Between the Bliss and Me by Lizzy Mason

Acclaimed author Lizzy Mason delivers a moving contemporary YA novel about mental illness, young romance, and the impact of family history on one teen’s future, perfect for fans of Jandy Nelson, Robin Benway, and Kathleen Glasgow.
When eighteen-year-old Sydney Holman announces that she has decided to attend NYU, her overprotective mom is devastated. Her decision means she will be living in the Big City instead of commuting to nearby Rutgers like her mom had hoped. It also means she’ll be close to off-limits but dreamy Grayson—a guitar prodigy who is going to Juilliard in the fall and very much isn’t single.
But while she dreams of her new life, Sydney discovers a world-changing truth about her father, who left when she was little due to a drug addiction—that he has schizophrenia and is currently living on the streets of New York City. She seizes the opportunity to get to know him, to understand who he is and learn what may lie in store for her if she, too, is diagnosed.
Even as she continues to fall for Grayson, Sydney is faced with a difficult decision: Should she stay close to home so her mom can watch over her, or follow the desire to take risks and discover her true self?

Between the Bliss and Me

Okay, this was not an easy book to read. It centers around mental health and mental illnesses. So, I want to start by saying that because I think this was a really good story but it’s not going to be for anyone. Also, thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Sydney just turned eighteen. She’s getting ready to go off to college, except she’s not going to the college that her mom thinks she’s going to. Sydney, with the help of her grandparents, has decided that she wants to go to NYU. This is not what Sydney and her mom discussed and agreed to. Sydney’s mom has always been over protective. And she learns why when she visits her grandparents beach house. She learns that her mom has been keeping information about her father from her. Her father has schizophrenia. She also learns that there is a chance she could develop symptoms over the next few years. While all of this is going on, she meets a boy, Grayson. She has a crush on him and ends up seeing him while she’s staying with her grandparents. The only problem with her crush on Grayson? He has a girlfriend. He also has a really bitchy cousin.
So, I really liked Sydney. She’s anxious all the time, but she doesn’t let her anxiety stop her. She stands up for herself. She has all these doubts about herself, but they don’t really show on the outside. I really liked how Sydney was portrayed and how her emotions and reactions were shown. I don’t have personal experience with schizophrenia so I can’t speak to the accuracy of the representation, but it seemed it be handled thoughtfully from my outside perspective. I thought it was interesting the way that Mason managed to show how everyone reacts differently to mental illness. We see Sydney’s grandparents come to a slow realization that there’s nothing they can do for their son, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t try to help him in any way they can again and again. We see Sydney’s mom listen to her husband when he asks her to let him go. There’s also some really good conversation about the lack of support available for people with mental illnesses, about the unfairness of the courts and prison systems when it comes to caring for people with mental illnesses. I think these topics were well done.
Now, the romance with Grayson was the one thing in this story that I didn’t really care for. I think everything that was done could have been left the same, minus Grayson as a romantic interest. I think it could have been a completely platonic relationship and the story would still have had the same effect. I don’t think this needed to be romantic in anyway. I think it would have been an even better story had it just been Sydney’s story about learning to accept herself.
Overall, I think this was a really hard hitting and emotional portrayal about what it’s like to have a family member with a mental illness and feeling helpless to help them. I especially liked Sydney’s friends. Eliot is the light of my life and I loved every moment that he was on the page. I also really loved Magda. Magda reminded me of quite a few of my friends from my hometown, which is a beachy town like the one in parts of this book. So, we also get people from other countries that come over on a student visa and work for the summer. I always loved working with them. They, much like Magda were always so interesting and fun to be around. They also always threw the best parties. I think this will be a book that some will really love and others will not. So, take this review with a grain of salt and read it if the topic is one that you can handle.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: The Wicker King by K. Ancrum

