Hello lovelies! How are you? I feel like I haven’t talked to you in ages and I’ve really missed this! I think this is the third, unannounced break I’ve taken recently and the reason for that’s pretty simple, I just haven’t felt like blogging. I’m a big believer in taking a break from activities you’re not feeling passionate about anymore and only coming back to them when you really, really want to. Or, if that never happens – to re-evaluate if that activity is for you anymore.
If I’m being completely honest, at first I didn’t miss blogging at all. It felt great having all this extra time on my hands, that’s usually taking up by blog stuff. It felt great not having to push myself to do something I just didn’t feel like doing. But after a while, I started missing it. I missed the process of coming up with ideas and turning them into posts. I missed interacting with you guys, reading your posts and chatting about books. I’m so happy I took this break, because it showed me that blogging is still very much for me and resparked my excitement for it.
Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, we should probably talk about books right? I read a lot of books in April, so here’s my latest wrap-up ever!
The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Serpent King is like a perfect album. It’s got songs you sing at the top of your lungs with you friends in cars and songs you listen to alone in your room when you can’t fall asleep. It’s got songs for falling in love and songs for falling apart. It’s got songs to break your heart and song to gently piece it back together. If you couldn’t tell, this book took me on an emotional rollers coaster and I’m still in my feelings. I’m in love with Zentner’s writing style, I love the way he’ll go from hilarious banter to poignant emotional insight on the same page and have both seem so authentic and real. But my favorite thing about this one is the characters and their friendship. It was so pure and lovely. I actually closed the book and thought aw, I’ll really miss these kids. This book is a beautiful love letter to ordinary places, and extraordinary friendships. I loved it a lot.
The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
After reading a lot of books that were objectively good, but didn’t have an impact on me, I picked up this book about a young Indian woman’s journey to Kashmir and it stole my heart. We follow Shalini on her quest to find a man who used to be an important figure in her and her mother’s life. Her search brings her in contact with several people who’s lives have been destroyed or altered forever by the Kashmir conflict. This was a slow burn, but once I settled into the pace – I found it hypnotic. All star ratings are subjective, but this is an especially subjective 5 star rating for me. This is by no means a perfect book and I’m not blind to it’s flaws. But it made me care about it’s characters in that aching, desperate way that makes you want to reach into the book and fix it. I don’t know why I love books that demand so much space in my heart that finishing them leaves me hollow for days, but I do. I really, really do.
A Game of Thrones by George R.R Martin ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
For reasons I can’t explain I decided to start re-reading ASOIAF a couple of weeks before GoT started airing, completely overestimating my ability to be invested in story-lines I already know the outcome of while watching ALL THIS SHIT GO DOWN. (I’ve been on page 42 of book 2 all month, thank you for asking). I did manage to finish the first one before the show started airing though and it was a very interesting reading experience. Knowing what the characters have been through and where they are now adds an extra layer to the first book, every scene and interaction is weighted with a deeper meaning. Having watched the show also makes everything feel a little more vivid, the settings are easier to visualize, the side characters are easier to keep track of. But on the other hand, this is a book and a series that’s known for it’s unpredictable plots and shocking twists so of course knowing them all does take away some of the books impact. Overall, I still enjoyed this more the second time though!
“For a long time I shined my light for someone other than me. But not anymore. Now I shine bright for me. You can create light even when everyone’s left you behind because that’s what you do. It’s what I do.” -Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee
Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Can I just say that the title of this book didn’t prepare me for what this book is actually about? Yes, it’s a fun and cozy contemporary set in a small town. Yes, the plot involves someone famous. But at the core this book is all about friendship and I love the tight knit group of friends it revolves around so, so much. Especially the girls: Sophie, the enthusiastic and loving main character, Britt, the runner with sharp edges and a big heart and Flora, the softest ray of sunshine. I love the way Emma Mills writes friendships, all the interactions and conversations felt so authentic and natural. Not to mention, her dialogue’s hilarious. While I adored all the friendships and small town summer vibes, the romance was so lackluster I kept hoping they’d just stay friends.
