Always and Forever, Lara Jean

Another wrap up to a wonderful series. What I love about Lara Jean is that she’s a young teen. She likes to stay home and bake and scrapbook. She doesn’t drink, have sex or go to crazy parties*. While those aren’t bad, I think it’s important for all teens to see themselves in literature. Whether that’s race or gender or sexuality (which are also incredibly important), but it’s important to note that not all teens are Katniss Everdeen or Blair Waldorf, and that’s okay.

Always and Forever, Lara Jean, by Jenny Han, follows Lara Jean in her last year of high school. She’s worried about which school to get into and will she and her boyfriend Peter stay together and how her older sister will handle their dad remarrying. A lot of stuff is going on!

I wasn’t dating the star Lacrosse player during high school (or dating for that matter) nor was my dad remarrying, but I still saw a lot of myself in Lara Jean in this book. The pressure to chose a college is immense. Especially when you’re not really psyched about all your options and put all your hope into one or two… Despite the realness of this issue facing teens, along with the typical sex and drinking and growing up, I felt the ending of Always and Forever, Lara Jean was a bit rushed. Without giving away too much (I hope), it seemed like Han was going to end it one way, and then changed her mind (or her publisher or agent changed theirs). So the ending fell a little flat to me, and I wish it had ended the first way (or at least what felt to me like was supposed to be the ending).

Talk to me if that makes any sense. I want to hear someone else’s thoughts.

* she definitely becomes a more mature teen throughout the series, through Peter, but she’s still a young teen. It’s also interesting to watch that change throughout the series.

Popsugar Reading Challenge: A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you

Modern Mrs. Darcy Challenge: A book by #ownvoices or #diversebooks author

PopSugar 2017 Roundup

For reference, here’s the Popsugar 2017 Reading Challenge

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows

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I loved this book. It took me a moment to get into the swing of the story, what with slightly fantastical elements, but once I got there I was hooked! I’m being lazy and don’t want to write a summary of the plot, so I’m going to copy and paste the Goodreads plot summary:

The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane is about to become the Queen of England.   

If I were a better writer, this is what I’d want my book to look like. I am an admitted over user of parenthesis and I love all the snarky asides. I can’t wait until the other Lady Janie books come out! What will these crazy ladies come up with for Jane Eyre and Calamity Jane. My only complaint: I wish there was a little bit more romance between Jane and G.

I haven’t decided if this book will fit in book written by multiple authors, book about a mythical creature, or book with a character’s name in the title. I currently have it in character’s name, but it can fit so many slots, I’ll decide at the end of the year where it’s needed most.

The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Lauren Willig and Beatriz Williams

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I downloaded this book the same time I downloaded Maybe in Another Life but I could not get into it! I read the first page a dozen times over the course of two weeks. It wasn’t until I checked out the large print version at work one day that I made any progress. However, once I made progress I was hooked.

New York Times bestselling authors Karen White, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig present a masterful collaboration—a rich, multigenerational novel of love and loss that spans half a century….1945: When the critically wounded Captain Cooper Ravenal is brought to a private hospital on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, young Dr. Kate Schuyler is drawn into a complex mystery that connects three generations of women in her family to a single extraordinary room in a Gilded Age mansion.

Who is the woman in Captain Ravenel’s portrait miniature who looks so much like Kate?  And why is she wearing the ruby pendant handed down to Kate by her mother?  In their pursuit of answers, they find themselves drawn into the turbulent stories of Gilded Age Olive Van Alen, driven from riches to rags, who hired out as a servant in the very house her father designed, and Jazz Age Lucy Young, who came from Brooklyn to Manhattan in pursuit of the father she had never known.  But are Kate and Cooper ready for the secrets that will be revealed in the Forgotten Room?

The Forgotten Room, set in alternating time periods, is a sumptuous feast of a novel brought to vivid life by three brilliant storytellers.

This book requires its readers to suspend their disbelief, because the plot really is outlandish. But, that’s okay. It was just the right amount of romance and history and drama for me. Many Goodreads reviewers say they got confused about characters and who belonged to who. Maybe I read more multi generational or multi perspective stories than the average person, but I found keeping track of the plot and characters simple, once I got into the story.

