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: ‘A Semi-Definitive List Of Worst Nightmares’

Krystal Sutherland is now officially an auto-buy author for me. I will read anything and everything she writes. I LOVED A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares. L-O-V-E-D IT. And nobody is talking about it! Well, I’m here to talk about it and I hope you’ll decide to give this book a chance!

Semi-Definitive List and her previous book, Our Chemical Hearts, felt so REAL to me. Contemporary YA can easily be over the top and eye roll worthy lovey dovey no-way-this-would-happen-in-real-life feeling, but both of Krystal’s books have felt realistic to me and that’s what I have loved about both of them. (So yes, I also recommend her debut book, Our Chemical Hearts.)

Title: A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares
Author: Krystal Sutherland
Rating: 5/5 stars

Trigger warnings: Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, self-harm, suicide attempt, and abuse. This book deals with mental health.

(I don’t want these warnings to scare you off from reading this and if you want more information about any of the above triggers in this book, please comment below, DM on twitter (@frayedbooks) or email and I’ll let you know more!)

Esther Solar’s family is cursed by Death himself and her entire family has been doomed to suffer one great fear in their lifetime—a fear that will eventually lead each and every one of them to their graves.

Esther has created a list of everything that scares her, a Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares. She encounters an old elementary school classmate one day at the bus stop, Jonah, and he ends up stealing everything she had on her – her phone, all her cash, a Fruit Roll-Up she’d been saving, and her Semi-Definitive List. But this is the start of a rekindled friendship between the two. Jonah wants to study film and after reading her list, wants to help Esther face her fears and film each one as practice. A win-win deal for both of them.

Week after week, Esther and Jonah face one of the fears on her list – starting at the end and working backwards. In the process, their friendship also grows closer, with each of them learning about the other and their family life. Esther’s twin brother, Eugene, and her best friend Hephzibah also begin to join in, facing these fears as well. Eugene has his own great fear – of the dark. Slowly but surely, they work their way through the list, Jonah filming each fear, each fear having a different outcome. (Spoiler: facing your fear of geese will probably result in them attacking you. There’s no way around this.)

Esther truly believes in the story her grandfather told her and Eugene as a child – that he met Death and Death cursed their family. In reality, the members of her family each deal with a mental illness but they simply look at it as a curse instead of admitting something is wrong and asking for help.

It’s okay to not be okay. It’s ok to ask for help. That is something Esther and the other characters in this story need to come to terms with. It’s hard to say what happens without spoiling the story, but something major happens that makes Esther and her family all realize that things need to change before its too late. It’s okay to ask for help from your family or friends and seek professional help.

This book deals with important topics that still seem taboo even in today’s society, but mental health is real and needs to be addressed. This story also has a lot of lighthearted moments that had me laughing. In the beginning, Jonah accidentally hits a kitten with his moped but Esther’s father, previously a veterinarian, is able to save the kitten. Jonah decides to name the cat Fleayoncé.

Semi-Definitive List left me smiling at the end and also hopeful! THAT ENDING. YES. SO MUCH YES. Perfect ending to this story.

Mental health is never an easy journey, but it is just that – a journey. It’s okay to ask for help and just like Esther, you don’t have to face your fears alone.

~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: ‘Geekerella’

There has been a ton of buzz around this book! I have been wanting to read it for months and finally I was able to get it at my library after it’s been out almost every time I went.

 

Title: Geekerella

Author: Ashley Poston

Series: Standalone

Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary

Let’s first acknowledge how adorable the cover is! But now to what the book is about. It follows the story of Elle and Darien. Elle finds herself in a modern Cinderella retelling, complete with a horrible stepmother and two annoying stepsisters. Her dad has passed away and she is working for a food truck, preparing to go to a convention for her favorite tv show, Starfield. Darien is an upcoming actor that is cast as the main character in the new Starfield movie but he is also a huge fan of the series itself. The two meet in an online chatroom about the show anonymously and the story blossoms from here.

