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?

My Favorite Fictional Mothers

The day this goes up is the day before I do my annual Mother’s Day social media blackout. I read and watch movies all day and try to talk myself down from buying more books because I haven’t needed to do Mother’s Day shopping for the past two years….

It’s taken me a while to do a post like this. Not because of my own mommy issues….But because moms are usually awful or killed off in books, especially young adult. Surprisingly, I was able to come up with eight names for this list.

My favorite fictional mothers and mother figures are:

 

Molly Weasley from the Harry Potter series

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I mean…this one is a given. Molly Weasley is the kind of mother all moms should strive to be. She loves her children, even kids that are not her own, and is a hard-ass boss lady.

 

Sally Jackson from the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by J.K. Rowling

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I love, love, love Sally Jackson. Raising a demigod boy—a son of Poseidon, no less—could not have been easy. Plus, we all know what a troublemaker Percy could be. Yet Sally did it all on her own. Everything she did was to protect her boy. She just rolled with all the craziness. But my favorite thing about Sally was that Poseidon wanted to give her a life of luxury, only she refused because she did not want to be dependent on a man. When Poseidon told Percy that Sally is “a queen among women,” he was not wrong.

 

Patty and Nadine from The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

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Patty and Nadine are the two moms of twins Molly and Cassie, and baby boy Xavier. Both are the “cool” moms, the ones the kids are comfortable talking to and fully love and accept their kids for who they are. Patty shot down her mother for making inappropriate comments about Molly’s weight, something my parents never did for me when my grandmother was at me about my weight. That scene always sticks out in my memory.

 

Ella from The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

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Another “cool mom,” Ella acts more like a best friend than a mother to Alice. While that might present some problems, their dynamic somehow makes it work. Alice is the definition of an unlikeable main character, except Ella simply loves her and accepts her for who she is. At the end of the day, they are the center of each other’s world.

 

Charlotte Branwell from The Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare

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Charlotte had it together at twenty-three more than I did. She somehow managed to run the London Institute, keep up with her loving but scatterbrained husband, take care of three different teenagers that don’t always fully appreciate what she does, and be a boss among a bunch of sexist Shadowhunters. Charlotte is the kind of woman that makes you wonder, “how does she do it?”

 

Leda Strike from the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith

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Though we do not physically see Leda in the novels, her presence is known. Her death was her son Cormoran Strike’s motivation for going into the army in the first place. The reason she is on this list is because of what we learn about her during the flashbacks in Career of Evil. This woman went out of her way to do something extraordinarily kind for a street kid, simply because he was the same age her son was at the time. Leda even tried to help him get back on the straight and narrow before she died. Plus, Leda made Cormoran Strike, so there had to be something good in her.

 

Julian’s abuela from Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

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Most older adults would freak out if they found their little boy pretending to be a mermaid. Abuela is more mad that Julian used a curtain as his mermaid tail than the fact he was calling himself something “girly.” Instead, she gave him a necklace of beads and brought him to hang out with other mermaids. Only a special kind of parent or grandparent can do that.

 

Alys’s foster mom in The Beast is an Animal by Peternelle van Arsdale

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Most foster parents in young adult novels are not always good to the main characters. Alys’s foster mom is a midwife she lives with after her parents and the other adults in her former village are killed by demons from the woods. Alys knows she has magical abilities her Puritan society would never accept. However, her foster mom embraces her gifts, and teaches her the beauty of her nature magic. The two have a good relationship, developing into the closest thing to a mother-daughter bond two emotionally guarded women allow themselves to have.

 

Alana from the Saga graphic novels by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples

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Alana is an all-around badass, as a warrior and as a mother. Besides Molly and Sally, Alana is what I want to be like when I become a mother one day. She keeps it together, knows when to make hard choices, and always puts her family ahead of everything else. This is a mama you do not want to mess with.

 

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

Books I Will NEVER Reread

As my TBR pile grows each day, I occasionally think about books I still own that I want to reread. Recently, as I started looking through my bookshelves, thinking about books I want to unhaul. I also started thinking about books I could never reread.

The books that I read and ended up not liking are a given. I don’t think I am alone in assuming most people would not reread a book they hated. I mean…if you do, you do you. However, there were books I did like, even loved, when I read them, but distance has made me realize I could never reread them.

Those books are:

 

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

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Ever read a book you loved so much you want other people to read it too? That was the case with me and The Kite Runner. Khaled Hosseini’s writing is utterly beautiful and the story left a mark on me. I thought about rereading it, once, but there were certain things that made me too uncomfortable or angry. Which, of course, I’m sure was the author’s point. Instead, last year, I decided to pass The Kite Runner off to someone else that wants to read it.

