lovegood’s older sister, Patience, died in a mysterious fire eight years ago. When she is sixteen, her memories of the day her sister died are blurry and to get answers, she leaves her father’s home in Miami for her mother’s home in Vermont. In the apple orchard that has belonged to the Lovegood family for generations, Sorrow finds her emotionally unstable mother, land that seems to have a life of its own, and a legacy of deep family secrets.

If you are looking for a novel without romance and more focus on family, The Memory Trees is one I would recommend. Kali Wallace’s writing style makes you feel like you are in the Lovegood apple orchard. Unfortunately, the descriptions took up a lot of page space, making the novel drag. Also, if you like plot-driven stories, you might enjoy this one, too. For my full thoughts on The Memory Trees, go read my spoiler-free review.

 

Lizzie by Dawn Ius (library book)

1 star

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A reimagining of the Lizzie Borden murders in modern-day Fall River? Yes please! Except…the author took that literally.

The Victorian ideals of the parents put in a modern-day setting clashed terribly. The author was trying too hard with her writing and she had this weird repetition thing that got seriously annoying. The mental illness element was handled in a way that was almost dramatized, when an illness like depression should not be at all. The characters were flat. Bridget, the love interest, was a Manic Pixie Dream Girl type. And, worse still, the romance was so obsessive and unhealthy on Lizzie’s part that it made me a little uncomfortable.

Needless to say, I will be very happy when I return this book to the library.

 

What was your favorite book that you read in May?

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Review of The Memory Trees by Kali Wallace (Spoiler Free)

The Memory Trees is an underrated young adult stand alone novel following Sorrow Lovegood, a sixteen-year-old girl who returns to her childhood home, an apple orchard in Vermont, after the tragic death of her older sister Patience. She has spent the past eight years in Miami with her father and her memories of the day her sister died are fading. With so many unanswered questions, Sorrow goes to spend the summer in Vermont with her mother, Verity, and her grandmother, Perseverance, to find the truth about Patience’s death. But the orchard is hiding deep family secrets.

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The first thing I want to stress about The Memory Trees is that there is no romance. The story is strictly about family, specifically the relationships between sisters and mothers and daughters. There are several chapters told through the point of view of Sorrow’s ancestors and recalls the history of the apple orchard. I would describe The Memory Trees as magical realism; there is something about the orchard that makes it appear like a character itself in how alive it is.

Kali Wallace’s writing style is very pretty and descriptive. She makes you feel like you are in the orchard. I could picture it clearly in my head and almost feel the sudden weather changes. On the flip side to that, while the story is atmospheric, the lengthy descriptions did take up too much page space.

Another aspect of The Memory Trees that most people might not like is that it is heavily plot-driven. Characters were two-dimensional, including Sorrow. While I connected with her to some degree, I felt neutral towards her and other characters. The only one I think I could have liked was Patience, but she was only seen in flashbacks and never from her perspective.

It is not specifically stated, from what I can remember, but Sorrow’s mother Verity most likely has depression. While I personally was not a fan of Verity as a parent—she could be manipulative and selfish—it seemed like her character was more about her illness. Yet, as someone who grew up with a parent that had depression, Sorrow describing her childhood having to walk on eggshells around her mother is accurate.

Side note: trigger warning for suicide and suicide attempt.

Regarding the plot, there did not seem to be much of one for the first half of the book. While there is a twist that took me by surprise, the climax was rushed to completion and the ending dragged on for more than ten pages.

Overall, I give The Memory Trees by Kali Wallace 3 stars, mostly for the beautiful writing style and atmospheric setting. I would almost compare this to The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Lesyle Walton. Only it does not quite meet those standards, in my opinion. However, if you enjoy family sagas or magical realism stories, I would recommend giving this one a try.

Reader Confessions Book Tag

I saw this tag floating around this past week. No one tagged me, but I originally saw Shanah from Bionic Bookworm post this. I thought this tag could get dirty…turns out, I’m the least naughty reader there is.

 

Have you ever damaged a book?

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Yes…accidentally, of course. I’ve spilled drinks on my books and broken spines, though I admit I like the look of broken spines; it shows a book has been read and loved. On a few rare occasions, I ripped small tears in pages of books when I was not careful turning them.

 

Have you ever damaged a borrowed book?

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No. I am especially careful with library books. And I never borrow other people’s books, for two reasons. One, I don’t like to share my books, so I don’t think its fair to let others share theirs with me. Second, I would be too paranoid of hurting my friend’s book while reading it.

 

How long does it take you to read a book?

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On average, about a week, but it really all depends on the circumstances. Such as, if I have enough free time, if I’m not too tired from work, if I’m not catching up on blog posts, etc. There is also the matter of the book itself. If I am enjoying a book, I will fly through it. If it is a so-so book, it might take a few days.

 

Books that you haven’t finished?

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The most recent book I DNF was The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton. In theory, it should have been something I enjoyed: a high fantasy novel with badass females vying for political power in a retelling of William Shakespeare’s King Lear. But I just could not get into this one. I figured I wasn’t in the mood for it and decided to check it out from the library later, or maybe even risk buying it, so I can take my time reading it. Only I recently heard some not-so-good things about The Queens of Innis Lear and the ratings on Goodreads and Amazon are not promising.

 

Hyped/popular books you don’t like.

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Most recently, I discovered my true dislike of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. It was a reread for me this year. On Goodreads, I had it at three stars from 2013. When I read it back in March, I lowered it to one star. This book had so much nonsense, it was nonsense.

 

Is there a book you wouldn’t tell anyone you’re reading?

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Not that I can think of. The only time I might seriously consider doing that is if I finally decided to pick up a cheesy romance novel with a cringe-worthy title, except that hasn’t happened yet.

