Mini Review Monday- The books I was too lazy to write full reviews about

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I am starting to understand the burden of feeling like you need to review every single book you read, and that is just not plausible. I mean it totally is, but it would take a lot of time away from actually reading more books because truthfully, sometimes, I just do not have a whole lot to say about a book after I’ve finished it. Here are a few books that I struggled to come up with full reviews for.

 

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Tyler Johnson Was Here (Goodreads link)

After the popularity of The Hate U Give (by Angie Thomas) last year, more and more people having been seeking out similar stories, and I am not an exception. Like THUG, Tyler Johnson is about a black family who is dealing with the death of a child due to police brutality. This is a hot button topic at the moment in the US and many authors have stepped up to write about their experiences and thoughts on the subject. I personally have now read at least four books with similar subject matter, and it still haunts and shocks me every time. These are issues that are sadly customary for this community, and need to be addressed. Unfortunately, TJWH did not quite pack the same punch that THUG did, though. It actually made me feel tense throughout the first half of the book because I knew that the brother gets shot, but that scene doesn’t happen for quite a while. If you liked THUG or books featuring similar content, this is definitely worth reading. It was quick- I read it in about 2 days.

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The Night Circus (Goodreads link)

Here it is! Don’t be mad at me guys. I just cannot drum up anything to say about this book. I have tried now for several months, and NOTHING! I got and finished it last December, so I read through it pretty quickly, but I still don’t have much to say about it. I know a lot of people swear by it, and adore it but I thought it was just ok. I don’t know what I was expecting but it was definitely something different. I didn’t feel like the “love story” everyone raves about was particularly astonishing, nor did I really lose myself in the circus. I think that there was just too much description, to the point of distraction. I couldn’t appreciate the story, or the world, because I was too distracted by the details within it’s pages. The Night Circus absolutely is a slow burn, and takes a lot of imagination to visualize a lot of what was going on. I loved the concept, I loved the setting, and the characters were all very interesting, but didn’t feel connected to each other, the way that I would have liked. I know this is an unpopular opinion, but I also know that it is long overdue to write about this book. I do still want to revisit it in the future, see if I get anything else out of it when I am not rushing through the story. If anything else, there were some pretty great quotes there at the end.

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Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein by Jennifer Roy with Ali Fadhil (Goodreads Link)

For such a short book, this one took me a bit to get into! It wasn’t that the story wasn’t good, because it was. But I was just not in the mood to start this one. That is probably why I ended up with not a whole lot to say about it, once it was finished. I love historical fictions, and I really love (especially recently) reading about different parts of history, particularly parts that are not well covered or talked about here in America. This follows a young boy who grows up in Iraq under the rein of Saddam Hussein. Our main character, Ali, already lived through the first war (the one between Iraq and Iran) and is preparing for another with the most powerful country in the world, the United States. This takes place in a small town near the border of Kuwait, in 1991. I think I personally would have liked a little more information to beef this story up a bit more, but I think that it being a quick read for kids helps it’s shelf life and interest level. I love all the unique “own voice” stories that are coming out right now, and that they are spilling over into middle grade novels, which honestly is the most important place for them.

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The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani (Goodreads link)

Like the story mentioned above, this is a middle grade, own voice story about a young girl who grew up during a historical time that is rarely talked about in the US. Nisha tells her family’s struggle through letters to her dead mother. Nisha struggles with talking to others, so for her birthday, their cook Kazi gifts her a diary, and encourages her to write everything down. She records her family’s encounters with hatred, violence, and a move none of them wanted to make, all because of their religious following. Up to this point, India (ruled by the British) was tolerant of the three main religions that resided within it’s borders. Once the British relinquish rule of India, it decides to split itself, allowing the Muslims to reside in the new Pakistan, and the Hindus in what is left of India. Not only does the author tackle a rarely talked about part of history, but also a child’s internal struggle with herself and her words. This unique perspective on what was supposed to be viewed as a peaceful, and celebrated part of Indian history, packs quite the punch.

