The Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag|2020

Are we seriously more than halfway through 2020? What a miracle.

I’m doing this tag kind of late, but I’d like to thank Krisha @ Krisha’s Cosy Corner for nominating me!

The Questions:

Best book you’ve read this year-

This is an exceedingly tough question… it’s like asking me to name my favorite person or something. I guess I’ll just list a few of the 5-stars:

I’m going to preface the rest of this post by letting you know that it is chock-full of internal links to my reviews for the books I mention; some of these posts are from when I first started my blog and have barely seen the light of day so feel free to check them out 🙂

Best sequel you’ve read this year-

  • Catching Fire (THG #2) by Suzanne Collins– I only just read The Hunger Games in April (don’t come for me!). CF is definitely my favorite in the series. I was so into the plot; it was un-put-down-able and I was so shocked by the twists that I ended up giving it 5-stars.

New release you haven’t read yet but want to-

  • Good Girl, Bad Blood (A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder #2) by Holly Jackson– This was on my July TBR and my copy finally came in the mail the other day! I’m saving it until the end of this week, though, because that’s when AP exam scores come out and I want to have a consolation prize prepared. You know, just in case.

Most anticipated release for the second half of the year-

Hmm.. I don’t really know how to answer this because I honestly don’t pay any attention to releases; I just read whatever I feel like reading regardless of its publication date.

Biggest disappointment-

I don’t get horribly disappointed in books very often… I feel kind of bad calling books “disappointments”, but there were definitely a few books this year that fell flat despite my high hopes, such as:

  • Allegiant by Veronica Roth– Gosh, this book was exasperating… it was so boring and had an astonishingly stupid plot… the Divergent series as a whole was alright, but this book…. yikes… I didn’t like it very much.
  • Save the Date by Morgan Matson– this was the first book I read by Morgan Matson, and I found it slow, boring, and just generally not funny. However, I did really enjoy the next book I read of hers, so I’m looking forward to reading the rest of her work.
  • Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennet– another book from my July TBR! This is a tough one because I didn’t dislike it, it was just not as good as I hoped. The humor didn’t click for me, I wasn’t a fan of the characters, and the romance was decidedly not clean- to the point where it was uncomfortable and cringeworthy. I gave it 3 stars though, because I was really enjoying it at the beginning and there were lots of redeeming qualities.
  • The Selection by Keira Cass

Biggest surprise-

I was not expecting to like either of those, but they both ended up being 4-star reads!

New favorite author (new to you or debut)-

If you have been reading my blog lately, you can probably guess who I’m going to say based on certain books I’ve been rambling about nonstop…

Yes, Ruta Sepetys and Holly Jackson. Oh, and also Emma Lord.

Books that made you cry-

I’m not someone who flat-out sobs over books. It’s just a book, after all. But if a book is good enough and decides to bring out all the feels in the ending, I will probably shed a few tears.

Books that made you happy-

Favorite book-to-film adaptation-

I’m about to say something controversial… I don’t like watching movies that much.

I do really like the 2004 version of Pride and Prejudice though. They characterized the amazing Mr. Darcy exactly right.

The Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban movie is also a great rendition of the best Harry Potter book.

Favorite posts you have written this year-

Most beautiful book you have bought or received this year-

My copy of Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson- which I included in my July TBR– has a really nice cover.

Books you need to read by the end of the year-

I don’t put a huge amount of pressure on myself to read books, and I don’t have any kind of list I NEED to get through, unless of course you’re counting the stuff I’ll have to read for school come fall.

Goodreads goal-

Thanks to the… exigent circumstances… of this year (I’ll lose it if I hear the phrase “social distancing” one more time), I have been able to read way, way, way more than usual.

To put that into perspective…. I read 69 books in the entirety of 2018 and only 30 in 2019.

I’ve had an insane amount of free time for reading this year, and since I’m so far ahead in my challenge, I’m going to chill out about reading for the rest of the year and focus some of my time on other stuff; I have the SAT coming up at the end of August and I’m working on starting a small business with some friends so I will be pretty busy for the rest of the summer.

I’m going to try to stick to 5-10 books per month, just maybe not 20 per month like I’ve been doing recently. Plus, I need to start writing reviews less sporadically.

My Nominees-

Since I’m pretty late in doing this tag, I’m not going to specifically nominate anyone, but if you’re reading this and you follow me, or you’re reading this and you don’t follow me- either way, consider yourself nominated!

Well that’s it for today. Thanks for stopping by!

How has your reading year been so far? Have you done this tag? Let me know in the comments.

Book Review: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

WOW… another 5-star read for 2020. It’s only been two days, and I already want to re-read this exceptionally powerful novel.

what I imagined in my head the whole time

Rating: 5/5 stars

Genre: YA, historical fiction, survival

Favorite quote: “I wept because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.”