 

How many books do you own?

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Probably somewhere in the 200-300 range, although it would not surprise me if I own more. I do know that I currently have 215 books on my TBR pile. Someday, I will take the time to physically count all the books I own.

 

Are you a fast or a slow reader?

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I would call myself a fast reader. I can usually read between forty to fifty pages in one sitting.

 

Do you like to buddy read?

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I technically never have buddy read a book with someone else, unless you count book club in high school. I know some of my friends would be interested in buddy reading, but people’s schedules are different and everyone reads at his or her own pace. That’s the main reason I’m not so keen on trying it.

 

If you were only allowed to own one book, what would it be and why?

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I refuse to answer this question. How do you expect me to choose ONLY ONE BOOK???

 

I have a question for you all: if you could not own physical books, how would you deal?

I would just keep checking books out of the library.

Review of This Heart of Mine by C.C. Hunter (Spoiler Free)

You know what’s a really good feeling? Going into a book with low expectations and then absolutely loving it.

That is what happened with me and the book This Heart of Mine by C.C. Hunter. While I do read young adult contemporary novels and some are my all-time favorite books, it is a genre I normally reach for when I need a break from all the fantasy I read. Generally, contemporaries are a hit or miss for me. Plus, I had heard some not so great things about C.C. Hunter’s young adult paranormal series. So, I was not expecting too much from This Heart of Mine.

This Heart of Mine follows Leah Mackenzie, a seventeen-year-old girl without a heart after a rare virus almost kills her and she must survive with an artificial heart inside of a backpack. Only this can offer her a few years and with her rare blood type, she accepts the expiration date on her life. Then, miraculously, a donor appears. Except there is one problem: the donor is Eric Kenner, one of the most popular guys in school that allegedly committed suicide and the twin brother of Leah’s long-time crush, Matt.

The second chance at life comes with an unexpected consequence: Leah starts having dreams she believes are Eric’s memories of the night he died. It makes her wonder if he really killed himself. Turns out, Matt is having the same dreams, and the two work together to find out what happened to Eric.

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If I am being honest, what mainly attracted me to This Heart of Mine was the transplant factor. The topic of transplants is near and dear to my family. From what I know, transitioning into a new life with someone else’s organ is physically hard for adults; I can’t imagine how I seventeen-year-old deals with that. Despite the emotional and mental toll her condition took, there was also the element of taking her medications at a specific time, to prevent the risk of her body rejecting the organ, and making sure not to eat certain foods, among other things.

While I thought Leah handled her situation well, she was still a teenager. She still worried about fitting in, doing her homework, and what her new boyfriend would think of her scars if they ever slept together. She just had more on her plate than others around her did.

The writing style is the kind you normally see in young adult contemporaries: simplistic and a little juvenile, though there were some great quotes said by Leah throughout the story. Also, there were quite a few grammar mistakes C.C. Hunter’s editor clearly missed that had my Grammar Nazi screaming bloody murder. Besides that, it flowed surprisingly well between first-person narrative (Leah) and third-person (Matt).

This Heart of Mine is not strictly a contemporary novel. One of my main worries about this novel was how the author was going to handle such a mix of genres: contemporary, mystery, and possibly magical realism. Of the three, the contemporary elements were stronger. Most of the time, Leah was learning how to live again after just figuring out how to die and adjust to life as a transplant patient while working towards her growing relationship with Matt. Eventually, the mystery of Eric’s death became more of a subplot.

Regarding the mystery, it was really written like two teenagers who basically have no idea what they are doing trying to solve a murder. They ask the right questions, yet no one seems to take them seriously, especially the cops. The author did a good job building suspense and making one person look guilty. However, it soon became fairly obvious what happened and who did what. Lastly, the ending kind of dragged, kind of lessening the emotional punch it was supposed to have.

The most surprising thing for me personally about This Heart of Mine was the driving factor for me to keep reading was the romance. As individuals, Matt and Leah are good kids, flawed but realistic. Together, they are so adorable I turned into a big ball of mush.

I went into this book thinking Matt and Leah’s relationship was insta-love. Except the two of them have known each other for years prior to the beginning of the story. In fact, Matt had wanted to ask Leah out but things had happened before he could make his move. The best part of their relationship, while some secrets were kept, there was still a healthy amount of communication between them, especially regarding sex. They both wanted to be physical, but waited until they were both equally comfortable and consent went both ways. That is not something you see a lot of in young adult contemporary books.

Another of my favorite aspects of This Heart of Mine is the accurate portrayal of grief. Matt is going through his own process of mourning Eric, while most people think he should be working to move on, regardless of whether or not his brother committed suicide. Then, there is Leah, who I think it mourning her old life and her morality; she still has to live almost every day like she could die, even after the transplant.

On the flip side to that, though, a part of me struggled with their individual character growths. It seems to focus more on the relationship making them grow rather than their life experiences, which I suppose goes along with the book’s theme of “let people in.” Still, as much as I loved the romance, I kind of wished there was just a tiny bit more independence within the main characters.

Overall, I give This Heart of Mine by C.C. Hunter 4 stars. It is a solid young adult contemporary novel with an adorable romance and a serious topic we need to have more in books. I highly recommend it.

The Birthday Book Tag

I saw Shanah do this tag on her blog earlier this week (happy belated birthday, by the way). My birthday is actually in January but I really don’t care. I enjoy doing book tags and this one looked like fun. And a forewarning: you will see the same book for a lot of these questions….

On to the tag!

 

Birthday cake: a book with a plot that seems cliché but you adore it anyway.

