Review: Close Enough To Touch by Colleen Oakley 

Hello, friends!

I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying whatever you’ve been reading! I just finished a book called ‘ Close Enough To Touch’ by Colleen Oakley. This was a very sweet and moving story about a young woman named Jubilee Jenkins who has an allergy to *wait for it* human touch. Woah, right?!

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Review: The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon

 

Hello, everyone!

I’m currently doing very poorly at posting reviews, I’m so sorry. I really have zero excuse for my lack of posts other than I’ve been very lazy and almost all motivation to post a review is lost. And that is barely an excuse. This winter has taken hold of me like hibernation takes hold of a bear. Also, anxiety and depression, but mostly the cold winter. But I want to do better. I really, really do. I find what really helps me put my thoughts in order after finishing a book, is writing about it. And I’ll never grow as a reviewer if I don’t you know, review. 

HOWEVER, I have emerged from my cocoon of comfy blankets, tea, and junk food to tell you about this book I just read. It’s by the lovely and talented Nicola Yoon, author of the YA hit and soon to be released film, ‘Everything, Everything’. This is her second novel and IT. WAS. AMAZING.

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Happy Halloween! Happy Thanksgiving! Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Holidays! Happy New Year! Goodbye 2016!!!

 

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You can download this free desktop and phone wallpaper from Lily & Val Living by clicking on the picture!

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Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

This book. THIS BOOK…

Made my heart so happy!

Prior to purchasing the audiobook version of ‘Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe’ by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, from audible, which is a decision I’ll get to in a minute, I saw this book everywhere. Whether on bookstagram and Goodreads, book blogs  or sites like Bookriot. This book was everywhere. Whenever I saw a fellow bookworm asking other fellow readers on the internet for book recommendations, this book was on practically every long or short-list. And I just had to know! The cover is pretty, yes. I couldn’t help but scan spoiler free reviews that were full of positive boasting in regards to this novel, and the importance of it in the LGBTQA YA novel community.

Like I mentioned earlier, I bought the audiobook version before I cancelled my Audible subscription (sorry, Audible, but you cost a lot!) in July. I wrote a post a few months ago about my love/hate relationships with audiobooks, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. If the narrator doesn’t grab me, I find it hard to listen and turn off my thoughts and stay focused on the story in my ears. This one, however, was different. The narrator of this audiobook is none other than Grammy/Tony/Pulitzer Prize Winning writer/actor/performer Lin-Manuel Miranda. Honestly, if I hadn’t fallen into the wonderful black hole that is Hamilton and Lin-Manuel Miranda back in April, I may not have purchased this. That isn’t to say if I wasn’t into Hamilton I’d write this novel off, because it’s wonderful as it’s own simply on paper. But listening to this with Lin at the helm really pulled me in. I would put in my headphones and just zone out because I just find his voice in general very comforting and nice to listen to. Is that creepy? I hope not. Lin was wonderful with his performances of Ari and Dante. He really brought the characters to life for me, so big props to Simon and Schuster for this. It was also recently revealed that Benjamin Aloee Sáwnz will be releasing a sequel and I’m hoping so much that Lin narrates it! 

It’s important to know that this novel actually takes place in the 1980’s, so the events that transpire and come to fruition are doing so in a less progressive time culturally. Which also leads me to note that this story takes place in the ’80’s despite actually being written in the ’80’s  and without too many references to 1980’s pop-culture that make the reader yell, “We get it! It’s the ’80’s and you love Madonna and Back to The Future!” which is something I sense in a lot of YA novels as of late now that the 1980’s is becoming the hot, “old” decade to write about.


Now, onto the summary. The POV of the novel is told through Aristotle or Ari, Mendoza. Ari is a 15-year old Mexican-American. He is the youngest of three siblings: two sisters  who have grown up and moved away as well as an older brother who we learn is in prison. Ari’s parent’s live as if Ari’s brother doesn’t exist, which becomes a recurring struggle for Ari throughout the novel. When we meet Ari we learn three things: he’s bored, miserable, and lonely. Ari doesn’t shy away from telling his mother he doesn’t have any friends, which Ari pretends doesn’t bother him, but we already know deep down it does.

