Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag 2019

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Hello my loves!

I know I say it every year and this is probably my catchphrase, but can you believe how quickly this year is going by?! It’s so cliche to say and I’m fully aware of it. But honestly, I can’t grasp that the first half of the year has gone by. How is it almost 2020? Wasn’t it just 2010? God help me.

Anyway, existential crisis aside, happy second half of 2019 everyone! If that’s a thing lol. Today’s post is going to be one that I did last year as well which I’m very excited about - the Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag!! Woohoo! I love posting these sorts of blogs because it’s a good mini wrap-up of the books I’ve been reading because with the amount I’ve read so far these year, it can be hard to think of them all as a whole group. So this is a really good way to talk about them all at once!

Without further ado, let’s jump right in.

Best book you’ve read so far in 2019…

Y’all know how I am about making decisions… I am BAD at it. So I’m going to allow myself to give two books for this answer. That seems fair, right?! Okay, so the two best books I’ve read this year so far are Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid and My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows. They were both so incredible and energetic. Honestly, there was never a moment reading either of these books where I was bored or wanted to put them down. I rated both of them 5 stars and they fully deserved it in every way conceivable.

Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2019…

Okay, so I struggle to call it a “sequel” but as it is part of the Lady Janies trilogy, I’m going to have to say that My Plain Jane was the best sequel I read in the first half of the year. I didn’t really read many sequels in the first half of the year. I only read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (a classic, of course) and All For One by Melissa de la Cruz (which I did not enjoy sadly). I’ve wanted to get my hands on a good series but just haven’t found many that’ve caught my eye yet. If you have a good one, please let me know!!

A book you haven’t read but want to…

Y’all, I am so excited to read A Game of Thrones. You may know that I got really into the show this year and that I binge-watched it just before the series ended this past spring. I only just bought the first two books recently and I am so excited to jump right into these books! Obviously, I’ve heard very good things about this series and I really enjoyed the show on the whole. I wasn’t super keen on the final season, in particular the finale, so hopefully that will be rectified by George R.R. Martin in the final books?! While those books haven’t come out yet, I’ll definitely let you know what I think about the first two books in the second half of this year hopefully!

Most anticipated release for the 2nd half of 2019…

Oh my god I am so unbelievably excited for The Testaments by Margaret Atwood to be released!! It is coming out in early September and yes, I’ve already got it pre-ordered so it will be sent to me once it’s released which is very good news because I’ve got a crazy busy September! I read The Handmaid’s Tale about two-ish years ago and loved it. I’ve since started watching the show on Hulu and think it’s incredibly done. The whole concept of Handmaid’s Tale is just so freaking terrifying but I think everyone needs to read the book or watch the show because our world is headed in a direction where women are being stripped of basic civil rights and we need to see what happens when it goes too far. Feminists, non-feminists and those in between can learn a lot from this book. And The Testaments has been described by Margaret Atwood herself as the answer to the questions that readers have had about Gilead since the first book was released in the ‘80s, so I’m PUMPED.

Biggest disappointment of 2019…

Sigh. Y’all know this has to be All For One… I was so bummed with how Melissa de la Cruz chose to end this trilogy. The first book, Alex and Eliza, was such an enjoyable historical fiction for young adults. And Love and War was a little less amazing, but still good regardless. But All For One was just a whirlwind and not in a good way. It felt like the author had sort of gotten bored with the trilogy and just wanted to finish it as quickly as possible. Like, not only were the loose ends not strung together as is expected in most series ends, but it was almost like the author started up a whole new story with this third book. Not a fan.

Biggest surprise of 2019…

Honestly, the biggest surprise for me has been Women Talking by Miriam Toews. I wasn’t really expecting much, I just thought it would be an interesting read, and it seemed sort of out of my usual selection of books. But it ended up being absolutely incredible!! Honestly, this book totally messed me up. It was so shocking and horrifying and heartbreaking… But also extremely powerful and uplifting?? I’d definitely recommend reading it. And also it’s great to support a Canadian author!

New favourite author…

Taylor Jenkins Reid!! I really enjoyed reading The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Daisy Jones and the Six in this first half of the year. I’d definitely read more of her work in the future.

Newest fictional crush…

I loved Alexander Blackwood from My Plain Jane! So cute and charming. Love the archetype of grumpy men who are secretly soft and caring on the inside (ahem Luke Danes)

Newest favourite character…

A character I’ve been loving is Fleetwood Shuttleworth from The Familiars. Her character growth was pretty amazing throughout the book!

Book that made you cry…

Although I didn’t cry while reading them, the two that made me most emotional were The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton and Women Talking. Both handled very difficult subject matter and did a great job of it. But both broke my heart fully.

Book that made you happy…

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy!! Yay for body positivity!!

Favourite book to movie adaptation…

D’ya know what’s funny? I haven’t seen a book to movie adaptation yet this year! But the Little Women adaptation is coming out in December, so I’ll let you know what I think of that when it comes out.

Favourite review you’ve written…

My review for The Royal We [review] was my favourite to write! It was one of the longest ones I’ve written and as it was for a book I really enjoyed, it was so fun to chat about!

Most beautiful book you’ve bought this year…

It’s genuinely been a year and I still don’t know if this is asking about the cover or the story… Last year I answered for the story, so let’s go with the cover this year! The most beautiful book I bought was The Familiars. It has an incredible navy blue cover with lovely woodland creatures and floral decorations.

Books you need to read by the end of 2019…

I’ve got a ton of books that I own that I still haven’t read. A few of those are: The Farm by Joanne Ramos, A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, The Huntress by Kate Quinn, and My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray.

I hope you enjoyed this little mid-year wrap-up!

Felicia x

If you fancy reading my book reviews from this year, you can find those all here.

And if you want to read last year’s Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag, you can find that post here.

Review: My Plain Jane - Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows

“If there was something strange in your neighborhood, you could, um, write the Society a letter, and they would promptly send an agent to take care of it.”

My Rating: ★★★★★

Genre(s): Fantasy, Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Retelling

Reading Challenge: 18 out of 35

Goodreads Synopsis —

You may think you know the story. After a miserable childhood, penniless orphan Jane Eyre embarks on a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall. There, she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester. Despite their significant age gap (!) and his uneven temper (!!), they fall in love—and, Reader, she marries him. (!!!)

Or does she?

Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and one orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Brontë, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.

My Thoughts —

The Janies have released yet another retelling masterpiece. And reader, I loved it.

If you haven’t already read my review of My Lady Jane, which I posted last year, now would be a great time to do that! You can read that here.

Okay, onto the review! So, first thing to note is that you don’t need to read My Lady Jane before you read this book. In fact, you don’t need to read it at all - but you should! Because My Lady Jane was amazing and I love-love-loved it. But these books exist entirely on their own. The best way that I could explain the Lady Janies series is by comparing it to an anthology series like American Horror Story, where each season is about a different story and different characters. That’s what these books are. They’ve got a common thread (being about a Jane, whether fictional or historical) but they tell different stories and aren’t connected.

Unlike My Lady Jane, which was a historical retelling, My Plain Jane took on a fictional story - the Charlotte Brontë Gothic novel, Jane Eyre. Some literary purists would probably be really put off by a retelling of a classic, especially one that really changed the course of the novel, but personally, I thought it was so entertaining. The team of authors who jointly put together this book did such a fantastic job at creating a multi-faceted story that combined the original storyline of Jane Eyre with common Gothic era elements as well as contemporary ideas. In this book, just like in My Lady Jane, we saw previously overlooked female characters taking a stand for themselves which was so empowering and amazing.