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When I first heard of This Heart of Mine by C.C. Hunter, the synopsis sounded a little cliché, yet I was still interested in it. The main character, Leah, loses her heart to a virus and must live on an artificial one until a donor can be found. Given her rare blood type, that does not seem likely, then a heart miraculously appears. Only the original owner was a classmate that allegedly committed suicide. After the transplant surgery, Leah starts having dreams that make her wonder if her donor actually did take his own life or he was murdered and she promises to help his twin brother get answers.

As I am writing this, I am almost finished with This Heart of Mine. So far, it has been true to advertising: contemporary, with elements of mystery and magical realism thrown in. I was mainly interested in this novel because of Leah getting a transplant and how such an event can impact a seventeen-year-old. I just did not know how C.C. Hunter was going to work in the other elements. So far, though, it seems to be working.

 

Party guests: your most anticipated book release this year.

A Court of Frost and Starlight…PSYCH!!!

My most anticipated release of the entire year is A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir, the third book in her An Ember in the Ashes series. The first two books were mind-blowing and I know this newest release is going to be just as amazing. Plus, Sabaa Tahir isn’t afraid to kill her darlings…so I am filled with both anticipation and a lot, a lot of fear.

 

Birthday presents: a book that surprised you with how much you loved it.

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That would have to be This Heart of Mine again. I have been in a fierce contemporary mood lately, after all the fantasy I was reading. While I generally enjoy the genre, I normally pick it up when I need a break from the heavier stuff I normally read. I went into This Heart of Mine with low expectations. And, like I said, it has passed them so far.

 

The Happy Birthday song: a book that certainly deserved all the hype it got.

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Definitely Eliza and Her Monsters, which was equally parts serious and cute, and the perfect love letter to fandom culture. I found little flaw within this book. I read this at the beginning of the year and I am still thinking about it.

 

Happy music: a book with some very beautiful and truly memorable quotes.

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Again…This Heart of Mine by C.C. Hunter has some beautiful quotes. Leah, the protagonist, thought a lot about death after her heart failed and she had to live on the artificial one, knowing that it could only buy her a few years. It has great writing in general.

(This is the last time I will mention This Heart of Mine, I swear).

 

Getting older: a book that you read a long time ago, but you think that you would appreciate it more if you read it as a more mature reader.

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For summer reading in high school, I read a book called Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin. A teenaged girl dies unexpectedly and goes to a place called Elsewhere, where those who have died live life backwards until they are infants and reincarnated back to Earth. I do remember enjoying it back then. By the time I read it, we were allowed to pick from a list of summer reading books the school recommended. I still own it, even though I only read it that one time. I have been thinking of picking up Elsewhere again, except I want to be in a safe mindset, after everything that’s happened so far this year.

 

Sweet birthday memories: a book that kept you incredibly happy during a sad or demanding period of your life.

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The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace, which I read during a time of heavy grief earlier this year. It made me feel rejuvenated and empowered during a time I thought I didn’t have it in me.

 

What was your favorite birthday present you ever received?

Mine is a Hallmark Ariel figurine my dad gave me for my 21st birthday. It wasn’t even something I directly asked for. I just mentioned seeing it in the store and then on my birthday he surprised me with it.

How Does Life Affect Your Reading? (Discussion Post)

On Saturday—despite the severe anguish it caused me—I lowered my Goodreads reading goal from 100 books to 50 books.

At that point, I was seven books behind in my yearly reading challenge. I ranted about it on Books Amino (rather than read) and most people encouraged me just to read like normal and not make a big deal out of it if I don’t make 100. I knew they were right; yet, at the same time, the stress of falling behind was getting to me more than I knew was sensible.

The reason why I set my 2018 Goodreads Challenge to 100 in the first place was that I wanted to motivate myself to keep reading. The last time I set my goal that high was 2015 and I had an amazing reading year. Only back then, my life was different.

In 2015:

I was a junior in college. In between classes, campus jobs, and meals, I was in the school library doing homework or projects. When I needed a break or finished the assignments I wanted to get done, I would read.

My best friend and I were roommates our junior year. We are chill people and at the time we didn’t go out much. Whatever other free time I had, when I was not with friends, I was reading.

That summer, I worked at my college’s library. My shift ended at 3pm, and then I had about two hours to kill before my dad picked me up to go home. I spent that time reading. Then, for about two weeks in July, my boss was on vacation, the other librarians were in meetings for most of the day, and there was a lull in summer classes. Hardly anyone was in the library, so I had all this time to read.

The end of 2015 was the beginning of my senior year. It was basically the same method as junior year. Thanksgiving break rolled around and that was when I just started getting into graphic novels. I distinctly remember reading volumes 2 through 5 of the Saga comics in four days. And I ended up actually beating my goal—I read 108 books in 2015.

I didn’t set a reading goal for 2016 because I had to focus on finishing college. I decided not to do one in 2017 for fear of causing myself unnecessary pressure to read while I was trying to figure out how to adult.

Past Jillian was onto something.

I wanted to bring back what I had in 2015. Except….

My Current Monday through Friday Schedule in 2018:

  • Wake up at 4:30am to make the bus at 6:45am
  • Try to read on the bus for the hour and a half long commute, but sometimes doze off and I end up listening to music instead.
  • I have an hour for lunch, but instead of reading, I go for a walk. I sit in a desk chair pretty much all day. That can be uncomfortable after a while.
  • Get out of work at 5pm and commute home on the bus again for another hour and a half. Only I am in front of a computer screen all day and I need to rest my eyes (near-sighted problems).
  • Make it home by 7pm. Dinner usually ready (a perk of still living in my dad’s house) and I have about five hours until I go to bed at 11pm.
  • Instead, I watch BookTube.

