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Reviews

Entwined by A. J. Rosen ARC Review

Entwined by A.J Rosen

Published by: Wattpad Books on August 25, 2020

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy

Pages: 288

My Rating: 

🚨 MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD 🚨

 

SYNOPSIS

Sometimes love gets a bit twisted.

Avery Montgomery doesn’t even know if she wants a soul mate.

As a member of the Hellenicus—a race founded in antiquity and descended directly from the Greek gods—Avery’s attending her first Gathering where she’ll gain the ability to entwine her thoughts with her destined soul mate and be tied to them forever.

But all is not as it seems at the Royal Court. There are severe and strange looks from the elders, whisperings from the ancient Dodona tree, and encounters with spirits who seem to know Avery better than she knows herself.

Throughout these whirlwind events at Court, Avery finds herself torn between her feelings for the wise and protective Vladimir and the passionate, fun-loving Adrian. Unwilling to surrender her independence or to betray her heart, Avery must decide once and for all if she’ll give in to her desires and risk the wrath of the Gods.

Because who are you if your destiny lies with another person?

MY THOUGHTS

❝What if your soul mate never comes? What if you waste your whole life waiting for someone who never shows up?❞

High school bully? ✔️

Ex crush and notorious player? ✔️

Best friend’s brother? ✔️

Family issues, including strangely horrible and emotionally unavailable parents? ✔️

Obscure Harry Potter reference? ✔️

Every cliché going? ✔️

On the surface, Entwined sounds promising, but the novel suffers greatly from being too predictable and falling back on the unpolished storylines prominent on 2012 Wattpad. It doesn’t feel developed enough to be published — I always have higher standards for (traditionally) published books because there’s an entire creative team and editor ensuring the quality. An excess amount of tropes can be found in this book and — as much as I like clichés sometimes — there’s no original spin on them, causing the whole thing to feel haphazard and chaotic.

❝I should have known better than to allow myself to be vulnerable and give someone the chance to break me. It was like giving a murderer a gun and expecting not to be killed. Love was a myth.❞

Although parts of the world and lore are a little surface-level, Rosen’s effort at bringing more of Greek mythology into YA is admirable. Greek mythology is so vast and rich and the take on soulmates in Entwined is interesting enough, if not rough in parts. The time period is too ambiguous for my taste and I personally don’t like books where it’s seemingly modern day yet they go to a court and dress or dance like it’s the 1500s. Some of the elements reminded me a lot of The Selection, so if you enjoyed that book, Entwined might be perfect for you.

❝The idea of being trapped in this predetermined destiny makes me sick.❞

CHARACTERS

❝I don’t do damsel in distress. I look after myself, thanks.❞

Avery Montgomery is the protagonist and a victim to ‘Not Like Other Girls Syndrome.’ Avery wants to read a book instead of partying and hates high heels (so quirky!), she isn’t ashamed about how much she can eat (wow, she eats burgers? that’s so different!) and her best friend is the pretty one whilst she doesn’t compare, yet has five boys attracted to her at some point over the course of 300 pages. My biggest issue with Avery is the emphasis on how special and different she is. Not only is she a Mary-Sue, she’s cringe and says things like “what the flying pigeon,” “holy inventor of ketchup,” “sweet roasted corn” and more. It makes the book feel very immature and the references to K-Pop and reading on Wattpad feel out of place in Rosen’s fantasy world as opposed to creating a connection between the reader and Avery. Despite being the same age as her, I couldn’t relate to Avery at all and found her annoying. All that said, I can admire her stubborn resolve and strength.

❝You were looking at him and when you weren’t, he was looking at you.❞

Adrian and Vladimir are the two love interests, both of whom I’m going to clump together because they are both as bland as each other. I found both of their relationships with Avery to be rushed, albeit I tend to prefer slow burns. If anything, it doesn’t feel like either of them have a purpose beyond being a love interest. It’s a shame the relationships weren’t developed more and the characters are demeaned to being stereotypes instead of fully fleshed individuals the reader wants to root for. Since I found them both to be boring, I don’t have much of an opinion on them, despite the fact I’m partial to a good love triangle.

MY FAVOURITE MOMENT

Carlo’s voicemail adds a considerable amount of tension and is the first time it feels like there’s something at stake. The mystery surrounding Carlos created a lot of enigmas, enough that I kept reading until the end, even if I had some suspicions about the truth already.

MY LEAST FAVOURITE MOMENT

In truth, there are quite a few moments I thought to be questionable or borderline ridiculous. First of all, Avery’s arrest was beyond dramatic for such a small offence and it evoked more eye rolls than surprise on my end. Second of all, Avery’s best friend daring her to kiss her brother was really strange and out of the blue. The lack of build up to that moment is disappointing and I don’t understand why her best friend would do that so willingly without having a conversation with her brother or her friend beforehand. Third, the stabbing! It sounds terrible, but it was hilarious because it made no sense and was so random. I couldn’t stop laughing at the insanity of it and poor attempt at additional drama.

FINAL VERDICT

I didn’t like Entwined and I’d doubt you’d like it if you’re looking for well-developed characters, a complex plot or a book you can get emotionally invested in. On the other hand, if you want a quick, fast-paced read that will distract you for a few hours, this could be for you. To be honest, I might have liked this more if I was still thirteen. A lot of this book fell flat for me and it felt more like an outline or first draft than the finished book. If anything, my primary issue with this book lies in the lack of structure and how the events don’t connect and there isn’t enough build up for certain plots to pack the intended emotional punch. Overall, it was a solid premise with a lacklustre execution.

Thank you to Smith Publicity and NetGalley for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Wrap Ups

Monthly Wrap Up June 2020

Since it’s the end of June, I’m going to be talking you through all the books I’ve read this month and share some brief thoughts on them along with my ratings! This was a slow reading month for me because I’ve been swamped with online work for college.

You can check out last month’s wrap up here.

1. The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan ★★ — Whilst this was an all round fun book and it’s clear the stakes are getting higher, I don’t think there’s been enough character growth across the books and it feels a little immature despite the dark times ahead.

2. It Only Happens in the Movies by Holly Bourne ★★ — I couldn’t put this book down! It had me laughing at times and packed a surprisingly emotional punch at others. The mocking of movie clichés compared to the awkward reality of life was perfect.

3. The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux ★★ — This was a good book and the plot is amazing, but the writing doesn’t do it justice and falls a little flat. I think it’s especially hard reading this when the musical and movie are so acclaimed.

4. Unconventional by Maggie Harcourt ★★ — Another book I devoured in one night. It was lighthearted, funny and such a pleasant read with a real ode to fan culture, book lovers and conventions.

5. The Dare by Elle Kennedy ★★ ½ — I liked this, but it wasn’t what I expected from the synopsis. The dare and fake dating aren’t really major plot points like I expected. I appreciated the body positive message and a plus-sized main character though.

6. A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik ★★★ — The magic system was complex and the idea has potential, but it was beyond underwhelming as one of my most anticipated reads and I had to force myself to finish it.

• Read my full ARC review here.

7. You Say It First by Katie Cotugno ★★★ — It was cute, although I have no strong feelings on it. The characters were a little dull, not much really happened, albeit it felt very in touch with the times given the political themes.

8. *Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling ★★★ — I was more impressed than I expected by this. Even though it’s MG, I thought the writing was excellent and the pacing is well-timed. Of course I do struggle to connect with eleven year olds.

