Saenz's Complex Teen Read Encompasses Identity, Tough Topics
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
""Something happened inside me as I looked out into the vast universe. Through that telescope, the world was closer and larger than I'd ever imagined. And it was all so beautiful and overwhelming and I--I don't know___it made me aware that there was something inside of me that mattered."
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is an award-winning young adult novel... and deservedly so. This book is rich with depth, meaning, and realism. It deals with so many heavy issues in a way that feels genuine and not forced. From PTSD to sexuality to identity, this book is a great one for teens and adults alike because it reminds us to be who we really are and go after our dreams.
Dante and Ari's friendship throughout the novel reveals so many layers to each of the characters. The author does a good job at capturing the feel of teenage relationships in a way that feels natural. I enjoyed the dialogue between the two as well as their quirky families. The characters are memorable in a John Green kind of way. They each have their own personalities and quirks that make them stand out in a world of young adult literature.
The continual symbolism of the the universe and stars was beautiful. The title fits perfectly, and I love it when a book makes you say: "Oh! I get why the title is what it is."
This book is an inspiring read for anyone searching for their identity and trying to mold their own personality in spite of family challenges. This is one of those books you could read multiple times due to the layers of meaning and the symbolism in so many of the lines.
A deep teen read that stands out thanks to its complexity and realism... I definitely recommend it.
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Raw, Real Main Character Redeems John Green's Latest Novel
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I am a huge fan of Fault in Our Stars, and loved Green's writing style in the book. I knew it was going to be a tall order for this book to live up to my love for Fault in Our Stars.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved his main character. Green again created a female protagonist who was strong, witty, and super memorable. I loved Aza and how real she felt. I also appreciated the fact that Green wrote about a character dealing with extreme anxiety. He didn't try to sugarcoat her anxiety or make it seem "less." He went all in, writing in a very raw, real way about Aza's struggles. I appreciated his realness and his ability to write her character in such a gritty way. I liked Aza's narrative voice in the novel and felt like I really knew her by the end.
For me, however, the plot in this book wasn't enough. I understand many really liked the introspective nature of this read and felt that the plot wasn't the focus. I can appreciate that and can understand Green's desire to approach this book from a unique literary form/presence. However, I really wish the plot started at the beginning of the book was more smoothly and intricately developed. I kept waiting for everything to come together and all of the subplots to make sense. I didn't feel that they ever truly did, other than a rushed attempt at the end to make it all make sense.
I also did not like the main characters' relationship all that much. Maybe I just like Hazel and Gus too much to be objective about another John Green couple. However, I just felt something was lacking between them. The depth and emotion wasn't there. I was left wanting more.
Although this is not my favorite book, I will say that Green always amazes me with his ability to write in a quirky yet relatable way. His books are always very clearly his own, with a one-of-a-kind style and voice. I appreciate his realism in his novels as well as his quirky references.
All in all, I am sure John Green fans will find valuable messages to cling to in this book. For many, the book will be a five-star. For me, though, I just wanted a deeper connection between the main characters as well as a more intricately developed plot.
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Honest Review of Colson Whitehead's Pulitzer Prize Winning Novel, The Underground Railroad
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Winner of the prestigious Pulitzer Prize, The Underground Railroad doesn't disappoint in its ability to weave a powerful tale of hardship, injustice, and also resilience.
The book follows the story of Cora as she escapes the confines of slavery thanks to the Underground Railroad...and also her sense of determination. Her journey begins in hardship and continues in hardship as she faces loss, obstacles, doubt, fear, and capture over and over. The book keeps you reading because there are so many twists and turns. It is a sorrowful read that will stick with you and remind you that so many lives have been filled with hardship and suffering. It really made me think about my own life in that sense.
Cora's character is one riddled with complexities. She is courageous but also, as any of us would, demonstrates fear and frustration. There are points of despair and hopelessness as well as extreme isolation. However, I admired her determination to not only survive, but to survive and find a life of freedom and joy. Living was not enough for Cora; she wanted to live with the power of choice and dignity, something that clearly every human being deserves.