First line: “Guilt is a hunter.”

It’s January, 1945, and Germany is falling. Thousands of people flee northeastern Europe as the Soviets close in from the East, desperate to escape both Stalin and Hitler.

“Evacuation orders had been issued. Germany was finally telling people what they should have said months ago. Run for your lives.”

Refugees pour into East Prussia, attempting to pass as German citizens and board the overcrowded ships that will carry them west to relative safety.

Joana: a Lithuanian nurse hiding a dark secret

“Killers aren’t always assassins. Sometimes they don’t even have blood on their hands.”

Florian: a Prussian escaping with stolen contraband from the Nazis

“I’m not working for anyone. I’m working for myself, for my family, and others like mine.”

Emilia: a pregnant Polish girl concealing her traumatic past

“I became good at pretending. I became so good that after a while the lines blurred between my truth and fiction. And sometimes, when I did a really good job of pretending, I even fooled myself.”

and Alfred: a delusional and sociopathic Nazi soldier with a superiority complex.

“‘Life can be lonely for the truly exceptional, darling.'”

The paths of these four people unexpectedly cross when they all find themselves aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff: the ship that is so many people’s last hope. The ship that is loaded 9,000 people over-capacity. The ship that only has 12 lifeboats.

The ship that will be torpedoed by a Russian submarine in the Baltic Sea and become the single most deadly maritime disaster on record.

I’m going to apologize in advance for the excessive amount of quotes in this review- Ruta Sepetys’ writing is just so perfectly quotable, I couldn’t resist. She says things better than I ever could.

I had 50 Kindle highlights because, as I read in someone else’s review, almost every word had a purpose.

Like most of Sepetys’ novels, Salt to the Sea is a very character-driven story. It has a lot of action as well, but much of the plot is focused on the characters. You find yourself emotionally invested in each one of them (except Alfred) and that makes everything that happens seem even more brutal.

Emilia was my favorite character; I also really liked Florian. And Joana as well. Okay, I loved all of them.

But don’t even get me started on ALFRED. I feel like Ruta may have tried a little too hard to get us to hate him. Exhibit A:

An injured woman grabbed my ankle. ‘Please, help me!’ she shrieked. The salt of her tears had smudged her eye makeup. I nodded. Yes, she would need help to fix her ruined face.

He spends the entire book composing narcissistic letters to his “darling”, a girl named Hannelore, and being an insufferable creep. He doesn’t even write the letters down, just composes them in his head, which is… very creepy. He’s psychotic. It was pretty obvious that his perspective was intended to make you uncomfy:

“I decided it would be best to descend to E deck to check on the hundreds of ladies… I found them fascinating to observe and decided to remain concealed for one, maybe two hours, to further my studies.”

His character raised some exceedingly interesting and relevant points about propaganda and brainwashing, though:

Alfred completely buys into the idea of being a “Good German” and contributing to the Third Reich. Everything he does is specifically calculated to advance his rank and fulfill his grandly inflated ego. He worships his superiors and doesn’t question a thing.

“‘You’ve read Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf?’ [Alfred] asked.

I didn’t answer the question. ‘You know, you strike me as an intelligent guy. It might be better for you to think for yourself, rather than memorizing the words of others.’”

Although- fortunately- we don’t live in Nazi Germany, this quote is indubitably relevant. Every single day, I see people regurgitate things on social media without an ounce of fact-checking or independent thought; it’s genuinely concerning.

Also, I had never heard of the tragedy of the Wilhelm Gustloff before I read this book, and I was shocked to learn that the sinking was more deadly than both the Titanic AND the Lusitania– yet I had never heard anything about it.

The facts of this event are shocking: the ship was filled to 10 times its intended capacity. There were only 12 lifeboats. 9,000 people died when it was torpedoed on January 30, 1945. I honestly couldn’t believe I never heard about this.

How would the Nazis report the news of the sinking? But then I realized. They wouldn’t report it at all.

All of Ruta Sepetys’ books focus on “forgotten history” and she is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.

(here’s an article I found while doing some extra background research on the Wilhelm Gustloff, if you want to read more about it)

It’s also really rare to find a WW2 book in YA (and the historical fiction market is saturated with them) that doesn’t take place in a) America b) England or c) western Europe. I had never read anything that takes place on the Eastern Front, so I learned a ton from this book.

This probably sounds ignorant, but it truly never occurred to me that people living in the Baltic region would rather flee to Germany than be overtaken by Stalin. Salt to the Sea places a lot of emphasize on the crimes of the Russians during the war, which is a side of history I honestly never really thought about.