To cease Ari’s complaining, his mother suggests he go to the local swimming pool and despite not knowing how to swim, Ari agrees. At the swimming pool, Ari meets a boy who introduces himself as Dante Quintana. It’s clear to Ari that Dante is a pretty good swimmer, so when Dante offers to teach Ari how to swim Ari accepts. The pair soon become best friends. They bond over books and reading. Dante likes to draw and he hates to wear shoes. Dante introduces Ari to poetry and classic literature. Despite the two of them being the best of friends their differences are clear: Dante struggles with his Mexican identity yet, his relationship with his parents is much more tight-knit than Ari’s. Ari admires the  relationship between Dante and his parents because it’s the kind of relationship where you’d feel comfortable talking to either parent about anything. Ari’s is the opposite. Ari’s mother tends to constantly see Ari as a little boy. His mother is very conventional and his father doesn’t speak to Ari that much. Ari knows that this is because his father served in the Vietnam War and he doesn’t like rehashing his memories to anyone. This makes Ari angry and wedges more of a distance between them.

One night Dante invites Ari to accompany him and his parents to the desert to look at the stars. Looking at the stars, Dante tells Ari that one day he’ll discover the secrets of the universe and Ari knows that of anyone could make it possible it would be Dante. One afternoon Ari and Dante see a group of boys with a BB gun shooting birds. They confront the boys and together bury the sparrow the boys shot. After the burial, Ari comes down with the flu. The flu brings Ari to have fever dreams. He dreams about calling to his imprisoned brother from across a river and searching for Dante and his father in the pouring rain. As his parent’s nurse him back to health, Dante visits Ari regularly, choosing to sketch Ari while he’s recovering. Ari asks to see the sketches but Dante refuses.

After Ari recovers fully from the flu, Dante reveals that his father accepted a new job in Chicago. Ari is left wondering how the following school year is going to turn out for him. That same day the boys notice and injured bird lying in the street in the pouring rain. As
Dante runs out to save it, Ari sees a car coming down the street, failing to slow down. Ari runs out and pushed Dante and the bird out of the way from the oncoming car, saving his life.  Ari wakes up to both of his arms and legs in casts. Dante, becomes flooded with guilt, but Ari tells him that there are new rules he has to follow:  he can no longer talk about the accident and he isn’t allowed to thank him or cry. This prompts Dante to cry, which angers Ari.

Ari’s anger brings his mother to suggest him to see a therapist. Ari tells her that he’ll see a therapist when she starts opening up about what happened to Ari’s brother. Despite the accident making Ari lash out, it begins to bring Ari and his father closer. Ari reads ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ while his father reads ‘War and Peace’. Ari concludes that maybe this can be their version of “talking”.  This new connection between Ari and his father brings his father to open up about his own nightmares. Ari finally begins to feel connected to his father especially when his father tells him he’d buy Ari a pickup truck for his sixteenth birthday and teach him how to drive. These future plans of getting a truck and getting his casts of cheer Ari up, until the day comes when Dante leaves for Chicago. On their last day together before his departure for Chicago, Dante reveals a secret to Ari: the two things he loves the most are swimming and Ari. Ari tells him not to say things like that, even if they are true.

This new revelation from Dante brings Ari to think about who Dante really is and who he really is as well. The two promise to stay friends and send each other letter while Dante is in Chicago and until he returns. The beginning of the new school year causes Ari to think more about the accident and why he did what he did to save Dante. Sometimes he wishes he didn’t save Dante after all. The day Ari gets his casts off he decides to take a walk by Dante’s house. He goes to the park and finds a stray dog who he takes home. He names her Legs because when he got his casts off.

The new school year begins and Ari’s fellow classmates Gina Navarro and Susie Byrd prompt Ari for answers about the accident, Ari retreats further back into his thoughts and confusions about Dante. On his sixteenth birthday, Ari receives his pickup truck. He devotes his new cast-less freedom to learning how to drive and writing in his journal. He even gets a job at a local restaurant and becoming friends with Susie and Gina. After getting his license, Ari finds himself driving out to the desert to get drunk on beer and look at the stars. Part of this sneaky behavior is due to Dante’s overflowing letters about how he kissed a girl at a party in Chicago and tried beer and smoked pot for the first time. In a way, Ari doesn’t want to miss out part of his curiosity stems from the absence of Dante in his life. In a later letter Dante reveals to Ari that instead of kissing girls he’d rather be kissing boys.

Summer arrives and so does Dante. One night Dante and Ari drive out to the desert to look at the stars. Dante reveals that his mother and pregnant and admits that he hopes she has a boy so his brother can marry a woman and have children. Dante tells Ari he wants to tell his parent’s that he’s gay, but he’s afraid. Ari tells Dante that his sexuality will not change their relationship and that he’ll stick by him. When Dante gets a job at the local drugstore, he tells Ari one night that he has feelings for a boy he works with named Daniel. This immediately draws Ari to have a dislike for Daniel. He doesn’t know why he feels this way other than Daniel rubbing him the wrong way.

