Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Girl Made of Stars [review]

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Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on May 15, 2018
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
4.25 (as of 2018-09-18)
cw:rape, molestation, pedophilia, biphobia, homophobia, victim blaming, depictions of anxiety and panic attacks, PTSD

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

For readers of Girl in Pieces and The Way I Used to Be comes an emotionally gripping story about facing hard truths in the aftermath of sexual assault.

Mara and Owen are as close as twins can get, so when Mara’s friend Hannah accuses Owen of rape, Mara doesn’t know what to think. Can her brother really be guilty of such a violent act? Torn between her family and her sense of right and wrong, Mara feels lost, and it doesn’t help that things are strained with her ex-girlfriend, Charlie. As Mara, Hannah, and Charlie come together in the aftermath of this terrible crime, Mara must face a trauma from her own past and decide where Charlie fits into her future. With sensitivity and openness, this timely novel confronts the difficult questions surrounding consent, victim blaming, and sexual assault.

As I said in the brief, one-sentence review I managed to spin out immediately after finishing Girl Made of Stars: This is one of the most painful, difficult reads I’ve ever experienced, and it still managed to end on an empowering, hopeful note. It’s been on my radar for a while now and I just hadn’t gotten around to it yet. I was actually picking up another book from the library for a buddy read that I’m doing when it caught my eye. I spontaneously snatched it up and I’m so, so glad I did. I think it was truly the perfect time for me to read this book.

I wish I could take a picture of myself right now, so I can remember this fiery girl, hold on to her.

It’s difficult to know where to begin with a review like this. First and foremost: take care of yourselves, loves. This is about the nitty gritty of rape culture, the many ways in which women can be both assaulted and undermined. It’s about the guilt, and the uncertainty, and the grey areas of being a survivor, as well as the difficulty of learning that someone you trust isn’t as safe as you thought they were. I managed to finish it in one evening, but I had to put it down a couple times to just take a spin around the apartment to get my head out of the story. Ashley Herring Blake writes a world that feels so real and is so easy to live in, that it grips you in a deeply emotional way.

It’s changed me forever, but changed doesn’t mean broken.

Everything is handled so beautifully in this book. In addition to focusing on rape culture and survivors, the main character also deals with sometimes crippling anxiety and PTSD. She’s also bisexual, which is mentioned explicitly on-page (as a bi woman, I was extremely excited about this), and her best friend/ex is genderqueer (this is the only rep I can’t speak to personally, but I’d be happy to share ownvoices reviews if y’all have any). There are also some great scenes where actively asking for consent is demonstrated and emphasized, which I’m always a huge fan of seeing (particularly in YA).

For all the girls whose names I’ll never know.
For me.
Girls made of flesh and bone.

I can’t even get into everything this book manages to explore, but somehow it does it all without feeling like the author is trying to pack too much in. I went through the full gamut of emotions while reading this. I spent the last half an hour of reading just sobbing in bed, but that was in part because I felt so validated and loved and understood. If you can manage the content, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It was truly a beautiful, if difficult, experience and deserving of so much support and recognition.

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Bad Man [review]

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Bad Man by Dathan Auerbach
Published by Doubleday on August 7, 2018
my rating: ⭐️⭐️.5
Goodreads avg:
3.38 (as of 2018-09-17)
cw: child abduction, abuse, fat-shaming, racism/slurs
disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for review consideration. All of the opinions presented below are my own.

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

Reddit horror sensation Dathan Auerbach delivers a devilishly dark novel about a young boy who goes missing, and the brother who won’t stop looking for him.

Eric disappeared when he was three years old. Ben looked away for only a second at the grocery store, but that was all it took. His brother was gone. Vanished right into the sticky air of the Florida Panhandle. 

They say you’ve got only a couple days to find a missing person. Forty-eight hours to conduct searches, knock on doors, and talk to witnesses. Two days to tear the world apart if there’s any chance of putting yours back together. That’s your window.

That window closed five years ago, leaving Ben’s life in ruins. He still looks for his brother. Still searches, while his stepmother sits and waits and whispers for Eric, refusing to leave the house that Ben’s father can no longer afford. Now twenty and desperate for work, Ben takes a night stock job at the only place that will have him: the store that blinked Eric out of existence.

Ben can feel that there’s something wrong there. With the people. With his boss. With the graffitied baler that shudders and moans and beckons. There’s something wrong with the air itself. He knows he’s in the right place now. That the store has much to tell him. So he keeps searching. Keeps looking for his baby brother, while missing the most important message of all. 

