These past two years have been very busy, we house hunted for much of the start of 2021 and managed to find a home in an area that we both love. We bought a car as well, and then spent the summer with family after not being able to see them since the start of COVID. In the fall we got pregnant and then shortly after moved into our new home. My first trimester of pregnancy left me absolutely exhausted, to the point where I wondered if I was anemic (I was not, that would come later in the second trimester). Between pregnancy and setting up house, I couldn’t really see the point in job hunting/starting a new job, plus my focus was absolutely terrible, reading was such a challenge and I would often find myself having to read the same paragraphs multiple times in order to get any semblance of comprehension. This was made a lot worse when I experienced my first panic attack in my last trimester (of which I will not get into detail). Then in the summer of 2022 Baby A was born, and she is an absolute joy, and somehow reading got easier even though sleep deprivation became a very real thing (it was definitely the hormones). We’ve had our ups and our downs as a family, but I am truly loving being a full-time mom at this period in my life. In those first couple months I did feel like I didn’t know myself, and like my body was no longer mine, but it wasn’t too difficult to bounce back and to add “mother” to my list of what makes me me. I think this process was made easier by the fact that I didn’t have a job to return to, and that my front-and-center hobby of reading is still very much an active hobby. What I was starting to miss was reviewing! While I don’t feel like I’m at the same brain capacity I was before pregnancy, I do still enjoy critiquing what I am reading and I’m hoping to slowly ease my way back into a more critical type of book reviewing. I do also have several reviews drafted out from prior years that I want to post. So let’s get back to it! And include some posts about motherhood too :P.
Tag: young adult
Book Review: Today Tonight Tomorrow
Title: Today Tonight Tomorrow
Author: Rachel Lynn Solomon
Date Published: July 28, 2020
Rating: 3.75/5 stars
Date read: November 14, 2020
Today Tonight Tomorrow is a young adult contemporary novel following high school senior Rowan Roth on her last day of senior year. As per her school’s tradition she and the rest of the senior class compete in a game that involves completing tasks and secretly killing-off (not literally) the other students. In an unexpected turn of events Rowan ends up teaming up with her academic rival, Neil McNair. But over the course of the day the two properly get to know one another, and Rowan begins to wonder if she’s had the wrong impression of Neil all along.
I like enemies-to-lovers/hate-to-love romances more so in theory than in practice. While they provide the perfect opportunity for romantic tension and angst, majority of the time I find that one party acts too ruthlessly towards the other and I end up being put-off by the relationship as a whole. I think they become even more difficult to pull-off in contemporary settings, because I often do not feel that the situations properly garner the extent of dislike one person feels towards the other. Thankfully Today Tonight Tomorrowsets the two rivals up quite well, and in a way that is quite compelling. I liked that Rowan’s understanding of Neil’s character really only brushed the surface, and her over-achieving, and highly competitive personality made her competition with Neil understandable. That she also has respect for him was a big factor in what made me able to root for the two, and it’s pretty clear from the get-go that she has feelings she needs to realize for herself.
As far as the story goes, I really liked the game aspect of it as it helped add fun drama to the story and was a unique way of forcing two characters to interact together. Both the game and the story ultimately played out the way I expected they would but this was a story more about the journey than the destination so I didn’t view this as a fault. I also felt the story was compelling enough that I always looked forward to picking the novel back up. In regards to setting, I’ve never been to Seattle so I can’t speak for the depiction, but I don’t think the writing was strong enough that I was able to picture the scenes as much as I would have liked. As for the writing of Today Tonight Tomorrow, while it wasn’t anything special, it was by no means bad; easy to digest, but not particularly memorable.
Lastly, the characters. I think I didn’t like this novel nearly as much as other readers because I had trouble sympathizing with Rowan. Rowan is barely out of high school, and yet she harbours a lot of nostalgia towards her high school life. As someone who did not enjoy high school and who was eager to leave it, I really couldn’t relate. I also couldn’t connect with the fact that Rowan thought it necessary to hide her love of romance novels, but I suppose I’m lucky in this regard. I’m not really one who needs to connect to or relate with a protagonist to enjoy a novel, but it is something I desire a lot more when it comes to contemporaries, especially when it is the wants of the protagonist that are driving the story forward. I also had trouble connecting to Neil because he was too perfect. He was so understanding and kind, and faultless, it made his character seem unrealistic. That said I do think Rowan and Neil had great chemistry. As for non-romantic relationships, I also really liked the conflict that involved Rowan and her friends. Friendships are an important part of adolescence and I always appreciate novels that give focus to them. In this case we’re shown how friendships can be affected by romantic relationships, and I thought the situation was well handled.
Overall I’d recommend Today Tonight Tomorrow to anyone looking for a light YA romance.
