Book Review// Fate’s Ways by Janille N. Giambattista

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Author: Janille N. Giambattista
Series: Standalone
Genre: Romance
Release Date: December 30, 2021
Book Length: 48
Publisher: Kindle
Review: 5/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Sometimes love happens, and we can’t explain why or how. Sometimes meeting our soul mate involves taking Fate’s hand and putting our trust in a force akin to magic. In this novella about two people who are quite literally destined to love each other for all their lives, Janille N. Giambattista examines how sometimes we can’t quite put into words how we were led to The One–but in the end, the how or why doesn’t matter as long as we find our Happily Ever After.

My Review:

As a child, I used to sit awake at night wondering about my life: Who would I become? Whose would I become? I conjured up a silhouette of this mystery man in my mind that I carried close even as I got older: dark hair and eyes, taller than me, good sense of humour, and all the other standard, surface-level things that come to mind when you make up a person from your imagination. I would write people off immediately upon meeting them, knowing intrinsically that they wouldn’t fit the mold; I was on a mission to manifest the person I’d created, and when I’d meet him, I’d know. I’m a firm believer in fate myself, and Janille has taken my childhood fantasies in the form of these main characters and propelled them onto these pages.

The hint of magical realism made this novella feel part fairy-tale. I’d love to live my life with the conviction that everything (and everyone) that happens to you is maneuvering you in the right direction, even if everything feels wrong at the time. In my interpretation of their enchanted encounters before meeting in adulthood, each of them is meant to face their heartaches, challenges, or close calls with the hope that the other is out there waiting for them some day, and to prepare them for the versions they are meant to be when they find each other. I thought this was such a beautiful and unique narrative, and one that I’d love to read more of.

I devoured this novella in one sitting, and I would happily absorb myself again in any and all future work of Janille’s – I’m already looking forward to her next one!

– Catherine

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Book Review// You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao

Author: Dustin Thao
Series: Standalone
Genre: Young Adult
Release Date: November 9, 2021
Book Length: 304
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Review: 2/5

My Review:

I knew this book would cause me pain and suffering, but I didn’t think it would be because I disliked it so much.

This is about 17-year old boyfriend and girlfriend Sam and Julie, and how Julie is affected by Sam’s death following a tragic car accident. Just when Julie thinks Sam is gone forever, she discovers that she can still communicate with him via phone calls. Even though he’s still with her now, it won’t be the case forever, and eventually, Julie has to learn to let go. 

The synopsis really had me intrigued, and not only that, but the cover is beautiful too. Unfortunately, the idea of this book was way better than its execution. 

This story is told through the eyes of Julie, and oh man was she the absolute worst character ever. While I don’t understand or agree with how she went about it (tossing out all of Sam’s things the same week he died, deleting all their texts, not showing up to his funeral, etc.) I had to remind myself that everyone grieves differently. It was really hard to do that though, because I can’t imagine someone who refuses to let go of the phone calls being okay with purging him from her life so quickly in all those other ways. This, before she even knew the phone calls were a thing she could do to continue their communication. It all seems very conflicting with the character that Thao created in Julie. What also really threw me off about Julie was that she would do nothing to better herself or any situation she was in, yet she complained as if she were the victim. For example, she kept mentioning that she was behind on all her assignments and barely did any work, yet she was surprised that she was doing poorly in her classes and didn’t get into the college of her choice. She also let down so many people – all her friends were stood up for anything they planned with her. Again, I understand the process of grief is different for everyone, but can you just stick to one promise you make to someone and stop being so predictable with always cancelling anyone who tries to support you? It’s a wonder she had any friends left by the end.

Aside from not feeling connected to Julie, I also didn’t feel the connection between her and Sam, or even with Sam for that matter. Everything the reader gathers about Sam is either from their phone conversations, or from random flashbacks she has of their time together. Most of the time, Sam was sweet, and it had me wondering how he fell for someone as selfish as Julie. There were other times though that Sam really had me annoyed, particularly during their phone calls. There was this one instance where he got really cold and short with her literally out of nowhere, and it felt like the conflict was put in the story out of force, not because it would be something these characters would have genuinely fought about. 

The magical element of Sam and Julie being about to communicate through the phone was cool, but there was never an explanation of why or how it happened. I guess not all magic needs an explanation, after all, it is magic. I don’t know though, I still wish there would have been some heart wrenching explanation for this. 

Despite all of that, the ending was heartbreaking and I couldn’t help but feel something about it. If this were executed in a different way, I may have felt that tiny spark I felt at the end throughout the entire thing, and maybe then I would have liked this better.

– Catherine

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Book Review// Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

Author: Sally Rooney
Series: Standalone
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Release Date: September 7, 2021
Book Length: 356
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review: 3/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Alice, a novelist, meets Felix, who works in a warehouse, and asks him if he’d like to travel to Rome with her. In Dublin, her best friend, Eileen, is getting over a break-up and slips back into flirting with Simon, a man she has known since childhood. Alice, Felix, Eileen, and Simon are still young—but life is catching up with them. They desire each other, they delude each other, they get together, they break apart. They have sex, they worry about sex, they worry about their friendships and the world they live in. Are they standing in the last lighted room before the darkness, bearing witness to something? Will they find a way to believe in a beautiful world? 

My Review:

I’m torn. On one hand, I thought this book was brilliant, but on the other, I so agree with all the 1 and 2 star reviews. I’ve never read a Sally Rooney before, but from what I gather, I think her work is something you either love, or do not resonate with at all. I find myself somewhere in the middle.