In the middle of the summer, Ari’s mother leaves him and his father to visit his Aunt Ophelia for a few days in Tucson, Arizona. However, her visit is cut short when she calls and tells Ari and his father Ophelia had a fatal stroke. Ari and his father drive to Tucson and it’s after the funeral that Ari’s mother reveals to Ari what happened to his brother. She tells him he was arrested for murder when he was fifteen after he killed a prostitute he hired after she revealed to him she was a transvestite. This imprisoned his brother for life. When Ari returns home with the newfound information about his brother, he learns that Dante was sent to the hospital after he was jumped by a group of guys after they found him kissing Daniel in an alleyway. This infuriates Ari and prompts him to find out who the boys that jumped Dante were. He learns that one of boys names is Julian and he works at an auto-shop, Ari goes there and threatens to fight Julian.

Ari’s mother is afraid that Ari is going to end up like his brother after she learns of his fight with Julian. Ari reveals the reason that Dante was jumped was because Dante is gay. Ari also learns that Daniel fled instead of helping or stopping the boys from jumping Dante. When Mr. Quintana asks Ari why Dante was jumped, he tells him that Dante is gay but he did not tell them out of fear fro their reactions. Mr. Quintana’s reaction is one of support for his son. Mrs. Quintana says she believed Daniel was just a stand in for Ari. Ari doesn’t know what to think of this. When Ari returns home his mother calls a family meeting. During the meeting Ari’s father finally tells Ari his an incident from Vietnam that continues to haunt him. He tells Ari that like this incident, which prompted him to run from it, is the same thing that Ari is doing with Dante. When Ari doesn’t quite understand, his mother tells him that he was jealous of Daniel and that Ari loves Dante as much as Dante loves Ari. Ari is at first ashamed and afraid his parent’s are ashamed of him as well, but a revelation about Ari’s Aunt Ophelia shows Ari that his parent’s are anything but ashamed of their son.

After contemplation, Ari comes to realize that his parents are right. Ari realizes that him saving Dante from the oncoming car and his act of revenge on Julian for jumping Dante was him coming to terms with his own feelings for Dante. Dante tells Ari that he isn’t sure if he can just be friends with Ari anymore. That being friends with him would be too difficult for him. When Ari reveals his feelings to Dante they kiss and Ari realizes that while he was searching for the secrets of the universe, he forgot to look inside himself. His answers for those secrets were with him and he realizes he’s loves Dante since the moment they met at the pool that one summer day.


This story was just wonderful and beautiful. Dante has this outlook on life that is both positive and romantic. It was funny at times to see Ari, who has a darker and more sarcastic view on life mesh and sometimes come to a head with Dante’s. Dante drew Ari from his comfort zone. He introduced him to new things and new ways to be. This novel creates an intersection between being a queer person as well as being Latino. These stories are important. All queer literature is important. When teens and adults have ways to connect with literature on a personal level, reading about characters with different sexualities and nationalities create a safe space for people to relate and simply be themselves. In these stories queer people of color can find a deeper connection to a story’s characters. Often when I read books with queer characters, it’s no secret that a large amount of these characters are white and middle class. While the understanding and coming to terms with one’s sexuality is universal, it’s important to remember that the struggles and acceptance of a person’s sexuality is not limited to white people.

Although Dante is more open about his sexuality, he still feels he doesn’t have a connection to his Mexican identity. He tells Ari at one point that he “doesn’t feel Mexican because he likes boys.” Ari replies that he doesn’t “think liking boys is an American invention.” This not only allows Dante and Ari to possess their queer identities, but prompts them to know that they have an equal place in the world just as much as any other queer person. Regardless of their nationality or skin color. They are equally important individuals. Not only does queerness NOT define a person, but it is also NOT an American made way of being. It’s an anyone anywhere and whoever, way of being.


Favorite quotes:

“What do you love, Ari? What do you really love?”

“I love the desert. God, I love the desert.”

“It’s so lonely.”

“Is it?”