Something I particularly enjoyed about this book was how Charlotte Brontë took a major part in not only the storytelling but also the plot. In My Plain Jane, Charlotte was a close friend of Jane’s from the beginning of the story and she became an integral part in the main character’s story. But, maintaining a bit of reality, Charlotte was constantly writing down notes about Jane’s life in a notebook to use for a novel, which would ultimately become Jane Eyre. On the whole, it made the story feel a whole lot personal.

And finally, just like in My Lady Jane, My Plain Jane had little author’s notes which was so funny and original. It felt like the authors were telling the reader a story in a more personal way, and that’s something I really love about their books!

All in all, an INCREDIBLE book. If you’re looking for some ghostly fun (maybe a good October read???), definitely check this out, especially if you’re into young adults novels. It’s well worth the 400-some-odd pages!

P.S. I have just found out from the Janies’ blog (here) that they will not only be releasing a third book of the Janies series, My Calamity Jane, but also another trilogy - the Marys!! Which will include a first book about my most favourite tragic lady in history, Mary, Queen of Scots! Can’t wait for her to get the justice she deserved.

Are you a fan of retellings?

Felicia x

Review: The Familiars - Stacey Halls

“If the Devil is poverty, and hunger, and grief, then yes, I think they know the Devil.”

My Rating: ★★★★

Genre(s): Historical Fiction (Pendle witches), Fantasy, Paranormal

Reading Challenge: 16 out of 35

Goodreads Synopsis —

Young Fleetwood Shuttleworth, a noblewoman, is with child again. None of her previous pregnancies have borne fruit, and her husband, Richard, is anxious for an heir. Then Fleetwood discovers a hidden doctor’s letter that carries a dire prediction: she will not survive another birth. By chance she meets a midwife named Alice Grey, who promises to help her deliver a healthy baby. But Alice soon stands accused of witchcraft.

Is there more to Alice than meets the eye? Fleetwood must risk everything to prove her innocence. As the two women’s lives become intertwined, the Witch Trials of 1612 loom. Time is running out; both their lives are at stake. Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.

Rich and compelling, set against the frenzy of the real Pendle Hill Witch Trials, this novel explores the rights of 17th-century women and raises the question: Was witch-hunting really women-hunting? Fleetwood Shuttleworth, Alice Grey and the other characters are actual historical figures. King James I was obsessed with asserting power over the lawless countryside (even woodland creatures, or “familiars,” were suspected of dark magic) by capturing “witches”—in reality mostly poor and illiterate women.

My Thoughts —

Following my trend of only reading historical fiction novels (seriously, will I ever steer from this genre?!), I picked up this book after reading a bit about it on Goodreads. I’ve never really learned much about the history of witchcraft before, all though I knew about as much as the average person knows and after taking a recent course on the Stuart rule in England, I got the gist that James I wasn’t a big fan of witchcraft (or what he perceived to be witchcraft) in his kingdom. Despite my lack of knowledge, I picked this book up as sort of a beginner’s crash course on the topic. And it ended up doing the trick - I’m officially ready to learn more about this fascinating period of history!

I really liked how Stacey Halls flipped the perception of witches on its head completely by suggesting that the witch hunt was more of a fight for power and an attack on the poor than a reaction to an actual threat of danger. In this book, Fleetwood Shuttleworth - a young noblewoman - finds herself smack-dab in the middle of the Pendle witch trial when she believes someone to be wrongly accused and takes it upon herself to try to uncover the truth. What she finds is a world unlike her own, especially in regards to funds - those accused of witchcraft are disproportionately poor. Through her search, she discovers not only the truth about those involved in the alleged crimes, but also about those closest to her. The idea that the accused were not actually witches, but poor women who were unable to defend themselves is extremely eye-opening about the witch trials in general and how we perceive them today. In that time, what was unusual was considered evil, and the innocent were often persecuted.

Additionally, the way that women were portrayed in this novel was especially interesting. In the early 17th century, women had no rights and no position in the home or in society. They were silent figures that followed their fathers and their husbands - whether those men were good and right, or not. Fleetwood, our main character, has had significant hardship in her life as a young woman. At only 17 years old, she has endured horrors worst than most have in a lifetime. But these things have not broken her down - in fact, they have only made her stronger. And her friendship with her midwife, Alice, only empowers her more. But it is the witch trials that really sends her into full-force. She knows what she believes in and she follows this, regardless of if it is what her husband or society expects of her. Because of this, she becomes a full-fledged heroine. Through her journey, she highlights the greatest abuses against women in the early modern times and it is immensely inspiring.

Perhaps what I found most intriguing about this book, however, was what came after the novel - the Author’s Note, in which it was explained that the characters were real people who lived in 17th century England. That Alice Gray was accused and (perhaps more bogglingly) acquitted of witchcraft. The reason behind this acquittal has not been determined, even now, several hundred years later. Being a history nut myself, I found this mystery completely gripping and had even more appreciation for Stacey Halls, who gave a story to a woman whose life is an enigma.

Are you interested in the witch trials?

Felicia x

Review: Dear Evan Hansen - Val Emmich

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“I looked up once more, at the whole world; it was beautiful, I knew it was, but I wasn’t a part of it. I was never going to be a part of it.”

My Rating: ★★★★

Genre(s): Young Adult, Contemporary, Fiction

Reading Challenge: 14 out of 35

Goodreads Synopsis —

Dear Evan Hansen,

Today's going to be an amazing day and here's why...


When a letter that was never meant to be seen by anyone draws high school senior Evan Hansen into a family's grief over the loss of their son, he is given the chance of a lifetime: to belong. He just has to stick to a lie he never meant to tell, that the notoriously troubled Connor Murphy was his secret best friend.

Suddenly, Evan isn't invisible anymore--even to the girl of his dreams. And Connor Murphy's parents, with their beautiful home on the other side of town, have taken him in like he was their own, desperate to know more about their enigmatic son from his closest friend. As Evan gets pulled deeper into their swirl of anger, regret, and confusion, he knows that what he's doing can't be right, but if he's helping people, how wrong can it be?

No longer tangled in his once-incapacitating anxiety, this new Evan has a purpose. And a website. He's confident. He's a viral phenomenon. Every day is amazing. Until everything is in danger of unraveling and he comes face to face with his greatest obstacle: himself.

A simple lie leads to complicated truths in this big-hearted coming-of-age story of grief, authenticity and the struggle to belong in an age of instant connectivity and profound isolation.

My Thoughts —

So, just a disclaimer right off the bat here that I’ve never seen the musical Dear Evan Hansen - yet. I’m seeing it on June 12 in Toronto, which I’m very excited about! My only knowledge of the musical going into this novel was the general plot and the soundtrack. With that in mind, this is a review only about the novel, Dear Evan Hansen, not the musical.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s jump right in!

I enjoyed this novel immensely. I thought it was a very well-crafted Young Adults novel that dealt with a very important contemporary issue that effects teens. Right off the bat, I connected to Evan Hansen. Although they don’t outright say it, Evan clearly suffers from very severe social anxiety which I also suffer from. I know what it’s like to feel isolated and alone because of mental illness. It’s an all-consuming restriction on your life, especially before you learn how to manage it, and this novel shows Evan really having a hard time coming to terms with his anxiety. I also thought it was cool that they normalized therapy. Yes, he was initially reluctant to try the methods of the therapist but coming from someone who went into therapy telling everyone who would listen that it wasn’t going to work for me, that was definitely something I could relate to. As the book progressed, I think he really learned how important it was to follow through with the methods his therapist was giving him to cope and manage his anxieties, which was great. I got a very similar feeling from Under Rose-Tainted Skies, which I reviewed last year.

