Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Mini-Review Compilation #4

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At the Water’s Edge
cw: domestic abuse, gaslighting, drug abuse/addiction

At the Water’s Edge probably isn’t a book I would have picked up on my own. I got it through a Postal Book Club that my friend Rachel is running, and I honestly put off reading it until the end of the month because I really wasn’t expecting to enjoy it. I’m not big on historical fiction, although I did enjoy Water for Elephants, by the same author. I really didn’t think there was anything in this for me, but I was wrong.

The first hundred pages kind of dragged on for me, but after that, things really picked up! I sat down to read another 50 pages or so, and next thing I knew it had been almost two hours. The only reason I put it away was because I needed to get to bed and didn’t want to fall asleep while reading the end. I finished it first thing the next morning, poring through the last several dozen pages at my local coffee shop. Had it not been for the slow start, I would have given it five stars!

Rating:⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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Like Water

This is one of those books that I loved so much I don’t know how to write a review about it. I think all I really need to say is that it’s a queer latinx story with a genderqueer love interest and is beautiful and precious and definitely made me cry. There are so many good things about this. The MC casually realizes she’s bi and it’s not a huge deal and the MC is not only confident about her body, but also recognizes that different kinds of bodies are beautiful in different ways. There are just some lovely messages in this and the romance itself is beautiful and I highly recommend this read.

Rating:⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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Good Me, Bad Me
cw: domestic abuse, pedophilia, assault

This was incredibly well-written and conceptually very interesting. It’s about the daughter of a serial killer, who turned in her mother in order to avoid her own demise. It’s a lot of introspection, but even though we’re inside the main character’s head, there’s still a lot of the story missing. Definitely an interesting read if you like unreliable narrators. I enjoyed it, but just didn’t find myself as invested in the story as I would have liked. I still recommend it, though.

Rating:⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thanks for reading! Have you read any of these books? If so, what were your thoughts?

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(Covers courtesy of Goodreads)

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Where Am I Now? [review]

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Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson
Published by Penguin Books on September 13, 2016
259 pages.
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
cw: 
maternal death, anxiety, OCD

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads IndieBound Author’s Website

Mara Wilson has always felt a little young and a little out of place: as the only child on a film set full of adults, the first daughter in a house full of boys, the sole clinically depressed member of the cheerleading squad, a valley girl in New York and a neurotic in California, and one of the few former child actors who has never been in jail or rehab.

Tackling everything from how she first learned about sex on the set of Melrose Place, to losing her mother at a young age, to getting her first kiss (or was it kisses?) on a celebrity canoe trip, to not being “cute” enough to make it in Hollywood, these essays tell the story of one young woman’s journey from accidental fame to relative (but happy) obscurity.

But they also illuminate a universal struggle: learning to accept yourself, and figuring out who you are and where you belong. Exquisitely crafted, revelatory, and full of the crack comic timing that has made Mara Wilson a sought-after live storyteller and Twitter star, Where Am I Now? introduces a witty, perceptive, and refreshingly candid new literary voice.

I’ve been a fan of Mara Wilson for ages now. Like almost everyone else, I loved her in Matilda, but I kind of lost track of her after that. A few years ago, I ended up following her on Twitter and found myself deeply admiring the person she had grown into. She’s witty, deeply into social justice, and has a take-no-shit attitude that I love. So when I heard Where Am I Now? was coming out, I knew I had to read it. Of course, it took me a while to actually get to it, but I’m really glad I did!

Being a celebrity meant being vulnerable. It meant my face, my body, even my death were for public consumption — none of them was mine alone.

Where Am I Now? is a series of stories and essays about Mara’s life. Each chapter has a theme, usually one that revolves around something specific that she experienced. She covers everything from child acting, to high school girls, to the death of her mother. Somehow she’s managed to capture the perfect mix of humor and solemnity, speaking about grave topics with grace.

There must have been days when I did more, but I have no memory of them.

The sections that resonated most with me were about Mara’s experiences with mental illness, including depression, anxiety, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. While I don’t have any personal experience with OCD, my depression and anxiety both began in childhood and while reading, I kept gaping at sentences that I felt described my past self perfectly.

This ended up being a very quick read for me (two or three days?) and I can see this becoming one of my most highly-recommended books. I think that Mara’s writing is very accessible, and that this is something that can be enjoyed by just about everyone. Definitely pick it up if you get a chance!