Dante didn’t understand. I was unknowable.” –Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

“I love swimming”

“I know,” I said.
“I love swimming,” he said again. He was quiet for a little while. And then he said, “I love swimming—and you.”
I didn’t say anything.
“Swimming and you, Ari. Those are the things I love the most.” –Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

“Another secret of the universe: Sometimes pain was like a storm that came out of nowhere. The clearest summer could end in a downpour. Could end in lightning and thunder.” – Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

“I wanted to tell them that I’d never had a friend, not ever, not a real one. Until Dante. I wanted to tell them that I never knew that people like Dante existed in the world, people who looked at the stars, and knew the mysteries of water, and knew enough to know that birds belonged to the heavens and weren’t meant to be shot down from their graceful flights by mean and stupid boys. I wanted to tell them that he had changed my life and that I would never be the same, not ever. And that somehow it felt like it was Dante who had saved my life and not the other way around. I wanted to tell them that he was the first human being aside from my mother who had ever made me want to talk about the things that scared me. I wanted to tell them so many things and yet I didn’t have the words. So I just stupidly repeated myself. “Dante’s my friend.”

Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

My rating: 5/5

P.S I fully recommend anyone interested in this book to listen to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s splendid narration of the audiobook.

Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts 1 & 2



I. Have. Thoughts. 

So many about this script book. 

I pre-ordered and anticipated this book since February and since then I’ve spent a lot of time coming up with various scenarios and ways that this story would turn out.

First thing’s first. I knew this would be different. I don’t have very much experience reading plays other than reading Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet in high school; as well as a few plays in  a college class I took. With that being said, I sometimes had a difficult time imaging the events taking place as well as the dialogue. These things, however, did not stop me from reading this. I didn’t want to give up, I wanted to challenge myself with this different form of writing and reading, and I’m glad I did.

I took my time reading this because I knew it was probably the last time I’ll ever get to visit these characters and go on a new adventure with them. That being said, the following is NOT spoiler free.

This story opens up with Harry and Ginny Potter’s two oldest children, James and Albus, going off to Hogwarts. Albus is a first year and he expresses his concern of not being sorted into Gryffindor House like his brother and his parents. He doesn’t want to let Harry down. This particular scene gave me a flashback to the epilogue in the final novel where Albus tells Harry the same concerns. (I’d make a joke about how much that scene in the movie and the final book made me cringe and roll my eyes, but I won’t)

I mean, I get it. If I were Albus, especially with a name like his, (full name Albus Severus Potter), I would feel the same burden as well. I did like revisiting this scene for old time’s sake. Which brings me to who Albus is. He is not that concerned with being placed in Gryffindor because like Harry mentioned, the Sorting Hat takes your opinion into account, and that it did. So much so that the hat placed Albus in Slytherin. However I kind of saw that coming, and I liked that he wasn’t put in Gryffindor, but I think it would have really thrown readers for a loop if he was placed in Hufflepuff. I’d love to see how Harry and Ginny would have felt about that. Not that Hufflepuff is not a great House, because it is and it’s just as  wonderful as Ravenclaw and Gryffindor and yes, even Slytherin, but I would have loved to see them say “Oh, well that was a different outcome than what we had anticipated.”

Another character we get to meet is Draco Malfoy’s son, Scorpious. Scorpious was my favorite character in this play. He befriends Albus on the train on their first journey to  Hogwarts, much like how Harry befriended Ron 20 years earlier. We also have the pleasure in meeting Ron and Hermione’s  daughter, Rose. Rose is very quick to take a disliking to Scorpious and warns Albus to be wary of who he becomes friendly with. There’s also a rumor going around that Scorpious is not Draco’s son, but Voldemort’s and that Malfoy and his late wife wanted to protect the Malfoy lineage and preserve an heir to the line, that they used a time-turner to send Scorpious’ mother back in time to meet Voldemort and well, you know… Yes I shivered too. Scorpious, however, knows that he’s just like Albus. He has pressure weighing on him to be the exact opposite of Draco, whereas Albus is facing the pressure to be just like Harry and the great men he’s named after. Albus however, wants no part of it. Albus wants to be his own person and write his own story. He doesn’t want to live in the shadows of his father or Dumbledore or Snape. He just wants to be Albus.

We flash forward to Albus’s second year at Hogwarts. Harry is encouraging him to make more friends, but Albus insists that he has all the friends he needs, Scorpious. Draco has similar feelings toward Scorpious and his friendship with Albus. Draco is so over the rumors that his son is the spawn of Voldemort that he asks Harry for a huge favor. Harry is the Head of the department of Magical Law Enforcement. Draco knows that Harry can use his position to dispel these rumors. He asks Harry to release a statement stating that all remaining Time-Turners have been destroyed. However, an arrest made a year later will reveal that not all of the time-turners have in fact, been destroyed.  

