Review: Solitaire by Alice Oseman

Summary: Tori Spring likes to blog and sleep, and that’s all she’s interested in these days. Until one day she follows a trail of Post-its from her locker to the computer lab, where she finds a message from Solitaire, a mysterious group that seems to be taking over the school. At first, Solitaire’s pranks seem like fun and games, but they soon start going too far. Tori doesn’t know what to do with Solitaire, her family, her friends, and let alone her new, unexpected friendship with Michael Holden.

My Rating: 2.5/ 5 Stars

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My Thoughts:

I loved Alice Oseman’s novel, Radio Silence, this summer (I’m still angry at my past self for not writing a full review), and I knew I had to pick up her debut novel, Solitaire. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy Solitaire nearly as much as I enjoyed Radio Silence.

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UK Edition

Let’s talk about the cover. There is no cover lust here today, as the US cover is completely lacking compared to the UK edition. As you might be able to see from the photo above (mind you I also read a bit battered copy from the library), there isn’t a lot going on in the US cover, and if you really hold the book up to the light, you can see the gray writing above the book’s title. It reads, “This is the story of Tori, Michael, Becky, Lucas, Charlie, And the year that changed everything.” First of all, this story is about TORI. Yes, our other characters are each facing their own issues, but the story is centered around and told by Tori, who is struggling with her mental health. ALSO THIS BOOK DOES NOT TAKE PLACE OVER A YEAR. This is probably a smaller detail to get angry about, but the book takes place over two months max.

Moving on, let’s talk about the book itself and what I did enjoy. Even at 350 or so pages, the book was quite easy to fly through, with its short chapters. Solitaire features LGBT representation and mental health awareness between many of the characters in the book, especially Charlie and Tori. I also actually liked Tori and Michael Holden’s friendship and prayed that it would not turn into a romance. Everyone thought that Michael was this really quirky guy, and well it may be a bit true, HE’S THE ONLY ONE WHO COULD ACTUALLY UNDERSTAND TORI AND COULD HELP HER. Additionally, as stated in her author blurb, Alice Oseman wrote Solitaire when she was 17 and I feel that was really evident in her pop culture references, which I really enjoyed! There were a lot of references to Harry Potter, video games like Mario Kart and Sonic, Star Wars, and more.

Unfortunately, I disliked Solitaire more than the elements that I did enjoy. It took me about one hundred pages to get into the novel, and I finally got into it because Tori and Michael started to form an actual friendship at Becky’s party. I think I had so much trouble connecting to the book because I couldn’t connect to Tori and her friends. Becky, Evelyn and the others in Tori’s friend group were quite annoying, but I don’t know if they were portrayed this way because Tori frankly didn’t like them all that much and the book is told in her POV. Additionally, we know from early on in the novel that Tori’s brother, Charlie, has mental illness, but we learn that Tori is having mental health problems throughout the story, and she often goes to dark places in her mind that I can’t personally relate to. I feel that someone who may or may have experienced similar issues to Tori could relate to her more than I did.

I know that Solitaire is a young-adult novel and all of the characters within the book are between fifteen and seventeen years old, but to me, they felt so young to be dealing with these problems on their own, between Solitaire and their mental health. Thinking back, Tori probably didn’t go to her parents or her teachers because she felt that they wouldn’t understand what she was going through. However, I think Tori’s parents, who do have while small, a presence in the novel, wanted to help their daughter, as they were often helping Charlie. Tori just wouldn’t let them in. I also felt bad for Tori in that she was often responsible for taking care or looking after Charlie in situations where she wasn’t feeling too great herself.

In the end, I would recommend Solitaire to people who are interested in YA books about mental health. Blogging does play part in the novel, but more so in the Solitaire ‘game’ ‘s plot. Tori often mentions how much she loves her blog, but we don’t really get to see her actually working on it.

Have you read Solitaire? Share in the comments!

Top Five Wednesday: My Top 5 Books of 2017 (With a Twist)

Today’s Top Five Wednesday asks us to list our absolute favorite books of 2017, however, I want to hold off giving you guys my top favorite books of 2017 post for a bit longer. I admit that I’m having a teeny bit of trouble coming up with my favorites list because I’VE READ SO MANY GOOD BOOKS THIS YEAR!