That he should have stopped looking.

I’ve been leaning into a lot of spooky reads recently and was very excited at the concept of reading a novel written by someone who was so well-known on r/NoSleep. I was a little worried about someone who was used to shorter fiction writing a novel (not that I know much about Dathan’s writing history besides the blurb on Goodreads). Unfortunately, I do think that the length got the best of him in this one.

The start of the book was nothing short of incredible. The more I read, the more I forgot how strongly it had started, so I’m grateful to past me for making note of that. Dathan is clearly a master of crafting atmospheric environments and did a wonderful job of setting up the story. I almost missed by stop on the train and at one point, while reading on my lunch break, I got spooked by someone walking by my desk in broad daylight.

It began to lose me around the 50% mark. I felt like the story was dragging and I didn’t really feel invested in seeing what would happen next. In fact, I’m not sure I would’ve finished the book if it weren’t an ARC that I felt obligated to read and review. Most of the characters other than Ben, the MC, felt really flat and I had no idea what was going on with the plot. There were also these weird inserts between chapters that, while they made sense in the end, didn’t accomplish much except for pulling me out of the story to roll my eyes.

Ben is also fat and there’s a lot of negative, unchallenged fat-shaming (both from Ben himself and others) that doesn’t feel like it has much of a purpose. Part of Ben’s weight is explained by his disability (a permanent leg injury), but it’s hard to tell whether the author is intentionally fat-shaming or is examining internalized fatphobia. Regardless, as I said, it’s not challenged at any point and may be difficult for readers who find that type of content to be triggering.

I will say that the book picks back up and I tore through the last 25% of it, frantic to know what was going on. I wasn’t quite satisfied by the end, but I think it was pretty well-done. It is absolutely horrific and did send chills through me, because it hits on something that freaks me out a lot personally. There were some things that definitely could have been tidied up, but nothing major.

Overall, it was an ok read. I’m right on the fence between “liked it” and “didn’t like it” and am probably gonna stay there. I think I would’ve liked it a lot more if the middle had been trimmed up and if the author had been able to maintain throughout the atmosphere he conjured at both the beginning and the end. If you think this is going to be your thing, I say go for it, but I’m also not anticipating putting this on any recommendation lists.

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Tags, Bookworm Blogging

TBR Lows & Highs #3

Okay, so I’d been doing Down the TBR Hole for quite some time and really loved it. BUT, it started to feel a bit like a chore, which is why I’d cut down on it. Luckily, Destiny decided to create a new similar-but-different feature that’s loads of fun called TBR Lows and Highs!

Rules:

  • Link back to the original post at Howling Libraries
  • Sort your Goodreads TBR shelf by date added, ascending
  • Find 5-10 (or more, if you feel ambitious!) titles to purge from your TBR (the “lows”)
  • Post those 5 books in the list, with a brief explanation of why you removed it
  • Next, sort your Goodreads TBR shelf by date added, descending
  • List the last 5 (or more!) books you added to your TBR, with a synopsis or your brief summary of why you added it (the “highs”)

To Remove:

How to Be Human
This isn’t something I’d add to my TBR if I saw now, and no one I know has reviewed it. I’m trying to only keep books that I actively want to read, sooo.

The Nightlife
I read very, very little poetry and the poetry I do read is typically personally recommended to me. I don’t know where this one even came from.

City of Saints & Thieves
This one isn’t calling to me, and it has pretty poor reviews by some folks I know.

Beast
Meh, another one I wouldn’t add if I saw now.

You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me
I didn’t connect to the blurb, and seeing Hannah’s review made me decide taking a step back was the right decision.

Newly Added:

The Darkest Part of the Forest
Melanie included this in yesterday’s Top Ten Tuesday and I had to add it!

The Visitors
I saw this one over on Spine Cracker and was really intrigued by the premise.

Everything That’s Underneath
I truly don’t know where I found this (Destiny??), but horror anthologies are fun, right?

This Mortal Coil
I’ve actually had this on my TBR for a while, but entered a giveaway for it recently and apparently had it re-added.

Worlds Seen in Passing
Both Destiny and Melanie reviewed this and enjoyed it, so I’m hoping to get to it sometime!