 

On weekends, I tend to read a little bit more than I do during the week. But because I am a masochist, it’s still not as much reading as I would like. I’m usually the first one awake between 8 and 9am. With my dad and my brother still asleep, it’s quiet. I make coffee and sit on the couch with my dog, reading for a good chunk of the morning. I even manage to keep reading when my dad wakes up and turns on a European soccer game.

However, the reading sprints don’t last for very long. Because of my work schedule, my weekends are devoted to my blog. I write upcoming posts, edit them, and then schedule them to be posted throughout the week. And then what do I do?

Netflix. Or YouTube. Depends on my mood.

I did not want to lower my Goodreads goal. But like I said, falling behind was stressing me out. Worse still, it was taking the fun out of reading. Instead of being excited looking at the books sitting around my room, I was getting anxious to meet a certain quota. That is not healthy.

I realize now that I have to be realistic. Life circumstances have affected my reading. I was told this would happen as I got older, yet I refused to accept it. I still want to keep reading books. I love doing it and it helps me keep writing. Books are the reason I was an English major in college and why I want to be a librarian. Only they sometimes might have to take a backseat as I move forward.

Has this ever happened to anyone?

            What do you do when life gets in the way of reading?

            Does it ever take away the desire to read?

            Would you ever give up on a reading challenge, change it, or see it through?

 

Let’s discuss!

Library Book Haul (May 2018)

I have stuck with my new book-buying ban since April and, I have to say, it has been a relief. I’m reading books that have sat on my shelves for too long. However, there is still the matter of me wanting to read all the books….

            I feature library books in my monthly reading wrap ups and occasional book reviews, though I have never done a library book haul on my blog. Usually, I just post a picture on Instagram and Books Amino. I was going to put off library visits until I got my TBR at home under control, only that’s never going to happen. And there was the matter of books I wanted to read that had yet to be released.

Last weekend, the weather being beautiful where I live, I made the ten minute walk to my local library to pick up a ton of old and new releases I wanted to read.

I have so many cool new books in my possession right now and I didn’t spend a single dollar. Isn’t that awesome?

Looking at this pile, I am mixed with excitement and a little anxiety. I want to read every single one of these books I checked out of the library, some of which I had taken out before but I never got around to. Yet I have a big reading list of books at home I want to read, too.

Ah—I’m rambling. I’ll just go with it. Now, on to what you all really came here for: the books!

 

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

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Strange the Dreamer was all the rage last year. The novel follows Laszlo Strange, a young librarian fascinated by the lost city of Weep, which was cut off from the world over 200 years ago. He joins a group of scholars with the mission to bring Weep back to its former glory, but this magical city is filled with darkness and carnage. Laszlo’s dream is looking more like a nightmare.

Strange the Dreamer was almost everyone’s favorite book of 2017. In the midst of rave reviews, there were others that offered critiques like the writing was a little too flowery and the synopsis confusing. We will see which band wagon I fall into once I read it.

 

This Heart of Mine by C.C. Hunter

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Seventeen-year-old Leah, who has an artificial heart inside a backpack keeping her alive, finally receives a new heart. Only her donor turns out to be a boy from her school that allegedly committed suicide. After having a series of dreams, she tracks down her donor’s twin brother, Matt, who believes his brother did not kill himself. Realizing they are having the same dreams, the two decide to work together to find out why they are having these visions. I am in a weird contemporary mood, so this will be one of the first library books I read.

 

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom

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Sadly, I have not read much mental health books as I would like so far this year. I noticed A Tragic Kind of Wonderful on the bookshelves at the library before, but left it on the backburner until Emma from emmmabooks started raving about it. I trust her opinion on mental health books. This novel is about sixteen-year-old Mel living with bipolar disorder and no one outside her family knows about it. She compartmentalizes everything and keeps everyone at arm’s length. However, that all comes under threat when an old friend confronts her about why their relationship ended.

 

Even the Darkest Stars by Heather Fawcett

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Even the Darkest Stars follows a young woman determined to prove herself as an explorer. She teams up with a famed scientist on an expedition through dangerous fantastical mountains, finding herself at odds with her sister, who is working with a rival explorer. The premise of the book interests me very much, though I have heard next to nothing about it after seeing it featured in Fairyloot unboxings on Booktube last year.

 

You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone by Rachel Lynn Solomon

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A young adult contemporary recently introduced to me by Heather from Bookables, this is one that might hit close to home for me. On their eighteenth birthday, twin sisters are tested to find out if they have the gene for Huntington’s disease like their mother and it turns out one of them does. Already having a strained relationship on top of their mother’s illness, the twins struggle to deal with this new information. Having lived with my own mom’s illness for a decade and knowing my genetic history is not the most promising, I want to see how I much I can relate to in You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone.

 

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

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I have come close to buying Girls Made of Snow and Glass a few times. It is an alleged feminist retelling of Snow White in which the Snow White character and the girl who becomes her stepmother refuse to hate each other. I enjoy well-done Snow White retellings. The novel is also said to have elements of Frozen mixed in, too. However, what has made me hesitant to read Girls Made of Snow and Glass for so long is that it was compared to the novel The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter. I didn’t really like that book much.

 

The Memory Trees by Kali Wallace

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The Memory Trees is a book that initially caught my eye because of the cover, but the synopsis does interest me. It follows sixteen-year-old Sorrow Lovegood, who returns to the magical apple orchard in Vermont that has belonged to her mother’s family for generations after eight years away. When she was eight, her sister Patience was killed and her mother had a breakdown, forcing Sorrow to go live with her dad in Miami. Now that the memories of Patience’s death have become hazy, Sorrow returns to the apple orchard and her mother to get answers. But the mystery goes much deeper into Sorrow’s mysterious family history.

