Ten Cute Romances

Thanks to grad school, I missed the original Top 5 Tuesday post on this topic. Romance is a genre I don’t often reach for, but I’ve slowly gotten into it within the past year or so. I thought I hadn’t read enough romance-centric books for a list of five books, never mind ten. But somehow I managed it, so here is the list of my ten favorite cute romances.

 

This Heart of Mine by C.C. Hunter

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What drew me to This Heart of Mine was that the main character has a heart transplant and that the plot revolved around her dreaming of the last memories of the boy whose heart she received. While the book did have that, the story primarily focused on her relationship with her long-time crush, who happens to be the twin brother of her organ donor. This Heart of Mine was a depiction of a healthy romance between two teenagers trying to find a reason to get back to life after both have experienced their respective tragedies.

 

Kiss Me in Paris by Catherine Rider

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If there was ever a book that made me giddy, it was Kiss Me in Paris. It was a fun, sweet, insta-love story between an American girl and a French boy spending a day together in Paris. I read this book in under 48 hours. I could not stop reading.

 

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

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When I first read The Sun is Also a Star back in 2016, I had not expected anything beyond a cute insta-love story. I got way more than I expected from a romance novel. Though the book covers topics like immigration, the main focus of the story is the romance between Daniel, an idealist, and Natasha, a cynic. They meet by chance and then spend the next 24 hours together in an experiment to prove that Daniel can make Natasha fall in love with him in a day.

 

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

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God, this book is adorable! Simon’s growing relationship with Blue through emails was too cute, the kind that makes you want to kick your feet and squeal. And their first kiss scene is goals. Plus, I loved the friendships and the side romances also added substance to the fluffiness.

 

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

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The Upside of Unrequited is the book that introduced me to Becky Albertalli, as well as the one that convinced me to consider giving more lighthearted young adult contemporary novels a chance. The hype surrounding it was well deserved. I related so much to Molly, who was overweight and had a lot of crushes but was too nervous to make a move on any of the guys she liked. Her romance with Reid is adorable and healthy, which I deeply appreciated the most.

 

P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

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I probably never would have read P.S. I Like You if I had not gotten it in an Owlcrate box. It’s like You’ve Got Mail, in which the main character communicates with a boy that sits at the same desk in their science class. As you would expect, there’s another boy in her life that gets on her nerves, yet they seemed to be constantly pulled together. If you’ve seen You’ve Got Mail, you can probably guess what happens. Still, it’s cute.

 

Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist

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I found Love and First Sight randomly browsing my local library. It’s a severely underrated young adult contemporary romance novel. The main character, a boy, is born blind and recently transferred to a public school. There, he makes new friends quickly, one a girl the rest of the group is eager to set him up with. The two begin dating right as he finds out about an experimental surgery that could give him sight. But when he undergoes the surgery and sees his new girlfriend for the first time, he gets a hard lesson in beauty ideals.

 

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown

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Jo is an openly gay preacher’s daughter that has go back in the closet for her senior year when she and her dad move to her new stepmother’s conservative hometown. At first, pretending to be straight is fun, until—naturally—she meets a girl that makes her question if she is willing to keep her promise to her dad to “fit in.” While the romance between the two girls is the focal point, there is also discussion of religion’s viewpoints on sexuality and how not everyone in this “modern” society is as accepting of the LGBTQ+ community as we would expect.

 

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

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The ideal summer romance book, My Life Next Door was a cute and fun young adult romance with a strong family element. The main character lives with her older sister and politically ambitious mother, but despite being it just the three of them, they are not close. Their neighbors, on the other hand, are a large, close-knit family. At first, she listened to her mother and didn’t associate with them. But when one of the sons suddenly sits next to her on her roof, her world opens up, blowing up her mother’s expectations of her along with it.

 

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simison

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Look up “adorable” in the dictionary, you will see The Rosie Project. The only adult novel on the list, it follows Don, a socially awkward but well-meaning genetics scientist enlisted by a young woman named Rosie to help her find her biological father. At first, Rosie does not fit Don’s criteria for his ideal life partner, only their chemistry is undeniable. Except Rosie has a little too much emotional baggage. Even with all that going on, it’s hard not to have fun while reading The Rosie Project.

 

What’s the cutest romance you’ve ever read?

Top 5 Tuesday: Top 5 Summer Reads

In the past, I avoided posts like these, recommending books based on seasons. Even more winter themed books, unless it is set during Christmas, I will read in the summer and vice versa.

Thanks to Top 5 Tuesday, I’m going to test my book recommendations skills by suggesting five summer reads. All of these have similar qualities: fast-paced and action-packed. The kind of books to keep you entertained during summer vacation. Or, in our current scenario, a quarantine.

 

City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson

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Set in Kenya and the Congo, City of Saints and Thieves follows a teenaged thief, Tina, set out to take revenge on the man she believes killed her mother. When she and her gang break into the man’s house, she finds evidence that sends her whole world into a tailspin. This book gets dark, really dark, but the action starts right on the first page. And you can travel to exotic Kenya while stuck at home.

 

The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

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The Forbidden Wish is a fun desert fantasy romance you can read at the beach or by the pool. It is also a retelling of Aladdin told through the perspective of the genie, a girl. And did I mention there is a badass princess with a squad of equally badass lady assassins? Have I sold you on this book yet?

