Hurricane Summer by Asha Bromfield

Summary:
The powerful and emotional debut novel from Riverdale and Locke and Key actress Asha Bromfield that deals with colorism, classism, young love, the father-daughter dynamic—and what it means to discover your own voice in the center of complete destruction.
Hurricane SummerReview:
Thank you, NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with this eARC in exchange for an honest review. Hurricane Summer follows Tilla while she visits Jamaica, where her father lives, for the summer with her younger sisters, Mia. I will say right now, there are explicit scenes of sexual assault, and quite a few other scenes of serious mistreatment that I would call emotional and verbal abuse from family.
Tilla has a really hard relationship with her father. She remembers the good times in Canada when her mom and dad were happy. She remembers the time where they fight and yell and then her dad goes back to Jamaica for periods of time before returning to her family. This time he’s been gone for a while and she doesn’t think he will be coming back. So, her and her sister are going to Jamaica for the summer and Tilla is so angry with her dad. She feels like he forgot about her, like he doesn’t want to be a part of their family anymore. But the moment she sees him at the airport, all that goes away. She’s happy to see him, to be with him. But the plans keep changing and she has to keep reminding herself that her father never sticks to what he says. Tilla and her sister end up at the family home in the country. They’re both excited to meet their family. Tilla is especially excited to reunite with her cousin Andre, one of the few cousins she remembers. The summer doesn’t turn out to be all sunshine and quality family time as she hopes. One of her aunts treats her horribly when her father isn’t around and tells lies when she reports back to Tilla’s father. Every time Tilla finds an afternoon of happiness, it’s torn down by her family, people that are supposed to love her.
This was a really emotional story. From the familial abuse, to the death of a family member, Tilla does her best to hold it together. She was such a strong main character. She always did her best to make the best situation she could for herself. I absolutely loved the moments she spends with her cousins, exploring the country. These were some of my favorite parts of the book. It was really hard to see Tilla just take the abuse from some of her cousins and aunts, and even her father. I was so proud of her when she finally stood up for herself. Even though she didn’t always get the results she wanted, I was so proud of her for speaking up.
Overall, this is not an easy story to read, but it was a stunning story about what it means to be a woman dealing with assault and abuse. It shows what it means to have a father that doesn’t believe in you, one that you feel just doesn’t love you anymore. It talks about racism within the community of Jamaica. I think this book did everything it was trying to do and it did it so well. I highly recommend this book to anyone that can handle these hard topics.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Between the Bliss and Me by Lizzy Mason

Summary:
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

Review:
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.

The Castle School by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

GoodReads Summary:
When Moira Dreyfuss’s parents announce that they’re sending her to boarding school, Moira isn’t fooled. She knows her parents are punishing her; she’s been too much trouble since her best friend Nathan died―and for a while before that. At the Castle School, isolated from the rest of the world, Moira will be expected to pour her heart out to the headmaster, Dr. Prince. But she isn’t interested in getting over Nathan’s death, or befriending her fellow students.
On her first night there, Moira hears distant music. On her second, she discovers the lock on her window is broken. On her third, she and her roommate venture outside…and learn that they’re not so isolated after all. There’s another, very different, Castle School nearby―this one filled with boys whose parents sent them away, too.
Moira knows something isn’t right about the Castle School―about either of them. But uncovering the truth behind the schools’ secrets may force Moira to confront why she was sent away in the first place.
The Castle School (for Troubled Girls)Review:
The Castle School is a book that I was provided via NetGalley and the publishers in exchange for an honest review. I think this book was so thoughtfully written. I don’t personally have experience with most of the mental illnesses that are highlighted. This book talks about depression, self-harm, grief, eating disorders, alcoholism, OCD, selective mutism, drug addiction, and others. So, if any of these are triggers for you, maybe skip this one, but I think the author did an incredible job of thoughtfully talking about these topics.
The story follows Moira as she’s dealing with the loss of her best friend Nathan. Nathan was diagnosed with cancer and died. Since then, she sneaks out at night to visit his grave, she skips school, but the final straw for Moira’s mother was the tattoo. She’s sent to The Castle School, which is a school for troubled girls where the schooling is different and Dr. Prince is there for one on one therapy sessions. Moira is full of grief that she won’t let out. I really enjoyed her growth and development in this story. She fights when she first gets to the school, thinking that she has no need to be there. But as she grows and makes friends, she opens up a bit. I couldn’t help but believe all of Moira’s wild theories about the two Dr. Prince’s one she discovers the second Castle School (for boys). I liked her and I could really sympathize with her.
I also liked the side characters. They were all unique and interesting. I really liked that we got little background stories for some of the characters. A few got their own chapters that were about when it was decided that they would be going to The Castle School. I thought they were really interesting to read and it gave us more information about the side characters.
Overall, I really enjoyed this story. I think it talked about a lot of really important topics in a thoughtful way. I think this was a really great story about young girls that struggle. I really liked the friendships and the relationships that developed. I definitely thought it was going to be a bit of a mystery because of how Moria was telling the story, but I’m not disappointed that it wasn’t. This is a book I’ll definitely be recommending.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amelia Unabridged by Ashley Schumacher

