To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Lara Jean Song wrote five secret love letters. One to every boy she’s ever loved.

She never intended for anyone to read these letters, but when they’re delivered, Lara Jean has to open up about her feelings. As she faces current crushes and past loves, Lara Jean is forced to choose which boy will be her future.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a wonderful trilogy starring an unexpected protagonist. Lara Jean Song is a timid Korean teen. She’s not the smartest, the prettiest, or the funniest, but her little quirks (a love of baking and wearing thrifted clothes) make her a relatable and believable character.

When her love letters are mailed by her little sister (in a moment of spite), Lara Jean’s simple and quiet world gets turned upside down. Her past crushes range from the high school stud, her older sister’s ex, and a top member of the Model United Nations team. The variety of personalities and interests gives good depth and entertainment to To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. 

The third book is the weakest of the series, but by the last book, I was so invested in Lara Jean’s story that I pushed through the slow parts.

If you are looking for a lighthearted read that’s filled with high school heartache and first loves, then I highly recommend To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. 

 

 

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Title: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Author: Jenny Han
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published: April 15, 2014
Side braids and barrettes, Lara Jean is a girl after my own heart!
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Unearthly

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Unearthly, Hallowed, and Boundless

The Unearthly series follows Clara, a teenager who learns that she is part angel. Her rare genetics have assigned her a specific purpose to fulfill on Earth; too bad she doesn’t know what that purpose is. Short visions are the only clues she has to guide her, but their ambiguous meanings leave her second guessing everything.

While seeking answers about the role she’s meant to play in life, Clara finds friends, enemies, and love.

As she battles her personal (and very real) demons, Clara works to answer one question: Does fate really exist, or will she be able to decide her own future?

This series originally started out as research reading for my own YA novel about angels and demons. It turned into a very enjoyable read and exceeded my expectations. The other angel/demon books I’ve read feature a brooding fallen angel that the “heroine” falls in love with. Unearthly took a different route by having the strongest character be the heroine. Clara does the rescuing and in truth is the only person able to rescue herself. No one can interpret her visions for her, and she has to learn how to rely on her own strengths to overcome obstacles.

Along with a strong female protagonist, this series features three equally strong plots that tie into each other well. Each book is able to carry itself. There is no weak link title in this series.

If you are looking for an exciting read where more is at stake than a broken heart, I recommend the Unearthly series!

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Title: Unearthly
Author: Cynthia Hand
Publisher: HarperCollins
Published: November 1, 2011
This book is about good vs. evil, light vs. dark…hence the black. It also takes place in the wilds of Wyoming…hence the flannel.

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The Light Between Oceans

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The Light Between Oceans

Tom Sherbourne is the keeper of the lighthouse on Janus Rock. The island is miles away from civilization, and when Tom marries Isabel, their future revolves around the family they hope to raise in the shadow of the lighthouse.

Dreams of motherhood slip further and further away from Isabel as she buries three stillborns. In the moment of her deepest despair, a boat washes onto the shores of Janus rock carrying a dead man and beautiful healthy baby girl.

Who is the man? How did he die? Where did the boat come from? Only one question matters to Isabel: What will happen to the baby? Little Lucy becomes a part of the Sherbourne family, but as the year’s go by the other three questions are answered and the Sherbournes are again faced with “What will happen to the baby?”

This book is both beautiful and heartbreaking. I have never cried while reading a book, but The Light Between Oceans had me sobbing multiple times. The torment faced by Tom and Isabel Sherbourne is devastating. What would I do if I were told to give up the child I raised, even if I raised her under a lie?

The unfathomable struggle is what made this story so gripping, but the craftsmanship of writing is what makes this book a standout. Stedman is as much a poet as an author. The life she paints on Janus Rock is mesmerizing. Her ability turned a small island into its own world of beauty and turmoil and character.

And I know you’re not supposed to compare the book to the movie…but the movie had me bawling in the I-can’t-breathe kind of way.

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Title: The Light Between Oceans
Author: M.L. Stedman
Publisher: Scribner 
Published: April 2, 2013
*Remember to check out my instagram @bookfaire for a chance to win this 5-star book!
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The Love That Split the World

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The Love That Split the World

People think Natalie Cleary might be crazy since she sees things no one else can. Are the people she sees ghosts, visions, or living nightmares? When Natalie falls in love with Beau Wilkes, she has to figure out if his odd arrival in her life is a sign that he might not be real. Now she has to solve the puzzle of how to keep her mystery love in her world.

The Love that Split the World was a quick read making it great for summer. While the plot behind the story may seem heavy (a girl is trying to make sense of a world that is literally changing before her eyes), Emily Henry managed to keep things light in the book.

