Blog Tour Review: The Other Side of Perfect by Mariko Turk

Today is my stop on the TBR & Beyond Tours for The Other Side of Perfect by Mariko Turk.
Special thanks to Netgalley and Little Brown Books for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Be sure to click on the banner below to check out the rest of the amazing bloggers on tour!

Goodreads: The Other Side of Perfect
Publisher: Little Brown Books
Publication Date: 11 May 2021
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Panda Rating:

(actual 4.5 pandas)

Alina Keeler was destined to dance, but one terrifying fall shatters her leg–and her dreams of a professional ballet career along with it. 

After a summer healing (translation: eating vast amounts of Cool Ranch Doritos and binging ballet videos on YouTube), she is forced to trade her pre-professional dance classes for normal high school, where she reluctantly joins the school musical. However, rehearsals offer more than she expected–namely Jude, her annoyingly attractive cast mate she just might be falling for. 

But to move forward, Alina must make peace with her past and face the racism she had grown to accept in the dance industry. She wonders what it means to yearn for ballet–something so beautiful, yet so broken. And as broken as she feels, can she ever open her heart to someone else? 

Touching, romantic, and peppered with humor, this debut novel explores the tenuousness of perfectionism, the possibilities of change, and the importance of raising your voice. 

CW/TW: the protagonist is dealing with a lot of anger and some depression, various experiences of racism, bullying

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Blog Tour Review: The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He

Today is my stop on the TBR & Beyond Tours for The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He.
Special thanks to Netgalley and Roaring Brook Press for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Be sure to click on the banner below to check out the rest of the amazing bloggers on tour!

Goodreads: The Ones We’re Meant to Find
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication Date: 04 May 2021
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction/Climate Fiction
Panda Rating:

(5 pandas)

One of the most twisty, surprising, engaging page-turner YAs you’ll read this year—We Were Liars with sci-fi scope, Lost with a satisfying resolution.

Cee awoke on an abandoned island three years ago. With no idea of how she was marooned, she only has a rickety house, an old android, and a single memory: she has a sister, and Cee needs to find her.

STEM prodigy Kasey wants escape from the science and home she once trusted. The eco-city—Earth’s last unpolluted place—is meant to be sanctuary for those commited to planetary protection, but it’s populated by people willing to do anything for refuge, even lie. Now, she’ll have to decide if she’s ready to use science to help humanity, even though it failed the people who mattered most.

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Year of the Asian 2020 Reading Challenge Announcement & Possibility Pile

I was waffling on whether I wanted to join this challenge but then I finally caved because #FOMO and I really just want to read more of the Asian authors that exist on my shelves. Seeing as one of my main bookish goals this year is to also read diversely I thought it’d be perfect to join The Year of the Asian 2020 Reading Challenge to hold myself accountable! #YARC is hosted by CW @ The Quiet Pond, Vicky @ Vicky Who Reads, Shealea @ Shut Up, Shealea and Lily @ Sprinkles of Dreams and the idea of it is pretty simple: read as many books written by Asian authors as you can! These books can be backlist titles (i.e. released in 2019 or earlier), new releases, and ARCs, and they can be books of any genre, format, and length. You can find out more information and sign up here.

Level 2: Indian Cobra (11-20 books)

There are quite a few levels that you can aim for (including a panda!) and I’ve decided to aim for the Indian Cobra (11-20 books). I have a surprising amount of books written by Asian authors just sitting on my shelves and I don’t really have a reason for why I haven’t read them yet, so I’m more than happy to have a great reason to prioritise them now. Here’s what I got:

Young Adult


I know I have other books by Asian authors sitting on my book shelf but I can’t recall them off the top of my head right now. But I think this is a pretty solid list of 20 to start with. I hope that I’ll be able to get my ass in gear and read all of these–I know some have been languishing on my shelves for way. too. long. #forshame. On that note, I’ll post my progress on my monthly Reading Challenge Updates post that I’ve literally just this second decided to schedule. Hopefully I’ll already have something to update by the end of this month!

