33830437Title: Far from the Tree
Author: Robin Benway
Pages: 374
Year: 2017
Publisher: HarperTeen
Time taken to read: 1 week, 4 days
Rating: 3/5

Goodreads synopsis: Being the middle child has its ups and downs. But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. Having grown up the snarky brunette in a house full of chipper redheads, she’s quick to search for traces of herself among these not-quite-strangers. And when her adopted family’s long-buried problems begin to explode to the surface, Maya can’t help but wonder where exactly it is that she belongs. And Joaquin, their stoic older bio brother, who has no interest in bonding over their shared biological mother. After seventeen years in the foster care system, he’s learned that there are no heroes, and secrets and fears are best kept close to the vest, where they can’t hurt anyone but him.

Far from the Tree is a very cute story. I want to be an adoptive mother, so I’m interested in books about adoption. From that perspective, though, I was pretty disappointed. I’d really like to see a book about adoption that doesn’t cast away the adoptive family in favor of the biological family. But besides that, this book had some problems that are very common in YA literature.

I didn’t really understand the point of Rafe’s character. He seems to be one of those “perfect” YA characters with sharp wit and no flaw, and he never really connects to the story as a whole. The only character I really connected with is Grace, because she has a secret that we know but the others don’t, whereas Maya has no secrets and Joaquin has a secret that we also don’t know. Because of that, Grace feels like the only character that’s fully developed. And boy is she developed. Her pain feels so real. I was so heartbroken for her, so that’s a point in this book’s favor for sure.

There were a lot of big issues in this book, and I don’t know how to feel about it. We have alcoholism, LGBT themes, adoption and foster care, teen pregnancy, etc. It felt like a lot. I particularly struggle with the alcoholism part. We never really get to understand why Maya’s mom drinks so much. Maya’s parents fight. A lot. But why? That’s what really bothered me throughout the story. It just seems like the author wanted to make sure Maya’s life didn’t seem too perfect, so she threw that in.

I’d say the best things about this book are Grace and the cover. Because that is a seriously beautiful cover. And Grace is actually interesting. I wouldn’t say I don’t recommend this, but I don’t think it’s amazing. Happy reading, friends.


30312837Title: The You I’ve Never Known
Author: Ellen Hopkins
Pages: 590
Year: 2017
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster)
Time taken to read: 6 days
Rating: 2/5

Goodreads synopsisFor as long as she can remember, it’s been just Ariel and Dad. Ariel’s mom disappeared when she was a baby. Dad says home is wherever the two of them are, but Ariel is now seventeen and after years of new apartments, new schools, and new faces, all she wants is to put down some roots. Complicating things are Monica and Gabe, both of whom have stirred a different kind of desire. Maya’s a teenager who’s run from an abusive mother right into the arms of an older man she thinks she can trust. But now she’s isolated with a baby on the way, and life’s getting more complicated than Maya ever could have imagined. Ariel and Maya’s lives collide unexpectedly when Ariel’s mother shows up out of the blue with wild accusations: Ariel wasn’t abandoned. Her father kidnapped her fourteen years ago. What is Ariel supposed to believe? Is it possible Dad’s woven her entire history into a tapestry of lies? How can she choose between the mother she’s been taught to mistrust and the father who has taken care of her all these years?

This is not the first time I’ve started an Ellen Hopkins book, but it is the first time I’ve finished one. I’m not a poetry person. I’ve written poetry myself–I find it to be very cathartic–but I don’t like reading books of poetry. I love description, and Ellen Hopkins stories are just the bare bones of the story with none of the visuals. Some people may like that. Some might find it fun to create the visuals yourself. I get that. But I want to be told what the room looks like. What it smells like. And Ellen Hopkins leaves all of that up to our imaginations. Again, not my thing.

Yet, that wasn’t the worst part about this book. For me, the most glaring problem is the dialogue. Hopkins’s characters speak like no one else I’ve ever heard before. Here’s an exchange between Ariel and Gabe:

“You calling me selfish? Because here’s the thing. I’ve never, not ever, had that opportunity. What, in my lifetime, has given me anything to hold on to, to fight for? […] As for people, the few true connections I’ve been allowed are all right here in Sonora. Now I’m expected to sacrifice those, because of the woman who sacrificed me? No damn way.”

“[…] I’ll shut up now because I don’t want to upset you any more than you already are. Except one last thought: maybe your anger is misdirected?” (478-479)

Feel free to disagree with me, but I don’t think people put together sentences like that when they’re speaking out loud, and especially not when they’re heated.

