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!

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!

Contemporary January TBR List – Realistic Fiction Edition

Hi, lovelies! I’m here with another TBR list for you all. I love sharing these because it lets you guys know what I will be/ have available to read within the near future, especially this month. I also love sharing these because I can get opinions from those that may have already read some of these books. Today I’m here to share with you the books on my TBR that fit into the genre of realistic fiction. These are mostly books are hard topics, things like death and grief, rape, gun violence, weigh, disabilities, drugs, and addiction. As tough as these topics can be, I love to read about them because they are so important. It’s so so necessary for these subjects to be talked about more often and with more openness. Without further delay, these are the books on my shelf that I’ve yet to read.

Contemp Jan

How She Died, How I Lived by Mary Crockett
The Last to Let Go by Amber Smith
A Heart in A Body in The World by Deb Caletti
Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven
Falling into Place by Amy Zhang
The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand
This Is Where the World Ends by Amy Zhang
Blind by Rachel DeWoskin
The Earth, My Butt, And Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler

These are all of the books I’m hoping to read (but know I won’t get to most of them) during this Contemporary January. Have you read any of these? Will you be reading any of these? Let me know in the comments!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Don’t forget to use the hashtag #ContemporaryJanuary and tag me & Alana if you’re joining in! You can find me on Twitter, Instagram and/or GoodReads to keep up to date with any announcements and see what I’m reading!

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Contemporary January Recommendations – Realistic Fiction Edition

Hi, lovelies! I’m back again to share with you some more bookish recommendations, one of my favorite things to do of course. This week we are continuing on with Contemporary January, click the link if you’re not sure what that is. Our genre for this week is realistic fiction. There are so many great books for this one but I’m going to do my best to only mention my favorites.

Check out Alana’s recommendations here!

Contemp Jan

Looking for Alaska John Green
My favorite book of all time. This story talks about grief and loss and found its way to me at a time in my life when I needed it the most.

Identical by Ellen Hopkins
This is one of my favorite books by Hopkins, but really I suggest reading any and all of her books. This story talks about drug use and abuse, family issues and it blew me away.

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
I thought this story was so unique as it follows the main character as she gets her novel published, but it also alternates between her story and the story she wrote. Westerfeld is an incredible author and this book is evidence of that.

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
Laurel writes letters to various dead people, mostly famous musicians, as she tries to deal with the loss of her sister and beginning high school at the same time. I’ve read this book countless times and you should too.

A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
Despite the drama with this book/author, I will always love this book. It was one of the first stories I read about addiction and it really stuck with me.

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
A story that will make you think outside of the box that you live within for sure. As someone that has never experienced the things Shirin has, this was a thought-provoking and interesting story that provided the pleasure of some romance too.

Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn
This story was hard-hitting​ but also has some sentimental value to me. My brother showed me this book after he had to read it in high school. I read it shortly after he did and several more times since then. It’s a story of love and abuse and how the two can be dangerous together.

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
I’m almost mad at myself for how long I slept on this book. I listened to the audiobook and it just made the story that much better. With the pirate accents and the powerful story, I recommend this to anyone looking for books about mental health.

Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow
This is a book​ I picked up when I was getting back into blogging after moving across the country twice and finally settling down and being able to buy books again. It was exactly what I wanted from it. A story about a girl that struggles with self-harm​ and drug abuse, I flew through this book.

The Chaos of Standing Still by Jessica Brody
The perfect holiday romance. Dealing with grief and survivors guilt this book was so much more than I expected. I read this during a 24hour readathon and I’m so happy to have read it.

Puddin’ by Julie Murphy
The underrated companion novel of Dumplin’. This book was so much better than the first and I hope that it also gets its own movie.

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake
Alana sent me this one as a Christmas gift off of my wishlist and I’m so freaking glad she did. It was my first read of 2019 and I’m so glad it was. I cannot sing it’s praises enough.

How She Died, How I Lived by Mary Crockett
This was another recommendation from Alana and I’m glad for it. It brought ideas and conversations to the table that I wouldn’t have otherwise thought about. It was thought-provoking and hard-hitting for sure.

These are just a handful of the books I could recommend. They are the best of the best that I’ve read. Some I’ve read more recently and others I read years ago. All excellent choices and books I suggest reading as soon as possible. What books that fit the realistic fiction genre would you recommend?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Don’t forget to use the hashtag #ContemporaryJanuary and tag me & Alana if you’re joining in! You can find me on Twitter, Instagram and/or GoodReads to keep up to date with any announcements and see what I’m reading!

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People Kill People by Ellen Hopkins

Summary:
A gun is sold in the classifieds, bought
by a teenage for protection.
One week will bring six teens in Tuscon, Arizona,
into close contact in a town wrought with
political and personal tensions.
One person will shoot.
Someone will die.
Review:
Ellen Hopkins is an auto-buy author of mine. I own every one of her books and I will always buy them as they come out. She’s an author I’m constantly recommending. She’s a favorite for sure. So, when I saw that she was coming out with People Kill People in 2018. A book about gun violence in a time that this is such a relevant issue, I knew I’d love it. No surprise here that I, in fact, loved it. It was captivating and hard-hitting and relevant.

