Review: Starfish

feda6ff582bd90c13e597298e4e5b4c2-ya-books-starfishStarfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Release Date: September 26, 2017

Publisher: Simon Pulse

[UPDATED] I’m changing themes to Trigger/Content warnings, as I’d like to start adding them to my reviews: attempted suicide, parental abuse, emotional abuse, sexual assault/abuse, anxiety

My Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Summary: Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin. But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.

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My Review

I’m going to start off by saying while I really, really appreciated this book, it was not an easy read. There were a few times where I had to put it down and do something else for a little bit before I could come back to it. Even though it was difficult, I think this fact made this book feel even more real. If I wasn’t invested in the characters, I wouldn’t have had a hard time reading it.

The portrayal of anxiety in this book is the most accurate I’ve ever read. I can’t even begin to explain how relatable the anxiety in this book was for me, since I suffer from anxiety and panic attacks. It meant a lot to me to see myself reflected so strongly in a character, and to hear her story told beautifully and accurately. I also appreciated that this book didn’t follow the trope of “love cures all” (mental illness). Our main character is going to struggle with these things for the rest of her life, and falling in love won’t cure that.

This was also the first time I’ve really seen truly awful, but realistic emotional abuse depicted on the page. I’m lucky enough to have parents who love me more than anything, and they are in NO way like Kiko’s mother, but I can see parallels with how Kiko’s mother treats her and how a lot of parents believe they can treat their children. I can relate to the feeling of never being good enough for your parents, and being constantly anxious that you’re going to let someone down. Seeing the relationship between Kiko and her mother was fascinating, though also incredibly frustrating and painful. My only complaint is that both Kiko’s parents seemed a little bit flat, and I wish their characters had been developed a bit more.

I also wish Kiko’s relationships with her brothers could have been explored more. We did get a bit towards the end, but I wish there had been more of a close relationship between the siblings. It would have made some things in the plot even more interesting to examine and explore, particularly with Kiko being the middle child.

By far my favorite aspect of this book was the depiction of Kiko’s art. I want all of these pieces made and hung in my room immediately. I loved watching Kiko’s art develop along with her character, and the descriptions of her art at the end of each chapter made the emotional impact so much stronger. This combined with the lovely writing style broke my heart so many times, and I wish I could have seen the art physically on the page, rather than just in words.

Another aspect that I loved about this story was the discussion of race, and how racism can be internalized and institutionalized. Racism isn’t always one race against another, you can have racist ideas about your own race, depending on how you are raised to view your culture. It was so intriguing to watch Kiko discover her own culture for the first time, and really view it in a positive way.

Apart from all this, I absolutely adored Jamie and Kiko’s chosen family. All of the characters that Kiko meets along her journey are so supportive and loving, and it made me really happy to see her come into her own, away from all the horrors of her biological family’s life.

-Sky

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NaNoWriMo: Weeks 1 and 2

Hello!

NaNoWriMo is fully under way now. It has been a busy two weeks. Which is why my “weekly” update went completely out the window. I had family visit from out-of-state all last week, so that severely cut into my writing/reading time. Nonetheless, I’ve gotten some writing done, and I still want to update you!

So, first off, I wanted to talk about my novel, as well as my goals for my novel. I’m writing a Young Adult contemporary, with three alternating points of view. My three main POV characters are twins Noelle and Joshua, and Noelle’s best friend Ireland. My story is loosely based on a side character’s story in Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not, and it’s been rattling around in my brain for a couple of years now. The idea (for the ending) came to me at least five or six years ago, but I never had a story to go along with it until I read MHTN.