Have you read Today Tonight Tomorrow? If not, do you plan to? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Happy reading! 💗
Book Review: The Afterlife of Holly Chase
Title: The Afterlife of Holly Chase
Author: Cynthia Hand
Date Published: October 24, 2017
Rating: 4/5 stars
Date read: December 31, 2020 (reread)
The Afterlife of Holly Chase is a very loose retelling of A Christmas Carol. In the beginning of our story we see a young woman named Holly Chase go on the same journey as Ebenezer Scrooge, but instead of achieving moral enlightenment she views the whole setup as a scam, and proceeds to die the next day. Fast forward five years, Holly is an employee for the company that tried to save her, Project Scrooge, working as the ghost of Christmas past. Their assignment this year is a 17-year-old young man named Ethan Winters, who Holly takes more interest in than she should.
Every now and then I just want something fluffy but heartfelt, with shallow, unconventional characters and The Afterlife of Holly Chase really hits the spot. This is a character type I think Hand writes particularly well (I’m also thinking of The How and the Why) because she somehow manages to also make these character types charming in their own way. Holly Chase in particular is judgemental, shallow, and self-centred, but with so much room for character growth. And I do think the primary focus of this novel is her development, and how the new relationships she forms over the course of the novel offer her perspective into her past relationships, which in turn shifts her priorities in more meaningful directions. To speak firstly of the romance, Holly and Ethan were easy to root for, and brought out unexpected sides in each other. They had great chemistry and I found myself hoping they could make their relationship work. But what left the most lasting impression on me was Holly’s relationships with her ex-best friend and her father respectively. Holly’s sentiments towards both these relationships as the novel progressed felt very heartfelt and had me tearing up at times. That said, I think what really sets The Afterlife of Holly Chase apart from most other contemporaries (unique premise aside) is the ending, I really respect Hand for where she took the story in its last moments and because of that it’s a story that I can foresee myself rereading again and again.
Note: I have read the original source material, but to be honest I don’t remember it that well, so I don’t think reading the original is necessary to enjoy The Afterlife of Holly Chase, though I do imagine it heightens the experience a bit. Also, I listened to the audiobook for both my reads of this story and I highly recommend it, I think Erin Spencer’s voice fits Holly really well.
Have you read The Afterlife of Holly Chase? If not, do you plan to? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Happy reading! 💗
Book Review: Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined
Title: Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined
Author: Danielle Younge-Ullman
Date Published: February 21, 2017
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Date read: November 2, 2020 (reread)
Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined follows an aspiring singer named Ingrid, who gets permission from her former opera singer mother to pursue music on the condition that she attend a wilderness survival camp for at-risk teenagers. The story is told through multiple timelines, following Ingrid’s time at camp, her budding friendship with a boy named Isaac, and the loss of her mother’s singing voice.
Younge-Ullman’s writing alone is enough to bring me to read a novel. She’s fantastic at writing both witty dialogue and snarky, sarcastic characters, two elements I love having in any book I read. That her words so effectively portray and carry emotion is also a huge plus, and I often find her protagonists’ way of thinking incredibly relatable. I also love the imagery she uses, it often has me imaging myself in the scene.
In regards to themes, the novel’s most prominent one is grief. Ingrid has a lot of complicated feelings towards the most important relationship in her life, and a lot of emotions she bottles up. Over the course of the novel we unpack these feelings with her and see how holding in emotions can be harmful. As someone who’s always had a hard time discussing my own feelings, I could really relate to Ingrid’s struggle. Seeing Ingrid coming to terms with her issues was really emotionally impactful, but I also appreciated that there were no grand solutions for Ingrid’s problems.
To speak of the present timeline, I’m not a fan of the wilderness so I find it quite interesting that I don’t mind reading this type of setting. Ingrid’s temperament and attitudes towards wilderness were similar to my own, so I had no difficulties empathizing with her struggle to adapt to camp life. I also liked that Ingrid wasn’t quick to form lasting relationships, and that she was a more introspective and introverted character. It feels more genuine that the group members of her camp ended up forming cliques, but also that they were slowly able to open up to one another over time. But while I enjoyed the present day timeline, and thought it did well to unpack Ingrid’s feelings, my favourite aspect of the novel was the flashbacks that centred on Ingrid and her parents. Her relationship with Andreas was so sweet and a most needed comfort during the difficult periods of her life. As for Ingrid’s mother, through the flashbacks we were really able to see the full picture in regards to Margot-Sophia’s character, and while I would rather not comment on Margot-Sophia’s actions, I did understand where she was coming from. Because Ingrid, Andreas, and Margot-Sophia’s characters were so well fleshed out, the different relationships between the three were layered and complex, and ended up being the most memorable aspect of the novel.
Lastly, the negatives. I had this complaint the first time I read Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined and I also have it about He Must Like You and it’s that I have a hard time connecting to Younge-Ullman’s romances. While I liked the dynamic Ingrid had with Tavik, especially their chemistry, I wasn’t as big a supporter of her relationship with Isaac. I’m beginning to think it’s because I don’t get along particularly well with the personalities of Younge-Ullman’s love interests, which really is just a personal preference. That’s not to say that I think the romance was bad, just that if I’m going to root for a romance I have a preference for liking those involved.
