the dilemma of reading

the dilemma of reading

"Oh, all stories are the same, aren't they? Men and women fall in love or out of love. People are born; people die. It all ends happily or it all ends sadly, and the difference matters only to the people involved.”

--Gabrielle Zevin, Margarettown

Review
4 Stars
All Our Wrong Todays/Elan Mastrai
All Our Wrong Todays: A Novel - Elan Mastai

THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS THE LIFE YOU’RE “SUPPOSED” TO HAVE

You know the future that people in the 1950s imagined we’d have? Well, it happened. In Tom Barren’s 2016, humanity thrives in a techno-utopian paradise of flying cars, moving sidewalks, and moon bases, where avocados never go bad and punk rock never existed . . . because it wasn’t necessary.

Except Tom just can’t seem to find his place in this dazzling, idealistic world, and that’s before his life gets turned upside down. Utterly blindsided by an accident of fate, Tom makes a rash decision that drastically changes not only his own life but the very fabric of the universe itself. In a time-travel mishap, Tom finds himself stranded in our 2016, what we think of as the real world. For Tom, our normal reality seems like a dystopian wasteland.

But when he discovers wonderfully unexpected versions of his family, his career, and—maybe, just maybe—his soul mate, Tom has a decision to make. Does he fix the flow of history, bringing his utopian universe back into existence, or does he try to forge a new life in our messy, unpredictable reality? Tom’s search for the answer takes him across countries, continents, and timelines in a quest to figure out, finally, who he really is and what his future—our future—is supposed to be.

All Our Wrong Todays is about the versions of ourselves that we shed and grow into over time. It is a story of friendship and family, of unexpected journeys and alternate paths, and of love in its multitude of forms. Filled with humor and heart, and saturated with insight and intelligence and a mind-bending talent for invention, this novel signals the arrival of a major talent.

 

This one! This is a good one! I'm shaking my head slightly at how rapidly it moved but it was definitely a good one.

 

I've got to admit, this started off really slowly and if I wasn't reading to review, I probably would have put it down. However, once it sucked me in, it sucked me in hardcore. Probably around the quarter mark--or whenever the whimsically perfect yet tragically flawed character of Penelope was introduced--I became extremely invested very fast.

 

I felt like the final few chapters were rushed... As they basically encompass an entire lifetime, the book would have been far too drawn out, lengthy, and bloated if it had expanded upon these chapters so I'm not really sure how I'd fix that, but I did feel like it got to a point where Tom was speeding through the story.

 

On the topic of Tom. What a character. And again, the ending became too rushed. But the faucets of him that made him who he was, how all the various memories and parts of him intertwined to create him, those were strong.

 

As with all books about time travel, there were some aspects of this that I found challenging to comprehend or really understand. However, I found the basic premises that the science of the book was based upon was believable and comprehensible, and I appreciate how it was explained by someone who seemed to have about the same grasp on science as I do.

 

I appreciated the understanding of human desires and the perspective that time brings us. While at moments it was heartbreaking, unfair, this was one thread of the book that really stayed with me.

 

This might take a little time to sink into and it was complex at points, but it was well crafted and compelling.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review
2 Stars
Hey Harry, Hey Matilda/Rachel Hulin
Hey Harry, Hey Matilda - Rachel Hulin

Hey Harry, Hey Matilda is the story—told entirely in hilarious emails—of fraternal twins Harry and Matilda Goodman as they fumble into adulthood, telling lies and keeping secrets, and finally confronting their complicated twinship.

Matilda Goodman is an underemployed wedding photographer grappling with her failure to live as an artist and the very bad lie she has told her boyfriend (that she has a dead twin). Harry, her (totally alive) brother, is an untenured professor of literature, anxiously contemplating his publishing status (unpublished) and sleeping with a student. When Matilda invites her boyfriend home for Thanksgiving to meet the family, and when Harry makes a desperate—and unethical—move to save his career, they set off an avalanche of shame, scandal, and drunken hot tub revelations that force them to examine the truth about who they really are. A wonderfully subversive, sensitive novel of romantic entanglement and misguided ambition, Hey Harry, Hey Matilda is a joyful look at love and family in all its forms.

 

I didn't buy into this one. I was just... meh. And then the ending had implications that made me uncomfortable and I'm just very eh about this book.