 

Daughter of the Pirate King duology by Tricia Levenseller

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If pirates do not equal summer, not much else will. Plus, there are sirens and a fun crew of lady pirates. Throw in a steamy romance and lots of blood and action, the Daughter of the Pirate King duology is great to read over a weekend when you’re stuck inside with the AC.

 

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

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Most people associate historical fiction with winter instead of summer. While Code Name Verity is a World War II novel and not exactly what you would call “lighthearted,” it’s the kind of book that sucks you in. Two female pilots and best friends fight to get back to each other after one is lost after a crash and held hostage by the Germans. Besides all the suspense, the ending will make you sad. But you will be sweating so much it won’t matter.

 

Anything by John Green or James Patterson

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I put these two authors in the same slot on this list for the same reasons. Their books do not have much depth to them, but they are quick, entertaining reads. If your brain cells are fried—like mine after such a crazy semester—these authors have the kind of books you read when you just want to read. Ideal summer books.

 

 

What is your favorite summer read?

 

Get to Know the Fantasy Reader Tag

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I like book tags.

I saw this one, Get to Know the Fantasy Reader Tag, on Thoughts on Tomes’YouTube channel. Most of what I read is fantasy, either urban or high fantasy, mostly young adult. In recent years, I branched out into different genres, across adult, young adult, and now middle grade. But if you looked at my Amazon wish list or Goodreads, the books are predominantly fantasy.

Hence this tag, for the time being, is relevant to me.

 

What is your fantasy origin story? (How you came to read your first fantasy novel.)

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The first fantasy novel I distinctly remember reading is either Kiss of the Vampire, from the Sweet Valley University series, which probably wasn’t as fantastical as I thought it was. The other is the T’Witches series, one about teenaged twin witches I read because of the Disney Channel Movie.

Fun fact: I saw the Harry Potter movies before I read the books.

 

If you could be the hero/heroine in a fantasy novel, who would be the author and what’s one trope you’d insist be in the story?

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It’s a three-way tie between Kerri Maniscalco, Melissa Albert, and Susan Dennard on who I want writing a fantasy novel with me in it. These women have written some of my favorite female leads, such as Audrey Rose and Iseult. Also, they each have a writing style I like. And a trope that I would insist be in the novel is the Chosen One. Yes, I am a sucker for that trope. Another of my favorite tropes is fairy tale retellings, especially ones with a darker twist.

 

What is a fantasy you’ve read this year that you want more people to read?

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Honestly, not a lot of exciting fantasies read so far in 2020. However, the one I would recommend is Pet by Akwaeke Emezi. It takes a hard look at a supposedly “perfect” society where monsters do not exist. Except, kids are trying to tell their parents what’s going on but the parents have their heads in the sand. The main character, Jam, helps Pet, a creature pulled from her mother’s painting, track down a new monster living inside her best friend’s house.

 

What is your favorite fantasy subgenre? What subgenre have you not read much from?

I love historical fantasy, such as The Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare and The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang. Magical realism, like The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan, comes in at a close second.

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A subgenre I have not read much from is dark fantasy or grim dark, which I heard can be extremely graphic. Not that graphic content usually bothers me. It’s mostly because I’m not drawn to the books that fall under the subgenre. Some exceptions would be the Nevernight trilogy by Jay Kristoff or Red Sister by Mark Lawrence.

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Who is one of your auto-buy fantasy authors?

Cassandra Clare, obviously.

 

How do you typically find fantasy recommendations? (Goodreads, YouTube, podcasts, Instagram, etc.)

Mostly YouTube, like Thoughts on Tomes or Peruse Project, but also Goodreads.

 

What is an upcoming fantasy release you’re excited for?

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The Burning God by R.F. Kuang, the final novel in The Poppy War trilogy.

 

What is one misconception about fantasy you would like to lay to rest?

A common misconception I heard is that fantasy is too hard or too complicated to follow. While some authors can info-dump in their books, not all fantasy is complicated. Urban fantasy is definitely not complicated. It’s one that I would recommend to new fantasy readers, because the world-building is so familiar to the one we know.

 

If someone had never read a fantasy before and asked you to recommend the first 3 books that came to mind as places to start, what would those recommendations be?

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Like I said, urban fantasy is the place to start for readers wanting to branch out into the overall fantasy genre. Since vampires are so popular, I would recommend the Vampire Academy series and the Bloodlines series by Richelle Mead, all entertaining and easy world building to follow along. The third is The Book Jumper by Mechthild Glaser, a stand-alone novel on the lower side of fantasy. It is still set in a modern setting, but the only magic involved is that the characters can jump into books at will and travel through different stories. A book lover’s dream, if you ask me.

 

Who is the most recent fantasy reader content creator you came across that you’d like to shout out?

None  Most of who I watch reads across all genres and that is what I personally prefer. As a librarian, I do not want to limit myself to one particular genre of books.

 

What is your favorite fantasy book and/or series?

Hidden Gem Recommendations (April 2020)

If you have been on my blog for a while, you may have noticed that I do not read a lot of hyped books, at least not during the times they are at their peak.