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(Covers courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Mini-Review Compilation #9

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Disquiet
cw domestic abuse; stillbirth

I found this novella in a local thrift shop and picked it up on a whim. I thought the cover was nice and the story sounded interesting — and told myself that even if I didn’t like it, I’d only be working through 120 or so pages. I’m glad I went for it because this is one of those hidden gems that I probably never would have found otherwise. It’s simply written, but hauntingly beautiful. It’s a little odd in a way I can’t put my finger on, but also in a way that really piqued my interest. I definitely recommend it and know I’ll be picking it up again sometime.

Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐

Give People Money
disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for review consideration. All of the opinions presented below are my own.

I’m really glad I picked this up, as I felt it provided a pretty comprehensive overview of the idea of a universal basic income (UBI). The author talked about the history of the idea and research that had been done on similar programs both within and without the United States, as well as the potential pros and cons of setting such a thing in motion. She also spoke of the difficulties of trying to change the current system in a way that I (in my limited knowledge and experience) thought seemed realistic without being cynical. Overall, this felt like a really good primer and makes me want to seek out more information, both about this particular idea and related ones. I highly recommend this read for anyone who finds the concept of a UBI interesting, as well as anyone who wants to learn some ways we can create a more nurturing society that’s less focused on the worth of individuals only insofar as they’re valued in the workplace.

Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐

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The Vegetarian
cw: rape; self-harm; disordered eating

Why, is it such a bad thing to die?

I’m not sure I can give this a proper review, as I had a very… complicated relationship with the text. A lot of things struck me very hard (this was definitely an instance of finding a book “at the right time” for me), but a lot of these things ended up connecting strongly to very personal aspects of my life. Aspects that I don’t currently feel comfortable sharing in a book review. I’ll simply say that this was a beautiful, haunting read and one that I know will stick with me for a long time. I’d been meaning to pick up some of Han Kang’s work for a while now and this was honestly the perfect introduction for me. I highly recommend this book, even though it may be a difficult read for some.

Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

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(All covers courtesy of Goodreads.)

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T10T: Hidden Gems

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Top Ten Tuesday was originally put together by The Broke and the Bookish and has been taken over by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is Hidden Gems — aka books that deserve some more recognition! For this one, I sorted my “read” shelf by “number of ratings” ascending and chose some four to five star books that I feel more people should read!

 

Policing the Black Man
This is a really wonderful collection of essays about the history of racism in the US. I personally felt I learned a lot from it!

Goldeline
I don’t usually read MG books, but the cover sold me on this one. On top of that, it’s a quick read and it has queer characters in it. I was surprised to see it had so few reviews (only 43 at the time of writing this post)!

A Cat Named Darwin
I don’t have a review for this one, since I read it before I started writing reviews, but I adored this! It’s a really sweet story about the author’s adoption of a stray cat and I cried at the end and I’ve actually been meaning to reread it again soon.

I’m Not Missing
A very compelling story about love and loss. It contains a nice mix of fluff and serious issues, and I’m again surprised that this one didn’t gain more of a following!

Eden
Eden was very interesting because it explored the aftermath of trauma rather than guiding the reader only through the trauma itself. I can see how this one wouldn’t necessarily be for everyone, but I also think it’s certainly worth a read if the concept interests you.

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(All covers courtesy of Goodreads.)

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State of the ARC #1

State of the ARC is a monthly meme at Avalinah’s Books meant to motivate you to finish up all your long overdue ARCs (Advanced or Early Reader Copies).

Rules of State of the ARC:

  • Mention that you’re linking up with State of the ARC @ AvalinahsBooks, which is a fun way to share our ARC progress, challenges, wins, woes and mishaps.
  • Include the link to this post, or the current State of the ARC post. You can use my State of the ARC image too.
  • Don’t forget to visit all the other people in the link-up and comment.
  • And most importantly – have fun!

A few months ago I went on a little requesting spree on NetGalley and I am still paying the price. On the plus side: I’ve read some great new releases! Here are the next three NetGalley ARCs I intend to read.

Bad Man
Reddit horror sensation Dathan Auerbach delivers a devilishly dark novel about a young boy who goes missing, and the brother who won’t stop looking for him.

Eric disappeared when he was three years old. Ben looked away for only a second at the grocery store, but that was all it took. His brother was gone. Vanished right into the sticky air of the Florida Panhandle.

They say you’ve got only a couple days to find a missing person. Forty-eight hours to conduct searches, knock on doors, and talk to witnesses. Two days to tear the world apart if there’s any chance of putting yours back together. That’s your window.