Remembering the mistakes of the past will hopefully create a more enlightened, tolerant, and peaceful future. Accepting differences has always been a great challenge for humanity played out in thousands of ways. This was one way.” – Veera Hiranandani (Author’s Note, pg. 263-264)

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I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez (Goodreads Link)

Yikes. That about sums up my thoughts on this book. It was one of those books that I had to push really hard to get through, it was on the cusp of a DNF. The story was all over the place. First the author punches you in the face with the death of the main character’s sister IN THE FIRST LINE OF THE BOOK. Then it is (what feels like) a never ending string of unnecessary swearing peppered throughout the text. Julia (our main character), is selfish, and bratty, and complains about EVERYTHING. She is SUPER judgmental about EVERYONE and it kinda gets on your nerves the entire time. The story itself did not feel like it flowed very well either. There are parts that dragged on, and then months pass by without you even really noticing.  I feel like some of the things that happened in this book were a little extreme, and that Julia (while I understand is supposed to be dealing with trauma) reacted in cringe-worthy ways. I also feel like other characters in this book reacted to her in unbelievable ways. I just really wanted to know what happened with the sister, which is really the only reason why I kept reading. There are rape, and suicide trigger warnings for this book as well, for those who are ambitious enough to try it out. I honestly have no idea how it was considered for a National Book Medal. Clearly I have strong negative feelings about this book, but I did like the parts where Julia went to Mexico, as well as Conner’s character.

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That’s all I’ve got for you guys today! Let me know in the comments if you have read, or want to read any of these books. I feel like I have quite the spread here; a little bit for everyone! Let’s chat!

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Fangirl- Rainbow Rowell

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(Rainbow Rowell, 2013)

From the author of the New York Times bestseller Eleanor & Park. A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love. 

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan…

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind? 

(via Goodreads)

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What I Liked

  • Characters
    • I really liked all these characters to be honest. I think Reagan and Levi are my favorite by far, but I surprisingly really related to Cath (HATE the name Cather) which obviously means I liked her. You could say I was “rooting for her” through the whole story. I felt bad for the dad, and Wren kind of annoyed me, but redeemed herself by the end.
  • College age!
    • So thrilled that this was a cast of college aged characters! I know YA is meant for teens but the reality is that many adults are drawn to the YA genre, so it was refreshing to have characters who are not in high school. They were so natural, I felt like I knew them in my own college days.
  • The Cover
    • Can I do a book review without mentioning the cover? Apparently not. What can I say? I am a visual person, and pretty covers make me happy. Actually- this book has several different covers but this is the one that I read (which is my favorite color too!). Sorry about the poor lighting in the photo at the top. I actually took a picture of my own book this time (instead of finding one on the internet) and my apartment doesn’t have the best lighting :]
  • Cameos
    • I kind of love that Rowell seems to feature her characters in more than just the books they starred in. I mean there is the obvious presence of Simon and Baz in Fangirl (when they have their own book called Carry On), and it sounds like Cath and Levi made an appearance in her book Landlines as well (ever so briefly). I think that gesture is exactly the right way to “nod” (if you will) to her loyal fans for continuing to support her writing.
  • Character drawings inside of book
    • Surprisingly, this helped a lot as the characters were introduced. I really appreciated having a face/image already associated with the name as I went along, and found myself referring back to the images often. For those who didn’t know, this was on the inside of the cover of my book :]
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What I Disliked

  • Simon & Baz
    • Honestly, I cannot tell if this is actually a part that I disliked or not. It bothered me and then it didn’t, and then it bothered me again. I know that a lot of fans of this book (and Carry On) said that it really reads like a gay Harry Potter fanfiction, but I guess I wasn’t expecting it to SO MUCH like Harry Potter that it made me cringe. Honestly, if anything, it is making me second guess whether I want to read Carry On or not. I DID like the little snippets of Simon before each chapter.
  • Laura
    • With the exception of Laura, I  did like the majority of the characters. I have to agree with Cath on this one though. SPOILER-I don’t think that Laura deserved the time of day. She clearly was still uninterested in the girls with that whole hospital scene, and that honestly makes me so angry. I know that unfortunately there are a lot of parents who feel that their children robbed them of their fun and youth, but it is just despicable behavior, and I hated every moment that she was in/mentioned.
  • The ending!
    • I hate how it feels like nothing got tied up at the end. SPOILERS It’s great that you know at least that she completed her fiction project, which, if you ask me, Cath was being a little baby about the whole time. But- I would have liked to know that her and Levi made it work during the summer, and that her second year at least started out alright. Idk, some kinda closure would have been nice… I also made the mistake of reading the FAQ section immediately after and got excited when Rowell said that she wasn’t done with the characters yet and that’s why she hasn’t read any of the Fangirl fanfiction… but this came out it 2013, and I would really like to know if there is a sequel in the works or not, because ya girl needs to know what happens next.

