Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Page Count: 304
Publishing Date/Publisher: March 12, 2019 by Penguin Young Readers Group
Review: Laurie Halse Anderson has been a powerhouse in the realm of Young Adult Fiction, so it was interesting to learn a little bit more about her through this poetry memoir. I like the format in verse because I think it will make the book seem less daunting to reluctant readers. I was able to breeze through it in a couple hours, and despite it’s brevity, there is still a lot to unpack.
I think this is an important book because it reveals the gap in education regarding consent, and really just sex in general. Because sex is still such a taboo topic, society is failing to educate youth about their own bodies and the importance of respecting others.
One of the most tragic aspects of sexual abuse/assault is that the victims often do not fully understand what has happened/is happening to them. They push down their shame and internalize their trauma, which often manifests itself in destructive ways. Because of this, it is so important that we talk through these issues with our youth, and let them know that it is ok to speak out if someone is doing something that doesn’t feel right.
I personally think this should be required reading in middle schools, because it is important to start this conversation early. It is not graphic, but it absolutely gets it’s point across, which I think makes it appropriate for both middle school and high school students.
Title: Unbreak Me
Author: Michelle Hazen
Page Count: 304
Publishing Date/Publisher: August 13, 2019 by Berkley
Review: Reading this book felt like being locked in somebody else’s fantasy. Despite the serious subject matter in the two characters’ backstories, there was surprising little substance to the storyline. Pretty much anything worthy of note about the characters is described in the book’s synopsis, and both characters were just too…perfect. Any perceived “flaws” in their personalities were a direct result of their trauma, and were therefore not really flaws at all. And of course both were tall, beautiful people with bangin’ bods. By the end of the book I still knew very little about the characters other than they had both lived through a traumatic experience and loved working with horses. The sex scenes also seemed wildly unrealistic (this is one of those books where the woman is achieving orgasms almost instantaneously, and of course a double climax at the end!). *insert eye roll here* I’m sure some people can enjoy this type of romance novel, but alas it just wasn’t for me.
Title: Crazy Rich Asians
Author: Kevin Kwan
Performer: Lynn Chen
Length: 13 hr, 53 min, 16 sec
Series: Crazy Rich Asians, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2013 by Books on Tape
Review: This book has been extremely popular at the library thanks to the breakaway movie success that hit theaters last year. I was finally able to reserve an eAudiobook copy after a long wait, and I am glad I held out to get the book in that format. The reader, Lynn Chen, did a great job bringing the variety of characters to life. I think I enjoyed the book a lot more than I would have if I had read the print version.
This book is very heavy on description, which I generally enjoy, but I was surprised at how fast I became desensitized to the opulence of the setting and the decadence of the food described in the book. After awhile, I became entirely unimpressed by the flashy displays of wealth. This book really does live up to the old adage, “money does not buy happiness.” It seemed to me that the wealthier the character was, the more miserable they were and the more miserable they made those around them. This left me feeling frustrated as a reader, and it didn’t feel to me that the book had much substance beyond these observations. I did not feel deeply connected to Rachel or Nick as characters, so I did not feel deeply connected to their romance. Other characters, such as Astrid and Eleanor, had much more impactful character development in my opinion. Rachel and Nick were just too perfect, and not nearly flawed enough for my liking.
The book was certainly better than the movie (no surprise there), but it didn’t wow me. I probably won’t be reading the next two books in the trilogy.
Title: Master Recipes from the Herbal Apothecary: 375 Tinctures, Salves, Teas, Capsules, Oils, and Washes for Whole-Body Health and Wellness
Author: JJ Pursell
Page Count: 288
Publishing Date/Publisher: March 5, 2019 by TimberPress
Review: I was so impressed with the way this book was laid out. It satisfies my craving for order (LOVE that the recipes are alphabetical), and it is so aesthetically pleasing. I can’t speak to how well the remedies actually work, but I feel confident that I could make any of them if I tried. This is a great reference book for both beginners and people with more expertise on the subject.
Author: Megan Spooner
Page Count: 480
Publishing Date/Publisher: March 19, 2019 by HarperTeen
Review: Well I am embarrassed to say that I did not finish this book before my Advanced Reader Copy expired (I should have been paying more attention to the publication date).
That said, I did admittedly drag my feet in finishing this book. I can generally finish a book in under a week, and yet I have been reading this one for over a month. Why? Mostly because I was not a fan of the pacing. I absolutely love the Robin Hood story, and I thought this was a unique premise for an adaptation. Girl power! It was, however, underwhelming. I was expecting far more action than was actually delivered (at least not in the first 70% of the book; that’s about as far as I made it before the title expired). I also found it completely perplexing that it took so long for any other characters to actually catch onto the fact that Marian was masquerading as Robin. The author very clearly tried to make the “villain” of the story multidimensional with backstory, but he still seemed like a complete dope for falling for Marian’s lame excuses and poorly created masquerade.