That window closed five years ago, leaving Ben’s life in ruins. He still looks for his brother. Still searches, while his stepmother sits and waits and whispers for Eric, refusing to leave the house that Ben’s father can no longer afford. Now twenty and desperate for work, Ben takes a night stock job at the only place that will have him: the store that blinked Eric out of existence.

Ben can feel that there’s something wrong there. With the people. With his boss. With the graffitied baler that shudders and moans and beckons. There’s something wrong with the air itself. He knows he’s in the right place now. That the store has much to tell him. So he keeps searching. Keeps looking for his baby brother, while missing the most important message of all.

That he should have stopped looking.

Everything For Everyone
The origins of the next radical economy is rooted in a tradition that has empowered people for centuries and is now making a comeback.

A new feudalism is on the rise. From the internet to service and care, more and more industries expect people to live gig to gig, while monopolistic corporations feed their spoils to the rich. But as Nathan Schneider shows through years of in-depth reporting, there is an alternative to the robber-baron economy hiding in plain sight; we just need to know where to look.

Cooperatives are jointly owned, democratically controlled enterprises that advance the economic, social, and cultural interests of their members. They often emerge during moments of crisis not unlike our own, putting people in charge of the workplaces, credit unions, grocery stores, healthcare, and utilities they depend on. Co-ops have helped to set the rules, and raise the bar, for the wider society.

Since the financial crash of 2008, the cooperative movement has been coming back with renewed vigor. Everything for Everyone chronicles this economic and social revolution – from taxi cooperatives that are keeping Uber and Lyft at bay, to an outspoken mayor transforming his city in the Deep South, to a fugitive building a fairer version of Bitcoin, to the rural electric co-op members who are propelling an aging system into the future. As these pioneers show, cooperative enterprise is poised to help us reclaim faith in our capacity for creative, powerful democracy. 

Sadie
Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meagre clues to find him.

When West McCray—a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America—overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads and Netgalley, respectively.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Song of Achilles [review]

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The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Published by Ecco on August 28, 2012
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5
Goodreads avg:
4.3 (as of 2018-09-06)
cw: rape, brutal murder, everything you would expect from war

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

Achilles, “the best of all the Greeks,” son of the cruel sea goddess Thetis and the legendary king Peleus, is strong, swift, and beautiful irresistible to all who meet him. Patroclus is an awkward young prince, exiled from his homeland after an act of shocking violence. Brought together by chance, they forge an inseparable bond, despite risking the gods’ wrath.

They are trained by the centaur Chiron in the arts of war and medicine, but when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, all the heroes of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the cruel Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.

Alright, I can see what all the fuss is about now. I had been intending to pick this up for a while now, mostly due to the hype. Luckily, someone in my postal book club chose it, so I had a great excuse to read it!

As if he had heard me, he smiled, and his face was like the sun.

I went into The Song of Achilles relatively blind, knowing not much except that it was about Achilles and was allegedly super gay. Both of these things are true. I’m not very familiar with the mythology, so almost all of the plot was new to me. I’m not sure whether this enhanced or detracted from my experience, but it definitely brought a lot of surprises! I think I could have benefited from knowing the other players a little more, as they sort of blurred together for me, but I also found the story itself more enjoyable because I didn’t know what would happen next.

I feel like I could eat the world raw.

It’s hard to classify this into a genre. It’s kind of fantasy, kind of historical fiction, and kind of romance. And let me tell you, Madeline Miller really knows how to write a romance. Even though I’m not typically one for historical fiction or classics, I found myself really drawn into both the plot and the writing. The characters were so well done and I felt I really understood Patroclus and his motivations. It was incredible to watch both the boys mature and change in their own separate ways.

My mind is filled with cataclysm and apocalypse: I wish for earthquakes, eruptions, flood. Only that seems large enough to hold all of my rage and grief. I want the world overturned like a bowl of eggs, smashed at my feet.

Overall, this was a really nice read and I’m glad I got around to it! I definitely recommend it to anyone who hasn’t gotten a chance to pick it up yet (I may have been the only one left).

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Tags, Bookworm Blogging

TBR Lows & Highs #2

Okay, so I’d been doing Down the TBR Hole for quite some time and really loved it. BUT, it started to feel a bit like a chore, which is why I’d cut down on it. Luckily, Destiny decided to create a new similar-but-different feature that’s loads of fun called TBR Lows and Highs!