 

I normally love the style of letters and emails to tell an entire story but in this case it fell short. Harry and Matilda lacked distinct voices and if not for the changing of font I really wouldn't have been able to know who was who without looking at salutations. Both were also bland. English professors and wedding photographers sound like careers that would be very intriguing, but the two of them did not live up to expectations.

 

If you asked me to describe a plot I'm not really sure where I'd go. The lie referenced in the blurb was barely a minor subplot point and didn't create the drama I expected. I'm not sure if they ever learned who they really were.

 

The ending just really killed all of my enjoyment of this novel. I guess there was foreshadowing that I chose to write off as my imagination, but ultimately it was weird and uncomfortable. I've read a book with a similar topic where the author made it okay, but this felt left field.

 

Interestingly, this was originally done as an Instagram novel. Fascinating concept. I wish the story had worked more for me.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review
4 Stars
Always/Sarah Jio
Always: A Novel - Sarah Jio

While enjoying a romantic candlelit dinner with her fiancé, Ryan, at one of Seattle's chicest restaurants, Kailey Crane can't believe her good fortune: She has a great job as a writer for the Herald and is now engaged to a guy who is perfect in nearly every way. As they leave the restaurant, Kailey spies a thin, bearded homeless man on the sidewalk. She approaches him to offer up her bag of leftovers, and is stunned when their eyes meet, then stricken to her very core: The man is the love of her life, Cade McAllister.

When Kailey met Cade ten years ago, their attraction was immediate and intense—everything connected and felt right. But it all ended suddenly, leaving Kailey devastated. Now the poor soul on the street is a faded version of her former beloved: His weathered and weary face is as handsome as Kailey remembers, but his mind has suffered in the intervening years. Over the next few weeks, Kailey helps Cade begin to piece his life together, something she initially keeps from Ryan. As she revisits her long-ago relationship, Kailey realizes that she must decide exactly what—and whom—she wants.

Alternating between the past and the present, Always is a beautifully unfolding exploration of a woman faced with an impossible choice, a woman who discovers what she's willing to save and what she will sacrifice for true love.

 

I found myself completely engrossed by this book.

 

I adored Kailey as a character--she cares about everyone and has a lot of passion for her causes. In that regard, I didn't quite comprehend her relationship with Ryan, who had kind of an opposite view of the world, but I appreciated that they could put aside their differences. I also enjoyed seeing how she grew up a little bit and lost her naiveté across the two sections. However, I wasn't terribly fond of the way Jio dealt with other characters, as the ending was quite anticlimactic due to her portrayal throughout the book.

 

I absolutely adored the setting! The music references were a lot of fun and I definitely shoved the book in front of my friend's face multiple times to share my excitement over certain references. I felt like I got a real feel for Seattle in two different time periods and from two different lenses.

 

This was one time where I wasn't terribly fond of the alternating chapters from different time periods; I thought it would have been better done to simply have two parts as I felt like Kailey herself didn't change personality wise very much across the years and thus I had trouble remembering where I was.

 

This wasn't quite as predictable as I expected it would be, and there were times where I was genuinely unsure what would happen, which I appreciated greatly for the genre. However, I still felt like the romance was at times hard for me to buy, and that Kailey was kind of going through some of the motions.

 

I loved the social justice aspect of this book, and I loved how engaging it was. Definitely recommend for fans of romance.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review
1.5 Stars
Forgotten Boxes/Becki Willis
Forgotten Boxes - Becki Willis

Named sole heir to her aunt's estate, Charity Gannon arrives in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, hoping to find a link to her past. She's not looking for lost treasures; she is searching for a connection to the aunt she barely knew.

What she finds is a thirty-something-year-old mystery and questions with no answers. A sad, secluded cottage, all but hidden amid the vines. A man's suit of clothes, tainted with dried blood and a bullet hole. Four forgotten boxes, stuffed into a large bag and buried in the far corners of the shed.

These are not just any boxes. These are unopened, undelivered boxes, left behind by the now-defunct Kingdom Parcel. All four boxes are marked March 14, 1984... the very day her uncle, president and driver for the delivery service, was said to have committed suicide. Four forgotten boxes, whose owners might still be out there, waiting for a delivery that never arrived.

The undelivered boxes haunt Charity, tugging at her conscience. Hadn’t someone noticed them missing? Hadn’t anyone wondered about the failed delivery? Thinking it might be fun to surprise the recipients after all these years, Charity sets out to deliver the packages to their rightful owners.