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Final Thoughts

I honestly cannot tell if this was something I appreciated or disliked, so I left it out of the points at the top. I am still exploring how I feel about Cath and her Fiction Writing class. SPOILER- I can’t tell if I hated how Cath acted toward the final project or deeply related to it. I mean I can say for sure that I absolutely have done what she did by refusing to do a huge part of your final grade, simply because I didn’t want to. And that bothered me a lot. It bothered me that she acted like a baby about it, but it also bothered me that I saw a lot of myself in her reaction to the assignment. I still don’t know how I feel about this part of the book, but I am proud of her for finishing.

I agree with Rowell though, one of my favorite parts after I finished reading the book was looking at all the fanart of the characters! It is so entertaining and fun to look at the different versions of the characters I love, and mix and match the ones that were closer to what I had in my head :]

Regardless, I was pleasantly surprised by this one! At first the size kind of intimidated me but I literally finished it in a matter of days. It flowed so easily and was absolutely enjoyable. I want to read more of Rowell’s work (with perhaps the exception of Carry On, which I may no longer be able to bring myself to read) in the future. I am glad that I own this one, because I can see it being an easy re-read. I am also really glad that it lived up to the hype. Usually, I go into books that everyone else has read super skeptical, but Rowell certainly delivered a cute, fun story that I am sure to enjoy many times over. It made me miss reading fanfiction, back when I read it so so long ago (I even, in middle school, wrote a little bit of Yu-gi-oh fanfiction), though I doubt I will go back.

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What do you guys think? Have you read this before, or any other books by Rainbow Rowell? What was your reactions to my thoughts? Let’s chat :]

 

on deck book On Deck: 

Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser

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Epic Winter Book Haul

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Hey ya’ll! It has come to my attention that while I do enjoy reading/watching a good book haul, I personally have not done one (on here) in quite some time. Does that mean I have not been hauling books? HELL NO! Unfortunately (or fortunately depending how you look at it) I have been getting books like crazy these last few months! (probably to mask my sadness that my boyfriend has left again for another job which will take approximately 3-6 months to complete). SO! I have for you today, a book haul of epic proportions! This is everything (that I can remember) that I have gotten since Christmas/my birthday (back in December). I will provide the links to all my BOTM books but probably won’t talk too much about them since, well, they already have highlights within my blog!

With that, lets dive in!

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BOTM Choices

January

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February– Book Feature for An American Marriage

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March

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April

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Barnes and Noble Haul

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Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (Barnes and Noble Exclusive edition)

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Barnes and Noble Exclusive Collector’s edition)

Amazon Orders

Physical

Watching Glass Shatter & Father Figure by James J. Cudney

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Kindle

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First, I would like to note that I hate reading on my Kindle (*GASP*) so I don’t do it often, nor do I request ARCs anymore because the majority of them are digital and it is difficult for me to read. That being said, everything listed above were either free through Goodreads or various offers, or were really cheap (like $1-$2). My thoughts are that if for some reason, I am without a book, I have an arsenal at the ready, either via my Kindle or  phone. This came in handy on my train trip home from NYC the other night.

The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi, They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera, Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty, The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot, Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, The Unofficial Harry Potter Insults Handbook, Confessions of a Queen B by Crista Mchugh, The Beale Treasure by RJ Hendricks II, Aloha Texas by Chris Keniston and Like Peaches and Pickles by Muriel Ellis Pritchett.

Target

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco*

I was buying gifts for other people and my boyfriend was trying to be the responsible one by not letting me buy anything for myself. Instead I was pointing out all the books I wanted to read and he picked this one up and said it sounded really interesting, and that he would understand if I just could not help myself to getting this one.

