Review: ‘Turtles All the Way Down’

I have to confess that the only John Green book I’ve read is the Fault in Our Stars. BUT I definitely was excited for this one and it did not disappoint!

 

Title: Turtles All the Way Down

Author: John Green

Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5 stars

Summary

This book follows the story of Aza, who suffers from anxiety and OCD tendencies. She investigates the mystery of a fugitive billionaire, who is the father of one of her classmates, with her best friend Daisy. There is a reward offered for any information that leads to information on his whereabouts. She befriends Davis, the classmate, and begins to find out that she feels something more than just friendship with him and maybe it isn’t all about the reward anymore.

Likes

I really loved this book. I had been in a reading slump prior to this and I found myself brought out of it by John Green. The first thing I will address, as it is a passion of mine, is the mental health representation in this book. As someone who suffers from anxious tendencies herself (I am not diagnosed), I certainly related to Aza a lot in this book. While she has many habits that I do not, the thought spiraling is the most difficult thing to deal with. You could have one thought and that leads to another, and then another, and then you’re lost in them. I thought how anxiety and this behavior presents itself was described so well and I appreciated the caveats addressing the mental illness directly. Especially in young adult books, I think that it is so important to represent accurately so that readers can see that they aren’t alone. So much of the descriptions made sense to me and made me love the book even more. I was confused about the title of the book until a (SPOILER!) story was told within the book and then it made so much sense. I also love the cover art, as it describes the spiral well. I also liked the reality of the book. I felt that Aza was relatable and that even though Davis has some wacky elements, it was very real. I think her relationship with Daisy was also something to be admired and it felt like a real friendship.

Dislikes

The only dislike that I can note was that I wasn’t a fan of the romance. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Hazel and Augustus: but I just didn’t ‘feel’ the romance between these two characters. I couldn’t decide at times whether Aza was truly all-in or if she was using him at times. I did appreciate that Davis respected Aza’s anxiety in regards to her boundaries, though. That is something that is incredibly important within the context of dating someone with anxious tendencies.

Recommendation

I would recommend this book to fans of John Green–obviously!–or anyone who wants a read about mental health that is beautifully told.

 

Happy reading! ~ Taylor

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Review: ‘The Night Circus’

Ahhh this cover is so gorgeous! I actually picked this up due to Goodreads and so many friends on there were reading it and loving it.

 

Title: The Night Circus

Author: Erin Morgenstern

Series: Standalone

Rating: 2/5 stars

Summary

This book follows the story of Celia and Marco, as well as the rest of the performers at the Night Circus. The Night Circus appears in a different city every few nights and is open from dusk till dawn, closing at that exact time. There are those who try and follow the circus but Celia and Marco became involved for a different reason: they are bound together and to the ‘game’, something that one of them must win in order to end it. But, love has a different idea for the both of them and not everything goes as their ‘masters’ planned.

Likes

I thought the concept of the circus was interesting. It kind of reminded me of Caraval and Daughter of the Burning City in the carnival aspect of it. I also liked that the author separated parts of the book by describing an area that you could walk into during the circus, what you would see, and what you would think. She used ‘you’ and it really put you into the circus at the point and I enjoyed that. I wanted to feel like I was at the circus and what I was experiencing while there. That was a unique aspect aspect and it propelled you into the world a little bit more. I am one for magic and I thought that Celia’s illusions were very cool. One thing she was able to do included changing the fabric of her clothes itself and making new outfits right on the spot. Of course, some would say that’s a party trick, and while it kind of is, she was much more powerful than that. Celia was a likable character and she was extremely intelligent. That quality came out in the story in a variety of ways, including solving the big question that formulated as the plot in the book. Her partnership with Marco was also inspiring and the two of them truly risked it all to be together.

Dislikes

Here is another example of me not liking a book that was super hyped and rec’d for me. And that’s completely okay, it was just disappointing. First, I wish there was more about the actual circus. I understand that there was a side plot that was the bigger picture, but other than those little blurbs I mentioned earlier, I didn’t really get to see what was happening in the circus. I wanted to hear about the characters doing their different acts–the main characters’ acts weren’t touched on in those blurbs. The two twins in the book also had a side plot that was interesting and I wanted to hear more about their part of the circus as well. I also wasn’t attached to these characters at all. I was trying my best to breeze through the book because I just wanted to finish. It was short, so that was possible, but I didn’t feel anything like I normally do when reading. The ending definitely surprised me and I think it was executed well but it should have evoked emotion and it… didn’t. So it missed the mark on an emotional connection for me.