Harry, it turns out, is facing some similar demons. He and Albus don’t see eye to eye. He wants so desperately to relate to his son, but he can’t. This stress is showing in Harry’s work ethic as well. Hermione is the Minister of Magic and reminds Harry time and time again, much like she did when they were in school, to stay on top of his paperwork. 

Another character we get to see again is Amos Diggory, the father of Cedric Diggory, whose murder Harry still has nightmares over. Amos confronts Harry one night asking if the rumors that there is still a time-turner out there, are true. If so, he wants Harry to use it to bring back his son. Harry immediately shuts the idea down and denies the existence of a remaining time-tuner even existing. Little does he know that Albus is listening in to this exchange and gets an idea: he and Scorpious are going to bring back Cedric Diggory. Unfortunately, they don’t know that doing this, messing with time like this can change everything that happened even back to the night when Harry’s parent’s were murdered.

We also meet another character named Delphie. Delphie is Amos Diggory’s neice. She takes a quick liking to Albus and Scorpious and further convinces them that bringing Cedric back could bring so many great things. This turns out to be a very bad idea. In the remaining of the play, we go back in time. Characters are not who they say they are, and the truth about who these characters really are is revealed. 


So here’s what I liked:

  • Albus and Scorpious. I wanted them to be together so bad.  I ship them so much. I think having queer characters in Harry Potter, especially two main characters like these two would have been monumental and it honestly would have given this story so much more heart and inclusiveness to the LBGTQ+ fans of the fandom. Scorbus forever.
  • Mrs. McGonagal. YAAAAS QUEEN! I’m so glad she returned. She’s still as quick-witted and sassy as ever.
  • Hermione as Minister of Magic. SLAY, GIRL. 

Here’s what I hated: 

  • WHERE WAS TEDDY LUPIN?! He would have made this story SO GOOD. I honestly wish this story was about Albus struggling with living in Harry’s shadow, but also, meeting Teddy Lupin and befriending Scorpious and having so many adventures together.
  • Cornelious Fudge announcing anything during the Time-Turner time travel parts. WHAT?! He NEVER spoke like that. Ever. Who is he, Peeves?
  • Also, why wasn’t Peeves in this? I’m pissed. 
  • Delphie. Why? No. I feel like she was thrown into this story just to bring Voldemort back. There can be conflict in Harry Potter without Voldemort being involved. (see the entire plot to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban)
  • The whole alternate universe idea of Ron not being with Hermione and instead being with Padma Patil. I just, don’t… understand. Also, why was Ron the way he was? I know Ron is a doofus, but he’s an annoying doofus you can’t help but love. He has his shining moments. I felt like he was being made into a joke at times. He even made dad-jokes. NOPE.
  • Again, where was Teddy Lupin, though??

To wrap this up. I’m glad I got to see these characters again. I’m grateful that Jo gave us the opportunity to see what the Golden Trio is doing now. This felt a bit too much like fan-fiction for me. I don’t mean this as a dig to fan-fiction and fan-fiction writers, because those writers and stories are important, but as an official release from J.K. Rowling, I have to say I was a bit disappointed. I could differentiate between the parts Jo wrote, which I loved, and the parts that she didn’t. 

I would have LOVED it if this story was about Albus’ time at school, but also giving readers a peek into the Marauders era of Harry Potter. I can picture Albus and Rose going to Hogwarts and meeting Scorpious and befriending Teddy Lupin. Discovering what James and Sirius and Remus were like growing up as students at Hogwarts. I want to know more about Snape and Lily. I would have loved to see Albus discover Harry’s Marauder’s map and then inserting the Time-Turner into the story that way would have been SO SO GOOD. Sigh.

My rating: 3/5 Stars

Review: It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover 

It’s taken me a while to process this book and write this review. If you would rather not be spoiled, or if you are sensitive to content that can be triggering  in books, please don’t read this unless you want to.

A couple of weeks ago I received the new and very much-anticipated, novel from Colleen Hoover. Before I received my copy, I heard a few blurbs here and there concerning the subject matter of the story and I admit I had my reservations. This book is so heartbreakingly good and beautiful and disheartening all at once. There were a few times I needed to take a break and walk away from the book, despite finishing it in only two days.

I just want to say this: I have, nor could I ever imagine or hope to be in the same situation that the main character, Lilly, or her mother, are in. That being said, I know that if you are reading this review and if you have read this story, if you resonate with this story in ways I cannot and if you’ve ever been in a situation this heartbreaking, please know that I do not know what that’s like. And therefore, I cannot put into words exactly how hard a situation like this is.