I thought it was really interesting how the creators chose to have Evan deal with the death by suicide of his classmate. I think it’s really easy to see Evan pretending to be Connor Murphy’s friend and creating a web of lies, and think he’s just a massive jerk or that the authors dealt with subject insensitively. But I didn’t see it that way. I saw it instead as a kid with limited social skills just completely making a disaster of a situation. What’s interesting about that is that you don’t have to view Evan Hansen as an incredible hero with zero flaws. If all characters were built that way, books would be extremely boring. I liked that he made a massive mistake, I liked that he did the wrong thing. It’s important for people to see characters make the wrong choices so that we can learn a lesson from it. At least, that’s my personal opinion!

Lastly, I just want to say that the real villain of this story was Alana Beck. I won’t spoil the story, but her influence on The Connor Project in the second half of the book left me fuming. I hope to god she’s not that insufferable in the musical.

Have you read Dear Evan Hansen? Or have you seen the musical? What are your thoughts?

Felicia x

Review: The Lost Girls of Paris - Pam Jenoff

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“The truth is sometimes the very opposite from what you expect it to be.”

My Rating: ★★★★

Genre(s): Historical Fiction (WWII), Fiction

Reading Challenge: 13 out of 35

Goodreads Synopsis —

1946, Manhattan

Grace Healey is rebuilding her life after losing her husband during the war. One morning while passing through Grand Central Terminal on her way to work, she finds an abandoned suitcase tucked beneath a bench. Unable to resist her own curiosity, Grace opens the suitcase, where she discovers a dozen photographs—each of a different woman. In a moment of impulse, Grace takes the photographs and quickly leaves the station.

Grace soon learns that the suitcase belonged to a woman named Eleanor Trigg, leader of a ring of female secret agents who were deployed out of London during the war. Twelve of these women were sent to Occupied Europe as couriers and radio operators to aid the resistance, but they never returned home, their fates a mystery. Setting out to learn the truth behind the women in the photographs, Grace finds herself drawn to a young mother turned agent named Marie, whose daring mission overseas reveals a remarkable story of friendship, valor and betrayal.

My Thoughts —

Personally, this book wasn’t one of my favourites of all the historical fictions that I’ve read. I picked it up because it had a very similar premise to The Alice Network, in that it revolved around women who were sent undercover to Nazi-occupied Paris during WWII. While The Alice Network was about women who worked directly as spies, The Lost Girls of Paris was about women who were sent out as primarily radio operators. But I figured it would be quite similar in giving me the feeling that The Alice Network gave me.

Spoiler alert: it wasn’t. And there’s a couple of reasons why this book just didn’t really work for me.

Right off the bat, I had a really hard time getting invested in the characters. The story didn’t just focus on one character’s story, but instead several. So I couldn’t really get the characters straight at the beginning, especially as two of the character’s stories paralleled in time whereas the third character’s story was a couple years later. So mentally, I was having a difficult time discerning who was who and what plotline was going on when - if that makes any sense. Once I finally got a grip on that, the story had already long kicked off and so I wasn’t fully invested in the characters.

Also, I found it frustrating how simple things were and how easily things came to the characters. Obviously, yes, there was significant conflict which you can imagine in a story about women operating in Nazi-occupied territory. But for example, within three pages, a minor conflict was presented and solved. THAT. EASILY. It was really unsatisfying. As crazy as it sounds, I prefer to have a complex conflict that requires a lot of effort and time to resolve, rather than a knot that can be easily untied in a few paragraphs or pages.

Overall, on the surface, the book was entertaining! I enjoyed it for what it was. I think the main downfall here for me personally was that I read The Alice Network before this, and I unintentionally held Lost Girls to a higher standard because of it.

That being said, if you want to read my review of The Alice Network, you can find that here!

What historical fictions have you been loving recently?

Felicia x

Review: Lincoln in the Bardo - George Saunders

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“Some blows fall too heavy upon those too fragile.”

My Rating: ★★★

Genre(s): Fiction, Historical Fiction (19th c.), Fantasy

Reading Challenge: 11 out of 35

Goodreads Synopsis —

In his long-awaited first novel, American master George Saunders delivers his most original, transcendent, and moving work yet. Unfolding in a graveyard over the course of a single night, narrated by a dazzling chorus of voices, Lincoln in the Bardo is a literary experience unlike any other—for no one but Saunders could conceive it.

February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. “My poor boy, he was too good for this earth,” the president says at the time. “God has called him home.” Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returned to the crypt several times alone to hold his boy’s body.

From that seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of its realistic, historical framework into a thrilling, supernatural realm both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory, where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state—called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo—a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul.

Lincoln in the Bardo is an astonishing feat of imagination and a bold step forward from one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Formally daring, generous in spirit, deeply concerned with matters of the heart, it is a testament to fiction’s ability to speak honestly and powerfully to the things that really matter to us. Saunders has invented a thrilling new form that deploys a kaleidoscopic, theatrical panorama of voices—living and dead, historical and invented—to ask a timeless, profound question: How do we live and love when we know that everything we love must end?

My Thoughts —

Okay, so this book didn’t really work for me. I KNOW, I’m like the only person who’s read this book that didn’t like it.

Not that I didn’t like it per se, but I just didn’t love it. Not as much as everyone else seems to enjoy it. I think the problem for me laid in the structure of the novel. There were essentially two types of chapters. The first was a chapter written sort of like a script, where the characters talked in both a dialogue and in a narrative format. The second was a selection of quotes that appeared to be from different sources that discussed Abraham Lincoln and his son, Willie’s death. Each chapter was so fast-paced and short that I just couldn’t get into the story enough.

I also found the style of the writing to be eerily similar to that of Samuel Beckett. If you’ve ever read Beckett and you’ve also read Lincoln in the Bardo, I’m sure you see what I’m talking about. I’m not a fan of Beckett at all so the similarities in the writing were not great for me.

Honestly, I’m not sure what more there is to say! I thought that the writing itself was well done. It’s just that this style of novels doesn’t particularly work for me. But considering the accolades that the book has been getting, I can tell I’m one of the few who sees it this way so don’t let this review deter you from reading it if you’re interested in it!

Felicia x

Review: The Quintland Sisters - Shelley Wood

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My Rating: ★★★★

Genre(s): Historical Fiction (1930s), Fiction, Adult Fiction

Reading Challenge: 9 out of 35

Goodreads Synopsis —

In Shelley Wood’s fiction debut, readers are taken inside the devastating true story of the Dionne Quintuplets, told from the perspective of one young woman who meets them at the moment of their birth.

Reluctant midwife Emma Trimpany is just 17 when she assists at the harrowing birth of the Dionne quintuplets: five tiny miracles born to French farmers in hardscrabble Northern Ontario in 1934. Emma cares for them through their perilous first days and when the government decides to remove the babies from their francophone parents, making them wards of the British king, Emma signs on as their nurse.

Over 6,000 daily visitors come to ogle the identical “Quints” playing in their custom-built playground; at the height of the Great Depression, the tourism and advertising dollars pour in. While the rest of the world delights in their sameness, Emma sees each girl as unique: Yvonne, Annette, Cécile, Marie, and Émilie. With her quirky eye for detail, Emma records every strange twist of events in her private journals.

As the fight over custody and revenues turns increasingly explosive, Emma is torn between the fishbowl sanctuary of Quintland and the wider world, now teetering on the brink of war. Steeped in research, Quintland is a novel of love, heartache, resilience, and enduring sisterhood—a fictional, coming-of-age story bound up in one of the strangest true tales of the past century.

My Thoughts —

So I first learned about the Dionne quintuplets in a women’s history course in university. If you’re not familiar with the case (which you probably aren’t), basically in the 1930s, a woman in Ontario, Canada gave birth to quintuplets. Her and her husband were poor, lived in a farmhouse without electricity, and already had a number of children. Having quintuplets was extremely rare in that time. What was more rare was that all five babies, born two months premature, survived infancy. Shortly after Elzire Dionne gave birth, a doctor named Allan Roy Dafoe who effectively took control over the babies and even created a hospital and nursery nearby where the girls grew up for many years, with a viewing window through which visitors could watch them play (no, I’m not joking). They were massively exploited, used to sell products and advice to mothers. It was all crazy and honestly pretty gross.

