P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han || Book Review

Release Date: May 26, 2015

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Genre: Young Adult/Contemporary

Synopsis: Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter.
She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever.
When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

In this charming and heartfelt sequel to the New York Timesbestseller To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, we see first love through the eyes of the unforgettable Lara Jean. Love is never easy, but maybe that’s part of what makes it so amazing.

Thoughts and Feelings: If you are looking for a fluffy, lovey-dovey young adult Sunday afternoon read while your boyfriend is watching football, you’ve found your book.

In the sequel to To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, we find ourselves back in the lives of Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky. However this time, we fully welcome to the story: John Ambrose McClaren. I think I’m in the minority, but I love John. I love how he writes Lara Jean back, even though its been months since the original letter was sent. Maybe its the romantic in me, but I love handwritten letters!

P.S. I Still Love You seemed to flow seamlessly from the first novel in the series which was quite incredible. It almost felt as if they were truly written as one novel and then split up to create two separate novels (and maybe the third book will be the same!!)

I also more than appreciate the fact that Lara Jean has taken her time to grow up. She is not trying to rush into adulthood. She values herself and her body — and she begins to stand up for herself. I love the juxtaposition of Lara Jean and her younger sister, Kitty. To see her grow as her younger sister grows shows the truly remarkable relationship between the Covey sisters.

Peter and Lara Jean are fine. They’re cute — It’s a lovely high school relationship. I look forward to seeing if they last in book #3 (I’m still rooting for McClaren 😉 )

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng || Book Review

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Release date: June 26, 2014

Publisher: Penguin Press

Genre: Fiction/Mystery


Premise: So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos.

A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.


Thoughts + Feelings: I needed to take some time to compile my thoughts about Everything I Never Told You. Earlier this year I read Little Fires Everywhere, so I was going into this work of art with very high expectations. My expectations were met because Celeste Ng is a remarkable writer.

While reading this book, I had an overarching, burning feeling that growing up I felt like I was a lot like Lydia Lee – except that I put all of the pressure on myself, not necessarily my mother or father putting the pressure on me. It was still one of those stories that resonated deeply with me, as it seems it has resonated deeply with many readers.

Everything I Never Told You raises the question about how children handle parental pressure.

For me one of the most moving quotations from the book was: “That attention came with expectations that—like snow—drifted and settled and crushed you with their weight.” As a young adult, I know exactly how that feels. You/parents/supervisors pile on the attention and expectations of what you are to accomplish in your life or on a given day and sometimes the weight on your chest makes it hard to breathe.

With the parental pressure growing, we see the brother-sister relationship grow between Nath and Lydia. However, from a familial perspective, you can see the challenges of their relationship. All of the attention is given to Lydia because she is the favorite child; the child with the most potential. Nath and Hannah are the two other siblings who are almost always forgotten about. You can see that while they have each others back and care about one another, Nath has a sense of animosity towards Lydia because their parents seem to care about her more.

“Everything that she had wanted for Lydia, which Lydia had never wanted but had embraced anyway.”

As a daughter, Lydia wanted to become everything her parents dreamed of; She read the books and took the classes. She lost her friendships because she had to focus on her parents dreams and put her own off to the side.

Everything I Never Told You teaches us about sexism and racism without it being the entire story.

The plot flips back and forth between present day and the earlier lives of Mr. and Mrs. Lee. You can feel the angst that both of her parents felt growing up through their childhood stories and the expectations that their parents placed on them. Marilyn Lee abhorred her mother and the life she wanted for her. As a home economics teacher, Marilyn’s mother had a certain idea of what a woman should do with her life — but Marilyn wanted to be a doctor. In the 1970s, there were not a lot of female physicians so she faced oppression in the classrooms surrounded by men. James Lee became a private school student due to his parents working as kitchen staff and custodial members. He went on to study American culture, but due to his Asian identity he was never granted the same opportunities as his co-workers. These stressors from their lives translated down into the expectations they set forth in their daughter.

The way this novel was written was not just so that we, as readers, could visualize the story. It was written in a way so that we could feel the way the characters were feeling. Celeste Ng developed a set of characters with a deep, intricate background. I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered a novel where you feel the pain and grief of a family, as much as I did with the Lee family.

I would highly recommend Everything I Never Told You to all readers. It was a magnificent read that will make you question the pressure that you place on yourself. This was one of my favorite books of 2018.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Book Review: One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

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Release date: March 31, 2015

Publisher: Penguin Books

Genre: Fiction/Contemporary

Premise: Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied, and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight in shining armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages . . . maybe ever.