Summary:
Sparks fly between two teens as they grapple with grief, love, and the future in this unforgettable debut novel sure to entice fans of Jandy Nelson and Jennifer E. Smith
Eighteen-year-old Amelia Griffin is obsessed with the famous Orman Chronicles, written by the young and reclusive prodigy N. E. Endsley. They’re the books that brought her and her best friend Jenna together after Amelia’s father left and her family imploded. So when Amelia and Jenna get the opportunity to attend a book festival with Endsley in attendance, Amelia is ecstatic. It’s the perfect way to start off their last summer before college.
In a heartbeat, everything goes horribly wrong. When Jenna gets a chance to meet the author and Amelia doesn’t, the two have a blowout fight like they’ve never experienced. And before Amelia has a chance to mend things, Jenna is killed in a freak car accident. Grief-stricken, and without her best friend to guide her, Amelia questions everything she had planned for the future.
When a mysterious, rare edition of the Orman Chronicles arrives, Amelia is convinced that it somehow came from Jenna. Tracking the book to an obscure but enchanting bookstore in Michigan, Amelia is shocked to find herself face-to-face with the enigmatic and handsome N. E. Endsley himself, the reason for Amelia’s and Jenna’s fight and perhaps the clue to what Jenna wanted to tell her all along.
Ashley Schumacher’s devastating and beautiful debut, Amelia Unabridged, is about finding hope and strength within yourself, and maybe, just maybe, falling in love while you do it.
Amelia Unabridged by Ashley SchumacherReview:
Amelia Unabridged is a beautiful story about how to continue living after the death of someone you love. Thanks, NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with the eARC in exchange for an honest review.
I read this story in one sitting. I just couldn’t put it down. The story follows Amelia. She’s just graduated from high school. She and her best friend are supposed to meet their favorite author at a book festival. But when the author backs out of the event Amelia is devastated. Endsley wrote the Orman Chronicles and Amelia found these books when everything in her life was falling apart. Books save people sometimes (we all know that) and that’s what Endsley’s books did for Amelia. They also brought her and her best friend, Jenna, together. But Jenna meets Endsley before he backs out of his event and Amelia is furious. The two part, because Jenna is traveling to Ireland for the summer, on less than perfect terms. But Jenna dies in a car accident while in Ireland and Amelia is lost. But then she gets the 101st special edition of one of Endsley’s books (when there were only supposed to be 100 made). Amelia sees this as a sign from her best friend. So, she travels to Val’s, the bookstore in Michigan where the book was mailed from. This is where the story starts to get interesting. Shortly after arriving, Amelia runs into N.E. Endsley. All Amelia wants is to know what Jenna said to him that day at the book festival. But the two develop a relationship, they bond over their grief, and learn more about one another. Together they work through what they’re struggling with and I thought it was beautiful.
So, I do have to say that I think Amelia falling in love with her all-time favorite author was a little corny, but I still really enjoyed this book. Both Amelia and Nolan Endsley are grieving the loss of the people that were closest to them. They also both feel as if the deaths were their fault, or at the very least that they could have prevented them. I really liked how Nolan was shown as a real person. I think all too often people treat authors as other, which Amelia absolutely did toward the beginning of the book. But it was nice to see Amelia stop and realize that Nolan was more than the author of her favorite book series. He’s a person that’s really struggling.
Overall, I think this was a beautiful story about grief and how to work through it, about new friendships and old ones, about following your dreams even if that means you stray from the path you’re ‘supposed’ to be on. I definitely recommend this book.

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.

Quotes:

“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.