That brings me to my next point: this is an (unsurprisingly) dark & violent story. I promised myself I wouldn’t cry while reading this because I was reading it on the beach! in public! I succeeded, but barely.

Sepetys’ writing is so vivid, and as I said before, you can’t help but fall in love with the characters. It’s equal parts sad and horrifying, but definitely worth the read.

As you can probably tell from this extraordinarily long-winded review, I loved this book.

I would recommend it to any historical fiction fans, or anyone who wants to read a beautiful, albeit fairly dark story.

Sidenote- I surpassed 1000 words in this review. That makes it my longest review to date!

Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Half mystery and half historical fiction, Where the Crawdads Sing had a very intriguing premise. I’m not sure how I felt about the execution, though.

Genre: adult, historical fiction, mystery, romance

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Favorite quote: “I wasn’t aware that words could hold so much. I didn’t know a sentence could be so full.”

First line: “Marsh is not swamp.”

Kya Clark- known as “The Marsh Girl” to townsfolk- has been living alone in the wilderness of North Carolina for years, after her abusive father and dysfunctional family abandoned her as a child. Scorned by society, Kya is attached to her reclusive lifestyle and spends her time immersed in the marsh’s natural beauty.

“She knew the years of isolation had altered her behavior until she was different from others, but it wasn’t her fault she’d been alone. Most of what she knew, she’d learned from the wild. Nature had nurtured, tutored, and protected her when no one else would.”

As she grows up, she has her fair share of romantic encounters with men like Tate Walker, her childhood friend; and Chase Andrews, the rather cliche “town golden boy” with a manipulative personality.

But nothing can cure Kya’s deep loneliness, and when Chase Andrews dies in a suspicious accident, all the blame falls on the outcast.

Wow guys, I actually read something that ISN’T YA. (Also, the first Goodreads shelf that came up for this book was ‘What Women Born in the 1970s Read in 2019’, which made me feel like such a mom. But I mean, my mom did lend me this book, so…)

This book has extremely high ratings on Goodreads (4.48!) and is really popular, but I don’t understand the immense hype. It was okay, but not stellar, at least in my opinion.

The writing was gorgeous, which I think is what a lot of people love about this book.

Owens has a vividly descriptive writing style, and the writing was probably the best part. I loved the way all of the scenery was described, and there were some great quotes.

The quote I chose to feature at the beginning perfectly voices this sentiment:

“I wasn’t aware that words could hold so much. I didn’t know a sentence could be so full.”

However, I couldn’t get over how unrealistic the entire plot was.

How could a little kid survive on her own for years and stay conveniently unnoticed by social services? And how did Kya learn to read in, like, one day, and have perfectly competent social skills after being alone for years? Heck, she had better social skills than me, and I haven’t been living alone in a swamp for most of my life.

There was just so much that I couldn’t possibly suspend my disbelief enough to buy into.

Also, the mystery aspect didn’t come into play until the very end, which was disappointing. The beginning and middle of the story was slow and branched off into an unnecessary and cringey romance. I spent this entire part just futilely waiting for the murder they kept talking about to actually happen.

My favorite parts of the story were the courtroom scenes because they were when the plot finally picked up. I’ve seen reviews criticizing the To Kill a Mockingbird-esque court scenes for being “tedious” and “contrived”- but joke’s on you, because I love To Kill a Mockingbird. Those scenes were easily the most entertaining parts of the book.

I also could not stand the weird folksy dialect/accent given to most of the characters; one of my pet peeves is when authors use weird spelling and apostrophes to convey an accent. Like Hagrid talk. I don’t know, it just bothers me.

I know I’m being super negative in this review, but there were lots of things I did enjoy about this book. As I said before, Delia Owens has a wonderful writing style, and there are plenty of really well-written quotes, like:

“Let’s face it, a lot of times love doesn’t work out. Yet even when it fails, it connects you to others and, in the end, that is all you have, the connections.”

and:

“Sunsets are never simple

Twilight is refracted and reflected

But never true.

Eventide is a disguise

Covering tracks, Covering lies.”

Overall, I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys comparatively slow-paced and descriptive books with an outdoorsy and mysterious vibe.

The BEST Books I Read Last Month|June 2020 Wrap-up and July Goals

I’m having a hard time believing it’s already July; since quarantine started, everything has blended together into one long expanse of monotonous social distancing.

March feels like it was simultaneously last week and five years ago.

I thought writing a monthly wrap-up would help break up the Groundhog Day feeling, so here’s a little overview of what I read and blogged about this month!

Reading:

I did not realize I read so much this month until I checked just now. I read 18 books total in June!