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I also won a giveaway! LFBooks hosted a giveaway in which I won a Amazon gift card. I spent the gift card (and a few extra dollars) on the following:

 

 

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone- 20th Anniversary Ravenclaw edition

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco

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There was also a huge book sale at my local library this week, that I obviously just HAD to stop in at. I mean it WAS National Library Appreciation Week, and what better way to support my local library than to give the Friends of the Library some of my money towards their used books? (other than the fact that I spent every day that week at the library because, you know, I work there…) Although I had no intentions of it being so large, I ended up leaving with a hefty stack of books.

I am SO sorry for the poor photography, but it is what it is I suppose. I realized that I am at the age now where I am constantly thinking about the future, and that is reflected in some of these picks. Some were absolute favorites (one I did not previously own, and one that will be replacing a severely damaged copy), there was a book on local history, a classic and a couple I bought on a complete whim. I say that they reflect my thoughts on the future simply because I like to try to pick things I think my future children will enjoy. My boyfriend recently noted how diverse my book collection is, and that is completely on purpose.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

The Manor: Three Centuries on a Slave Plantation on Long Island bu Mac Griswold

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne

Egyptology: The Search for the Tomb of Osiris by Emily Sands and Dugard Steer

Dragonology: The Complete Book of Dragons by Dr. Ernest Drake

I Am American (and So Can You!) & America Again: Re-becoming the Greatest We Never Weren’t by Stephen Colbert

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Holy shit, 37 books! (sorry for the language) I guess when you consider this is covering everything from January until now it’s not so bad?!?!? Guys, I think I have a SERIOUS problem…

Have you read any of these? Are any of them STAPLES and OF COURSE SAMANTHA, YOU JUST HAD TO HAVE THEM, EVERYONE DOES (other than the obvious The Hate U Give)?

Let’s  chat in the comments!

100 Followers Celebration

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That’s right my wonderful blogging friends! We, over at Modern Witch’s Bookshelf, have finally reached 100 followers! I honestly can hardly believe it. When I started this blog in October of 2017, it was on a whim, and mainly just for me. I needed/wanted a space to write down my thoughts about what I was reading, because I wanted to have something to reference back to. What happened was a complete surprise. I was blown away by the reception, and just the support this little community holds for each other. I felt integrated, and accepted and eventually started to wonder if this could be bigger than I originally imagined.

Well thanks to you wonderful followers, we have reached an accomplishment I never thought I would see. In honor of this exciting event in my blogging career, I have decided to host a (very first) giveaway!

I am going to buy 5 random books and wrap them. Each package will be assigned a number. Once five winners are selected, they will be instructed to choose a number, and the corresponding packages will be sent!

I am still working out the kinks of exactly how I want to have people “enter” so keep your eyes peeled for that in the very near future!

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Thank you again for all the love and support guys, seriously. This site has been my saving grace the last few months. I don’t know what I would do without it, or YOU!

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To show my appreciation (until the Giveaway is announced) here is a follower shout out to all 101 wonderful people out there who choose me to grace their screens once in a blue moon :]