GoodReads Summary:
When August learns that his best friend, Jack, shows signs of degenerative hallucinatory disorder, he is determined to help Jack cope. Jack’s vivid and long-term visions take the form of an elaborate fantasy world layered over our own—a world ruled by the Wicker King. As Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy in this alternate world, even August begins to question what is real or not.
August and Jack struggle to keep afloat as they teeter between fantasy and their own emotions. In the end, each must choose his own truth.
The Wicker King by K. AncrumReview:
The Wicker King was incredible and I’m not really sure how to explain why I feel that way. The writing was the first thing that caught my attention that I liked. It wasn’t quite a stream of consciousness but sort of reminded me of that style. I really liked the writing style. It made the story really easy to devour. This was not an easy story to read. We follow August’s perspective as his best friend, Jack, lets his hallucinations get worse and worse. At first, the story seemed like a fun not quite fantastical story where the two boys were going to quest for whatever it was Jack’s other world needed to be saved. But as things got more serious it was clear that the pair were in over their heads, even if they didn’t want to admit it. Both come from not great home lives. August’s mom has depression and he takes care of her more than she does him. Jack’s parents are basically nonexistent. Both Jack and August are basically just doing the best they can.
Despite their struggles, it was really hard not to like both of them. The relationship they share is clearly incredibly special to them both even though it isn’t always a super healthy relationship. I also really enjoyed the side characters (the twins were my favorite). All of the side characters added something important to the story and I liked them all.
Overall, this story blew me away. This review is short and that is intentional because there isn’t a whole lot I can say without spoiling things. I especially liked the color formatting that was done as the story and the character’s progress. I definitely will be reading all of Ancrum’s books in the future.


“If you drop the weight you are carrying, it is okay. You can build yourself back up out of the pieces.”

“Where we are, there is light.” The wind blew hard from the east and the trees rustled their branches. “From where I’m standing… it is warm enough.”

“You deserve to heal and grow, too. You deserve to have someone to talk to about your problem; you deserve unconditional support; you deserve care and safety and all the things you need to thrive. Just because you may not have them doesn’t mean you don’t deserve them.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

All Our Broken Pieces by L.D. Crichton

Lennon Davis doesn’t believe in much, but she does believe in the security of the number five. If she flicks the bedroom light switch five times, maybe her new L.A. school won’t suck. But that doesn’t feel right, so she flicks the switch again. And again. Ten more flicks of the switch and maybe her new step family will accept her. Twenty-five more flicks and maybe she won’t cause any more of her loved ones to die. Fifty times more and then she can finally go to sleep.
Kyler Benton witnesses this pattern of lights from the safety of his treehouse in the yard next door. It is only there, hidden from the unwanted stares of his peers, that Kyler can fill his notebooks with lyrics that reveal the true scars of the boy behind the oversized hoodies and caustic humor. But Kyler finds that descriptions of blonde hair, sad eyes, and tapping fingers are beginning to fill the pages of his notebooks. Lennon, the lonely girl next door his father has warned him about, infiltrates his mind. Even though he has enough to deal with without Lennon’s rumored tragic past in his life, Kyler can’t help but want to know the truth about his new muse.
All Our Broken PiecesReview:
All Our Broken Pieces has quickly become a new all-time favorite book of mine. So, I have to send a huge thank you to EBS and Her Reads for recommending this book to me. I would have read this in one sitting if I hadn’t fallen asleep while reading it at about 2am. I just could not put it down. The writing was flowery, but not overly so. The characters were flawed, but relatable. The romance was sweet and swoony. I just loved everything about it.
Lennon was flawed but worked hard every day to accept her flaws and love herself anyway. She was a little quirky and that just made me love her more. She was a trivia buff which I thought was an interesting chapter opener for the chapters with her perspectives. I loved her relationship with her younger half-brother, Jacob. He’s so sweet and innocent and the way he and Lennon interact just warmed my little heart every time Jacob was on the page.
Kyler was not my favorite in the beginning, but after we got past the ‘damaged tough guy’ facade I started to really like him. When he started to open up and let himself be vulnerable around Lennon, I really loved him. Seeing him learn how to love himself through Lennon’s eyes. He’s also a writer which I enjoyed seeing. I feel like I don’t read enough books that have male characters that write. It’s always the female main character that wants to be a writer.
My favorite thing about this book was the family dynamics and relationships. The sibling bonds between Jacob and Lennon were so sweet and I loved everything about them. Then there was also Kyler’s relationship with his sister Macy. I thought they were so well done and they really hit me in the feels. They made me thing about my siblings and I loved it. I also really enjoyed the relationship between Lennon and her step-mother, Claire. I have a step-mother and Claire totally reminded me of her. Claire tries her best to love her and be there for her in whatever way that she can, even if Lennon isn’t always receptive to it.
The only thing I didn’t like was Andrea. She was awful, but it was never really explained why she was awful and there was no real resolution to their situation. This bothered me a little, but not enough to dampen my love for the book as a whole.
Finally, the OCD representation was really interesting for me. We see Lennon explain it in simple terms so that Jacob can understand, but we also get to see here explain it to Kyler and again to her dad. I feel like I learned a lot about it. I can’t personally speak to the accuracy of the OCD rep, but I thought it was well done from an outsider’s perspective. I also really appreciated the inclusion of therapy for Lennon. She sees a therapist, Levi, twice a week. He’s totally my favorite. I loved him. He was funny and stylish and a great addition to the story. There are also a few weeks where Lennon stays at a recovery center. I thought this was also a great addition to the story.
Overall, I adored this book. It has a mixture of a few different stories that it’s sort of retelling. There’s the obvious, Romeo & Juliet, that is referenced specifically while they work on an English project and then seem to fall into the story with certain events. There are also some Phantom of the Opera themes too along with a hint of Beauty and the Beast. I think this was an excellent contemporary story with characters that I adored. I think anyone that enjoys reading stories about mental health, this is a must.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Love. Loss. Liberty.
Andie Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and angry at the world for taking her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And her father has determined that Andi’s accompanying him to Paris over winter break is the solution to everything.
But Paris is a city of ghosts for Andi. And when she finds a centuries-old diary, the ghosts begin to walk off the page. Alexandrine, the owner of the journal, knew heartbreak also, and Andi finds comfort in the girl’s words. Until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present.
I received this book for my birthday from my best friend, Colleen. She explained that it’s one of her favorites and was surprised that I hadn’t read it. She bought it for me as part of my birthday gift last month. I was intrigued by the premise and got so much more than I expected from this story.
I generally don’t pick out historical fiction as a genre I read often, but when I do they are usually excellent books. Revolution certainly fills that standard. An excellent story it was for sure. Growing up in the United States, I learned primarily about American history doing my schooling. So going into this book I didn’t know very much about the French Revolution. I learned so much in this book that I didn’t previously know. I was a little worried I was going to be bored once the journal entries started and I realized that this was a historical fiction novel. I was not bored in the slightest. The back and forth between Andi’s story and Alex’s story kept it interesting. History is not one of my favorite subjects so it was nice to have Andi’s story to break up the massive amounts of information we were getting from Alex.
I liked all of the characters in this book. Andi is a deeply troubled girl. After losing her brother, she’s drowing in grief and blames herself for his death. She almost kills herself many times. I think the best thing this book did was accurately portray grief. Loosing someone you love can overwhelm you and take over your life. It can be so hard to deal with and move forward from that it consumes you and nothing else seems like it matters. I feel as if this story also accurately portrays depression and anxiety. Andi is so deep in her own troubles, taking too many of her pills that are supposed to be helping. Hallucinating, suicidal, she’s a girl with many problems. But these problems made her real. They made her relatable. I also like that at the ending they weren’t just magically resolved. She still had her problems, but she was slowly pulling herself out of the hole she was in and moving forward. She’s not cured but she’s trying.
Alex was an impressive character. Being alive during the French Revolution is not something I would want. She’s a character that also knows hardship and grief, but she deals with it differently than Andi. She’s fiercely loyal and incredibly brave. She fights for what she believes in and does her best to do the right thing for the people she loves. I wish she had met a better end, but the Revolution was a hard time to live in.