Again, this book can fit multiple Popsugar categories: Written by more than one author, takes place during war time, and a book set in two different time periods. Again, I have multiple titles for many of these categories so I’m going to wait and see.

Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppermann

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I’ve read many young adult novels in verse and many children’s poetry collections, but never (at least to my recollection) a young adult collection of poetry. For a book review article I wrote for April, which happens to be National Poetry Month, I read Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppermann. Each poem is based on a fairy tale and retold from the perspective of a teenager (usually teenage girl). Many of the poems focus on body image and weight and the ridiculous headlines found in teen (and women’s) magazines. One of my favorites is

Sleeping Beauty’s Wedding Day

After the kiss and the trip to the castle comes the

showering, shaving, shampooing, conditioning, detangling, trimming,

moussing, blow-drying, brushing, curling, de-frizzing, extending, texturizing,

waxing, exfoliating, moisturizing, tanning, medicating, plucking, concealing, smoothing,

bronzing, lash lengthening, plumping, polishing, glossing, deodorizing, perfuming,

reducing, cinching, controlling, padding, accessorizing, visualizing, meditating,

powdering, primping, luminizing, correcting, re-curling, re-glossing, and spraying.

No wonder that hundred-year nap

just doesn’t seem long enough.

I have to admit, I didn’t love all the poems and many were a little too angsty for my preference, but it was definitely interesting! Also, I love fairy tales.

I’m putting this collection in a Bestseller from a genre you don’t normally read. I’m not positive it was a bestseller, but it was included as a Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Poetry in 2014, which implies it was as popular/bestselling book of poetry.

Upcoming 2017 Releases

Now that we’ve gone through all (or most of) the Best of 2016 books, it’s on to 2017! Forever Young Adult released their “Most Anticipated Books of 2017: Sequels and Follow-ups” list.

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Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

I have to admit, I have no interest in the majority of these titles. However, I am all about Lara Jean (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You) and I need to know what happens! Stephanie from Forever Young Adult pretty much sums up my feelings on the third book in the series: “Why I’m Excited: More Lara Jean, what the what?! But I’m so torn, y’all! On the one hand, I love Lara Jean and her family, and I will absolutely jump at the chance to see more of them. But on the other hand, she and [REDACTED] ended the last book in a good place, and if there’s anything we know about telling a story, is that there must be some kind of conflict to keep it interesting. And, guys, I don’t want there to be any more dramalama for Lara Jean and [REDACTED]. Why do you do this to me, Jenny Han?”

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The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein

I LOVED Code Name Verity so I’m super pumped about the prequel, The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein. It has a lot to live up to, and I don’t think it will pack quite the same punch as Code Name Verity (for obvious reasons), but Wein created such wonderful characters I’m excited to spend time with them again.

I also checked out Forever Young Adult’s list of upcoming YA standalones, in addition to various Goodreads lists, and found myself a few more intriguing titles.

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The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee

This is an incredibly niche genre, but I find I enjoy fantasy most when it’s set in historical time periods. Think The Night Circus. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue seems to fit this niche nicely. And there’s a boy-boy love story, which I still (unfortunately) do not see a lot of in literature.

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Once and for All by Sarah Dessen

New Sarah Dessen! Hooray! I love her. Once and for All promises to be just as delightful as all the rest of Dessen’s novels. I can’t believe she’s written 13!

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When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon is billed as a “laugh out loud, heartfelt, YA romantic comedy about two Indian American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married.” I think that pretty much sums up why I want to read it. Also #weneeddiversebooks and #ownvoices

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Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry

First, amazing cover! Second, I really enjoy middle grade novels in verse. Add that to our main character having Tourettes Syndrome and changing schools, and I’m officially intrigued.

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Me and Marvin Gardens by Amy Sarig King

I really enjoyed A.S. King’s Ask the Passengers (side note, interesting that the YA novels are under A.S. King and this MG novel is Amy Sarig) and I’m interested to see how she writes for Middle Grade. Me and Marvin Gardens is about a lonely boy who befriends a secret creature who eats plastic, and only plastic. The Goodreads blurb describes it as “her most personal novel yet, Printz Honor Award winner Amy Sarig King tells the story of a friendship that could actually save the world.”