Anyway, I still really want to do today’s T5W so I’m going to give you my top five favorite books in five different categories that I’ve created. I thought this would be a fun way to do today’s topic, as well as try to help myself determine my favorite books of the year.christmas-divider

Favorite Fantasy: I think this one’s going to be on many favorites list this year and it quite deserves its spot—A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Mass. I admit that this book was not perfect (see my review for more details, since I don’t want to spoil anyone), but I loved this next chapter in Feyre’s story and I was captivated by how Sarah expands the ACOTAR world—the meeting with all the Courts was my favorite scene.

 Favorite Book Featuring Fandom: I picked up quite a few books this year that focused on fandoms, but the one that absolutely stole my heart was Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia. This book gave me the closest feelings to what I felt while reading Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl ,and I think the best way to show you my Eliza and Her Monsters feels is what I wrote in my Goodreads’ review right after I finished:

In short: I loveeeeddddd this so much

REALITY: I LOVED THIS SO MUCH, YES I’VE READ BOOKS ABOUT FANDOM AND ONLINE CONTENT SINCE RAINBOW ROWELL’S FANGIRL BUT THIS IS WHAT MY SOUL NEEDED. EVERYONE NEEDS THIS BOOK IN THEIR LIFE, I LOVE ELIZA, I LOVE HER STORY, I LOVE DAVY, I LOVE MONSTROUS SEA. I COULD’T SEPARATE MYSELF FROM THIS BOOK OR THIS STORY (one of my favorite 24 hr Reads).

Favorite Classic: This category is evidence that I, Haley of Fangirl Fury, read more than one classic book this year in which I can complete this category. And I am super proud to announce that I read this book on my own, WITHOUT ANY SCHOOL SYLLABUS TO PRESSURE OR FORCE ME TO: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I really enjoyed Sylvia Plath’s writing style because her voice felt like the book could have been written in this decade–I often have trouble connecting to the jargonish writing style of many 19th and early 20th century classics.

Favorite Book that has a TV or Film adaptation: Another title that I think will reign on many favorites’ list includes Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. I wanted to watch Big Little Lies so badly since it stars an amazing female cast, including one of my faves, Reese Witherspoon. But with many adaptations I follow, I knew I had to read the book first.

Favorite Book that I Bought at a Library Sale- I took advantage of my library’s book sales this year especially, and my favorite one that I read this year is One Plus One by Jojo Moyes (there had to be a British contemporary somewhere!). I found a paperback version of the book that was in like-new condition, and I really enjoyed this one about family and a road-trip.

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Top 5 Wednesday is a collaborative group of book bloggers from various platforms who love sharing lists on Wednesdays. The T5W group can be found here on Goodreads.

 

Review: Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Graynor and Heather Webb

Summary: It’s August 1914 in England, as Evie watches her brother, Will, and his best friend,Tom, leave to fight in the war. Everyone’s convinced that their boys will be back by Christmas time, and Evie dreams of celebrating the holiday with Will and Tom in Paris. But as months and years go by with the war raging on, Tom, Evie and others grow closer than ever through letters, telegrams, newspaper columns and more. Decades later, Tom returns to Paris to read one final letter, with his and Evie’s past history from the Great War in tow.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

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My Thoughts:

I’ve been craving books surrounding Christmas this December, and Last Christmas in Paris appealed to two of my favorite things: Christmas and historical fiction. The book centers around World War I, as Will and Tom go off to fight in the war, leaving Evie in England with her best friend, Alice. I found Last Christmas in Paris through the Reese Witherspoon Bookclub, which I am part of here on Goodreads.

I really enjoyed Last Christmas in Paris for its unique format, as the book is primarily told through letters between Tom and Evie, as well as exchanges between other characters in the novel through letters and telegrams. I liked the way that Heather Webb and Hazel Graynor were able to weave and connect multiple subplots within this format. We see Tom and Will love and struggle with life as soliders. We see Evie wish she was at the Front herself, as Alice leaves for the war herself. We see Tom try to run his father’s newspaper from the Front, which allowed me to learn about how propaganda and newspapers were influenced by the British government during WWI. I actually read A Last Christmas In Paris over the weekend I was studying for my history exam on the World Wars, so reading the book was a pretty cool way for me to prep for my final. If only my professor would’ve allowed me to cite it as historical evidence!

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So how Christmas-y is Last Christmas in Paris?