Are you participating in the Year of the Asian 2020 Reading Challenge too?
Do we have any of the same books to read? What’s on your list?

2020 Bookish and Blogging Goals

Yesterday I already talked about Looking Ahead to 2020 but I didn’t really cover all the bookish and blogging goals that I hope to achieve this year. I’ve always been one of those people who like the idea of setting goals more than keeping track and achieving them 😅 But I hope that I’ll be able to stick to these ones!

GOAL 1: Read 100 books (Goodreads Reading Challenge)

I feel like a broken record every time I say that 2019 was a crazy reading year but it really was! I read over 200 books and I’ve never ever read that much in one year before. But knowing that I can read that much, I’ve set my Goodreads Reading Challenge to 100 books this year.

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Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – #BookReview

Goodreads: Where the Crawdads Sing
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fiction

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. She’s barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark. But Kya is not what they say. Abandoned at age ten, she has survived on her own in the marsh that she calls home. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life lessons from the land, learning from the false signals of fireflies the real way of this world. But while she could have lived in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world–until the unthinkable happens.

Friends, I loved this book so much. I’m so glad that I finally read it because in my opinion, it is worth all the hype around it! I have to say though that I can understand those who said that they didn’t love it or DNF’d it. Even though I’m obviously not surprised that this book received so much praise because I really loved it, it’s not the typical “fast-paced” novel that normally receives so much love in the book sphere.

“Sometimes she heard night–sounds she didn’t know or jumped from lightning too close, but whenever she stumbled, it was the land who caught her. Until at last, at some unclaimed moment, the heart-pain seeped away like water into sand. Still there, but deep. Kya laid her hand upon the breathing, wet earth, and the marsh became her mother.”

Where the Crawdads Sing is a deeply atmospheric, coming-of-age love story/murder mystery set in the 50s-70s, in the marsh land along the North Carolina coast. Through Delia Owens’ writing, the richness of the marsh and its surroundings that teem with creatures big and small, in the water, on land and in the sky, fully come to life. The story is quite heavily descriptive and full of metaphoric prose about nature that it sometimes reads like a love letter to nature itself. As I mentioned above, I see why people would find it boring or just couldn’t get into it because the descriptive prose made it a slow read and often quite dense. When I started I also wasn’t sure whether I’d love it, but it honestly didn’t take too long for me to realize just how quickly I sped through the chapters and how much I was looking forward to picking it back up again when I had to put it down. Owen’s writing was so captivating and poetic.

The story follows Kya or “The Marsh Girl” as she’s known to the townspeople of Barkley Cove. Abandoned by her family at the age of 10, Kya is left to fend for herself in the small shack that was her family’s isolated marsh home. She relies on the marsh and the sea to provide her a means for survival, and spends as much time exploring the natural land and begins collecting feathers, shells, and other special artifacts. Over time, she meets a boy, who teaches her how to read and write, brings her biology books and poetry, explores the marsh with her, and shows her what it’s like to not be lonely, and to love. But when promises are broken, she closes off her heart and retreats to her isolation, although her desperation to be in another person’s company sends her straight into the arms of Barkley Cove’s darling, who is a notorious ladies’ man. Just as with the other disappointments in her life, things don’t turn out the way she’d hoped and years later, when this man is found dead, she finds herself the primary suspect in his murder trial.

“Please don’t talk to me about isolation. No one has to tell me how it changes a person. I have lived it. I am isolation,” Kya whispered with a slight edge.” 

This book was beautiful and heartbreaking. Kya’s solitude and her loneliness was such a raw and desperate emotion that was deeply woven into her storyline. Her character was so pure, sweet and smart, and completely misunderstood. I cried, I laughed, I loved and I rooted for Kya to survive. To read of her abandonment by everyone who was supposed to love her, because they thought she was too wild or untamed for civilized society, was so heartrending; I often wanted to reach through the pages and scoop little Kya up to give her the love she needed. But her character’s strength and resilience was awe-inspiring. That she was able to make a life for herself and to overcome so many barriers in her way to find success made me love her character even more. Although Kya didn’t have many interactions with people, most of the characters who came into her life, especially Tate, Jumpin’, Mabel, and even Jodie, stole my heart just as much as she did. Even though some of them made pretty awful decisions when they were younger, they gave and showed her the love, respect and appreciation she deserved. I was thrilled when they proved they were there to stay in her life no matter what.