Here’s a list of all of those books, ranked according to rating (my 4-star reflex is about to get exposed…):

2 – 2.5 stars:

Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen– I loved the first two Sarah Dessen books I read, but I found this one unbearably boring

Once and For All by Sarah Dessen– Unfortunately I didn’t like this Dessen book either… once again, it was super boring and had the most generic title I’ve ever seen (and the title has no relation to the book!)

3 – 3.5 stars:

Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All by Lauren Ruby– I think it’s entirely my fault I didn’t enjoy this book

Champion (Legend #3) by Marie Lu– I found this a rather disappointing ending to a pretty good series, although it still had its merits

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens– I had very mixed feelings about this book

Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis– very philosophical, but I’m not much of a fantasy person

4 – 4.5 stars:

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen– one of the Sarah Dessen books I actually really liked

Dreamland by Sarah Dessen– same with this one

Tweet Cute by Emma Lordmy review here!

Prodigy (Legend #2) by Marie Lu– I really enjoyed the word-building in this sequel to Legend

Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse– this was a really intriguing WW2 story

P.S. I Still Love You (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before #2) by Jenny Han– surprisingly, the 2nd book was just as entertaining

Always and Forever, Lara Jean (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before #3) by Jenny Han– the last book in this series was definitely not as good as the first two, but it was still a pretty fun read

The Hand on the Wall (Truly Devious #3) by Maureen Johnson– finally, Maureen Johnson solved the mystery.

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys– Ruta Sepetys is one of my favorite authors now

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetysmy review here!

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte– this story is much stranger than you would expect

5 stars:

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson– I may post a review for this soon!

Blogging:

June was a great month for Frappes & Fiction!

I hit 100 subs last week, was nominated for two blogger awards (I’m posting the second one soon I promise!), and posted 10 times.

Here are all the posts from this month if you missed any:

Book Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

6 Amazing YA Historical Fiction Books

Book Review: The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

Why I’m Addicted to Mysteries|5 Recommendations

The Mystery Blogger Award

Book Review: The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

Matching Literary Characters to Song Lyrics

Book Review: One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

A Spontaneously Large Book Haul|July TBR

100 Subscribers|10 Fun Facts About Me

July Goals:

I have a lot of stuff going on, and I want to shift my focus towards school and other things this month as I start preparing for September. I’m taking the SAT in August, too, so I’m not going to be able to read quite as much.

However, I have a few things I want to improve in the upcoming month:

  1. Pre-write and schedule blog posts to give myself more time to write ~quality content~. Don’t tell anyone, but I usually procrastinate until the day I’m supposed to post something before finishing writing it, and it ends up being stressful. I did that for this post too so…. whoops.
  2. Read more slowly– This sounds like a weird goal, but hear me out. I read very fast naturally, but sometimes I catch myself skimming to finish a book and it takes away from the story. I want to start reading more slowly so I can make sure I am actually getting everything out of the book, especially when it’s more complex.
  3. Get off my phone- I’ve had this problem since the beginning of quarantine, but it got way worse this month. I’ve been spending hours every day just scrolling. It’s not only unhealthy; it wastes an unhealthy amount of time as well. I want to get my screen time down to 2 hours or less a day (It’s about 5 hours now, and that doesn’t even count my laptop!)

Well, that’s it for today. Thanks for stopping by!

Book Review: Tweet Cute by Emma Lord

This has got to be one of the most funny, current, and relatable books I have read this year!

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Genre: YA, contemporary, romance

Favorite quote: “A stolen day. The kind of day that ends too fast but stays with you much longer.”

First line: “To be fair, when the alarm goes off, there’s barely even any smoke coming out of the oven.”

High school seniors Pepper– the perfectionist overachiever known for wrecking curves, and Jack– the laid-back class clown constantly overshadowed by his popular twin brother, have never gotten along very well. Things only become more awkward when they find themselves caught up in a snarky Twitter fight between their parents’ businesses. They’re complete enemies in real life- and on Twitter- but neither of them realize that they’ve actually been flirting with one another for months on the school-wide anonymous chat app Jack built. As the get to know each other online and IRL, Jack and Pepper start to discover that they might have more in common than either of them thought.

This is first book I’m reviewing from my July book haul! And wow, it was really good. I loved the witty humor because it was exactly the kind of stuff I find funny, I loved both Pepper and Jack, and I could relate to them so well.

I was smiling almost the whole time I was reading.

Most YA contemporaries seem to exist at some ambiguous point in the 21st century with flat, generic characters who spend most of their high school life going to WILD TEENAGE PARTIES and driving around in their boyfriends’ cars.

This book, on the other hand, was actually an accurate depiction of high school:

“‘…they’re big into education being about learning, not- well. Whatever it is some of the teachers at Stone Hill are trying to accomplish.’

‘Another Hunger Games,‘ I supplied.