A basic summary of my characters (plus some basic plot) – Joshua is bisexual, and he and his boyfriend Taylor (who he’s been with in secret, as he’s not “out” yet) have just broken up and decided to explore other options. His particular “other option” that he ends up with is his twin sister’s best friend, Ireland. Noelle, meanwhile is finally getting together with her long-time friend Austin, but she’s exploring what being in and wanting to be in  a relationship means for her, as she’s (questioning)-romantic asexual. Austin is an African-American boy who grew up down the street from Noelle and Josh, and he’s also a swimmer who suffers from chronic pain due to a swimming injury. I think that’s all I want to say about it for now, other than I’m really exciting that I’m finally putting this story into words and not just hiding it away in my brain.

Now – on to my GOALS! So, obviously, the point of NaNoWriMo is to put 50,000 words on paper in 30 days. I am, of course, trying to meet this goal, but it’s not one of my huge priorities. This is the first time I’ve tried to write ANYTHING fiction beyond the length of a short story, so I’m using this as an opportunity to really discover and explore my voice as a fiction writer, rather than just as an academic writer. My major goal for this NaNoWriMo beyond that is to get the first 1/3 of my novel done, as that’s the section of my novel that I have really fleshed out. I’m planning on having about 12 chapters in this section, and so far my chapters have been 1500-2500 words, so even if I meet this goal, I most likely won’t hit 50,000 words, and that’s ok. I’m trying not to pressure myself, and force myself to write when I’m not in the mood. I really want to try to enjoy this writing process, and if I’m stressing about hitting the word count, I won’t enjoy it. I also think the 50,000 word-count goal is pretty unrealistic, just because this is one of the busiest times of school for me.

Anyway, now that you know what some of my goals are, where am I now????

Based on the 50,000 word goal, I should be (on day 14) at 23,333 words. Yeah…. That’s not a thing. I’m currently at 10,044 words, so I’m WAYYY behind. I was really proud of myself because I was only one day behind for the first week, but then I basically didn’t write anything for the entire second week while my family was visiting, so now I’m REALLY behind. Again, I’m trying not to stress about this, so while I will still try to catch up as much as possible, I’m not going to pressure myself to finish or write when I’m in the mood to do something else. The fact that I’m writing anything at all is a miracle, so I’m just happy about that. As far as my goal of finishing the first 1/3 of my novel (12 chapters), I’m currently on CH 6, so I’m actually on track in terms of that.

How is your NaNoWriMo novel coming along? What is it about? Have you done NaNoWriMo before? Tell me in the comments! (Sincerely, a newbie who is FREAKING out)

-Sky

October Wrap-up and NaNoWriMo???

Hello!

I’ve returned! October was midterms month so blogging kind of fell by the wayside. Oops. I’m back though! (I hope.) I’m going to start off with my wrap-up, and stay tuned for some NaNoWriMo news at the end! Despite midterm hell, I actually had an amazing reading month, so this is going to be a long one. Bear with me.

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There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins: ★★★★ I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would, because I literally never read horror books. You can read my full review of this here.

Kaleidoscope Song by Fox Benwell: I don’t have much to say about this one at the moment, because I haven’t even decided what I’m going to rate it yet. Stay tuned for a full review of this coming… eventually?

The Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, and Maureen Johnson: ★★★★ Most of these stories were just ok, but I love Magnus and his sass, and I loved listening to this audiobook. The narrator’s brought him to life in such a fun way, and I got a lot of nostalgic feelings after jumping back into the Shadowhunter world.

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Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy: ★★★★ I really enjoyed this book. It was refreshing to read a contemporary with a fat main character, but there wasn’t anything about this book that blew me away.

Between the World and Me by Ta Nehisi Coates: ★★★★★ Listening to the audiobook for this is definitely the right way to read this book. The author reads it, so he’s reading his own letters to his son and it adds so much more emotion and truth to the words he’s put to paper. A beautiful, beautiful book.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: ★★★★ I was pleasantly surprised by this. I love the show Penny Dreadful, and my favorite character in that show is based on the original monster. I loved finally getting the real story, and this is definitely one that I would love to analyze in a literature class.

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Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng: ★★★★ It took me a while to get into this one, and there wasn’t a whole lot of plot. However, the character studies done throughout this book were fascinating, and I loved how the past interwove with the present, filling in the puzzle pieces one at a time.