This is a story about love and the forefront. It’s also a story about hurt that is both mental and physical. It’s also a story about second chances and new life.

When we first meet our main character, Lilly, she is on the roof of a building in Boston. She just had to give the eulogy for her dead, abusive father. She is thinking about killing herself. About jumping off. She doesn’t, because she knows her strengths. She also knows her weaknesses. One weakness, she finds, comes in the form of a voice. A voice belonging to a tall, dark, and handsome neurosurgeon, who joins her on the same roof.

His name is Ryle. Ryle, Lily comes to find, is sweet, charming, and successful. Ryle lets Lily know when they first meet that he doesn’t do relationships, they just never worked out for him. Lily is the one to change this.

They go on a few dates and hit it off very well. When Lily’s mother comes to Boston for a visit, Ryle insists on meeting her, something Lily takes as a good sign. They decide to have lunch at the hottest restaurant in town. It’s at this restaurant that Lily runs into someone from her past. His name is Atlas. Atlas is the once homeless teen Lily helped and took in when they were teenagers. He is also the first boy Lily loved. The novel goes back and forth from the past to the present. Atlas recognizes Lily at once and when he comes to take their orders. Lily is struck with flooded memories from their past. Little does she know that what Lily did for Atlas will come back to her.

Told in the form on journal entry-like letters to a celebrity Lily credits for helping her keep her sanity amongst her father’s abusive moments growing up. Who ever knew a daytime talk show celebrity could be the glue that helps to bind Lily and Atlas together?

Lily and Ryle see more of each other. Lily finds herself falling in love with Ryle. Ryle is sweet, charming, spontaneous, and tender. Ryle is also jealous, angry, and abusive. Lily knows she can’t be like her mother, but it’s Ryle’s begging for forgiveness and incessant declarations of “I’m so, so sorry!” and “Never again Lily, never again.” that keeps Lily from leaving Ryle for good. She also doesn’t want to admit that it’s harder to leave someone who is different in your mind than who they are right in front of you. It’s easier to say you’re going to up and leave an abusive person than it is to physically leave them, removing them from your heart once and for all.

Lily comes to find out that a relationship with Ryle is not all flowers and flirtation. Heated moments both passionate and angry lead Lily to a crossroads of questions. Lily must decide if it’s truly worth it to find the good in everyone, despite their demons. If it’s wise to accept forgiveness, or let go and realize that you can’t change anyone or their actions. Does she let go of her Atlas-filled past once and for all?  Or jump headfirst into the future, a future with Ryle, whose demons seep out little by little the longer they stay together and see each other’s true selves?

This was 5/5 stars for me. This novel was an eye-opening account of abuse in a relationship. It taught me that when you see or know someone in an abusive situation, your words to them need to be chosen very carefully. It’s important to know when your boundaries are within that. It’s easier for the person on the outside looking in to a situation like that to simply say, “Well, why don’t you just leave them?” It’s not that easy, and it only gets harder from there on out. Colleen Hoover is no stranger to writing heavy subjects in her novels, but it was the fact that she had her own personal experience with abuse that made this novel even more difficult to read. After growing up and seeing the abuse of her mother by her father, firsthand, she drew a lot of those personal and difficult memories into this novel. This is an important novel to read. Especially if you don’t have a personal history with abuse.

This novel does have a lot of light moments as well. It balanced out the heaviness within the core subject. The parts that went back to Lily’s past were my favorite. I loved getting to know Atlas. I do wish Atlas had been featured more, especially in the parts that took place in the present, but at the heart of it, the present was focused more on Lily and Ryle ‘s relationship.

I do have to say, I didn’t really like Ryle from the beginning. He just seemed douche-y from the moment I met him. He had his moments, but his character filled me with such an uneasiness, it wasn’t difficult for me to believe who he really was when things between him and Lily started falling apart.

Review: ‘Everything, Everything’ by Nicola Yoon 

 

I haven’t posted a review in a bit, but I’m back again! Just enjoying the summer and reading away! I’m 22 books away from hitting my 2016 Goodreads Challenge goal of 50 books for the year! I’m pretty proud of myself. I’ve always been a big reader. The kind of person  who’s always got a book on their desk or bedside table. But compared to last year, I’ve read more this year alone than the past 3 years combined!

Now onto my review:

A couple of weeks ago I read ‘Everything, Everything’ by Nicola Yoon. I loved it! It was that kind of first love story that makes you sigh. I only hope one day I’ll be able to relate.