Brightly also has a list of 2017 Picture Books. I’m very excited about the Jim Henson biography and Anna Dewdney’s latest. I was so sad to hear of her passing!

Best Books of 2016: Publishers Weekly

Picture Books

There are many repeat books on the various lists. Here are a few I read (and some that I enjoyed) that are not on School Library Journal’s list.

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Before Morning by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beth Krommes

I love the woodblock like illustrations. It reminds me a bit of Betsy Bowen’s picture books (which I love). However, the story itself is not my favorite. It’s not bad, but not mindblowing.

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The Journey by Francesca Sanna

The illustrations are breathtaking. As is the story. And it is so so so so relevant.

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Leave Me Alone by Vera Brosgol

A simple and clever story with folktale inspirations. Would make a fantastic storytime book.

Middle Grade

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Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

Not my favorite of Telgemeier’s. My review here.

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Ms. Bixby’s Last Day of School by John David Anderson

I haven’t read this yet, but I’m really excited about it! Just picked it up today.

Young Adult

The only one the list I read is Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys, but I already talked about that here and here.

I just picked up Unbecoming by Jenny Downham from the library today and I’ve heard great things about The Sun is Also a StarWhich is now officially added to my TBR list.

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Mosquitoland

From Goodreads:

“I am a collection of oddities, a circus of neurons and electrons: my heart is the ringmaster, my soul is the trapeze artist, and the world is my audience. It sounds strange because it is, and it is, because I am strange.”

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After the sudden collapse of her family, Mim Malone is dragged from her home in northern Ohio to the “wastelands” of Mississippi, where she lives in a medicated milieu with her dad and new stepmom. Before the dust has a chance to settle, she learns her mother is sick back in Cleveland.

So she ditches her new life and hops aboard a northbound Greyhound bus to her real home and her real mother, meeting a quirky cast of fellow travelers along the way. But when her thousand-mile journey takes a few turns she could never see coming, Mim must confront her own demons, redefining her notions of love, loyalty, and what it means to be sane.

Told in an unforgettable, kaleidoscopic voice, Mosquitoland is a modern American odyssey, as hilarious as it is heartbreaking.


I started out really enjoying this book and Mim’s voice, but as it went on, I felt like the author was full of himself. The characters became caricatures and I’ve heard others describe the book as a mouthpiece for Arnold’s own philosophical ideas, which I think sums it up pretty well.

Looking for Alaska

I wanted to love Looking for Alaska by John Green, but I just didn’t. Maybe I just don’t get John Green. I enjoy his books, so far Paper Towns is my favorite, but I don’t love them the way everyone else does. 

When I last mentioned  Looking for Alaska I had high hopes. My husband and I laughed and commiserated with Miles (Pudge) as he integrated himself into his new boarding school, befriending Chip (The Colonel) and Takumi and falling head over heels for Alaska. 

Then the “after” happens. I don’t want to say too much and give away the plot, but Pudge drove me crazy. 

Despite not loving any of his books, I’m still not going to give up on John Green. An Abundnace of Katherines is still on my to read list. 

Humor Me

I perused Booklist’s Top Ten Humorous Novels for Youth: 2016 the other day and marked a few books I must read. Pugs of the Frozen North (a not so impossible tale) by Philip Reeve was one of them. Who can resist that title? And for the most part Pugs of the Frozen North did not disappoint.

It’s not as funny as I was hoping (I am also not the target audience), but the creative characters, unique plot (I especially enjoyed the different kinds of snow), and engaging illustrations made up for it.

However, I did find the pictures/color/font choice difficult sometimes, but I think that’s due more to me putting off a visit to the eye doctor.

Overall, I can totally picture my brother as a 9 year old loving this book. He loved the Captain Underpants books at that age too.

The other book I picked up after finding this list was Lumberjanes: Beware the Kitten Holy written by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis and illustrated by Brooke A. Allen. I really enjoyed the Girl Power message in Lumberjanes and found myself laughing at almost everything Ripley did or said.

However, I found the plot line confusing. Maybe it’s my lack of graphic novel experience, but I found myself flipping back pages for plot and character refreshment.

In the end, I’m glad I read it, as I need more graphic novels in my repertoire, but I don’t feel the need to read the rest of the Lumberjane installments.