 

Pretty Girl-13 by Liz Coley

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I’ve wanted to reread Pretty Girl-13 because I considered it one of my all-time favorite books. Then, something occurred to me. There is mental illness representation in this book I’m not sure would fly as well in 2020 as it did in 2013. Looking back on it now, it was written in an almost sensational way. I might be wrong, only I don’t want to find out if I am not.

 

The Darkness Rising trilogy by Kelley Armstrong

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Of all the books by Kelley Armstrong that I have read, The Darkness Rising trilogy are ones I never think about. They weren’t terrible; they just weren’t as entertaining to me as The Darkest Powers. The tensions weren’t as high. The motivations of the villains didn’t make any sense. I didn’t connect to the characters. So, yeah, a reread of The Darkness Rising trilogy is not happening.

 

Prey by Lurlene McDaniel

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Prey is another of the books I go back and forth on if I could ever reread it. Considering it covers a relationship between a male high school student and his female teacher, those types of books can be a hit or miss. This book didn’t sensationalize it, but it’s one of those books that make me wonder if I want to go on that emotional roller coaster again.

 

The Darkest Minds trilogy by Alexandra Bracken

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Since the movie adaption of The Darkest Minds came out, I started thinking back to this series. When I first read it, I enjoyed it. Now, once I took time to think about the actions of the characters, particularly Liam and Ruby, all I can think is those little shits. Ruby made some seriously bad decisions, don’t get me wrong, but Liam’s actions during In the Afterlight still piss me off. I might as well not reread the trilogy.

 

What are books you will never reread?

Ten of My Bookish Habits

I can’t begin to explain the unfair FOMO I felt when Shanah announced February’s Top 5 Tuesday topics. The life of a graduate student is filled with Top 5 Tuesday FOMO.

But this blog needs content and I need to get over my FOMO. And I really want to talk about my bookish habits. Because I have ten, not five. Or, well, I probably have more than ten, but who has time to go that deep?

Ten of my bookish habits are:

 

Using my local library

I am getting my Master’s in library and information science, so I should practice what I preach, right? As if I need to justify free books. While I love supporting the great institution I aim to spend the next thirty or so years of my career, it becomes a problem when I’m ignoring the unread books I have at home. Like right now.

 

No dog earring!

I have so many bookmarks it’s a sin. There is no excuse for me to dog-ear my books while I read. Every time I pick my next read, I painstakingly pick a bookmark that best matches it. I will even dump all of them on my bed until I find the right one.

 

I read only one book at a time

I’ve been trying this lately and it is confirmed: I cannot read more than one book at a time. How do I know this? I lose interest in the other book(s) I’m reading to focus on just one until it is finished. No matter how long it is.

 

I carry a book with me almost everywhere

Even if I know I will likely not have time to read during the day, I still bring a book with me.

 

I keep track of books I read in a month inside a notebook

I started using a notebook to track my monthly reading around the time everyone else was going crazy over bullet journals. I was too lazy to go through making spreads and what not, but I like making lists. Using a notebook seemed like the easiest way to keep track of what I read during the month as well as what I rated each book.

 

Buying books without reading more of the ones I own

All the three-part book hauls on my platform—and my bank account history—can attest to this. I mean, I love supporting bookstores as much as libraries and, since it’s my money, I can do what I want with it (within reason, of course).

 

Using Goodreads

I participate in Goodreads yearly reading challenges and I use it to keep track of all the books I read in a year. Whenever I have read a certain amount of pages, I update the status on Goodreads. I add books to my Goodreads “want to read” every day. I enter giveaways. Of all the social media I have, Goodreads is the one I use the most.

 

Taking forever to finish book series

This is a habit I am sure many of you can relate to. We read the first book, love it, and then wait two or three sequels before finishing the series. Or there’s a series you want to read, but the whole series comes out before you actually get around to it. I own several unread series that I have every intention of reading. Eventually.

 

Making reading lists and monthly TBRs

I love making reading lists. It’s a calming thing, a way to get my thoughts in order when I’m struggling to focus. I make lists of books I want to read at the moment or future TBRs. Do I stick to the reading lists? Not always. I do my best, though.

 

Rarely rereading books

I used to reread a lot when I was younger. That was before I had access to a well-stocked library or my own income to buy books. Now, I rarely do it.

 

 

Do you have any of the same bookish habits I do?

Books I Feel Differently About

Ever randomly think about a scene you read ages ago and it suddenly makes you as angry or sad or anxious as the day you read it? That’s been me, a lot, lately.

I think we all know that, as we get older, books we loved in high school are not going to be your favorites as an adult. Or even a book you read a year ago changes once you think about some problems in it. People get older, but books are timeless.