This novel is highly fictionalized, which I think is the most important aspect to be pointed out in this review. Please don’t go into reading this novel with expectations of an honest representation of the controversy of the early lives of the Dionne quints, ‘cause you ain’t going to find it here. What you will find, however, is a pretty basic idea of the quintuplets’ story and an entertaining historical fiction about a little bit of Canadian history. Hurray for Canadian representation! We get so little of it, honestly.

The story’s lead character and narrator, Emma Trimpany, is a fictional character who was portrayed as a nurse to the girls in their first few years. Her story is told through diary entries and letters, which I think was an interesting and effective way to format the novel. I think for the most part, this story focuses on Emma’s life rather than the story of the quints. I mean, the quints are a major aspect of the story, however, it’s more about Emma’s personal growth, I believe. At the beginning of the novel, she’s this extremely naive, sort of lost young girl, and her time working with the quints forces her to mature and face some really terrible aspects of the real world.

All in all, it was an entertaining story! I think it was a good story about a piece of Canadian history, with the backdrop of the pre-WWII years. But in terms of being a good fictional retelling of the Dionne quints specifically… meh.

Had you heard of the Dionne quintuplets before?

Felicia x

Review: My Life on the Road - Gloria Steinem

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“If you travel long enough, every story becomes a novel.”

My Rating: ★★★★

Genre(s): Non-Fiction, Feminism, Memoir, Biography

Reading Challenge: 8 out of 35

Goodreads Synopsis —

Gloria Steinem—writer, activist, organizer, and one of the most inspiring leaders in the world—now tells a story she has never told before, a candid account of how her early years led her to live an on-the-road kind of life, traveling, listening to people, learning, and creating change. She reveals the story of her own growth in tandem with the growth of an ongoing movement for equality. This is the story at the heart of My Life on the Road.

My Thoughts —

Last term, I took a Women’s History course in uni which focused on the women’s social movements in North America from the late 19th century to the early 21st century. The content of the course got me really into feminism. I mean, I was already a feminist prior to, but it sort of ignited in me a desire to learn more about the efforts of women in these movements. So I have set myself on a mission to read more books - fiction and non-fiction - by female authors, about female stories.

My Life on the Road is a book that I’ve wanted to read for a while, but didn’t really know much about. I just knew that a) it was apparently a great book, and b) Gloria Steinem was a feminist. Now that I’ve actually read the book, I’ve looked into Gloria Steinem more and am completely blown away with all the activism she has done for the majority of her life. She has spoken up on a ton of issues pertaining to women and equality, and has advocated for women’s control over their own bodies. Truly, she’s inspirational.

I was completely in awe of Gloria’s stories. This is a woman who has literally lived on the road. She has seen so much, experienced things that most people never will. And most of what she has seen was in most American’s backyard - they just haven’t bothered to look for it. I think one of the main messages I took from this book was that there is a whole world out there. There’s so much to see and do and, most importantly, there’s people living lives we could never fathom. We need to seek these things out. Spending our whole lives in a tiny, isolated corner of the world isn’t living at all.

Have you read Gloria Steinem’s book? What were your thoughts?

Felicia x

Review: Emma - Jane Austen

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“I may have lost my heart, but not my self-control.”

My Rating: ★★★★

Genre(s): Classics, Fiction, Romance

Reading Challenge: 7 out of 35

Goodreads Synopsis —

‘I wonder what will become of her!’

So speculate the friends and neighbours of Emma Woodhouse, the lovely, lively, wilful, and fallible heroine of Jane Austen's fourth published novel. Confident that she knows best, Emma schemes to find a suitable husband for her pliant friend Harriet, only to discover that she understands the feelings of others as little as she does her own heart. As Emma puzzles and blunders her way through the mysteries of her social world, Austen evokes for her readers a cast of unforgettable characters and a detailed portrait of a small town undergoing historical transition. 

My Thoughts —

This was the final Jane Austen novel that I read for my third year Austen course in uni last term. As I had literally a million things to do by the time my exam rolled around, I never got to finish reading Emma before the exam and left something like 50 pages for myself to read after I came back from winter break. (In case you’re wondering, I did well on the final!). Well, procrastination at its finest, I didn’t get around to finishing this until mid-February.

Emma is easily one of my favourite Austen novels, now that I’ve gone and read them all (but Persuasion). I really hadn’t heard much about Emma before, as it's not one of the more talked-about Austen novels, at least not in the way of Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility. It’s sort of underrated in that regard. I found it to be wonderful.

Emma is an unlikeable character in a few ways. She’s petty, naive, and extremely selfish. She tries to control situations so that they benefit her, which is clear through her convincing her best friend not to marry a man she so obviously is attracted to because Emma looks down upon his social-standing. But I think beneath it all, she does have a good heart and good intentions as well. Throughout the novel, she does the necessary learning to grow as a person which I think is incredibly important. And honestly, it makes for a better story.

In terms of the story itself, I think this is such a perfect example of Jane Austen’s wit. I love the humour in this novel!!!! I find that some of her novels, like Northanger Abbey, don’t really hit the mark for the wit that she’s known for - and that made me love her writing. This one, however, is so clever and just downright funny. Never in a million years would I have thought I’d be saying I was giggling while reading a book that was written in the 1800s haha. But, here we are!

In case anyone’s curious, my ranking of the Austen novels (excluding Persuasion) is as follows:

1. Pride and Prejudice

2. Sense and Sensibility/Emma

3. Northanger Abbey

4. Mansfield Park

What do you think about Emma? In your opinion, is it one of Austen’s best novels?

Felicia x

Review: Women Talking - Miriam Toews

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“When our men have used us up so that we look sixty when we’re thirty and our wombs have literally dropped out of our bodies onto our spotless kitchen floors, finished, they turn to our daughters.”

My Rating: ★★★★

Genre(s): Fiction, Feminism, Contemporary, Cultural (Fiction)

Reading Challenge: 1 out of 35

Goodreads Synopsis —

One evening, eight Mennonite women climb into a hay loft to conduct a secret meeting. For the past two years, each of these women, and more than a hundred other girls in their colony, has been repeatedly violated in the night by demons coming to punish them for their sins. Now that the women have learned they were in fact drugged and attacked by a group of men from their own community, they are determined to protect themselves and their daughters from future harm.

While the men of the colony are off in the city, attempting to raise enough money to bail out the rapists and bring them home, these women—all illiterate, without any knowledge of the world outside their community and unable even to speak the language of the country they live in—have very little time to make a choice: Should they stay in the only world they’ve ever known or should they dare to escape?

Based on real events and told through the “minutes” of the women’s all-female symposium, Toews’s masterful novel uses wry, politically engaged humour to relate this tale of women claiming their own power to decide.

My Thoughts —

1. Do nothing. 2. Stay and fight. 3. Leave. Which one do they choose?

Wow. Just, wow. I have so many thoughts about this novel. There literally aren’t enough words. Or, maybe, just not the right words, to describe it perfectly.

While this is a fictional novel, it’s definitely important to note that the plot was based on the very real events that happened in Bolivia in the 2000s. What happened to these women - the fictional ones and the real ones - is absolutely horrific and appalling. But their bravery in the aftermath of these events is completely incredible.

It was absolutely shocking to me how strong the women in this story were. Not that I don’t think women are strong enough to deal with tough situations, but that I could not even fathom how I could be able to handle the situation if it were me. The women were terrified, of course, but were concerned more about their families, their children, and their loved ones than themselves. It was also horrifying to me, first of all, how they were conditioned to think that they deserved nothing better than the lives they were living, and second of all, they were faced with the dilemma of staying put in the most horrific conditions possible or leave but have no knowledge of the world outside their community. They were uneducated, unable to fend for themselves, and couldn’t even speak the language of their country. Just the thought of it all makes me shudder.