On a scale from 1 to 10, I say that Last Christmas in Paris gets a 7 for being Christmas-y. The novel is spilt into 4 parts, which each part designating a year of the war, and before we dive into the letters, we see Tom celebrating Christmas in Paris 50 years after the war has ended. I really liked these narrative sections from Tom because they were quite festive, and they helped glue what we were learning in the letters together. Throughout the letters, we do have the characters talking about Christmas, but more so when the holiday is approaching. I think the book would have had a larger emphasis on Christmas if the book only focused on one year of the war, with Tom and Evie wishing to reunite for the holiday

Overall, I enjoyed Last Christmas in Paris for its unique story on World War I. It took me a little while to get into the format and writing style, but as I mentioned before, I liked how the subplots were able to contribute to the overall plot of the novel (sorry, no spoilers for you!). I didn’t necessarily love Last Christmas in Paris because there were times that the story did drag a bit, and it’s not necessarily a book that will stick with me for a long time—I’ll most likely remember as a quick, historical fiction read on World War I.

Have you read Last Christmas in Paris? Share in the comments!

Holiday Q & A

It’s the most wonderful time of the year—next to summer, of course! I celebrate Christmas during the holiday season, and Christmas is my favorite holiday, but not just for the gifts. I just love the feel of the season- listening to Christmas music, decorating, baking holiday treats, and getting to buy presents (and okay, receiving them is pretty nice too). Today, I’ll be doing the Holiday Q & A, hosted by The Blended Blog. I’m so happy that they created this Q & A because I had so much fun doing their Fall Q & A last month.

holiday q and a

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Real or fake tree?

Real tree. I love the smell of real Christmas trees too much to not have one.

Favorite Holiday Cookie?

Snickerdoodles! They’re one of my favorite things to make and of course, eat. If you don’t feel like making them from scratch, use yellow cake mix.

Home on Christmas Morning or Travel?

Always home! I couldn’t imagine not being home on Christmas morning and I stay home the entire day in pajamas, watching Christmas movies with my family.

Clear or Colored Lights?

Either! If you’re going for a really festive look, colored lights are the way to go. If you’re looking for a bit more elegant or wintery look, I’d go with clear lights.

Send Christmas Cards?

My family typically sends one out every year with some sort of family photo.

Favorite Christmas Present received?

Santa Claus has always treated me very well, and I don’t think I can decide on just one gift, but I’m going to go with receiving Hamilton tickets last year!

Favorite Christmas Present Given?

My mom and I found classic handheld video games for my dad last year and he absolutely loved them. We gave him Space Invaders and a football handheld game.

Stockings or no stockings?

Stockings! I think stockings are great for giving small Christmas-y treats, like holoiday M&Ms and mini jars of nutella, and for more practical and everyday gifts like, hair ties and fuzzy socks.

Christmas PJs?

Yes!! My grandma gives me a pair of Christmas pajamas every year on Christmas Eve. My favorite pair came with a pair of Christmas shorts with mini Christmas trees and snowflakes.

Favorite Christmas carol?

I love Christmas music so much, and I always start listening to holiday music  on November 1st. This is the hardest question here, so I’m going to go with a few of my favorites: “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” by John Lennon, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” by Mariah Carey, “Cold December Nigh”t by Michael Bublé, “Do You Hear What I Hear” by Carrie Underwood, and “A Holly Jolly Christmas” by Burt Ives

Favorite Holiday tradition?

Decorating the  Christmas tree with my family.

Early Shopper or Last Minute?

Early shopper. This year I picked up one of my siblings’ gifts before Halloween, and I finished up most of my shopping by Thanksgiving weekend. I sometimes pick up a few odds and ends closer to the holiday.

Favorite Christmas Movie or Show?

Another hard question! My favorite Christmas movies include Arthur Christmas, The Santa Clause, A Year Without a Sant ClausNew Year’s EveHome Alone, Elf, and Love Actually. TV-show wise, I always enjoy Full House and Glee‘s holiday specials.

Favorite Holiday Beverage?

It might be considered more of a Thanksgiving drink, but apple cider! If I want something maybe a bit more Christmas-y, I’d go with hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows.

Cookies and Milk for Santa?

Yup! When my siblings and I woke up on Christmas morning, my dad was sure to follow to take a photo of Santa’s eaten plate.

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Now here’s a question for you: What’s your favorite holiday-inspired book? I think mine’s Let It Snow by Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle. Share in the comments!

Top Five Wednesday: Characters on the Naughty List

Today’s Top Five Wednesday is inspired by characters who may find some coal in their stockings on Christmas morning. We’re encouraged to talk about our favorite villains or characters that we just don’t like, but I’m going to be focusing on my favorite villains or villain-like characters that Santa would probably have a hard time putting on a the nice list.