Rules:

  • Link back to the original post at Howling Libraries
  • Sort your Goodreads TBR shelf by date added, ascending
  • Find 5-10 (or more, if you feel ambitious!) titles to purge from your TBR (the “lows”)
  • Post those 5 books in the list, with a brief explanation of why you removed it
  • Next, sort your Goodreads TBR shelf by date added, descending
  • List the last 5 (or more!) books you added to your TBR, with a synopsis or your brief summary of why you added it (the “highs”)

To Remove:

All the Good Things
This one is well-reviewed, but just not appealing to me at the moment.

This Darkness Mine
Reading the premise I feel meh, and the reviews are backing me up.

The Upside of Unrequited
I know a lot of people love this, but it’s been on my TBR for a while and I just… don’t really care to get to it.

The Light We Lost
Another one that I’m just not excited about with some very all over the place reviews.

How to Ruin Everything
I’m not sure how I came across this one. It doesn’t seem bad, just not my thing!

Newly Added:

We Have Always Lived in the Castle
I believe I heard about this on the Reading Glasses podcast and decided I really needed to read it!

You Don’t Have to Like Me
Pretty sure this was also a Reading Glasses rec!

My Dear Hamilton
I saw someone I knew was reading this and I’m a big Hamilton fan, so I hope it’s worth picking up!

The Alphabet Versus the Goddess & The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
These were both off of Fran’s Top Ten Tuesday post from this week!

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(Covers courtesy of Goodreads.)

Bookworm Blogging, Monthly Wrap-Ups

August 2018 Wrap-Up

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Books Read:

  • Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater. 5/5 stars, review.
  • Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood. 3.5/5 stars, review.
  • Disquiet by Julia Leigh. 4/5 stars, review.
  • Give People Money by Annie Lowrey. 4/5 stars, review.

Books read: 4 books
Books DNF’d: None!
Average Rating: 4.13 stars.

Movies:

  • Ready Player One [2018] directed by Steven Spielberg. 2/5 stars.
  • A Quiet Place [2018] directed by John Krasinski. 4/5 stars, rewatch.
  • The Purge: Election Year [2016] directed by James DeMonaco. 2/5 stars.
  • Jennifer’s Body [2009] directed by Karyn Kusama. 3.5 stars.

Other Posts:

Notable Posts By Others:

Reading Goal Progress:

In July, I read 4 books, which puts me at a total of 54 books for the year. I’m 5 books ahead of schedule and at 72% of my reading goal for the year. 🙂

Monthly Photo Dump:

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Bookish This or That Tag

I’ve been in a slump lately, so I’m leaning more into tags and themed posts rather than reviews. I saw this one over on Sam’s blog and thought it looked fun!

Series or standalone?
I really tend to read more standalones. I like series, but I have trouble keeping up with them!

Magic earned or magic born?
I’d have to say magic earned. Magic born can be fun, but I do like to see characters rewarded for their hard work.

Enemies to lovers or friends to lovers?
HMMM, probably enemies to lovers.

Hilarious banter or emotional ruin?
whynotboth.gif

Love triangle or instalove?
Love triangle that turns triad. Literally every love triangle I see I’m like “y’all, this is what polyamory is for”

Keyboard smash names or all names starting with the same letter?
Same letter, unless there’s some kind of logic behind the keyboard smash, like it matches up with a language or something. But then I guess it’s no longer a keyboard smash.

Mean parents or dead parents?
This feels like a lose/lose. Probably dead parents. I hate reading about abusive parents.

Supermodel looks or constantly says how “plain” they are?
Honestly, I don’t care as long as a character isn’t drop-dead gorgeous but pretending to be ugly (@ every movie and TV show ever).

Face on cover or typography on cover?
Typography 100%. Face would have to be absurdly well-done and is difficult to pull off.

Villain turning a little good or hero turning a little bad?
Tough choice. I am kind of digging antiheros, so I guess I’ll go that route.

Best friend dies or love interest dies?
This is difficult, but I say love interest.

Awesome writing with a dull plot or amazing plot with murderously bad writing?
Yikes, definitely awesome writing. Dull plots are difficult, but they’re growing on me as long as the writing is lovely. Bad writing and that book is going straight to the DNF pile.

Cliffhanger ending or heartbreaking ending?
Heartbreaker, because I’d like to know what’s happened, even if I’m dying inside.

Breaking the spine or dog-earing the pages?
Y’all are gonna hate me because I actively do BOTH, but dog-earing pages is much more handy.

“Bad boy” trope or “perfect golden boy” trope?
Gimme a bad boy tbh (unless it’s Gansey, then I want the sweet boy).

That was a cute fun one! Let me know if you do this so I can check out your answers. 🙂