Confession time: I’m addicted to spending all my money on books and coffee.
I finally returned from my slightly mysterious disappearance to post a fun little fall book haul!
The only thing is that, since I compulsively read when I’m stressed, I finished all of the books from this haul before even starting this post…
So instead, I’m going to be writing a little mini-review for each one. (Problem solved!)
*Says she’s going to write a mini-review for each book, then proceeds to write a 1500-word post*
1. Eliza and her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
Genre: YA, contemporary, romance, mental health
Premise: High school senior Eliza Mirk is a friendless loner… at least in real life. Online, though, she’s the creator of the famous Monstrous Sea webcomic, an internet phenomenon that is quickly becoming a part of pop culture. Eliza hasn’t told anyone her secret, and she doesn’t intend to. But when she meets Wallace Warland, her cultivated facade begins to crumble…
Rating: 3/5 stars
I had heard a lot of great things about this book, and although I enjoyed reading it, it fell flat for me. Eliza was supposed to be a sympathetic character, but…. something about her just bothered me. She was supposed to be socially awkward (something I definitely relate to) but… she wasn’t. She was just extremely weird- to the point where everyone at her school was scared of her, and she didn’t even try to make herself likable. I didn’t like her personality or her attitude, which tainted the entire storyline slightly, and said storyline wasn’t even that compelling.
2. A List of Cages by Robin Roe: 4.5/5 stars
Genre: YA, contemporary
Premise: Adam Blake is living his best life: it’s his senior year, which means he gets to spend school hanging out with his friends and aiding the school psychologist, a highly coveted elective that will essentially give him a free period. But things become less carefree when Adam is assigned to mentor Julian- a troubled freshman who just so happens to be the foster brother Adam hasn’t seen for years. At first, Adam is excited to reunite with Julian, but he soon realizes that Julian is not the same lighthearted kid Adam once knew. Something is wrong, and if Adam can’t figure out what it is, Julian could be in a lot more danger.
This one was really good- although, if you are easily upset by books, you might want to make sure you know what you’re getting into before reading it. The thing that stuck out to me the most about A List of Cages was Roe’s character development and verisimilitude. Both Adam and Julian felt very real; I could imagine them as real people with distinct personalities, and I actually had clear personas for them in my head, which is rare for me. (usually characters just conceptualize as amorphous blobs)
Adam is a smiley, friendly and popular “nice guy” who’s slightly impulsive. He’s probably tall with longish floppy hair. Julian is skinny, shy, timid, and awkward, and probably never smiles.
The book was also pretty suspenseful, and it wasn’t even the plot that generated the suspense; it was simply the pull of the character-driven story.
3. Lovely War by Julie Berry
Genre: YA, historical fantasy, romance
Premise: In the throes of the Second World War, Aphrodite and Ares are once again at odds. Shrouded in a New York hotel, the goddess of love recounts the story of Hazel and James: a concert pianist and a British soldier who fall hopelessly in love before James is sent to the trenches of France in 1917. Enter Aubrey- an African-American jazz musician-turned-soldier and Colette- a Belgian girl who lost her entire family during the German invasion, and you have a captivating romance overshadowed by the tragedy of WW1. Berry’s novel attempts to answer the eternal question: does love always triumph?
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
I’m going to be honest: I liked this book, but not as much as I’d hoped to. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ve probably realized I’m kind of lukewarm when it comes to romance. (some may prefer the term ‘cynical’). I’ve repeatedly said I hate when the plot of a (usually YA) book is mercilessly interrupted by an annoying romance. That didn’t happen here. So why didn’t I rate this a 4 or a 5? Because the romance was quite literally the only plot. (But Emily, you knew this was a romance!) Yes, but I thought there might be some sort of other plot. There definitely were side plots, but said side plots weren’t very detailed, and I felt like nothing happened for most of the story. That said, I loved all of the characters, especially Aubrey. I also thought the writing was really good, and although there was a ton of romance, it wasn’t cheesy and it didn’t make me roll my eyes. And it was clean! (thank you!)
There were also a lot of really interesting discussions in this book, and Berry didn’t shy away from the tough parts of history.
Overall Lovely War reminded me strongly of Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys, except set in a different time period and with a stronger romantic focus.
4. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Genre: YA, contemporary classic
Premise: Charlie is the definition of a wallflower. Perpetually on the fringes of life, he has few friends and many problems. Starting high school only makes things more complicated: as Charlie enters the world of adolescence, his inner turmoil only increases. Chbosky’s epistolary novel explores Charlie’s coming of age and the universal struggles of high school. (Who’s liking my pseudo-literary synopses so far?)
Rating: 4/5 stars
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is essentially The Catcher in the Rye except edgier and set in the 90s. I finally got around to reading this after it sat in my TBR forever! And just in time for Banned Books Week, too. (Perks was the 14th most frequently banned book of the decade) Overall, I thought it was good; it was a very short read and I only took slightly over an hour to read it. As I said before, I got a very strong Holden Caulfield vibe, but I prefer The Catcher in the Rye (to which I gave 5/5 stars when I read it a year ago)
My main criticism of The Perks of Being a Wallflower is that it was kind of unrealistic. The plot revolves around Charlie- a freshman with little cognizance of social norms- befriending a group of seniors. This would definitely not happen in the real world (sad, but true). It’s a common theme in YA books that the depiction of high school is often inaccurate, but if you suspend your disbelief a little, it was a pretty good book. I’d say I wish I’d read this in freshman year, but I think 13-year-old me would have been scarred.
5. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: 4/5 stars
Genre: adult, historical fiction
Premise: Before the war, Marie-Laure Leblanc is a blind girl living in Paris with her father. Werner Pfennig is an orphan with an insatiable fascination with radios, math and mechanics. When Germany invades Paris, Marie-Laure and her father flee to the seaside city of Saint-Malo, carrying with them a rare and possibly cursed jewel. Werner is recruited by the Nazis for his mathmatical talents and roams the countryside of eastern Europe, tasked with killing any enemy of the state in possession of a radio. Meanwhile, a terminally ill Nazi official searches desperately for the Sea of Flames, the stone that supposedly grants immortality. The paths of these three fundamentally different people will cross eventually, revealing the common threads that connect them all.
All the Light We Cannot See is the kind of book you pick up when you want to feel sophisticated. I don’t think I’d ever read a book with such gorgeous writing; I’d also never came across an author who uses semicolons as often as I do.
I definitely enjoyed this book. It was really atmospheric and really deep, and as I said before, the writing was absolutely beautiful. The reason I didn’t rate it higher, though, is because I tend to prefer plot-driven novels, and this book just dragged on forever. It was pretty dense, and clocked in at over 500 pages (with a small font!). In my opinion, there just wasn’t enough plot to use up all that space, and it resulted in a ton of filler, particularly in the middle of the book. I’ve noticed this pattern in general whenever I read “adult” books: they usually have better writing but a lot more detail, a lot more filler, and a slower and more reflective plot. (By the way, should I do a post one day comparing and contrasting YA and Adult? Let me know in the comments)
That said, I felt like I was reading the makings of a modern classic while I was reading this book. It so well-written! I just wished it were a bit faster-paced.
I hope you enjoyed these book reviews. Have you read any of the books on this list? If so, what did you think of them?
Thanks for reading!
*NOTE- for some reason, the WordPress reader has stopped showing the images for about half of my posts… it seems to only be happening on my laptop though, so I do not know what’s going on with that.