Book Review | More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

I fell into a reading slump at the end of my first term of library school. I was stressed about my portfolio – which I’ll be writing about later this week – and worried that I wasn’t good enough to make it through my remaining 5 terms.

This is the vicious cycle my anxiety takes me through. I’m anxious because of school and I’m anxious without school because I’m anxious about grades and new terms and meeting new professors and classmates. It’s endlessly draining.

So when I fall into a slump like this, I always find it best to turn to an author I know I love.

When I discovered Mr. Silvera’s writing, it was not through his debut novel – it was, in fact, through the much raved about They Both Die at the End. I saw it on sale, picked it up, and discovered a new favorite author.

Until recently, Silvera’s other two novels have been sitting on my TBR cart – patiently waiting for my cycle of anxiety to bring me back.

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Part Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, part Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Adam Silvera’s extraordinary debut confronts race, class, and sexuality during one charged near-future summer in the Bronx. 

Sixteen-year-old Aaron Soto is struggling to find happiness after a family tragedy leaves him reeling. He’s slowly remembering what happiness might feel like this summer with the support of his girlfriend Genevieve, but it’s his new best friend, Thomas, who really gets Aaron to open up about his past and confront his future.

As Thomas and Aaron get closer, Aaron discovers things about himself that threaten to shatter his newfound contentment. A revolutionary memory-alteration procedure, courtesy of the Leteo Institute, might be the way to straighten himself out. But what if it means forgetting who he truly is?

Delayed Flight = More Time to Read

This was one of two books I took on my weekend trip to DC to visit my bestie, her daughter, and her dog. The night I left, my flight was severely delayed. The flight was only two hours, but I was stuck at the airport for an extra hour while I waited for my flight to depart. Weather always takes its toll on my plans when I’m flying, haha.

I decided to make the most of this though. Knowing I wouldn’t get much reading done on the plane because the delay reset my departure for close to sunset in inclement weather, I sat my butt down by my gate and read about 75 pages in one sitting.

Yinz… I was hooked.

Character Development

You all know I love a good character description, but the thing I love most about Mr. Silvera’s writing is I don’t need to know what the characters look like to feel connected to them. Immediately, I felt a connection to Aaron that I can’t really explain. He’s just so damn likeable.

Even the characters you’re not meant to like (i.e. Brendan, Me-Crazy) are so well developed. The book is really character driven and I love that about Silvera’s writing. The plot is important, but all of his characters drive the plot along so well.

The Tough Stuff

Look, reading books that deal with suicide and depression are really hard for me – I’m sure they are for most people. But when I got to the third part of this book, I had to take a break from reading before I full on wept in front of a full plane of people. This book is heartbreakingly devastating and I couldn’t bring myself to stop reading for very long. Even through the tough parts of this book, I kept wanting a happy ending for Aaron, Gen, and Thomas.

I’m not even exaggerating when I say it was devastating. This seems to be a running theme in Silvera’s writing.

A Mandatory Read

Yes, you read that right. I’m just going to come right out and say it – if I were teaching English today, I would make this book mandatory for sophomores to read. I don’t care if it’s curriculum or not – THIS WOULD be on my summer reading list for my students.

The thing about this is, I don’t care WHO or WHAT you are, this book teaches about acceptance. Not just of people who are different than you, but it teaches you the importance of accepting yourself for WHO YOU ARE and that is something I see a lack of in a lot of YA I’ve read.

But Did I Cry

No. It was close though. Had I been in the comfort of my own home, I would have straight up bawled my eyes out. I don’t think it’s socially acceptable to sob into a paperback on a plane quite yet.

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

This was another great contemporary. I’m so happy to have finally read it and I can’t wait for the day I can discuss it with my children.

Let’s Chat!

When’s the last time you flew somewhere? Are you as unlucky as me when it comes to flights being delayed? Which of Adam Silvera’s books is your favorite? Leave me a comment so we can chat!

The Overwhelming Book Sale

As a bookfluencer(™) *cringes*, book lover, and overall hoarder of books, it is important to me that I get good deals on my collection. See, the thing is, I’m not just buying books for myself. I also like to buy books for my children, my husband, and I look for books to donate to a local veteran foundation. Obtaining a deal on books is an essential part of me maintaining my budget, too.