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Victor & Eli from V.E. Schwab’s ViciousVicious is my favorite V.E. Schwab book, as well as one of my favorite books of 2017, mainly for ITS AMAZING CAST OF CHARACTERS, VICTOR AND ELI INCLUDED. The important thing to remember when reading Vicious is that our characters aren’t meant to be good (Santa may have a hard time understanding this). I admit that I like Victor a bit more than Eli, but overall, I loved their story AND I CANNOT WAIT FOR VENGEFUL!

Kaz Brekker from Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo- Okay, so I have some explaining to do here: I don’t think at all think that Kaz Brekker is a villain nor do I think he is a bad person. As I write this post, I’m starting to realize how many ‘bad’ characters have redeemable characteristics that don’t exactly make them evil. Anyways, regarding Kaz, he would be another person who Santa wouldn’t exactly understand. I think Kaz would wake up to some coal, but also find a new pair of gloves.

AI from Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff– AI earns a spot on the naughty list because he just flat out terrifies me. He would definitely demand gifts and you know, just take over my entire spaceship and everyone on it if he didn’t receive anything.

 Elle’s stepmother from Geekerella by Ashley Poston- JUST LET THE GIRL WEAR HER DRESS AND GO TO EXCELSICON AND KEEP THE DOG AND BY THE WAY, GET OUT OF HER HOUSE. Please. Geekerella is a true Cinderella retelling, as Elle is bullied by her not-so-nice stepmother and stepsisters, who most definitely should be on Santa’s naughty list. If you’re looking for a book with a lot of fangirl feels, this one is for you.

Top 5 Wednesday is a collaborative group of book bloggers from various platforms who love sharing lists on Wednesdays. The T5W group can be found here on Goodreads.

 

Mystery Blogger Award Round 2

The Mystery Blogger Award was created by Okoto of Okoto Enigmas Blog, and the purpose of the award is to honor bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging. Emme of Literary Lattes ever-so graciously nominated me for the Mystery Blogger Award. This is actually my second time doing the award, as I was previously nominated by Rebecca of mylifeasasportsfangirl, but I wanted to do it again after Emme’s nomination. Plus, Emme is inspiring me to write more in December, as she isparticipating in Blogmas!

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The Rules:

  • Put the logo/image of your blog.
  • List the rules.
  • Thank the person who nominated you and link their blog.
  • Mention the creator of the award and link their blog.
  • Tell your reader 3 things about yourself.
  • You have to nominate 10-20 people.
  • Ask your nominees 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question.

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3 Things about Haley of Fangirl Fury:

1.My favorite album of the year is a tie between Paramore’s After Laughter and Taylor Swift’s reputation. I’m so happy Paramore and Taylor came out with new music this year, and I can easily listen to both albums from beginning to end. Honestly, the only song I don’t absolutely love on After Laughter is “No Friends”, and my favorite songs off reputation include “New Year’s Day”, “I Did Something Bad”, and “…Ready For It?”

2. I love baking, especially during the holiday season. My go-to holiday treats are snickerdoodles and magic cookie bars. This year I’m going to make gingerbread for the first time, and I’m so excited to make them with my holiday-themed cookie cutters.

3.My favorite shoes to wear during the winter are Uggs! I’ve been obsessed with Uggs since I was younger and they’re still one of my favorite gifts to receive on Christmas. My favorite pair of Uggs are my Dakota Moccasins. If you have small feet like me (I’m anywhere from a US women’s size 5 to 7), buy your Uggs in kids’ sizes to save money! For most Uggs, you can’t even tell the difference between a kids’ shoe and an adult size.

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Emme’s Questions:

What is one of your New Years Resolutions (or goals for 2018)?

I don’t really have any resolutions for the new year right now, but one of my reading goals for 2018 is to continue, or start based on what I read in December, my Throne of Glass reread in anticipation for the final ToG book in 2018.

One thing you’ve learnt while blogging?

It’s really amazing to be involved in a community of people who have the same or similar interests. In this case, it’s books! I was (and still am) a really big Booktube viewer before creating my blog, but because I didn’t create my own bookish content, I felt that I wasn’t too involved in the community. Creating my own blog has allowed me to not only share my voice in the book community, but to also create friendships with some pretty awesome bloggers.

Do you have any book/fandom merchandise? If so, what?