While the ending had a bit of a twist, I wasn’t really surprised by it (not necessarily in a bad way). I think I always felt that I knew the truth of what happened and that’s why it wasn’t shocking. Also, I don’t know how else I would’ve liked for this book to end, so I was quite satisfied with it. I loved how the title was woven into the storyline several times and kept coming back, and how the cover is a perfect representation of the book. I honestly would recommend this to everyone because I loved it so much, but I do know it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. That said, I can’t wait to read more from Delia Owens and I can’t believe this was her debut! It’s absolutely stunning. Definitely a strong contender for my top read this year!

Have you read Where the Crawdads Sing? Did it live up to the hype for you?
Let me know in the comments and let’s have a little chat 🙂

Book Review: What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

Goodreads: What If It’s Us
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, LGBTQ+, Romance
Panda Rating:

Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.
Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.
But what if they can’t quite nail a first date… or a second first date… or a third?
What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work… and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?
What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?
But what if it is?

You know that happy bubbling feeling you get inside your chest after you finish reading a great book? How it feels like you could just burst with all the satisfying emotions that are trying to clamber its way up your throat and out your chest? No? Yes? Well, this book had me feeling this way when I finished it yesterday. Y’all, this book made me so happy! Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera have delivered a wonderful contemporary YA romance about firsts, friendships and believing in yourself. This was a fast and fun read that had me constantly barking out with laughter throughout (this garnered me much unwanted attention from the public and I absolutely could not care)! Tbh, I think this is the first Silvera book I read that I didn’t cry over? It left me with all the great feels without any of the sadness! Basically, if you like Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Broadway (Dear Evan Hansen etc.), Harry Potter, and Barack Obama, then you will like this book!

“I believe in love at first sight. Fate, the universe, all of it. But not how you’re thinking. I don’t mean it in the our souls were split and you’re my other half forever and ever sort of way. I just think you’re meant to meet some people. I think the universe nudges them into your path.” 

When Arthur and Ben have a random moment of connection outside the post office one day, Ben is mailing a box of his ex’s belongings to him and Arthur is captivated by his beauty, so obviously, he follows him inside. Their meet-cute is slightly awkward (Arthur has no chill) and geekily adorable, and they’re getting along just fine, until a flash mob in the post-office pulls them apart without having exchanged names or numbers. Arthur is a big believer of the universe, so would it throw him and this beautiful boy together for no reason at all? He doesn’t believe it. So begins the story of one boy trying to find that boy from the post office in a city of over eight million inhabitants. No big deal when you think the universe is on your side, right?

Maybe their connection was improbable, slightly corny or a little cliché, but this story was just all kinds of awkward, and adorable and was an absolute delight to read! There were so many things I loved about it: the characters, their stories, the friendships, the NYC setting, and Arthur’s fantastic obsession about Hamilton, the greatest musical to have ever been written (don’t @ me). Also, all the mentions about Lin-Manuel Miranda. The last two made me love this book even more because when it comes to Hamilton and LMM, I am 1000% Arthur serious, and that’s serious.

“God, Arthur.” He kisses me. “Te quiero. Estoy enamorado. You don’t even know.” And I don’t speak a word of Spanish, but when I look at his face, I get it.”