Here are books I have changed my opinion of in recent years:

 

Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead

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Vampire Academy is like chocolate cake: delicious though not quite healthy. There is also a problematic teacher/student romance, another relationship I think was toxic, and a character that, in my opinion, was butchered for the sake of providing motivation for a relationship. These books I think of more as 3 star reads instead of 5 stars now.

 

The Archie Sheridan series by Chelsea Cain

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I read the Archie Sheridan and Gretchen Lowell books during the height of my love for crime novels. I adored this series. Detective Archie Sheridan struggled with PTSD after being tortured by serial killer Gretchen Lowell. But he was genuinely a good guy, even if he went about it in the wrong way sometimes. When I recommended the books to a friend, she pointed out certain issues I had overlooked before that now left a bad taste in my mouth. I wanted to keep the books, only I gave them away a few months ago during my grad school’s book drive.

 

The Women of the Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong

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If you know anything about urban fantasy, you are likely familiar of the problematic themes within the genre. Despite the author’s best efforts at diversity, there was still a borderline abusive relationship and mistreatment of women. In other words, things I could ignore at sixteen but cannot at almost twenty-seven.

 

The House of Night series by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

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The House of Night was fun when I read it in high school. The fact that I feel differently about these books now is my own fault. I waited too long to try to complete the series. I read the first three books when I was still in junior high/high school, the prime reading age for House of Night. However, when I tried to get back in the series while during college, I found that I was “too old.” Meaning, the writing was just too juvenile for me to enjoy. I wanted more substance than the books could provide.

 

Blue Bloods series by Melissa de la Cruz

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Blue Bloods is another series I loved in high school, but by the time I started college, I had lost interest in completing the books. I had made it up to I think book five. The concept of morally gray vampires as reincarnated angels cursed to live on Earth to atone for their sins was fascinating. Then, incest was thrown in. I was fine with it at seventeen, probably because I had just read Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews. But now…how did I think that was cool?

 

Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes

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I read Hidden Bodies because I was still high on my love for its predecessor, You, when I initially picked it up. Then, the love faded and I could not bear to look at it anymore. Hidden Bodies was not nearly as funny or exciting as You. In fact, it was a downright cringe-fest. I don’t know what I gave it 3 stars on Goodreads. I guess I was still in denial at the time.

 

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

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Despite the 4 star rating, I have mixed feelings regarding I’ll Give You the Sun since I read it in 2015. I even contemplated unhauling it. While the sibling dynamic was fascinating, both twins had love interests I thought were toxic people and there was an element of cheating I was not a fan of. Looking back on it now, I don’t know if I liked I’ll Give You the Sun as much as I thought I did.

 

Anything Sweet Valley by Francine Pascal

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Sweet Valley was like soap operas in book form. All the characters beautiful, straight, thin, perfect white people. Unrealistic drama up the yang. I could go on. But these were also the books that got me into reading, so I can’t say anything too bad about them.

 

What are some books that you feel differently about since you last read them?

Books I Have Read But Do Not Want to Own: an Anti-Haul

I know…that sounds strange, coming from me.

I make it known on my blog that I am an avid library user and in school to become a librarian. I borrow books from the library for a multitude of reasons. Nine times out of ten, when I read a book I enjoyed from the library, I buy my own copy later. Or, I wanted to read it but didn’t get around to it. On the flip side to that, if I did not like a book I read from the library, I don’t even consider the possibility of buying it.

Yet, something I realized recently, after watching Emma from emmmabooks on YouTube make such a video, there are books I read and enjoyed from the library that I do not want to own. While there have been incidents where the book is out of print or so old finding a copy on even Amazon is hard to come by, there have been other situations where copies were available for purchase and I still felt no inclination to add them to my own personal book collection.

Here are books I have borrowed from the library over the years, enjoyed, and I have no desire to own them. All for various reasons. Those books are:

 

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

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I read The Red Tent from my college’s library right when the Lifetime miniseries was announced. It follows the younger sister, Dinah, of Joseph, the man of technicolor coat fame. She is a footnote in the Book of Genesis, as a girl who was raped by an Egyptian prince. But Anita Diamant takes that footnote and tears it apart. She gives Dinah a whole new story, and a brilliant backstory to a tribe of fascinating women. However, I gave The Red Tent four stars, which is by no means a bad rating. There were too many points where I was bored while reading and I did not connect to the characters like I expected.

 

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

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Shutter Island was a case where I saw the movie before reading the book. And, dare I say it, I enjoyed the movie more. That’s why I have never owned my own copy. The plot of this book, a federal marshal investigating the disappearance of a criminal mental patient at a secluded hospital, is meant more for the screen than the page. There are too many visual clues that most readers would only catch during a reread or after watching the movie. If you have seen the movie of Shutter Island with Leonardo di Caprio, you might know what I am talking about.