I can’t even begin to say how deeply this book affected me. I had honestly no idea how hard this book was going to hit me. Although, going off the description, I knew it was going to be a difficult read. I will say that a lot of the content, particularly the descriptions of the rape, is extremely difficult to get through. If you’re somebody who finds it painful to It’s awful to think how some of the women thought they had no choice but to obey the men of their community - the same men who have drugged and raped them and their daughters - because they have no options or even education. My heart ached for them and for the women who went through the real experience years ago.

If you’ve been on the fence about getting this book, here’s your sign: go buy it. It’s well worth the read and will definitely get your mind running. It’s interesting (and scary) to try to put yourself in their shoes while you read. What would you do if it were you in their place?

Felicia x

Review: Love & War - Melissa De La Cruz

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“We will only stand if we learn to accept and even embrace each other’s differences rather than allow them to divide us.”

My Rating: ★★★

Genre(s): Historical Fiction (American Revolution), Young Adult, Romance

Reading Challenge: 32 out of 50

Goodreads Synopsis —

As the war for American Independence carries on, two newlyweds are settling into their new adventure: marriage. But the honeymoon's over, and Alexander Hamilton and Eliza Schuyler are learning firsthand just how tricky wedded life can be. Alex is still General George Washington's right-hand man and his attention these days is nothing if not divided--much like the colonies' interests as the end of the Revolution draws near. Alex & Eliza's relationship is tested further by lingering jealousies and family drama.

My Thoughts —

If you haven’t read my review of the first book in this trilogy, go ahead and give that a read here first!

I’m gonna come right out and say it. I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I enjoyed the first book, Alex & Eliza. I felt like this took a really different approach to the Hamiltons’ story than I was expecting. I get that it’s a YA series, so it may not deal with a lot of the more mature themes of their marriage (i.e. death, infidelity, etc.). But it just seemed a bit too light-hearted, if that makes sense? Even the conflicts they faced seemed to be solved almost immediately. It just seemed like they were living their own fairytale which, if you know the true history, you’ll know is not realistic.

I really hope that the final book of the trilogy, All For One (which is scheduled to be published in spring 2019) will be closer to the Hamiltons’ story. I just found that this novel was a lot more fiction than it was historical fiction. Sort of like Reign, but maybe even more far-fetched?

Have you read Love & War? What did you think?

Felicia x

A Book Lover's Dream

Despite being a book lover for the past twenty years of my life, I have never found my way into a secondhand bookshop before. Can you believe it? Years of dreaming about the romance of small independent bookshops, even writing about them 24/7, and I’d never even stepped into one. I guess the problem was that I was raised in a large city, where local businesses weren’t very popular and every corner was another chain store. I grew up in Chapters and Indigo shops.

Moving into a small town really gave me a new perspective on small, local businesses. My town only has a population of 10,000 people - literally 72x smaller than my hometown. Take a second for that to sink in. So it was a huge adjustment. Living in a small town made me realize how important it is to support local businesses. Unfortunately, there isn’t a bookshop in my town (yet…one day I’ll put one in there myself).

A few towns over, there’s a bookshop called Pickwick Books. When I used to live in Mississauga, I sometimes would drive home through the town Waterdown and would always pass by Pickwick on the way. I loved the look of it. There was something about it, this little adorable shop on the corner, that completely piqued my interest. I had to know what was in there. Flash forward two years and I still hadn’t gone in there. In my defence, it is about an hour away from home.

But this Saturday morning, my boyfriend told me to get dressed to go out, as he was taking me on a surprise date. And much to my delight, we pulled up to Pickwick Books an hour later!!!

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Pickwick was everything I could ever dream of. It was a small shop with dozens of shelves around the shop, filled to the max with books. On a stack of books was another stack of books. Everywhere you looked - to each side, on the ground, above your head - there were books. It was a cozy little cave of books. The woman running the store was so kind and let us browse without following us around the shop, which I was so grateful as I’m particularly introverted and would rather browse alone.

One of my favourite areas of the shop was the Book Vault. It was an extremely small room (literally only my boyfriend and I could fit inside and we were in very close quarters) with just three walls full top to bottom of historical books, separated by era. Literally every era of history you could imagine. It was absolutely a dream come true for me, being someone who loves books and is a history fanatic. I wanted to live in that vault forever.

The other really cool thing I found in the shop was that they sold old, rare editions of books. They had collections of famous author’s books that were from the 19th century, going as far back as even the 1830s. I was in awe. There were Charles Dickens sets from the mid-1800s, when Charles Dickens was writing his books. It was absolutely incredible to see in person. Of course, I didn’t buy any of those since I don’t have $500 to spend on a set of Dickens novels, especially since I already have a set haha. But it was very cool to see, especially the books which were still in volumes as they were popularly released back then.

I ended up leaving the shop with one book for myself, a beautiful hardcover copy of Selected Poems & Letters of Emily Dickinson. I got it for $25 and when I got home, I searched it online to find out it typically goes for $50 USD because it’s a 1959 edition. I was sooo pleased with my purchase!!!

Here’s your little reminder to check out your local businesses. They’d love to have you shop there and who knows what you’ll find tucked away in a shelf.

Felicia x

Review: Gmorning, Gnight - Lin-Manuel Miranda

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“Good night now, and rest. Today was a test. You passed it, you’re past it. Now breathe till unstressed.”

My Rating: ★★★★★

Genre(s): Poetry, Nonfiction, Self Help

Reading Challenge: 31 out of 50

Goodreads Synopsis —

Before he inspired the world with Hamilton and was catapulted to international fame, Lin-Manuel Miranda was inspiring his Twitter followers with words of encouragement at the beginning and end of each day. He wrote these original sayings, aphorisms, and poetry for himself as much as for others. But as Miranda's audience grew, these messages took on a life on their own. Now Miranda has gathered the best of his daily greetings into a beautiful collection illustrated by acclaimed artist (and fellow Twitter favorite) Jonny Sun.

Full of comfort and motivation, Gmorning, Gnight! is a touchstone for anyone who needs a quick lift.

My Thoughts —

So I may have mentioned this before, but I’ll say it again for the new readers: I absolutely adore Lin-Manuel Miranda. I think he’s oh so talented and practically the most inspiring person of our time, not to mention adorably dorky. And now he’s gone and created the most adorable, uplifting book I’ve ever laid eyes upon.

I really loved reading this book. It went by so quickly since it’s only about 200 pages and there’s only a few lines per page. But the little time I did spend with this book was lovely. Every passage was uplifting and empowering. I took to putting Post-It notes on the pages of my favourite passages, but that ended up being about 90% of the book by the end lol. I loved everything so much. Lin really has an incredibly way of putting things into perspective and making you appreciate the small things in life.

I think this would be a really excellent graduation gift idea, for those who know someone that’s graduating high school or post-secondary education! Also, if you want to read more of his “Gmorning, Gnight” style tweets, you can find those on his Twitter.

Are you a Lin-Manuel fan, like me?

Felicia x

Review: Alex and Eliza: A Love Story - Melissa De La Cruz

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“And you, Colonel Hamilton, are mine, and I am yours always.”

My Rating: ★★★★

Genre(s): Historical Fiction (American Revolution), Young Adult, Romance

Reading Challenge: 30 out of 50

My Thoughts —

Their romance shaped a nation. The rest was history.