Part of my job as a librarian is to keep up with book trends and what people are reading. But I also like to pay homage to the books that are not as hyped when I can. Because it might be the kind of book someone needs.

Those hidden gems are:

 

This Heart of Mine by C.C. Hunter

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This Heart of Mine is a young adult contemporary novel with elements of magical realism. A teen girl with a rare heart condition receives the heart of her crush’s twin brother and starts having dreams about his death. And it was not a suicide like everyone thinks.

Despite the mix of genres, C.C. Hunter wrote them in a way that they balanced each other out. Interwoven is the core message of learning to live again after embracing the prospect of death. Plus, it deals with the effects and consequences of organ transplants, something so rarely seen in literature.

 

A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin

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A School for Unusual Girls is a fun, romantic historical fiction novel. This one is set in a boarding school where girls are trained to be spies. Georgie, the narrator, the headmistress Emma Stranje, and the other girls at Stranje House are all strong, smart, and independent women with their individual personalities and talents. The guys in this book are swoon-worthy. The plot was exciting and fast-paced. I don’t know why no one is talking about A School for Unusual Girls or any of the other books in this series.

 

The Memory Book by Lara Avery

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If you like “sick kid lit,” I highly recommend The Memory Book. The protagonist is a seventeen-year-old girl with a degenerate brain disorder that is slowly taking away her memories. Desperately trying to hold on to as much life as she has left, she keeps a diary of her memories in her computer, recording everything that happens to her as the disease eats away at her mind. The Memory Book is a fast read but packs a punch. The reactions of the main character and those around her were realistic as they all try to process what is happening and coping with it.

 

The Beast is an Animal by Peternelle van Arsdale

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If you enjoy dark fantasy or books with demons in the woods or ones on the weird side, I recommend The Beast is an Animal. The writing is beautiful; the setting is spooky and atmospheric. The main character lives bordering on the edge and resisting the dark side. There are stable, caring parental figures present, something so rarely seen in young adult books. And the creatures in the woods are straight out of folklore, but scarier. I personally had a hard time putting down The Beast is an Animal when I read it.

 

Invisible Ghosts by Robyn Schneider

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Reading Invisible Ghosts was one of the few times I truly saw myself in a fictional character. Rose Asher (I still remember her name) is shy and introverted, but a part of her wants to break out of the shell her ghost brother, Logan, has pushed her into. Slowly, naturally, she comes into her own, forgiving herself for perceived past mistakes as well as current real ones. Plus, there is a great friend group, a sweet friends to lovers romance, the topic of grief is handled realistically, and the fantasy element is woven in well with the contemporary.

 

Which of these books have I convinced you to read?

Book Review: The Winter King by C.L. Wilson (Spoiler Free)

I can’t remember the last time I did an individual book review. I might be a little rusty.

The Winter King by C.L. Wilson is an adult paranormal/high fantasy romance novel set in a fantastical world of witches with magic based in nature or seasons and other different types of mages with abilities like being able to communicate with animals. The story follows two main characters. The first is Wynter Atrialan, the king of the Craig, who started a war with the kingdom of Summerlea after the murder of his younger brother and he consumed the powerful Ice Heart, an ancient, deadly magic slowly taking him over. The second is Khamsin Coruscate, the hated daughter of the king of Summerlea who is forced to marry Wynter to establish peace between their kingdoms. Though distrust and suspicion lingers between them, their passion steadily grows, slowly becoming something more midst tensions between Wintercraig and Summerlea.

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The Winter King took me a full month to read—though it is not entirely the book’s fault. March was crazy. I kept picking The Winter King up, then putting it back down. It was not that I didn’t like it. When I did get around to reading it, I enjoyed the book. Stress impacted my reading.

On the flip side to that, The Winter King is still a somewhat cheesy adult fantasy romance with ten-page long sex scenes. The writing could be overly descriptive when simple sentences would have been fine. There were graphic sex scenes, so be wary of that if that is not your thing. The writing wasn’t particularly advanced, but it wasn’t simplistic or juvenile, either. This made the world building weak in certain aspects. However, the magic system and folklore of this world was not complicated like some other high fantasy novels. You learned things as you went along; there wasn’t any info-dumping.

As for the plot, it took too long to get to the point. Parts dragged for way too long. Once we got to the climax, it seemed to drag even more. The book could have been 100 pages, even 200 pages, shorter. It also became more focused on the romance, pushing Kham and Wynter closer together.

I might have found this annoying if I had gone into The Winter King expecting a high fantasy with romance as the subplot. In this case, I wasn’t bothered by it at all. The characters carried the story. Kham is strong-willed, stubborn, and flawed, but she grows up. Wynter is a big scary teddy bear—prime book boyfriend material.

Yes, the two have sex almost immediately. It is because Kham goes into the marriage believing her life depends on producing an heir for Wynter, and not producing one means death, as her father intended. However, the actual romance between them is a slow burn as they gradually open up to each other. The best part, Wynter always asked for consent whenever he and Kham got hot and heavy.

Surprisingly, the side characters were fleshed out. Particularly Lady Frey, a high priestess in Wintercraig who I really hope gets her own book; Wynter’s best friend Valik, who is like the Azriel to his Rhysand (though I like Wynter more than Rhysand, just saying); and Krysti, the young orphan boy Kham befriends. One of the antagonists, Kham’s older brother Falcon, who started the war with the Wintercraig, is also written with a complexity I enjoyed. Unfortunately, there was a lot of girl-on-girl hate that made me a little uncomfortable.