Along the way, one of the love stories she discovers is her own. Fate throws her into the sturdy arms of Tarn Danbury, a burly sugarmaker with eyes as beautiful as the mountain pond from which he was named, and a voice as smooth and rich as the dark syrup he produces.

The story behind one box is delightful. Another is heartbreaking.

And one might very well be the death of her.

 

Although I was excited to read this book, it feel short of my expectations for a variety of reasons.

 

This book is not a mystery/thriller. It is a romance. It may be a romance with mystery/thriller elements, yes, but while the blurb led me to believe that there would be a romantic subplot to this, the story revolved around the romance far too much for a book selling itself as a mystery.

 

Let's start with my biggest issue. This book perpetuates the idea that suicide is a bad thing. Charity's uncle is thought to have committed suicide, and Charity wants to "clear his name." One should not be ashamed of someone who had committed suicide; depression and mental illnesses that lead to suicide are REAL illnesses, and I was extremely bothered by the complete disregard Charity had towards this. Okay, her uncle didn't commit suicide, but why would it have been a problem if he had? Suicide is a terrible, terrible action that takes many lives and this book completely disrespects that. And I'm not okay with that.

 

Charity is taking care of her deceased aunt's cottage... but it takes 13% of the book before Charity mentions that her aunt's cottage is in Vermont. She makes such a big deal about the small town vibe, but I'm not sure if we're in Texas, where the author is from, or somewhere more South, or where, and then all of a sudden we're in Vermont. After that, we don't forget it. But I literally had to go back through and skim reread because I was so confused as to where the setting was. And then, the setting becomes entirely about maple syrup. I do believe there is more to Vermont than maple syrup, as Charity should know, as she could list of about ten random facts about it.

 

My biggest issue with this book was the instalove. Charity and Tarn both claim that they've had very few previous relationships, yet during their first encounter they're both attempting to flirt in a way that feels completely unnatural and formulaic. They kiss (no spoiler alert because it's obvious that it'll happen) when they just barely know each others' names. I just don't get it. For someone who is supposedly so pragmatic, why does Charity go crazy so fast for him? Do they ever talk? Why do they like each other? There is absolutely zero substance other than lust and physical attraction.

 

And I haven't even started on the premise. I like the premise. I was really excited about the premise and greedy to read this. But it's not believable. There are several plot holes where I wondered how it got to the point that Charity was even involved. The timing of it all is far too coincidental, and I'm really not sure why the case wasn't resolved thirty years ago and why the bad guys didn't just get away with it.

 

I also couldn't enjoy the way that this was written. There is a dream scene in this book, which is a completely tired trope when, as in this case, it contributes nothing to the book. That scene could have been deleted completely. Charity talks to herself often, until one time she seems to realise just how much she talks to herself. Yes, Charity, I was judging you. Or at least, I was judging you as a character for needing to convey information in that manner.

 

There are also flashbacks in the past that could have been useful, but they are too infrequent and random that they instead just distract. If all relevant scenes had been in the past this might have worked, but instead I feel like I know information that Charity doesn't until the end when she magically figures things out. Even the one character that could shed light couldn't have known everything that happened in flashbacks.

 

Finally, this girl puts her entire self worth on the one guy's attraction. She runs her own business as a graphic designer (though I don't know how she was working during this book??) and is pretty darn self sufficient. Yet she is a total damsel in distress, and it takes a man getting an erection in response to her for her to finally gain some confidence. I would have loved to have seen her being validated in some other way--maybe an award for her business or something that she showed pride in. But the only time she shows confidence is when a man is attracted to her.

 

Also, I wish she received more affirmation for her weight. She talks about being "big" because she is 5'7". Well, I am 5'6", and now I feel like I, too, am a whale. Maybe I'm not petite as she desires to be, but I generally feel pretty confident until this book tells me that unless I find a giant mountain man, I will be big, and the only way I'll get affirmation is in his attentions. Great. Thanks.

 

I'm sorry, but there are just too many issues with this book for me to recommend it at all.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review
4 Stars
A List of Cages/Robin Roe
A List of Cages - Robin Roe

When Adam Blake lands the best elective ever in his senior year, serving as an aide to the school psychologist, he thinks he's got it made. Sure, it means a lot of sitting around, which isn't easy for a guy with ADHD, but he can't complain, since he gets to spend the period texting all his friends. Then the doctor asks him to track down the troubled freshman who keeps dodging her, and Adam discovers that the boy is Julian--the foster brother he hasn't seen in five years.