Oh, also, you really remember things from when you were two and three years old, Ariel? Not likely.

Moving on.

Actually, now that I’m writing this, I’m realizing Ariel kind of sucks. She “loved” Monica so much, and they flirted constantly. No, they’re not in a monogamous relationship technically, but she was leading Monica on thinking she was devoted to Monica when she was really kind of hooking up with Gabe behind Monica’s back. Like, way to throw in some bisexual stereotypes. But I can’t even get into that. It takes too much of my bisexual brain power to think about how Hopkins could have done that better.

One thing I definitely can talk about is the synopsis. Hopkins tells us before we even start the book that Ariel was actually kidnapped. Which she doesn’t find out until after page 400. I’m actually kind of angry about how good that reveal could have been if it wasn’t in the synopsis. Like, my mind could have been blown if I had learned that at the same time as Ariel. But nope. The synopsis is a major spoiler, and that’s so disappointing.

Now, a moment to discuss the last 20 pages: holy moly. I really disliked 99% of this book, but reading those last pages, I swear I almost cried. Boy does that tug at some heartstrings. But I won’t spoil that for you. You’ve already got enough spoilers, as I mentioned!

In conclusion, I don’t expect to attempt another Ellen Hopkins book ever again.

29883629Title: The Woman in Cabin 10
Author: Ruth Ware
Pages: 340
Year: 2016
Publisher: Gallery/Scout (Simon & Schuster)
Time taken to read: 2 weeks
Rating: 3/5

Goodreads synopsisIn this tightly wound, enthralling story reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s works, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. The sky is clear, the waters calm, and the veneered, select guests jovial as the exclusive cruise ship, the Aurora, begins her voyage in the picturesque North Sea. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…

I know I’m a little late on this one, but better late than never, right? Anyway, I finished this today and I’m actually writing a timely review, so that’s something.

I could have lived my life without reading this book. The main criticism I have is that there were SO many characters, and I had no idea who any of them were and what relation they had to Lo. So I didn’t really care to speculate about who may have been the killer because they were nothing more than names to me. But I did like Lo. I liked the open way Ware talked about her anti-depressants and her panic attacks, and it was kind of fun that she was made to seem unreliable, so I was wondering all the while if she really had seen anything at all.

I was pretty shocked at the outcome, and not really in a good way. Since this book is a few years old now I think I can spoil it–I don’t find it plausible that Carrie could have passed as Anne for so long. Additionally, I didn’t really understand the ending. I think the implication was that Carrie shot Richard and escaped, but I don’t see why she would have done that. She could have left him without shooting him. But maybe I’m completely wrong anyway.

Carrie also seemed a little stereotypical and one-dimensional. All the “he loves me” stuff was old before it even started. If she was so in love/obsessed with him that she’d assist him in murdering his wife, she turned on him pretty quickly to let Lo go free. I just don’t really buy any of it. But the book ultimately kept my attention enough, so it wasn’t all bad. Everyone compares it to The Girl on the Train, and I didn’t like that book either. I think this one is a smidge better, but neither of them are really amazing.

30531895Title: The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living
Author: Meik Wiking
Pages: 225
Year: 2017
Publisher: William Morrow (HarperCollins)
Time taken to read: 3 days
Rating: 1/5

Goodreads synopsisEmbrace Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) and become happier with this definitive guide to the Danish philosophy of comfort, togetherness, and well-being. Why are Danes the happiest people in the world? The answer, says Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, is Hygge. Loosely translated, Hygge—pronounced Hoo-ga—is a sense of comfort, togetherness, and well-being. “Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience,” Wiking explains. “It is about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe.” Hygge is the sensation you get when you’re cuddled up on a sofa, in cozy socks under a soft throw, during a storm. It’s that feeling when you’re sharing comfort food and easy conversation with loved ones at a candlelit table. It is the warmth of morning light shining just right on a crisp blue-sky day. The Little Book of Hygge introduces you to this cornerstone of Danish life, and offers advice and ideas on incorporating it into your own life[.]

I saw this book in Barnes & Noble a while ago, and it looked really interesting. Lucky me, my cousin had an ARC and passed it on to me (along with a lot of clothes!). I was psyched to read it, and I finished it rather quickly, as you can see. However, it was a pretty rough disappointment.