Recently, my mother-in-law and I decided to head up to Milwaukee for a huge Half Price Books blowout sale. Everything – literally everything, including vinyls – was $2.00 or less. Honestly, it would have been foolish NOT to go to this sale.

The thing is, it was actually really overwhelming. Let me paint a picture for you.

You walk into a big warehouse on the fairgrounds. There are hundreds of people swarming tables of books, flocking to sections with carts, baskets, bags, and strollers. There is limited room between each table; as you approach and get a closer look at the table, you notice there is no real organization to the tables. Books are scattered across every available surface and there are boxes filled with more books under every table. The closer you get to the section you want, the more you notice the lack of organization. You find a children’s chapter book mixed in with young adult novels. You start to wonder “how will I find what I’m looking for?”

The more you browse, the more foolish you feel for having brought a list with you, so you stuff your list into your pocket and just go for it.

Clear enough picture? Regardless, I’m still going to explain why exactly this book sale was overwhelming.

Alphabetization

Have you ever been to a HPB store? If you have, you no doubt know their books are organized alphabetically by author’s last name and also by genre. At this book sale, they tried to clump books together into categories (i.e. Young Adult, Fiction, History), but they did not attempt to group anything together. As I browsed through the YA section, I kept stumbling upon children’s chapter books (i.e. Junie B. Jones, Ramona and Beezus, etc) which was simultaneously frustrating and delightful.

It was frustrating because I was browsing YA for specific titles, but couldn’t find anything I was really looking for specifically because there was no sort of organization. I’m not looking for alphabetization, but I would have loved if books were actually grouped together by topic. For instance, I found several Cassie Clare books spread across 6 different tables. Just. Put. Them. All. Together.

The main reason I wasn’t furious about the children’s chapter books mixed in is that I was able to find some of my childhood favorites mixed into the bunch.

People, people, people

I am the type of person who is easily affected by others. Meaning, the actions of a few people can potentially ruin my day simply because I let them. There was two women at this book sale who had the potential to ruin my day. Let me explain why…

I had a cart, but I am the type of person who is courteous of others and aware of myself and others situationally. I kept my cart out of other people’s ways and I made sure I wasn’t blocking anyone’s paths constantly. However, there was one person who approached me, cart stacked to the brim with books. They looked me right in the eye and said, “Could you move, please?” I was pretty taken aback by the brusqueness of the question – why would they not just say “excuse me?” Of course, I moved, but I was really frustrated at that point.

The second encounter with a person was, yet again, odd. Like I said, I try to stay aware in situations like this – maybe that’s the military in me? – but when I noticed this woman, I knew I’d have to pay close attention. She was walking up and down the tables of books, not even paying attention to other people. This person very nearly walked directly into me. As a situationally aware person, I don’t ever understand how people can be so unaware of other people (or themselves for that matter) that they’d be able to almost knock into someone, but here we are.

The Haul

I will not be sharing my haul here. I will, however, let you in on how many books I bought and how much I spent. I ended up buying two reusable bags – which added to my total (they were $1.00 each) and I got one book for free because I donated a can of food to the event and received a coupon. In total, I spent $54 and some change – two books I bought were for my mother-in-law (to make up for her paying for parking) and one book was for my husband to decide what to do with (a history book on “great” battles). The rest of my haul, XX books in total, were books for myself and my children to enjoy.

A haul video will go up relatively soon if you’re interested in that, so stay tuned.

Overall…

I didn’t hate my time at this book sale, I just felt anxious and overwhelmed for most of the time. I could have found more books if I hadn’t felt so anxious and overwhelmed, but I’m happy with what I did find. We spent 2 hours at the sale and both walked away with hefty amounts of books.

Let’s chat!

Can you describe your worst book buying experience? Maybe it was at a sale similar to this one. Share a story in the comments!

Book Review | The Retribution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Yikes. That’s all I can say, y’all.

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Mara Dyer wants to believe there’s more to the lies she’s been told.
There is.

She doesn’t stop to think about where her quest for the truth might lead.
She should.

She never had to imagine how far she would go for vengeance.
She will now.

Loyalties are betrayed, guilt and innocence tangle, and fate and chance collide in this shocking conclusion to Mara Dyer’s story.

Retribution has arrived.

Where the hell was Noah?