1777. Albany, New York. 

As battle cries of the American Revolution echo in the distance, servants flutter about preparing for one of New York society’s biggest events: the Schuylers’ grand ball. Descended from two of the oldest and most distinguished bloodlines in New York, the Schuylers are proud to be one of their fledgling country’s founding families, and even prouder still of their three daughters—Angelica, with her razor-sharp wit; Peggy, with her dazzling looks; and Eliza, whose beauty and charm rival that of both her sisters, though she’d rather be aiding the colonists’ cause than dressing up for some silly ball. 

Still, she can barely contain her excitement when she hears of the arrival of one Alexander Hamilton, a mysterious, rakish young colonel and General George Washington’s right-hand man. Though Alex has arrived as the bearer of bad news for the Schuylers, he can’t believe his luck—as an orphan, and a bastard one at that—to be in such esteemed company. And when Alex and Eliza meet that fateful night, so begins an epic love story that would forever change the course of American history.

My Thoughts —

Recently, I’ve become super obsessed with the musical, Hamilton. I’ve been in love with it for a few years now for whatever reason, my obsession has skyrocketed in the past few months. Sadly, I’ve not yet had the chance to see it. My boyfriend tried to get tickets for the two of us to see it in NYC last year, but they came out to about $2,000 US!! So that was NOT happening. Since it won’t be coming to Toronto until the 2019/2020 season, I’ve had to find other ways to fuel my addition - like reading Hamilton-inspired lit apparently.

Melissa De La Cruz was actually one of my fav authors when I was a preteen, back when Girl Stays in the Picture came out (THE THROWBACK). When my reading tastes changed, I moved on from her books. But I was excited to read another one of her books again after all these years and see what I’d been missing.

I loved this book!! As you may know, I’m a huge YA fan. This is so up my alley that it’s crazy. The love between Alex and Eliza was palpable and I think it really was the perfect kickoff for the long history of the Hamiltons. I thought this novel read a lot like a modern-day Jane Austen novel. Not even just because it was set in the 18th century, but because it has a romantic storyline with a strong heroine lead and it ends in a wedding. I loved the Austen-esque elements and although I’m not sure if the author intended to include them, I think they were pretty perfect!

I also thought it was quite interesting how the novel was told from both the perspectives of Alex and Eliza. Especially since there was a fair chunk of the novel where Alex was off doing war-related things. It was pretty cool because then you got to see both sides of the story. It also gave readers the opportunity to be introduced to other key historical figures such as the Sons of Liberty. I’m very 50/50 when it comes to dual narratives, but when they’re done effectively I’m quite keen on them and I think it was done very well in Alex & Eliza!

There were obviously a ton of differences between this novel and Hamilton which I think ultimately comes down to picking and choosing which details to include and which to omit. For instance, in the musical, a lot of details were excluded or altered to work with the storyline - this was also done with Alex & Eliza. I did find that with Alex & Eliza, everything was a lot more fluffy which makes sense as it’s a YA novel. So if you’re looking for a hard-hitting, authentic Revolutionary War retelling, maybe look elsewhere.

I’m really interested to see how this series progresses throughout the next couple books! I already started Love & War which is the sequel, but the third and final book isn’t being released until April 2019 - so I have a bit of time left until that one! Until then, keep an eye out for my Love & War review!

Are you a Hamilton fan?

Felicia x

Review: All We Ever Wanted - Emily Giffin

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“Who was the person you trusted enough to be your most transparent self with, in both good times and bad?”

My Rating: ★★★★

Genre(s): Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Contemporary

Reading Challenge: 29 out of 50

Goodreads Synopsis —

Nina Browning is living the good life after marrying into Nashville’s elite. More recently, her husband made a fortune selling his tech business, and their adored son has been accepted to Princeton. Yet sometimes the middle-class small-town girl in Nina wonders if she’s strayed from the person she once was.

Tom Volpe is a single dad working multiple jobs while struggling to raise his headstrong daughter, Lyla. His road has been lonely, long, and hard, but he finally starts to relax after Lyla earns a scholarship to Windsor Academy, Nashville’s most prestigious private school.

Amid so much wealth and privilege, Lyla doesn’t always fit in—and her overprotective father doesn’t help—but in most ways, she’s a typical teenage girl, happy and thriving.

Then, one photograph, snapped in a drunken moment at a party, changes everything. As the image spreads like wildfire, the Windsor community is instantly polarized, buzzing with controversy and assigning blame.

At the heart of the lies and scandal, Tom, Nina, and Lyla are forced together—all questioning their closest relationships, asking themselves who they really are, and searching for the courage to live a life of true meaning.

My Thoughts —

So I actually ordered this book this summer whilst sitting at the Port Orleans resort, beignet in hand, trying to decide which three (yes, three) books to order from Indigo. It was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make because a) I’m already indecisive enough and b) the five or so books I wanted were all so interesting and I couldn’t bear to part with even one. But this one really stuck out to me. Like, something told me I needed this book immediately after reading the synopsis.

This book was wild from start to finish y’all. I really had a difficult time putting it down. It’s intense but not in a suspenseful, action-packed way. I think that most importantly, it really speaks to my generation. With social media being so prominent in our society, things can get really messy. Social media is great in that it links our worlds together and creates an opportunity for mass communication and social change. But it can also become a nightmare real quick, if it’s used for the wrong thing. I think this book really shows the dangerous side of social media and the novel presents itself in a way as a cautionary tale to parents and even teens. Are teens reading Emily Giffin? I did in high school but who knows!

I thought that the characters of Lyla and Finch were really well-represented as modern teens. Every time I read novels by authors long out of high school, I keep an eye out for how the teenagers are portrayed because I think that sometimes authors are out of touch with the young-ins (lol). In All We Ever Wanted, this wasn’t the case at all. I could definitely see Lyla and Finch as being real teenagers at my old high school. Having authentic characters really enhances the reading experience for me. I don’t know if it bothers anyone else as much as me. Is it a me problem? Who knows.

Honestly, just go read this book. You won’t regret it. I can’t say much about it without giving away the plot. But it was so gripping and it dealt with a ton of intense conflicts outside of just the social media issue that I think makes the novel that much more important of a read. Definitely pick this up at your bookstore immediately. Like go, right now!

Have you read All We Ever Wanted? If you have, what did you think?

Felicia x

Review: My Lady Jane - Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows

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“She delighted in the smell of the ink, the rough feel of the paper between her fingers, the rustle of sweet pages, the shapes of letters before her eyes.”

My Rating: ★★★★

Genre(s): Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult

Reading Challenge: 26 out of 50

Goodreads Synopsis —

Edward (long live the king) is the King of England. He’s also dying, which is inconvenient, as he’s only sixteen and he’d much rather be planning for his first kiss than considering who will inherit his crown…

Jane (reads too many books) is Edward’s cousin, and far more interested in books than romance. Unfortunately for Jane, Edward has arranged to marry her off to secure the line of succession. And there’s something a little odd about her intended…

Gifford (call him G) is a horse. That is, he’s an Eðian (eth-y-un, for the uninitiated). Every day at dawn he becomes a noble chestnut steed—but then he wakes at dusk with a mouthful of hay. It’s all very undignified.

The plot thickens as Edward, Jane, and G are drawn into a dangerous conspiracy. With the fate of the kingdom at stake, our heroes will have to engage in some conspiring of their own. But can they pull off their plan before it’s off with their heads?

My Thoughts —

First and foremost, let me start by saying that I love the Tudor era and everything about it. Which is ultimately why I decided to pick up this novel. Except this is no ordinary historical fiction. It tells the story of Lady Jane Grey, otherwise known as the Nine Days’ Queen. But this time around, it’s far less tragic and a lot more mystical.