What Kind of Girl by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

GoodReads Summary:
The girls at North Bay Academy are taking sides. It all started when Mike Parker’s girlfriend showed up with a bruise on her face. Or, more specifically, when she walked into the principal’s office and said Mike hit her. But the students have questions. Why did she go to the principal and not the police? Why did she stay so long if he was hurting her? Obviously, if it’s true, Mike should be expelled. But is it true?
Some girls want to rally for his expulsion—and some want to rally around Mike. The only thing that the entire student body can agree on? Someone is lying. And the truth has to come out.
What Kind of GirlReview:
I’m going to be writing this review while using The Bookish Chick’s review because I read it after I finished this book and she pretty much summed up my thoughts perfectly. But I will be writing this and trying to put it in my own words. I was excited about this book when I saw the ebook available through my library because I’m trying (and failing amid the virus closures) to not buy all the new releases.
This book starts off with anonymous narrators the chapters are just titled with who the narrator could be classified as. For example, “The Girlfriend, The Burnout, The Popular Girl” which was interesting, at first. But then I reached part two and was left very confused. I didn’t totally understand what the transition to part two meant. But the further I got into the book the more I was sure that I knew what the author was doing. I thought this was interesting, but it only goes on for half of the book. I would have liked for it to go on longer or not at all. While it was an interesting sort of twist, it just left me confused and sort of annoyed.
The other problem I had with this book was the ending. It made me so mad that I forgot most of what happened until I read Alana’s review and remembered. Maya finally stands up and sets straight the rumors that are circulating, she stands her ground and says what she thinks should happen (since something like this isn’t specified in the student handbook). I loved seeing her finally stand up, but then the book just ends. Maya is provided with options to go move with her dad or stay with her mom. But we never find out what happens. We don’t know if her boyfriend even gets in trouble and I’m mad all over again typing this.
Overall, this was a pretty quick read. But not one I was overly pleased with. I know there will be many readers who will love this story, so please take this review with a grain of salt.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Jane Anonymous by Laurie Faria Stolarz

GoodReads Summary:
Then, “Jane” was just your typical 17-year-old in a typical New England suburb getting ready to start her senior year. She had a part-time job she enjoyed, an awesome best friend, overbearing but loving parents, and a crush on a boy who was taking her to see her favorite band. She never would’ve imagined that in her town where nothing ever happens, a series of small coincidences would lead to a devastating turn of events that would forever change her life.
Now, it’s been three months since “Jane” escaped captivity and returned home. Three months of being that girl who was kidnapped, the girl who was held by a “monster.” Three months of writing down everything she remembered from those seven months locked up in that stark white room. But, what if everything you thought you knew―everything you thought you experienced―turned out to be a lie?
Jane AnonymousReview:
Thanks so much to NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Jane Anonymous had me hooked from the moment I read the synopsis. Then I read the prologue and I literally couldn’t put this book down until I finished it. I devoured it in one sitting.
I was crying within the first ten percent of this book, which might not say much because I cry at the drop of a hat since having a baby, but still. I was sucked into this story, chewed up, and spit out in the final pages. I really liked the way this story was told. Jane Anonymous is telling us her story. She is writing everything down as a way to work through what she experienced. I thought this was brilliant because we feel what she’s feeling. We get invested in everything the way she does, and our whole world is rocked when we learn certain bits of information. I really liked the ‘anonymous’ aspect of the story. It takes place in ‘Suburb City/Town, New England State’ which is not a real place, but I thought it was a really interesting way to keep the story focused completely on Jane and her experiences. As someone who grew up in New England, I liked that the small town northern setting was there even if no actual places were named.
Jane is experiencing some serious PTSD. We follow her as she tells us her story in alternating chapters of now and then. I thought this was done well to add more suspense to an already excellent story. Then there’s the mystery of how she got from then to now.
This story was absolutely incredible. It had characters I alternated between loving and hating. There was the best friend that I loved at first and then hated and then loved again by the end of the book. Then her parents, I wanted to hate them at times, but also imagining how I would feel if something like this happened to my daughter, I couldn’t fathom how I would react. I think they were doing their best, and eventually, I ended up liking them.
Overall, I’m obsessed with this book. It may just be a new favorite. The writing was paced just right to keep me on the edge of my seat the whole time. I loved Jane and having her tell this story was an excellent choice. I will be shouting about this book from the rooftops for the next forever.

Quotes:

“I wonder if it matches the one inside my chest, where there used to be a heart.”

“We’ve all carried our regret around like anchors, struggling not to drown.”
“Shards of mirrored glass that reflected just what I’d become: a distorted version of the person I used to be.”

“We’re all broken in some way; it’s part of that being-human thing I was talking about before. The key is to learn how to carry your broken pieces as you move forward day by day.”