Hodkin lead us to believe for 95% of the final installment of Mara’s chapter that Noah was dead. I didn’t believe it, and (SPOILER) I was right, but seriously. Where the hell was he? She never really explains to us where he was the whole time – and maybe I’m mad out of turn and that’s the whole point of The Shaw Confessions – but seriously if that’s the case how is him being missing for Mara’s last book going to be drawn out into another trilogy?

I’m mad because I actually like Noah and I wanted to get more of his character to really hone my opinion of him! I get that this was necessary, but like, let a girl know WHAT he is doing while he is missing and HOW he ended up being missing in the first place. Like who took him? Does he remember anything?

Weird boning scenes

The sexual relationship between Noah and Mara built up over two books (Books 1 and 2 obviously) and then she finds him and we get a weird, weird bunch of scenes where they’re describing their encounter through colors. I hated it. It was just super weird.

Also, Daniel was in the house with their inconsiderate selves. Rude.

General Thoughts

It wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t a thrilling conclusion. I wasn’t even that busy while reading this and I still took more than a week to finish this. I was bored for most of it because my favorite character was MIA for most of the book. I like Mara, but she wasn’t as interesting to me as Noah. It was just really hard for me to get through this one. Ultimately, I would read more by Michelle Hodkin though because the concept behind this story is actually something that interests me.

On another note, I liked the flashbacks Mara had. They were almost more interesting than Mara running around trying to kill people with her mind. It was interesting to read about her grandmother, but I am still a little confused. Was Mara’s grandmother’s name actually Mara or is this just her chosen name? If her name wasn’t actually Mara isn’t it weird that Mara’s name became Mara? I don’t know what this was all about, but some ‘splaining would be great!

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟

This was my least favorite in the trilogy. A SHOCKING TWIST. I liked this, but it wasn’t a good enough ending for Mara (despite my weird love/hate relationship with the character).

Let’s chat!

How do you feel about Noah? I understand he’s not perfect, but I honestly think he’s great. Maybe not the best boyfriend material, but I’d definitely befriend him. Leave me a comment letting me know what you think about Noah (or just the Mara Dyer trilogy in general).

Book Review | The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Sequels. You love them or you hate them and typically, there’s no middle ground. This sequel is definitely a middle of the road novel and I wanted to talk through some feelings I have about it today.

Mara Dyer is in the running with Emma Carstairs for most infuriating females leads, in my opinion. Let’s talk about it!

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Mara Dyer knows she isn’t crazy. She knows that she can kill with her mind, and that Noah can heal with his. Mara also knows that somehow, Jude is not a hallucination. He is alive. Unfortunately, convincing her family and doctors that she’s not unstable and doesn’t need to be hospitalised isn’t easy. The only person who actually believes her is Noah. But being with Noah is dangerous and Mara is in constant fear that she might hurt him. She needs to learn how to control her power, and fast! Together, Mara and Noah must try and figure out exactly how Jude survived when the asylum collapsed, and how he knows so much about her strange ability…before anyone else ends up dead!

The Flashbacks?

The first thing I wanted to talk about today in regards to this book is the flashbacks. I understand the Ms. Hodkin is working on world-building with these, but it was hard for me to be on board with them because it’s explained away as “genetic memory” and there’s not really a clear explanation as to what exactly this is. I’m of average intelligence, but I wasn’t having this explanation. It felt… really made up, almost like the author was grasping at straws to explain why Mara was having these weird flashbacks. I thought they were interesting, but I wanted more of an explanation. I understand there is another whole book in Mara’s story so I’m sure it’s explained further in there, but the explanation in this book fell short for me.

The Jude of it all

I don’t know how to feel about Jude’s role in this book. Obviously he’s alive, but I didn’t think he was the sole terrorizer of Mara. He had to have been getting help from someone and I definitely saw it coming with who was helping him out. Phoebe didn’t seem to fit the bill as anything more than an assistant in Jude’s plan – or maybe an expendable resource is the better way to describe her. I didn’t like her character at all (no surprise) but I did feel bad about her really unrequited situation. Seriously, people complain about Noah being awful, but when we consider how damn atrocious Jude is… I don’t get this!

Essentially, I hate Jude and I hate that he played such a big role in this book. I guess he’s a good villain, but still!

