Amanda's Adventures · Everything & Anything

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.

*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!

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Amanda's Adventures · Everything & Anything

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.

*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!

Amanda's Adventures · Everything & Anything

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!

Amanda's Adventures · Everything & Anything

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.

*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!

Amanda's Adventures · Everything & Anything

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!

Amanda's Adventures · Everything & Anything · The Readers Favorites

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!

Amanda's Adventures · Everything & Anything

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

Summary:
Fifteen-year-old Virginia Shreves feels like a plus-size black sheep in her picture-perfect family, especially next to her star-athlete big brother, Byron. Not to mention that her best friend, Shannon, has moved across the country, leaving Virginia to navigate an awkward budding relationship with Froggy Welsh the Fourth all alone. Froggy might like her now, but she has her doubts about how he’ll react if he ever looks under all her layers of clothes.
In order to survive, Virginia decides to follow the Fat Girl Code of Conduct, and it seems to work-until a shocking act causes the Shreves family façade to crumble. As Virginia’s world spins out of orbit, she realizes that being true to herself might be the only way back.
Review:
I picked this book up from BookOutlet at the end of 2018 after seeing it talked about in the last live show of the year for the Booksplosion book club. I joined reading along with some of my favorite booktubers toward the end of the year, so I missed quite a few books they read this year. After I saw them talk about their books, I found a few of them on BookOutlet and figured I’d give them a try.
I ended up really enjoying this book. I went into the story without any expectations. I didn’t even read the synopsis before picking this up. But it was short and it fits for Contemporary January. I found myself flying through this story so quickly. I was entertained and quickly invested in Virginia.
There were times I didn’t like the story because Virginia was doing some unhealthy shit to attempt to lose weight and I didn’t appreciate that, but I think it was realistic and written well. The negatives were acknowledged and Virginia even talks about how she knows she shouldn’t be doing what she’s doing but she wants to lose weight fast instead of making sure to eat right and exercise. I think this story was an excellent conversation about weight and familial expectations and putting both of those aside to be happy with yourself and your own choices.
I really enjoyed the second half of this book the most. Virginia starts to stand up for herself and for what she wants. She starts doing things to better her life and makes better choices. I enjoyed seeing her grow and develop into a person that does what’s best for herself. I liked seeing her be able to stand up to her family and tell them how they make her feel and how their expectations weigh on her.
Overall, I liked this story. It was fun and entertaining. I liked our main character and I really enjoyed seeing her character growth. This was a great story about learning to love yourself, but also how to make better choices and do the things that you really enjoy.

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!