This book was a harsh reminder of the cruelties of the American past. Whitehead displays not only the struggles and horrors of the time period, but also the many complexities that supported and promoted slavery at this time. He sheds a light on a particularly cruel part of history through a human lens. He, thus, paints the emotional and human side of slavery and escape from slavery, allowing the reader to feel every single emotion during Cora's trials. The book was a reminder that so many lives were not only lost during this time period, but also so many lives tainted by hate, prejudice, and a lack of dignity.
This is a poignant, difficult story about a harrowing journey to freedom that will remind every reader that life isn't about money, fame, or success as we define it: the true point of life is to live a life of freedom and conviction. In addition, it's about empathy for all of humanity and standing up for what is right.
Whitehead allows these messages to stand strong through the characters he created and the raw, gritty telling of their story.
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Pre-Order Inked Hearts NOW for 50% off and get an exclusive invite to our VIP Party!
"This is so stupid. I’m not going to see him again. I got my new tattoo, I’m ready to start over, and I’ve accomplished one of my goals.
As I walk toward home, I notice I have a little more bounce in my step. Despite the burning sensation on my shoulder and the pain, I feel better than I have in months.
I tell myself it’s the new tattoo, and not the man who gave it to me."~Lindsay Detwiler, Inked Hearts
Inked Hearts, a sexy seaside romance, is releasing October 21st! Pre-order now for half-off and then get your invite to our exclusive Pre-Order party, happening October 20th. We've got giveaways, recipes, behind-the-scenes, and more.
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Fall Festivals and Small-Town Charm: The Author's Life
I'm a small-town girl with a heart for the small-town kind of world. Sure, I've been dazzled during trips to New York City. The rush of people and the constant thrill is exciting.
But I wouldn't want to live there... because I'm a small-town kind of girl.
I like the simplicity of walking down my empty street, waving at a few friendly faces. I like the sometimes humdrum pace of our town. I like walking for breakfast to a tiny cafe down the street, and ambling to a school event on a weekend. I love the friendly, familiar faces at our local haunts. I love the lack of traffic at intersections and the easy pace of our Pennsylvania town.
So, this weekend, when my husband and I were invited to a bookstore in a small town in Pennsylvania for the town's fall festival, I was thrilled. These are the kinds of places I feel at home.
And you know what?
It was one of my favorite author events so far.
It wasn't my favorite because we sold hundreds of books (we didn't) or because we had lines of people waiting to meet me (we also didn't). It was my favorite because of the atmosphere, the people, and the small-town charm that just made me feel at home.
Watching children laughing as they visited the petting zoo and ate way too much caramel corn. The smell of fried foods and the simple chatter around. The dog costume parade and scarecrow contests. It was an afternoon of warmth and simple, true fun.
Sometimes as authors, we lose sight of the journey. We are always wanting bigger, better, faster, more. We are always measuring our paths by how many books we sell or how much money exchanges hands. We try to collect awards and fame. We become so focused on these things that we lose sight of the simple fun, the beautiful memories, and the days like today.
Today, I'm thankful for a chance to meet new readers and to explore a new town. I'm thankful my author career has led me to new places and small towns all over our state. I'm thankful for an afternoon in the sun with my husband, laughing and having a simple, small-town adventure.
The author's life isn't always about big cities and huge tour stops. Sometimes, as I've learned, the best days and events are the ones that make us feel right at home, that remind us what genuine fun is all about, and help us see that the memories we make along the way are so much more important than anything else.
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One hundred more miles until I am the new Avery, the woman I’ve always wanted to be but was too afraid of. One hundred more miles until I’m a brand-new woman without a past to haunt her, without pitying stares and questioning looks. One hundred miles until I can shake off this coat of expectations and social requirements for my life. One hundred miles until I break out of the perfect square constructed for my life. One hundred miles until I start fresh with new people, with a new town, with a new life. Only Henry knows where I’ve been, and I don’t think he’s telling anyone anything.