This story is about an eighteen year old girl named Madeline Wittier. Maddy for short. Maddy has an extremely rare disease, called Severe Combined Immunodeficiency, or (SCID). it’s a rare, genetic disorder that disturbs the function of B and T cells in the body, which puts victims extremely vulnerable to infectious diseases. Basically having this permits you to living in a sterile bubble.

Maddy doesn’t remember very much before her disease took over her life. Her father and older brother died in a car accident years before, leaving just Maddy, her overbearing, albeit, loving mother, a doctor, and her nurse, Carla. Maddy doesn’t know what it’s like to be outside, play sports, go to the movies, or have any friends outside in the real world. She desperately wants to be a normal teenager,  but instead she’s trapped by the fear brought upon by both her disease and her over-cautious mother.

Maddy takes classes online, communicating with her teachers through email or over Skype. One tutor is allowed to visit Maddy, but in order to do this, he needs to completely disinfect himself before setting foot in her heavily filtered house. One day, though, Maddy notices a moving van parked outside the house next door. Peering through the curtains of her room, Maddy sees a family consisting of a harried, timid mother, an overly dominant father, an angst-ridden teenage girl, and an older teenage boy who seems to be her own age. Maddy feels drawn to him. The only thing pulling her away from her clean, hypoallergenic curtains, is the moment they lock eyes.

After countless curious afternoons spent looking through her bedroom window for the boy next door, Maddy is smitten. Her nurse Carla calls her out on it, and while she pleads that Carla keep it from her mother, she doesn’t refrain from memorizing his schedule. Soon Madeline learns that his mom and sister call him Olly. His dad, she realizes, calls him Oliver.

One afternoon, shortly after Olly and his family are moved in, Maddy hears the doorbell ring. Maddy runs toward the door only to be held back from Carla. Her curiosity gets the best of her when she hears a boy and girl’s voices at the front door. She realizes it’s Olly. And he has a cake. Him mom baked it , but Maddy’s mother must refuse. Instead of giving the true reason behind her refusal, Olly’s sister calls Maddy’s mother out for her rudeness. Following the cake incident, Maddy retreats to her bedroom window, and sees Olly and his sister met by their father on their front lawn. Their father looks angry. The next thing she knows, Olly’s father takes the cake and throws it on the ground. Maddy watches as Olly ‘s father yells at him to clean up the broken plate, as the cake didn’t crumble. From this Madeline learns a bit more about Olly and his home life.

Soon Maddy finds herself communicating with Olly through their adjoining bedroom windows. From there they begin emailing one another after learning one another’s email addresses written across their windows.

From their smitten and coy emails, Maddy decides she wants to meet Olly once and for all. She proposes the idea for Olly to come over to Carla. After several “no ways”, Carla submits. Declaring to Maddy that love could be a good thing. They keep their plan between them and arrange for Olly to come over as long as he and Madeline do not touch and stay on opposite sides of the living room.

After several secret visits and emails, Maddy finds out that she likes Olly very much. And he really likes her.

One day when Olly comes over, they kiss. And when Maddy is left waiting for the worst to happen to her, she realizes that Olly touching her did not hurt her. It’s only when Maddy is woken in the middle of the night to Olly’s father drunkenly screaming at Olly his Mother out on their front lawn that Maddy discovers that her condition may not be all that she thought it was. Soon Maddy finds herself out of her bed, out of her house, and running through her front door with her mother at her heels when she finds that she’s breathing the outside air and she isn’t dying.

This moment is what brings Maddy to the decision to take a giant leap of faith and finally live the life she’s always wanted. To experience the normal, teenage moments she’s always wanted to, with Olly at her side. When Maddy and Olly decide to take an adventure together, she discovers that her disease and her mother won’t hold her back  much longer, not if she can help it.

This one was a solid 4/5 stars for me. TI enjoyed the format. The email messaging format of Olly and Maddy’s early conversations. Her doodles were cute and had me shaking my head and saying “Same!” in agreement. The end had me speechless. There are a lot of questions I had about the ending. I’ll discuss them below, because if you haven’t read this yet, I don’t want to spoil it for you, Hence the condensed review.