The idea of having two timelines of life overlapping on earth was interesting. It was so unique! This theory is what really gave this book its rating. But then Henry added time travel, which never works for me. Going back in time and altering major events can kill a book. We invested all this time in a story, and now you’re going to go back and undo everything? Nope.

The love interest Beau Wilkes was flawless. That might sound like a good thing, but perfection is unrealistic and it made his character flat. The love was as superficial as Beau was– a love at first sight that was more of a teenage obsession than anything else.

I loved the cleverness behind the book, but the characters and relationships could have been developed a little more.

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Title: The Love That Split the World
Author: Emily Henry
Publisher: Razorbill
Published: January 26, 2016
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The Handmaid’s Tale

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The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale delves into the oppressed world of Offred. Her life’s purposes as a Handmaid are to pick up groceries, keep herself healthy, and once a month try to get pregnant with the Commander. Anything else could get her killed.

So Offred doesn’t do anything else…for the whole…entire…book.

The Handmaid’s Tail isn’t a story about how Offred grew and changed. It’s a story of how the world she lived in changed. That’s what was so off-putting for me. I prefer character driven stories, and The Handmaid’s Tale serves as more of a political/religious critique.

I kept waiting for Offred to do something to challenge society, to rise up and find a way out. She’s given several opportunities and I rooted for her to take them, but Offred does what she is told and little more.

She remembers her life before Handmaids existed, a life when she was allowed to read, wear makeup, and dream of a future with her now missing husband and daughter. These flashbacks of “life before” break the story flow. Because Offred is such a passive character, she spends a lot of time thinking about the past. The frequent jumps from far past, to present, to recent past muddle the timeline of events and make the story drag.

If you are interested in fictional reflections about government/religion, then you might enjoy The Handmaid’s Tale. It wasn’t the book I expected, so I was disappointed.

This is one of the first audio books I’ve listened to while I was working. Not going to lie, it’s really hard to pay attention to an audio book while you’re writing emails. I had to rewind so many times because I tuned out the book!

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Title: The Handmaid’s Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
Publisher: Anchor
Published: March 16, 1998
The Handmaids are a class of oppressed women. I took these photos the day after I chopped off my hair…#notoppressed
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The Art of Not Breathing

The Art of Not Breathing


The Art of Not Breathing has an intriguing plot line that’s part murder mystery part adventure story. Elsie Main’s twin brother drowned five years ago, but even though she was with him the day he died, she can’t remember exactly what happened. Her parents have forbidden her to go to the beach, but it’s only when she’s in the water that pieces of her memory return. Little by little she realizes that her family and friends have all been keeping secrets from her. Only if she dives deep (literally) will she be able to answer the question: What really happened the day Eddie died? 

Intriguing, right?

Well add in the fact that Elsie’s mom is an alcoholic, her dad hates the world, her brother is anorexic, her “boyfriend” randomly disappears, she’s bullied at school, and has self-esteem issues. Oh, and her dead twin brother, Eddie, talks to her in her mind. Ya. There’s a LOT of heavy subplot going on.

Things that seem important at the beginning of the book (Elsie hearing Eddie’s voice in her head) end up being trivial (he’s all but silent by the end). The fact that every character is dealing with their own drama made me wish that SOMEONE could have had their life together. It’s a little draining hearing how awful and unhappy everyone is all the time. 

I was so excited to explore the country of Ireland! But, the accents disappeared after the first chapter and the vague descriptions of the town and ocean made it sound like this story could just as easily have taken place in New England. Luckily, the only time I’ve ever been to New England was when I was a little kid. New England is just as foreign as Ireland, so The Art of Not Breathing was still a nice escape for me.

Title: The Art of Not Breathing
Author: Sarah Alexander
Publisher: Sourcebooks 
Published: January 5, 2016
There is one particular quote in the book that I really take to heart:

“Go with your heart, not your head, because your head doesn’t know what it wants. It only thinks about the moral high ground. And if your heart isn’t happy, when you try to share it, you’ll make others unhappy too.”

Isn’t that beautiful?



This Is Where It Ends

This Is Where It Ends

A quiet rural town is getting back into routine on the first day of school. The students and teachers are gathered together in the auditorium for the principal’s annual “Welcome Back” pep talk. Everything is normal, until the assembly ends and the teachers realizes that all the auditorium doors are locked from the outside.

