The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What. A. Book.

I am legitimately impressed, and I do not say this lightly. The Great Gatsby is the type of book that makes me want to tackle everyone I meet to ensure they have read it, and if not, acquire a copy to shove into their hands. It really is that good.

The strange thing is, I’m not even sure what it is about the story that draws me to it so much. Symbolism and meaningful prose typically have little to no effect on me. I prefer a straightforward story with little to no extra fluff. But this book. Dang.

While I was in high school, and now in college, I have never been assigned The Great Gatsby, which I think takes most everyone I meet by surprise, especially considering I am such a big reader. To be truthful, when I began reading the book myself the other week, I was a bit disappointed that I had never gotten to it before I reached 22 years old. However, now that I’ve finished it and gotten a chance to truly appreciate the writing, the story, the meaning behind it all, I think I’m grateful to have only just now read it by choice.

There is something about deciding to read a classic on your own that makes it exponentially more special than being forced to rush through it for a class. It’s a more meaningful, enriching experience, if only for the fact that I didn’t have to complete some Godforsaken busy work alongside it.

I got to read The Great Gatsby as it should be read. Or perhaps a better word for it: experienced.

My very first reaction to the book? I love Daisy. Did anybody else just fall in love with her instantly? She’s so strange and oddly alluring.

Something I found really interesting about The Great Gatsby was the connection I felt with the characters. With many books, particularly more dated ones and those considered “classics,” I truly couldn’t care about the individual stories of each character within the book. But I had a really different feeling here.

There was so much more to this book than just a story with bland, one-dimensional characters. I found myself instantly caring about the well being of Nick, Gatsby, and Daisy, and as I learned more about each of them throughout the book, I only found myself more and more connected to them.

This is especially surprising to me, since The Great Gatsby is a relatively short book. (I was able to finish it in just a couple nights. Crazy, right? For as much of a reader as I am, I never do that!) But the bottom line being, F. Scott Fitzgerald knew what he was doing, and was far ahead of his time even, when it came to character writing and development.

In short:

So, is this review essentially just me pushing a book on you that you’ve probably already read? Absolutely.

And if you have read it, I encourage you to revisit it, perhaps look at it in a new light now that you’re older and you don’t have to read it for school (since that seems to be when most people I know read it). Who knows? You might find something you didn’t think of before. You might see it in a new light.

Or maybe it’ll just remind you how incredible a writer Fitzgerald was. Either way, that’s a win in my book.

Thanks for stopping by my blog and giving my review a read! Have a fantastic rest of your week (for real, please do so).

You by Caroline Kepnes

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

In all seriousness, this book is probably going to put me back several years in the world of dating. I mean, seriously, I can’t remember the last time a piece of fiction has had me this paranoid, and had me going this many times over every interaction I’ve ever had with a man.

And that is the magic of Caroline Kepnes’ You.

I really, truly enjoyed large parts of this book. It was insane, totally unlike anything I’ve read before, and a definite page turner. Joe’s character was particularly interesting to me (obviously) because I loved getting to see his jumping between relatively sane thoughts and total lunatic behavior. He contradicted himself, in his words, his reasoning, his actions, his thoughts.

I paid particular attention to the way he described Beck. When comparing her to Karen, he said that Beck would never repeat something she said like Karen did. Yet Beck does repeat herself, a lot, particularly when we get to the full-psycho-Joe end scene. I noticed him do this a lot surrounding Beck’s actions and character traits; he was completely wrong about her multiple times, but he either insisted on thinking of her a certain way, or he changed his mindset and said whatever she did was okay with him.

Now, none of his misconceptions would have been a problem had he not been positively frightening. But I think we’re all in agreement on that much.

Except maybe for the people who claim they are attracted to Joe after watching the Netflix series. (But maybe the show is really different from the books and portrays him in a new light? I wouldn’t know.) Regardless, whoever wants him can have him. Believe me, I’m not trying to steal him for myself. Please, take Joe and stay far, far away from me.