 

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao

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An East Asian inspired retelling of the origin story of Snow White’s evil stepmother? I’m in! For a while, I was turned off Forest of a Thousand Lanterns because of the cover—snakes freak me out. It follows Xifeng, who is prophesized by a witch to be the next empress. But to do that, she must scorn the boy devoted to her and embrace the dark magic in her blood. And she’s an unlikeable female protagonist. I’m definitely in.

 

What I Lost by Alexandra Ballard

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Another mental health recommendation from emmmabooks, What I Lost follows Elizabeth, a teenaged girl in recovery for an eating disorder. Away from her mother, who has her own size 0 obsession, and in a treatment facility, she begins receiving packages from a mysterious sender that puts Elizabeth back on the right track. What I Lost sounds like a good place to start if I want to read more books about eating disorders.

 

Lizzie by Dawn Ius

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I saw Lizzie briefly mentioned in a Booktube video and then I read the synopsis when I saw my local library carried it. Basically, it is a reimagining of the Lizzie Borden murders set in the modern day. That’s all it took to grab me.

In case you don’t know, Lizzie Borden was a young woman from Fall River, Massachusetts tried and acquitted of brutally murdering her father and stepmother with an axe in 1892. Despite conflicting evidence, the strong public consensus is Lizzie killed them, though why she did is anyone’s guess.

In Dawn Ius’s book, sixteen-year-old Lizzie lives under her parents’ thumb and distracts herself with dreams of becoming a chef while working the family’s bed-and-breakfast. Then, a spunky, nerdy girl named Bridget Sullivan is hired as a maid at the establishment and the girls strike up a friendship, maybe something more. However, Lizzie’s parents’ iron grip grows even tighter, pushing her sanity to the brink.

 

The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross

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The Queen’s Rising is yet another edition to the growing young adult high fantasy genre. Set in a fantasy world where people are born with one of five talents—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—and are given a patron their seventeenth year, our protagonist, Brienna, is without neither. Months after her humiliating seventeenth solstice, she is offered patronage by a disgraced lord. Though she questions his intentions, Brienna feels she has no other option and accepts anyway. Next thing she knows, she’s in the middle of a plot to take down the king of a rival kingdom and put a new queen on the throne.

 

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things by Carolyn Mackler

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The main reason I checked The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things was because of Booksplosion on YouTube. This is their May book this year. I thought I had heard of this title before, and then I remembered this book came out over ten years ago.

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things follows a plus-size heroine from a family of slim overachievers who goes through self-discovery midst a shocking allegations against her brother. I remember seeing this book when I was younger, but the title threw me off. Only that was during I time I was deep into my Sweet Valley obsession and not desiring anything else. Ironically, given my own weight problems as a kid (and now, too, if I’m being honest) this was probably the book I needed most.

 

Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne

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Despite my previous statements of not being into science fiction, Brightly Burning is one of my most anticipated releases of the season. It is a retelling of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte in space—that is all I needed to hear. The main character, Stella, is hired as a governess on a supposedly haunted spaceship, the Rochester. She’s drawn to the captain, Hugo Fairfax, a drunk that has only shown her kindness. Except someone wants him dead, so Stella takes it upon herself to unravel the conspiracy on the spaceship.

I need to read this book soon….

 

The Wicked Deep by Shea Earnshaw

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The Wicked Deep blew up the Internet in March, advertised as Hocus Pocus meets the Salem Witch Trials. It is set in a town presumably cursed by three sisters accused of witchcraft two centuries ago. Each summer, the sisters return and possess the bodies of three weak-hearted girls then lure local boys to their deaths by drowning them. By now, the town has accepted this as fact. Penny Talbot is one of those people, until she meets new boy Bo Carter, who has no idea of what he has gotten himself into. As she grows closer to him, Penny must decide if she saves him or saves herself from the sisters’ curse.

 

Reign the Earth by A.G. Gaughen

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I’ll be honest—I am already majorly spoiled for this book because I watched the Booksplosion live show in February when they read Reign the Earth. But watching them discuss it increased my desire to read the book.

The novel is set in a desert fantasy world where the main character, the princess of a nomads, promises herself to a brutal king of another kingdom to save her people. Only right before her wedding, she discovers she possesses the elemental power of earth. Unfortunately, the king to whom she is promised hates magic. To protect herself, she hides her abilities, only finds herself at the center of a war that threatens all she holds dear.

 

Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

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One of my most anticipated releases of 2018, Ash Princess follows Theodosia, the princess of a kingdom conquered by an evil Kaiser. For ten years, Theo, called the Ash Princess, is a prisoner in her own castle, enduring humiliation at the hands of Kaiser and his court. But when he makes her do something unthinkable, Theo decides it’s time to put her sharp mind to the test and get back her throne.

 

That makes a total of…sixteen books checked out? #sorrynotsorry. Support your local library!

 

Have you read any of these books?

Review of Freeks by Amanda Hocking (Spoiler Free)

Freeks by Amanda Hocking is a TBR book I have had for a year now. Multiple times during that year, I picked it up, put it on my nightstand to read, and then put it back in its spot on my bookshelves again unread. I could not figure why.

The novel is set in 1987, following Mara and her travelling carnival family. The troupe settles in Caudry, a small town in Louisiana, where Mara meets a boy named Gabe. The daughter of a fortune teller with no magic of her own, or so it seems, Mara longs for a normal life. At first, Gabe seems like the gateway to a promising future, until an evil lurking in Caudry starts picking off her friends one by one. Mara realizes she must unlock a magic she never knew she had to save those close to her.

Freeks promised to be something I would enjoy. It even got a little bit of buzz when it first came out. I did enjoy it, but…it was not exactly what I expected.