The best aspect of The Winter King is that the author turns problematic paranormal romance tropes on their heads. As I mentioned earlier, Wynter always asks for consent and he’s not the typical pushy, domineering, borderline abusive “Alpha male.” Abuse against women is not tolerated in this world; in some of the cultures mentioned, women are revered. Men even call each other out if one gets too handsy with women.

Overall, I give The Winter King by C.L. Wilson 3.75 stars. I plan to continue with the Weathermages of Mystral series, which are fantasy romance companion novels. The next one, The Sea King, follows one of Kham’s sisters, Summer, who falls in love with a minor character in The Winter King. If you are looking for a fun, steamy adult paranormal, fantasy romance, I highly recommend The Winter King by C.L. Wilson.

Books That Exceeded My Expectations

The good thing about being unexpectedly stuck at home? More time to read and work on my blog while still doing homework.

The bad thing about being unexpectedly stuck at home? I cannot focus on anything but the fact that I’m stuck at home because school, work, and everything else is closed.

I have an assignment due tomorrow that I should be working on right now, but blogging might help me destress and get my brain juices flowing.

Books that exceeded my expectations was another Top 5 Tuesday topic I missed. When I pick up certain books, I go in with minimum expectations. There are books I pick up from the library that I think I might not like for one reason or another but I’m too curious to not read it. The ones I read for school definitely fall under this category sometimes, too. Who likes a book they are forced to read?

Few things make me happier when a book exceeds expectations. Those books are:

 

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

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I read Riley Sager’s debut novel, Final Girls, from the library shortly after it came out and did not love it. The book had such a good concept, but poor execution. I wondered if the same might happen with The Last Time I Lied. Since this one was set at a summer camp and involved complicated female friendship, I couldn’t ignore it. Most preferred Final Girls over The Last Time I Lied. For me, I thought the sophomore novel was better. I was engaged the whole way through The Last Time I Lied.

 

True Notebooks by Mark Salzman

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Until 2019, nonfiction was a genre I touched primarily for school. Very, very rarely on my own, honestly. True Notebooks I had to read for my literacy services class last spring, which is about a writer that volunteers to teach creative writing at a juvenile hall. The whole book was basically about the importance of literacy to certain populations, particularly prisoners. Though I would probably never reread it because the whole book had an unrelenting sadness throughout, True Notebooks showed how society can fail young people born into specific situations, as well as how books can help and heal.

 

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus

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When Two Can Keep a Secret came out last year, it was right after I heard some rather negative things about Karen M. McManus’s debut, One of Us is Lying. That, and young adult thrillers are sometimes kind of cheesy and overdone. However, the idea of three murders of high school girls taking place in the same small town over a period of twenty years inside a theme park known as “Murderland,” was intriguing. As you can already guess, Two Can Keep a Secret was not a disappointment. I was entertained the entire time, loved all the characters, and it had the best ending line in a young adult mystery I had read to date.

 

Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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Initially, I had zero interest in reading Aurora Rising for two reasons. First, I didn’t really like Illuminae by this author duo. Second, science fiction was a genre that I did not give much thought to, as most of its subjects go right over my head. Then, I kept seeing the cover of Aurora Rising everywhere and saw my library had a copy. I picked it up on a whim, then could barely put it down until I finished it. Sadly, I was not surprised when it was not getting the best feedback from other readers. Illuminae set the standards too high. But I liked all the characters and I thought it was a fun, solid first book in a series.

 

City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson

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The main criticism regarding City of Saints and Thieves that I heard was that it was not an OWN voices author. Despite Natalie C. Anderson’s history of working with refugees from the Congo, I had to admit, a white American writing about those types of experiences could be a delicate situation. I thought she did a good job though; the plot was exciting, the setting heartbreakingly realistic, and the main character was a strong, smart girl that knew how to think on her feet.

 

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

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When The Hazel Wood came out a couple of years ago, the reviews were so mixed it was scary. As much as I loved the concept and the cover, I could not bring myself to take the risk on purchasing it without having read it first. While the main character is not exactly likeable, the writing and the world-building was lush and beautiful. The fairy tales were how I like them: dark and gruesome. I flew through The Hazel Wood. I’m expecting the same thing to happen when I get around to reading the sequel, The Night Country.

 

What books exceeded your expectations?

 

Books I Read for My Children’s Literature Class: January to March 2020

This semester, I’m taking a class on children’s literature and I love it more than I thought I would. If I’m being honest, it’s mostly because they helped me reach my Goodreads goal of 50 books in the first three months of the year.

The readings for this class were picture books and middle grade novels. Before this class, the only middle grade I read was the Percy Jackson books. I never even thought about picture books. Now, I seriously want to raid the super cute middle grade section of the bookstore near my work.

As for picture books, they were something I never appreciated. I would not call myself an expert in rating them by any means, though. All of these are rated based on my personal enjoyment of them.

There were so many of them, they had to have their own wrap-up. So let’s get right on it.