Likes

I thought that Elle was truly an amazing character. Her personality was so innocent and passionate about the tv show that she loves. I felt a connection to her because I feel the same way about some of my favorite books (i.e. Shadowhunters chronicles) and would totally go to a convention focused just around that. She also has an air about her that is brutally honest and she isn’t afraid to admit that she loves the show because it is who she is. I also want to mention Sage, Elle’s ‘best friend’ in the book. Sage supported her so much when she needed help with her cosplay and shows what a true friend really is. I feel like this book also expanded a lot of the show Starfield itself and that is something that I haven’t seen in similar books. I think that I felt a connection to the show and I actually want to watch it if I could! The book was also an easy read and it was enjoyable after a tough day. I think the idea of the two main characters meeting via chat was also very modern and cool, and something that I am sure happens more often than not these days. Also, Darien deserves a mention: his character is all very real and believable, showing what it is like for a new actor in Hollywood. He has struggles with his management, the paparazzi, and his co-star, all things that I imagine a real actor would have to deal with.

(Dis)likes

There isn’t much I didn’t like about this book! I actually liked this retelling a lot more than other retellings I have read. I think the modern aspect is something that pushed it through for me and her stepmother was truly a huge b****. I have felt the same strong dislike for many characters in the past, but mean stepmothers are certainly at the top of this list, especially with how she speaks to Elle. I do have to say that I think this book was a little hyped up for me. I expected to absolutely love this book but I didn’t LOVE it. I liked it, a lot, but it wasn’t the breakthrough book I was expecting.

Recommendation

I would recommend this book to fellow fangirls and anyone who enjoys a cute, modern romance. Though the hype was real, I really liked it and it was a heartwarming read towards the end. It is fun and unique and reminded me a lot of Queens of Geek as well, so if you enjoyed that, you would definitely enjoy this!

Happy reading! ~ Taylor

Waiting on Wednesday: ‘Forest of a Thousand Lanterns’

This has been a read I have been waiting for and I was lucky to get it through trade! I also participated in a chat on Twitter about this book and Julie is such a sweet person!

 

Title: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns

Author: Julie C. Dao

Series: Rise of an Empress

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Publication date: October 10, 2017

 

Another anticipated read vanquished! I devoured this book, in all honesty, because I had been wanting to read it for so long. This book follows Xifeng, who is a country girl in China destined to become Empress. How, exactly, it is not mentioned but she leaves her village with her one true love and sets course for the Imperial City. Along the way, they meet diplomats who are able to escort them into the city. Through a series of good fortunes, Xifeng enters court at the palace and is thrown into a whirlwind of deceit, drama, and truth.

Xifeng has to be one of my favorite female characters of the year. She comes from poverty and not being very sure of herself because of the oppression she has felt from her aunt. There are some scenes of abuse in this book so I will definitely give a trigger warning for that. But, she overcomes it and grows into her role at court very easily, even gaining the favor of the current Empress. She is torn between liking the Empress and what she does to protect her, to the reality that the Empress will have to die in order for her to take her rightful place on the throne. It has been foretold through cards that she would become Empress and it seems like everything works out just as planned for Xifeng. I would have to say that while she does go through some struggles, she becomes stronger because of these struggles and she is able to develop into the character she is destined to be. By the end of the book, the first chapter Xifeng is unrecognizable, as she has changed so much and gained power. I love the character development of her and it is one of the most pleasingly drastic I have seen. I also have to say that I enjoyed the Chinese traditions that were mentioned in this book and I can’t wait to hear more in book 2!

I will say that the main plot brought the book together with the side plots that were developed. I was surprised when all was revealed towards the end of the book and that kept me guessing for the rest, because I didn’t know what was going to happen! The larger backstory is something that was so interesting and only added to the interest of the story.

I would suggest this book to those who are fans of retellings (as this is one) as well as those who enjoy diverse reads and want to be astounded!

Happy reading! ~ Taylor