“It’s funny the way memory works, especially long-term memory, when the thing being remembered hits us, the brain pops like electricity. We think it’s so random—that timing of sorts. But there’s nothing random about it. Our brains are smarter than we are, equipped to recall things at key times, when we’re able to make the most sense of the information.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith

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GoodReads Summary:
In the tradition of Speak, this extraordinary debut novel shares the unforgettable story of a young woman as she struggles to find strength in the aftermath of an assault.
Eden was always good at being good. Starting high school didn’t change who she was. But the night her brother’s best friend rapes her, Eden’s world capsizes.
What was once simple, is now complex. What Eden once loved—who she once loved—she now hates. What she thought she knew to be true, is now lies. Nothing makes sense anymore, and she knows she’s supposed to tell someone what happened but she can’t. So she buries it instead. And she buries the way she used to be.
Told in four parts—freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year—this provocative debut reveals the deep cuts of trauma. But it also demonstrates one young woman’s strength as she navigates the disappointment and unbearable pains of adolescence, of first love and first heartbreak, of friendships broken and rebuilt, and while learning to embrace a power of survival she never knew she had hidden within her heart.
The Way I Used to BeReview:
I really thought I was going to rate this book five stars when I first started it, but the longer I read it, the less I liked it. There were a lot of things I liked about this book though, so I’ll start with those.
Eden, though I’ve never experienced what she went through, was very relatable. I saw a lot of myself in her with her destructive behaviors, like smoking and drinking. I was a reckless teenager and did a lot of the same things she did. But Eden was mean. She was lashing out at anyone that showed her attention, anyone that was kind to her. It made her really unlikeable, but at the same time, with the things she went through her behavior was understandable.
I thought the writing was excellent. I also thought the characters and interactions were well done. The relationships between the characters were interesting too.
The thing that really bothered me was the pacing. This book follows Eden through all four years of high school. This was an interesting way to tell the story in theory, but for me personally, it made me feel like huge chunks of the story were missing. At the end of Sophomore year, it’s Christmas time and then suddenly it’s her junior year and the same in the transition between Junior and Senior year. It really bothered me. Also, when Senior year comes around things are obviously different. Eden has started calling her mom and dad by their names, which is not explained at all. The reader is just left to figure that out.
This was my biggest issue with the book. But aside from that, I really liked the characters, even Eden. The relationships and the disagreements were realistic and compelling. It was hard not to feel sorry for Eden, but it was equally hard not to want to yell at her for her behavior. This would have been a five star book for me had it not been for the bizarre pacing and time jumps.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julie Drake

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GoodReads Summary:
The Larkin family isn’t just lucky—they persevere. At least that’s what Violet and her younger brother, Sam, were always told. When the Lyric sank off the coast of Maine, their great-great-great-grandmother didn’t drown like the rest of the passengers. No, Fidelia swam to shore, fell in love, and founded Lyric, Maine, the town Violet and Sam returned to every summer.
But wrecks seem to run in the family. Tall, funny, musical Violet can’t stop partying with the wrong people. And, one beautiful summer day, brilliant, sensitive Sam attempts to take his own life.
Shipped back to Lyric while Sam is in treatment, Violet is haunted by her family’s missing piece – the lost shipwreck she and Sam dreamed of discovering when they were children. Desperate to make amends, Violet embarks on a wildly ambitious mission: locate the Lyric, lain hidden in a watery grave for over a century.
She finds a fellow wreck hunter in Liv Stone, an amateur local historian whose sparkling intelligence and guarded gray eyes make Violet ache in an exhilarating new way. Whether or not they find the Lyric, the journey Violet takes-and the bridges she builds along the way-may be the start of something like survival.
The Last True Poets of the SeaReview:
I have to thank Chelsea Dolling for hyping this book up. I was intrigued by the cover before even knowing what it was about. So, I bought it when it was on sale. I am so glad that I did because it was way better than I was anticipating. I thought I was going to like it, but boy I loved it so much.
We follow Violet as she’s sent to spend the summer in Maine with her uncle. Violet has spent the past year drinking, partying, and sleeping around. But everything changes when her brother Sam tries to kill himself. Sam is sent to a treatment facility and Violet is sent to Maine. She thinks she and her whole family are cursed, that wrecks are something that happens to them.
Violet makes friends with Orion at the aquarium she’s working at for the summer. Orion introduces her to the rest of his friends, Liv, Mariah, and Felix. I absolutely adored this group of friends. They were such a fun bunch. I liked that Orion just genuinely cared about people. This friend group reminded me of my own friends and that’s why I liked them so much.
Violet and Liv decide to start searching for the shipwreck that Violet’s great-great-grandmother survived. I really liked that the girls had something they were passionate about and a goal to work toward. I think Violet definitely used the shipwreck search to avoid her problems, but I still loved the outcome of their search.
During this time, Violet is remembering and regretting the way she treated her brother. I think this part of the story was captivating. I thought their complicated relationship was interesting and the mental health aspect of it all was well handled and talked about in a thoughtful way.
This book tackled so many complicated issues like mental health, sexuality, underage drinking and substance use, promiscuity, and cigarette smoking. I think it discussed all very well. The bad things were challenged and the good things were addressed thoughtfully. I think this is a new favorite of mine.