Another aspect of You that I only now realized, as I’m writing this post, might be the scariest of all. At the end (not the full-psycho-Joe scene, but the end-end), Joe sees Amy again and decides she will be his next girlfriend. That’s creepy in general, of course, because Joe’s a pretty scary dude. But beyond that, I spent the whole book thinking there was something wildly unique about Beck that drew Joe to her. The ending proves this wasn’t the case. There isn’t something super special about Beck or Candace. Joe would stalk and steal from and murder any girl who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Which means any of us could meet a Joe Goldberg. Goodbye to my next few nights of sleep and my next few years of dating.

All of this, I devoured. What an enthralling story and a wild ride.

The only little, tiny thing I didn’t like about the book (tiny, really) was the fact that I can’t remember one page that didn’t make a sexual reference. Like, a descriptive, completely-overdoing-it reference. In moderation, it’s okay. But every single page? Woah. It was honestly a lot, and by the second half of the book, I’ll be honest, I was lagging a bit. I started to get bored. I understand that the characters are hypersexualized–partially on their own, and partially through Joe’s eyes. But seriously, it just got a little boring to me after a while. And I can only be bored for so long before docking some stars. (I’m sorry, I didn’t want to.)

For this reason, I’m going with a 3.5/5 on a pure vibes basis only. That’s the only way to rate books if you ask me. If I feel it, I feel it. If I don’t, I don’t. And if, like You, I feel it but I also don’t, it lands here, in the 3.5 star category. I’m satisfied, but I could certainly be more satisfied, you know?

The Selection by Kiera Cass

Good morning and happy Sunday!

I want to start off by saying a quick thank you to everyone who has supported me in my writing endeavors, especially those of you who have picked up a copy of my books. I am very happy with how my Better Luck This Time release went, and I have you to thank for that.

In other news, I have decided to pick back up with my podcast, We Talk Books. I recently finished reading The Selection, a surprisingly lovable book in my opinion, and thought: what better way to start my second season?

Girls Don’t Want Boys, Girls Want Malina

Just a couple days ago, I finished reading Ruin and Rising. The reason it took me until now to post a review is only because I needed a minute to process what I just read. Also, I was busy crying. Many times. So let’s start where it makes sense. It’s a five-starrer.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

If you saw my reviews for Shadow and Bone or Siege and Storm, you already know I’m a fan of these books. But this one was simply ridiculous, in the best way possible. It’s been a long time since a book has ripped my heart out of my chest, crushed it, then put it back in place and made me so happy I can’t stop thinking about it. That is the power of Leigh Bardugo.

Ruin and Rising so exceeded my expectations I can hardly put it into words. Nevertheless, I’m going to give it a fair try.

I’ve never been one for love triangles (or whatever was happening with poor Alina) or much for romance in books at all. I loved Wylan and Jesper in Crooked Kingdom, along with a select few couples I’ve read about throughout the years. But Mal and Alina are it. I have no better way to describe it; they are just it.

For a book boy to actually outdo Nikolai in the making-me-love-them-endlessly department is quite a feat, considering he is practically the perfect character. But that’s exactly what Mal did. And I’m really quite confused over all the reviews from people saying they hate Book Mal. Granted, I haven’t watched the show yet, and Show Mal might be even better. But even in the books, he’s a solid 10 for me. Are we sure we read the same story?

Then, there’s the Darkling. He really put his all into being not only a villain but also a generally horrible individual. He’s easily one of the best bad guys I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading about. I truly hated him from start to finish, which is exactly the point, right? Aleksander carried his weight, for sure.

I know I’ve already doted on her in previous reviews, but Alina is just such a compelling character, I think it’s worth mentioning yet again. Needless to say, Leigh Bardugo has a way with character writing that I’ve seen among very few authors. I instantly develop strong feelings toward almost everyone—at least everyone who’s important. No room for blasé MCs around here.

In favor of complete honesty, I will admit Ruin and Rising took a long time to pick up for me. The beginning, with the Apparat and all the underground living, was so boring I found it hard continuing the book. It felt like it was never going to end. I let the poor thing sit on a shelf collecting dust for I don’t know how long contemplating whether I really needed to read it, and if it would end up ruining the two great books that came before it by being painfully dull.