 

January

 

When Sophie Gets Angry, Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang (library book)

3 stars

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The Dead Bird by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Remy Charlip (library book)

The Dead Bird by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Christian Robinson (library book)

4 stars

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Yeah, we read the same book twice, just done by different illustrators. Basically, four kids find a dead bird in the woods and hold a funeral for it. Between the two, my favorite illustrations were Christian Robinson’s. Remy Charlip used too much blue.

 

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats (library book)

3 stars

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Freight Train by Donald Crews (library book)

NO RATING

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This is the first time I opted not rate a book I read. Freight Train is simply a board book about colors. How does a 27-year-old childless graduate student rate that on Goodreads?

 

Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold

5 stars

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Tar Beach is the first picture book I rated five stars. It is based off a quilt from the author’s childhood and follows a little girl who flies over New York City every night in her dreams. It made me feel fuzzy all over.

 

Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins

5 stars

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Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans (library book/reread)

5 stars

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Madeline was one of my absolute favorite books as a child. I even had a Madeline themed birthday party when I was about eight. This one was a five-star completely for the nostalgia.

 

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (library book/reread?)

4 stars

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You notice I put “reread” with a question mark. I remember hearing lots about this book growing up, though I never recalled reading it. I think the monster drawings kind of freaked me out back then. When I mentioned it as one of the titles being used in my children’s literature class, my dad said he read Where the Wild Things Are to my brother and I when we were little. I’m simply taking his word for it.

 

The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton (library book/reread?)

4 stars

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I distinctly remember The Little House being read to me as a child, though by whom I don’t know. My dad didn’t recognize it, so it might have been a teacher. I really loved the pastel color scheme used in this picture book. The book overflowed with sweetness.

 

Knock, Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me by Daniel Beaty (library book)

4.5 stars

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Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown (library book)

4.5 stars

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Big Cat, Little Cat by Elisha Cooper (library book)

5 stars

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Maria Had a Little Llama/Maria Tenia una Llamita by Angela Dominguez (library book)

4 stars

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Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love (library book)

5 stars

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I love Julian is a Mermaid with every fiber of my being. This is a book I hope to someday read to my own kids. And I would not be annoyed if they wanted me to read it a thousand times in a row. The artwork was beautiful. A little boy sees mermaids, dresses up like one, and his grandmother is cool with it. Even brings him to go hang out with other mermaids. Makes my heart happy just writing about it.

 

Los Gatos Black by Marisa Montes (library book)

3 stars

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One Family by George Shannon (library book)

3.5 stars

One Family

 

Black and White by David Macaulay (library book)

3 stars

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Arlene Sardine by Chris Raschka (library book)

4.5 stars

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Funny thing about this book: the other people in my class were freaked out that Arlene the fish had to die to become a sardine. I was the only one that appeared to be fine with it. While the color scheme was a little saturated, I liked this book and appreciated what the author was trying to do with it.

 

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel (library book)

5 stars

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Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik (library book)

3 stars

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Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same by Grace Lin (library book)

3 stars

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Sammy the Seal by Syd Hoff (library book)

3.5 stars

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We Are in a Book! By Mo Willems (library book)

5 stars

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You Are (Not) Small by Anna Kang (library book)

4 stars

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February

 

Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel (library book)

5 stars

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Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish (library book)

5 stars

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A super fun classic children’s book that I finally read at 27. And, in all honesty, I think Amelia Bedelia has a point. “Change the drapes” makes no sense, when you think about it.

 

Go, Otto, Go! By David Milgrim (library book)

3 stars

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Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly (library book)

4 stars

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The week I read Hello, Universe was the week of chapter and transitional books. We were only supposed to pick two to read. Of course, I read more than two.

Hello, Universe is a middle grade book I heard good things about. It follows fours kids, with one a bully and one trapped down a well. I liked all the characters, even identified with Virgil, the boy that finds himself trapped down the well. The writing surprised me; it was easy, but not too simplistic nor written in a way that talked down to the middle grade reader. I had a fun time reading Hello, Universe. I definitely plan on picking up my own copy and reading more books by Erin Entrada Kelly.

 

Give Please a Chance by James Patterson and Bill O’Reilly

4 stars

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We had to do an analysis on a picture book. I stressed on what to pick, if I actually had to go out and buy one. Then, I remembered my mom had asked for Give Please a Chance for Christmas a few years ago and I still had it. I agree with the reviews: how did such an impolite person like Bill O’Reilly write a book about manners?

 

The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henke (library book)

3.5 stars

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The other book I wanted to read along with Hello, Universe wasn’t available from my local library yet, but The Year of Billy Miller was. It was a great book that brought me back to second grade. I liked Billy and his family. But Emma Sparks was a little shit.

 

Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet (library book)

5 stars

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We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson (library book)

4 stars

We are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball

I don’t know if this would qualify as a “picture book” with how heavy it was and how dense the text. I personally knew next to nothing about the Negro League, mostly because I don’t care for baseball (or sports in general). But I did find it informative. So, if baseball history is your jam, I recommend We Are the Ship.

 

Josephine: the Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell (library book)

5 stars

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Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras by Duncan Tonatiuh (library book)

4 stars

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Electric Ben: The Amazing Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin by Robert Byrd (library book)

5 stars

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Benjamin Franklin is my soul twin—he gets me and my love of buying books. His whole life was interesting. I also love how he was the only Founding Father that supported women’s rights and he saw nothing wrong with indulging a little once in a while, even if he felt guilty about it. This book also painted Ben Franklin as an imperfect, but good, man, which I deeply appreciated. I am still debating on whether or not to buy my own copy.