Ben and Arthur were such great characters and I honestly loved how their relationship grew. Although things moved pretty quickly between them once the ball got rolling, especially considering that they only had the summer, it didn’t feel contrived to me. There were lots of awkward firsts and do-overs, but their connection, banter, and love felt completely natural and perfect in its imperfections. Arthur’s experience of being in a relationship for the first time was so relatable and I couldn’t help but recall my own first relationship experience! Albertalli and Silvera did a really great job in describing the rush of having a crush and the high of discovering first love, but also about the importance of having people in your life who you can trust, be yourself around, and be supported by. Although this was a romance, I really enjoyed the friendships between Arthur, Ben and their best friends, as it reminded me so much of my own high school friendships with my own ‘crew’. Even the drama that erupted between the friends seemed so typically high school, and it really had me chuckling when thinking back on my own experiences.

I liked how the authors also highlighted the struggles and vulnerabilities that teenagers can go through and/or feel during this period (with friends/peers, school etc.); where it feels like you have to know what you’ll be doing once HS ends, what college you want to attend, what major you want to do. Ben’s struggles with school, and his overall insecurity of not being good enough and not believing in himself were so real, and I felt his struggle on such a personal level. Figuring himself out and finding his worth and confidence in himself was a key aspect of his character’s growth.

“I just need more time with me, I think. To really believe in my worth without anyone’s help.”


I’m giving this book 4.5 stars because the hopeless romantic was crushed with that ending. Open-ended endings always leave me feeling a little dissatisfied, and this was definitely one of them… I mean, I can acknowledge that the ending was sensible… but I didn’t want sensible, I wanted ALL THE THINGS for all the characters, damnit!

I’m so glad that I picked this book up yesterday. I really enjoyed reading it, how much it made me feel and how far down memory lane it let me stroll! I’m so glad that this was my first LGBTQ+ read for pride month!

Have you read What If It’s Us or is it on your TBR? What did you think of Albertalli’s & Silvera’s collaboration?

Book Review: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Goodreads: The Nightingale
Genre: Historical Fiction, WWII, Romance, Fiction
Panda Rating:

FRANCE, 1939
In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real–and deadly–consequences.

This book absolutely shattered me. I don’t even know how to start writing a review for this beautifully heartbreaking book. I was ugly crying so hard in the last few chapters—like literally full body heaving, and just as my tears abated after one chapter, they’d flow again once I started the next. What have you done to me Kristin Hannah?! I was not expecting to feel this EMOTIONAL. Holy wow, when I finished this last night, my whole body felt so heavy but equally drained of energy! This moving book talks about a side of the war that is seldom seen or talked about: the women, and it was equally moving, fascinating and absolutely spellbinding.

“If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: In love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.”

The Nightingale is told in alternative perspectives between two sisters, Isabelle Rosignoll and Vianne Mauriac, from the start of the Nazi occupation in France until their liberation by the Allies. There were also a few chapters with an “anonymous” female narrator from the US in 1995, but we don’t find out who that is until the very end. I honestly can’t remember the last time I read a story about such strong female characters. Although they’re as different as can be, with Isabelle being the rebellious, bold and feisty younger sister to Vianne’s quieter, sensible and stable older sister, they both displayed awe inspiring strength and bravery during one of the most horrifying periods in history.

I was right there from the start with Isabelle’s character. I felt for her desire to be loved and accepted. She was wild and headstrong. Although it was reckless, I greatly admired how passionate she was about fighting for her people, resisting the Nazi’s, and how she dove right into the heart of danger by joining the resistance. She went on to save the lives of hundreds of Allied soldiers, and even though I was clutching my throat through every dangerous mission, how I cheered for her character to survive!

In contrast, I initially struggled with Vianne’s character. I thought her meek, almost cowardly and too willing to accept the changes happening around her. I wanted her to be bold like Isabelle, to fight—but in the end, I recognized that Vianne’s was a quiet strength that was just as admirable and courageous as her sister’s. As a mother she did everything she could to protect her children, and to survive the situation in the way she knew how to. She made a lot of mistakes that were sometimes fatal, but of the two, Vianne was the one who clearly grew the most throughout the story.