First & Then by Emma Mills ⭐⭐⭐⭐
When I first started reading this book I was disappointed because it didn’t have the instant charm of Famous in a Small Town and the protagonist kind of rubbed me the wrong way. She had big slut-shamey vibes (like referring to the girls in her PE class as prostitots) and I’m not about that life. BUT, and yes we’re using capital letters because this is a big but, Devon’s judgmental attitude is totally called out by other girls and she actually LEARNS from that experience. She changes her attitude and actually befriends some of the girls she’s been judging. I love her character arc so much. Needless to say, she grew on me. In fact this whole book grew on me and now I think I might like it even more than Famous in a Small Town? The romance is definitley at least 90% more swoon worthy.
Open Road Summer by Emery Lord ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Open Road Summer’s about a girl who tries to escape her problems, by joining her country-star BFF on tour for the summer. To quote her love interest Reagan is “complicated and hard-shelled and impossible”. In other words? She’s just my type and I loved her fiercely. Well, most of the time. Because the one problem I have with this book is that Reagan’s inner monologue is riddled with girl hate, hypocritical slut shaming and I’m SAD about it. This book has one of the most wonderful, supportive, loving and positive female friendships I’ve ever seen in a book. I don’t understand how Reagan can be such an awesome friend to Dee, then turn around and be so awful to other girls??? I felt betrayed. But I still loved her, cause I can’t not love messy teenage girls. It’s not in my DNA. I really, really wish she would’ve realized she’s wrong to think about other girls that way though.
When the Sky Fell on Splendor by Emily Henry ⭐⭐⭐⭐
April was the month of friendship and found families for me and this book gets both to perfection. It follows a group of five teens who call themselves “the ordinary” after they experience something extraordinary. The plot’s driven by the their quest to understand what they witnessed and how it’s affecting them. I can’t say I was always completely engaged by the plot itself, cause it’s pretty far out of my wheelhouse. But I got so invested in the characters. If you enjoy reading about friendship groups that feel like family, you need this one in your life. The dynamics of this group is everything. On the outside they’re all quick banter and corny jokes, but underneath they’re all heart. They’ve all been through so much and there’s a lot of repressed feelings and hard shells – but they all love each other so much and will do anything to protect each other. Also who wouldn’t want to read a book with characters that are referred to as Goth grandpa and a technicolor beach boy?
Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee by Jeff Zentner ⭐⭐⭐⭐
I love the female friendship in this book. I love that it’s a book that centers female friendship. I love the family dynamics. I love the all the weird jokes and pop culture references. I love the romance (More pancake loving, soft MMA-fighter buys, please) But holy smokes the dialogue in this book was too much for me, Delia and Josie sound like the same exact, super weird, sarcastic, pop-culture obsessed person and they’re not. They’re different people with different dreams, passions, backgrounds and personalities. One one hand I feel nitpicky for pointing this out, cause I’ve totally had those intense teenage friendships where you hang out 24/7 and almost develop your own language. But it just didn’t feel realistic or natural to me. Also, the plot took a very weird turn with their Florida horror con mafia adventures and I just felt less invested by the end.
Normal People by Sally Rooney ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Rooney’s debut, Conversations with Friends, was one of my favorite reads last year and this one didn’t quite live up to it. That’s down to my personal preferences though and not the quality of the writing, which is still superb. Rooney is a master at crafting complex characters that feel completely authentic and exploring their dynamic inner lives with great nuance. I don’t think I’ve read any other author who puts as much emotional insight and honesty into their writing, or who captures the interactions between people with so much clarity. You might not always like her characters, but it’s very difficult not to understand them. At least her main characters, which is my one complaint about this book. It’s so intently focused on Connell and Marianne, that some of the side characters (especially Marianne’s brother) become too one dimensional in comparison. As for my personal preference, I found this book a little too bleak. I can’t say I enjoyed being in Connell and Marianne’s heads.