 

Giant Squid by Candance Fleming (library book)

4 stars

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Honey Bunny Funnybunny by Marilyn Sadler

NO RATING

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I have no idea how to rate this book, if I am being perfectly honest.

Honey Bunny Funnybunny is a reread for me. This was one of my favorite books as a child; I asked my dad to read it to me so much, the binding is almost falling apart. I completely forgot about it until I needed an easy reader for an assignment in my children’s literature. I found it on the shelves my brother and I keep our childhood books.

On Goodreads, I saw a surprising amount of negative reviews for Honey Bunny Funnybunny. While I understand people’s feelings towards the boy bunny expressing his love to his sister by being mean to her, anyone who has a sibling, especially if your sibling was a little shit like mine was, this book might resonate with you. And, to the book’s credit, the parents do punish the older brother when his behavior goes too far. Up until that point, it is all stupid kid stuff.

And, despite what many of the reviewers might think, my brother and I have an adult relationship now. Because we got it all out as kids.

 

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner (library book/reread)

4 stars

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The Boxcar Children was one of my favorite books as a child. Sadly, I don’t own a copy anymore, or at least I think I don’t. I must have lost it or gave it away when we moved years ago. I had wanted to read it for an assignment, only it didn’t come from the library in time. I read it anyway. I thought I would give it five stars, except towards the end I didn’t care as much as I did years ago. In fact, I wonder now if I had finished it all the way through back then. (I was a naughty little reader.) Still, The Boxcar Children was as sweet as ever.

 

Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library by Barb Rosenstock (library book)

5 stars

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I picked up Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library for an informational text analysis assignment. Because what reader doesn’t love a book about books or libraries? Except it did not meet the criteria my professor set. I read it anyway. Yeah, Thomas Jefferson was a slave-owning man-whore, but the guy loved books.

 

Ghost Liners: Exploring the World’s Greatest Lost Ships by Robert Ballard (library book)

4 stars

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Ghost Liners is the book I ended up using for the informational text assignment I just mentioned. It was actually mentioned in an article I read for class. It’s about five shipwrecks, one of them being the Titanic. Lots of cool photographs and illustrations of the ships combined with the first-hand experience of survivors and witnesses (this book was published in the 90s). If shipwrecks or underwater exploration is your thing, Ghost Liners might be a good one to look into.

 

March

 

There is a Tribe of Kids by Lane Smith (library book)

4 stars

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A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat by Emily Jenkins (library book)

4 stars

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Beautiful hand drawings of different families making the same dessert. I know the drawings of happy slaves leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths, but props to the author for turning gender roles on their heads with the father and son making the dessert in the end.

 

A Birthday Cake for George Washington by Ramin Ganeshram (library book)

3 stars

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Another book with the unpleasant drawings of happy slaves, A Birthday Cake for George Washington follows Delia, the daughter of Hercules, George Washington’s slave chef. The artwork was beautiful, if you are willing to overlook the fact that the chef was working his ass off for the guy who kept him and his family enslaved.

 

Have you read any of these books?

 

What did you think of them?

 

What do you think of picture books in general? Do you still read them, with or without kids?

 

 

First Reading Wrap Up of 2020: January & February

It’s been two months since I have posted here on my blog. In that time:

I started my last semester of graduate school.

I’m currently on a now extended spring break because my school is taking precautions against the Coronavirus.

I broke at least two of my reading resolutions. (I’m sure you can guess which ones.)

I beat my Goodreads 2020 reading goal.

I READ 30 BOOKS IN ONE MONTH!

That is due to the children’s literature class I am taking this semester. Those books you will see in a separate reading wrap-up. But I have never read so much in a month.

I am glad to say I started off my 2020 reading year strong. Before school started again, I managed to read five books in January. It is also the month I read 30 books, making it more of a whirlwind than it already was. In February, I read only one book not school related.

In January and February 2020, I read:

 

January

 

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll (reread)

4 stars

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In the days leading up to 2020, I was fussing over what my first read of the year would be. Then, I heard a few people say they started the new year with a reread. I bought Through the Woods, which I read from the library in 2016, to reread at Halloween. That didn’t happen, so I decided to pick up this graphic novel anthology as my first book of 2020.

My rating is the same as it was in 2016. I love Emily Carroll’s art style. I liked all the stories, but I still have the same favorites: “A Lady’s Hands are Cold” with “My Friend Janna” as a close second. I really hope Through the Woods someday gets made into a movie.

 

To Drink Coffee with a Ghost by Amanda Lovelace

5 stars

To Drink Coffee with a Ghost (Things that Haunt, #2)

I already know that my favorite book of the year will be To Drink Coffee with a Ghost. The only book I can imagine topping it is A Sky Beyond the Storm by Sabaa Tahir, the final book in the An Ember in the Ashes series coming out in December. And that is if I read it right away when it comes out. But even that is a hard maybe.