It’s so hard to believe that none of these characters are real. I grew to love all of them: Isabelle, Vianne, Sophie, Gaëtan, Antoine, Julien, Anouk, Micheline, Henri and so many others… I became so invested in their lives, safety and survival that it almost felt as if I was there and that I knew their fear, losses, strength and triumphs. With every scene, I could picture so clearly the surroundings. Kristin Hannah did wonders in bringing the setting and the characters to life with her simple yet descriptive prose. It’s not necessarily a “fast read” and it definitely wasn’t an easy one due to the subject matter, but I found I simply couldn’t put this book down. And when I was forced to put it aside, all I could think about was coming back to the story, and immersing myself back into the lives of these characters.

I think Hannah did a really fantastic job with this book and I learned so much about a different part of this historical period. Most books covering WWII, the Nazi occupation and the Holocaust focus on Jewish characters, and the horrors of the concentration camps. While there was a small part of that in this book, it was refreshing to learn about how other countries and citizens were also deeply affected, and especially to learn about the crucial role women played in surviving the war. One quote really got me:

”Men tell stories … Women get on with it. For us it was a shadow war. There were no parades for us when it was over, no medals or mentions in history books. We did what we had to during the war, and when it was over, we picked up the pieces and started our lives over…”

How everything was tied together in the end was bittersweet perfection. It wasn’t rushed, and it answered the questions I had leading up to the “present day”. And like I said, my tears wouldn’t stop gushing. I want to give this book all the freaking panda stars!

I honestly didn’t think anything would top my feels for The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, which has held the top spot on my favorites so far this year, but The Nightingale knocked it out of the ballpark for me. I definitely wasn’t expecting that! This book has received rave reviews and a lot of hype, and it 100% worth all of it. I think it’s safe to say this is now one of my all time favorite historical fiction novels. I can’t wait to read more of what Kristin Hannah has written!

Have you read The Nightingale or is it on your TBR?
Did it live up to the hype for you or were you disappointed?

Book Review: Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

Goodreads: Emergency Contact
Genre: YA Contemporary, Fiction, Romance
Panda Rating:

For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.

Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him.

When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.

For some reason, I’m having a really hard time stringing coherent sentences together to write this review. It’s been two days since I finished reading it and I thought that giving it some time to settle in my head would make it easier, but I’m still struggling; and not because I didn’t love it. So, sorry in advance for the rambling gushy review!! Straight up: this was 100% a cover buy. The blurb made the story sound cute, but the cover is what hooked me in. The art work, the pastel pink on white, and that rose gold title text made me want to add this to my shelf ASAP! Now that I’ve read the book, my favorite part of the cover is the fact that the characters depicted on it are 100% accurate of the characters within, and in terribly geeky fashion, when the cover gets it right, it pleases me to no end!

That said, I didn’t really have any expectations when I started reading it, but the story wasn’t anything at all like what I thought it would be. It’s an easy and fast read, told in alternating perspectives between Sam and Penny, and a mix of short text exchanges and paragraphs. When I finished this, all I wanted to do was lie on my bed with that book clutched to my chest and never let it go. The characters made me laugh, cry, get mad and want to give out all the free hugs. Thinking about Penny and Sam–their struggles, their friendship and relationships, and their pretty awkwardly wholesome personalities–actually still makes me want to cry (just a little). Although this could very well be my PMS? Hah, just kidding (sort of). In all realness, there was something so completely pure about both their characters and I felt for them so much throughout the book! This was more than just a cute love story, it was about characters learning about themselves, learning how to navigate college and all the freedom and expectations that this new “adult” life brings. We’ve all been there, some of us are going through that even now, so that made the story and characters very relatable.

“I like knowing that you exist. It doesn’t make me feel any less lonely, because life is lonely, but it makes me feel a lot less alone.”

I loved how Penny and Sam very awkwardly meet and become each other’s ’emergency contacts’. I loved that they texted ALL THE TIME and felt so comfortable being themselves “around each other” and there was no judgement from either. It reminds me a lot of the kind of friendship that I have with my own BFF (who I guess would be my OG EC) in that you can just talk about the silliest, most random things and they get it without you having to explain yourself. While their friendship was adorable, their awkward and dorky flirting was perfection!Thinking of their friendship/relationship and connection fills me up with a giant bubble of warmth!