Martie @ Leave Me Alone I am Reading and Reviewing

The Aurora Diaries

Jasmine @ How Useful It Is

Emily @ Author’s Canvas

Kat Impossible @ Life and Other Disasters

Samantha V. Hutton

Hammock of Books

FNM

Inexplorable Spark

Through the Chapters

Mistakes & Adventures

ShookBelf

Book Inspector

Draconic Distractions

My Shelf and Myself

Birdie Bookworm

Damn Girl Get Your Shit Together

Frost at Midnite

The Musing Quill

Las crónicas del Otro Mundo

Heather Tasker

Life of Chaz

The Bookworm Drinketh

Luke @ Start your Meeples

Swords and Spectres

Chaos Fae @ Parabatai Reviews

Norrie @ Reading Under the Blankie

Arthifis

Shanah @ Bionic Book Worm

Merv Reads

The Cozy Pages

Irina @ Ire’s Den

Discobar Bizar

Book Princess Reviews

Paula @ Book Jotter

Megha @ Delightfull Discoveries

Megan @ The Cozied Reader

OneBookishGirl

Bookishbiche

Sophie @ Beware of the Reader

Anatomy of a Book Theif

Didi @ Didi Oviatt

Melanie @ MNBernard Books

Liam’s Library

Darth @ The Nerd Cave

Rachel @ Musings of a Coffee Addicted Bibliophile

Literary Titan

Thai @ Read Breathe and Repeat

Step Into a Book World

The Orangutan Librarian

Annie @ A Booknerd Travels

Darque Dreamer Reads

Always Booking

Books and Mirror

J.W. Martin

Bludgers and Broomsticks

Lila @ Hardcover Haven

The Dark Lady

Angela @ Pooled Ink Reviews

Erica Mae @ Living a Hundred Lives

Deanna @ Deanna Writes About

Book Tales by Me

Not So Modern Girl

Confessions of a YA Reader

Marine Observer

LF Books

Toni-Emma @ Book & Bloom

Stumbling About our World

Mia the Book Addict

Nicsthe Bibliophile

Vikki @ The Mundane Teenager

Angie @ Angie Dokos

Trang @ Bookidote

Michel @ Raistlin0903

Kim @ By Hook or by Book

Emily @ The Little Book Affair

Perfectly Tolerable

Amanda @ Literary Weaponry

Krista & Dawlyn @ Little Blind Book Finds

Sahi @ My World of Books

I.M. Fletcher @ Paperback Cinema

Aria @ Snow White Hates Apples

Chain Interaction

Allan Walsh

Plot Monster

The Critic Uncritical Bookworm

Alyssa @ A Reader’s Journey

Kristin @ Kristin Kraves Books

Books and Wine Gums

Julie’s Bookshelf

Wm Allan @ Harmony Books and Films

Sophie @ Blame Chocolate

Erik @ BreakEven Books

Jessica @ Mrs. Robinson’s Library

Des’ Random Thoughts

James @ This is My Truth Now

Adventures in Bookworld

Never Not Reading

Dani @ Touch My Spine Book Reviews

The Babysitter’s Club- Graphic Novel series Feature

 

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This series was one of my absolute favorites when I was growing up. Now that I am thinking about it though, I think I read more of the Little Sister (Karen’s story) series than the actual babysitters but regardless, Ann M. Martin was a name I knew very well.  While I was re-reading these stories, details from the originals came back to me instantaneously. Truthfully, I am really hoping that they continue to adapt the series into graphic novel form. It allows a whole new generation to enjoy these stories, much of which you could learn some valuable lessons from.

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What I Liked

  • Each book took the voice of a different character
    • This allows you to get to know the characters as individuals. You saw a little more about each of their families, their personalities and feelings. This was a feature of the original series too. Though it was one series, going from book to book, you got a different general perspective. You still found out what happened to the other members and their clients, but got to focus just a tad bit more on each character as you went along. I liked that. It keeps the series feeling like new each time you read a different book.
  • Art
    • I adore the drawing style of Raina Telgemeier. I think that it is just the right amount of fun and colorful, while still being relateable to the characters. I like that the drawings didn’t seem too complex, yet held immense detail frame to frame. Gale Galligan did a really great job taking over where Raina left off. You honestly cannot tell (unless you are looking for differences) between the two drawing styles. This seamless transition makes it easier on fans of the series.
  • The Characters
    • I genuinely like all the characters, actually, except for one (you can see that below). I think they are all super sweet and lovable, INCLUDING the club’s family members and kids (and kid’s families) that they babysit. Everyone is well developed, especially for their age, and are pretty great examples for kids who might be the same age, reading this series. A number of different interests and personalities are represented too, which allows the series to have that “a little bit for everyone” mentality.
  • Lack of Romantic Interest
    • In the series, the girls start out at 12 years old. By the end of the last book (#5- Dawn and the Impossible Three), they are heading into 8th grade. There are a couple whispers of boys, especially for two of our club members, but that is all there is! I am glad they kept the books to their babysitting gigs and friendship (with some personal home problems thrown in). It was refreshing to read a book series aimed at young girls that was not centered around a love interest. Kids could use a good FRIEND story nowadays, and you find that really well represented in these books.