Adam is ecstatic to be reunited. At first, Julian seems like the boy he once knew. He's still kind hearted. He still writes stories and loves picture books meant for little kids. But as they spend more time together, Adam realizes that Julian is keeping secrets, like where he hides during the middle of the day, and what's really going on inside his house. Adam is determined to help him, but his involvement could cost both boys their lives.

 

This was a heart-breaking book with two extremely different boys.

 

Aspects of this book were so very sad and I think Roe did a lovely job of portraying the characters, especially Julian, as they dealt with things no people should deal with. The way that Julian saw the world was very enlightening to read.

 

This book had just the right amount of romance. It was great that it didn't center around a relationship as that would have completely detracted from the plot, but I loved that there was a tiny minor part that was very sweet and thus satisfied my romantic side.

 

The ending felt a little too simplistic for all of the challenges that the boys had faced and all of the themes that the books had addressed. I wanted to see the aftermath of a very serious, if accidental action.

 

While I really enjoyed the relationship the two boys had, I didn't quite buy Adam--the kid is too nice and too perfect--he has very few visible flaws and just didn't seem entirely realistic. Since we got his first person perspective, I wanted to see thoughts he might have had even if he didn't take action on them.

 

Though there are some aspects I'd change about this book, I thought it tackled a big issue in a great way and was definitely well worth reading.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review
3.5 Stars
Love and First Sight/Josh Sundquist
Love and First Sight - Josh Sundquist

On his first day at a new school, blind sixteen-year-old Will Porter accidentally groped a girl on the stairs, sat on another student in the cafeteria, and somehow drove a classmate to tears. High school can only go up from here, right?

As Will starts to find his footing, he develops a crush on a charming, quiet girl named Cecily. Then an unprecedented opportunity arises: an experimental surgery that could give Will eyesight for the first time in his life. But learning to see is more difficult than Will ever imagined, and he soon discovers that the sighted world has been keeping secrets. It turns out Cecily doesn't meet traditional definitions of beauty--in fact, everything he'd heard about her appearance was a lie engineered by their so-called friends to get the two of them together. Does it matter what Cecily looks like? No, not really. But then why does Will feel so betrayed?

Told with humor and breathtaking poignancy, Love and First Sight is a story about how we related to each other and the world around us.

 

This book was an uplifting read that tackled important questions in a reasonable manner.


Will is a lovely character--I enjoy how he manages to maintain an identity outside of being blind. I would have liked to see him have more of his own interests and passions, but despite him fitting into a character trait mould he was a lot of fun to read about. He maintained his independence and stuck up for himself and others.


I gained so much appreciation for the way I see from reading this book. Sundquist does an exemplary job of describing what it must be like to see for the first time. From the process of recognising colours to understanding the concept of objects being 3D, I definitely thought about my sight in different ways. Even terms like "perspective" are much more complex to describe than I previously would have thought.


I bought the fact that Will is eligible for a surgery that means he might regain eyesight for the sake of the book; however, I thought there was one other decision on a family member's behalf that was irrational. But this is YA, and though I rolled my eyes through the last part of the book, it came with the type of ending that one looks for.


Visually impaired people are definitely an underrepresented group in books, and though I was excited by the premise, I was simultaneously worried that this wouldn't be done carefully. However, I feel it was clear that the author carefully looked at many cases of blindness and formed an experience that was legitimate and gave me a new perspective.


This books gets extra points for bringing forward such a unique experience, but ultimately was a tale of acceptance and romance.


I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Review
2.5 Stars
What Light/Jay Asher
What Light - Jay Asher

This was so very... ordinary... for an Asher book. I've come to expect great things from him and I could not put down his previous two books.

 

But it's a nice Christmas read, I guess.

Review
2.5 Stars
You're the One That I Want/Giovanna Fletcher
You're the One That I Want - Giovanna Fletcher

Maddy, dressed in white, stands at the back of the church. At the end of the aisle is Rob - the man she's about to marry. Next to Rob is Ben - best man and the best friend any two people ever had. And that's the problem. Because if it wasn't Rob waiting for her at the altar, there's a strong chance it would be Ben. Loyal and sensitive Ben has always kept his feelings to himself, but if he turned round and told Maddy she was making a mistake, would she listen? And would he be right? Best friends since childhood, Maddy, Ben and Rob thought their bond was unbreakable. But love changes everything. Maddy has a choice to make but will she choose wisely? Her heart, and the hearts of the two best men she knows, depend on it...