*Rowling is a known TERF and I do not support or agree with her. If I didn’t already own the books, I wouldn’t be reading the Harry Potter series. However, knowing it’s a big part of many people’s lives, I’d highly suggest buying second-hand when possible if you’d also like to start the series. You can read more about on if I think you can separate the artist and the art here.

TOP 3 BOOKS OF JUNE: It Only Happens in the Movies, Unconventional and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Let me know how many books you’ve read in June or what your favourite was in the replies below!

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Discussions

10 Things I Want to Read More of in YA Books

I adore YA books. Yet, I can’t help but feel some tropes are not used enough when they have real potential, so I composed a list of 10 things I want to read more of in YA books.

1. Female heroines who are more than badass.

As much as I love Katniss Everdeen, Tris Prior and Jude Duarte, I’m tired of a protagonist’s strength stemming from if they can throw a knife or not. A female doesn’t need to be emotionally unavailable and stubborn to be powerful — characters like Buffy Summers prove that. I want more Buffy Summers-esque characters — ones where girls can cry and like pink without having to compromise their abilities to be a viewed as a genuine threat.

2. Healthy familial relationships.

It is so important to bring awareness to issues people can have with their families, but it would be nice for a character to have supportive parents or a good sibling relationship for once. There’s so many books I’ve read where every divorce is filled with trauma and tension, every mum is an alcoholic and every dad is abusive, or if it’s not one of those things, they’re conveniently absent from their child’s life when stable family environments can be just as beneficial to the plot.

3. Friendships. Especially female.

Females are notoriously pit against each other, but I don’t want to see toxic friends causing the love interest becoming someone’s whole world, I want to see the main character with a sympathetic group around them which they can rely on. There doesn’t even need to be a love story there! I’d love to read more stories about navigating the ups and downs of friendship without the consequences of a fight being so cutthroat it might as well be a Mean Girls outtake.

4. Multiple love interests (without it being a triangle!)

Whilst I want nothing more than to have two vampire brothers fighting over me, it has yet to happen in my time as a teenager. Not that I’m opposed to love triangles, but I want to see characters go through the heartbreak of their first love and the uncertainty of their second or third as they learn to open up to a person again. It’s unlikely a teenager will only have one relationship — although it can happen — and instead of romance being turned into a competition, I want to see a character grow and figure out themselves in different relationships rather than needing to choose.

5. Girls that are like others girls because it isn’t a crime.

This interlinks with number one, but I want to see characters that aren’t ashamed to listen to Harry Styles and be on the cheerleading squad. There’s no shame in liking what society has deemed stereotypical. Owning vintage clothes and reading a book all the time doesn’t make you any better than anyone else — hold on, I think I called myself on that one. Point being, none of the things I mentioned change the complexity of a character and they can still have layers and emotional depth whilst wearing a full face of make up.

6. Series where the characters age with each book.

An obvious example would be Percy Jackson — it’s technically MG, then is YA by the end. For some reason, I find it more emotional to either watch a character age or grow alongside them. The transition from the innocence of being 12 to the angst and hopelessness of 16 is so interesting. To watch as the books become darker with age is something I definitely want more of in YA. In my opinion, going through the school years at an academy or camp of some sort is a good way to utilise this.

7. Heroes that go bad.

Forget villains with a redemption arc, I want heroes that end up with the villain, that crack under the pressure of being a hero, that are hiding a darkness inside of them! The good guy always winning is so overdone.

8. Greek mythology retellings.

More specially Hades and Persephone retellings, as you would know if you follow my Twitter. Since fairytales have been done to death, I want to see people dive into the twisty world of Greek mythology. It’s so rich and there’s plenty of fantastic stories that have the potential to be told in a new and exciting way.

9. Reluctant heroes.

By this, I don’t mean heroes that accept their fate after a few chapters, I want selfish heroes that value themselves more than what they’re meant to do for the good of the world. Heroes that don’t want to accept they’ve been chosen, heroes that don’t know how to fight and don’t want to learn, heroes that would rather go out for ice cream than kill the villain . . .

10. Lovers to enemies.

It could be controversial, but not all books need a happy ending. I would love to see enemies to lovers spun on its head — books where the lovers break up and end up on opposing sides. I feel the internal conflict in a book like that would be fascinating.

What do you want to read more of in YA? Let me know in the comments!

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Reviews

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik ARC Review

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

Published by: Del Ray Books on September 29, 2020

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy

Pages: 336

My Rating: ★★★

🚨 MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD 🚨

 

SYNOPSIS

Learning has never been this deadly

A Deadly Education is set at Scholomance, a school for the magically gifted where failure means certain death (for real) — until one girl, El, begins to unlock its many secrets. There are no teachers, no holidays, and no friendships, save strategic ones. Survival is more important than any letter grade, for the school won’t allow its students to leave until they graduate… or die! The rules are deceptively simple: Don’t walk the halls alone. And beware of the monsters who lurk everywhere. El is uniquely prepared for the school’s dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out millions. It would be easy enough for El to defeat the monsters that prowl the school. The problem? Her powerful dark magic might also kill all the other students.

MY THOUGHTS

❝A sorceress designed from the ground up for slaughter and destruction might just be able to take out the one monster no one else could kill.❞

A Deadly Education is essentially what would happen if Hogwarts had a Hellmouth. The concept is captivating, except it never feels like there’s a clear plot and most of the book is spent explaining the intricate magic system. The magic system is a standout, it’s so original and well-developed, but there’s almost too much focus on it. By spending so much time on the magic system, the plot finds itself lacking and even though a lot of events occur, they’re all equally unmemorable and there never seems to be a peak in tension. I found it easy to put the book down, which was disappointing as this was my most anticipated read of the year.

❝We’re not all invulnerable heroes.❞

My biggest takeaway from the book is I’m overwhelmingly neutral — I have no strong feelings or attachments to anything that happened. It’s slow and I kept waiting for things to pick up, only they never did. I applaud Novik for creating such a diverse cast of characters and I think it’s a pity they are neglected in favour of chunky, info-dumping paragraphs that didn’t develop the story whatsoever. In terms of the story itself, it isn’t nearly as dark as I anticipated, but I hope that will change as the series progresses. For such a cutthroat school, it is a tame, safe first book. Maybe I set my expectations too high, maybe the trick is to enter with none and you’ll enjoy it more than I did . . .

❝I’d set them all on fire gladly for five minutes of peace, and why shouldn’t I, since they’d all stand by and watch me burn instead.❞

CHARACTERS

❝I was a burdened soul and would bring death and destruction to all the enclaves in the world if I wasn’t stopped.❞

Galadriel or ‘El’ is introduced as a little bit of an anti-hero — she is shrewd, snarky and survivalist by nature. As amusing as her sarcastic character voice is, I struggled to click with her. Sometimes, the sass and snark is overdone and her insistence on hating absolutely everything is infuriating. Furthermore, instead of fighting the prophecy against her, she seems to succumb to it, which is baffling considering how much fight she has in her otherwise. Her complexity is an asset, but despite all the layers that she clearly has, El came off confusing and contradictory in parts. However, her outlook on life is gripping as is her morally dubious nature. She is very self-assured, which is something I can respect. If anything, I’m eager to see her growth as the series continues because she is closed off, but the ending with her finding genuine friends gave me hope there’s more to her than we see. I can also appreciate that even if I didn’t always like her, I understood her and her reasoning.