The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket: ★★★ I think I would have liked this one more had I reread it before I watched the Netflix series, but it was done so well that I ended up being a little disappointed while reading it. Still a quick, fun read though.

The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket: ★★★★★ This might be my favorite book in the series. I loved all of the new characters, and it was nice to finally get some answers.

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The Ersatz Elevator by Lemony Snicket: ★★★★ This one was so much fun to read. I loved getting to see what was “in” and “out”, but parsley soda sounds absolutely DISGUSTING.

The Vile Village by Lemony Snicket: ★★★ I think this one is my least favorite in the series. For some reason, it couldn’t hold my attention, and I ended up switching over to the audiobook so that I could multitask and do something else.

The Hostile Hospital by Lemony Snicket: ★★★★ This is the first book that actually, genuinely scared me. I’m not particularly squeamish or anything, but this is the first time that these books took a very dark turn and things went downhill very quickly.

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The Carnivorous Carnival by Lemony Snicket: ★★★★ The series continued to get darker with this one, and I absolutely loved it. I finished this one at 1 in the morning because I wasn’t able to put it down. I had to finish it before I went to bed.

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman: ★★★★ I’m not going to say too much about this one, because I am going to do a review soon, but this book was beautiful and painful and painfully relatable. It gave me a lot of feelings.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust: ★★★★ I don’t know how many of you know – but I did NOT like Fairest by Marissa Meyer. This book felt like everything I had wanted from that book and at the same time felt like a Maleficent retelling. I really loved both Mina and Lynet. They were such interesting and complex characters, and their stories were achingly beautiful.

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The Slippery Slope by Lemony Snicket: ★★★★★ This book was amazing. I loved all of the character development that we got to see, and I loved learning more about what was actually happening in this series.

The Grim Grotto by Lemony Snicket: ★★★★★ ASOUE just gets better and better. I absolutely flew through this book, and I couldn’t wait to continue on to the final books in this series.

Dear Ijeawele or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: ★★★★★ This is the second work by Adichie that I’ve read, and it was everything I wanted from a letter written on how to raise a child to be a feminist. I loved Adichie’s commentary on a mother and father’s role in raising their child, and how being a girl comes with its own challenges that doesn’t necessarily come with being a boy.

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The Penultimate Peril by Lemony Snicket: ★★★★★ Again, this series kept getting better and better. This is another favorite of mine, and it made me way more emotional than I was expecting.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer: ★ Welcome to the literal most unpopular opinion ever. I DNF’d Mara Dyer. The initial premise sounded really interesting, and I went into it wanting to like it. But OH MY LORD. Do I hate Noah Shaw. How does anyone like him? He was so pretentious and rude and horrible. Wow. Ok. I’m calm it’s fine. But WOW do I hate him.

The End by Lemony Snicket: ★★★★★  I am so happy that I finally finished this series, and this ending did not disappoint. I wish we had gotten a little bit more closure, but I think this end fit the series very well.

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A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess: ★★★★ I went into this a little bit skeptical, after having read some negative reviews, but I ended up enjoying it. I can see where people drew parallels to other series, but the only thing that bothered me was the “scars hurting when danger is near” plot point. I loved all of the characters, and the plot was surprisingly fast-paced.

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If you’ve made it all the way down here, congratulations. You are one dedicated blog reader. So, NaNoWriMo 2017 has officially begun, and I am participating for the first time EVER! I’m writing a contemporary young adult fiction novel that is loosely based on a character from Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not. It’s going to be very emotional and I am ready.

I’m planning on doing weekly writing updates here (hopefully every Tuesday, but let’s be real scheduling is not my forte), where I’ll talk about my word count, the planning and writing process, and probably just general freak outs over how off schedule I’m bound to become. Hopefully it will be entertaining for y’all!