Thoughts + Feelings: I am a huge fan of Jojo Moyes. I think that she is such a talented writer. Her novels are easy to read. Her characters are enjoyable to listen too. I know that I’ve only read four of her eleven novels, but she is an author that I continue to go back to.

One Plus One was a good book. It was cute and well-written. If you are looking for a romantic, comedic, simple novel – this is a good one for you. It’s a wonderful summer read if you find yourself sitting outside by the pool soaking up the last bits of sun before fall hits. You’re likely to do nothing other than read this book from the first page to the last. But I want to reiterate, it’s just a good book (it’s not another Me Before You!). The reason I want to say it’s a good book is because there is not absolutely special about it that would cause me to say ‘oh my this is the best book ever!!’

With just a handful of quirky characters, you find yourself loving bits of each of them (except that stinker of a husband). The best word to describe Jess Thomas is that she’s an optimist. She is left with two children, Tanzie and Nicky, when her husband abandons them to go learn to take care of himself. They can never seem to pay their bills on time; she works endlessly to make money to support herself and the children. Jess never takes time for herself, but she loves her life and the kids.

Tanzie is offered the opportunity to participate in the Math Olympiad where she can win enough money to pay for her tuition at a private school where she can focus on her math. Through a lot of chaos, Jess, Tanzie and Nicky end up in a beautiful Audi driven by Ed.

The book shows the beauty of friendship and being true to yourself, while also looking at the plain old crazy things that can happen in life.

“You know, you spend your whole life feeling like you don’t quite fit in anywhere. And then you walk into a room one day, whether it’s at university or an office or some kind of club, and you just go, ‘Ah. There they are.’ And suddenly you feel at home.”

I enjoyed Nicky’s storyline the most. He’s a kid who feels as if he doesn’t fit in at home or in school. He’s often bullied and physically beat up. Kids torment him on the internet. You start to see an incredible development in Nicky throughout the novel as he speaks with Ed, and looks at the new dimensions of his family. I think a story where you realize that you are happy with the cards you are dealt in life is important to have; instead of only looking at the negatives in his life, Nicky is able to revamp his thoughts and feelings about life in general.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Book Review: Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

Release date: March 28, 2017

Publisher: HarperTeen

Genre: Fiction/Young Adult

Premise: You probably think that Aled Last and I are going to fall in love or something. Since he is a boy and I am a girl.

I just wanted to say—we don’t.

Frances Janvier spends most of her time studying. When she’s not studying, she’s up in her room making fan art for her favorite podcast, Universe City.

Everyone knows Aled Last as that quiet boy who gets straight As. But no one knows he’s the creator of Universe City, who goes by the name Radio Silence.

When Frances gets a message from Radio Silence asking if she’ll collaborate with him, everything changes. Frances and Aled spend an entire summer working together and becoming best friends. They get each other when no one else does.

But when Aled’s identity as Radio Silence is revealed, Frances fears that the future of Universe City—and their friendship—is at risk. Aled helped her find her voice. Without him, will she have the courage to show the world who she really is? Or will she be met with radio silence?

Thoughts + Feelings: I’ve started doing this thing where I don’t read the summary of books before I pick them up to read them. I honestly found Radio Silence at the library because I thought the cover was really pretty. Luckily, I picked a winner when I found this beautiful novel by Alice Oseman.

There is something special about how Radio Silence was written. It touches on so many issues that many young adult books (and other contemporary novels) won’t go anywhere near.

True Diversity

The first aspect that I loved about Radio Silence was how there was no cookie-cutter characters. In a once quiet world where being diverse was bad, Alice Oseman brought forward sexual identities that I had to go research because I had zero understanding of what they were. She brought in immigrants, locals, bi-racial individuals to show us that it is possible to live a life where there is diversity around you.

  • Frances is biracial (British + Ethiopian) and bisexual
  • Aled is demisexual
  • Daniel is gay and a South Korean immigrant
  • Carys is a lesbian

Platonic Friendship

The relationship between Frances and Aled was beautiful. We read so many books where the only type of relationship is romantic, and platonic friendship doesn’t exist. (At least that’s the kind of books that I’ve read). I felt at ease reading about Aled and Frances, as they discovered how similar they were through their interest in strange clothing and Universe City. 

“And I’m platonically in love with you.”
“That was literally the boy-girl version of ‘no homo’, but I appreciate the sentiment.”