I admit that I initially struggled with Penny’s character. I found myself really disliking her, not because of her incredibly awkward and seemingly cold personality, but mostly because of how she reacted to her mother, Celeste. How Penny treated Celeste really rubbed me the wrong way; however, as we learn about Penny’s character, we find out why she acts this way, and while it did leave me scratching my head a little, I understood that (however misguided) it does come from a place of love. I’ve been that girl too and seeing that reflected in Penny’s character, especially how her character grows at the end, reminded me a lot of my own relationship with my mum. Then there’s Sam. Sweet(!), mushy, lovable, tattooed(!!), BAKER BOYMAN(!!!), Sam. He was absolutely my favorite and ugh, I just wanted to constantly reach through the book and give him all the hugs! Watching how these two supported and grew together made me feel a little like I was watching my kids grow up, and honestly, I was just so proud!

Also, this book was perfectly quotable. There are so many random, quirky, funny, and relatable passages that I want to share, so the rest of this review is going to be just that!

I know we’re basically just a series of texts. But I’m glad that whatever led you to me happened.

“It wasn’t a romance; it was too perfect for that. With texts there were only the words and none of the awkwardness. They could get to know each other completely and get comfortable before they had to do anything unnecessarily overwhelming like look at each other’s eyeballs with their eyeballs.” 

“Penny thought of this Korean saying for when you really, really liked something. You’d say it ‘fit your heart exactly.’ Sam fit her heart exactly.” 

“Penny believed with her whole heart that there were moments – crucial instances – that defined who someone was going to be. There were clues or signs, and you didn’t want to miss them.” 

“It’s piles and piles of emotional homework forever if you ever want to qualify as a grown-up.” 

Have you read Emergency Contact or is it on your TBR?

#WWWWednesday: 29 May 2019

Friends, we’ve come to the end of yet another month. I realize this is what happens when each day and week ends, but my head’s spinning at the fact we’re already moving into JUNE. What have I done with all these months that have passed?! Damn. So it’s time for another WWW Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words, which means I’ll be talking about:

  1. What did you read last?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What will you read next?

What did you read last?

In the last week I finished Final Girls by Riley Sager, Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren and I Spy the Boy Next Door (ARC) by Samantha Armstrong (read my review). I absolutely ADORED Josh and Hazel–they were adorable and their story of friends-to-lovers is one of my favorite kinds. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book as fast as I did theirs. You can read my full review here. I’m so excited to read more Riley Sager because I really enjoyed Final Girls. The twists and that ending was completely different to what I expected to happen and it blew my mind (and everyone at that Starbucks on Sunday morning can attest to how shocked, as I started swearing out loud–oops)! 🤦🏻‍♀️ My review for this one will be coming soon.

What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi. This is another one from my #APICelebrAsian list and I’m hoping that I can finish it soon, although it’s the kind of book that I don’t feel like rushing through right now. I’m loving the characters and their stories–I honestly just want to give Sam the biggest hug in the world, and then stick him in a room with Penny SO THEY CAN TALK. This was admittedly a cover buy because I couldn’t resist this gorgeous millennial cover, but I’m happy to say that I can enjoy the content as well. I’m embarrassed to say that I’m still pretty behind on reading my galleys, but I am determined to slowly make my way through them! I started The Women by S.E. Lynes and it’s been interesting so far, but I think because I can anticipate this one making me pretty anxious, I’m not racing to pick it up again.

What will you read next?

Besides the MANY MANY ARCs that I will be reading, I’m really looking forward to starting Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I won my first ever giveaway on Instagram at the end of April, and the book I requested was Crawdads. Y’all have no idea how happy I am that this book is finally in my hands! As I’m sure many of you know, the hype for this book has been unreal and even months after its release, it’s still getting hyped. So you know it’s bound to be a great read, right? I’ve heard some say that they really didn’t like it, but mostly because they’re not fans of historical fiction, so I think it’s safe to say that I won’t find myself relating to them because I love historical fiction!