CW: suicide, sexual assault, depression
Have you read Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined? If not, do you plan to? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Happy reading! 💗
Book Review: Foul Is Fair
Title: Foul Is Fair
Author: Hannah Capin
Date Published: February 18, 2020
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Date read: November 22, 2020
Foul is Fair is a loose contemporary retelling of Hamletfollowing a sixteen-year-old young woman who enacts a brutal revenge after being gang raped at a party.
If I had to summarize this novel in a few words it would be witty, sharp, and a slap to the face. Foul is Fair’s gritty and atmospheric storytelling, smart writing, and ruthless characters were reminiscent of Tarantino’s film style, and if the director ever decided he wanted to adapt a young adult novel there is none more suited for him than this. That said, I think this is one of those books that will have a tougher time finding its audience because I do not think its writing style has mass appeal. But I personally was completely enamoured by the writing and it’s not often that I get the sense I’ve picked up the right book after reading only the first paragraph. Capin does rely on a repetitive type of narrative, something I don’t usually enjoy, but in this instance this stylistic choice had a sort of enchanting type effect that helped set the dark and creepy tone.
Luckily writing isn’t Foul is Fair’s only charm, as I found both setup and characters equally enthralling. Jade is tough, uncompromising, and everything I’ve ever wanted from a female assassin type character
which feels weird to say because this isn’t an assassin fantasy novel. I really liked her lack of remorse and her ability to manipulate situations to her desired outcome. She was the perfect balance of sexy and badass without feeing overly sexualized. Her group of friends completed her image and really helped set the tone for her character. As for the side characters, they more or less fit certain expectations and while we didn’t get to know any of them super well, I don’t think that was ever the intention.
In terms of story, I do not think this novel is particularly realistic, but that isn’t something I expect from thrillers, so I don’t view that as a criticism. That the story ultimately played out the way I expected it to, with no plot twists being overly surprising, did not affect my overall enjoyment either as I enjoyed the journey more than the reveals. What I especially liked was how conflicted I felt about the events of the story. Jade’s game plan is horrifying and terrible, but at the same time I have a hard time sympathizing with her aggressors because they’re also horrible and without remorse. Also, I’m not particularly fond of Shakespeare, but I absolutely loved and appreciated the nods to the original story. I think they really helped set the tone of the novel, and I would recommend reading the original source material first as I think the experience is heightened for one who’s read the story prior. If I have an criticisms they mainly involve the ending of the novel, while it was by no means bad, I did think it was a bit messy and there were some aspects I could have gone without.
CW: rape, murder, suicide
Have you read Foul Is Fair? If not, do you plan to? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Happy reading! 💗
Book Review: What I Carry
Title: What I Carry
Author: Jennifer Longo
Date Published: January 31, 2020
Rating: 3/5 stars
Date read: December 1, 2020
What I Carry follows a 17-year-old high school senior named Muiriel who is soon aging out of foster care. She makes an active effort not to form attachments to her foster families and often moves houses, but during her last year she tries committing to one home.
I have a lot of mixed feelings about What I Carry. On the one hand foster care and/or adoption stories are stories that consistently have a strong emotional impact on me and I find the insight gained from them invaluable, and What I Carry was no exception to this. On the other hand all other aspects of the novel fell short for me. To start, I think this novel’s biggest weakness is in its writing. The author tries too hard to write from a teenage narrative, to the point where it feels forced. And while I appreciate that Longo attempts to tackle other important topics such as racism, and more specifically internment camps, I think had those topics been discussed with more nuance it would have left a stronger impact. The fact that Muir was always playing hero to the only two characters of colour also rubbed me the wrong way. I do appreciate the amount of research that went into the foster care aspects of this novel though, and when the book focuses on foster care I thought the novel was at its strongest. Muir’s flashbacks in particular were quite impactful. My one complaint in that regard though is that it would have also been more compelling to know more about what happens to some of the kids who do age out, as opposed to vaguely alluding to it.
In regards to characters, Muir was an interesting character to follow, and I could sympathize with what she was going through. I like that initially she was more subdued, but over time began to be more expressive, that gradual shift in demeanour was a great reflection of her character growth. I did find her attachment to John Muir a bit annoying at times though, and her arguments with Sean about conservation vs preservation felt more like trying to side the reader with preservation than actually providing concrete arguments to both sides. Speaking of Muir and Sean, I thought the relationship between the two lacked chemistry and that made it difficult for me to be truly invested in their relationship. I was always much more interested in scenes Muir shared with Kira or Francine as I thought those relationships felt a lot more genuine. The understanding between the women was clear and they all really respected each other which provided a solid foundation for their friendships. Muir’s interactions with Natan were really gross, and as the repercussions of her assault were minimally discussed, it left me with the feeling that Longo was trying to cram in as many social injustices into this novel as possible. The bullying narrative was probably the worst element of the story though, and seemed to only serve as a way to push certain characters into making certain decisions. That the bullies became irrelevant afterwards came across to me as sloppy storytelling.
Have you read What I Carry? If not, do you plan to? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Happy reading! 💗