Hello everyone! Today, I wanted to share mini book reviews of ten books I’ve read so far in April.
Why so many? Well, because like many people, I’ve been staying at home due to the pandemic and have been reading a ton lately! The month is only halfway through and I know my Life post at the end of the month would be way too long if I did these in that one post, so I figured it was better to share these early. One, then I wouldn’t feel panicked later at a super long post and two, it’s motivation to read more for new books to add later!
I have to say, I’m super happy I left an entire page dedicated to the books I was going to read in 2020 in my bullet journal. I made my goal to be 20 books and I’m currently at 13 completed books, ten of which were this past three or so weeks! I’m going to be adding a ton to that page (I hope!) due to all these books.
How am I reading so many? Well, my library offers a service where you can put your library card into an online ebook database and borrow ebooks that way! I also own a ton of books on my TBR so it’s a mix of physical books I own as well as books I am borrowing as ebooks. Right now, ebooks are my jam because it’s something new to me, as I’d never really given ebooks a chance. However, I’m really liking the format and how different it is so it’s like I’m discovering a whole new world! Especially since a lot of books I want to read aren’t in my personal collection. Since libraries are closed right now (I can’t even return the materials I currently have in my possession) this is a life saver! I strongly suggest you check your local library’s website for info on if your library has something similar. Mine partners with the app Libby and I can place up to 10 holds, borrow up to 10 books for 14 days each, and read the books within that same app. It’s a great app! (Not an add for Libby or public libraries, I just love them both!) (Also, I track all my books in Goodreads, link to add me as a friend in my signature below!)
So here’s what I’ve been reading, and a sneak peek into what I’m currently reading too.
The Fates Divide by Veronica Roth
I own this physical book and had actually started it months ago, but I put it down about halfway (maybe even 2/3rds) through and didn’t pick it up again until last month. I finally finished it and I really enjoyed it. I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first book of this duology Carve the Mark, but it was still a great read and I loved the character Cyra a ton. I don’t want to say a ton about the plot because I don’t want to spoil the first book (the struggles of doing a mini review!) but the book follows Cyra and Akos, whose lives are ruled by their fates given to them at birth. The two fall in love despite their fates being a clear sign that they shouldn’t and Roth takes us on a journey told through many different characters which is just a fun time to get to know so many voices.
I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars. (Link is to the book review for the first book!)
Again, but Better by Christine Riccio
This is another physical book I own (I didn’t discover ebooks until after I read this one), and I had been meaning to read it for ages but just never got around to it. I follow Christine on YouTube and followed her vlogs on writing this book, so I really wanted to read it but never made the time until now. In the story, Shane is a college student who has been following a strict path to the “perfect” life. She’s pre-med, makes amazing grades, is on track to achieve all her goals that would make her family proud but she’s terribly unhappy at how she’s done college “wrong” as she has no friends or love life. She also doesn’t want to be pre-med! So Shane makes up a pre-med study abroad program in London, instead studying creative writing, and focused on doing everything right this time. I was really, really interested in this story as I also studied abroad (but in Barcelona) and really wanted to see how Shane pulled this off. The book ended up being a lot more different than I had thought, especially since Shane had quite an amazing opportunity to start over. Sure, it wasn’t the best book but I had such a great time reading it and laughed so much during.
I did give this book 5 out of 5 stars (rounded up from 4.5).
The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King
One of my favorite librarians has a book club that read this book a few months ago (they meet on Thursdays when I’ve had ballet in the past so I haven’t joined them but I was so interested in this book! I grew up watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood like many others but realized I knew nothing of Fred Rogers’ life. It was a really interesting read on this amazing TV icon and I was genuinely surprised at how much book there was and how little Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood featured in it. Rogers really had quite a big life and a huge journey to get to the part when he had his show. It was a relief to know he was the same person in real life as he was on the show, and lived such a great life off of TV. I will say, the book was super repetitive and would tell the same stories over and over again which was strange. I know it is a huge book so I’m guessing the author assumed that the reader would put the book down multiple times while reading it or something. If that’s the case, it makes sense why it was repeated so much, so that it would be fresh in your mind again. But it was still weird!
Either way, I did give this book 5 out of 5 stars because I was so impressed by Rogers’ life and really enjoyed reading it.
Out of the Dog House by Dick Portillo, Don Yaeger
If you’re from the Chicagoland area, you’ll recognize the name Portillo’s! Portillo’s is an amazing restaurant chain, mostly based around Chicago but with some remote locations in LA and Arizona, and it’s a household name around these parts. This book is by the founder, Dick Portillo, who is telling the story of how he started Portillo’s and made it successful. I really enjoyed the actual story, but I didn’t feel it was well written. This is likely because Portillo isn’t a writer, so a lot of the story is repeated and never really goes into depth on some of the more interesting aspects of it. This book wasn’t super long, so I couldn’t give it the benefit of the doubt as to why the stories were repeated so much as I did with the Rogers book. It was pretty good for adding an additional layer of insight into this well loved brand, especially since it’s a pretty inspiring American story as Portillo is the son of immigrants who built something great out of nothing. However, it’s just not very well written and does leave a lot to be desired.