Fortunately, I did pick it back up, and it more than redeemed itself, earning a five-star rating I give out about twice a year to a very special book or two. And I owe my praise almost exclusively to Mal and Alina. Who would have thought?

Childhood FOMO Made Me Read Goosebumps

Everybody loves a good old FOMO sesh every once in a while, right? Just a gripping, sudden fear of missing out on anything and everything people have done and experienced that you haven’t yet?

Well, that’s exactly what led me to the Goosebumps series. Perpetually frightened child I was, horror books never particularly struck a chord with me when I was little. Even now, I tend to stray from them in favor of anything mysterious or thrillerish.

That being said, I have been catching up on some of the books I missed out on as a kid in the past few years. (The Chronicles of Narnia and A Series of Unfortunate Events are two of my particular favorites, but the amount of guilt I feel knowing I could have grown up with those books instead of reading them at the age of 20 or 21… Perpetual anger, I tell you.) Bottled up rage aside, or perhaps because of it, I gave the Goosebumps series a chance. And let me tell you, I was not disappointed.

For starters, it turns out R.L. Stine is a fantastic author. Goosebumps are kids’ stories, and that much is clear as soon as you start reading, but they’re written in such a way that they’re entirely readable, and not at all annoying, from the perspective of an adult. Though I tend to use the term adult very loosely when speaking of myself.

Beyond the writing, I have to say I really liked the story structure and the way it was written in such a way as to keep it lighthearted enough to not scare the daylights out of children, but spooky enough to actually give you a minor case of the creeps.

Don’t quote me on this because it was a while ago, but I remember watching an interview with R.L. Stine where he described how, as a child, he was afraid of literally everything. I think that comes across really well in this aspect of the books, where he is able to play to both the scary and fun aspect of a children’s horror series.

One part, in particular, I couldn’t get over was the excessive use of the word excellent by the children in the books. It’s absurdly funny to me to picture 10 year olds running around, yelling the word excellent to one another. But honestly, it just dates the series back to the 90s, which makes me love it even more.

I’ve only read a tiny portion of the series so far, but a few I would definitely recommend are: One Day at Horrorland, Stay Out of the Basement, and Night of the Living Dummy. And allow me to say, Mr. Wood is an absolute legend. The best and most offensive roaster of all time. 10/10 would walk out of a conversation with him with lowered self-esteem.

To sum it up, I don’t care about your age. Goosebumps is a must read. Need I say more?

P.S. Better Luck This Time is getting even closer! Ahh! Meet my sequel to The Half Theft on October 1st.

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Let me start by saying this is easily one of my favorite books I’ve ever read, and I’m beginning to think I may like the Shadow and Bone trilogy even more than the Six of Crows duology, which is really saying something. I think I could probably go on for a week or so telling you everything this book did right, but I shan’t waste your time. Here is a condensed version of my absolute adoration for this series and, above all, this book in particular.

First of all, I’d like to thank Alina for actually being likable. It is so very rare for me to find a main character I like and feel like I can relate to. They usually feel like too far a stretch from being regular people, especially in the case of YA and fantasy. But with Alina, I instantly liked her. She’s rather ordinary, but not so much that she’s boring. And her thoughts and feelings are always understandable. As much as I like to be confused by a character, it’s sometimes nice to feel like I just get someone.

Then, there’s Mal, another (extremely ordinary but in his own strange way not at all ordinary) gem, and really another thing that makes these books so worth reading. As often as I see complaining about poor writing with female characters in a variety of series (and believe me, I often agree with the critiques), I think there is also so much room for improvement in the writing of men. The Kaz Brekkers of the world provide just the right amount of spice, but the Mal Oretsevs help to ground their stories in reality, which I adore.