 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower because so many of my non-reader friends said they loved it. This is yet another blasphemous situation where I liked the movie more than the book. And, in all honesty, I did not love the movie either. I just prefer it to the book.

 

The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth

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The Secrets of Midwives is a great book for anyone that likes women’s fiction with strong themes of family, especially relationships between mothers and daughters. However, I will not buy my own copy because one of the three main characters made choices that made me too uncomfortable.

 

The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos

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The Mystery of Hollow Places was a young adult mystery focused on family that I gave four stars. But it is not a book I think about often, or at all. I barely remember much about it, to be honest.

 

The Memory Book by Lara Avery

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The Memory Book is one I have gone back and forth about buying. It follows a teen who is dying from a neurological illness and she keeps a journal to record memories for herself as she loses track of time. It felt like a realistic portrayal of a kid living with illness, one that actually acts like a teenager, not a philosopher. The fact that I have not bought it by now, since I read it back in 2017, says something else.

 

Definitions of Indefinable Things by Whitney Taylor

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Reggie, the main character of this book, is one of the best I have read in a book about a teen with mental illness. The primary reason I do not want to own Definitions of Indefinable Things is her love interest, Snake, who, in my opinion, was a total douchebag. Reggie wanted him to pay more attention to the girl he got pregnant, but he would not leave her alone. He was way too pushy and arrogant, grating on my nerves.

 

Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik

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Despite the great autism representation and how it affects families, namely siblings, I did not love Things I Should Have Known. The plot twist was not something I approved of, meant more for drama. The characters and plot were flat. I still recommend it if you are looking for books with autism representation, though.

 

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

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In all honesty, I go back and forth on this book. I really enjoyed Every Last Word for turning the “popular mean girl” trope on its head, the OCD representation, and great character development. There were so many things I liked about this book, yet the big reveal was so far out there, it took me out of the story. Then again, I am not a psychological medical professional, so what do I know if such a thing could happen?

 

On the Fence by Kasie West

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On the Fence is one of Kasie West’s earlier works, which I have heard are not as great as her more recent published novels. On the Fence was a little sexist, if I am being honest. Why should a girl have to take sports pointers from a boy when she clearly knows what she is doing? And what’s wrong with being a tomboy?

 

The Opposite of Innocent by Sonya Sones

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I do not have a problem with pedophilia in books, but it does make me uncomfortable sometimes. While The Opposite of Innocent is a book I think handled the subject well, the fact that Luke, the predator of this novel, had a similar description to a man I like got under my skin.

 

Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar

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Vanessa and Her Sister is a book you might see on my favorites list this year, most likely under the “honorable mentions.” Given that I’m not sure if I would ever reread it, I don’t think I want my own copy. At least not right now.

 

Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan 

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Rainbirds had beautiful writing and messes with your brain cells. Only it was one of those “once is enough” books for me. Unless I really wanted to not get out of my head. Regardless, you might see this also under the “honorable mentions” of my favorites list.

 

Praise Song for the Butterflies by Bernice L. McFadden

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Praise Song for the Butterflies was the first book I read in 2019. It was a library book that I almost gave five stars. I would compare this book to The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini: a beautiful punch in the gut. It centers around shrine slavery in West Africa and the horrors of what these girls go through. While I appreciated the topic it covered and highly recommend it to anyone that wants to learn more about it, Praise Song for the Butterflies is definitely another “once is enough” book for me.

 

There are probably more books I have forgotten. The books on this list were ones that I particularly liked. I didn’t mention the library books I read that I didn’t like, because that would make this list much longer than it already is.

 

What is a book you read from the library, or in another format, that you would not want to own a copy?  

Top 5 Tuesday: Top 10 All-Time Favorite Books of 2019 (so far)

Thank you Shanah for taking pity on us for this week’s topic. I had no idea how I could narrow it down my all-time favorite books to five, never mind ten. But even that list will go far beyond ten.

Since we are coming up on the halfway point of 2019, it seemed like a fitting time to do a check in on my overall reading of this year. This list is comprised of ten of my favorite books I’ve read so far in 2019. Those are:

 

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

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I Am the Messenger has not gotten the best reviews compared to Markus Zusak’s other novel The Book Thief, but, as you can see, I enjoyed it. I liked the writing style and the coverage of different issues young people face in their lives and the desire to be something greater than yourself. Ed carried the book with his good heart, strong moral compass, and dry sense of humor. You might have to suspend your disbelief on certain scenarios, but I like that in contemporary novels.

 

Saga, Vol. 9 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples

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The latest volume in the Saga graphic novel series, I was bored throughout most of it. While it covered a topic like irrational fear spread through fake news, not much happened. Then, the ending did. While I saw it coming in the first volume, it had not gone the way I expected. It hit me with all the feelings and took me a couple of days to recover. I have no idea what I’m going to do until volume 10.