-Sky

Review: There’s Someone Inside Your House

15797848There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

Release Date: September 26, 2017

Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers

Themes: ya, horror, bullying, romance

My Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Summary: One-by-one, the students of Osborne High are dying in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, the dark secrets among them must finally be confronted. International bestselling author Stephanie Perkins returns with a fresh take on the classic teen slasher story that’s fun, quick-witted, and completely impossible to put down.

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My Review

I received this book as an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

I’m going to start off by saying that I NEVER read horror books. Ever. I can handle horror films occasionally, but I don’t really enjoy them, and I think I’ve only read one other horror book in my entire life. This is a Stephanie Perkins book, so how could I not pick it up? How could I resist?

This book certainly did not disappoint. It was TERRIFYING. Fair warning for this that there is a ton of guts and gore. This book is not for the squeamish. The horror aspects of this book were well-exectuted – though I can’t really compare it to other books of the genre – it was surprising, suspenseful, and creepy. I wasn’t expecting the things that happened to happen, and I liked that we got to read from different perspectives, so the murders didn’t come as second-hand information.

On top of the super creepy plot, we also got the classic Stephanie Perkins romance. I forgot how well Stephanie Perkins writes cute and fluffy romances. I loved Ollie and Makani so much, and the character development between these two was actually amazing. I was expecting there to be a huge focus on the murder mystery, but we got a lot of character development and romance, too.

There was also a good amount of attention spent on Makani’s friends. While there wasn’t as much character development as there was for Makani and Ollie, there was still more than I expected. I also loved how supportive all the characters were. Even though they have their ups and downs, they definitely love each other, and getting to see them interact and joke around was a joy.

Overall, this book was surprisingly enjoyable, since I’m not really into horror. I liked the scary bits more than I was expecting to, but I appreciated that the romance offered a break from the creepy blood and guts sections. Stephanie Perkins is definitely still one of my favorite authors, and this book is no exception.

-Sky

Review: Odd and True

28078791Odd and True by Cat Winters

Release Date: September 12, 2017

Publisher: Amulet Books

Themes: family, sisters, disability, ya, fantasy, historical fiction, monsters

My Rating: ★★★★1/2

Goodreads Summary: Trudchen grew up hearing Odette’s stories of their monster-slaying mother and a magician’s curse. But now that Tru’s older, she’s starting to wonder if her older sister’s tales were just comforting lies, especially because there’s nothing fantastic about her own life—permanently disabled and in constant pain from childhood polio. In 1909, after a two-year absence, Od reappears with a suitcase supposedly full of weapons and a promise to rescue Tru from the monsters on their way to attack her. But it’s Od who seems haunted by something. And when the sisters’ search for their mother leads them to a face-off with the Leeds Devil, a nightmarish beast that’s wreaking havoc in the Mid-Atlantic states, Tru discovers the peculiar possibility that she and her sister—despite their dark pasts and ordinary appearances—might, indeed, have magic after all.

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My Review

Cat Winters’s books are always pleasant surprises for me. They’re never quite what I expected, but I love them anyway. Odd and True was no exception to this rule. I went in expecting a sister version of Supernatural, and while that was similar to what I got, there was a lot more focus on the family and the relationship between Od and Tru than I was expecting.

I absolutely loved Od and Tru, but I think Od was my favorite. Since we were only getting Tru’s perspective in the present, I felt she wasn’t quite as developed as Od, so I’m not sure  she had as much of a personality as Od, but I still loved her nonetheless. I also appreciated the disability rep. While I don’t use a cane, I’ve been considering getting one for about a year now, so it was nice to see Tru’s disability on the page, and how it didn’t stop her from doing all the things she wanted to do.

The pacing of the book could be a little slow at times, particularly in the present, but I loved how Winters wove Od and Tru’s chapters together, so we got bits and pieces of the past that helped make the present make sense, rather than dumping it on us all at once. I wish we’d gotten to know a little bit more about Od and Tru’s mother, but I also wasn’t a huge fan of her, so maybe I don’t. Mixed feelings.