What I Disliked

  • Kristy
    • She was the worst character in the series, aside from the mother in book 5. She was often super selfish, and jealous, acting out when she didn’t get her way. I don’t remember her character as much from the original series (like I do Stacy) but there is usually at least one person I don’t like in a book, and she happens to be it. That isn’t to say her character is actually terrible! She acts within what I would imagine a 12 year old would do, especially in some of the circumstances she finds herself in. But that does not make her parts anymore enjoyable either.

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And there you have it! If you liked this series as a kid, you absolutely MUST read these graphic novel adaptions. They really gave me some serious nostalgia, and I thoroughly enjoyed them. If you are a fan of Raina Telgemeier’s work, you should absolutely try these out. Though I really think that Victoria Jamieson’s books are better than Telgemeier’s, they have similar styles of illustration, so if you liked Roller Girl (or All’s Faire in Middle School) you should probably check these out too. And for those who are a little hesitant about diving into the graphic novel world. I assure you, these are a great way to “dip your toe in” if you catch my drift. They are light, and easy reads. They are sweet, with lovable characters and are real life-like, which makes jumping into a whole new medium of books much much simpler.

Let me know what you think! Did you read the Babysitter’s Club books when you were a kid? Who are your favorite characters?

 

Children’s Book Mini Reviews

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Hey all! I have been trying to play catch-up since straying from my original reading plan (one children’s book, followed by a YA book, followed by an adult, and then repeat) so instead of attempting to do full breakdowns of each of these books, I saw a bunch of other blogs that utilize the mini review layout, and I think it works well for me here. I have been on a Children’s book kick so those are the types of books that are going to be featured in this mini review.

Side Note: Don’t you just love how the color scheme worked out?

I am VERY pleased right now

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The Stars Beneath our Feet by David Barclay Moore (Goodreads link)

First and foremost, just take a good look at this cover. It is stunning. Now that we have gotten that out of the way…

There are so many aspects of black culture, and black lives that most people do not understand. Since reading The Hate U Give last year, I have been particularly interested in that sort of “own voice” stories. That is one of the main reasons I picked this book up. Unlike the shooting that takes place in THUG, this one is centered around gang violence, and the pressure young black boys have in joining up. It is easy to sit in your comfy homes and judge these kids for being involved in such incomprehensible actions, but in most cases, those boys really did not have any other option.

While it didn’t quite pack the punch that The Hate U Give did, it was still well written and a good representation of not only black lifestyles, but also children with autism. I look forward to seeing what else this author puts out in the future. Also- This has already been slated to be developed into a movie, to be directed by Michael B. Jordan (in his directing debut).

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The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (Goodreads link)

This is the continuation of Ada’s (and Jamie’s) story. The war is still going and Ada has just had surgery on her foot. It seems that Ada is still struggling with love, acceptance, and feeling safe though.

It always amazes me, and gives me pause, the amount of death that happens in children’s novels. I know that these are issues that need to be addressed and can be done through literature, but it always manages to surprise me just how much death happens within a story. Again, I know that this book is centered around WWII and that, obviously, a lot of people die during war, but I was still surprised by the number of characters introduced, and then cut off in this story (and many others like it).

It was a little slower than the first book, but once it picked up (after a couple chapters) it was equally as good. I really recommend this series to just about everyone, but especially those who enjoy historical fiction.

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Big & Little Questions (According to Wren Jo Byrd by Julie Bowe (Goodreads link)

This was a light, easy read on a particularly heavy topic for the desired audience. Unfortunately, today divorce is much more common than it once was. Many children come from complicated home lives and extended family trees. In this more “rose-colored” world of Wren, she seems to be the only one in her class who is affected by divorce, that is except for the incredibly annoying, friend stealer Marianna. Throughout the story, Wren battles with what her parents separating means, how it touches her life, and when to keep secrets and when to tell a friend the truth. Risking her most precious friendship to keep an embarrassing secret weighs heavily on this nine year old girl, as she continues to ask “why.”

It was not my favorite read this year so far, but it certainly was not the worst one either. I think that the author created a world that is not entirely realistic by today’s standards. I do however feel that she tackled the internal fight over when to tell the truth and when to keep quiet, fairly well. I loved that Wren looked words up (or was instructed to do so) when she didn’t understand what they meant. My mother did something similar to my brothers and I when we were growing up, and I think more kids would benefit from that teaching opportunity.