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The primary feeling I got out of this novel was, surprisingly, nostalgia. The plot, the writing, the setting, brought me back to the days of Twilight, Vampire Academy, House of Night, and the Sookie Stackhouse novels (aka True Blood). There aren’t any vampires in Freeks, but the feel is the same: campy, romance-heavy paranormal novels filled with the usual tropes we saw back in the day.

Freeks is a super easy read. The chapters are short and the writing, while simplistic and prone to over-explaining, made the book compulsively readable. Amanda Hocking does a good job bringing to life a small little town filled with equal parts weird people and bigots, throwing in a little Southern charm in between. It somehow made me want to know more about Caudry, even though the plot was weak.

For the first half of Freeks, the plot seemed to focus more on Mara and her friends investigating the monster attacking their carnival. Then, at a certain point, she became all about Gabe Gabe Gabe. Suddenly, the novel became more about Mara choosing between her family in the carnival or staying with a boy she just met in a small hick town rather than exploring her badass necromancer powers and catching a monster. That got really, really irritating after a while.

Regarding the romance, it had its cute moments. While Gabe could be sweet and polite one minute, the next he was being either manipulative or clingy or keeping secrets from Mara after getting mad at her for keeping her own. I had to keep reminding myself that, while they are nineteen, they are still kids at the core. But their relationship was ultimately insta-love in the worst way.

Mara was not much better than Gabe in some respects. She knew the relationship was unrealistic; yet she could not bring herself to cut him lose (typical). As far as protagonists go, she was a decent person, though underdeveloped in my opinion. We did not get enough opportunity to see her grow into her necromancy, which deeply disappointed me.

My favorite part about Freeks was the side characters in the carnival. Lyanka, Mara’s mother the fortune teller, was a loving parent and her boyfriend, Gideon, the founder of the carnival, was like a surrogate dad to Mara. Roxie, her best friend, was smart and sassy, and their male companions, Luka and Hutch, provided comic relief. There was also a bit of diversity squeezed in, too. Mara is half Egyptian and half Indian, Gabe is half Hispanic, and Luka is gay.

Overall, I gave Freeks by Amanda Hocking 2.5 stars. I enjoyed my reading experience but was ultimately underwhelmed by the story. If I read this book at sixteen, I might have loved it a lot more than I did now at twenty-five. Funny how reading tastes change, isn’t it?

 

Who else among us was a Twihard?

 

20 Questions Book Tag

I saw this tag floating around recently. I thought I had already done it. Then, I read through the questions. I have seen some in book tags before, except the 20 Questions Book Tag is one on its own.

I felt there was a lag in my writing this past month or so. So, in May, I am challenging myself to blog at least once a week. I really enjoy posting and I love writing creatively. I am also thinking of posting some non-bookish content, if not in May than eventually. But for now, on to the tag!

 

How many books is too many in a series?

To me, it all depends on how many books the author needs to tell their story. Even if a series is more than ten books long, the author can still wrap it up with a clean finish. However, if the author keeps writing books with no clear end in sight and refuses to do anything major with their characters, then there are too many books in a series.

 

How do you feel about cliffhangers?

They make me excited for the next book to read. If a cliffhanger is done right, it makes a worthwhile story.

 

Hardback or paperback?

I like both. They have their individual qualities. Hardbacks look nice on the shelf and they are durable enough to go with me in my work bag. Paperbacks feel especially nice on the hands and they tend to have a stronger pleasant book smell. I just like the feeling of a book in my hands in general.

 

Favorite book?

You mean favorite books? My all-time favorite book changes almost every year. Plus, I rarely reread books anymore, since I make my own money and can buy books when I want to. And there are just too many new books I want to read more, anyway.

For the sake of answering this question, I will tell you some of my favorite books I have read so far in 2018. They are: Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco, Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia, The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace, and Heartless by Marissa Meyer.

 

Least favorite book?

I never, ever thought I would have a least favorite book. There are books I dislike and books that disappointed me, but there has never been anyone specific. Now, the award for My Least Favorite Book goes to Woman of God by James Patterson.

womanofgod

Woman of God was a major letdown because there are books by James Patterson that I adored. Until I picked up this book, he was one of my favorites. There were so, so many problems with it; I won’t get into now because you all aren’t here for me to rant.

 

Love triangles, yes or no?

If they are done right and both love interests have equal standing, such as the one in The Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare, then I am fine with love triangles. But if one love interest is made more of a jerk when they weren’t ever one before for the sake of making the other one look better or the whole thing is thrown in just for drama, then I have a problem with it.

 

The most recent book you just couldn’t finish?

thequeensofinnislear

That would be The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton, a library book I checked out with the other ones I mentioned in my April wrap up. It is supposed to be a retelling of King Lear by Shakespeare, following Lear’s three daughters as they navigate politics in their individual quests for the throne. I made it about fifty pages in before I gave up.

The book is dense, even reading five pages felt like it was slow. I kept putting it down and picking it up, only to read a few more pages and lose interest. I’d stare at it on my nightstand, feeling a strange sense of dread to read it again. That was enough to tell me I needed to give up. Which is sad, because I thought it would be something I might like. I rationalized it as I was simply not in the mood for a book like The Queens of Innis Lear. I can always pick it up again later.

 

A book you are currently reading?

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At the time I am writing this, I am on page 250 of Freeks by Amanda Hocking. It is a paranormal young adult novel following a freak show in the 1980s as they travel to a small town where weird things are happening. I plan on doing a spoiler-free review for Freeks once I’m done with it.

 

The last book you recommended to someone?