 

To Make Monsters Out of Girls by Amanda Lovelace

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Yet again, Amanda Lovelace has earned a spot on my favorites. I loved To Make Monsters Out of Girls, in which she opens up about her experiences with being The Other Woman and domestic violence. While she is honest about her mistakes and what choices she made cost her, she also reminds women that they will not always be the bad guy and they are still worthy of love and respect. I still have not figured out how to review poetry. The best I can offer is my emotional reaction, which is I felt everything.

 

Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

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Marina is set in 1970s Barcelona, Spain and follows fifteen-year-old Oscar, who gets swept up in a dark mystery with an enigmatic girl named Marina. Like all his other books, it had beautiful, descriptive writing and a twisty plot that you never knew where it was going to take you next. This is one of those books where you are better off going into the plot knowing as little as possible.

 

A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin

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Another library book I went into with mediocre expectations, A School for Unusual Girls is set during the era of Napoleon at an English boarding school where girls with “unusual” gifts—i.e. a knack for science like the protagonist Georgie—are trained to be spies. I loved this book. It was fun and fast-paced. Georgie and the other girls at the school, along with their headmistress Emma, are all strong, smart, and independent in their own right. The guys—Sebastian Wyatt, Captain Gray, Lord Ravencross—were all swoon-worthy and the relationships were adorable. A School for Unusual Girls is the first book in the series, so you better believe I will be buying my own copy of this book, as well as the next two books.

 

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus

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Two Can Keep a Secret blew me out of the water. I flew through it in a few days, probably finishing homework too quickly to get back to reading. I liked all the characters—true crime buff protagonist Ellery, her twin brother Ezra, Malcolm, who is the other narrator, and Malcolm’s best friend Mia—and the writing and the plot made me want to keep reading. Then, it ended with likely the best line a mystery novel can end with.  

 

Invisible Ghosts by Robyn Schneider

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This book got a tiny bit of hype on BookTube when it first came out a year or two ago, but I almost completely forgot about Invisible Ghosts until I found it browsing my library. It is one of the few books I saw both my current and past selves represented in a character. Rose Asher is an introvert intentionally cutting herself off from the world not only out of shyness, but to spend time with the ghost of her older brother Logan. You see her gradually come out of her shell as she finds her “people” as well as comes to terms with her grief. It’s one of the books on this list I still catch myself thinking about frequently.

 

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

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Vicious is a book I have heard nothing but amazing things about for years and I finally read it. Thankfully, it lived up to the hype. V.E. Schwab did a good job blurring the lines between good and evil, and painting the world she created with more gray than black and white. For a sociopath, Victor Vale was surprisingly more likeable than I expected him to be. His friendship with Mitch and his protectiveness of Sydney added a deeper human quality to him. As for Eli, he was one of the most interesting villains I’ve read. The writing was also amazing and the plot was fast-paced and entertaining.

 

Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc by David Elliott

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Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc was in my most recent book haul. I was not planning on reading it. But it was calling my attention from its new home on my bookshelves and I was looking for something short to read, being in the height of finals at the time. I finished this book in a day and it was amazing. The writing was lyrical, written in various styles of medieval poetry, through the eyes of Joan, the people that knew her, and other perspectives, even inanimate objects. It explored different issues of sexism in medieval society and how ultimately Joan was killed by the patriarchy she was trying to protect. That hit the barb home.

 

Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson

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Another novel written in verse and another of my most recent purchases, Shout was another anticipated release this year that I had to read before I picked up any other book. It is a memoir, in which the author opens up about her parents’ tumultuous relationship caused by her father’s PTSD and drinking, her rape at thirteen, how she learned to cope with her trauma in the years following, and what led her to become an advocate for survivors of sexual assault, which then led to her writing Speak. Though it was not quite a five-star book like I expected, Shout was still a powerful novel that I highly recommend everyone read.

 

What is your favorite book you’ve read so far this year?

Top 5 Tuesday: 11 Debut Novels I Want to Buy (Eventually)

One of the things I love about Shanah’s Top 5 Tuesday topics is that she leaves them open to interpretation. With “Top 5 Debut Novels,” I could not keep it at five. There are a lot of books coming out this summer, or are already out, that I have my eye on. Worse still, my new top is smack in between two bookstores. But the promise of textbooks on the horizon and empty hangers asking for new clothes in my closet have me trying to refrain from going overboard with every paycheck.

Key word trying.