Recommendation

Since it is below 3 stars for me, I’m not sure I could actually recommend this book. But, I will say it is for fans of the books I mentioned above and for those who are fans of the Crown’s Game. the Game is pretty similar and I think that also threw me off.

Happy reading! ~ Taylor

 

Review: ‘Once and For All’

I am a huge Dessen fan and I will literally read anything she writes.

 

Title: Once and For All

Author: Sarah Dessen

Series: Standalone

Rating: 3/5 stars

Summary

This story follows Louna, whose mom is a wedding planner. Louna works for her mom in the business and is great at planning, as well as executing everything to the T. She meets Ambrose at one of the weddings and is surprised when her mom hires him to work with them for the summer, at the request of the bride’s mother. The story gets interesting when the two make a bet about living the other’s love life situation and both are challenged to date in a way they never have.

Likes

Sarah Dessen’s stories are cute. They’re romantic a lot of the time but they usually tackle the bigger picture rather than the small one. I think this did just that and showed how Louna’s love life was severely affected by the death of her boyfriend and how she failed to recover after that. Louna is a relatable character and honestly I think I’d love to work in the wedding planning business after reading this. I love to plan and organize, which Louna also does very well. She is a relatable character and I could see the two of us being great friends. Then we come to Ambrose. What kind of name is Ambrose anyway?! is what you’re thinking, right? It’s as unique as he is, I guarantee. I kind of hated him int he beginning because he acted like this pretentious asshole who only cares about himself and is also a major playboy. I know that kind of character is often attractive in novels but I am so immune at this point. Anyway, Ambrose definitely had a huge development throughout the book and that was one of my favorite parts. He has to change his attitude for the bet but I really think that he learns from this change and realizes that it is more than just about him. Louna teaches him this I feel like and also the job teaches him to be more responsible and care about others and their well-being too. The big picture in this story, for me, was to not let go of the past–remember it and realize how it affects you–but look forward to the future.

Dislikes

This wasn’t my favorite Dessen novel. I didn’t feel as attached as I did in other ones to the characters. Louna was fantastic but the supporting characters lacked luster. Her best friend in the book didn’t really hit me as someone that I would love to be friends with and she seemed like a side plot. I also didn’t feel much from the love story. I felt like they were great friends, and work partners, but the love story didn’t really hit me until the end and by then I wasn’t ready to have one thrown at me. It felt kind of rushed since it was admitted so far towards the end and I really love how Dessen’s love stories are so this made me sad!

Recommendation

I’d suggest this to other fans of Dessen, because her writing style is very much the same and it’s enjoyable. I’d also suggest to those who want a quick read because it was so much shorter than I imagined!

Happy reading! ~ Taylor

 

Review: ‘They Both Die At The End’

The title ‘They Both Die At The End’ leaves little room for imagination and you already know how this story is going to end. I first remember hearing about this book at an event at Barnes & Noble featuring Nicola Yoon, Adam Silvera, and Kara Thomas. I believe it was to promote “The Sun Is Also A Star” by Nicola Yoon and Adam mentioned his upcoming book and once I heard the title, I was instantly sold on it. It sounded fascinating! And it did not disappoint.

Title: They Both Die At The End
Author: Adam Silvera
Series: n/a – standalone
Rating: 4/5 stars

This is actually my first Adam Silvera book (shame on me, I know), but it will not be my last. TBDATE follows two boys, Mateo and Rufus, who both get the call from Death-Cast telling them that they will die in the next 24 hours. They both use an app called “Last Friends” and end up finding each other and deciding to spend their last day together.

This is told over the course of less then 24 hours, with Mateo and Rufus fitting an entire lifetime of living into that span of time. The narrative goes back and forth between the two boys with timestamps when the narration changes. Scattered throughout are short narratives from other people’s lives who unintentionally intertwine in some small or large way with Mateo and Rufus’. At first I found these random people to be quite…well, random. But as the story progresses, you see how everything and everyone can affect someone else, in the smallest or largest way and you may never even know it. I liked this concept of fate/destiny/chance/call it whatever you want. I like the idea of the domino effect. One event causes another and so forth and so on.