And the first thing I vow to myself in this new version of life?
I won’t let a man change that again. I won’t let a man control me, own my heart. I’ll live for myself this time, wild and free, a girl of the unpredictable wind.
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Feisty Sophia never shies away from life. Playful, romantic, connected—her marriage was the thing of fairy tales. But when tragedy strikes, Sophia is left to pick up the pieces of her life.
After leaving the army, Jackson is ready to start afresh. But when he returns home, his life spirals out of control.As Sophia and Jackson find themselves in each other, they start to see redemption is possible.
Trying to piece together a new life, they must answer the question: Should they forge a life together and say goodbye to their pasts completely, or should they loyally go their separate ways to avoid heartache?
Once and for All by Sarah Dessen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
"You can't measure love by time put in, but the weight of those moments. Some in life are light, like a touch. Others, you can't help but stagger beneath."
Once and for All is a beautiful, engaging young adult romance about moving on, tragedy, and hope. I adored the overall plot and the beautiful weaving of two different timelines together.
Louna's mother and godfather run a wedding planning business, so she's grown up around love and talks of forever. However, because of a serious tragedy, Louna doesn't actually believe in forever. When Ambrose is hired by Louna's mother to help out with the business for a summer, however, everything Louna thinks she knows about life and love might change.
Louna's character is the perfect balance of quirky and hesitant. I loved how dynamic she felt and how she changed through the book. Although this is a young adult novel, I felt connected with her character because she felt very mature. This is probably because at a young age, she experienced tragedy most adults couldn't even begin to imagine. This maturity allowed me to connect with her even though she is in her twenties.
I loved the supporting cast of characters in this book as well. They are all well-developed and memorable. The story moves at a perfect pace, allowing you to languish in the beautiful prose but also to feel like the story is filled with events. Sarah Dessen incorporates flashbacks seamlessly that help explain who Louna is.
This is, by far, my favorite young adult romance because it has the depth and sincerity of an adult novel while dealing with the unique issues of teenage romance. Sarah's writing style is gorgeous and captivating. There are so many beautiful lines in the book.
I wish the bonus scene had been more in-depth because I wanted to hear more about the story and where it went. However, this book is definitely a five-star novel and, in my opinion, flawless.
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A Flash of Red by Sarah K. Stephens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
"Not having noticed the warning signs, Anna now saw that she had become embalmed in her carefully constructed life."
A Flash of Red is a thriller about the perils that some marriages face, the difficulty of letting go of the past, and the harsh reality of mental illnesses. As a professor of Psychology, Anna Kline has devoted her life to teaching about mental illnesses and disorders. To her students, her life seems picture-perfect. However, behind the scenes she's harboring some difficult secrets--about her past, about her family, and, most of all, about her marriage.
When one of her students, Bard, learns about some of the realities she's harboring, their lives become intertwined. As the plot progresses, Anna and Bard must come to terms with their realities and with the notion that life isn't always what it seems.
I thought the psychological aspects of this novel were really well-written. I found myself constantly questioning whether or not I could trust each character. The depth of the relationships was also noteworthy. I liked that Stephens focused on the idea that marriage isn't always perfect. The behind-the-scenes look at a marriage in the midst of destruction was deep and thought-provoking. I liked the internal glimpse at both parties in a relationship about to detonate.
The tension was slowly built in the novel, which simmered over the course of the beginning of the story. At first, I was anxious for the pace to pick up; however, once it did, I realized how the slow simmer actually enhanced the events of the story and made the payoff greater.
The only thing I disliked was the ending simply because I could not agree with how it all turned out. However, everyone has their own opinion, and I can relish the fact that the ending did make me think and feel. This is the true mark of a well-crafted novel, regardless of whether or not you morally agree with what happened.
This is an excellent debut novel, and I look forward to reading more works by the very talented Sarah K. Stephens.
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