The most recent time I can think of is a month ago, my friend asked me for an audio book recommendation over text message. I personally don’t read audiobooks, but I’ve heard the one for Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco is good and that’s a book I thought she would like, as this is the same friend that introduced me to one of my favorite TV shows, Ripper Street.

 

The oldest book you’ve read (publication date)?

I read Beowulf in college and some other medieval texts, like The Canterbury Tales, in high school. Those have to be well over 200 years old. I also read The Odyssey by Homer my freshman year of high school.

 

The newest book you’ve read (publication date)?

theastonishingcolorofafter

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan, which came out towards the tail end of March.

 

Favorite author?

Like favorite books, I have a lot of favorite authors. My favorite female author of the moment is Sabaa Tahir and my favorite male author of the moment is Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

 

Buying books or borrowing books?

I borrow and buy books and attempt to practice both equally. I have always loved the library, yet I could not resist bookstores either. I utilized the library more often when I was in between jobs as a way to sedate my book buying urges. When I did have a job, I bought books more than borrowed them and I didn’t visit much because my work hours conflicted with the library’s hours.

But since I will begin my degree in Library and Information Science in September, I am making an active effort now to read library books along with my other TBR books. I want to support a worthwhile institution in which I plan to build the rest of my life.

 

A book you dislike that everyone else seems to love?

To be honest, I didn’t really like Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kauffman as much as everyone else seems to. Science fiction goes right over my head and the format of this book was jarring for me to read. If the book had been written in prose, I think I might have gotten more out of it. Thus, I am most likely not going to continue with the Illuminae Files trilogy. Sorry—there are just other books I want to read more.

 

Bookmarks or dog ears?

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I have a ridiculous amount of bookmarks to not get away with dog-earing books. Not that I would.

 

A book you can always reread?

As I mentioned previously, I don’t reread books often. Before I had jobs that provided the funds for me to buy myself books rather than rely on gift cards at Christmas, I reread books all the time. The ones I reread often were The Darkest Powers trilogy by Kelley Armstrong, particularly the first one, The Summoning.

 

Can you read while hearing music?

I like background noise while I read, except not music. If I am in my bedroom reading, it is with the door closed and my white noise maker on. I would consider trying listening to music while I read, but I have a tendency to take more than sixty seconds to pick a song, even when I set my music on shuffle.

 

One POV or Multiple POV?

It depends on the book. If the plot is centered on two or more characters, I prefer that the author write in their individual perspectives, so we don’t get one biased view of things in the story. However, if the plot mainly follows one character, I only want that character’s POV, usually. That’s what took away from my enjoyment of Carry On by Rainbow Rowell—too many POVs when the whole book was about Simon and Baz.

 

Do you read a book in one sitting or over multiple days?

I read books over multiple days. I can read at least two books a week if I am lucky. Occasionally, if I have nothing else to do but sit and read, and if I put my mind to it, I can read a whole book in one sitting. Though, I have rarely done that as of late.

 

A book you’ve read because of the cover?

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I came upon The Suffering Tree by Elle Cosimano while browsing my local library. The cover is super pretty and it drew me in on sight. Unfortunately, the story fell terribly flat for me. I wrote a review on it last year, if you are interested in learning more.

 

I have no clue who has done this tag yet, but you can say I tagged you if you want. What is your favorite book you have read so far in 2018?

April 2018 Wrap Up

April was a really weird month for me. While my TBR was all over the place, I was genuinely excited to read all the books on that list. With my daily commute about an hour and a half long and my weekends generally free, I thought I could do it. In 2015 I did, and I was in college.

Then, all of a sudden, I had little to no motivation to read or blog. Going to the library cheered me up a little. Only that didn’t last long—two weeks ago, I was coming off the bus on my way to work and I hurt my foot. I thought it was nothing. A week after that, my doctor is writing me a note to call out of work for two days and I’m on painkillers to treat my foot.

So, yeah…April was weird.

In contrast to “not having motivation to read,” I managed to read six books this month, thanks to my foot.

In April of 2018, I read:

 

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

4.75 stars

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I really enjoyed Heartless, despite the weird reading mood I was in. In fact, I enjoyed it even more than its source material, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. But it took me longer than it should have to read.

Regardless, my favorite aspect of the whole book was watching Catherine, this sweet, idealistic young woman determined to make her dreams come true, become the villainous Queen of Hearts. The writing was lyrical and vivid; Marissa Meyer created a beautiful yet twisted version of Wonderland. The synopsis implied the romance was insta-love, instead it was more of a slow burn, which I definitely liked. While I wanted to give Heartless five stars, it did seem to drag in some spots and it took a long time before anything happened. But the book made me excited to finally read Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series. I figured, if I enjoyed Heartless, I might also enjoy those books.

 

The Beast is an Animal by Peternelle van Arsdale

3.5 stars

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The only book I reviewed this month, The Beast is an Animal is, I think, perfect for fans of Uprooted by Naomi Novik. I liked the book overall, though I had some problems with it. The writing was beautiful; I couldn’t get enough of it. Alys is an interesting protagonist, watching her struggle to be good and eventually come into her own. However, there was not much happening in terms of plot and an element of insta-love that did not sit well with me. For my full spoiler-free thoughts, check out my review.

 

Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

3.75 stars

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I finally read Of Fire and Stars! It took me long enough and…well….

My expectations for Of Fire and Stars might have been a little too high. Don’t get me wrong—it’s got a lot of good qualities. The world-building was very good, explaining the magic system and the politics without being info-dumpy. There was no homophobia present in this world; you loved who you loved, even if the person was of the same gender. The main characters, Denna and Mare, were both likeable. Their romance was a slow burn. I really liked how the two prominent male characters, Thandi (Mare’s brother and Denna’s betrothed) as well as Mare’s best friend Nils, were decent men that respected women. Usually, the rival love interest is portrayed as almost a villain, but that didn’t happen with Thandi; he actually treated Denna very well. The ending was cute and a little messy, more than what the usual young adult fantasy novel is.