Quotes:

“Orion cared in a way that made my chest ache: For music, for fish, for friends. For the moon and the ocean, for these forces that knit us together.”

“I didn’t think it was possible to be blindsided by a truth you’ve always suspected, but there you have it. As it turns out, it’s devastating.”

“Maybe there is no right thing. Maybe there are just things, plural, and you have to try them all.”

“That night, it didn’t matter what had come before and what was going to come after. In that moment, we were the last true poets of the sea, and what mattered more than anything else was our quest.”

“No one could fix us, because no one thing was wrong. The fixing would be in keeping going, in trying. Survival was its own quest: we need to choose to survive over and over again. We had to wash up on shore, and we had to choose to keep washing up every single day.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

 

Holding up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

Summary:
From the bestselling author of All the Bright Places comes an exhilarating love story that asks: As scary as it is to go after dreams, is it even scarier not to?
Libby is the girl whose name everyone knows. But no one really sees her, except Jack.
Jack is the guy who’s friends with everyone. But he doesn’t let anyone in, except Libby.
The two make an unlikely pair. And yet…They just might be able to change each other’s worlds.
Review:
After reading Jennifer Niven’s other book All the Bright Places, I knew I needed to try some more books by her. So, I picked up Holding up the Universe with one of my Christmas gift cards. I’m so glad that I did.
This story focused on Libby and Jack, two characters that are very different but somehow find some common ground. I really liked learning about them. Libby was a girl who has dealt with hardships and still has managed to stay strong and pull herself together. She fights for what’s right, even when it’s not the easy thing to do. I really admired her strength in the face of bullies and those trying to put her down. She knows that she has maybe not made the best choices, but she does what she thinks is best. She loves deeply. I love her relationship with her dad. It was sweet and sometimes sad, but I loved it. I also liked her relationship with Bailey. Bailey was a sweet girl and I liked seeing them rekindle their friendship.
Jack was such an interesting character to me. He is face-blind, meaning that he cannot recognize faces. This is something that I’d never previously heard of. I honestly didn’t know this is something that exists. I liked Jack because he was so flawed. He did dumb things, mostly for the right reasons. A lot of the time he did things because it was the easiest thing until he meets Libby anyway.
I flew through this story. It was easy to read. It was interesting and I feel like I learned something after reading it. I loved that both characters are facing their own issues, but figure out how to work through them together. Libby and Jack got me invested in the story, wanting to know what was going to happen next.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was compelling, thought-provoking, relatable, and so much more. I definitely suggest this to anyone that enjoyed Niven’s other book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

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All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Summary:
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death. Every day he thinks of ways he might die, but every day he also searches for-and manages to find- something to keep him here, and alive, and awake.
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation when she can escape her small Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s death.
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school-six stories above the ground-it’s unclear who saves whom. Soon it’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself. And it’s only with Finch that Violet forgets to count away the days and starts living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink…
Review:
All the Bright Places completely slayed my soul. I was not expecting to feel so many different emotions while reading this. Finch and Violet had me laughing on one page and then in tears on the next. I thought I was going to enjoy this book because of the recommendation of a friend, but I didn’t think it would be this much.
I thought Finch was so interesting. It was fascinating to be inside his head trying to fight to stay ‘awake.’ It was really eye-opening to see his thoughts and how they could so easily spiral and then be brought back into reality. He was such a complex character and I just couldn’t stop reading.

“And sorry wastes time. You have to live your life like you’ll never be sorry. It’s easier just to do the right thing from the start so there’s nothing to be sorry for.”