The idea that one small thing you do or someone else does affecting you really made me think. The concept of death is prevalent in this book and it made me wonder, what if Death-Cast was real? What if we were given 24 hours advance notice of when we were going to die? This book really made me stop and think about life and death and about living life to the fullest.

TBDATE is a LGBT representation book. Rufus says in his “Last Friends” profile that he is bisexual and is stated as having an ex-girlfriend. Mateo’s sexuality isn’t said until the end when its revealed he never really “came out” to anyone, but he is gay. Mateo has his first (and last L L L) kiss with Rufus before they both, you know, die at the end.

I listened to this as an audiobook and I highly recommend this audio! I felt an even closer connection with both Mateo and Rufus by hearing their voices. It made me feel like I was also a “last friend” with them, going along and experiencing all they could in one day. Mateo and Rufus each have a different voice actor with a third female voice narrating the other people scattered throughout. I think hearing the emotions in the voices added an extra layer to this story and I would recommend giving the audio a try!

I’m not a very emotional person so while this book was sad, I personally found it bittersweet more then anything else. These two young boys had their whole lives ahead of them and life was cut short. Despite knowing how this book was going to end, my stomach still dropped at the very last line. It shook me up. I knew it was coming but I didn’t see it coming like that. Adam really knows how to punch you in the gut when you’re down. Well done!

~Missy

 

Review: ‘Carry On’

I went into Carry On with my expectations set very low. I am pleasantly surprised to say, this was a 4/5 star read for me! “You were the sun, and I was crashing into you.”

Title: Carry On
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Rating: 4/5 stars

I have previously read two other Rainbow Rowell books (Fangirl and Landline), neither of which I really enjoyed. I didn’t plan to read another Rainbow Rowell book – nothing against her, her writing just wasn’t for me! But on a whim (and because of the pretty new paperback cover design) I picked up Carry On. And I quickly became obsessed! I needed to know where Baz is! What would happen to Simon? Who is Lucy? So many questions!

I really enjoyed that this book was split between many different points of views – sometimes just a few sentences of each character within a chapter. It was a different way of reading then I was used to and I greatly enjoyed it!

I listened to Carry On via the audio and it was fantastic. I’m picky when it comes to British accents (and my ability to understand them, as I tend to listen to audio on 2x speed) but this audiobook was great and I highly recommend listening to it if that’s your fancy.

The spells magicians cast in this book were hilariously wonderful! Some were nursery rhymes or songs we learn as children. Some were phrases we say in every day life. And some sounded like they came straight out of a TV commercial such as my favorite: “Have a break, have a Kit-Kat.” These spells were genius – taking simple words and turning them into magic.

Incase you weren’t aware, there is LGBT representation in this book. Yes. It’s Simon and Baz. But how do they end up going from enemies to friends (?) to more then friends (!?). That is the great question. Even after hearing about this book from others, I was curious to see how it all happened! It did not disappoint.

“You were the sun, and I was crashing into you.”

This quote is both very ‘gag-too-cute’ yet also swoon worthy. I thought it was cheesy until I read it in context and then, cue the awww-ing.

While Carry On has similarities to the Harry Potter world, the similarities ends at it being about magic and there being a ‘Chosen One’. That’s it. Baz isn’t Draco or Ron. Baz is Baz. Penny isn’t Hermione, she is Penny. This is a fantasy book about magic so if you like that, this book is for you. And while yes, this is the story that Cath in Fangirl writes fanfiction about, this isn’t fanfiction. This is its own story. Confused? Don’t be. Just read the book and enjoy it for what it is – a great fantasy novel.

At the end of the day, this isn’t just a love story. It’s an adventure about magic and magicians and mages and dragons and funny spells.

~Missy

Review: ‘Eliza and Her Monsters’

Another Zappia read because I’ve heard a lot about this one!

 

Title: Eliza and Her Monsters

Author: Francesca Zappia

Series: Standalone

Rating: 3/5 stars

Summary

Another 3 stars on this one. I don’t know, maybe it’s just not my style of writing! But I wanted to try it either way because the cover is super cute. This book follows Eliza, also known as LadyConstellation, who is the creator of the Monstrous Sea comic online. She meets a fan at her school and struggles throughout the book about whether to tell him the truth about her identity.