My favorite thing about this book by far were the characters. Od and Tru have such a complicated past, and I absolutely loved Uncle Magnus. Morally gray characters with a heart of gold are the best. I also thought Cy was a very interesting character, even though we didn’t get to see much of him and he wasn’t very likable. Another thing I really appreciated about this book was that everything was wrapped up, and I felt like I got a lot more closure than I was expecting. I don’t feel like there were any loose ends that were left hanging, which is something that I usually notice in books like this.

Overall, while this book wasn’t quite what I expected, Cat Winters does not disappoint. I fell completely in love with the characters, and I loved exploring the dynamics of this weird, fascinating, and “marvilus” family.

Review: Mr. 60%

51bbq4kobhl-_sx333_bo1204203200_Mr. 60% by Clete Barrett Smith

Release Date: August 22, 2017

Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers

Themes: cancer, drugs, family, friendship, school

My Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Summary: Matt Nolan is the high school drug dealer, deadbeat, and soon-to-be dropout according to everyone at his school. His vice principal is counting down the days until Mr. 60% (aka Matt) finally flunks out and is no longer his problem. What no one knows is the only reason Matt sells drugs is to take care of his uncle Jack, who is dying of cancer. Meet Amanda. The overly cheerful social outcast whose optimism makes Matt want to hurl. Stuck as partners during an after-school club (mandatory for Matt), it’s only a matter of time until Amanda discovers Matt’s secret. But Amanda is used to dealing with heartbreak, and she’s determined to help Matt find a way to give life 100 percent.

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My Review

I received this book as an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

I was not expecting this to make me such an emotional wreck. I knew it was going to be emotional, but not THAT emotional. This book was beautiful, and packed a powerful punch for a book that’s less than 200 pages.

Matt was such an interesting character, because he never tried to be anything he wasn’t. He didn’t pretend, didn’t do anything just to do it. He only did things that were absolutely necessary, and new exactly what he needed to prioritize, and what was important to him. He wasn’t trying to hide anything from anybody, but he didn’t flaunt himself either. He just flew under the radar as much as possible.

loved Amanda. I so rarely read about characters who are fat and are completely unabashed about that fact. It was so refreshing to read about a confident, happy, fat girl. I wish we’d gotten to know her a little bit more, and gotten to see more of her past, rather than just the little teasers we did get.

The writing was good, though there wasn’t anything particularly special about it. It did the job and served its purpose, but I don’t think flowery writing would have fit very well. It reminded me a little bit of John Green’s writing, not flowery but still utterly profound, with some pretty amazing one-liners stuck in there.

The ending felt a little rushed to me, and I feel like this book could have been a little bit longer, so we could have gotten to know some of the characters a little bit more. I would have like to see more of Matt’s mother, and more of her story and relationship with Matt. I felt like her story wasn’t quite addressed enough for me, though I understand what was trying to be done by leaving her out of the story.

I requested this book on a whim, because I saw a raving review, and I’m so glad I decided to pick it up. It’s an amazing and heart-breaking story, all folded up into a short, but powerful book.

-Sky

September Wrap-Up

Hello!

Another month come and gone in 2017. I can’t believe it’s almost over. I’m only a month into school and I’m already ready for it to be over. Taking six classes was not a very smart idea, but what are you going to do? Considering how busy I’ve been I’ve had a surprisingly good reading month.

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A Tyranny of Petticoats edited by Jessica Spotswood: ★★★★ As with all anthologies I read, these stories were pretty hit or miss for me. There were some that I absolutely loved, but most were just ok. The biggest issue that I saw was a lot of the stories seemed like they should have been full novels, and didn’t fit in such a small amount of pages.