Story time: once, one of my teachers gave us a very complicated worksheet, told us only the first five people to turn it in would get an A, and caused a mass panic. The next day, he announced that the whole competitive grading thing was JUST TO MESS WITH US.

“[I] convinced myself I could take my mind off of it if I just pulled out my AP Gov textbook and buried myself in it. It turns out no amount of learning about the ins and outs of federalism is enough to distract me.”

I spent half of last year reading that dang AP Gov textbook. This could literally be about my life.

“I’ve run on a steady diet of five hours of sleep on weekdays for four years now.”

This is REALLY bringing back the pre-quarantine era.

There were also many, many, many pop culture references put in for us GenZ-ers. And since this book was published only 5 months ago, they were spot-on.

Twitter is one of the main focuses of the plot (obviously). They even reference Know Your Meme, and the characters frequently read articles from BuzzFeed “Hub Seed”.

Unfortunately, the problem with including these kind of references is that they’ll end up being tacky once they aren’t current anymore. You know the feeling you get reading a book right now that won’t stop talking about Blackberries and MySpace? I had pre-secondhand-cringe when I thought about how dated this book will be in 5-10 years. Example:

“Get her to find, like, a stock photo of a cat….Then have her do an animation of sunglasses dropping down on it.

Yeah, I don’t think anyone will understand that a few years from now.

That said, I still really liked the references because it made the book feel so REAL. I think it was a bit of a risky move because of the ever-changing Internet culture, but as I said in the introduction it’s not every day I get to read such a relatable book about high school. The only thing Emma Lord forgot to include was all the hopeless TikTok addicts doing the renegade in the bathroom.

I also appreciated that the romance was clean! It was a welcome change from the majority of YA contemporaries.

One thing I didn’t love was the whole Twitter aspect because it just seemed pretty far-fetched. I also wished Emma Lord used a different font when switching between Pepper’s and Jack’s POVS, because it was slightly confusing to keep track of. However, neither of these things detracted very much from the story.

I really enjoyed this book, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a fun and fluffy YA contemporary with well-developed characters and strong verisimilitude.

Thanks for reading!

100 Subscribers!|10 Fun Facts About Me

I reached 100 subscribers today!!! (including email subs)

I definitely did not expect this to happen when I published my first book review. THANK YOU to everyone who supports this blog! It means a lot! I can’t believe I’m in triple digits now 🙂

Since I’ve reached this milestone, I have decided to share some random facts about ~the person behind the blog~

  1. I’m going into junior year of high school (and dreading it)
  2. My top three favorite foods are pasta, salad, and pasta salad
  3. I live on the east coast of the U.S., but I really want to move out west for college or after college, probably to Colorado. Or California. Anywhere with mountains, nicer weather and/or snowy winters.
  4. My Myers-Briggs personality type is INTP
  5. I skipped a grade in elementary school
  6. As of now, I’m probably going to major in computer science, but I also want to pursue English as a minor or double major
  7. My favorite genre is a tie between historical fiction and mystery/thriller. Contemporary comes in second. I read mostly YA, but occasionally adult or middle-grade.
  8. I have 20+ first cousins (lost count)
  9. My favorite Starbucks order is a caramel iced coffee. I drink coffee more than I probably should.
  10. I have been playing piano for almost 10 years

Thanks for reading and if you’re following me, thank you again for your support! I’m thinking about posting reviews on Mondays in addition to Wednesdays now that it’s summer and I have a little more time to blog.

A Spontaneously Large Book Haul|July TBR

This week was one of the rare times that my lack of organizational skills and abundance of procrastination habits turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

The other day, I found an Amazon gift card I had from THREE YEARS AGO just sitting inside a drawer, and since I have been slowly running out of ebooks from Libby and desperately craving the feeling of a real, physical book, I decided to spend my long-lost gift card on- you guessed it- books.

*not pictured= Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson. It hasn’t come yet :(*

I originally intended to only spend the 25$ that was on the gift card, but as I sifted through my Goodreads TBR I got a little bit carried away and ended up using, uh, way too much of my actual saved money.

(But honestly it was so cathartic to just get all those books I couldn’t stand waiting 5 months on hold for. I couldn’t help myself. It’s a well-known habit of mine to spend literally all of my money on coffee and books. Whoops.)

Here’s a little haul:

IT’S YA CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE SEASON GUYS!

I don’t usually read that much YA romance (well, actually I kind of do) but I couldn’t resist the pull of summer vibes and pretty covers. If you’re going to read this genre, the best time to do it is always summer.

I’ve probably said before on this blog that I don’t like romance in YA, but my problem with it is only if it’s there for no reason, makes me cringe, or just interrupts the plot. Also, I much prefer funny, cute romance over sappy, cringey, “I WOULD DIE FOR YOU” romance.