 

This book managed to build itself up to be quite anticlimactic and was filled with fairly ordinary events instead of a lot of excitement. I enjoyed it, but felt a little let down.

 

Reading this in the US, I really enjoyed all the Britishisms--especially when the three go to university, just because it's different in some ways but similar in others to the American system, and I always enjoy hearing how things are done in other countries. Small details like the chocolate hobnob biscuits I found to be terribly amusing.

 

I also enjoyed watching the three grow up--with scenes like a wedding at elementary school graduation, there's a lot of sweetness to the story and in a way I felt like one of their parents, being able to see them mature.

 

Ben and Maddy both serve as the narrators for this book, and I unfortunately found them to be very similar--at points I could barely distinguish between the two voices. For people with very different lifestyles, ambitions, and points of view, I felt like the author could have done a better job at making their voices more compelling. Maddy, supposedly a siren, was probably the least developed because I really couldn't understand why the boys were in love with her other than out of habit.

 

My biggest issue with this book, however, was the first chapter and how it built up the entire rest of the book. It creates a lot of suspense, but then doesn't deliver, because if it hadn't been for the first chapter, I really wouldn't have found much of a conflict and the book would have just been more sad. I did like the ultimate resolution in one character, but there was a huge missed opportunity for conflict in that a third character knew very little of everything else... The entire book, I was waiting for this conflict, but it never happened.

 

This was enjoyable and I found the growing up of the characters to be very sweet, but it was a lot less conflict filled than the first chapter let on. I did read this in a day though--I was engrossed and kept waiting for a conflict.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review
2.5 Stars
Alterations/Stephanie Scott
Alterations - Stephanie Scott

Get a peek at the kisses behind the seams in this diverse YA retelling of Sabrina set in the glam fashion world.

If anyone saw the prom boards Amelia Blanco makes on her favorite fashion app, they'd think Ethan Laurenti was her boyfriend. They wouldn't know that all the plans she's made for them are just dreams, and that she's the girl who watches him from the kitchen while her parents cook for his famous family.

When Amelia's abuelita enrolls her in a month-long fashion internship in NYC, Amelia can't imagine leaving Miami—and Ethan—for that long. As soon as she gets to New York, however, she finds a bigger world and new possibilities. She meets people her own age who can actually carry on a conversation about stitching and design. Her pin boards become less about prom with Ethan and more about creating her own style. By the time she returns to Miami, Amelia feels like she can accomplish anything, and surprises herself by agreeing to help Ethan's awkward, Steve-Jobs-wannabe brother, Liam, create his own fashion app.

As Liam and Amelia get closer, Ethan realizes that this newly confident, stylish girl may be the one for him after all . . . even though he has a reality TV star girlfriend he conveniently keeps forgetting about. The "new and improved" Amelia soon finds herself in between two brothers, a whole lot of drama, and choice she never dreamed she'd have to make.

 

I had pretty mixed feelings about this book, but entirely felt rather apathetic.

 

The first half was devoted to Amelia's internship in New York City. The biggest problem I had with this was that the blurb had basically already summarized this entire section. Maybe had I not read this blurb I'd have been more exciting, but I knew what was going to happen and I just felt like reading it actually happen was redundant. The entire book could have been cut in half and started after that part and it still would have made sense. I was also less fond of how Amelia's grandmother submitted her application for an internship--this felt fake to me. If the internship was as competitive as it sounded and Amelia received a scholarship, then it seems like she would have put more time into short answer questions etc. in order to have a competitive application.

 

Amelia is less than honest to her new friends about her life at home and I didn't really understand her motivations behind that. She's characterised as being quite shy, but she doesn't feel that way when she's socialising and going out to New York parties. I felt conflicted about how to view her, and I didn't really have a strong understanding of her as a character. It frustrated me that, while she spent a lot of time making herself really cool sounding clothes, she was constantly putting them down.

 

I really enjoyed the trope of Amelia having crushed on a boy for basically her entire life without really knowing him. This felt very realistic and I also saw her growing up a little bit as she realised how little she knew him. I also adored her passion for fashion--though I could really care less about clothing, it was fantastic that she had some aspect of herself that she really cared about and spent a lot of time on. Seeing her realise how many different directions she could take also felt very real as it is something many teens face.