This is what you will learn from this book:

  • candles are great
  • spending two hours being snooty and trying to find the restaurant with the “right” lighting is great
  • hot drinks are great
  • blankets and pillows are great
  • thunderstorms are great

Thank you, The Little Book of Hygge. I had never thought of that before. My depression is cured. Gosh, sorry, that was a little aggressive. But honestly, I kind of thought this book would change my life. But it didn’t. It just made me angry.

I Googled “what makes Denmark so happy,” and the first thing to come up was a review of/article on this book on The Independent, which says, “While hygge clearly plays a major part in Denmark’s happiness, Wiking is keen to emphasise that the welfare model is what fundamentally underpins the nation’s well-being — they have high taxes but receive social security, universal healthcare, and a universal pension in return.” But I have to disagree. Wiking does mention this. Once. Maybe twice, but I’m pretty sure it’s just once. But candles are mentioned on, like, every other page.

The article also mentions that anti-depressant consumption is rather high in Denmark. To this, Wiking says, “The real story is, these countries recognise mental illness and try to treat it in some way.” He says that “being a society that acknowledges that people suffer from mental illnesses” is what makes the country such a good place. Now I wonder, where was this discussion in the book? This is what’s important. Not candles. Not restaurants and thunderstorms. What matters is how the Danish government and how their systems take care of their people. That’s why Danish people are happy. We have candles here in America. We have hot chocolate, and we have dreamy weather. We don’t have systems in place that support our citizens. This book takes a very privileged and rather hipster view of the world, and I do not care for it. This book will not change your life. Not one bit of it. It won’t tell you a thing that you don’t already know. Okay, maybe I didn’t know that Danish people are obsessed with Christmas. But it won’t tell you anything you don’t already know that’s actually useful.

My apologies for the harshness of this review, but I am a book reviewer, and I give my full and honest opinion always. Thanks for reading, my friends.

35099655Title: Natural Disaster: I Cover Them. I am One.
Author: Ginger Zee
Pages: 288
Year: 2017
Publisher: Kingswell (Hachette)
Time taken to read: 4 days
Rating: 4/5

Goodreads synopsis: ABC News chief meteorologist Ginger Zee pulls back the curtain on her life in Natural Disaster. Ginger grew up in small-town Michigan where she developed an obsession with weather as a young girl. Ginger opens up about her lifelong battle with crippling depression, her romances that range from misguided to dangerous, and her tumultuous professional path. This cyclone of stories may sound familiar to some-it’s just that Ginger’s personal tempests happened while she was covering some of the most devastating storms in recent history, including a ferocious tornado that killed a legend in the meteorology field. This book is for all the mistake makers who have learned to forgive others and themselves-even in the aftermath of man-made, or in this case Zee-made, disasters. It’s a story that every young woman should read, a story about finding love and finding it in yourself.

While I was in treatment, my cousin went to a signing of this book, and she bought me a signed copy and mailed it to me because she thought that it could help me and that I could possibly relate to some of Ginger’s stories. I wasn’t sure how much I could relate to the life of a famous meteorologist and TV personality, but I was pleasantly surprised. Ginger describes all the mistakes of her twenties, which made me feel a lot better about my life as a young adult. The fact that she showed up to her first adult job in flip flops and became so successful is pretty reassuring. At least I’ve never done anything like that, but I have done some stupid stuff at work I’m sure. Her narrative is truly hilarious, and it kind of makes me want to watch her on TV. However, I felt like she sort of skated over some of the intense topics that she claims to delve deeply into. She mentions her eating disorder very briefly. If this is truly a tell-all, why doesn’t she talk about that more? I felt that she should have at least told us why she wasn’t going into more detail about that. If she didn’t want to, that’s totally her right to keep that time of her life to herself, but I felt short-changed because I thought she was really going to get into a conversation about mental health and the stigma surrounding it, but she didn’t. It kind of felt like she skipped huge chunks of her life, so that made her story feel a little disjointed. But ultimately, I really enjoyed reading it and it is a memoir I’d recommend to pretty much anyone, as it’s surprisingly relatable and very interesting.