❝You’ve been white-knighting as hard as you can for three full years. You’re not going to fix the consequences by white-knighting a little bit harder over the course of a single week.❞

Our hero typecast and love interest is Orion Lake — an annoying name for a character with a lot of potential. He has a Chosen One complex forced upon him by those around him and is rather self-sacrificing, so I can’t wait for him to break away from the role he’s been cast in. At least, that’s what I hope will happen. I found him to be obnoxious and presumptuous a lot of the time when it came to El, but it’s important to account for first person bias, I suppose. It is clear there’s some internal struggle with him and he’s presented as the perfect, cookie-cutter kind of boy that would irritate me if he was the protagonist, but Novik was extremely clever in making the stock main character a secondary character because El’s perception of him isn’t skewed and it shows how even the heroes aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be. He opposes El in every way and there’s so much left to explore with him, even if most would assume he’s a cut and dry hero.

MY FAVOURITE MOMENT

❝Someone’s always got to pay, but why should Homicidal Todd get a leg up on anyone else?❞

Whenever El stands up to someone is really entertaining and empowering. It’s El’s character that drives this book and her outspoken nature makes for those most impactful scenes — such as when she calls out Todd and Chloe about how they treat Orion. Scholomance is dark and twisty with a lot of messed up rules, so El challenging the status quo and not being afraid to stand out in a school where friendships and alliances are the difference between life and death is fun to read about. The insight into El’s mind and the nefarious protocols of the academy are beyond fascinating.

❝I want to have a daughter one day, a daughter who will live, who won’t ever have to scream alone in the night when monsters come for her.❞

Another part I enjoyed was El’s vulnerable moments, something I wish we had more of, in fact. Although only mentioned in passing, El’s desire to have kids and for them to be a little better than her is touching and evoked a surprising (if only) bout of emotion in me when reading. It’s seeing the cracks in the character’s hard shell that makes up for the sometimes lethargic pacing of events.

MY LEAST FAVOURITE MOMENT

Whilst I tend to be a romantic, the romance is rushed and forced in this book. It seems to come out of nowhere and that’s why my least favourite moment is Orion’s and El’s first kiss. There’s no chemistry between them and Orion’s interest in El seems superficial. I also didn’t like her reaction — she breaks the fourth wall and addresses the reader, which feels awkward and is an unnecessary break in the narrative. On the surface, the two seem like they could be an interesting romance, but not enough time is spent on developing them — Orion assumed they were dating the whole time? That screams communication issues!

FINAL VERDICT

Do I recommend A Deadly Education? Well, I don’t think I’d recommend it, but I wouldn’t deter anyone from reading this either. It is clear Novik put a lot of thought into the book and the world of Scholomance, but the execution is lacklustre, prioritising long, boring paragraphs of information and action sequences with no tension most of all. In fact, I’d argue this would make the perfect TV show, alas the story doesn’t jump out enough on page and I slugged through most of the chapters. A part of me feels like this book is one longwinded exposition that establishes Novik’s magical world and nothing more. Since the ending is a partial cliffhanger, I’m open to reading the second book, albeit a little hesitant given how slow everything moved in this book.

Thank you to Random House UK, Cornerstone and NetGalley for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Tags

The Sunshine Blogger Award

Thank you so much to Sofia (Aelin’s Kingdom) for nominating me! I appreciate it so much.

What is the Sunshine Blogger award?

The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to those who are creative, positive, and inspiring, while spreading sunshine to the blogging community.

How does it work?

  1. Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.
  2. Answer the 11 questions sent by the person who nominated you.
  3. Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
  4. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.

1. What is your favourite quote of all time?

Ooh, this is hard and after spending half an hour on this question whilst trying to recall every single book I’ve ever read, I genuinely don’t think I can choose. I have too many favourite quotes, so I think this one from The Infernal Devices series is pretty fitting — even if it’s not my favourite — “One must always be careful of books and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us. Only the very weak-minded refuse to be influenced by literature and poetry.”

2. Tell me about one character you would kill and one you would kill for!

If we’re keeping it to book characters, I would kill is Rowan Whitethorn. Controversial, I know, but I really dislike possessive, brooding male characters and I didn’t end up finishing the series because I couldn’t stand him. One I would kill for is without a doubt Peeta Mellark — he was constantly trying to protect Katniss and was always doing the most for other people when he should look out for himself too. But I’d kill for so many characters! Adrian Ivashkov, Finnick Odair and Sydney Sage come to mind also.

3. What is one skill a character has you wish you had?

As much as I think something like knife-throwing or archery would be a cool answer, it would be a skill I wouldn’t use, so seems a bad answer. I’ve always been bitter I can’t sing — maybe someone can give me Daisy Jones’ singing voice?

4. What is one thing (anything!) that makes you happy?

Taylor Swift! It’s going to be two years since I met her next week, but she still makes insanely happy and has been such an important part of my life for years. It says one thing, but I need to add Gilmore Girls too because that show has got me through some of the lowest times in my life.

5. What is one of your goals for the year (blogging or otherwise)?

Blogging wise, it would be awesome if I could get to 500 followers before the year ends. Outside of that, I have a few goals, like I want to learn to drive (I’ve been able to learn for a while now, but I’m an anxious person and I’ve put it off) and I want a tattoo! Maybe that’s not a goal, but it’s something I really want and I will probably wimp out on it.

6. Do you like illustrated or picture covers better, and why?

Illustrated covers, no question. To me, they look nicer and offer more freedom in the design, as well as more accurate character depictions. Sometimes a picture cover can look tacky and I abhor the trend of shirtless men on NA books? That is not something I’d want to read in public or would look nice on my shelves, even if the book itself isn’t anything to be embarrassed about.

7. If you had to chose a dystopian/fantasy world to live in, which one would you choose?

A lot of dystopian/fantasy worlds are interesting, but not somewhere you’d want to live. I’d die so fast in Shatter Me or Divergent. Probably Velaris from the ACOTAR series would be where I’d want to live, although it’s technically a city. It sounds beautiful and magical.

8. Name a character you think is underrated.

Tessa Gray. It’s always about Will or Jem, never Tessa — she’s right there pushing societal boundaries, being a badass and having such an extensive emotional capacity at the same time. I adore her.

9. Tell me about a movie you thought was better than the book.

The Princess Diaries is one of my favourite coming of age movies and I think that it’s better than the books. Not many movies are better than the books for me, but I’d argue The Hunger Games, Pride and Prejudice and To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before are definitely some that are on par with the books too

10. What’s a song you associate with a book?

I love this question. I’ve spoke about this before but Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince by Taylor Swift fits The Hunger Games so well. She actually has some songs on the film soundtrack, but Miss Americana encapsulates Katniss and Peeta perfectly.

11. If you were allowed to have one fantastical animal, which one would it be?

A unicorn, duh!

My Questions

1. Paperback, hardback, audiobook or ebook?

2. Who was your first book crush?

3. If your life was a book, what would the title be?

4. What is one trope you wish was more popular in books?

5. Name your favourite classic.

6. Name a book that didn’t live up to the hype.

7. Who is your favourite fictional villain?

8. What is your bad bookish habit?

9. What book got you into reading?

10. What is your favourite book cover? If you can’t choose, stay what style!

11. Name a sequel that was better than the first book.

I tag theperksofbeingnoura, lureviewsbooks and youneedtoreadthesebooks. I’m nominating only three people because I’m still a little new to this, but anyone reading this, consider this me nominating you as well. Sorry in advance if any of you have already done it!

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Reviews

The Best Laid Plans by Cameron Lund Review

The Best Laid Plans by Cameron Lund

Published by: Razorbill on April 7, 2020

Genres: Young Adult Contemporary, Romance

Pages: 368

My Rating: ★★★

🚨 MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD 🚨

SYNOPSIS

It seemed like a good plan at first.