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(Cover and blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance [review]

**Note: This book was received through NetGalley. Review was written May 12, 2017.


Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang
To be published by St. Martin’s Press on November 7, 2017
Kindle NetGalley Edition, 352 pages, ISBN-13: 978-1-250-11204-0

I downloaded Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance off NetGalley by chance. My account there had been languishing for, well, years. I decided to hop back on and see if I could find anything worth reading. And after just a few minutes, I stumbled across BoEC. I loved the cover and thought the synopsis seemed intriguing, so I downloaded my copy and set off.

To be honest, I didn’t really enjoy the book as I was starting out! It took me a bit to get used to the first-person POV and the writing seemed a little infantile. I did note that the characters we heard from at first were children, so infantile was realistic. And I’m glad I pushed through and gave it a chance, because it just got better and better.

BoEC is a story set in modern America about a boy named Weylyn Grey who has inexplicable abilities, namely communicating with animals and influencing the weather. The book is a story of his life, told almost entirely through the perspective of others. The POV switches frequently, and we get to see Weylyn through many different eyes, though almost never through his own. I don’t want to get too much into the plot because it’s easy to give things away, but I will say that it kept me interested and that I was never quite sure what was going to happen next.

There were a couple characters that I wish had been touched on more. First, Weylyn’s parents. They do come up, and we quickly learn that he’s an orphan, but they just sort of feel really hollow to me. It’s obvious that they were just killed in order for Weylyn to have this journey. They never really come up except when convenient to the plotline at hand. I also wish there had been more about Weylyn’s adopted mom and Mary’s dad. They both kind of just vanish after they serve their purpose, making them feel more like plot points than characters. This is true of some of the other secondary characters as well, but these folks feel like they should have been of more importance to both Mary and Weylyn’s lives.

Overall, though, I loved this book. Once I got into the rhythm of things, I didn’t want to put it down. I almost missed my T stop several times while reading. I really felt immersed in the world Ruth Emmie Lang created and sympathized so much with the characters. No spoilers, but the ending made me SO emotional and gave me so many goosebumps. Lang really knows how to thread an ending together.

Takeaway: This book is beautiful. Please read it. Please, please read it.

Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

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Bookworm Blogging, Monthly Wrap-Ups

October 2017 Wrap-Up


Books:

  • All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Steifvater. 3/5 stars, review.
  • Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman. 5/5 stars, review.
  • A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland. DNF.
  • Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music by Nadine Hubbs. DNF.
  • The Snowman by Jo Nesbø, translated by Don Bartlett. DNF.
  • At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen. 4/5 stars, review to come.
  • Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust. DNF.
  • Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson. 5/5 stars, review to come.

Books read: 4
Books DNF’d: 4
Average Rating: 4.25

Movies:

  • Happy Death Day [2017] directed by Christopher B. Landon. 4/5 stars, review.
  • Professor Marston & the Wonder Women [2017] directed by Angela Robinson. 5/5 stars, review.
  • The Snowman [2017] directed by Tomas Alfredson. 1/5 stars, I was going to do a review for this but BRUNCH says everything I wanted to say better than I could, so go listen to this episode on it.
  • The Sixth Sense [1999] directed by M. Night Shyamalan. 4/5 stars, rewatch.
  • Teeth [2007] directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein. 5/5 stars, rewatch.
  • The Hallow [2015] directed by Corin Hardy. 3/5 stars.

Movies watched: 6
Average Rating: 3.67 stars

Other Posts:

Reading Goal Progress:

I only read four books this month, bleh. I need to start letting myself off the hook with DNFing again because I wasted a lot of time trying to push myself through FOUR(!) other books that I ended up tossing. Anyway, that puts me at 56 books, on a goal of 50. I am 15 books ahead of schedule, and at 112% of my goal. #nice

Nanowrimo Goals:

For those of you don’t know, November is National Novel Writing Month. Essentially, the goal is to write a 50,000 page novel in one month. This ends up being 1,667 words per day. I’ve participated in Nanowrimo a few times, but have never finished. This year, I’m gonna play it a little differently. I intend to write 50,000 words, but I’m going to do a mix of fiction and non-fiction pieces. It’s essentially going to end up being a short story collection and/or a set of essays. I’m just going to go with the flow and try to write 50,000 pages of whatever I can by the end of November!

You can join me on the Nanowrimo website and also on Twitter, where I’ll surely be livetweeting my adventure.