 

While there were aspects about this book that irked me a little in addition to its strengths, this book just didn't make much of an impact on me. It was an enjoyable read, but I felt often as though I was rushing through the pages because I had predicted (correctly) how it was all going to end based on the blurb.

Review
4.5 Stars
Fractured/Catherine McKenzie
Fractured - Catherine McKenzie

Welcome, neighbor!

Julie Prentice and her family move across the country to the idyllic Mount Adams district of Cincinnati, hoping to evade the stalker who’s been terrorizing them ever since the publication of her bestselling novel, The Murder Game. Since Julie doesn’t know anyone in her new town, when she meets her neighbor John Dunbar, their instant connection brings measured hope for a new beginning. But she never imagines that a simple, benign conversation with him could set her life spinning so far off course.

We know where you live.…

After a series of misunderstandings, Julie and her family become the target of increasingly unsettling harassment. Has Julie’s stalker found her, or are her neighbors out to get her, too? As tension in the neighborhood rises, new friends turn into enemies, and the results are deadly.

 

I finished this book several days ago and am still reeling from the complete suspense it kept me in. I kept finishing chapters simply to get immensely frustrated at still not solving the mystery, and absolutely could not put this book down.

 

I really enjoyed how carefully drawn the neighbourhood that Julie moved to was. I felt as though the characters I saw could be people I would find in the town where I grew up, and though I almost would have liked them to have been more cariacatural, I enjoyed how one member of the area really took things over the top.

 

Characters in general were exceptionally well drawn and I felt like I had a feel for even the more minor characters. I liked that they had their strengths and their weaknesses. I liked that they had their own interests and how they demonstrated these. I liked that there were a lot of children that also had their own personalities and tropes.

 

But this book's strength comes from the suspense. The ultimate revelation of the mystery honestly was rather lackluster after the entire buildup, yet that didn't take away from how much I enjoyed the buildup to the revelation. The contrast between the characters in the past and the present, and how their desires had changed, too, was incredibly strong.

 

I could not put this book down, and I highly recommend this to anyone who loves to be sucked into a gripping story.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review
4 Stars
And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer/Fredrik Backman
And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer: A Novella - Fredrik Backman

This was a really sweet novella, and if you've enjoyed Backman's other works, you'll enjoy this.

 

I wasn't as captivated by Noah and his granddad in this book as I had been by the characters in Backman's other books; I actually thought Ted, Noah's dad, was more intriguing, perhaps because of the conflict. Nonetheless, this was still strong and definitely had the emotions that I look forward to in his books.

 

I've now read a view varying depictions of characters suffering from Alzheimer's and I felt like this was a more emotional one that also led to a lot of understanding. This is a perspective I wouldn't otherwise get.

 

I did feel like I wanted this to be a fully fledged book, though I'm not sure where else it would go. I think that's partially a result of my not generally reading novellas though; I felt like I got involved just for the end. But this was definitely worth the time.

 

From the New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, and Britt-Marie Was Here comes an exquisitely moving portrait of an elderly man’s struggle to hold on to his most precious memories, and his family’s efforts to care for him even as they must find a way to let go.“Isn’t that the best of all life’s ages, an old man thinks as he looks at his grandchild, when a boy is just big enough to know how the world works but still young enough to refuse to accept it.” Grandpa and Noah are sitting on a bench in a square that keeps getting smaller every day. The square is strange but also familiar, full of the odds and ends that have made up their lives: Grandpa’s work desk, the stuffed dragon that Grandpa once gave to Noah, the sweet-smelling hyacinths that Grandma loved to grow in her garden. As they wait together on the bench, they tell jokes and discuss their shared love of mathematics. Grandpa recalls what it was like to fall in love with his wife, what it was like to lose her. She’s as real to him now as the first day he met her, but he dreads the day when he won’t remember her. Sometimes Grandpa sits on the bench next to Ted, Noah’s father—Ted who never liked math, prefers writing and playing guitar, and has waited his entire life for his father to have time for him, to accept him. But in their love of Noah, they have found a common bond. Grandpa, Grandma, Ted, and Noah all meet here, in this peculiar space that is growing dimmer and more confusing all the time. And here is where they will learn to say goodbye, the scent of hyacinths in the air, nothing to fear. This little book with a big message is certain to be treasured for generations to come.

Review
5 Stars
Small Great Things/Jodi Picoult
Small Great Things - Jodi Picoult

This book was absolutely stunning--compelling, dramatic and interesting, and addressing the really important topic of racial relations in America today.