“After all, the night sky is a mess of stars, a million fireflies crammed into infinity. But the mess becomes a map once you know how to use it.” – Open Road Summer
The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan ⭐⭐⭐⭐
This is the first book that’s made me cry both happy and sad tears, so maybe it’s fitting that I have very mixed feelings about it. First of all, it’s a very powerful and harrowing read. There’s extreme homophobia and the main character suffers horrific abuse because her family won’t accept her sexuality. It’s truly heartbreaking to read. But this book isn’t all pain and suffering, it has it’s light and sweet moments too. I loved reading about Bengali culture, the clothes, the food, the music, the traditions, and I adored Rukhsana’s grandmother. She’s also an abuse survivor and such a wonderful woman. My mixed feelings are mostly towards the ending. I don’t want to spoil anything, but considering the severity of went down, I think some things were resolved a little too easily. I also wasn’t very impressed with the writing style, there was so much telling instead of showing and the dialogue often felt stiff and unnatural.
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie ⭐⭐⭐
Home Fire is an Antigone retelling with an all Muslim cast set mostly in London. I was expecting to love this one, but I didn’t end up feeling very strongly towards it at all. The five central characters each narrate one part of the novel and I surprised myself by finding the Creon character by far the most interesting. His thought process and moral dilemmas were fascinating to read about. I didn’t really connect emotionally with any of the other characters. Even when they were experiences extreme emotions like grief, anger or betrayal I couldn’t feel it. It’s an interesting read, which explores important and current themes, but it wasn’t one I ever felt desperate to pick up or had a hard time putting down.
Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch ⭐⭐⭐
Often when I pick up YA contemporaries I get so much more than I bargained for, that’s not the case with this one. It’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect from a summery YA contemporary. It’s got a cool heroine, a handsome love interest, some funny moments, some sad moments, some beautiful Irish scenery (ok, that’s maybe not what you expect from every YA contemporary, but you know what I mean), friendships and family. I would’ve enjoyed it more if the main characters brother, Ian, wasn’t the absolute worst. No spoilers, but he spends most of the book being a dick to his sister over something that happened to her. I’d care a lot more about the two them working through their issues if Ian didn’t fundamentally suck as a person.
“If you’re going to live, you might as well do painful, brave, and beautiful things.” -The Serpent King
Driving by Starlight by Anat Deracine ⭐⭐⭐
I had high expectations for this is a coming of age story set in Riyadh and unfortunately, they weren’t met. I just couldn’t get into the flow of the story, The writing is very descriptive and informative when it comes to things like Saudi politics, laws, education system etc. But it’s lacking in actual description of places, people, feelings – all the things that make a story come to life. A lot of plot points seemed crammed into the narrative simply to give the author a chance to explain a certain law or issue, which didn’t make for a very cohesive story. I did learn a lot about the issues Saudi girls and women face, but when I read fiction I want a good story, not just a good lesson.
The Circle by Mats Strandberg and Sara Bergmark Elfgren ⭐⭐⭐
Scandinavian YA tends to be less than amazing. So when you get a Swedish Buffy-esque tale of teenage girls with magical powers fighting evil demons in their high school – I understand why it becomes popular. But if you’ve read a lot of YA, which I have, it’s impossible not to be bothered by what a mess of cliches and tropes this is. It’s like it wanted to touch every teen issue: bullying, eating disorder, self harm, drinking, drugs, bad relationship etc. But more for the edgy aesthetic, than to actually explore any of them in a meaningful way. On the positive side it’s a fast paced and entertaining, if slightly predictable read.
Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart ⭐⭐
This book is so bland. The main character has the worst case of badass as a personality type I’ve ever seen. Her hobbies include hitting people in the head with blunt objects and gazing at city lights from the top of tall buildings, while feeling vaguely bad about hitting people in the head with blunt objects. I don’t know what this book was trying to do, but I’m pretty sure it failed. It’s not thrilling, it’s not original, it’s not even very entertaining. It’s told backwards, which might have been interesting – if it hadn’t been so awkwardly done I saw every twist coming and found my self constantly confused about the timeline. I’m mostly sad about this huge waste of anti-heroine potential, someone give me a teenage Amy Dunne please.