            Here are the eleven debut novels I am most excited to add to my bookshelves (or check out from the library, whichever comes for):

 

Again, but Better by Christine Riccio

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I’ve been following Christine’s writing vlogs since she started her novel project in 2016. Besides liking Christine and her videos, I’m drawn to this book anyway. The cover is super pretty and it’s about a shy bookworm that studies abroad in London in hopes of getting out of her shell to improve her college experience.

 

Wilder Girls by Rory Power

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An all-girls boarding school on an island is quarantined after a virus infects and kills the teachers then leaves the students horribly mutilated. The girls are left to fend for themselves on the island to wait for a cure and never go beyond the walls of the school. But when one goes missing, another girl dares to venture into the world outside to find her. In doing so, she uncovers more to the story than what she and her friends knew.

 

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

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A girl disguises herself as a man to hunt in a cursed forest to feed her village and a prince assassinates those who dare to challenge his father the sultan. They are two heroes that don’t want to be heroes. Now one has to hunt the other as they are both in search of an ancient artifact that can save their kingdom from war.

 

Nocturna by Maya Motayne

Screenshot_2019-06-02 Nocturna (A Forgery of Magic, #1)

Finn is a skilled thief and shapeshifter that can disguise her face as anyone she wants. She’s blackmailed by a mobster to steal something from the royal palace, which causes her to cross paths with Prince Alfie. Grief-stricken by the murder of his older brother, Alfie feels he can never live up to his brother’s legacy and seeks forbidden magic to bring him back from the dead. But when he meets the shapeshifting thief, an evil force is accidentally unleashed. Aside from having a gorgeous cover, Nocturna is also based in Dominican mythology, something I am very interested in reading.

 

The Tiger at Midnight by Swati Teerdhala

Screenshot_2019-06-02 The Tiger at Midnight (The Tiger at Midnight Trilogy, #1)

Having just watched the live-action Aladdin, I’m craving more desert fantasy. Based on Indian and Hindu mythology, The Tiger at Midnight follows a rebel called the Viper and a soldier who are forced into a power play as the Viper seeks revenge for those who took everything from her. Both think they’re calling the shots, but they are only pawns in a larger, deadly game.

 

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

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Spin the Dawn was a book I heard about on Hailey in Bookland’s most anticipated books of 2019 then forgot it until I made this list. A girl disguises herself as a boy to join a competition to become the emperor’s royal tailor to provide for her family. Then, she is presented the challenge of creating three dresses for the emperor’s betrothed—from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of the stars—and travels to the depths of the kingdom, finding more than she anticipated.

 

Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju

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Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens follows a bored, awkward queer teen named Nima who is in love with her straight friend and still reeling from her mom’s sudden departure. After an encounter at a festival, she is drawn into the drag scene where she not only learns how to love and accept it and herself, but also how to accept when love is lost. Plus, this cover is so freaking pretty.

 

How it Feels to Float by Helena Fox

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Biz lost her dad when she was seven, although everyone but her thinks that. She doesn’t tell anyone she can still see him, or about her chaotic thought patterns, or how she kissed her friend Grace or noticed the new boy Jasper. Then, something happens to Biz one day at the beach and the strings that held her together for so long finally give way at the seams. The ghost of her dad disappears, leaving her to wonder if it might be easier to either disappear altogether or find her dad and bring him back to her. But there is a third option Biz has yet to find.

 

The Beholder by Anna Bright

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Selah is a princess that has waited her whole life to embrace her duty to marry for her kingdom and find happily ever after. But after a humiliating public rejection, she goes along with her stepmother’s plan of travelling the seas from country to country to find a husband. If she doesn’t come back engaged, she doesn’t come home at all. But while Selah embarks on the journey of a lifetime, she finds more than her stepmother’s schemes hiding belowdecks.

 

This is Not a Love Scene by S.C. Megale

Screenshot_2019-06-02 This Is Not a Love Scene

Aspiring filmmaker Maeve has a rare form of muscular dystrophy and is wheelchair-bound. Her friends and passion for what she does distracts her from constant rejection from the opposite sex. Then, she meets Cole Stone, a hot older guy starring in her senior film project that is giving her looks she’s never gotten before. With this new attention and unexpected confidence, Maeve gets a taste of teenaged dating life, both physically and emotionally. But when it comes to choosing between what she needs and what she wants, and getting an answer out of Cole, suddenly romance doesn’t look so fun anymore.

 

The Art of Breaking Things by Laura Sibson

Screenshot_2019-06-02 The Art of Breaking Things

Skye is enjoying her time partying with friends and counting down to graduation and art school until her mom rekindles a romance with the man who betrayed Skye’s trust years ago. Too young to understand what happened to her, she kept quiet. Torn between running away and staying to protect her younger sister, she must find the courage to reveal the secret she’s hidden for so long. With the help of her friends and her artwork, Skye becomes her best ally and finds her words.