If I purposefully go into a book knowing it’s a rom-com, then yes I like romance. (Plus, I like living vicariously through books because I’m boring)

I also got a bunch of mysteries because I’m still OBSESSED with them and I don’t think that’s going away anytime soon.

So here’s my July TBR:

  1. Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson: I just discovered Morgan Matson’s books this year (Shameful, I know). I chose this one because it had the highest rating. Also, the cover is gorgeous. It’s about a girl spending one last summer at her family’s lake house because her father has cancer. Sounds like a book that will make me cry… I’ve already read Save the Date and The Unexpected Everything– for which you can read my spoiler-free review here.
  2. Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett: I’ve seen this one recommended a lot, and the synopsis sounds soo cute. It’s about a girl named Bailey who moves across the country to live with her dad. Coincidentally, her dad lives in the same town as her internet friend, whom she only knows as Alex. She never tells Alex that she’s moving to his hometown, and as she adjusts to her new life she starts to have feelings for a guy she meets named Porter. But unbeknowngst to Bailey, Porter and Alex are actually the same person.
  3. Always and Forever, Lara Jean (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before #3) by Jenny Han: The conclusion to a series that totally surprised me by how good it was! I can’t explain the synopsis of this without spoiling previous books, but the entire series is really fun. I was not expecting to like it, but it’s actually extremely cute and legitimately hilarious. Like most fluffy YA contemporaries, these books are great to read at the beach, too. You can read my spoiler-free review of the first book here.
  4. Tweet Cute by Emma Lord: I sincerely apologize for the unprecedented number of times I use the word “cute” in this post. It’s unavoidable when discussing this genre. Anyway, the most succinct thing I can say about the premise of this book is that it’s, well, cute. This is a rom-com about two teens who unknowingly fall in love while engaging in a widely publicized Twitter battle.
  5. The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes: We’ve made it down to the mysteries. The Naturals is about a ragtag group of gifted teens recruited by the FBI to solve notorious cold cases. I’m getting VERY strong The Mysterious Benedict Society vibes from this, and that was one of my favorite middle-grade series a few years ago, so I’m excited to read this book.
  6. A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro: This is a retelling of A Study in Scarlet (which I have read), starring Sherlock Holme’s great-great-great-granddaughter Charlotte and a boy named Jamie, aka Watson, and taking place at a Connecticut prep school. This vividly reminds me of Truly Devious so hopefully it’s just as good, but I’m crossing my fingers that it solves the mystery in less than three books this time. Don’t leave me hanging!
  7. Good Girl, Bad Blood (A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder #2) by Holly Jackson: Alas, the book I am the most excited to read isn’t delivering until the middle of July (*cries*). I LOVED A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder (find out why in my spoiler-free review here) and I am so excited to read the sequel, especially because it features another mystery with the same characters. Yes! I love Pippa. I was initially skeptical that this book could possibly be as good as the first one, but tI checked Goodreads and all the reviews I’ve seen are 5 stars. It has a 4.56 average rating! (If you’re not familiar with Goodreads, that’s extremely high) I seriously hope it’s actually that good because if it really is better than the first book, I will be so amazed. Please don’t disappoint me, Holly Jackson, because I cannot wait to read this!

That’s it for today. I’ll be reviewing these books in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

Book Review: One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Take a classic, high-stakes, locked-room mystery, add some spicy drama, and you have a real page-turner.

Rating: 3.75/5

Favorite quote: “I know what it’s like to tell yourself a lie so often that it becomes the truth.” 

First lines: “A sex tape. A pregnancy scare. Two cheating scandals. And that’s just this week’s update. If all you knew of Bayview High was Simon Kelleher’s gossip app, you’d wonder how anyone found time to go to class.

Bronwyn– the student council, Yale-bound nerd, Addy – the homecoming court, shallow popular girl, Cooper– the baseball star jock headed for the minor leagues, Nate– the drug-dealing delinquent, and Simon– the outcast who runs the school’s notorious gossip app.

Five students enter detention one afternoon. Only four leave with their lives.

Someone planted peanut oil in Simon’s water bottle during detention, causing him to have a deadly allergic reaction. No one could have possibly done it except for the four kids alone in the unsupervised room with him. Now they’ve all been sucked into a murder investigation, and the plot only thickens when the police uncover draft gossip posts that Simon had been planning to make public the next day- posts that would destroy each of their reputations. They all have a motive, and no one is above suspicion.

“That’s the kind of person you can get away with killing: someone everybody else wants dead.”

So what really happened that day in detention?

Hmm… I have mixed feelings about this book.