I read Amanda Lovelace’s latest poetry collection in a single night before falling asleep. And I cried my eyes out the whole time. To Drink Coffee with a Ghost focuses on Amanda’s tumultuous relationship with her mother. Almost every single poem hit a nerve. It’s been a while since a book affected me so much. Which means extremely high expectations for Break Your Glass Slippers, coming out March 17th.

 

Sabrina by Nick Drnaso

2 stars

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Sabrina took me for a ride I was bored on the whole time.

I think the author was trying to provide a social criticism, but the execution made no sense. Too many times the plot went off course. Soon it became more about the characters’ life drama than learning what really happened to Sabrina. There isn’t any character development either; none of the characters seem to grow, including the main character, and none of their stories feel resolved in any way. Yet the book was so compulsively readable I had to find out if it got better. Some parts were good, and the author knew when to use dialogue, but I was ultimately disappointed.

 

Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds

4.25 stars

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Look Both Ways called to me from my shelves, despite the fact it was not on my intended reading list. After reading Long Way Down last semester, my expectations going in were high. I did enjoy this book’s “slice of life” stories, though admittedly I was bored for a chunk of it. Some of the characters, all in middle school, felt more fleshed out than others. Regardless, Jason Reynolds’s writing style was almost perfect.

 

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

3.5 stars

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Besides Look Both Ways, Pet also called to me from my bookshelves. And it was short, which meant getting ahead in my reading challenge. The concept was just too fascinating: a contemporary-feeling dystopian novel set in a city called Lucille, where no more “monsters” exist. Jam is a transgender girl who accidentally summons a creature called Pet from her mother’s painting with a drop of blood. When Pet tells her there is a monster living inside her best friend Redemption’s house, she agrees to help it find the monster, shattering her reality that Lucille, her whole world, is safe.

The concept behind Pet was really interesting. This book was packed with diversity. I liked how Jam being transgender was not a “thing”; her parents and friends just accepted it. Also, Redemption had three parents and there was a librarian in a wheelchair. Pet was a fascinating element, a frightening creature that was the only thing Jam could trust. However, the writing felt juvenile and it took a while to get to the point. That being said, I would consider picking up more books by Akwaeke Emezi if they write more.

 

February

 

The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan (library book)

2 stars

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I had checked out The Painted Girls twice from the library. I’ve had this saved on Goodreads for so long, I had forgotten about it until I saw it on someone’s blog recently. By no means it is not a long book, yet it took me far too long to get through.

I thought it wasn’t The Painted Girls fault that it was taking me forever to read. I am a graduate student, after all. However, when I was reading it, I lost interest quickly. When I had chances to read it I didn’t want to.

Despite how bored I was while reading The Painted Girls, I did like the writing style and the atmosphere. Unfortunately, the characters were flat, and the plot took forever to get to the point. Not to mention the time jumps that came without warning; those took me out of the story instead of into it. Despite this, I am willing to believe that the timing was bad. Maybe someday I will check The Painted Girls out of the library again to reread one day.

 

What books have you read recently?

My Most Notable Books of the Decade

My memory is terrible. Most times, I don’t remember what I did the day before, never mind what happened ten years ago. Then, people on YouTube and WordPress started sharing their “favorite books of the decade.” I didn’t open a Goodreads account until 2012, but I did keep record of books I read prior to that. It also helps that I reread books a lot in high school.

I tried to keep this list as short as possible. Only I realized that picking one book for every year was easier said than done. So let’s get right to it.

 

2009

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Rapunzel: The One with All the Hair by Wendy Mass

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Bliss by Lauren Myracle

Jinx by Meg Cabot

The Darkest Powers trilogy by Kelley Armstrong (2009-2011)

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer (2009-2011?)

 

2010-2011

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Avalon High by Meg Cabot

My Sweet Audrina by V.C. Andrews

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Women of the Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong (2011-2015)

Heather Wells books 1-3 by Meg Cabot

 

2012-2013

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The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins (2012-2014)

The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff

The Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

2014-2015

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The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare (2014-2015)

Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas (2014-2017)

Confessions series by James Patterson (2013-2015)

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Saga graphic novels

 

2016-2017

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We Believe You by Annie E. Clark and Andrea L. Pino

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

An Ember in the Ashes and A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir (2016-2017)

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

2018-2019

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Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace

To Make Monsters Out of Girls by Amanda Lovelace

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

 

The Secret Life of Bees and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian were books I read for book club, one of the few things I loved about high school. I would read the latter for about three more times over the next five years. Meg Cabot took up most of my junior high and high school years. I loved the Heather Wells series, despite never having finished it to this day, as well as Jinx and Avalon High. I read The Mediator series, my absolute favorite work ever by Meg Cabot, before the decade began, probably 2007 or 2008. Avalon High, as well as Rapunzel: The One with All the Hair by Wendy Mass, were I think the ones that inspired my love for fairy tale retellings.

If I had to pick the most notable books on this entire list, it is The Darkest Powers trilogy by Kelley Armstrong. Besides introducing me to my favorite genre—fantasy—it helped me find my niche in terms of writing. While I might enjoy reading contemporary or historical fiction, fantasy was the most fun and where I thought I produced my best work. Anna Dressed in Blood and The Space Between were other big influences on writing, as well as the dark, creepy novels of V.C. Andrews. I was also reading a lot of adult mystery thrillers at the time, hence the James Patterson books.