I know I have a whole lot to say about the characters today, but can we quick hit on the topic of the Darkling? Because quite frankly, he scares the hell of me. Really, how could I ask for a better villain? While he’s generally horrid in the first book, I like that his utter lunacy and murderous nature are ramped up even further in Siege and Storm. I always like the villains best when they seem truly unstoppable, which is exactly what he appears to be at this point. I can’t even guess where Alina’s headed next to actually take him down. (I mean, I do have a guess, but I’m not going to spoil it because that wouldn’t be very nice.)

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there’s Nikolai. Once I got a bit of the way into Siege and Storm, I suddenly couldn’t even remember what the books were like before he came along. What a boring story the first book must have been without him! (I’m only kidding. I love them both.)

I guess the moral of the story here is that Leigh Bardugo has unstoppable character-writing skills, and we all owe her an immense debt of gratitude for providing us with such an amazing series. I just started Ruin and Rising, so I’ll be sure to leave a review once I finish that one as well. And thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to everybody who talked about these books so incessantly I couldn’t avoid hearing about them (mostly my sister because we’re in the same house). I owe you all big time.

Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Well, Patrick Ness has done it again. I can’t even begin to describe my feelings for this book without first saying that I am utterly in love. The characters. The story. The structure. The writing. The different POVs. It’s all one big chef’s kiss, and an utterly perfect end to a perfect trilogy.

Let’s start with the characters, because that’s one of the places where these books really shine. In Monsters of Men, I somehow developed even more conflicted feelings regarding the mayor. I mean, I like him, but I’m also scared of him, but I’m also intrigued by him, but I also hate him, but I still want to trust him for some reason. He’s easily one of the best written characters I’ve ever read in any book. He’s utterly fascinating.

Next up: the story. My favorite part of Chaos Walking’s story is its originality. Usually when I read a book or a series, I can connect certain aspects, sometimes even many, back to one or more previously written stories (which makes sense, since all ideas have to come from somewhere). However, I really don’t see Patrick Ness’ story ideas elsewhere. The universe, the dynamic between the general populations of men and women, the individual characters and their key traits and their journeys—it’s so unlike anything I’ve read before.

This leads to the writing, which is another place where these books really stand out from all others in their genre. English teachers, beware. There are a whole lot of incomplete sentences in this book, even ones that use…periods at the end. And enough em dashes to sink a ship. All of which only lead to a more dynamic story. The action scenes in Monsters of Men are unlike any other, drawing me in completely until I feel like I’m inside the scene, experiencing the story.

Now, many of the things I’ve previously listed can be applied to all three of the Chaos Walking books, but the POVs in the final installation are completely their own. The Knife of Never Letting Go has one POV. The Ask and the Answer features two. Monsters of Men ups the game even more, and it couldn’t have been a more perfect strategy. It is clear the author knows exactly whose viewpoints his readers want to hear throughout the story.

The one teeny, tiny part of this book I have to admit isn’t my favorite is the romantic aspect. Todd and Viola, individually, are fantastic characters I have been rooting for (almost) since the moment I met them—Todd was kind of a jerk at first, so I took a minute to warm up to him. But I did, in time! My problem is that I don’t really care about their relationship in a romantic way at all. I loved them as friends, and I enjoyed the first book in particular because that’s what they were. Friends. As the books progressed, however, they became more and more romance based, and Todd and Viola began acting like they’d known each other forever, not for the short while they actually had.

But I digress. Monsters of Men was simply another beautiful installation in the fantastic series that is Chaos Walking. If you ask me, it is the perfect end to a perfect trilogy.

I Wrote Another Book!

As any of you who have followed my blog for a bit know, it is only on a very rare occasion that I make a post exclusively about my own writing. My main goal with this blog is to write my thoughts on others’ books and find readers who share my interests (or who have totally different thoughts and recommendations of their own, as they’re even more fun to hear from sometimes). That being said, this is one of those rare occasions where I have something to say about my own work.