Violet was just as interesting but in a different way. She’s dealing with survivors guilt after the death of her sister and just trying to go through the daily motions until graduation when she can escape Indiana forever. I really liked Violet and enjoyed seeing her pull herself together and choose to really start living again.
Violet and Finch together were fiery and entertaining and a bomb waiting to go off. I think Finch really brought out all the good in Violet. He pushed her in the best ways to move forward, to get back in a car, to try new things, to try to live her life again. I think Violet wanted to be that for Finch too but didn’t quite succeed. I absolutely loved their dynamic. I loved the effect that Finch had on Violet and I loved that Finch wanted to be better for her, he tries so so hard to do better for Violet.

“The thing I realize is that it’s not what you take, it’s what you leave.”

I also want to mention that I loved how Violet branched out after kind of realizing and accepting that her friends were shitty and made new friends. She sort of adopted Finch’s friends and I loved that because if I could change one thing I would have added more interaction with Finch and his friends. But we got the interaction with Violet, making new friends and trying new things.
Then this book went and broke my heart. Jaw dropped. Book almost thrown. I was not expecting certain events in this story and I am so not okay. I think it was the worst and best part of the story. It’s hard hitting and brings important conversations to the table. I’m not going to spoil it because that would be shitty, but it really changes the to conversation of the book. It was heartbreaking, but in the best way.

“What if like could be this way? Only the happy parts, none of the terrible, not even the midly unplesant. What if we could just cut out the bad and keep the good?”

Overall, I adored this book. I loved the characters. I loved their adventures as they ‘wander’ all over Indiana. I love the lessons that are learned. I love the way the chapters are labeled. I love everything about this story and I’m sad that it’s over. I’m so thankful to Kim @ Troubled Bibliophile for getting me this story for Christmas.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

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Beartown by Fredrik Backman

GoodReads Summary:
The #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove returns with a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream—and the price required to make it come true.
People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever-encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.
Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.
Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.
Review:
I borrowed this from the library after a friend on twitter (thanks Jenny!) told me about it. This book exceeded every single expectation I had for it. I am completely blown away by this story. I have done nothing but read in all of my available free time because I NEEDED to know what was going to happen in this story. It was compelling, kept me interested, insightful, and so much more. I think this is a story that everyone should read. Going into it I was excited because hockey is the one sport that my family really pays attention to and watches, so I knew this book would interest me. But I got so much more than I asked for.

“Never trust people who don’t have something in their lives that they love beyond all reason.”

This story tells of a town that is so obsessed with their local hockey team and the thing that team inspires. The team (or the hockey club in general) is the most important thing and loyalty should always be to the team. The team, the bears from Beartown always stick together no matter what. But what happens when the leader of this team, the player that all the others look up to the most, does something truly horrible? A town divided between staying loyal to the team, to the club, to Kevin, or believing a young girl’s accusation is what this story is really about.

“There are thousands of ways to die in Beartown. Especially on the inside.”

I loved every single thing about this story. It was hard hitting and honestly, I cried like four separate times. This story was written wonderfully. I enjoyed the beginning, where we’re learning about all the characters that matter, about the town dynamics, how life works in Beartown, what hockey means to all of the characters, and how it has impacted their lives. The story then goes on to tell of events at a party after an important win and this changes the entire course of the story. Instead of following the team to victory for the season, we instead follow a town divided between doing what is morally right or doing what is right for the hockey club.

“Pride in a team can come from a variety of causes. Pride in a place, or a community, or just a single person. We devote ourselves to sports because they remind us of how small we are just as much as they make us bigger.”

Beartown was insightful and heartbreaking and horrifying and just incredible. I think it discusses the love of a parent to their child and other family dynamics in such an interesting and thoughtful way. There are so many different kinds of families, wealthy, poor, white picket fence households, single parent homes, it really explored all kinds of home lives. There is just such an interesting group of different kinds of characters. Different in many ways like race, sexual orientation, age, and all the good things. I also really enjoyed that this story was told from so many different perspectives. We read from perspectives of both the adults and the children, so it’s a story that can have a very wide group of readers. There were also quite a few really hard topics talked about such as being gay (and hiding it), rape, suicide, murder, bullying, and just so many extremely relevant things.

“I know you’d have killed for me, Mom. I know you’d have given your life for me. But we’re going to get through this, you and me. Because I’m your daughter. I’ve got wolf’s blood.”

I thought this was going to be a book about hockey, instead, I was given so much more. I really cannot recommend this story enough. I am going to try to patiently wait for the sequel to be available at my library and then fly through that story as well.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

*Want to buy this book? Click on the book cover! It’s an affiliate link so we will make a small percentage from your purchase, feel free to support us!