On the flip side to all that, Of Fire and Stars still had some flaws, given that it is a debut novel. As far as plots go, it was similar to a lot of other ones in young adult high fantasy novels I’ve read. Writing style was good, but Mare’s voice was stronger than Denna’s. And at one point towards the middle of the novel, it got a little too romance heavy. I wanted the girls to focus more on the political problems than their personal ones. Still, I’m glad I finally read Of Fire and Stars.

 

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan (library book)

4.75 stars

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The Astonishing Color of After is a diverse magical realism/young adult contemporary novel that has gotten some buzz lately on BookTube. It follows Leigh, a seventeen-year-old American that is half white and half Asian, whose mother commits suicide. Convinced her mother has become a bird, she travels to Taiwan to visit her estranged maternal grandparents and find the bird. In doing so, Leigh uncovers some family secrets in an unusual way and faces her grief and guilt in the wake of losing her mother.

I read The Astonishing Color of After in two days. Once I started reading, I had to keep going. The writing style was so beautiful and descriptive, sometimes it felt like I was experiencing Taiwan first hand. Leigh is a good protagonist: she’s flawed, but she was strong when it counted. The author handled the topic of depression and suicide well, carefully but realistically. She also wove fantasy and contemporary together, blurring the lines between imagination and reality in a unique way.

I really, really wanted to give The Astonishing Color of After five stars, but….

I had two major issues with this book. The first being Leigh’s father. He was, in my opinion, a spineless dumb ass. His insistence that Leigh put aside her art for more “practical” choices was annoying, but not the worst thing he did. He refused to talk to Leigh about her mother’s depression, yet left her alone to deal with the problem while he travelled for long periods of time. Then, he just leaves her alone in Taiwan with her non-English speaking grandparents, who are essentially strangers to her, because he simply can’t deal with it. I could go on, but it would just raise my blood pressure.

Second, the story suddenly became more about Leigh’s relationship with her best friend Axel and their growing romantic feelings for each other rather than her relationship with her mother. It says it right on the dust jacket that on the day her mother died, Leigh kissed Axel. After, she’s struggling with guilty feelings over it. I could understand why she kept pushing Axel away after the fact. But the flashbacks became more about him than her mother and the depression. That got really irritating. I eventually realized what the author was trying to do with that, connecting it to Leigh’s family’s secrets. But I still wanted the story to be more about family than teenaged romantic angst.

Despite this, if you are grieving a parent, I would recommend you read The Astonishing Color of After. You might get something out of it.

 

Everless by Sara Holland (library book)

3.25 stars

everless

For me, as the case with some other people, Everless by Sara Holland was hard to rate. When I first heard about it, the concept seemed a little out there: it takes place in a world where time is used as a form of currency, taken from a person’s blood and turned into coins. The main character, Jules, is in desperate need of time for her father, who is slowly dying. To make money, she goes to work as a servant at Everless, the estate she and her father fled a decade ago. In doing so, she uncovers secrets about her world, and her past, that could unravel time itself.

As far as young adult fantasy novels go, Everless was OK, but not necessarily mind-blowing. I enjoyed my overall reading experience and there was an interesting twist, which led to the .25 in the rating. I liked Jules as a protagonist, I like Sara Holland’s writing style, and I do like where the possible future romance is going. However, the concept of using time as currency I still had some problems following and the plot was entertaining enough, just not much different from other young adult fantasy novels. That doesn’t mean I won’t check out the sequel to Everless, Evermore, when it comes out next year.

 

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton (library book)

3 stars

thebelles

One of the most talked about young adult releases of the year, The Belles is set in a fantasy world where beauty is treasured among all else and these women called the Belles are the only ones that can save ordinary people from living a half-life with gray skin and red eyes. The protagonist, Camille, is determined to prove herself worthy to be the favorite Belle, the one who serves the royal family. But when she gets into the palace, she uncovers dark secrets floating around the kingdom of Orleans and the depth of just how dangerous, and coveted, her powers are.

I would not dare say I went into The Belles expecting I would not like it. Much like Everless, the concept was a little out there for me to fully grasp. Only I gave it three stars for a reason.

As the reviews said, the Kingdom of Orleans in The Belles is much like the Capitol in The Hunger Games trilogy: outlandish and colorful, mixing modern technology with more primitive methods. That is one of my favorite aspects of The Belles as a whole, as well as the disturbing moments of society’s obsession with beauty and the lengths people go to get it. I liked Camille as a protagonist. Though she was often times jealous and competitive, she was already the kind of person that questioned and challenged authority. There was a strong element of sisterhood and we see how women are often pitted against each other, when they should be pulling each other up. Plus, there was very, very little romance. Lastly, the book was easy to fly through and I like Dhonielle Clayton’s writing style.

On the flip side to that, the mythology behind the Belles was confusing. With certain elements, it felt like Dhonielle Clayton made her world seem more like a dystopia than a fantasy one and where she tried to go with the Belle magic seemed like a stretch. Certain scenes of the novel dragged as well, even despite the short chapters. Finally, there were just one too many revelations regarding the Belles; there were some things the author could have left for the second book, since The Belles is supposed to be the first in a series. Also, I feel I should mention a trigger warning for sexual assault, should you decide to read this book.

Overall, I did like The Belles, although not enough to want to buy my own copy. Most likely, when the sequel comes out, I will check that one out from the library like I did the first book.

 

What was your favorite book you read in April?