They shared the type of friendship you look for in the people around you. The friend that will help you find your voice – the friend who will look after you in the bar. It’s the person who understands what you want and need in every day life.

Education

We live in a world where there is so much pressure on young people to graduate from high school and go straight into university. You need to graduate in 4 (+/- 1) years and get a full-time job. Maybe you’ll go straight to law school or medical school. In our society, it is expected that you’ll get a degree that is useful to a career. In my own little world, there was never an option to go a different route (not that I had ever considered not going to college — but you see, it was an expectation). I went to university and graduated in three and a half years with 2 degrees. I worked for six months until I started graduate school and then… I fell into a weird abyss for a while. This was my first step away from the expectations of society. And for the first half of the year, it felt awful. I felt like I was letting myself down and that was I wasn’t living up to my own expectations (aka the expectations put on me by society). But once I adjusted to working 3-4 jobs on a regular basis and corrected my thinking to realize that everyone has different paths in life, I became happy (and tired) with my life.

“I was going to be happy. Wasn’t I? I was. Uni, job, money, happiness. That’s what you do. That’s the formula. Everyone knows that. I knew that.”

Radio Silence served as a reminder that you have choices in your own every day life, and those are the choices that you have to live with. It’s okay to not be entirely sure what you want to do with your entire life, but you have to find things you love and stick with them. It’s okay to say no to people and figure out your own life.

This book made me feel good… after it beat me down. Sometimes it is hard to take a look at your own reality and leave all the other B.S. out of it. Forget about the internet, about twitter and Reddit. Remember to take a look at your own life and preferences before attacking someone else – be good to others and remember that we’re all just human.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Book Review: All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg

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Release date: March 7, 2017

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Genre: Fiction/Contemporary

Premise: Who is Andrea Bern? When her therapist asks the question, Andrea knows the right things to say: she’s a designer, a friend, a daughter, a sister. But it’s what she leaves unsaid—she’s alone, a drinker, a former artist, a shrieker in bed, captain of the sinking ship that is her flesh—that feels the most true. Everyone around her seems to have an entirely different idea of what it means to be an adult: her best friend, Indigo, is getting married; her brother—who miraculously seems unscathed by their shared tumultuous childhood—and sister-in-law are having a hoped-for baby; and her friend Matthew continues to wholly devote himself to making dark paintings at the cost of being flat broke. But when Andrea’s niece finally arrives, born with a heartbreaking ailment, the Bern family is forced to reexamine what really matters. Will this drive them together or tear them apart?

Thoughts + Feelings: There were a couple tidbits of this book that almost made me consider it a good book – but the positives were so few and far between, this just wasn’t an enjoyable read. The most notable quote from the entire novel is “Your context is different than my context.” In today’s society of political correctness, I think that this is a key point that many people forget. Just because my personal life is different than your personal life doesn’t make mine/yours any worse, or any better. We’re each in different circumstances and we’re all allowed to feel how we feel — we’re human and we are allowed to have feelings. One aspect of society that I have the hardest time dealing with is how when we (a person in society) has a problem, everyone else’s problem seems to go by the wayside. We need to care about everyone, not just ourselves. We can work together to make the world a better place for everyone, but that means we have to work to understand other viewpoints, perspectives and contexts. “Stop telling me about myself.” This is another problem in our society. We speak for others when we do not truly understand the situations that they are in. We need to learn to communicate in order to have a more peaceful and understanding society.

This book just wasn’t for me. Maybe I didn’t understand the bigger picture and only saw the tiny pieces, but Andrea just seemed to never grow up to me. Having a revelation on the last 3 pages doesn’t count for me. Thinking about the story, I see how Andrea is young and impressionable as a child — how she starts making her own decisions in her twenties –how she strays from her family and ultimately comes to realize how important they are to her. I see it. I can appreciate it. It is her story, her perspective on life. It just wasn’t for me.

Rating: ⭐⭐

Recommend? Meh, I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone. I didn’t get the good vibes from this book at all.

Book Review: Still Me by Jojo Moyes

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This was the third (and hopefully last) book in the series about Louisa Clark. I LOVED Me Before You, tolerated After You and was happy to finish Still Me. It’s so hard to read more books in a series when you were completely mesmerized by the first novel. I still talk about my love of Me Before You, but I didn’t hate this third book — it just wasn’t as good as the first.