I started college in 2012 and graduated in 2016. 2012 is when I found Goodreads, which I found through the early days of BookTube, though I wasn’t so hardcore into it at that point. By 2015, however, I was reading a lot of the popular titles like Throne of Glass, The Mortal Instruments, and An Ember in the Ashes because of the steadily growing BookTube community. I was also adding books to my TBR left and right, and buying books now that I was making my own income. Something I’m sure many of you can relate to.

Though BookTube might have encouraged me to stretch my wallet a little too far, it also introduced me to a variety of books I never would have picked up on my own. 2015 or 2016 was the year I picked up graphic novels, which led to me finding the Saga series.

Honestly, it is truly hard for me to explain why so many of these books are notable. They just are. There are books, like The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace, that came to me right when I needed them. There are books like The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo and Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia where I saw myself genuinely portrayed in a fictional character. Even books I only read once and didn’t necessarily love I still think about from time to time. All the books I read impact me in some way or teach me something I needed to know. I would like to think this is the same for all readers.

 

What were your most notable books of the decade?

 

 

Recommending Books I Did Not Love, But You Might #2

As a reader, I do not like hating or even disliking books. Because I know for every person that hates a book, another loves it. Because I know authors put all this time and effort into a piece of art. But not everyone reads the same book.

As I think I have mentioned before, one of the fields I am most interested pursuing in library science is reader’s advisory. In the library and information science profession overall, we are urged to be neutral. Just because I liked a book does not mean other people will. So, if a patron ever comes in asking for a book recommendation or asking about a book I did not necessarily love, I still want to give them the recommendation.

The same can be said for my blog. There are books I gave a low rating to, but they were not without their qualities. I’ve wanted to do another unique recommendations post since the first one I posted back in January of 2018. But since then, I guess I have gotten more critical in the books I choose to read, because I have not found books for these types of recommendations.

Still, a book is a book. It should be read by someone who can appreciate it.

 

Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann

Screenshot_2019-08-29 Let's Talk About Love

Let’s Talk About Love follows an asexual college student who is done with dating after a bad break-up. Now, all she wants is to hang out with her best friends, work in the local library, and figure out what she wants to do with her life while meeting her family’s extremely high expectations. The writing style in Let’s Talk About Love is super simplistic and the book is not hard to get through. Just be aware of a lot of parenthesis.

 

Girls on the Line by Jennie Liu

Screenshot_2019-08-29 Girls on the LineGirls on the Line is a book I would classify to fall under the new adult genre, just without the sexy times. It is set in 2009 China, following two girls that get wrapped up in the country’s bride and child trafficking rings. The plot goes in all different directions. Also, one of the girls definitely qualifies as an unlikeable narrator. The author tries to cover all sorts of topics, particularly those relating to women in China. If you are interested in learning more about issues women face in other countries or social issues in other countries, I recommend Girls on the Line.

 

Where I Live by Brenda Rufener

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Continuing along the line of social issues, this one closer to home, Where I Live deals with teen homelessness. The main character tries to hide from her friends that she is living inside their high school and hiding from a traumatic past. When a classmate gets in trouble, she risks exposing her situation to help. If you are looking to educate yourself on how teenagers live on the street and what society can do to prevent such a situation from ever happening, I would recommend Where I Live.

 

Still Star-Crossed by Melinda Taub

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Still Star-crossed is a “sequel” of sorts to Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, set right after the events of the play. When someone threatens to break the fragile truce between the Capulets and the Montagues, the prince makes Rosaline, Juliet’s cousin, marry Benvolio, Romeo’s cousin. To prevent this, the two reluctant newlyweds try to find out who is committing the heinous crimes across Verona. If you like Shakespeare and are looking for more retellings of his works, Still Star-crossed is one you should look into it.

 

Freeks by Amanda Hocking

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Freeks is one of those books I would recommend for someone who loves paranormal romance. It follows a travelling freak show that gets swept up in a murder mystery in 1980s New Orleans. There is a strong element of insta-love, so that is something to be wary of if that is not your thing. Besides that, the atmosphere with spooky and an easy, entertaining read. Reading Freeks can be compared to something like eating chocolate cake: it’s too yummy to stop.

 

RoseBlood by A.G. Howard

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The main positive thing I have to say about RoseBlood is that the writing is beautiful, borderline flowery. It is a retelling of The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. I know a lot of people are looking for more retellings based on classics, instead of fairy tales. RoseBlood takes elements of the source material and puts it in a modern Paris setting with a fantastical twist. If you don’t mind long descriptions, or plots that tend to tell more than show, RoseBlood is a dark, romantic retelling.

 

The Life and Death Parade by Eliza Wass

Screenshot_2019-08-29 The Life and Death Parade

The Life and Death Parade has an intriguing concept. A grief-stricken teenaged girl tracks down a group of charlatans that claim to be able to move through the veil between life and the afterlife following the tragic death of her boyfriend. She meets the psychic that told her boyfriend he will never have a future, then meets another member of the group that lures her and the rest of the boyfriend’s family into a twisted game of dark magic. If you like really scary and/or depressing books, The Life and Death Parade might be something you will enjoy.

 

 

What is a book you did not love but might recommend someone who might?