When the only other virgin in her group of friends loses it at Keely’s own eighteenth birthday party, she’s inspired to take things into her own hands. She wants to have that experience too (well, not exactly like that–but with someone she trusts and actually likes), so she’s going to need to find the guy, and fast. Problem is, she’s known all the boys in her small high school forever, and it’s kinda hard to be into a guy when you watched him eat crayons in kindergarten. 

So she can’t believe her luck when she meets a ridiculously hot new guy named Dean. Not only does he look like he’s fallen out of a classic movie poster, but he drives a motorcycle, flirts with ease, and might actually be into her.

But Dean’s already in college, and Keely is convinced he’ll drop her if he finds out how inexperienced she is. That’s when she talks herself into a new plan: her lifelong best friend, Andrew, would never hurt or betray her, and he’s clearly been with enough girls that he can show her the ropes before she goes all the way with Dean. Of course, the plan only works if Andrew and Keely stay friends–just friends–so things are about to get complicated.

MY THOUGHTS

❝Isn’t that what love is? Another person attaching themselves to your brain, eating away at your heart, your soul, consuming you entirely? Love is just a parasite.❞

I loved this book — there’s something about contemporaries that makes it rare for me to rate them more than three stars, but Lund’s debut is the perfect mix of pop culture references, teenage angst and the reality of high school. This book openly addresses slut shaming, toxic female friendships and virginity. It’s undoubtedly an important book — not one that covers everything perfectly, but one that will be crucial in breaking down the stigma in regards to sex in YA. The truth is a lot of teenagers in high school will be having sex, will be thinking about sex and wondering about silly questions similar to the characters in the books, such as “How did you know what to do?I think it captures a lot teenage concerns well and offers an authentic teenage voice.

❝You’re a slut if you do, a tease if you almost do, a prude if you don’t, and a bitch if you stand up for yourself.❞

I can’t praise the friendships in this book enough because I saw so much of my own high school friendship groups in them. They have moments where they cross lines they shouldn’t, relationships get complicated and times when they’re having the best time ever — they’re not one thing and felt as developed, if not more, than the romance. Girls can be brutal and this book showed that really well without having any characters falling into a mean girl caricature. I appreciated Keely and Danielle talking things over at graduation and the acknowledgment that sometimes high school friends are friends because you sit with them every day and that isn’t a bad thing. Whilst I quickly guessed who was behind the notes, reminding everyone that girls can be as bad as boys when it comes to slut shaming was an interesting point.

❝You don’t get power by knocking other girls down.❞

CHARACTERS

❝I’m a virgin too, but this isn’t surprising enough to be news.❞

Our main character in The Best Laid Plans is Keely Collins and I think she’s really relatable for a lot of teens. I’ve had some of same worries as her and there is a lot of pressure surrounding sex in high school — even out of high school. At times, I thought she was being reckless and annoying, like when she lied to Dean, but overall, she was a strong enough lead. A little awkward, a little clueless and the embodiment of how strange it is to be eighteen when you feel like everyone around you is somehow ahead in life. There’s a part of me thinks she is written to be one of those girls who’s both ‘one of the guys’ and a really pretty girl who doesn’t realise it, which is kind of frustrating and left me feeling out of touch with her on her occasion.

❝The Wingman and the Cockblock. We’re like a depressing superhero duo of doom.❞

Our other main character is Andrew Reed, the best friend and a boy with a reputation. He is charming and charismatic, so it was easy to fall in love with him as a reader. He seemed to be a mix of a lot of stereotypes you find in books — the boy next door, the golden boy, the popular boy and I think there was an identity crisis and the author tried to make Andrew too much of what a girl loves in some respects. Due to this, I didn’t connect with him as much as I’d have liked — even if I understood the appeal. I didn’t like some of the questionable things he did to make Keely jealous and their lack of communication makes me want to pull my hair out. On the other hand, I appreciate that what we see with him is a front at times and there’s a hidden depth to him, even if some of the relationship developments between the pair came out of the blue.

MY FAVOURITE MOMENT

I adored when Keely finally realised she was in love with Andrew and left Dean, ensuring to find him in the most dramatic way possible. It felt very cinematic and I could easily have imagined a film score playing over that scene. It’s definitely a moment where I questioned how realistic it was, but the fact she set off the fire alarm to find him was both amusing and romantic. I think it really highlighted the intensity of teenage relationships — they can feel like life or death.

MY LEAST FAVOURITE MOMENT

Ironically, my least favourite moment comes directly after my favourite. I didn’t like that Keely and Andrew had sex so soon after their big declaration of love. I understand the notion of your first time not needing to be anything special or elaborate, it was just really bad timing and felt forced. A part of me wishes we got to read more about what Keely and Andrew were like in a relationship, the ending came so abruptly and I was left wanting more.

FINAL VERDICT

I would definitely recommend this book. I devoured it and couldn’t put it down. Even if a lot of it felt exaggerated, there’s an addictive quality to the writing and it’s so vivid that I could imagine the narrative in my head like a coming of age movie. The most important thing when reading is that everything is taken at face value because these character are seventeen or eighteen — they’re immature and make mistakes and don’t always have the right opinions on things, but that’s the reality of being a teenager. I have seen far too many adults being critical of the book when, as a teenager, I found it to be the embodiment of the awkward, insecure and utterly foolish things I feel every day and everyone expects you to know already.

read it and weep,

Categories
Recommendations

10 Black Books I Want to Read and You Should Too

Given everything that’s happening right now in an effort to dismantle the racist systems in society and for the Black Lives Matter movement, I decided to work on my TBR list. It is so important to support black creatives and you should always be reading black books — The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton are some I’ve loved and read in the past — but it feels more important than ever to lift and listen to black voices. On this list, there are hard stories about rape, mental health and racism, there are stories based on true events and stories about romance and friendship because black people deserve those stories too!

I urge any of my followers to support the cause in any way they can and you can find information on petitions, donations, resources etc here. It is not the time to be silent or neutral.

1. Beloved by Toni Morrison

Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has borne the unthinkable and not gone mad, yet she is still held captive by memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. Meanwhile Sethe’s house has long been troubled by the angry, destructive ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved.

Sethe works at beating back the past, but it makes itself heard and felt incessantly in her memory and in the lives of those around her. When a mysterious teenage girl arrives, calling herself Beloved, Sethe’s terrible secret explodes into the present.

2. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Set in the deep American South between the wars, The Color Purple is the classic tale of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation. Raped repeatedly by the man she calls ‘father’, she has two children taken away from her, is separated from her beloved sister Nettie and is trapped into an ugly marriage. But then she meets the glamorous Shug Avery, singer and magic-maker – a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually Celie discovers the power and joy of her own spirit, freeing her from her past and reuniting her with those she loves.

3. Pride by Ibi Zoboi

Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.

When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can’t stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding.

But with four wild sisters pulling her in different directions, cute boy Warren vying for her attention, and college applications hovering on the horizon, Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick’s changing landscape, or lose it all.

4. When You Were Everything by Ashley Woodfolk

You can’t rewrite the past, but you can always choose to start again. 

It’s been twenty-seven days since Cleo and Layla’s friendship imploded. 

Nearly a month since Cleo realized they’ll never be besties again. 

Now, Cleo wants to erase every memory, good or bad, that tethers her to her ex–best friend. But pretending Layla doesn’t exist isn’t as easy as Cleo hoped, especially after she’s assigned to be Layla’s tutor. Despite budding new friendships with other classmates—and a raging crush on a gorgeous boy named Dom—Cleo’s turbulent past with Layla comes back to haunt them both. 

5. Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles

Del has had a crush on Kiera Westing since kindergarten. And now, during their junior year, she’s finally available. So when Kiera volunteers for an opportunity at their church, Del’s right behind her. Though he quickly realizes he’s inadvertently signed up for a Purity Pledge.

His dad thinks his wires are crossed, and his best friend, Qwan, doesn’t believe any girl is worth the long game. But Del’s not about to lose his dream girl, and that’s where fellow pledger Jameer comes in. He can put in the good word. In exchange, Del just has to get answers to the Pledgers’ questions…about sex ed.

With other boys circling Kiera like sharks, Del needs to make his move fast. But as he plots and plans, he neglects to ask the most important question: What does Kiera want? He can’t think about that too much, though, because once he gets the girl, it’ll all sort itself out. Right?

6. Let Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson

Biggie Smalls was right. Things done changed. But that doesn’t mean that Quadir and Jarrell are okay letting their best friend Steph’s tracks lie forgotten in his bedroom after he’s killed—not when his beats could turn any Bed-Stuy corner into a celebration, not after years of having each other’s backs.

Enlisting the help of Steph’s younger sister, Jasmine, Quadir and Jarrell come up with a plan to promote Steph’s music under a new rap name: The Architect. Soon, everyone in Brooklyn is dancing to Steph’s voice. But then his mixtape catches the attention of a hotheaded music rep and—with just hours on the clock—the trio must race to prove Steph’s talent from beyond the grave.

Now, as the pressure—and danger—of keeping their secret grows, Quadir, Jarrell, and Jasmine are forced to confront the truth about what happened to Steph. Only each has something to hide. And with everything riding on Steph’s fame, together they need to decide what they stand for before they lose everything they’ve worked so hard to hold on to—including each other.

7. Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann

Alice had her whole summer planned. Non-stop all-you-can-eat buffets while marathoning her favorite TV shows (best friends totally included) with the smallest dash of adulting–working at the library to pay her share of the rent. The only thing missing from her perfect plan? Her girlfriend (who ended things when Alice confessed she’s asexual). Alice is done with dating–no thank you, do not pass go, stick a fork in her, done.

But then Alice meets Takumi and she can’t stop thinking about him or the rom com-grade romance feels she did not ask for (uncertainty, butterflies, and swoons, oh my!).

When her blissful summer takes an unexpected turn, and Takumi becomes her knight with a shiny library employee badge (close enough), Alice has to decide if she’s willing to risk their friendship for a love that might not be reciprocated—or understood.

8. Black Girl Unlimited by Echo Brown

Echo Brown is a wizard from the East Side, where apartments are small and parents suffer addictions to the white rocks. Yet there is magic . . . everywhere. New portals begin to open when Echo transfers to the rich school on the West Side, and an insightful teacher becomes a pivotal mentor. Each day, Echo travels between two worlds, leaving her brothers, her friends, and a piece of herself behind on the East Side. There are dangers to leaving behind the place that made you. Echo soon realizes there is pain flowing through everyone around her, and a black veil of depression threatens to undo everything she’s worked for.

9. Girls Like Us by Randi Pink

Set in the summer of 1972, this moving YA historical novel is narrated by teen girls from different backgrounds with one thing in common: Each girl is dealing with pregnancy.

Four teenage girls. Four different stories. What they all have in common is that they’re dealing with unplanned pregnancies.

In rural Georgia, Izella is wise beyond her years, but burdened with the responsibility of her older sister, Ola, who has found out she’s pregnant. Their young neighbor, Missippi, is also pregnant, but doesn’t fully understand the extent of her predicament. When her father sends her to Chicago to give birth, she meets the final narrator, Susan, who is white and the daughter of an anti-choice senator.

10. Becoming by Michelle Obama

In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare. 

In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.

I can’t wait to read all of these books — my TBR list is so long! If you’ve read any already, let me know in the comments. As important as these fiction books are (and one memoir), it is also really important to be educated through non-fiction too. I’m more of a fiction person, but I’d really like to read some of non-fiction books about white privilege and racism as well. There’s a list below that I found on jordynsamai‘s Instagram, if anyone is interested.

read it and weep,

Categories
Wrap Ups

Monthly Wrap Up May 2020

Since it’s the end of May, I’m going to be talking you through all the books I’ve read this month and share some brief thoughts on them along with my ratings! This wasn’t the best month for me, to be honest, I was disappointed a lot.

You can check out last month’s wrap up here.

1. The Betrothed by Kiera Cass — This was The Selection again, but the writing hadn’t improved, the main character was more shallow and annoying than America and nothing happened until around 80%.

2. The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams — This was a play for class and I enjoyed it, but had no strong feelings as a whole.

3. The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan — It was interesting to see the books starting to mature and the stakes being raised, but the lack of Annabeth was a huge let down for me.

4. The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant — It was a slow read with uncoordinated time skips and almost tried too hard, it was like it couldn’t decide what the actual plot was. It wasn’t bad, but definitely not for me.

• Read my full ARC review here.

5. The Fallen by Liz Braswell — I started watching the TV show adapted from this book and loved it, but the book was nothing like the show! There was no character development in the book and a lot of slut shaming. I almost DNF-ed, but it was pretty short and easy to read.

• Check out other YA books being adapted for screen here.

6. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins ★★ — Whilst I didn’t have the same emotional attachment to this as The Hunger Games, it was still interesting to learn more about the games. However, it dragged at times and Snow was not a good choice for the main character since he was boring and I couldn’t connect with him.

7. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins ★★★ — This was a reread, but I adored it all the same. I love how it serves as a social commentary on top of being an invigorating story. I definitely saw Katniss through new eyes now that I’m older.

8. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins ★★★ ½ — By far my favourite in the series because the Quarter Quell is such a sinister twist. This also saw the introduction of Finnick, who is my favourite character in the series.

9. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins ★★★ ½ — Despite being where the tension is at a peak, this is a slower book and I didn’t find myself as eager to continue reading as the others. It was a satisfying enough conclusion, I suppose, and the idea of Peeta being hijacked was fantastic.

10. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde ★★★ — This was for class also, but it is easily one of my favourite classics. With morally grey characters, twists on every page and the most beautiful prose, it’s impossible not to adore it.

TOP 3 BOOKS OF MAY: Catching Fire, The Hunger Games and The Picture of Dorian Gray

Let me know how many books you’ve read in May or what your favourite was in the replies below. I’m really disappointed in how low I rated a lot of books this month and the ones with higher ratings were rereads.

read it and weep,

Categories
Recommendations

My Most Anticipated Book Releases of June 2020

So many incredible books are coming out in June, so clear your calendars (and bank accounts!) because it’s going to a very busy month for your TBR list.

Disclaimer: On creating this, the release dates included are up to date, but that can sometimes change last minute.

1. The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant

In the violent urban jungle of an alternate 1828 Paris, the French Revolution has failed and the city is divided between merciless royalty and nine underworld criminal guilds, known as the Court of Miracles. Eponine (Nina) Thénardier is a talented cat burglar and member of the Thieves Guild. Nina’s life is midnight robberies, avoiding her father’s fists, and watching over her naïve adopted sister, Cosette (Ettie). When Ettie attracts the eye of the Tiger–the ruthless lord of the Guild of Flesh–Nina is caught in a desperate race to keep the younger girl safe. Her vow takes her from the city’s dark underbelly to the glittering court of Louis XVII. And it also forces Nina to make a terrible choice–protect Ettie and set off a brutal war between the guilds, or forever lose her sister to the Tiger.