For such an immensely popular mystery, the solution was kind of obvious. I guessed who did it towards the beginning-middle of the story, as soon as a certain plot line was introduced, and I spent the rest of the book getting progressively more irritated at the rest of these supposedly smart characters who couldn’t put two and two together when it was right under their noses AND their presumption of innocence was on the line. However, the beginning of the book was super suspenseful and the way the story was set up made it super hard to guess the killer at first.

The middle of the book dragged a little, taking a recess from the mystery to spend some time on typical YA drama/angst/romance. The entire book had a very “YA” feel, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I found myself wishing certain characters would forget their boyfriend drama for a second and maybe try to solve the MURDER they are allegedly about to be WRONGFULLY CONVICTED FOR.

However, I’m not going to lie to you and say I didn’t find the drama entertaining. There were a lot of “big reveals” about the characters’ dark, juicy, reputation-decimating secrets, and it really made me want to keep reading even though I was impatient for them to solve the actual murder.

I also really enjoyed the multi-perspective style; the chapters alternated between each person’s point of view, giving you lots of opportunities to second-guess yourself and try to discern the answer to the titular question: which of them is lying?

I’ve seen lots of people criticize this book for the very stereotypical characters, but this aspect of it didn’t bother me. I feel like McManus was going for stereotypical characters to represent basic teenagers and make it extra dramatic. The book was almost satirical in its adherance to high school stereotypes, but I liked it that way.

McManus also did a great job crafting likable characters; I found myself rooting for all of them, and I sincerely didn’t want any of them to be guilty, which only added to the suspense.

Overall, this was a pretty entertaining mystery, and if you’re looking for a book full of “spill the tea!” reveals (albeit with some filler drama), I would definitely recommend this.

Matching Literary Characters to Song Lyrics

Writing and music go hand-in-hand, and songs are really just a form of poetry. Yes, even mainstream pop songs.

This is on the more random side of article ideas I’ve had, but I was listening to my playlist the other day and suddenly started matching all of these literary characters to song lyrics from all sorts of different songs, and I realized that some of them fit REALLY well.

Without further ado, here are 5 characters with their corresponding songs:

  1. Lady Macbeth (Macbeth by William Shakespeare): “You Should See Me in a Crown” by Billie Eilish
I can totally picture Lady Macbeth singing this

Relevant Lyrics:

Bite my tongue, bide my time/Wearing a warning sign/Wait ’til the world is mine/Visions I vandalize/Cold in my kingdom size/Fell for these ocean eyes/You should see me in a crown/I’m gonna run this nothing town/Watch me/make ’em bow/One by one by, one/One by one by/You should see me in a crown/Your silence is my favorite sound/Watch me make ’em bow/One by one by, one/One by one by (one)

2. Big Brother (1984 by George Orwell)- “Every Breath You Take” by The Police

Listening to this song with 1984 in mind makes it 10x creepier… it fits SO well. And it’s even by The Police

Relevant Lyrics:

Every breath you take and every move you make/Every bond you break, every step you take, I’ll be watching you/Every single day and every word you say/Every game you play, every night you stay, I’ll be watching you…/Every move you make, and every vow you break/Every smile you fake, every claim you stake, I’ll be watching you

3. Jay Gatsby (The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald): “Hey Look Ma, I Made It” by Panic! at the Disco

Hey Look (Daisy) I Made It!

Relevant Lyrics:

Are you ready for the sequel?/Ain’t you ready for the latest?/In the garden of evil/I’m gonna be the greatest/In a golden cathedral/I’ll be praying for the faithless/And if you lose, boo-hoo/Hey look ma, I made it/Hey look ma, I made it/Everything’s comin’ up aces, aces/If it’s a dream, don’t wake me, don’t wake me/I said hey look ma, I made it

4. Holden Caulfield (The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger) – “Stressed Out” by Twenty-one Pilots

Relevant Lyrics:
I was told when I get older all my fears would shrink/But now I’m insecure and I care what people think…/Wish we could turn back time, to the good old days/When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out

5. Lizzie Bennet (Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen): “No” by Meghan Trainor

Relevant Lyrics:

I think it’s so cute and I think it’s so sweet/How you let your friends encourage you to try and talk to me/But let me stop you there, oh, before you speak…/All my ladies listen up/If that boy ain’t giving up/Lick your lips and swing your hips/Girl all you gotta say is/My name is no/My sign is no/My number is no/You need to let it go/You need to let it go/Need to let it go/Nah to the ah to the, no, no, no

Hopefully some of these comparisons make sense to you as well… I didn’t add any explanations because I wanted to leave it open to interpretation (and I didn’t want to spoil any books for This was a really fun, albeit random article to write. Thanks for reading!