 

Being perfectly honest, I didn't enjoy the last two Picoult books I read, and I thought she was overhyped. But the premise of this intrigued me, so I decided to give her it another try. When I realised how long the book was, I groaned, thinking I was going to be bored. But no. I downloaded this before a fourteen hour flight, and it made the time fly by. This was incredibly well done.

 

Seeing the case go through the court system was really intriguing for me. We see a lot of court scenes in the media, but as is pointed out, these depictions are often inaccurate. Once bail has been decided, someone can't just walk free. The process of picking a jury is extremely calculated. Public attorneys are drastically underpaid and underappreciated. For the representation this book did of court alone, I'd rate this highly.

 

But race is what turned this book from a really interesting and encapsulating read to something important that I'll be getting my mother to read. I am white. Picoult is white. Thus I wasn't really expecting anything great; in fact, I was wary of a white person writing a black person's narrative. However, I dare say that she did her job. The scene that stood out most to me was when Ruth (black) and Kennedy (white) go to a supermarket. Both are well-educated, family-oriented, and relatively successful. Ruth is followed, and at the exit, her receipt is checked.

 

I assumed I was going to have a problem with what I presumed the ending of this book would be because I tend to hate endings that are too happy. But Picoult threw in a perfect twist, aptly discovered by Kennedy, that really just sealed the deal for me and this book.


Ruth's ability to stand up for herself and take risks was completely admirable. The small details, such as her sister helping her to apply for unemployment benefits and her subsequent training at McDonald's really made me feel as if I were standing next to her and living her life. Kennedy's motivation and openness was inspiring. And while it completely scares me that white supremacists still exist and are able to get away with so much hatred, their perspective was also eye opening.


I agree that most people are inherently if unintentionally racist. I don't think that's easily changed. But I think it can be talked about and thought about. And with this book, Picoult definitely made me question my privilege and think twice.

Five full stars for this one. We need more books like this. I'm extremely impressed.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Review
3.5 Stars
Replica/Lauren Oliver
Replica - Lauren Oliver

I keep having such high hopes for Oliver's books. Before I Fall is one of my top five books of all time, but nothing else she's written has compared. Conceptually, I always get really excited, but Replica too fell flat of my expectations.

 

I'd definitely recommend reading this in alternating chapters. Otherwise, I don't really see the point of reading whoever's story you read second. I'm incredibly indecisive so I decided to read them in alternating chapters and I'm glad I did--there weren't spoilers, persay, but you know what's going to happen.

 

I really love the premise of having the same story from two different viewpoints...but I just don't  think it was necessary here. I love the idea Oliver was going for, that people view events in extremely different ways, but I found a lot of the repeated scenes felt a little redundant. (Maybe they wouldn't have if I'd read them one at a time?)

 

This nonetheless was a solid read and I enjoyed the mystery behind the clones, though I found it a little hard to buy.

 

Once again, a great premise from Lauren Oliver that didn't meet my hopes.

Review
4 Stars
The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko/Scott Stambach
The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko - Scott Stambach

Seventeen-year-old Ivan Isaenko is a life-long resident of the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children in Belarus. For the most part, every day is exactly the same for Ivan, which is why he turns everything into a game, manipulating people and events around him for his own amusement.

Until Polina arrives.

She steals his books. She challenges his routine. The nurses like her.

She is exquisite. Soon, he cannot help being drawn to her and the two forge a romance that is tenuous and beautiful and everything they never dared dream of. Before, he survived by being utterly detached from things and people. Now, Ivan wants something more: Ivan wants Polina to live.

 

This book ended up being more mature and older than I thought, which ultimately made it a more powerful novel with lasting thoughts.

 

It took me several chapters to really get into this book. Ivan initially didn't draw me in and I found him kind of annoying; however, once I did fall into this, I found it terribly heartening and hard to put down. Each scene seemed to have a purpose, and I liked that I was getting over my initial discomfort with how hopeless Ivan's whole life seemed.

 

I loved the narration style of this book. It was incredibly unique and made me feel as though Ivan were actually a real person. His cynicism about the world was incredibly amusing, and though he was a teenager, he initially felt quite young. The way he talked about the nurses around him and his environment was incredibly heartening.

 

Though this book might seem initially a little removed from the world of most readers, I thought it gave an important perspective to what living with severe disability might be like, and how one can still have hope and one can still have a purpose, and I found that to be very important.