There’s a shooter in the room, and this first day of school will tear the town apart. 
I have never read a school shooting novel before. I like to read to escape real life, and unfortunately violence, hate, and bullying in schools are all over the news and social media sites. For some reason though, I picked up this book and decided to read it. It was a good choice!
This Is Where It Ends is written from four different character perspectives (with a few special sections interspersed throughout). Jumping from view point to view point normally makes the story too jerky and disjointed for my liking, but Marieke did a wonderful job of keeping her timeline in order. In fact, the timeline was one of the things I thought was brilliant. 
The entire span of the book only takes place in one hour. Each chapter is broken up by different time increments (i.e. 10:32-10:35 A.M.), so you’re reading in real time. The different narrators are located in various places: inside the auditorium, outside the auditorium, outside the school, so you’re able to get a full spectrum of what’s going on. Brilliant. 
The plot is violent (it’s all about a school shooting), and every single character feels misunderstood (typical teenager). Despite the heavy subject matter, it didn’t weigh down the flow of the story too much. Marieke did a good job of balancing dark backstories with hope and determination. 
While this book isn’t a new favorite that I’ll reread over and over again, I am glad that I gave it a chance. It reminded me that I need to be part of the good in the world. It doesn’t take much to be kind, but it can make the biggest difference in the life of someone I’m kind to.  
Title: This Is Where It Ends
Author: Marieke Nijkamp
Publisher: Sourcebooks 
Published: January 5, 2016

Lily and the Octopus

Lily and the Octopus
Lily is a twelve-year-old dachshund with a tumor…I’m sorry, “octopus” on her head. Her owner, Ted, can’t bring himself to acknowledge Lily’s illness and does everything in his power and imagination to save her. 

I have never read a “dog novel” in my life, because whenever a dog is a main character it can’t end well. Am I right? 

Lily and the Octopus received such great reviews that I broke my own rule and read a “dog novel.” This was NOT the book for me to start with. Rather than being a moving fictional read about a man’s love for his dog, this book was more magical realism about a man’s obsession with his dog’s tumor.

I understand that everyone handles grief in different ways. Ted’s reaction is denial, and rather than being able to enjoy the time he has left with Lily, (she is really really old) he breathes life into her tumor. His imagination turns it into a talking octopus. 

I liked the parts where Ted had flashbacks of his life with Lily, or when he and Lily had conversations. They were just so fleeting and always overshadowed by the octopus. 

Between the talking tumor, the self-pity, and an entire section (whole chapters) about a really weird dream, this book didn’t trigger any tears from me (and I have a four-year-old dog that’s going blind for reasons the vet can’t explain, so my baby’s death has crossed my mind more than once.)

This was a book that just wasn’t meant for me.


Title: Lily and the Octopus 
Author: Steven Rowley
Publisher: Simon & Schuster 
Published: June 7, 2016
Maybe subconsciously I read a “dog book” just so I could post pictures of Darcie here on the blog. Here’s a little #tbt to when she was a newly adopted street mutt. 

Things Not Meant for You

Last year I had a reading resolution of over 30 books. This year, my resolution is a whopping 15 books. I love reading (hello, I started a book blog), so why did I cut my goal in half?

Well, it turns out that I’m a really picky reader…and by really picky, I mean it’s more likely you’ll find me in a library than a bookstore because it’s easier to return the books I don’t want to finish. It’s more likely for a book to get an Erika rating of 2 stars than 4. It’s more likely I’ll prefer the movie than the book. (That last one probably made a lot of you cringe.)

I used to think there was something wrong with me. After all, how could I not love the book that was recommended by Oprah, 5-starred on Goodreads, and listed as a New York Times bestseller?

Buddha had the answer for me:
“In the end only three things matter: how much you love, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”

I’ve applied this to multiple aspects of my life, including my reading habits.

According to Forbes, there are between “600,000 and 1,000,000 books published every year in the US alone.” That’s a lot of books.

With so many options on the bookshelf, why would I want to force my way through a book I don’t enjoy? Not every book was meant for me. Apparently a lot of books weren’t meant for me, and that’s okay. Every person has different experiences in life. Books touch those experiences on various levels so what might ring as life changing text for one person might be a throw away read for another. And that’s okay.

Rather than trying to force myself to read 2-3 books a month, I’m going to give myself the time to let go of the books not meant for me. By lowering my reading goal, I don’t have to finish every book I start. I can take the time to start books that intrigue me and finish books that continued to intrigue me, hopefully turning 2017 into my best read yet.

My Reading Resolution: 2017 Edition

Guess what…when you move out of state, get engaged, and get married overseas in a 4 month time span, you don’t read as much as you had planned at the beginning of the year when you were single and stationary. This year had so many wonderful and unexpected life changes!
So, I’m excited to start the new year with a more realistic goal of reading one book a month. If you go through my “To Read: 2017” you can see the January-December themes.
Twelve books in twelve months. That’s a resolution that will keep (and hopefully surpass). 
Feel free to join in or make a list for yourself!