Book Review: The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

This is probably the most unique historical fiction book I’ve read ALL year. My first read by Ruta Sepetys did not disappoint!

Rating: 4/5 stars

Favorite quote: “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.”

First line: “They stand in line for blood.”

1936: a rebel group called the Nationalists, aided by Hitler and Mussolini, overthrows Spain’s government and establishes a fascist dictatorship under the leadership of Francisco Franco.

1957: The Spanish Civil War is over now, but the aftermath remains. Under Franco’s regime, Spaniards live in secrecy and fear.

This is Franco’s Spain. They’re all hiding something.

Freedom of speech is a thing of the past, and extreme Catholicism is the enforced religion of the state. Franco wants to cultivate Spain’s commercial relationship with the United States, so Madrid is an open door to tourists and businesspeople.

When 18-year-old Daniel Matheson arrives in Madrid with his parents, wealthy Texan socialites with a thriving oil business, he is entranced by the capital’s elusive atmosphere. An aspiring photojournalist, he takes it upon himself to capture civilian life under the dictatorship. As he meets people like Ana, a young maid at his hotel, and her family, he begins to realize that Madrid’s cultivated facade may be hiding something much more sinister.

If you take photos with this type of sincerity you may as well be holding a gun. There’s a meaningful story here in Spain, a human story. But it’s virtually impossible to tell and even harder for an outsider to understand. You need to be smart about it. This is a dictatorship. Franco’s regime censors everything. Freedom of the press doesn’t exist here…. You can capture a real story here—a photo essay to show a different side of Spain than the one on the postcards.

a fun picture of our setting

This book was so many different things: intriguing, unique, dark, and richly detailed. First of all, I had never heard of this historical period. There was a Spanish Civil War? I had no idea. (To be fair, here in America half our history education is solely the American Revolution… I’m not even exaggerating) But Ruta Sepetys is known for writing about “forgotten history”, and I love that.

“Look, you study Hitler and Mussolini in school, but you don’t study Franco….The history hasn’t written itself yet, Matheson. But you’re capturing it as we speak with your photos.”

That brings me to my next point: this book was SO well-researched. I read in one of her interviews that Ruta spends three years on average doing research for each of her books. That’s real dedication! I could tell how deeply she dove into this time period.

Reading the book, I felt like Daniel and Ana and everyone else were real, and I had really traveled to 1957 Madrid. I don’t know if this comparison makes sense, but it almost read like a documentary transcript or an interview or something. It was told in third person present tense, and the matter-of-fact writing style combined with the multi-perspective take contributed to the documentary-like feel.

The reason I didn’t give this 5 stars was because of the pacing and the point of view jumps. There were a bunch of different characters, and the book would jump between their perspectives without warning, which was a little jarring and confused me at first. It was hard to keep track of everyone towards the beginning. The pacing was pretty slow, and I would have enjoyed a little more action. I also didn’t like how every single chapter ended with a cliffhanger sentence that almost seemed forced.

However, I finished the book in one afternoon even though it was almost 500 pages (the chapters are very short) and I think it was purposefully written as more of a character-driven story, which certainly contributed to the verisimilitude.

Overall, I really did like this book. If this makes any sense, its vibe focused more on the “historical” in “historical fiction“. It felt decidedly historical to me (that may have made more sense in my head).

And although The Fountains of Silence is marketed as YA, I feel like it’s really borderline between YA and adult. All of the characters were 17-18+ or in their 20s-30s, and it was pretty complex. The top shelf for it on Goodreads is Historical Fiction, not YA. (What I’m trying to say is I think people who regard YA as too immature would still enjoy this because it did not read quite like typical YA)

It focused on a lot of interesting themes too, like the oppressiveness of silence and how religion can be used to manipulate people. Franco used Catholicism as a means to control the public: questioning authority was labeled a sin, and the government basically told everyone they would go to hell if they didn’t comply. (I’m actually Catholic so… awkward) I thought it was really disturbing when, at one point, a character went to confession and asked for forgiveness for being concerned about something suspicious she saw at work.

This twisted interpretation of religion was also used to oppress women, commanding them to stay submissive to their husbands and forbidding them from wearing “revealing clothing”- aka anything that wasn’t a long skirt. And, as you can tell from the title, much of the story focuses on how the citizens were silenced by fear, and the importance of free speech.

I would recommend this to anyone who wants to read an educational and thought-provoking historical fiction book!

Wow, what a LONG post. If you read this whole thing, I’m honestly surprised… my book reviews keep getting longer every single time I blog. I guess my deeply-ingrained habitual verbosity is beginning to show itself.

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to Frappes and Fiction, where I post reviews every Wednesday and other posts every Saturday. Thanks for reading!

*all quotes in this review are directly from The Fountains of Silence*