Noah + Self Harm + Relationships

I firmly believe there is no good way to cover self harm. Noah harming himself just because he could was not a good look, like, at all. I hated this aspect of the story and I hated how adamant he was about Mara not being able to hurt him when CLEARLY she could. The relationship in this novel was entirely too frustrating for me – it’s like “Oh hi, my name is Mara and this is my boyfriend who I never kiss because I might kill him”. It felt too angsty for my adult self and so, yeah, I have some complaints about it. I wanted to scream at them to cut the crap and figure their life out already. It was insanely frustrating. And very Edward (Twilight) esque. (Re: “I could kill you” “That’s okay. I don’t mind”).

Redemptions

There are two distinct redeemers of this novel. One:  Jamie. I don’t care what anyone says, I love him. I love his friendship with Mara. I was sad to see him go in the first book and SO happy to see him return for this one. It felt gross that Mara only had Noah and her family as allies so I  was happy Ms. Hodkin brought Jamie back. Two: Daniel. The sweetness of his speech to Mara KILLED ME. I cried. I love his big-brotherness and it makes me want my own big brother.

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

It was almost as good as the first.

General Thoughts

Okay, okay. I didn’t love this as much as the first book, but I still thought it was good enough to continue the trilogy. I’m invested in the past that Mara’s experiencing and I want to know more about WHY she’s having these visions.

Let’s chat!

Are you a fan of flashbacks or visions in books? Why? Do you have a favorite book that encompasses these elements? Let me know in the comments!

Used Book Haul | BookEnds

I like to buy books, but I don’t always love buying brand spankin’ new books. I’m on a budget and I’m also a conscious consumer – so I buy used books. Today’s book haul is brought to you by a library’s used book store! (Not Sponsored – I just shopped there!)

I believe in supporting my local libraries (hi, I want to be a librarian when I grow up) and one of the ways I do this is by purchasing books through book sales and stores like BookEnds (which is the used book store INSIDE of one of the public libraries in my area).

You can check out the books I bought on my last trip to BookEnds by clicking on the video below. Also, while you’re visiting my YouTube BookTube channel, go ahead and subscribe. It’s free and you’ll get some neat bookish content from me that way!

Book Review | Ghost by Jason Reynolds

One of the requirements for one of my graduate classes is to spend 10 hours observing in a library. My library of choice was a public library within my district. Obviously, as is the nature of librarians and book lovers, my sponsoring librarian and I got to talking about books. More specifically, we got to talking about award winning books. It’s really thanks to her that I picked up this one.

You see Ghost by Jason Reynolds is not a book I would normally pick up. Sure, I love middle grade and I adore children’s books, but I still have many years before my own kids will reach for a book of this level. This means, I still have many years before I would need to screen this book to see if it’s one I need in my personal library.

However, the way my sponsoring librarian talked about this book made me want to check it out that very day. Since I don’t have a library card for this area yet (bad, I know!) I asked my MIL to borrow it for me using her card. She was happy to oblige.

I read it in one day.

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Running. That’s all that Ghost (real name Castle Cranshaw) has ever known. But never for a track team. Nope, his game has always been ball. But when Ghost impulsively challenges an elite sprinter to a race — and wins — the Olympic medalist track coach sees he has something: crazy natural talent. Thing is, Ghost has something else: a lot of anger, and a past that he is trying to outrun. Can Ghost harness his raw talent for speed and meld with the team, or will his past finally catch up to him?

Why I Loved It

Look, putting aside the fact that I believe diversity is important in books, this one was so important to me because of the lessons it held. Ghost is a boy with a lot of anger and his past is definitely scary (even I, an adult woman, would be terrified if I experienced this boy’s trauma).

The lessons this book holds are important for my own children – judgment, shame, humility – all of these can be found within the pages of this book. It’s important for children to learn these lessons and I thought Reynolds did a great job capturing those lessons.

I unashamedly shed several tears at the end.

And of course the diversity is important. There is so much “wonder bread” in the world of literature that reading about these young, African American children was a breath of fresh air. I live for diverse characters and I live for narrative from the point of view of a person of color.

Does it make the cut?

When my sponsoring librarian told me about this book, I knew I’d read it, but I did not expect to want to immediately add it to my personal library. Without a doubt, hands down, I need this series on my middle grade shelves. It’s wonderful. I could sing praises of this book all day.