I gave this one 3 out of 5 stars.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
While I think this book was a little heavy for quarantine times (I really think I need to stick to lighter reads for my own sanity), it was an amazing book. Starr is a high school student who lives in the “ghetto” but goes to school in an affluent area nearby. She finds it easiest to keep her two worlds separate, and goes through great lengths to keep it that way. However, when she attends a party in her hometown, she ends up as a witness to the fatal shooting of one of her best friends from childhood by a police officer during a traffic stop. Starr then has to decide if she wants to stay silent to keep her life the same as it was before, or if she wants to speak up and defend her friend by telling the truth of what happened that night. Starr’s decision is compounded by the pressures to try to keep herself and her own family safe. I found Starr to be such a real and raw character. Even though Starr is in such a horrible situation after witnessing a murder and living in fear, she made her choices with maturity and grace. Starr may be fictional, but she was an incredibly inspiring character and the story was very thought-provoking. I highly recommend this book.
I gave The Hate U Give 5 out of 5 stars.
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez
This book had been on my radar for awhile, so I put a hold on it as soon as I saw it on my app. Julia is a high school student who is the daughter of two Mexican immigrants. Her older sister, Olga, is the perfect Mexican daughter but after a terrible accident, Olga passes away. Julia then struggles to bridge the gap between not only herself and her parents, but also the sister that she realizes she didn’t really know. She struggles as her mother tries to tighten her grip on Julia while comparing her constantly to Olga, and Julia struggling to grow into her own person. While the summary itself sounded really intriguing, unfortunately the book didn’t really live up to it on it’s own. I loved the portions of the book when Julia was off exploring Chicago and working on her writing but it was so annoying to read Julia’s “investigation” of Olga’s life because it didn’t really go anywhere until the end when everything sort of just magically worked out. I understood why it had to work out that way, Julia was written to be such an annoying character that no one who had the information on Olga was willing to help her. However, Julia somehow was a completely different person as a budding author, getting a ton of help at school for her education even though she didn’t seem to make a ton of effort. Her relationship with her mom was likely realistic in some families, as it was a very toxic relationship, but it was also annoying to get through. I do wish the story had focused more on Julia’s writing aspirations and her own journey as an individual instead of her investigation on her sister and her family drama but that isn’t the story the author chose to tell. It just wasn’t the book I was expecting and not in a good way. Either way, it is a good insight into some of the many, many struggles of a first generation Mexican-American and that was enough to make it worth the read for me.
I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars (rounded up from 3.5).
She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Bolger
I totally thought this was a middle grade type book and not a children’s picture book but it was still fun! I thought it would be a little bit more biographical but really it was only one page or spread dedicated to each of the amazing women featured in this book. Even so, it was still a beautiful book and I’m not mad about it!
I gave it 5 out of 5 stars (def read it to any little girl you know!).
Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian
Can you tell I love YA books yet? I’ve had this book on my TBR list for a long time and finally got it! I really enjoyed reading this one. Theo is the rightful ruler of her home country, but held as captive by the people who invaded her home and murdered her mother in front of her. In order to survive Theo became Thora, and suffered so much abuse she was almost hopeless. When her abuse has reached new and terrible heights, Theo finds the courage and strength to risk everything she has left to reclaim her birthright and save her people. I loved reading Theo’s journey as she became a strong young woman, and seeing her regain her hope after being a victim for so long. It was also really cool to see her make the selfless choices as she’s offered the option to flee again and again but she choses to stay until the right moment to maximize the impact she can make towards freeing her country. I have a hold on the second book already (I believe this is a trilogy) which I’m looking forward to and I hope it lives up to the first book.
I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
I’ve wanted to read Mrs. Obama’s book for a long time. She’s such a classy, amazing lady after all! And while I’ve admired her as many people have, I didn’t know a lot about her life before the White House as First Lady. I really loved reading her story of growing up on the South Side of Chicago and her journey through school. Even though her family wasn’t wealthy she attended Ivy schools and became a lawyer, but eventually gave up her well paying career for one that would leave her feeling more fulfilled. I was also surprised at just how supportive she was of her husband’s political journey. She didn’t love the idea of being married to a politician but she supported her husband’s dreams anyway. I think there’s a lot to be admired in her incredible support and reading her story it’s clear that she had the ability to put an end of those career choices multiple times but she never did, leading to an amazing eight years for the USA. I definitely gained so much more admiration for Michelle Obama.
I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
I had wanted to read this book since the Netflix series last year (I think it was last year) but just never got around to it. I don’t think the book really added any insight to this process though. I do think the Netflix series is probably the most impactful as you can see the clear progress made by the people featured in the show, but the book would have been a good introduction. I felt that it was a weird combination of a “how to” book and a biography as Kondo explained her many failures that led her to creating this method. It’s an extreme method for sure and not one that I would really do any time soon but it was still a nice, quick read before I get ready to switch my winter clothing for my summer clothing (which goes against what Kondo says in the book but I live in Northern Illinois and can say with confidence that yes, I do need two sets of clothing).
I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars.
Those are the ten books I’ve read so far in this quarantine! Hopefully I can read a few more, especially since I’ll have a lot more free time coming up (more on that in a future post but basically – I’m unemployed?!). Leave me any book recommendations you think I might like in the comments and add me on Goodreads if you want!
Thanks for reading!
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