 

Premise: At the end of After You we’re set up for Louisa to be heading to the Big Apple to work another job acting as a caregiver for an elite individual. She moves. Her relationship is threatened. Things aren’t great at work. There are lots of secrets. Louisa wonders if she’s fulfilling her life goals. She meets some really wonderful individuals who help her figure out her true goal in life and then she lives happily ever after (or so we hope, there isn’t a fourth book to tell me otherwise).

 

Thoughts + Feelings: I love Louisa Clark. If she were a real person, I would want her to be my friend because she is caring and loyal. She’s fiercely herself and speaks the truth. Louisa’s heart is in the right place in Still Me. I think it was really important to recognize her growth over the three novels. At first she’s in a toxic relationship with Patrick. They’ve been dating for several years, but no spark remains in their relationship. She’s never truly in a romantic relationship with Will Traynor, but nevertheless, she falls in love with him. She is in a relationship with Sam, and then Josh. And finally by the end of the third novel, she figures out that instead of focusing on her relationships with everyone maybe its time for her to focus on her relationship with herself.
“There is great consolation in simply doing something you love.”
Although this is considered a *romance* novel, there is much more to learn as Louisa learns about herself. While its important to focus on your relationships with family, friends and co-workers, it is also essential to pay attention to what you need most. Do you love what you are doing with your life? Are the people around you building you up or breaking you down?
I did not love how Moyes chose to end this book for Louisa. Without giving any spoilers, I just wish Louisa would’ve gone off to prove that she was a capable, strong-willed woman on her own. She’s already proved to herself that she can live in NYC and be a functioning adult, so why do we need to continue the romance?
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Recommend? This is a hard one for me. Like I mentioned before, I loved the first book in the series. The second book wasn’t as good, but gave me some closure. And this third book… was good, but it’s not one that can be read separately. I needed to know what was going to happen to Louisa in NYC. Needed to know, so it was good for me. However, for the vast majority of the population, I would say to stop at Me Before You.

 

What did you think about Louisa Clark’s journey through life?

Book Review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

I was actually able to finish a seventh book for the month of February while I was traveling to Phoenix yesterday. With that I present my first official complete book review of Arguably Alexis!

Premise: Shaker Heights is a suburb of Cleveland, OH where everything is planned. It’s described as a utopian-like society where everything has a place and purpose. Mia and Pearl Warren find themselves moving to Shaker Heights where they rent a small apartment from the Richardson family. Pearl becomes friends with all four (mainly 3) of the Richardson children. Their relationships develop and their lives are intertwined. Friendships, love and motherhood are all called into question as secrets of some of Shaker Heights residents lives are brought out.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thoughts + Feelings: I waited 3+ months for my turn to borrow a copy of Little Fires Everywhere from the library and it completely worth the wait. I read Little Fires Everywhere in a 24 hours time period — Once I started, I was hooked and never wanted to put the novel down. Celeste Ng’s writing was engrossing and powerful drawing me into the seemingly simplistic world of Shaker Heights.

“One has followed the rules, and one had not. But the problem with rules, he reflected, was that they implied a right way and a wrong way to do things. When, in fact, most of the time there were simply ways, none of them quite wrong or quite right, and nothing to tell you for sure which side of the line you stood on.”

That was one section of the novel that I found incredibly moving. As a child, I would always ask whether something was good or bad and my parents would always answer that it just *was*. There is not always going to be a good or a bad; a right or a wrong. Mr. Richardson was approaching on a topic with Mrs. Richardson that was the opposite view of how Shaker Heights was established. It’s not always black and white in the world, especially when there are people involved. Based off our each of our own personal experiences, we’re bound to view life through different lenses. Ng does an incredible job showing these lenses — To the world, Izzy seems like an outsider who is standoffish and rude; someone who doesn’t listen. However, to Izzy, she’s just misunderstood because she feels as if no one is taking a chance to listen to her. Mrs. Richardson is hardest on Izzy because she is her precious child, while Izzy feels personally attacked and thinks that her mother hates her.

Celeste Ng did such an excellent job switching lenses and letting us see the world from each person’s perspective.

My only criticism of the novel is the chapters that details Mia’s middle life — While it was not entirely out of nowhere, and it was an aspect of the story that was absolutely necessary, it kind of just appeared in a strange perspective.. not quite Mia’s, and not quite her parents.

This was the first novel that I’ve read by Celeste Ng. It also one of the best literary fiction books that I’ve ever read. It’s no shock that this was one of Goodreads Best Books of 2017.

Recommend? Absolutely. I think those who love Jodi Picoult novels would LOVE Little Fires Everywhere.