EXPECTED PUBLICATION: 2nd June 2020

• Check out my ARC review for The Court of Miracles here.

2. A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown

For Malik, the Solstasia festival is a chance to escape his war-stricken home and start a new life with his sisters in the prosperous desert city of Ziran. But when a vengeful spirit abducts Malik’s younger sister, Nadia, as payment into the city, Malik strikes a fatal deal—kill Karina, Crown Princess of Ziran, for Nadia’s freedom.

But Karina has deadly aspirations of her own. Her mother, the Sultana, has been assassinated; her court threatens mutiny; and Solstasia looms like a knife over her neck. Grief-stricken, Karina decides to resurrect her mother through ancient magic . . . requiring the beating heart of a king. And she knows just how to obtain one: by offering her hand in marriage to the victor of the Solstasia competition.

When Malik rigs his way into the contest, they are set on a course to destroy each other. But as attraction flares between them and ancient evils stir, will they be able to see their tasks to the death?

EXPECTED PUBLICATION: 2nd June 2020

3. If We Were Us by K.L. Walther

Everyone at the prestigious Bexley School believes that Sage Morgan and Charlie Carmichael are meant to be….that it’s just a matter of time until they realize that they are actually in love.

When Luke Morrissey shows up on the Bexley campus his presence immediately shakes things up. Charlie and Luke are drawn to each other the moment they meet, giving Sage the opportunity to steal away to spend time with Charlie’s twin brother, Nick.

But Charlie is afraid of what others will think if he accepts that he has much more than a friendship with Luke. And Sage fears that things with Nick are getting too serious too quickly. The duo will need to rely on each other and their lifelong friendship to figure things out with the boys they love.

EXPECTED PUBLICATION: 2nd June 2020

4. Divine Blood by Beck Michaels

The Shadow demon nearly took everything from Dyna, and it would soon return for more. When she discovers a way to fight back, she must go on a perilous journey and risk it all for those she holds dear.

Along the way, she meets Cassiel, a Celestial Prince with magic blood and wings as black as his heart. He wants nothing to do with Dyna until he learns she could lead him to a place he has been searching for all his life. 

But reaching their destination is not as easy as they thought, nor are they the only ones who search for it. With danger at every turn and harrowing secrets between them, the quest will require much more than determination. They must fight for what they desire—or die trying.

EXPECTED PUBLICATION: 3rd June 2020

5. The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth

Saoirse doesn’t believe in love at first sight or happy endings. If they were real, her mother would still be able to remember her name and not in a care home with early onset dementia. A condition that Saoirse may one day turn out to have inherited. So she’s not looking for a relationship. She doesn’t see the point in igniting any romantic sparks if she’s bound to burn out.

But after a chance encounter at an end-of-term house party, Saoirse is about to break her own rules. For a girl with one blue freckle, an irresistible sense of mischief, and a passion for rom-coms.

Unbothered by Saoirse’s no-relationships rulebook, Ruby proposes a loophole: They don’t need true love to have one summer of fun, complete with every cliché, rom-com montage-worthy date they can dream up—and a binding agreement to end their romance come fall. It would be the perfect plan, if they weren’t forgetting one thing about the Falling in Love Montage: when it’s over, the characters actually fall in love… for real.

EXPECTED PUBLICATION: 9th June 2020

6. Agnes at the End of the World by Kelly McWilliams

Agnes loves her home of Red Creek–its quiet, sunny mornings, its dusty roads, and its God. There, she cares tirelessly for her younger siblings and follows the town’s strict laws. What she doesn’t know is that Red Creek is a cult, controlled by a madman who calls himself a prophet.

Then Agnes meets Danny, an Outsider boy, and begins to question what is and isn’t a sin. Her younger brother, Ezekiel, will die without the insulin she barters for once a month, even though medicine is considered outlawed. Is she a sinner for saving him? Is her sister, Beth, a sinner for dreaming of the world beyond Red Creek?

As the Prophet grows more dangerous, Agnes realizes she must escape with Ezekiel and leave everyone else, including Beth, behind. But it isn’t safe Outside, either: A viral pandemic is burning through the population at a terrifying rate. As Agnes ventures forth, a mysterious connection grows between her and the Virus. But in a world where faith, miracles, and cruelty have long been indistinguishable, will Agnes be able to choose between saving her family and saving the world?

EXPECTED PUBLICATION: 9th June 2020

7. You Say It First by Katie Cotugno

Meg has her entire life set up perfectly: her boyfriend Mason is sweet and supportive, she and her best friend Emily plan to head to Cornell together in the fall, and she even finds time to clock shifts phonebanking at a voter registration call center in her Philadelphia suburb. But everything changes when one of those calls connects her to a stranger from small-town Ohio, who gets under her skin from the moment he picks up the phone.

Colby is stuck in a rut, reeling from a family tragedy and working a dead-end job—unsure what his future holds, or if he even cares. The last thing he has time for is some privileged rich girl preaching the sanctity of the political process. So he says the worst thing he can think of and hangs up.

But things don’t end there.…

That night on the phone winds up being the first in a series of candid, sometimes heated, always surprising conversations that lead to a long-distance friendship and then—slowly—to something more. Across state lines and phone lines, Meg and Colby form a once-in-a-lifetime connection. But in the end, are they just too different to make it work?

EXPECTED PUBLICATION: 16th June 2020

8. I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee

Skye Shin has heard it all. Fat girls shouldn’t dance. Wear bright colors. Shouldn’t call attention to themselves. But Skye dreams of joining the glittering world of K-Pop, and to do that, she’s about to break all the rules that society, the media, and even her own mother, have set for girls like her.

She’ll challenge thousands of other performers in an internationally televised competition looking for the next K-pop star, and she’ll do it better than anyone else.

When Skye nails her audition, she’s immediately swept into a whirlwind of countless practices, shocking performances, and the drama that comes with reality TV. What she doesn’t count on are the highly fat-phobic beauty standards of the Korean pop entertainment industry, her sudden media fame and scrutiny, or the sparks that soon fly with her fellow competitor, Henry Cho.

But Skye has her sights on becoming the world’s first plus-sized K-pop star, and that means winning the competition—without losing herself.

EXPECTED PUBLICATION: 16th June 2020

9. The Dare by Elle Kennedy

College was supposed to be my chance to get over my ugly-duckling complex and spread my wings. Instead, I wound up in a sorority full of mean girls. I already have a hard time fitting in, so when my Kappa Chi sisters issue the challenge, I can’t say no.

The dare: seduce the hottest new hockey player in the junior class.

Conor Edwards is a regular at Greek Row parties…and in Greek Row sorority beds. He’s the one you fall for before you learn that guys like him don’t give girls like me a second glance. Except Mr. Popular throws me for a loop—rather than laughing in my face, he does me a solid by letting me take him upstairs to pretend we’re getting busy. 

Even crazier, now he wants to keep pretending. Turns out Conor loves games, and he thinks it’s fun to pull the wool over my frenemies’ eyes. 

But resisting his easy charm and surfer-boy hotness is darn near impossible. Though I’m realizing there’s much more to Conor’s story than his fan club can see.

And the longer this silly ruse goes on, the greater the danger of it all blowing up in my face.