If you’re unfamiliar with the history, here’s how it goes. Jane Grey was a teenaged English noblewoman who was married to Lord Guildford Dudley. When King Edward VI fell terminally ill, he wrote into his will that succession would fall to Lady Jane and her male heirs. But when Lady Jane took the throne, support grew in favour of Mary Tudor - a Roman Catholic - and eventually, Jane was deposed and executed for high treason. Yikes. This version of the story is a little different in that it includes humans that can turn into animals. And poisoning. The usual stuff.

This book was wild from start to finish, and I actually loved it. I thought the addition of fantasy elements, including the E∂ians (aka the animal-morphing humans), was quite exciting and ridiculously creative. I’ve not been huge on fantasy novels since my early teens, but this has definitely made me reconsider the genre. My Lady Jane was an extremely amusing and cleverly-written story, with enough real details to make you forget sometimes that people in the 1500s weren’t actually part-animal.

There were lots of twists and turns to this novel so, keeping with the spoiler-free promise of this review, I won’t reveal too much about the plot. But I did think it was interesting how they played out the Jane Grey vs. Mary Tudor situation. In real-life, Mary deposed of Jane and that was that. Jane’s existence was a threat because she was a Protestant queen. But in the case of this novel, I found it interesting how the role of religion paralleled the storyline of E∂ians and the Verities (aka the people who remain permanently human). The E∂ians being the Protestants, and the Verities being the Roman Catholics. There was definitely an interesting similarity there, that I’d really encourage you to look out for if you’re reading the book!

Most of all, what drew me into this book was Lady Jane herself. I loved Jane. I thought she was an incredible and complex character, the perfect bookish female lead. Books with a strong female lead always capture my heart and My Lady Jane was no exception. Jane showed undoubtable strength and defiance from the very start of the novel, constantly questioning decisions that she didn’t agree with or proving her intelligence by her extensive knowledge of life through reading. I think her relationship with Gifford was extremely interesting also because it forced her to come out of her world of just books and court, and apply her strength to real-life situations (i.e. the villagers early on in the novel). I was really rooting for the two lead characters and never more have I wanted a happily ever after in a novel!

After reading this, I’m so eager to read the follow-up book, My Plain Jane, which is a retelling of the classic Bronte novel, Jane Eyre. I think that these three women are spectacular authors and I would probably read anything that they published as a team. This is definitely the sort of young adults novel that I’d recommend to not only teens, but also adults!

Have you read My Lady Jane? Lend me your thoughts in the comments!

Felicia x

Review: Sharp Objects - Gillian Flynn

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“Sometimes if you let people do things to you, you’re really doing it to them.”

My Rating: ★★★★

Genre(s): Mystery, Fiction, Thriller

Reading Challenge: 23 out of 50

Goodreads Synopsis —

Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family's Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.

My Thoughts —

I’ve never been big on horror before. Aside from “The Girl On The Train,” I’ve not really delved into the whole psychological-thriller genre. I’m more likely to steer towards light-hearted novels. But I’ve heard so much talk about “Sharp Objects” in the past year or so and I’ve always had an interest in reading a Gillian Flynn novel. Not to mention, it was 20% off at Target. So, why not?!

This book made me uncomfortable. And I think that’s exactly what it was supposed to do. It’s an unsettling story about people who have unhealthy relationships and lifestyles. The characters of this story are dark and complex. Everyone has secrets lurking beneath the surface. Everyone has a disturbing past, a trail of destruction that follows them wherever they go. Each character is dealing with their own personal nightmares - and that’s what makes them so compelling, individually. Most of all, the women in this book are multi-dimensional. Here they are, in this town that makes women out to be useless, disposable, weak. But no. These women are deep, complicated people. And they’re capable of horrors seemingly unimaginable to most.

I thought this book was extremely well-written and riveting. I was hooked right from the start and didn’t want to put the book down once I picked it up - something that hasn’t really happened to me in a long time. After reading this, I think I’ll be reconsidering the genre. I’m definitely sure I want to read another Gillian Flynn novel in the future. If you have any recommendations, let me know!

Have you read Sharp Objects? Did you like it?

Felicia x

Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag 2018

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Happy National Book Lovers Day!! x

We're officially into the second half of 2018 folks!! Can you hear my hyperventilation through the computer? How could we possibly be in the latter half of this year? Wasn't it just January? Luckily, August is a pretty good month for me, as it is my birthday month (WOO HOO) and my boyfriend's coming down to Florida so soon! 

I've never done the Mid-Year Book Freak Out tag before, both because I have only just started blogging about books this year and because I'd never heard of it until recently. I love the idea of wrapping up the first half of the year in a post and this seems to be the perfect way to do so!

Best book you've read so far in 2018...

This is a tremendously difficult question to answer. How could I choose just one? Please don't force me to make decisions! Alright, if I had to choose just one, I'd have to say Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall. After my anxiety reared it's ugly head in late 2017, I spent the better part of the first half of 2018 struggling with my mental health, which ultimately left me unable to leave my house for days on end. That's when Under Rose-Tainted Skies entered my life. I completely identified with Norah's struggles in the book; although our mental illnesses aren't quite the same, I was facing a lot of the same problems as her and it made me feel a little less alone!

Best sequel you've read so far in 2018...

I haven't read a single sequel yet this year. Isn't that crazy? I guess with trying to keep up with my reading challenge, I made the executive decision at some point to just keep series out of it - at least for the first bit of the challenge (I do have a hankering to re-read the Harry Potter series...). 

A book you haven't read but want to...

So. Many. Books!! My TBR is getting longer as the year goes on... I'm quite positive that's the exact opposite of what's supposed to happen. Obviously I'm not about to go and list every individual title on my TBR, but one book I'm eager to read is The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. I've heard really good things about it and can't wait to get to it.

Most anticipated release for the 2nd half of 2018...

What If It's Us!!!! 100%.

Biggest disappointment of 2018...

Where'd You Go, Bernadette. I was really looking forward to reading it after all the high praise but I just didn't like it at all. It was so bummed out.

Biggest surprise of 2018...

Oddly enough, the biggest surprise for me so far was The Alice Network. I mean, usually I can be pulled in by any half-decent historical fiction. But considering I grabbed this one off the shelf with absolutely zero idea what I was going into, I was just expecting an interesting story about the world wars. But it was actually incredible. It was such a powerful story about women and their role in history. 

New favourite author...

Becky Albertalli, Kate Quinn, Louise Gornall, Gail Honeyman... Just to name a few!!

Newest fictional crush...

Hmm... I'd probably have to say Levi from Fangirl or Simon from Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. They're both adorbs!

Newest favourite character...

Eve Gardiner from The Alice Network. Hands down. She's so fascinating and I loved seeing her go from a somewhat timid young woman to a total badass. 

Book that made you cry...

None so far that I can remember! But I've been reading pretty light-hearted books lately. 

Book that made you happy...

Fangirl! It was so cute, even though Cath went through a bunch of tough things, in the end it was a feel-good read. 

Favourite book to movie adaptation...

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, EASILY.

Favourite review you've written...

I don't think there was any one review that I enjoyed writing over the others. I loved all my reviews equally!

Most beautiful book you've bought this year...

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. It was honestly so amazing. No words can describe how beautiful - and heartbreaking - it was. 

Books you need to read by the end of 2018...

There are so many (I do have 25 books left on my reading challenge). But to name a couple... Dumplin', Little Fires Everywhere, What If It's Us, I'll Give You The Sun, and Bachelor Girl.


I hope you guys enjoyed reading this post!! If anyone can let me know a way to slow down this year, let me know in the comments, haha. 

What are your favourite books of 2018 so far?

Felicia x

5 Websites for Book Lovers

If you're a total bookish freak, like myself, then you probably use all of your free-time doing book-related things. Whether it's reading a new book, re-reading an old fave, or re-watching Pride and Prejudice for the umpteenth time (we've all been there). But one of the other common things to do if you're a literary enthusiast is scroll through literary articles online. These websites make it easier to find like-minded people, people who want to spend as much time chatting about books as you do. Here are my favourite bookish websites to scroll through, when I'm not reading!