Last November, I published The Half Theft, my debut YA novel, featuring a missing best friend, an almost stolen clock, and mysterious family of criminals, who might not all be completely evil to their very cores—unless I’m lying and they are…

Today, I am beyond happy to announce that I am well on my way to completing its sequel, the final installation in the duology! As it stands, I have one more draft to go until my currently untitled work is ready for publishing, and I couldn’t be more excited.

When I released my debut, I, quite frankly, had almost no information on the publishing process, and I ended up not really talking about the book at all until it was out. While I’m still certainly no expert on indie publishing, I have a whole community of amazing, supportive people to share my work with this time around—which is, for lack of a better description, super cool, and makes me even more grateful to have this novel nearly complete.

Now, onto the juicy stuff… I’ve been dying to spill my guts on this so here goes:

What I liked most about the writing process for The Half Theft‘s sequel was the fact that I allowed myself to experiment with a wider range of character interactions as well as characters’ emotions and responses to their surroundings. In The Half Theft, I certainly played around with (and truly kind of messed with) the traditional ideas of “good” and “bad” people and actions, as well as the ugly truths that can lie beneath the surface. This time around, I’m going a step further and turning my attention toward everybody’s favorite:

Morally gray characters.

Okay, so maybe they’re not everybody’s favorite, but they’re certainly mine, and I can’t wait for you to see what I have in store for you this time around.

I’ve also structured this book a bit differently, in terms of POVs, which adds something of a whole new layer of mystery and emotion. While the first installation focused on Charlie, with a bit of Maeve, the sequel will focus mainly on she and Elle. And believe me, Elle Vikander’s thoughts are something to behold.

Since it’ll still be a little while before I publish, I don’t want to let you in on too much just yet. But I can say I’m even prouder of the way this story turned out than the last, and I’m way too attached to my own fictional characters. As in, I would do anything for Maeve Roman, even though she only exists within the confines of my own mind. Does anyone else do that, or just me? (Hopefully someone.)

All I can say is, buckle up and prepare thineself for the chaos ahead.

1984 by George Orwell

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I am utterly horrified and in love with this book. What an incredibly creative and unique work of fiction with some crazy parallels to modern life. Let me begin by saying I’m not the biggest George Orwell fan in the world. One of my high school literature classes assigned Animal Farm, and it was, admittedly, not an experience I look back on with fondness. I quite literally hated that story. I still get chills in my very core thinking about it. (Perhaps I’m being a bit dramatic, bit I didn’t like it, okay?) Perhaps one day I’ll grow out of my Orwell-induced fear of pigs and communism, but that day is not today.

That being said, I have to say that 1984 surpassed all of my expectations by being enjoyable at all, and went beyond that by actually making fall in love with some of the characters and have some really in-depth thoughts on the world—both the fictional world in the story, and the real world in which I live.

I love a lot of books, but very few make me think about the world around me in such a profoundly new way. That is probably the main reason this book hit four-and-a-half stars for me. One element I found particularly disturbing was the way everyone was recorded, watched, and analyzed at any and every moment. For this reason, the main character, Winston, spends quite a bit of time doing his best to hide from cameras. When he is around them, he spends his time perfecting his expressions as to reveal nothing the government might find suspicious. Beyond the fact that it sounds like a generally horrifying situation, I realized that I would be completely doomed if someone were looking at my face 24/7, waiting for me to do something out of the ordinary.

I make strange faces all the time. I would be as good as dead in that world. In that respect, Winston is an incredibly impressive fellow, for sure.

As for the parallels I notice within modern society, the main one I pull from the story is the idea that society tells us certain thoughts are right and certain thoughts are wrong. Whether your ideas concern something serious or the fact that you do or don’t like a fictional relationship, people seem to find joy in collectivizing themselves against a common “enemy” that they deem as incorrect and, therefore, harmful—even if all that person did was, for example, say they like something that isn’t generally deemed popular. That was a mouthful, but hopefully you get my drift. I’m basically just saying that mob thought is definitely a thing in almost every facet of life, and that people love to hate others for the things they think.

Which is a super weird thought considering all of us have an unpopular opinion or two.

I digress.