“I will go out again this very night with my rockets and fuses. I will blow them straight out of their comfortable beds. Blow the rooftops off their houses. Blow the black, wretched night to bits. I will not stop. For I mad I may be, but I will never be convenient.”

Revolution had some great supporting characters. Andi’s best friend back home was great. He knew she was having a hard time and did his best to be there for her even while she was in another country. Andi manages to make some friends while she’s in Paris and I loved them. Virgil is a total dream boat. He’s totally into Andi even if she doesn’t realize it for a while. He’s sweet and caring, but also intelligent with goals for his life. I totally loved him for Andi. He was supportive of her, even when she was being a totally bitch.
The last aspect of this book I want to talk about was the music. Books and music are two of my favorite things, but I can’t play or write music to save my life. This story features several musicians that use music to soothe their soul. Music is Andi’s passion and I love that we really see her come alive when she’s playing or listening to or talking about music. It played a huge part in this book and I really loved it. It was super interesting to read about, even for someone that doesn’t understand anything about making music.

“I’m wishing that he could see that music lives. Forever. That it’s stronger than death. Stronger than time. And that its strength holds you together when nothing else can.”

Overall, I totally loved this story. My only complaint is that the ending felt as if it was a little bit rushed. Andi spent so much time walking around Paris and reading Alex’s journal that I was already 300+ pages in before the real action happened. Even the epilogue felt rushed. We were told everything about Andi’s life one year later. There was definitely some opportunity to ‘show not tell’ toward the end of the book and the opposite toward the middle of the story. I loved the characters. I love that I learned about history and music. I loved this book.

“Every heart is made of stories.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

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