Broken Beautiful Hearts by Kami Garcia

Summary:
When star soccer player Peyton Rios receives an offer from her first-choice college, her senior year starts off exactly as planned…until she uncovers her boyfriend’s dark secret. Peyton confronts him and finds herself falling down a flight of stairs. Her knee-and possibly her dream of going pro-is shattered. Everyone at school is talking: Was she pushed, or did she fall? Peyton knows the truth, even if no one believes her.
With her future on the line, Peyton goes to stay with her uncle in a small Tennessee town to focus on her recovery. That’s where she meets Owen.
A year ago, Owen Law’s life changed and he doesn’t want anyone to know why-until he meets the new girl in town. But dating is off the table for Peyton, even for a guy as sweet and sexy as Owen. He tries to chip away at her walls, but Peyton senses that he’s hiding something and she’s afraid to trust her own heart. When their secrets are finally exposed, Peyton has to decide if love is worth fighting for.
Review:
I loved this book. I wish that I could just say that and be done with this review because really, I loved it and I just want everyone to read it. This was a compelling story filled with so many different things that I like. We follow our main character as she’s dealing with potentially losing everything she’s worked toward her whole life. Also dealing with her crazy ass ex-boyfriend, moving across the country, adjusting to a new school, and grieving for her father.
There were so many different things going on in this story, but it wasn’t too much. All the different aspects of the story were brought together so well that it just worked out.
Peyton was a fierce and fiery character that didn’t back down, even when it would have been the easy thing to do. She stands up to all sorts of bullies, from snotty cheerleaders to MMA fighters on steroids, she’s brave and stubborn. I really loved Peyton. I don’t know that I related to her so much as I just really respected her as a person. She’s someone I could be friends with in real life for sure.
The twins, Peyton’s cousins, Cameron and Christian were a great part of this story. They come off as big dumb jocks at first, but you learn that there more than that. They’re loyal and quick to defend those they care about. They do say some dumb things but don’t have an issue being corrected and learning why they were wrong. They just made me laugh and I loved them.
I liked Grace too. She was sweet and I’m so happy with how her story ended. She was a good friend to Peyton when she needed one and I loved seeing the girls get to know one another.
Tessa really pissed me off, but I understood (to a point) where she was coming from. She’s another character that I was happy with how things turned out. I’m happy with how she and Peyton figured things out, though we didn’t get a whole lot of closure on her after that.
I hated Peyton’s ex-boyfriend and I’m not going to name him so the thing that happens, in the beginning, doesn’t get spoiled but I hated him. He was a giant jerk and I knew things were just going to get worse. The whole situation at the beginning of the book made me so mad. I think because this is something that happens all the time in the real world, it just made me so mad.
Now, my favorite character, Owen. I loved him. He stood up for the little guy. He was nice even when he was supposed to be portrayed as a jerk. He’s big and tough and exactly what Peyton needed at the time. I love that they pushed each other’s buttons. They made me laugh the whole book.
I just really loved everything about this story. It was real and hard to read in some parts. It talked about real things that happen every day in real life and it doesn’t shy away from anything. I definitely think this should be a more widely read and talked about story because it is an important one for sure.

“I used to believe that everyone gets one perfect day sometime in their lives-if they were lucky. But I had it all wrong. We don’t get one perfect day. We get a lifetime of imperfect days, and it’s up to decide what we want to do with them.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

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Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Summary:
It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person.
Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to the dead-to people like Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, Amelia Earhart, and Amy Winehouse-though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating the choppy waters of new friendships, learning to live with her splintering family, falling in love for the first time, and, most important, trying to grieve for May. But how do you mourn for someone you haven’t forgiven?
It’s not until Laurel has written the truth about what happened to herself that she can finally accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was-lovely and amazing and deeply flawed-can she truly start to discover her own path.
Review:
This latest read was a reread for me. I thought Contemporary January was the perfect chance to reread this book because I remembered loving it so so much while reading it the first time. This was a good story of a young girl going into high school and trying to figure out who she is. It’s a story that tells of grief, of what it’s like to lose a sibling and dealing with all of the feelings that come with this.

“I think it’s like when you lose something so close to you, it’s like losing yourself.”

There were a lot of things that this story tried to deal with. I think it did many things right, like the whole grief dynamic in the story. Laurel is a young girl trying to figure out how to move forward now that her sister has died, along with that her parents have split up and her mother has left. I really related with Laurel and her feelings toward her mother because I also had an absentee mother. I thought it was well done, her feelings toward her mother. Also, her feelings toward her sister were so raw and realistic and I loved it.