34138013Title: What Happened
Author: Hillary Rodham Clinton
Pages: 464
Year: 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Time taken to read: 1 month, 11 days
Rating: 5/5

Goodreads synopsisFor the first time, Hillary Rodham Clinton reveals what she was thinking and feeling during one of the most controversial and unpredictable presidential elections in history. Now free from the constraints of running, Hillary takes you inside the intense personal experience of becoming the first woman nominated for president by a major party in an election marked by rage, sexism, exhilarating highs and infuriating lows, stranger-than-fiction twists, Russian interference, and an opponent who broke all the rules. This is her most personal memoir yet. In these pages, she describes what it was like to run against Donald Trump, the mistakes she made, how she has coped with a shocking and devastating loss, and how she found the strength to pick herself back up afterward. With humor and candor, she tells readers what it took to get back on her feet—the rituals, relationships, and reading that got her through, and what the experience has taught her about life. She speaks about the challenges of being a strong woman in the public eye, the criticism over her voice, age, and appearance, and the double standard confronting women in politics. She lays out how the 2016 election was marked by an unprecedented assault on our democracy by a foreign adversary. By analyzing the evidence and connecting the dots, Hillary shows just how dangerous the forces are that shaped the outcome, and why Americans need to understand them to protect our values and our democracy in the future. The election of 2016 was unprecedented and historic. What Happened is the story of that campaign and its aftermath—both a deeply intimate account and a cautionary tale for the nation.

I have been putting off this review, I must admit. This book was extremely emotional for me. The election really put me in a low place, and reliving it through What Happened was difficult. Yet, it was also deeply inspiring. Hillary Clinton is one of my top idols. I watched every Presidential debate with tears in my eyes, in awe of how insanely qualified she is to run this country. I spent months imagining that moment when America would elect our first female President. Instead, I spent election night riding the subway home to my apartment in Manhattan, crying hysterically, snot pouring out of my nose, with two girls, complete strangers, comforting me. So What Happened was a wonder to read as well as incredibly bittersweet.

This book hit me right in my soul. This woman did everything right. She stood tall despite being criticized for being “over-prepared” and being called a “nasty woman”. She was ready to take this country further than it has ever been. And yet, she ultimately lost (despite crushing the popular vote). And people say her book is all about blaming other people for that fact, but I believe she has every right to blame other people. If she had been a man, she would have won, easily. If Comey hadn’t said what he said, I think she would have won. If the Electoral College was abolished like it should have been long ago, she would have won. I truly believe that she could not have done anything better. The system was against her. And her memoir outlines that, although she is incredibly humble and of course doesn’t put it that way. But I’ll say it for her.

I loved how this book balances personal life and policy. She talks so much about her family, and I got to know her in a way I hadn’t before. At the same time, she outlines everything that’s wrong with this country and everything she would have done to fix it, and she does an incredible job. I really love the way she takes the time to make sure all the information is accessible to those not in the political science field. I’ve learned a lot in the last couple of years by constantly watching CNN, but I’m still not a political expert. Yet, she helped me understand everything, and now I feel more prepared to defend her and every other woman in America and the world. Also, I’m obsessed with inspirational quotes, and this book is loaded with those. Here’s one of my favorites:

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger. —Friedrich Nietzsche (and Kelly Clarkson)”

That quote says a lot about this book, particularly about its (and its author’s) power and humor. I’m so proud of Hillary for rising despite feeling so low and so defeated. She has shown so much grace and positivity throughout this dark time in our history, and I will always be one of her biggest fans. Thanks, Hillary.

26893819Title: The Girls
Author: Emma Cline
Pages: 355
Year: 2016
Publisher: Random House
Time taken to read: 1 week, 2 days
Rating: 3/5

Goodreads synopsisNorthern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.

I found this book just chillin’ around when I was in treatment, so I just picked it up, read the first page, and then figured, why not continue? This book has been so heavily advertised by Random House, and it’s a debut, which always interests me, so I thought I’d give it a go.

The Girls has a lot of enticing language in the synopsis and the foreshadowing. I heard a lot about this “unthinkable violence,” and I was really hyped for it. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to that hype. I really wanted some gore. I wanted blood. I wanted scandals. I wanted psychos. And I didn’t get that until the very end, so that was extremely disappointing. This is much more of a coming-of-age story than it is a psychological thriller.

I’m really unsure about how I feel about the language in this book. It’s unique, that’s for sure. It’s incredibly poetic, though I’m not the world’s biggest poetry fan. Sometimes the lines were interesting and made me look at something simple in a way I had never looked at it before. Other times, it felt like the author was just throwing words together in ways that made no sense but that she hoped people would just pretend to understand for fear of looking uncultured and stupid.

Other than that, I don’t have a whole lot to say about this book. It was different from what I expected, and different from most other things I’ve read. It just wasn’t as good as it’s made out to be by the publisher. But of course, hyping books up is their job. Just don’t expect something amazing from this, in my opinion. I don’t regret reading it, but I could have done without it.