“See I’ve got this theory.
Given the right circumstances,
any person could kill someone.
Even you.”

The idea behind the story is as the title states, People Kill People. This story has an interesting narrator that follows a few different characters, each with very different life experiences and viewpoints. I think this story could not have been any better. We followed a diverse cast of characters. All of the characters meeting or having to do with one another in various ways. I will forever be in awe of the way that Hopkins weaves all of her character’s paths through one another in ways that always surprise you.

“Trust is important. Relationships can’t survive without it.”

I loved the characters. She found a way to make them relatable, even the ones that are so obviously in the wrong morally. She takes the serious issue of gun violence and shows how it can affect anyone from any culture with any political or personal viewpoints. The diversity of the characters in this book are what really makes it relevant. With one character that believes firmly in the white supremacy movement and several others that are actively protesting and supporting immigration issues, both male and female characters. It’s very telling to the fact that violence, gun violence, in particular, can touch so many different people.

“No such thing as happy endings. Everyone winds up the same way.”

I don’t really want to go too much into detail about the things that happen because I don’t want to spoil any parts of the story for those of you that may pick this book up. I think it’s important to go into this story not knowing a whole lot about it. The synopsis itself is pretty vague and it’s better that way. I also think it was so important for this story to take place in Arizona. The gun laws in Arizona are some of the more relaxed laws in the US so the things that take place really couldn’t have happened the way that they did if it had been written in another state.

“Revolutionaries are rare,
a breed apart from mundane
thinkers, and when they rise,
the world trembles
at their feet.

The final thing I want to mention is that Ellen Hopkins mentions​ at the beginning of the book before the story start that she grew up around guns. She has a healthy respect for guns and the Second Amendment. With this, I think she was the perfect person to write this story. She is writing about a political issue that needs to be discussed​ but doesn’t take the story to any extremes (whether extremely left or right.) I feel that she was the right voice to tell this story because she knows what she’s talking about.

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!

The Storyteller by Antonia Michaelis

Summary:
Anna and Abel couldn’t be more different. They are both seventeen and in their last year of school, but while Anna lives in a nice old townhouse and comes from a well-to-do family, Abel, the school drug dealer, lives in a big, prison-like tower block at the edge of town. Anna is afraid of him until she realizes that he is caring for his six-year-old sister on his own. Fascinated, Anna follows the two and listens as Abel tells little Micha the story of a tiny queen assailed by dark forces. It’s a beautiful fairy tale that Anna comes to see has a basis in reality. Abel is in real danger of losing Micha to their abusive father and to his own inability to make ends meet. Anna gradually falls in love with Abel, but when his “enemies” begin to turn up dead, she fears she has fallen for a murderer. Has she?
Award-winning author Antonia Michaelis moves in a bold new direction with her latest novel: a dark, haunting, contemporary story that is part mystery, part romance, and part melodrama.
Review:
The Storyteller by Antonia Michaelis was another one from my library haul. I loved this book, but I also hated this book. As soon as I started reading I was hooked. There were so many things I liked about this book. It had a fairy-tale theme. Most of the book focused on Abel telling Anna and his younger sister, Micha, a  story that we find out is loosely based on real-life events and people. I really liked the fairy-tale aspect of the story in the beginning. It’s creative and kept me interested. I spent most of the book guessing about what was going to happen next. There was a significant amount of foreshadowing, so much so that I thought the book had an easy and obvious plot. I thought my assumptions were right and I knew exactly what was going on. Michaelis proved me very wrong when I got to the ending of the book. The conclusion to The Storyteller is the reason I also hated this book. Every assumption I had made was wrong, and I was shocked and very unhappy with the truth.
Anna was a pretty likable character. The only thing I didn’t like about her was that sometimes she just did really stupid things. She definitely isn’t the smartest main character I’ve read about. She doesn’t always make the best choices and it was slightly annoying. The innocent quality that Michaelis gives Anna helped me get over her stupid moments. Something I didn’t understand was that Anna calls both her parents by their first names, then I realized this book wasn’t originally written in English. I absolutely adored Anna’s parents. They were totally and completely supportive of her every action. They let her do her own thing for the most part. The gave her the perfect amount of independence.
Abel Tannatek was a character I immediately fell in love with. He seemed like the typical moody male main character that slowly accepted and fell for the pushy female lead until I kept reading and realized that he was so much more than that. Abel was a very believable character. I never thought The Storyteller would end the way it did because I loved Abel so much. There were a few times where I changed my mind about him. He did a few less than desirable things through the story, but his words were always to convincing. He is someone I definitely never want to meet because it just wouldn’t end well for me. Abel broke my heart right along with Anna’s when the secrets were revealed.
This is definitely a book EVERYONE needs to read. Well, the older young adult readers. There are a few parts that I wouldn’t want my younger sister to read about. So this is definitely an older age group book. The storyteller was written wonderfully and I loved and hated almost every page. I’m glad I read it and I’d definitely like to read more books by Antonia Michaelis.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

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