Likes

My favorite thing about this book was the comics that were interwoven with the actual narrative. I thought this was a unique touch and made me think a little of Fangirl! It was cool to see what Eliza was sketching and working on, when it was talked about in the narrative and I was able to see the characters that she created. It broke up the chapters well, too, which is something I appreciate when reading a super long book! I also did like Eliza. I thought that she was sweet and so creative, much more creative than I will ever be.  She used art to express herself and build an online following that honestly was incredible to see. But I also respected when she struggled in the book because it was very real and it showed the facts of what being a teenager are like. She was also a loner and I think the author did a great job of showing how parents react when their child spends a lot of time on the computer. Of course, Eliza was doing it to continue her comics, but her parents still nagged her a lot. That got a little bit annoying halfway through the book: more on that later. I also think her relationship with her online friends was something that I could really relate to. I have met a ton of my friends via the Internet and they are some of the best friends I have. Just because they don’t live near me doesn’t mean that they aren’t true friends and I cherish them just as much as I do the friends I see in person quite often.

Dislikes

I expected more from this book. After reading Made You Up, I knew the writing wasn’t for me, but I had heard so many good comments and I don’t discount books because I didn’t like another one (it’s happened to me before that one book an author writes just isn’t my thing, but another one I absolutely love). I think the story was fleshed out well but I wanted to see more to the plot than a struggle to decide whether to tell Wallace the truth or not. I wanted to see Eliza grow a bit more and grow into herself. She did face her fear and I respect her so much for that, but I needed more character development. I wanted to feel more of a connection to her and I didn’t feel that much. I also think that the love story between her and Wallace would’ve worked better as a strong friendship because I didn’t feel much romance or connection between them, in a romantic sense. The book felt a little ‘young’ for me but I am glad I read it and got to explore the story of Monstrous Seas.

Recommendation

I would recommend this book to those who are fans of Zappia and want a cute, light story. There isn’t much heaviness here and it was a nice thing to read after Girl in Pieces, which hit me quite hard and quick.

Happy reading! ~ Taylor

Review: ‘Little Monsters’

There’s something about the fall weather that makes me seek out thriller/mystery stories, so I was very excited to see what Little Monsters had in store! It was marketed as “for fans of Pretty Little Liars” – I read the PLL books through book 8 (and then it continued and I didn’t understand why so I stopped reading) and I’ve only ever seen a few episodes of the TV show – but I feel that’s accurate marketing. If you enjoy that series, either book or TV, you will enjoy Little Monsters! (But you can enjoy this book regardless of your feelings of PLL.)

Title: Little Monsters
Author: Kara Thomas
Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Little Monsters starts out very typical high school drama and for me, it was a slow, dull beginning. I was waiting to see when it would get interesting and ah, a girl goes missing. Alright, now we’re talking. And from there on, it was fast paced story of “who done it?” that had me guessing until the very end.

Kacey is a likeable MC – she moves in with her father she’s never met, a step-mom who is loving and caring, a step-brother the same age as her, and a younger half sister who adores her after living with her mom in New York City became too much. You think this would cause drama but her family life is pretty average – not perfect but not terrible either. She makes friends with a girl named Bailey shortly after moving into town and by proxy, Bailey’s friend Jade. They become an inseparable trio. Or so it seems.

Things are going well until they aren’t. Appearances can be deceiving and not everything is as happy as it seems on the surface. When Bailey goes missing, everyone is pointing fingers at everyone else and you really don’t know who did it until the very end. Secrets come out. Lies are told and covered up.

Bailey’s journal entries scattered throughout the book, which add some unique insight into her life that she didn’t share with her friends before she went missing. Even the missing girl isn’t who she appeared to be on the surface, but people rarely are just what you see on the surface.

I was eager for more while reading and I just had to find out what would happen next. Very engaging and page turning but also a quick and easy read. I enjoyed this and would recommend it! I listened to this as an audiobook and the narrator was enjoyable to listen to. My only dislike the is the high school drama aspect felt juvenile – but this is YA and these girls are high school seniors so its to be expected.

I did not find this story predictable and I enjoyed the ride of trying to guess who it was! I didn’t figure it out until the very end and I wasn’t disappointed! 

~Missy