There is no real plot, no end game; it’s just ordinary people living their lives. At first, this confused me – I thought: What even is this book about? What is the point? I almost put it down because of those thoughts, but something else told me to keep going. Despite there never being a clear direction that this took, I found the writing too captivating to give up on. I felt like I didn’t like any of the characters, or really deeply care about them like I would have wanted to, yet I resonated with them. How Rooney managed to put their thoughts and feelings on paper to get me to care about otherwise bland, unlikeable, woe is me people, I do not know, but I was impressed. I like to read to escape reality, but these characters brought me back down to it as they were trying to find the meaning of existence in the 21st century.

I found the relationships in this book very fascinating. For example, Eileen and Simon were saying everything in code, speaking at length late-night about their fantasies involving each other. They could have easily made these things a reality, but they didn’t for the majority of the book – their actions were fleeting. I know it sounds incomprehensible, but sometimes the certainty of the fantasy is more enchanting than the potential finality of the reality. Even though I prefer to read as an escape, as a young person particularly, I found it amusing to see something so real like that play out in a book. Also, a lot of the lower star reviews mention that the sex scenes were awkward, which, funnily enough was the reason that I liked them. If you read the rest of it, you would realize that the sex scenes being awkward is more realistic for the tone of this book. Everything about these characters was flawed, so at least in my opinion, it would stand that intimate moments between the characters would be less than quintessential too.

Do I think this book is for everyone? Definitely not. I’m still not even convinced it was really and truly for me! But did I feel something undeniable about this writing? Absolutely. And that alone would get me to read another one of Rooney’s books.

Quotes I liked:

Every subsequent hour since I saw him has been worse than the last, or is it just that the pain I feel right now is so intense that it transcends my ability to reconstruct the pain I felt at the time? Presumably, remembered suffering never feels as bad as present suffering, even if it was a lot worse. We can’t remember how much worse it was, because remembering is weaker than experiencing.

It’s better to be deeply loved than widely liked.

What if it’s not only a small number of evil people who are out there, waiting for their bad deeds to be exposed – what if it’s all of us?

I feel so frightened of being hurt — not the suffering, which I know I can handle, but the indignity of suffering, the indignity of being open.

– Catherine

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Book Review// Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

Author: Jeaniene Frost
Series: Night Huntress #1
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Release Date: October 30, 2007
Book Length: 358
Publisher: Avon
Review: 4/5

My Review:

I only thought I was living before I met you. You’ll love me until you die, that’s not nearly long enough

I’m on a roll this year with starting books whose covers I hate where I end up loving what’s inside. It really is what’s on the inside that counts, I guess.

Cat is a half-vampire with super strength whose eyes glow green – she’s been murdering vampires since she was 16, trying to find her father and avenge him for the harm he caused her mother. One night, while on the hunt, she meets the charming British vampire bounty hunter, Bones. They learn that Bones is hunting some of the same vampires as Cat, except he’s hunting them for information. If Cat kills them all, there won’t be anything left for him. Together, they strike up a deal – he will help her find her father, if he gets to use her as bait to lure the vampires he seeks. Though Cat is wary at first, she agrees to help, but what starts off as a deal between friends ends up being way more than she bargained for.

Okay confession time: The movies are a different story, but I never did get into the Twilight books. However, with this, I was hooked. I thought the plot was so interesting, and the banter between Cat and Bones was very engaging. I also thought they had amazing chemistry, which made the steamy scenes *chefs kiss*. Admittedly though, Cat on her own did annoy me. She was extremely jealous and insecure, and that got on my nerves because she would start petty arguments out of nowhere from it. With that said though, she was nothing if not self-aware:

“I’m saying that I’m a moody, insecure, narrow-minded, jealous, borderline homicidal bitch, and I want you to promise me that you’re okay with that, because it’s who I am, and you’re what I need.”

That quote pretty much sums her up, but Bones on the other hand – oof. I loved him! The parts at the end where it was just Cat and her mother were almost unbearable; he made the book better for sure. There was never a dull moment here; there was always something going on, and it felt really fun to be on that adventure.

– Catherine

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Book Review// It Ends With Us

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Author: Colleen Hoover
Series: Standalone
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Release Date: August 2, 2016
Book Length: 376
Publisher: Atria Books
Review: 4/5

Goodreads Synopsis

Sometimes it is the one who loves you who hurts you the most.

Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up
— she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life suddenly seems almost too good to be true.

Ryle is assertive, stubborn, maybe even a little arrogant. He’s also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily. And the way he looks in scrubs certainly doesn’t hurt. Lily can’t get him out of her head. But Ryle’s complete aversion to relationships is disturbing. Even as Lily finds herself becoming the exception to his “no dating” rule, she can’t help but wonder what made him that way in the first place.

As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan — her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened.

My Review

Before I read this, I was skimming some reviews on Goodreads and most of them said something along the lines of “it’s so important for people to read this” and I didn’t understand it because how important can it really be to read (what I thought to be) your average romance novel?! Now that I’ve read it, I completely understand. I’m glad I didn’t spoil any part of the plot for myself because I liked that I didn’t see any of what happened coming and I advise that if you are planning to read this, you don’t read too much into the reviews.

The overall message was powerful, the characters were relatable, and I honestly just like the way Colleen Hoover writes. What I wasn’t too keen about were how Lily and Ryle overused their phrase “naked truth?” every chapter (it just bugged me, it seemed inappropriate at times and they said it far too much) and how some parts were a little too far fetched to be believable but this was minor in relation to the big picture. The author’s note at the end was also an added touch; had me close to tears, it was very personal and heartfelt. Definitely would recommend this book to anyone.

– Catherine

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