In fact, as of writing this, I’ve recommended it to at least 3 of my adult friends – especially to one of my adult friends who’s son is a middle school teacher.

In short, I can see why this book has won awards and exactly why the library I observed in has 15 copies.

Who should read it?

Do you have kids? Read it.

Do you work with kids? Read it.

Do you never want to have kids ever at any point in your life? Read it.

I cannot stress this enough – you should read this book. It’s wonderfully written. The characters, especially Coach, jump off the pages and make you reflect on your own childhood and the people who influenced your life for the better.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I seriously believe this is the stuff middle grade should be made of! It tackles tough topics and offers insight for children into the world their friends may be living in. I seriously, seriously recommend this to anyone.

Let’s chat!

Middle grade isn’t something I dive into too often. What’s your favorite middle grade series? Or if you can’t think of your favorite middle grade series – what’s your favorite middle grade book?

PS – stay tuned! Pretty soon, I’m going to be posting a video about my favorite middle grade books!

Book Review | Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Last year, I mistakenly ordered Still Me as one of my Book of the Month selections. I say “mistakenly” because at that time I didn’t know it was the third book in a series. When I finally realized my mistake, I headed over to Amazon and picked up a copy of Me Before You and After You so that I’d be ready to read Still Me when the time came.

I decided to grab Me Before You around mid-month because I’d been reading a lot of light hearted and fun books throughout the month of February and I, surprisingly, wanted a break from YA at this point in the month.

I have many thoughts on the book so let’s get started.

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Louisa Clark is an ordinary young woman living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has never been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex-Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair-bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.

Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

A love story for this generation, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?

Mental Health

The first thing I’d like to discuss is the mental health situation surround Will. Obviously he isn’t happy with his life. And how could he be? I mean, he went from being on top of the world – travelling and living his life to the fullest – to being bound to his chair and house. I understand how that could be depressing.

What I didn’t like is how the depression was handled in this book. I thought, without giving any spoilers, it could have been handled a bit better. I didn’t necessarily dislike the use of mental health in this book, but I didn’t like that Jojo Moyes basically made it seem like living life in a chair wasn’t worth living.

One more time, I understand that this is how someone who lead an active life before a life changing accident would likely feel, but I would have thought the Traynor’s could afford to send Will to speak with a therapist after his attempted suicide. This would have helped alter my view, if slightly, on the mental health in this story.

Supporting Characters

Look, Louisa is obviously my favorite. She’s sarcastic and sassy and a character who leapt off the page at me. I really like her and could see myself being friends with a person like her. She also has kindness in her from being raised by a really wholesome family.

For the most part, I liked the supporting characters. Even Will’s mom wasn’t that bad. Do you know who I hated? Patrick. Seriously, fuck that guy.

As Lou’s boyfriend of nearly 7 years, you’d think they’d be engaged or at least living together. No chance. Patrick is married to working out – which is fine. Do you, Patrick. Just don’t get pissy pants when your girl starts to drift away from you. Also don’t be a prick to a man in a wheelchair just because you’re jealous that he’s obviously way better than you.

Basically, Lou could do better than Patrick. Rant over.

On to Lou’s family. I loved her father. He reminded me so much of my own dad it was nuts! The way he teases Lou is exactly the way my dad teases my sister and me. I loved him. And Lou’s mom was the kind of mom I strive to be – loving, nurturing, and kind. Treena was kind of bitchy and gave off the vibe of older sister (even though she’s younger). I think this is because she’s got a child of her own, but I still liked her. She kept it real with Lou which is what she needed.

That Ending

I’m gonna be up front with you here. I was furious at the end of this novel. Literally, I was so pissed I couldn’t even feel anything but rage. I can’t go much into details here because my mother in law reads this blog and I don’t want to give spoilers since I know she wants to read this book… If you have read Me Before You you know why I’m mad.

Honestly, when it’s all said and done I quite enjoyed this book. It was a heart wrenching love story that I didn’t know was missing from my life. Even though I was mad about how it ended, I recommend it to romance lovers. It’s not a hardcore, smutty romance story, but the love is there and it’s so strong.

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Have you watched the film adaptation of Me Before You? Is it worth watching or is it really different from the book? Tell me how you felt while reading this book in the comments.