Notable Posts by Others:

Personal Highlights (aka a photo dump of things I did this month):








Thanks for reading! How was October for you? Let me know in the comments. 🙂

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Fen [review]


Fen by Daisy Jonhson
Published by Graywolf Press on May 2, 2017
208 pages.
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
cw:
eating disorders, pedophilia, incest

Goodreads IndieBound | Author’s Website

Daisy Johnson’s Fen, set in the fenlands of England, transmutes the flat, uncanny landscape into a rich, brooding atmosphere. From that territory grow stories that blend folklore and restless invention to turn out something entirely new. Amid the marshy paths of the fens, a teenager might starve herself into the shape of an eel. A house might fall in love with a girl and grow jealous of her friend. A boy might return from the dead in the guise of a fox.

Out beyond the confines of realism, the familiar instincts of sex and hunger blend with the shifting, unpredictable wild as the line between human and animal is effaced by myth and metamorphosis. With a fresh and utterly contemporary voice, Johnson lays bare these stories of women testing the limits of their power to create a startling work of fiction.

I saw a staff member recommendation in a local bookstore that this was similar to Karen Russell’s work. Vampires in the Lemon Grove is my favorite short story collection, so I was really stoked to get my hands on this! The library didn’t have a copy, but ordered it shortly after I sent in a request. I was delighted to get it. I think all of the versions have beautiful covers and I was contemplating buying one of each if this ended up being a 5-star read. As is, I still may end up picking up a copy of my own.

Watch out for the affection. It comes at odd, awful moments, mainly when he is not there: brushing your teeth, opening the door for a parcel, at the photocopying machine. There is nothing much about him you can see which would do this to you. Affection, you tell your housemates, is a sort of sickness.

Johnson has such a smooth, unique voice. Her writing is quite beautiful and her prose borders on poetry. Even when it comes to disturbing content, she writes with a soothing cadence. I have absolutely no complaints as far as her writing goes, but the stories themselves just weren’t for me. There were a few that I really liked, but most of them didn’t do much to capture me. Below, I’ve provided a list of the stories included and my rating for each:

Starver   ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Blood Rites   ⭐️⭐️⭐️
A Bruise the Shape and Size of a Door Handle   ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
How to Lose It   ⭐️⭐️
How to Fuck a Man You Don’t Know   ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Language   ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Superstition of Albatross   ⭐️⭐️⭐️
A Heavy Devotion   ⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Scattering   ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Birthing Stones   ⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Cull   ⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Lighthouse Keeper   ⭐️⭐️⭐️

If the blurb intrigues you, I would absolutely recommend that you read this. While it didn’t quite work for me, I think that this is a collection that is well-worth reading if you like the concepts hinted at. Although, do keep in mind the CWs I posted above, as there are some sensitive topics covered. If you do check it out–or if you’ve read it already–please let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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(Blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

All the Crooked Saints [review]


All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
To be published by Scholastic Press on October 10, 2017
320 pages.
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5
I would like to thank Scholastic for providing me an ARC of the book. This in no way impacts my review.

Goodreads IndieBound | Author’s Website

Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, miracle-mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars.

At the heart of this place you will find the Soria family, who all have the ability to perform unusual miracles. And at the heart of this family are three cousins longing to change its future: Beatriz, the girl without feelings, who wants only to be free to examine her thoughts; Daniel, the Saint of Bicho Raro, who performs miracles for everyone but himself; and Joaquin, who spends his nights running a renegade radio station under the name Diablo Diablo.

They are all looking for a miracle. But the miracles of Bicho Raro are never quite what you expect.

I don’t think Maggie Stiefvater’s prose will ever fail to do anything less than stun me. In each of her works, she has such a beautiful, unique voice and I find myself scribbling quotes into my notebook at a rapid pace. All the Crooked Saints was no exception.

…the truth is that we men and women often hate to be rid of the familiar, and sometimes our darkness is the thing we know the best.

On the other hand, I’m fairly certain that if this hadn’t been written by Stiefvater, I would have DNFed it. In fact, I almost did, probably ~80 pages in. I typically give books around 50 pages to really pull me in, sometimes more if I’m really on the fence. And I was really on the fence here, but I kept telling myself, “Hey, this is Maggie! Ya gotta keep going.” Don’t worry kids, I’m glad I kept going.

…and he knew to search for her in all of the places you might hope to find a cat or a venomous lizard–on top of roofs, hooked on tree branches, stretched in the dust beneath trucks.

I think my biggest issue with this book was that I didn’t feel invested in the characters for quite some time. I thought the writing was lovely, but I also just… didn’t care about the plot. I felt like it was written so matter-of-factly that I found it difficult for me become emotionally engaged with the content. I mean it makes sense, considering Beatriz’ manner of thinking, but I just struggled too much to connect.