 

What is your most anticipated debut of the summer or of 2019 overall?

 

           

My Favorite Books of 2018

When I was making this list, I realized I read a lot of good books in 2018. More than I have in previous years, I think. In finding my favorites, I stuck with the ones who left a lasting impression on me, made me feel a lot of feelings, or I found myself thinking about often. Thus, save one, these books are arranged in no particular order.

Still, it was hard to keep the number down.

 

The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace

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If I had to choose which book was my absolute favorite of the year, it would without a doubt be The Princess Saves Herself in This One. Even more surprising, it is a book of poetry, something I don’t often reach for. I even remember the day I read it.

I read The Princess Saves Herself in This One roughly a month after my mother died. In addition to dealing with my grief, there were other things going on that took a hit at my self-esteem and self-worth. I picked up The Princess Saves Herself in This One at bedtime then didn’t stop until I finished it until the wee hours of the morning. Amanda Lovelace had said the words I needed to hear. I had felt validated and empowered.

 

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

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I find it ironic: last year, Riley Sager’s debut novel, Final Girls, was on my disappointing reads of the year. The Last Time I Lied, in my opinion, was way better. It was fast-paced and engaging. The plot had me guessing and the author did a good job leaving breadcrumbs, building the suspense. Most of the characters were likeable, but they were not all innocent. And the ending blew me out of the water. I would definitely reread The Last Time I Lied, now that I own my own copy.

 

Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco

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I don’t know where to begin in describing my love for the Stalking Jack the Ripper series. Audrey Rose is strong, smart, and sassy, but she has a vulnerable side she learns to embrace. Thomas Cresswell is flawed, but still knows how to pull at your heartstrings and he really does try to do right by those he cares for. The setting of Romania was beautiful; the way Kerri Maniscalco wrote it made me want to visit the country, especially the old castle the medical school is set in. Lastly, the mystery was fun and twisty, and more than a little bloody.

 

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

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Eliza and Her Monsters was another book that hit me with the feels. I saw a lot of my teenaged self—and my current self—in Eliza. She was shy and had trouble making friends. She wanted to let people in, but it felt safer in the world of fiction. She loved the art she created, putting herself into something that her family didn’t really understand. Then, she met someone who allowed her to let her walls down. The romance was adorable. Eliza and Her Monsters was a quick read that played with my emotions. I actually felt seen in this book.

 

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

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There is no other word to describe My Lady Jane better than fun. While I had read Cynthia Hand’s Unearthly trilogy and enjoyed it, I went into My Lady Jane with low expectations. It was good that I did, though. The world was a good blend of history and fantasy. The authors wrote this book like an entertaining textbook where they broke the fourth wall and narrated the story to the reader like this is actually what happened to the real-life Lady Jane Grey. The characters were amazing and the romance was adorable. Why did I wait until 2018 to read it?

 

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

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I absolutely adored Heartless. The writing was delicious and lyrical. The world of Wonderland was as magical as it was dark, better than Lewis Carroll’s version, in my opinion. The story was compelling, watching Cath go from a sweet girl who only wanted to open a bakery with her best friend to the evil Queen of Hearts. It didn’t just happen; there were different factors that contributed to her falling apart in what I thought was a realistic way. I know it’s a stand-alone, but I really want a sequel to Heartless where Cath meets Alice.

 

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

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I know a lot of people were disappointed by Flame in the Mist. It was advertised as a Mulan retelling but it didn’t really have that. I personally still enjoyed the book regardless. Mariko is the kind of protagonist I want to see more of in young adult: her brain is her weapon instead of a sword. The romance was steamy, even if it felt a little like insta-love. I liked the world of feudalist Japan Renee Ahdieh created. The writing was as beautiful and captivating as ever. Flame in the Mist is the kind of book I would be scared to reread someday because I don’t want to find anything that could taint my love for it.

 

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

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One of the most polarizing books published in 2018, I originally checked out The Hazel Wood from the library because I had no idea how I would feel about it. As you can see, I enjoyed it very much. Melissa Albert writes so beautifully you would never guess this was her debut novel. The protagonist, Alice, was unlikeable in every sense of the word, but she had a reason to be the way she was. The world of the novel was dark and creepy. My favorite part of the book was definitely the fairy tales, how they were way more twisted than even the Grimm Brothers, without the moral lessons at the end. The Hazel Wood is written like a stand-alone, though I am glad we are getting more books.