Books on Bustle - Bustle is one of my favourite websites for book-related content. It's an online magazine that mostly surrounds things that affect women including beauty & fashion, lifestyle, wellness, and of course, books. They post a bunch of fun articles that range from "must read" lists, advice for readers, and author interviews. Most of the articles are short and sweet, perfect for reading a few during your morning cup of coffee! You can also follow their Facebook page, Book-Lovers on Bustle, to get updates straight to your feed which is very cool. 

BookstrBookstr is an online community for literature lovers to come together and enjoy the joy that comes along with books and reading. I think of all these sites, this might be the most abundant and diverse as it has hundreds of posts, with something for everyone. In addition to just articles, they also have a specific category just for lists and another for quizzes. 

Buzzfeed BooksAlthough I don't typically like to read Buzzfeed posts that often, I do find myself clicking on their Buzzfeed Books posts. They have a slightly slim selection in comparison but they still have some good, informative posts and they have great lists of recommendations. They also have posts that are more opinion-based, which can either be good or bad, depending on how you see it!  

Refinery29 Books - Refinery29 is very similar to Bustle, in that it's an online magazine that is targeted for women. I love scrolling through their posts, especially ones like "The Best Books of 2018" - I'm always in search of a new book, and posts like these are perf for that!! Although Refinery29's website isn't really targeted towards book-related posts, they still have a good selection to read anyway.  

The StrandYou've probably heard of The Strand before, even if you think you haven't. The Strand is a massive indie bookshop in New York City, along with several mobile kiosks placed around the city that sell new and used books. It's a major staple that has been featured in shows like Sex & the City and Gossip Girl. Aside from their official website (which sells books online) they also have a book blog which features many recommendations and other book-related posts.

What are your favourite bookish websites?

Felicia x

YA Novels Every Teen Should Read

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Growing up, I was massively into reading. Ever since I was very very little, I've been most happy whenever I have a book in hand. So, being an avid reader, that meant that the majority of my life lessons came from novels. I learnt a lot from books, and so it's no surprise that there are many books that have over the years become hugely influential in my upbringing.

What's great about novels is that they give a look into the lives of people from many different walks of life; it gives you a real, up-close look into a world that you might not know - which makes you more empathetic and understanding - or show you that you aren't alone in how you're feeling.

These books are some of the major ones that not only got me through high school, but also kind of shaped me into the person I am today. They're, in my opinion, some of the best books for teens to read before leaving high school. So, I thought I'd give a bit of a run-through of what each book is all about, for you guys. Also, I included trigger warnings, where applicable.

PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER - STEPHEN CHBOSKY

Hands down, my favourite young adults novel. I read this when I was a young teenager, probably about 13 or 14 years old. Perks of Being a Wallflower is all about this kid called Charlie who's writing letters about his experiences in freshman year to an anonymously pen-pal. He goes into grade nine, dealing with the aftermath of a number of traumatic events, with no friends, feeling completely lost in the world. Enter two senior students, step-siblings Sam and Patrick, who take him under their wing. It really speaks to teens who feel like outcasts, without playing on that 'math nerd' stereotype that's found so often in YA novels/films. What I like most about this book is how it shows the bookends of high school - on one hand, you have the freshman, who's timid and trying to find their place in high school, and on the other hand, you have the senior, who's basically got their toes at the edge of their future. You can read this book either entering or leaving high school, and you'll still be able to relate to it in some way. It also depicts struggles with mental illness in a very serious way, too. Even if you've seen the film adaptation - especially if you've seen the film adaptation - you should still read this book.

Trigger Warnings: suicide, sexual assault, some violence

SPEAK - LAURIE HALSE ANDERSON

Okay, so the content of this book is extremely harrowing and that's exactly why I've put it on this list. If you're 18 or older, you've probably already read this one before, as it was extremely popular throughout the 2000s. It's all about a teenage girl who busts a summer party just before her freshman year of high school after an unspeakable (literally) incident occurs. She then spends the majority of the year in silence, as she faces rejection and backlash from her peers. Obviously, I won't give away what the incident was, as that's a huge spoiler. But it's definitely not for the faint of heart. The content that Laurie Halse Anderson tackles in this novel is both shocking and real. Speak takes on a number of really difficult topics and is a huge eye-opener.

Trigger Warnings: sexual assault

UNDER ROSE-TAINTED SKIES - LOUISE GORNALL

I only just read this book a couple months back and the first thing I thought of after finishing it was, "I so could've used a book like this when I was in high school." Unfortunately, this book was published long after I graduated - but that won't stop me from encouraging current high schoolers to read it!! Under Rose-Tainted Skies focuses first and foremost on mental health, which unfortunately hasn't been such a common main theme in YA novels in the past. It's also an #ownvoices book, which means that this story of mental illness comes from someone who, herself, suffers from mental illness. I think it's worth mentioning because it really makes the depiction of mental illness more raw and genuine. The main character in this book suffers from agoraphobia and OCD, which leaves her mostly unable to leave her house. She's faced with a bunch of challenges throughout the course of the novel, as she tries to find the path leading her to health. I think mental illness, although it's far more talked about now than even 5 or 6 years ago, is still plagued with stigma, and a lot of people who don't suffer from mental illness don't understand it well. Under Rose-Tainted Skies would be an amazing choice of book for students to read in high school classes (perhaps arguably better than some of the current choices...) as it would be a great conversation-starter.

Trigger Warnings: mental illness, self-harm

SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA - BECKY ALBERTALLI

Betcha saw this one coming!! I'm sure most people know about Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, or at least it's film adaptation Love, Simon by now. It's pretty much taking the world by storm and I've gotta say, I'm very happy about that. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is all about a closeted gay teenage boy who is blackmailed by another student after he's discovered anonymously e-mailing another gay student. Obvs, the reason I've included this book on the list isn't because of it's cute, fluffy storyline (although, it is mentionable) but because it features an LGBT main character and the primary storyline is about sexuality and adolescence. There are so many books out there with LGBT characters which deserve wayyy more recognition, but I'm glad to see a story like Simon breaking the barrier and paving the way for more stories like this to come to centre stage so to speak. This book is great because it deals with the anxiety of coming out to your peers and your family which - though I can't speak from experience on - must be a huge fear for LGBT teens worldwide. It gives something for teens to relate to. And for others, it's important because it shows the struggles of LGBT teens from their perspective, which can be really eye-opening to some people. The fact that this has come out as a film is great, too, because it widens the audience to all teens, as opposed to only readers.

Trigger Warnings: bullying, slurs

ELEANOR AND PARK - RAINBOW ROWELL

This is a romance novel unlike most. Although it features the story of first loves and all that, it also touches on difficult, real-life topics. Eleanor and Park is about a "misfit" named Eleanor and an average sort of boy named Park. Eleanor's family lives in a very small house of her mother's partner, where the kids are forced to share a tiny room and the family is exposed to the stepfather's abusive tendencies towards the mother and kids. Although this book is set in the 1980s, it's still very applicable to modern times in terms of the struggles that teens suffer and the experiences they go through. Although I read this as an older teen, there were parts of this that were relatable to me, and I think that the story would resonate with a lot of teens with different backgrounds. Often, YA novels - especially romances - are pigeonholed as light and fluffy, but this is certainly a book to challenge that. Don't get me wrong though, the relationship between Eleanor and Park is very cute and heartwarming!! It just also deals with serious topics, which is really important for teens to be exposed to.

Trigger Warnings: alcohol addiction, child abuse, domestic abuse, bullying

What novels were really influential to you whilst you were growing up? 

Felicia x