 

I'm glad I was reading this review because otherwise I likely wouldn't have continued reading this book. The first part was slow and hard for me to get into. But ultimately, this book was so worth it and I highly recommend it.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review
4 Stars
The Secret Ingredient of Wishes/Susan Bishop Crispell
The Secret Ingredient of Wishes - Susan Bishop Crispell

26-year-old Rachel Monroe has spent her whole life trying to keep a very unusual secret: she can make wishes come true. And sometimes the consequences are disastrous. So when Rachel accidentally grants an outlandish wish for the first time in years, she decides it’s time to leave her hometown―and her past―behind for good.

Rachel isn’t on the road long before she runs out of gas in a town that’s not on her map: Nowhere, North Carolina―also known as the town of “Lost and Found.” In Nowhere, Rachel is taken in by a spit-fire old woman, Catch, who possesses a strange gift of her own: she can bind secrets by baking them into pies. Rachel also meets Catch’s neighbor, Ashe, a Southern gentleman with a complicated past, who makes her want to believe in happily-ever-after for the first time in her life.

As she settles into the small town, Rachel hopes her own secrets will stay hidden, but wishes start piling up everywhere Rachel goes. When the consequences threaten to ruin everything she’s begun to build in Nowhere, Rachel must come to terms with who she is and what she can do, or risk losing the people she’s starting to love―and her chance at happiness―all over again.

 

I thought this was a lovely story with a beautifully drawn world of magical realism.

 

There were a lot of elements to this story that were just so much fun. Rachel tries to leave Nowhere once and ends up driving in circles which I thought was absolutely adorable and hilarious. I loved that she was obviously a good hearted person and that she had a friend who came and visited her.

 

The guilt that Rachel has carried around was really touching, and though not everyone has the ability to make their brother disappear, I found that I could draw a lot of real world parallels and really see how she needed to forgive herself.

 

I was initially pretty dubious about how believable Rachel's ability would be, but it ultimately didn't distract me at all from the book. I did have some qualms about how the gift worked, but I was able to suspend my disbelief easily and just roll with it.

 

The characters in this book were so much fun and I really felt like I saw them grow and evolve. Catch especially was a sweetheart, and her pies were terribly amusing. The plot moved through the characters and they all had a lot of complexity to them that made me feel like they were actual people I would know.

 

This was a warm-and-fuzzy read and I totally recommend it.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review
2 Stars
Someone I Wanted To Be/Aurelia Willis
Someone I Wanted to Be - Aurelia Wills

When an insecure teen starts impersonating someone else, her life spirals dangerously out of control in a realistic, relatable novel about finding yourself—and discovering your true friends.

Leah Lobermier dreams of becoming a doctor, but it’s hard to stay focused on getting good grades when boys make oinking sounds at her in school and her mother spends every night on the couch with a bottle of wine. Leah’s skinny and popular "friends," Kristy and Corinne, aren’t much better and can hardly be counted on for support. When the girls convince a handsome older man to buy them beer, Leah takes his phone number and calls him, pretending to be Kristy—coy and confident—and they develop a relationship, talking and texting day after day. But as the lie she created grows beyond her control, can Leah put a stop to things before she—or Kristy—is seriously hurt?

 

This was creepy. I'm definitely in favour of all topics being written about and all views being represented, but I so needed Leah to come to her senses to really appreciate this book, and it just...eh.

 

I didn't like Leah. I know I was supposed to feel sorry for her and I was supposed to get emotional over her growing up, but I also like my female heroines and I found Leah to be a bit too much of a pushover and that she didn't have enough of her own character--to the extent that she borrowed someone else's--to really draw my attention. She didn't really try. She could have taken initiative with her life, but she instead groaned and griped.

 

I also found it hard to comprehend why Leah and Kristy were friends. Their relationship was symbiotic and draining. I actually wanted to hear more about Kristy because there was backstory to her and why she was the way she was. The ending didn't really sit well with me, either.

 

But my biggest issue with this book was the premise--and kind of how unnecessary it was. Kurt could have been the same age as the girls, but it seemed like the author made him older as a boon, like Leah had more reason to want a much older man, and I found it really troublesome that the age factor was never really addressed and instead the biggest issue everyone had with him was that he didn't accept Leah's appearance.

 

I think there was potential here, but I simply didn't love this book.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.