 

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

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The Astonishing Color of After was one of the most hyped books of 2018, and it is well deserved. Others said it was slow, but I read it in two days. I was immediately sucked in. The writing was beautiful and handled the topic of suicide in a delicate yet hopeful way. Emily X.R. Pan blended contemporary and magical realism beautifully. The characters were realistic in that some of their decisions made me mad. I loved Leigh, the protagonist, and how she handled her mother’s passing and her determination to get the answers she deserved. Unfortunately, I currently don’t own a copy of The Astonishing Color of After but once I do, I just might reread it (eventually).

 

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

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I read books one through four of The Heroes of Olympus series in 2018. I liked The Lost Hero. The ending of The Mark of Athena broke my heart. The House of Hades put me on the edge of my seat. But I didn’t love those as much as I did the second novel in th series, The Son of Neptune. The plot was fun and not as intense, at least until the end. Percy was at his finest, and beats Rhysand in the book boyfriend department (fight me). Hazel and Frank are my two new favorite demigods, after Leo Valdez. And I laughed a lot while reading The Son of Neptune, which is a surefire way to get on my favorites list.

 

Daughter of the Siren Queen by Tricia Levenseller

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The concluding novel in the Daughter of the Pirate King duology was just as fun, exciting, and steamy as the first one. Alossa is a fiery, prideful protagonist I could not help but adore. Riden is swoon-worthy and the romance was written in a way that made me feel all of what they were feeling—love and pain. The story was fast-paced and thrilling. Life on the seas was brutal but there was never a dull moment with Alossa and her pirate crew. Plus, there was a great fantasy element thrown in with the world of sirens as well as watching Alossa battle with her dual nature.

 

What was your absolute favorite book that you read in 2018?

 

Least Favorite Books of 2018

I really don’t like it when I don’t like a book.

I don’t like it when I dislike a book because I know the author worked hard to produce it. I don’t like hating a book because it makes some people feel bad for liking said book. Most of these books have pretty decent ratings on Goodreads, so I know people like them. But no one reads the same book.

If you have read any of these and liked them, I am glad. If any of these sound interesting to you, I still encourage you to read them if you want to.

Here are my least favorite books of 2018:

 

The Life and Death Parade by Eliza Wass

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This is a book I went into fully prepared for the fact I might not like it, due to a previous negative reading experience with Eliza Wass’s debut novel, The Cresswell Plot. Still, the concept of The Life and Death Parade fascinated me.

I genuinely liked Eliza Wass’s writing style. The Life and Death Parade was very atmospheric. The portrayal of the protagonist Kitty’s grief felt realistic. Unfortunately, that was all the book had going for it. The characters were flat and had virtually no motivation or development. The book was wrapped up way too quickly. And the plot was weak, the little that was there.

 

Lizzie by Dawn Ius

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When I first heard about this book, a modern-day retelling of the Lizzie Borden murders, I was all for it. Then, I checked it out from the library and, the entire time I was asking myself: what am I reading?

            It was literally uncomfortable to read. That’s all I remember about it. That’s how bad this book was for me.

 

A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell

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I picked up A Simple Favor from the library because of the movie. In theory, it sounded like a fun chick-lit mystery. Then, I opened it to find bad writing, boring characters, and predictable plot. This was another book that was admittedly painful for me to read. It is also likely my most viewed book review, too. I don’t hold back on my feelings for A Simple Favor.

 

Girls on the Line by Jennie Liu

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Despite the seriousness of the topics covered in this novel—bride trafficking, the One-Child Policy in China—Girls on the Line was ultimately a dry read that dragged on for how short it was. The characters had some depth to them and it focused heavily on female friendship, except it took forever to get to the point and the ending for one character is not one I would have chosen for her.

 

Charlotte’s Web & Stuart Little by E.B. White

There is no other word to describe these two little novels but dull. Maybe because I’m 25 reading a book meant for children. I didn’t feel the emotional impact Charlotte’s Web was supposed to deliver nor did I understand the motive behind Stuart Little. Again, it could be my age, but the writing style just did not do it for me.

 

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is probably one of the most beloved young adult novels to be published in the last ten years. Unfortunately, for me, the writing was cringey and repetitive. It was also overly philosophical for two fifteen-year-old boys, yet dumbed down. As characters, I could put up with Aristotle, at least in the beginning, but Dante got on my nerves most of the time (the boy whined too much). The boys were a little too obsessed with each other to be healthy. The romance felt completely forced. And plot, what plot?

I’ll stop now….

 

Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann

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For what it’s worth, Let’s Talk About Love is packed with diversity. The protagonist, Alice, is black and biromantic asexual. Her love interest, Takumi, is Japanese. There are all kinds of great quotes on asexuality as well as how love and sex are not mutually exclusive. On the flip side to that, the writing was too juvenile. The characters were supposed to be college-aged, yet it felt like they were younger than that. And there was a lot of other drama thrown in that was not as developed as it should have been.

 

What was your least favorite book of 2018?