One compliments a man when one compliments his chosen home…

The last third of the book really pulled things together for me. I felt that things were tied up well and I liked everything that happened, I finally found myself drawn into the story. It just didn’t hook me deep like a 4- or 5-star book would, though. I still love Stiefvater’s work and I will absolutely pick up whatever she puts out next, but All the Crooked Saints just didn’t do it for me this time around.

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(Blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Raven Boys [review]


The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (The Raven Cycle #1)
Published by Scholastic Press on September 18, 2012
409 pages.
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
cw: 
domestic abuse, self-harm

Goodreads IndieBound Author’s Website

So I am finally jumping on the TRC train! I first read The Raven Boys in late 2013, I believe. I had gotten it as a gift and was on winter break from college–winter break is such a good time to get reading done and I miss it so much–and I just remember devouring it. Quite a while later, I picked up The Dream Thieves and I just… couldn’t get it into it. Mostly because it had been so long since I had read TRB that I could barely remember a thing! So I DNFed it and haven’t picked up any TRC books since.

For a while now, I’ve been thinking that the series deserved another shot from me. My bff Grace mentioned that she wanted to reread the series (she adores it), so I suggested a buddy read! And here we are. I’ve completed the first book, and it will probably be a couple more weeks until we move onto the second. In the meantime, here’s my review!

I can’t believe I forgot how wonderful this book is. Everything Steifvater does in it is incredible. The prose itself, the dialogue, the characters, the settings. It all just comes together to create this beautiful experience. I tore through the book in just a couple days and loved every second of it.

Even when they were quiet, people really were the noisiest animals.

Okay, y’all know I’m not usually one to gush, but I neeeed to gush about these boys. Adam is honestly perfect and I want to shrink him down and put him in my pocket and keep him safe from literally everything in this cruel world. Ronan is a Bad Boy and sulky and dark and loves his baby bird and is basically everything high school me would have loved. Gansey is living in his own world and somehow manages to offend everyone while also being a precious angel. And Noah is darling and cute and sad and I adore him. (Sidenote: There is NO WAY Adam does not know how to drive a stick shift and I refuse to believe that he doesn’t.)

Sometimes, Gansey felt like his live was made up of a dozen hours that he could never forget.

Of course Blue is the best character out of all of them. Part of me is like “you should try to be critical, is she a Mary Sue?” and the rest of me is like “who cares, she’s awesome and we deserve more female characters like her.” I want to say Blue reminds me of me, but she’s like a way cooler version of me, kind of. Anyway. Blue. She’s great.

Gansey looked up to them, and she saw in his face that he loved this place… She recognized the strange happiness that came from loving something without knowing why you did, that strange happiness that was sometimes so big it felt like sadness. It was the way she felt when she looked at the stars.

I cannot recommend this book enough. Stiefvater’s writing is just gorgeous and even if the story isn’t your thing, I think anyone can appreciate the talent she has. It’s worth a shot, anyway. To be honest, though, I didn’t love the ending. It was too abrupt and a little confusing to me–and I think I felt the same way the first time around. But I’ll see how it ties in to the rest of the series before I make a full judgment.

Okay, TRC fans: please let’s discuss. I am all about this book right now. And people who haven’t read TRC: read it so we can discuss, okay?

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Mini-Review Compilation #3


Paper Girls, Vol 1.

I think this graphic novel just moved a little too fast for me. I got really lost plot-wise and had no idea what was going on, so I found it difficult to enjoy. I plan on picking it up again around Halloween, as I’m sure I’ll enjoy it much more as a reread! I also plan on continuing the series, so I’ll make sure to get my hands on Volume 2 at some point. Definitely an interesting read, even if it is confusing!

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

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Six of Crows

There’s not much I can say about this that hasn’t already been said. I was worried I wouldn’t enjoy this as much as everyone else, but it truly lives up to the hype. Leigh Bardugo builds an incredible world and introduces us to a (mostly) lovable cast of characters. I have not felt this immersed in a book in ages. I cannot wait to read the sequel and you better believe I’m adding the rest of Bardugo’s books to my TBR.

Rating:⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Warcross

I went into this hoping it would be good, but not expecting a lot and it blew me away. This is one of those books that I couldn’t even stop to take notes during because I was so enthralled. I had to put it down a few times just to breathe. I adored this story every step of the way, but the end wrecked me. I had predicted half of the twist, but didn’t see the other half coming. I’m really intrigued to see how Lu continues this series!

Rating:⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thanks for reading! Have you read any of these books? If so, what were your thoughts?