EXPECTED PUBLICATION: 16th June 2020

10. Sisters of Song and Sword by Rebecca Ross

After eight long years, Evadne will finally be reunited with her older sister, Halcyon, who has been proudly serving in the queen’s army. But when Halcyon appears earlier than expected, Eva knows something has gone terribly wrong. Halcyon is on the run, hunted by her commander and charged with murder.

Though Halcyon’s life is spared during her trial, the punishment is heavy. And when Eva volunteers to serve part of Halcyon’s sentence, she’s determined to find out exactly what happened. But as Eva begins her sentence, she quickly learns that there are fates much worse than death.

EXPECTED PUBLICATION: 23rd June 2020

11. Seasons of the Storm by Elle Cosimano

One cold, crisp night, Jack Sommers was faced with a choice—live forever according to the ancient, magical rules of Gaia, or die.

Jack chose to live, and in exchange, he became a Winter—an immortal physical embodiment of the season on Earth. Every year, he must hunt the Season who comes before him. Summer kills Spring. Autumn kills Summer. Winter kills Autumn. And Spring kills Winter.

Jack and Fleur, a Winter and a Spring, fall for each other against all odds. To be together, they’ll have to escape the cycle that’s been forcing them apart. But their creator won’t let them go without a fight.

EXPECTED PUBLICATION: 23rd June 2020

12. Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee

Sirscha Ashwyn comes from nothing, but she’s intent on becoming something. After years of training to become the queen’s next royal spy, her plans are derailed when shamans attack and kill her best friend Saengo.

And then Sirscha, somehow, restores Saengo to life.

Unveiled as the first soulguide in living memory, Sirscha is summoned to the domain of the Spider King. For centuries, he has used his influence over the Dead Wood—an ancient forest possessed by souls—to enforce peace between the kingdoms. Now, with the trees growing wild and untamed, only a soulguide can restrain them. As war looms, Sirscha must master her newly awakened abilities before the trees shatter the brittle peace, or worse, claim Saengo, the friend she would die for.

EXPECTED PUBLICATION: 23rd June 2020

13. Love on the Main Stage by S.A. Domingo

16-year-old songwriter Nova is having the best summer of her life. Helping out with her parents’ food truck, she gets to attend not one, but FIVE different music festivals! Things get even better when she meets cute American boy, Sam, an aspiring musician like her. After sharing a magical evening dancing under the stars, Nova never expects to see Sam again. But to her surprise they keep meeting up at music festivals . . . 

Nova begins to hope that their romance could become more than just a festival fling. So why is Sam so reluctant to talk about himself? And why does he have access to the VIP backstage area . . .?

EXPECTED PUBLICATION: 25th June 2020

14. I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick

What happened to Zoe won’t stay buried…

When Anna Cicconi arrives to the small Hamptons village of Herron Mills for a summer nanny gig, she has high hopes for a fresh start. What she finds instead is a community on edge after the disappearance of Zoe Spanos, a local girl who has been missing since New Year’s Eve. Anna bears an eerie resemblance to Zoe, and her mere presence in town stirs up still-raw feelings about the unsolved case. As Anna delves deeper into the mystery, stepping further and further into Zoe’s life, she becomes increasingly convinced that she and Zoe are connected—and that she knows what happened to her.

Two months later, Zoe’s body is found in a nearby lake, and Anna is charged with manslaughter. But Anna’s confession is riddled with holes, and Martina Green, teen host of the Missing Zoe podcast, isn’t satisfied. Did Anna really kill Zoe? And if not, can Martina’s podcast uncover the truth?

EXPECTED PUBLICATION: 30th June 2020

15. Influence by Sara Shepard and Lilia Buckingham

After a video she makes goes viral, everyone knows Delilah Rollins. And now that she’s in LA, Delilah’s standing on the edge of something incredible. Everything is going to change. She has no idea how much.

Jasmine Walters-Diaz grew up in the spotlight. A child star turned media darling, the posts of her in her classic Lulu C. rainbow skirt practically break the Internet. But if the world knew who Jasmine really was, her perfect life? Canceled.

Fiona Jacobs is so funny–the kind of girl for whom a crowd parts–no wonder she’s always smiling! But on the inside? The girl’s a hot mess. And when someone comes out of the shadows with a secret from her past, it’s one that won’t just embarrass Fiona: it will ruin her.

Who wouldn’t want to be Scarlet Leigh? Just look at her Instagram. Scarlet isn’t just styled to perfection: she is perfection. Scarlet has a gorgeous, famous boyfriend named Jack and there’s a whole fanbase about their ship. To everyone watching online, their lives seem perfect . . . but are they really? The sun is hot in California . . . and someone’s going to get burned.

EXPECTED PUBLICATION: 30th June 2020

After such a slow release month in May, I’m excited to have a busy TBR planned for June. Let me know in the comments what you’re most excited to read in June.

read it and weep,

Categories
Recommendations

10 YA Books to Read During Mental Health Awareness Month

With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, I decided to compile a list of 10 YA books I’d recommend that focus on mental illness. I’d varied the list as much as possible so there are books that explore OCD and EDs as well as depression and anxiety, book that feature romance and friendship as well as ones that are dark and honest. Within this list, I hope you can find a book that either resonates with you or will educate you! Please be mindful everyone’s experience with mental illness can be different and only read these books if the topics won’t trigger you.

1. 100 Days of Cake by Shari Goldhagen

There are only three things that can get seventeen-year-old Molly Byrne out of bed these days: her job at FishTopia, the promise of endless episodes of Golden Girls, and some delicious lo mien. You see, for the past two years, Molly’s been struggling with something more than your usual teenage angst. Her shrink, Dr. Brooks isn’t helping much, and neither is her mom who is convinced that baking the perfect cake will cure Molly of her depression—as if cake can magically make her rejoin the swim team, get along with her promiscuous sister, or care about the SATs.

Um, no. Never going to happen.

But Molly plays along, stomaching her mother’s failed culinary experiments, because, whatever—as long as it makes someone happy, right? Besides, as far as Molly’s concerned, hanging out with Alex at the rundown exotic fish store makes life tolerable enough. Even if he does ask her out every…single…day. But—sarcastic drum roll, please—nothing can stay the same forever. When Molly finds out FishTopia is turning into a bleak country diner, her whole life seems to fall apart at once. Soon she has to figure out what—if anything—is worth fighting for.

When compiling this list, I wanted to find a spectrum of reads because not all books about mental health or mental illness need to be sad. Whilst I won’t pretend 100 Days of Cake is groundbreaking or close to perfect, it is one of the few reads I found that is super fun! It’s fluffy and has so many adorable, silly moments without taking away from how serious Molly’s depression is. It’s raw, full of teenage bitchiness and relatable experiences.

2. A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

Steffi doesn’t talk, but she has so much to say.
Rhys can’t hear, but he can listen.
Their love isn’t a lightning strike, it’s the rumbling roll of thunder.

Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life – she’s been silent for so long that she feels completely invisible. But Rhys, the new boy at school, sees her. He’s deaf, and her knowledge of basic sign language means that she’s assigned to look after him. To Rhys, it doesn’t matter that Steffi doesn’t talk, and as they find ways to communicate, Steffi finds that she does have a voice, and that she’s falling in love with the one person who makes her feel brave enough to use it. 

A Quiet Kind of Thunder is one of those rare beautiful, heartwarming reads. I don’t think I can adequately express my love for this book enough. This book explores anxietyalongside issues like selective mutism, deafness, first love, friendship and more. Everything was approached with such respect and care, I left the book feeling more aware than before and I think it’s so valuable to have stories that leave the reader both content and having learned something.