“When we are in love, we are both completely in danger and completely saved.”

Sadly, certain parts of this story were pretty cringy. Laurel was pretty self-destructive and not always ways that I understood. There were just things I didn’t like that I don’t want to get too far into. Things that could have been written a bit better. Things involving the parts with drinking, sexual assault, and things of this nature.

“Maybe when we can tell the stories, however bad they are, we don’t belong to them anymore. They become ours. And maybe what growing up really means is knowing that you don’t have to just be a character, going whichever way the story says. It’s knowing that you could be the author instead.”

Overall, I’m disappointed that I didn’t love this book as much as I did the first time. Despite that, I still think it’s a good story. There was a bit too much telling instead of showing. I feel like part of this is because of the way this story is told. Laurel tells this story in the form of letters to dead famous people. So she is essentially telling these people what’s going on, but I think it could have been a bit more ‘show don’t tell’. I think part of me wanted to like this story more than I did, sadly. Though there were tons of quotes that I really enjoyed, some of which will be inserted in this review.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

*Want to buy this book? Click on the book cover! It’s an affiliate link so we will make a small percentage from your purchase, feel free to support us!

How She Died, How I Lived by Mary Crockett

Summary:
On a warm, listless summer afternoon, Kyle Paxson sent five texts to a few chosen classmates. None of the girls responded-except one. Jamie was the only girl nice enough to give Kyle the time. And that night, deliberately and brutally, he killed her.
On the eve of Kyle’s sentencing a year later, all the other “chosen ones” are coping in various ways. But our narrator is full of questions, stuck somewhere between the horrifying past and the unknown future as she tries to piece together why she gets to live, while Jamie is dead.
Now she finds herself drawn to Charlie, Jamie’s boyfriend-knowing all the while that their relationship will always be haunted by the what-ifs and why-nots. Is hope possible in the face of such violence? Is forgiveness? How do you go on living when you know it could have been you instead?
Review:
This was an impulse buy for me after my twinny, Alana, recommended it to me. She better keeps the recommendations coming because I gave five stars to the two books that I’ve read recently at her suggestion.

“But love and stupidity kind of go together, don’t they?”

How She Died, How I Lived was incredible. It was thought-provoking and hard-hitting and I just couldn’t put it down. This is a story that follows the main character as she’s dealing with survivors’ guilt and all of the feelings that come with knowing that she was almost the girl that got murdered. Being one of five girls that Kyle texted that day, it could have been any one of them that was killed. Our main character battles with the fact that she is still alive and Jamie is not. I really thought this was a powerful story because the things that she felt were so raw and real and parts of it were almost hard to read.

“You asked us to write about death. I want to write about love. They’re not the same, but the link us together in the same way. Death and love. They both wrap us up in their cords, and they don’t let go.”

I’m having a hard time thinking of what I want to say about this story aside from it being a good book because it was so much more than that. This story was thought-provoking with the idea that anyone can die at any time. It also really brings attention to justice and what that really means, specifically in regards to the death penalty. I was blown away by the final pages.

“This world. This preposterously beautiful world. You’d think we could live in it without killing each other.”

The characters were great. I think my favorite part of this story was the relationship between the main character and her best friend, another girl that Kyle texted that day, Lindsey. I really liked that these two girls became friends and are helping one another deal with their feelings about their shared experiences. I loved that they held one another up when they needed it, but they also weren’t afraid to call the other out on their shit. Their friendship was one that reminded me of some of my friends and I really enjoyed it.

“Our grief is our signature, with everyone dotting the i in their own special way.”

The romance in this book was the one thing I wasn’t really sure about. It ended up growing on me, but I didn’t like it at first. The main character ends up involved with Charlie, the boyfriend of the girl that Kyle killed. I thought it was just a little weird because it had only been a year since Jamie was killed, along with the upcoming trial bringing up all the emotions once again. I still don’t think it’s a relationship that will last, but it definitely grew on me. By the end of the book, I was okay with it because they can hold each other up when they need it, but also because they did their fair share of arguing about different opinions. Their differing opinions is where most of the thought-provoking ideas were brought up because they seemed to have the opposite opinions on quite a few things that really just made you think.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Taylor continues. “It was written in the stars.”

Overall, I loved How She Died, How I Lived. I wanted to read it again from the beginning as soon as I finished it. I definitely think this is a story that needs more attention. So if you haven’t read it, please go do so now.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

*Want to buy this book? Click on the book cover! It’s an affiliate link so we will make a small percentage from your purchase, feel free to support us!