The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett: ★★★★ Pratchett was unable to finish this book before he passed away, and it showed. It was still an amazing book, but it definitely needed more polishing to really live up to the expectations I had after reading I Shall Wear Midnight.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman: ★★★ This one was alright, but it says something that it took me almost 2 months to read it. I’ve noticed a trend with Gaiman’s adult books – I don’t connect with the characters and the plot isn’t great, but the writing itself makes it (mostly) worth it.

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Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys: ★★★ While this one was enjoyable, it’s definitely my least favorite Sepetys book. I loved most of the characters, but the plot and the writing didn’t seem to match the depth and quality of the characters. It could be confusing at times, and I also don’t feel like much happened until the last 1/4 of the book.

On the Fence by Kasie West: ★★★★★ I wasn’t expecting this book to make me so emotional. I’ve also discovered I love reading books that have good sibling relationships. I really appreciated that this was a contemporary that focused a lot on family relationships in addition to the romance.

The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord: ★★★★★ I’m just over here dead on the floor devoid of all feeling because this book destroyed me. Don’t mind me. Emery Lord is definitely a new favorite author, and this book is the perfect example of a contemporary that is sweet and adorable but will also leave your heart shattered on the ground.

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The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco: ★★ This was a DNF at 32%. I put off reading this book for MONTHS because I’d seen some negative reviews, and unfortunately it was with good reason. The writing was much too flowery, and I didn’t really connect with any of the characters. You can read my full review here.

The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown: ★★★ I definitely want to read more books about witches in the future, but unfortunately that was the most interesting this about this book. The writing was good, but nothing special, and the plot could sometimes be confusing. You can read my full review here.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë: ★★★★ The best way I can describe this is that it is a combination of The Great Gatsby and Anna Karenina. The characters are mostly horrible people, and not all that relatable, but you end up fascinated by them anyway. My biggest complaint was I wasn’t a huge fan of the multiple POVs outside the main characters – I wish we’d gotten to read directly from Heathcliff and Cathy’s perspectives.

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Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller: ★★★★ After reading some negative reviews of this book, I was a little nervous going into it. I ended up getting hooked from the very first chapter, and loved it all the way to the end. You can read my full review here.

Mr 60% by Clete Barrett Smith: ★★★★ I picked this one up completely on a whim, and despite it being less than 200 pages, it packed a powerful punch. I was very emotional after finishing this. My full review for this will be up soon – stay tuned!

Satellite by Lee Davidson: ★ DNF at p 60. I am so disappointed in this book. I wanted to love it so much, but within the first few pages I could tell I wouldn’t. Sixty pages in I gave up because every sentence had some form of cliché, YA trope, or harmful stereotype and I was just done. I have better things to do than read books that irk me so much.

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A Feast for Crows by George RR Martin: ★★★★ Definitely my least favorite book thus far, but still enjoyable. I found myself falling in love with both Jaime and Brienne’s chapters, but Cersei and all the secondary characters just couldn’t hold my attention. The fourth star here is honestly added mostly because of the last five or six chapters which really intensified the plot.

Odd and True by Cat Winters: ★★★★ Cat Winters’s books are always a pleasant surprise for me. They’re never quite what I’m expecting, but I love them all the more for that. I went in expecting a creepy horror/monster hunt, and got one of the most dynamic and beautiful family relationships I’ve ever read. My full review for this will be up soon – so stay tuned!

The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket: ★★★★ Finally getting around to re/reading this series, and I’ll be continuing on next month to finish it. I love Violet, Klaus, and Sunny and all their adventure. Lemony Snicket’s writing is amazing, and listening to this on audiobook was a joy.

 

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The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket: ★★★★ The first time I read this, I gave it 3 stars, but this time it got bumped up to four. I forgot how much I loved Uncle Monty, and I wish there were more of him.

The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket: ★★★★ So far I think this is my favorite of the series. The grammar references and play-on-words made my English-major brain very happy. I also loved Aunt Josephine and how ridiculous she is.

What books did you read this month? Have you read ASOUE? If so – which was your favorite? Tell me in the comments!

-Sky