What are you currently reading? Have you read any of these books?
Leave me a comment and let’s chat 🙂

Book Review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Goodreads: Little Fires Everywhere
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: ★★★★☆

Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules. Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family – and Mia’s.

Little Fires Everywhere started off slowly but quickly picked up as we learned more about the members of the Richardson and Warren families. Celeste Ng opens the story by introducing readers to a semi-chaotic fire scene, where the characters seem slightly defeated, and the big drama of the summer has just passed, but the buzz around the incident is still being discussed behind closed doors. This story covers such complex issues that I wished I had read this with a group of people because I would have loved discussing this during and after I finished the book.

“Sometimes you need to scorch everything to the ground and start over. After the burning, the soil is richer, and new things can grow. People are like that, too. They start over. They find a way.” 

This is a slow burn character driven family saga. It’s about motherhood, the struggles of being one and the desperation to become one, and the politics of a perfectly made community. It’s about being a teenager and trying to find where you fit in, whether at home or in school. It shows how you’re not immune to unwanted changes and disastrous events, no matter how perfectly you build a life for you and your family. It doesn’t matter what you think you and/or your loved ones deserve, people will be people and they will sometimes make wrong and selfish choices that you won’t understand. There are little fires everywhere. The build up in the story is well paced and how Ng writes made the tension so palpable, you can feel just how badly everything is going to come crashing down. It’s a bit like a snowball being rolled up and then pushed down a hill—it happens so quickly. 

Perhaps the best thing about this book is how it looks at relationships between friends, lovers, parents, and mothers and their children. All the characters are fully fleshed out, and even the side characters have background stories that allow you to build a connection to them. I’m surprised that I didn’t actually dislike any of the characters in this book. There’s no doubt that Elena Richardson was pretty awful most of the time; she did questionable things and made infuriating choices, but her character was so complex. Her struggle to keep within the boundaries of the rules she grew up with and set for herself was relatable. She would think about doing awful things to keep things the way they were, but in the next moment she would show her softer side and could empathize with those she opposed. Even Mia, who Celeste Ng clearly wrote as the “good mother” vs Elena’s “bad mother”, was imperfect, and I really liked that she painted her characters as not simply “black and white” and “good or bad” in their personalities and actions, but rather everyone is a mix of all of that, much like how it is in real life.

I loved how the teenagers bonded, although I did feel at times their relationships were a little toxic, especially between the Richardson children with Pearl and Mia. There was a dependency that grew, which wasn’t unrealistic but I thought it was a little unhealthy. Though seeing the Richardson children recognize their flaws, and watching them grow and learn through their interactions with the Warrens, was heartwarming; even as I wished that their growth was more profound or concrete at the end. The only characters I was a little disappointed with was Moody and Pearl, especially since the foundation of their friendship seemed so strong, only to have it unravel so horribly towards the end. Moody’s reactions/actions, although understandable as a teenager overcome with intense emotions, was particularly disappointing and I found that I couldn’t really forgive him for reacting the way he did, especially with the fallout.

A lot of people commented how the ending was unsatisfying and I do agree. I felt that it was too rushed and everything was wrapped up too neatly. Everyone went their own way without really facing any consequences for their actions, with the exception of the Warren’s who really felt the full brunt of it. A lot remained unresolved and Ng left it pretty open ended, but I also think it was kind of fitting that it ended that way. I was hesitant to read this one for so long because of the hype surrounding it, but if you can be patient and let the story slowly unfold for you, it’s definitely worth it! I’m so glad that participating in the #AsianReadathon and #APICelebrAsian month of May pushed me to finally pick it up. I’m now looking forward to reading Ng’s debut novel, and whatever she comes out with next!

Have you read Little Fires Everywhere? What did you think of it? Do you think it lived up to the hype? Let me know in the comments!