 

 


 

 

 

 

So when Maddy runs away to Hawaii with Olly and she tells him she bought pills online that will help her function outside her sterile living environment. But she’s lying. And then Maddy begins to realize that hey, she’s not dying! Then she passes out. But what she assumes the reason for her passing out is her condition, the doctor tells her that she’s never had the condition in the first place. That her mother was lying to her for all that time?! I was like, “WHAT THE WHAT?!” I couldn’t believe that this girl’s own mother, a doctor, by the way, would keep her daughter locked up in her house, fully convinced that she has this extremely rare disease. Basically knocking on death’s doorstep and prone to be taken to heaven at any time. How are you not taken to jail? How would Maddy forgive her mother for that?! I understand her mother was hurting from the deaths of her husband and Maddy’s brother, but, honestly, WHAT THE FUCK?! She needs help. And I don’t mean that in a condescending way. I truly mean it in an honest way. She needs help with her grieving. Maybe let’s not lie to your now, only child, that she has this rare disease in order to ensure her safety! Does she not understand how mentally damaging that would be for her daughter?

That’s really the only thing I couldn’t wrap my head around in this novel.  Other than that I thought it was sweet. A beautiful novel of first love and discovering who those who love you really are.

Triple Review: Throne of Glass | Crown of Midnight | Heir of Fire |


Throne of Glass: 4/5 

 From the minute I was introduced to Cealaena Sardothein I liked her a lot. She is cunning and smart and lethal, but also very passionate. She loves her friends and fights  for who she really is.
I’ve wanted to start this series for a while, but I don’t think I would have done so if I didn’t just finish reading ACOMAF. Maybe I’m still recovering from that series, because there were times I kept waiting for Rhys to show up, lol. Overall I enjoyed this. I don’t think it’s one of my favorite books/series YET, but I’ll only know that if I continue on with it, which I will. I liked the characters. I think I was hoping for a bit of romance, but after reading something like ACOMAF and then reading a book about an assassin, I figured that wouldn’t be so. I am glad, however, that the romance was light in order to direct the focus on Cealena and her abilities and story rather than a partial romance with a Prince. I liked Cealena a lot. She’s a strong character.

Crown of Midnight: 4/5

Overall this was a strong second installment to the series, but there were times where the plot went in so many different directions I got a little lost. Each plot line was tied together at the end for the most part. The ending reveal though, although kind of obvious, it still made me smile. Cealena grows a lot in this one. I liked her romance with Chaol. When I found out about Dorian and his power, I have to say I was surprised considering his father’s kingdom hasn’t had magic for so long. I also found it to be a little expected.

Heir of Fire: This was more like a 3.5/5 for me.

I do like these characters. I like that Celaena is a strong, independent character. Ultimately, the more I read in this series the more I feel like I can’t connect with it. It is good, but I don’t think it’s drawing me in as much as I was hoping it to. I did begin this shortly after finishing ACOTAR/ACOMAF and I know these two series are very different. I don’t want to feel like I have to like this or continue with it because it’s a favorite among a lot of readers. But not every series is going to grab you and want you to say ” Just one more chapter!’ before drifting off to sleep. I like Sarah J Maas a lot as a writer, and my feelings about this series do not affect that in the least. In fact it makes me glad that I loved and connected with ACOTAR/ACOMAF like I did. The one part in this book in particular I didn’t fully understand were Manon’s chapters. I felt like she as just put into the series without being properly introduced. I spent every chapter of her’s wondering if/when she was going to meet Celaena. Maybe she will in the next book. I’m sure they will.

All in all I’m glad I gave this series a try. ‘Throne of Glass’ alone will be a favorite of mine, but as for this series as a whole, I couldn’t connect with it. I hope someone else will pick it up and love it and enjoy it where I could not.

Review: With Malice by Eileen Cook

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This was a nice, quick-ish read. I liked the whodunnit aspect of it. I love any book that deals with crimes that need to be solved and cause the reader to think. I enjoyed the interviews and the blog/internet forum format of some of the chapters as well. I do feel though, that the reveal towards the end was kind of an easy one to figure out. The truth passed through my mind right after the instance was first introduced. This really had me questioning each of the character’s motives and truths. I think that’s important in a novel like this. If it has you questioning who to believe, it’s usually pulling you in like it’s meant to. The other big reveal, although believable, I felt that it could have either been twisted more or harder to figure out. This did have me a bit on edge toward the end, however. I liked being on the journey with Jill to remember what she had initially forgotten. The sessions with her therapist felt honest. Dr. Weeks was a really nice character because she was honest with Jill. She didn’t sugarcoat Jill’s “revelations” in terms of her memories of the accident. I liked being able to get inside Jill’s head and kind of figure it all out and piece it together. The end was kind of abrupt. It had me questioning if Jill was truly a malicious character in spite of what happened in the end or not.

“Why is it they say that you always hurt the ones you love? Because you know exactly how to do it.” -Eileen Cook, ‘With Malice’

4/5 Stars