3. Clean by Juno Dawson

I can feel it swimming through my veins like glitter … it’s liquid gold.

When socialite Lexi Volkov almost overdoses, she thinks she’s hit rock bottom.

She’s wrong. Rock bottom is when she’s forced into an exclusive rehab facility.

From there, the only way is up for Lexi and her fellow inmates, including the mysterious Brady.

As she faces her demons, Lexi realises love is the most powerful drug of all … 

It’s a dirty business getting clean …

Clean was one of my favourite reads last year and Dawson’s writing style is unbelievable, leading me to pick up some more of their books since. The cast of Clean is so diverse and it primarily deals with addiction. It mainly takes place at a rehab centre and whilst the main character‘s issue is with drugs, overeating, anorexia, sex addiction and more are explored. Definitely read this with the caution if you think any of those topics could trigger you, but it’s genuinely such an invigorating read that is full of teen drama and a little romance alongside the aforementioned topics.

4. Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

If you could read my mind, you wouldn’t be smiling.

Samantha McAllister looks just like the rest of the popular girls in her junior class. But hidden beneath the straightened hair and expertly applied makeup is a secret that her friends would never understand: Sam has Purely-Obsessional OCD and is consumed by a stream of dark thoughts and worries that she can’t turn off. 

Second-guessing every move, thought, and word makes daily life a struggle, and it doesn’t help that her lifelong friends will turn toxic at the first sign of a wrong outfit, wrong lunch, or wrong crush. Yet Sam knows she’d be truly crazy to leave the protection of the most popular girls in school. So when Sam meets Caroline, she has to keep her new friend with a refreshing sense of humor and no style a secret, right up there with Sam’s weekly visits to her psychiatrist.

Caroline introduces Sam to Poet’s Corner, a hidden room and a tight-knit group of misfits who have been ignored by the school at large. Sam is drawn to them immediately, especially a guitar-playing guy with a talent for verse, and starts to discover a whole new side of herself. Slowly, she begins to feel more “normal” than she ever has as part of the popular crowd . . . until she finds a new reason to question her sanity and all she holds dear.

This book shines a light on what it’s like to have OCD and I appreciated the positive representation of getting help — it’s taboo a lot of the time, but medication/therapy isn’t always bad. I don’t think it used love as some magical cure or romanticised OCD in any way and I think that’s a mistake a lot of books involving mental illness make.

5. Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

Charlotte Davis is in pieces. At seventeen she’s already lost more than most people lose in a lifetime. But she’s learned how to forget. The broken glass washes away the sorrow until there is nothing but calm. You don’t have to think about your father and the river. Your best friend, who is gone forever. Or your mother, who has nothing left to give you.

Every new scar hardens Charlie’s heart just a little more, yet it still hurts so much. It hurts enough to not care anymore, which is sometimes what has to happen before you can find your way back from the edge.

Girl in Pieces features a character that struggles with self-harm and addiction. This is an unflinching read and I’d advise to read this if you’re in a stable mindset because it is hard, but that’s a reality of what it can be like to struggle with mental illness. The characters in this are all very complex and it’s no doubt a harsh, yet enlightening, book.

6. It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

Ambitious New York City teenager Craig Gilner is determined to succeed at life – which means getting into the right high school to get into the right job. But once Craig aces his way into Manhattan’s Executive Pre-Professional High School, the pressure becomes unbearable. He stops eating and sleeping until, one night, he nearly kills himself.

Craig’s suicidal episode gets him checked into a mental hospital, where his new neighbors include a transsexual sex addict, a girl who has scarred her own face with scissors, and the self-elected President Armelio. There, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety.

This is one of my friend’s favourite books and she isn’t much of a reader, so I had to see what captivated a non-reader, of course. It’s Kind of a Funny Story delves into what’s it like to have suicidal thoughts and depression, but I found it to be uplifting and inspiring all the same. Depression is dark and horrible, but I liked the fact this book focused on getting better, showing treatment isn’t the same for everyone and used the author’s personal experiences to offer authentic representation.

7. The Lucky Ones by Liz Lawson

May is a survivor. But she doesn’t feel like one. She feels angry. And lost. And alone. Eleven months after the school shooting that killed her twin brother, May still doesn’t know why she was the only one to walk out of the band room that day. No one gets what she went through–no one saw and heard what she did. No one can possibly understand how it feels to be her. 

Zach lost his old life when his mother decided to defend the shooter. His girlfriend dumped him, his friends bailed, and now he spends his time hanging out with his little sister…and the one faithful friend who stuck around. His best friend is needy and demanding, but he won’t let Zach disappear into himself. Which is how Zach ends up at band practice that night. The same night May goes with her best friend to audition for a new band. 

Which is how May meets Zach. And how Zach meets May. And how both might figure out that surviving could be an option after all.

The Lucky Ones explores anxiety, PTSD and survivor’s guilt through realistic teen voices. It was an emotionally charged read with two contrasting characters alternating POVs and I found it genuinely insightful. It didn’t hold back from the gritty parts or left anything to be sugar-coated. I especially appreciated May was an unapologetically angry teen — she was bitter about a lot of things and had every right to be.

8. Paperweight by Meg Haston

Seventeen-year-old Stevie is trapped. In her life. And now in an eating-disorder treatment center on the dusty outskirts of the New Mexico desert.

Life in the center is regimented and intrusive, a nightmare come true. Nurses and therapists watch Stevie at mealtime, accompany her to the bathroom, and challenge her to eat the foods she’s worked so hard to avoid.

Her dad has signed her up for sixty days of treatment. But what no one knows is that Stevie doesn’t plan to stay that long. There are only twenty-seven days until the anniversary of her brother Josh’s death—the death she caused. And if Stevie gets her way, there are only twenty-seven days until she too will end her life.

Paperweight deals with eating disorders and grief is a sensitive, realistic way. I thought Stevie’s eating disorder was portrayed in a natural way and wasn’t dramatised for the sake of the book. I especially related to the root of Stevie’s issues being a desire for control and this is a book that digs into all the questions around mental illness instead of letting it be and merely telling a story. How does Stevie get better? Why did this happen? What caused this?

9. When We Collided by Emery Lord

We are seventeen and shattered and still dancing. We have messy, throbbing hearts, and we are stronger than anyone could ever know…

Jonah never thought a girl like Vivi would come along.

Vivi didn’t know Jonah would light up her world.

Neither of them expected a summer like this…a summer that would rewrite their futures.

In an unflinching story about new love, old wounds, and forces beyond our control, two teens find that when you collide with the right person at just the right time, it will change you forever.

Emery Lord is easily one of my favourite authors and When We Collided offers an insight into bipolar disorder. I adored how this was not a bipolar girl’s love story — it was a love story that happened to involve a bipolar girl. There‘s still depth and development in concerns to what having bipolar disorder is like and the insight into Vivi’s thoughts is executed perfectly, but it never felt like her bipolar defined her. This book also explores depression and grief.

10. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

“Dead girl walking,” the boys say in the halls.
“Tell us your secret,” the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl.
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.
 

Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend’s restless spirit.

This focuses on eating disorders, amongst others issues such as grief. As someone who struggled and been back and forth to hospital because of her eating, I found this book to be a scarily accurate portrayal of what it’s like to have an eating disorder. The obsessive thoughts, the internal monologue, it hit hard. This is an emotionally moving, brutal and unforgiving book that is worth the read — but proceed with caution if it might trigger you because it doesn’t shy away from the reality of EDs whatsoever.

read it and weep,