I really don’t know how the author is going to end the story, but quite frankly I probably won’t be rushing to find out.
Title: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Author: Gail Honeyman
Page Count: 327
Publishing Date/Publisher: May 9, 2017 by Viking/Pamela Dorman Books
Review: I can safely say that in my long illustrious career as a bookworm, I have never read a book quite like this one. When I first started reading it, I was not sure how I felt about the first person style, but by the end of the first couple chapters I was hooked. This author has an incredible way of revealing so much of the story through subtext. It is clear that the narrator does not understand when she is making a social faux pas, yet the reader is acutely aware of her blunder. There is some argument among readers about whether this lack of awareness is attributed to undiagnosed Autism Spectrum Disorder or internalized trauma. I think both explanations are plausible, and perhaps it is a mixture of both. I think part of the brilliance of the writing is that Eleanor is clearly an unreliable narrator, and yet so much can be gleaned about Eleanor’s motivators by reading between the lines. I was perfectly happy to bumble along with Eleanor, who’s actions and reactions to situations were both cringey and oddly relatable. The full extent of Eleanor’s trauma is not revealed until the end of the book, but the real value is in watching Eleanor’s personality slowly unfurl past her carefully constructed barriers. This book demonstrates the power of unconditional love and the importance of relationships, both of which Eleanor sadly lacked in her life up until this point. I found Eleanor’s character to be charming in her own way, and sometimes her inner monologue made me laugh out loud. She is extremely intelligent and her perception of the world is unique and unencumbered by social norms. All in all, I loved this book and I think it is well deserving of the attention it has garnered.
Title: The Bride Test
Author: Helen Hoang
Page Count: 320
Series: The Kiss Quotient, Book 2
Publishing Date/Publisher: May 7, 2019 by Berkley
Review: The Kiss Quotient set an impossibly high bar as one of my all-time favorite romance novels. I was ecstatic when I found out that Helen Hoang would be publishing another love story following a periphery character from her stunning debut.
The story, which follows Michael’s cousin Khai and the delightfully independent Esme, is undeniably sweet, but somehow lacked the same swoon-worthy quality that made the The Kiss Quotient so unforgettable. It’s hard to say exactly what it lacks, but it just doesn’t have “it”. The characters were likeable, and the plot was cutesy, but it felt to me like it was just running in a very predictable circle.
I appreciate that this romance is focused on somebody with autism, and if you read the first book, it was nice to see that Khai’s autism isn’t portrayed exactly the same as Stella’s. There is so much diversity on the spectrum, and it is refreshing to see this represented.
I hope this book is going to be part of a trilogy, and I suspect that if it is, the third book will focus on Khai’s brother, Quan. He is also a very likable character, and it would be great to follow his story next.
Title: On the Come Up
Author: Angie Thomas
Page Count: 464
Publishing Date/Publisher: February 5, 2019 by Balzer + Bray
Review: This is an exceptionally well-written coming-of-age story about staying true to yourself and following your dreams. What I really loved about it is that Thomas was able to touch upon a lot of hot topics without this book feeling like it was issue fiction. A Blade So Black touched upon a lot of the same issues, but as I noted in my review, I did not like that the controversial topics were laid out in a very one dimensional fashion. Angie Thomas managed to avoid this pitfall by exploring the issues from many different angles. I think this is a very socially responsible approach, and gives the story more power with a wider audience. I, for example, grew up with very different challenges than the main character, Bri, and though I do not agree with all of her choices and opinions, I can completely understand how her life experiences have shaped her perspective on and reaction to the events that take place in the story. I think this speaks volumes about Thomas’ skill as a writer, and it makes me very excited about whatever projects she may have coming up in the (hopefully) near future.
Title: We’ll Always Have Summer
Author: Jenny Han
Performer: Jessica Almasy
Length: 6 hr, 45 min
Series: Summer, Book 3
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2011 by Recorded Books
Review: I wasn’t particularly surprised by the ending of this book, but the author really does make you wait until the epilogue to know which brother Belly ends up with. I felt Belly’s anguish was very relatable throughout the final book, and it is a relief to know that she ends up happy despite it all.
My feelings regarding Conrad and Jeremiah are mixed. Both characters are deeply flawed, and it was difficult for me to determine Conrad’s motivators in particular. His love for Belly did not feel very authentic to me, even after I was given insight into his feelings.
To be perfectly honest, I was not as invested in this book as I was in the two that precede it. I had a very strong suspicion about how it would all play out, and I was pretty much on the mark. I’m glad that I finished the trilogy though and I would very much consider reading other books written by this author.