Another part of the story I loved was the fact that I truly cared for the characters, even the main female character, who I was at first sure I would hate, and whose role won’t spoil for those of you who haven’t read 1984 yet. But you know when you read a book, and you can just feel that the author put no thought into a certain character and added them as an afterthought? Or when all the characters feel like they are there only to advance the plot, not to play their own unique role? I never felt that with these main characters. I can tell a lot of thought was put into them, shaping them into unique individuals I haven’t seem the likes of in anything else.

The reason I was so surprised with this was that I merely didn’t expect it, considering the publishing year. I often find that older books do use characters only to advance the plot, because that’s just how a lot of stories were written (and there’s nothing wrong with that, in the right story). That being said, 1984 was only stronger for it’s use of characters that matter to the reader, as well as its compelling plot.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a thought-provoking piece of fiction, or anyone looking for a change of pace from literally any modern books they’ve been reading. I cannot stress how incredible this story is.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Rating: 4 out of 5.

My most recent reading escapade wound up being a far different experience than I anticipated. After hearing how much my sister liked the Six of Crows duology, we decided to read them for our podcast. Me for the first time, Laura for the second. I ended up loving them, though I must admit I found Crooked Kingdom to be a step up from its predecessor. After that, I decided, since I liked those so much, I might as well read the Shadow and Bone trilogy. Because I loved Six of Crows, I wanted so badly to like Shadow and Bone, but Laura had a feeling it wasn’t going to be the series for me, mainly due to the prevalent theme of romance throughout, particularly the much loved and much loathed Darklina. *collective gasp of love or hatred*

It turns out Laura was wrong on one count but quite right on another. I actually did enjoy (at least the first book, since that’s all I’ve finished so far) much more than I thought I would. Alina is an interesting enough character, thrown into strange enough circumstances, that I kept wanting to know what happened next. I always love to find a main character I like. Even if they’re not the best character in the book, it’s still fun to be rooting for the MC rather than rolling my eyes at them for hundreds of pages (though I sometimes like to go that route, it sort of depends on the story). Shadow and Bone was definitely the type of book where the MC needs more than a few brain cells with which to operate. Thank you, Alina Starkov, for stepping up to the challenge.

Now for what Laura predicted correctly: I really don’t care for the Darkling and Alina’s weird sort-of relationship. Please keep in mind that I’ve only read one of three books, and I know very well this is a touchy subject (as it always seems to be with fictional couples). Nevertheless, I find the whole idea of an ancient fellow of indeterminate age seducing a seventeen year old girl to be…offputting. Plus, Mal is just dependable and kind and has always cared deeply about Alina, so I guess I just understand her feelings toward him a bit more than the lust she felt toward the Darkling. That being said, I’ve heard about people who like Darklina receiving quite nasty messages online, which is a particularly ridiculous thing to hear considering:

The books and characters are fictional.

And I should note that the Darkling is actually a fantastic character, if you ask me. He’s thoroughly creepy and untrustworthy, and I just might put my life into the hands of a volcra before him, but I completely understand (part of) Alina being drawn to him at first. I can’t say I wouldn’t want to know more if I met such a peculiar individual. I guess I just wouldn’t let the guy feel me up in a dark room.

I digress.

Let’s talk about Genya though. What a great character! I know she doesn’t have a huge role, but I love her friendship and dynamic with Alina. I always love to see a well-written female/female friendship that doesn’t seem forced. Their conversations feel genuine, despite the unrealistic setting and circumstances. I think that’s the sign of a good (or at least enjoyable, for me) fantasy book, when I can see real people inside the characters of the story. Genya is sassy but that isn’t her only personality trait, something I see too often in the books I read. I hope to read a lot more of Genya in future books. I love to see a character with a bit of sass and also a bit of class.

All in all, I did like Shadow and Bone quite a lot more than I expected, and I totally understand the heated debates I’ve seen online (though I have absolutely no interest in joining in). I like what I like, I dislike what I dislike, and I encourage you to do the same!

Did you read Shadow and Bone? Did you like it? Will you watch the spinoff series on Netflix?

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