Faithful- Alice Hoffman

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Alice Hoffman (2016)

Growing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend’s future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt.

What happens when a life is turned inside out? When love is something so distant it may as well be a star in the sky? Faithful is the story of a survivor, filled with emotion—from dark suffering to true happiness—a moving portrait of a young woman finding her way in the modern world. A fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookstores, and men she should stay away from, Shelby has to fight her way back to her own future. In New York City she finds a circle of lost and found souls—including an angel who’s been watching over her ever since that fateful icy night.

Here is a character you will fall in love with, so believable and real and endearing, that she captures both the ache of loneliness and the joy of finding yourself at last. For anyone who’s ever been a hurt teenager, for every mother of a daughter who has lost her way, Faithful is a roadmap.

(via Goodreads)

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What I Liked

  • Maravelle’s twin sons Dorian and Teddy, specifically Dorian.
    • I thought he was so sweet, and truthfully, they seemed like the most believably developed characters in the story. What I mean by that is, a number of years are covered throughout the book, and in terms of personal development, the twins seem the most believable.
  • All the dogs!
    • I love a good dog rescue, especially when they deserve a good home.
  • Shelby’s mom
    • She was a really great mom. She did everything she possibly could for her daughter, at great personal sacrifice.
  • The Long Island references
    • Everyone likes reading about places they recognize, right?
  • James
    • Some people are just given a bad hand. He is one of the most likable characters after Shelby’s mom.

What I Disliked

  • Surprisingly, the writing style!
    • I have heard so many amazing things about Alice Hoffman, and IDK if it was the hype or what but her writing seemed a bit childish. She repeated things a few times, and I had a hard time getting into the story for a while
  • Slow pacing, at the beginning
    • Again, I had a hard time getting into the story at first. A few years ago, I would have actually ended up DNFing this because of that fact but I wanted to like Alice Hoffman so much that I pushed through, and I am actually really happy I did.
  • Shelby
    • Blasphemy! You can’t dislike the main character! Oh but you can, and still enjoy the story I might add! I cannot begin to fathom what it must feel like to have to live with survivor’s guilt, but at times I felt like Shelby was inconsistent in her personal development. I mean she had a lot of good in her life post-accident, and yet, in the company of people who CLEARLY cared about her, she still demanded that she was a “nothing” and had “no one.” I think that bothered me the most because it reminds me of myself, and I don’t like to think about that…
  • Ben
    • SPOILER: I would have been content with him completely moving on, and an ending with him in a happy marriage. I don’t think it was necessary to have him come groveling back to Shelby, especially after everything. He deserved to find his happiness with someone who appreciated him.
  • So much focus on being bald
    • Two of my coworkers were actually discussing this book the other day (before I had the chance to open it) and the one said that she was reading it with her friend, but her friend stopped because of how much negative focus was on the fact that Shelby was bald. My coworker’s friend was bald all through high school and college (due to chemo treatments) and she didn’t think that Hoffman was very sensitive to the fact that hair can especially be a huge trigger for some people. Naturally, after hearing my two coworkers discuss this, I was very much aware of every single time it was mentioned, and it did feel somewhat insensitive.

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Final Thoughts

I was a little confused at first about the fate of Helene. Shelby, when she talked about her, made it seem like Helene had actually died in the car accident. However, throughout the book people are visiting her, and think that she has healing powers.. I guess that the accident ultimately left her brain dead, and her parents paid (for over ten years) to have an oxygen machine in her childhood bedroom? That part was I think the most confusing but once I kind of came around to the idea that she was on life support, and that maybe her parents just never took her off it, that it made a little more sense.

I know that is a lot of dislike, especially considering that it took a while to get into, but I did enjoy this book. Once it finally got moving, it was a fast paced, and you do end up liking the majority of the characters. I probably would recommend it to other people, though it does give me pause about picking up Rules of Magic (by Alice Hoffman), which I have been looking forward to since last November…

 

What did you guys think of this Alice Hoffman book? Do you like her writing style? Let’s chat in the comments!

 

 

on deck book On Deck:

Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen (eARC)

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