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Wild Girls [review]


The Wild Girls by Pat Murphy
Published by Viking Juvenile on October 18, 2007
288 pages.
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
cw: 
alcoholism, domestic abuse

Goodreads IndieBound 

It is the early 1970s. Twelve-year-old Joan is sure that she is going to be miserable when her family moves from Connecticut to California. Then she meets a most unusual girl. Sarah prefers to be called Fox, and lives with her author dad in a rundown house in the middle of the woods. The two girls start writing their own stories together, and when one wins first place in a student contest, they find themselves recruited for a summer writing class taught by the equally unusual Verla Volante. The Wild Girls is about friendship, the power of story, and how coming of age means finding your own answers rather than simply taking adults on faith.

Wow, I cannot even begin to recommend this book enough. I don’t remember how it made its way onto my TBR list, but all I can say is that I’m glad it did and that I’m glad my Down the TBR Hole posts led me back to it! I’ll definitely be pushing this in the face of everyone who asks me for book recs for a while to come.

They were shocked. They were angry. They were afraid.

We were the wild girls who lived in the woods. We had won a contest, we had put on our war paint and nothing would ever be the same again. We were the wild girls, and they did not know what we might do.

The Wild Girls follows the blossoming relationship between two girls, Newt and Fox (or Joan and Sarah). Although neither of the girls were canonically queer, I definitely read them as such and saw a lot of myself in both of them. They spend their free time getting muddy in the woods and writing stories and see no point in fawning over boys or trying to fit in.

The book really teeters between middle grade and young adult. The writing is simple in some ways, but not boring by any means. Joan is surprisingly mature, but still childlike. The issues that come up are realistic and complex. In my opinion, readers of all ages will enjoy the story. I found myself captivated the entire time and finished it in just a couple sittings.

There is a solid plot running through the book, but the focus of the story is really on the relationships between characters. We see not only Newt and Fox, but also the people that Newt and Fox interact with on a regular basis. We get to see how they all fit together and how they grow to learn more about each other.

There were a couple things that did rub me the wrong way. The “not like other girls” trope was present for a bit at the beginning, but luckily faded away after that. There was a lot of mentions of “war paint” which felt like cultural appropriation, as did the brief talk of “spirit animals” by the college student who had studied a Hopi tribe–it wasn’t extensive, but it seemed a bit troublesome. Those were really the only issues I had with it, though.

Maybe the best part to me is that Murphy manages to create a happy story. Although some deep stuff goes down, the characters manage to make it through these events with the support of their friends and families. This was a soft, nourishing read–and I don’t know if I’ve ever described a book as nourishing before. I wanted to curl up with it and let it lull me to sleep. This is a book I wish I had been able to read years ago, when I was growing up feeling outcast and lonely and not knowing how to make it through life’s curves. It was beautiful.

I truly recommend this book to everyone, but particularly writers and particularly particularly young writers. Please read this book, y’all. It is wonderful.

Thank you for reading! Please let me know if you’ve read The Wild Girls and what your thoughts were on it. You can also find me on Twitter and Goodreads.
(Blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Mini-Review Compilation #2

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A Safe Girl to Love
cw: sexual assault, kink

This was such a lovely collection of short stories, focusing on trans women. Most of the stories had a pretty emotional impact on me, which says a lot about the writing. Each story is fairly quick to get through. While I enjoyed it, a lot of the characters kind of melded together for me and I felt that there was too much of an emphasis on a certain kind of sexuality (almost all of the sex was very rough, which could be triggering for some). I dropped one star for those two reasons.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

228296

Rosemary’s Baby
cw: sexual assault

I put this on my TBR after reading a post about it written by Bernadette @ The Spine Cracker and it did NOT disappoint. Bernadette recommended not reading the blurb beforehand, so I went in cold and I’d like to echo that suggestion. Do NOT read the blurb beforehand! It definitely gives away part of the plot and, imo, is a better read if you don’t know. Anyway, it was a great book, spooky without being scary scary. It actually pulled me out of a bit of a reading slump, which was great! Drags on a bit occasionally, but overall very good.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

35120598

Gena/Finn
cw: trauma, grief

Wow, this was adorable!! Definitely a quick, cute read (that gets surprisingly deep). It’s told entirely through blog posts, IMs, letters, etc. so I’d recommend reading a physical copy, as it didn’t translate well into an ebook version imo! My qualms are really just that it felt a little rushed in places and the end felt abrupt to me. [SPOILER] Finn, Charlie, and Gena are canonically a triad and no one can convince me otherwise, sorry not sorry!! [/SPOILER]

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thanks for reading! Have you read any of these books? If so, what were your thoughts? You can also find me on Twitter and Goodreads.