I do! I have a ranger of book/fandom merchandise, including plenty of bookish totes, bookish pins, Funko Pops, mugs, a To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before meets Sixteen Candles card I received from Jenny Han at Book Con, a poster of the map from Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses series, t-shirts, and probably a few other things I am currently forgetting. The bookish merchandise I am most proud of is my lanyards from Book Con 2015 and Book Con 2017. I keep the majority of bookish pins on them and I display them on my bookshelves.

Pick two random books from your shelf. What are they? Would you mash the two together to create a separate novel?

I’m picking two books that are fairly close to each other on my shelf and are written by the same author: Cress and Heartless by Marissa Meyer. Since both books are fairytale retellings, I could somehow see them working together. Maybe instead of just introducing the story of Rapunzel/Cress in Cress, Cath, based on the Queen of Hearts, from Heartless could also be introduced in Cress’s story. She could be Cress’s companion on the satellite!

How do you stay organized (with school/work/blogging, etc.)?

When balancing blogging with school and work, I am a huge believer in scheduling. I like to schedule my blog posts at least two weeks in advance, with all, if not the majority,  of the posts written and graphics and/or photos ready to go. During the school year, I take Fridays to go into WordPress and schedule my posts for the next week, and I tend to write most of my posts on the weekends. If I blog during the week, I make sure it’s after all of my schoolwork is done for the day.

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Since this is my second time doing the award, I am not going to be nominating anyone this go-around. Thanks again to Emme for nominating me! I had fun answering her questions, and be sure to check out Literary Lattes!

Review: Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan

Summary: Baking is in Issy’s blood- if not, there’s definitely plenty of sugar and butter! Raised by a baking extraordinaire of a grandfather, Issy can whip up the most delicious cakes and treats. After being laid off from her desk job, she decides to open up her own café. But Issy soon learns that running a business, even one inspired by her passion, isn’t a piece of cake.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

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My Thoughts: 

As someone who loves British contemporaries and books featuring baking, I am in shock that I had never heard of Jenny Colgan’s books until a recent trip to the library with my mom. I was perusing through the adult books section of my library, planning out how I was going to read ALL the books during my winter break, when I found Jenny Colgan’s Meet Me at the Cupcake Café sitting on the shelf. I was going to put off this book about baking until my winter break, but I couldn’t help myself from going back to the library later in the week to pick it up. I am quite happy with my decision because I absolutely adored Meet Me at the Cupcake Café.

As you can tell from above, Meet Me at the Cupcake Café has a huge emphasis on baking, as Issy opens her own cupcake shop. The most unique element of the book is that it features recipes of many of Issy’s treats that she makes in the book. They filled me with desire to bake, especially for Christmas ( I may have been looking up gingerbread recipes when I should have been writing a paper), and I really want to try to make the Nutella cookies. They recipes are really special and important to the story because Izzy’s grandfather, Gramps, sends them to her through letters. Issy and Gramps have a super close relationship, as her grandfather raised Issy and he influenced her to fall in love with baking. The most heartbreaking element of the novel is seeing Gramps suffer from dementia, but through it all, he supports Issy’s opening of the café. Issy’s moments with her grandfather often brought tears to my eyes, and by the end of the novel I was full-on crying—the first book in a while to make me do so!

Moving on to the more heart-warming aspects of the novel, Meet Me at the Cupcake Café has such a funny and supportive cast of characters for Issy. Pearl and Helena were my favorite side characters, as they brought a lot of humor to the story, but they also supported Issy the most. What really made me laugh out loud were the interactions between Caroline and Pearl’s son, Louis. The following argument between the two made me laugh out loud:

“ “Caline,” said Louis seriously, leaning over to make his point. “Bad cake, Caline.”

“No, yummy cake, Louis,” said Caroline tightly.

“No, Caline,” said Louis. Issy hastily got in the middle before it turned into a genuine argument between a forty-year-old and a two-year-old.

There is a bit of romance in the novel, as each woman in the novel deals with their own relationships. I didn’t mind the romance, with the exception of Issy. Her relationship with her on-and-off again boyfriend, Graeme, frustrated me to no end, especially since she had a much better suitor throughout the story. However, the romance really doesn’t affect my opinion or rating of the novel that much because the baking and storyline made up for it immensely. I just fell in love with Issy’s story, the people in her life, and of course, the cakes. Although it’s an adult novel, if you love the baking aspects of Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I Loved Before trilogy and want a book with even more of an emphasis on baking, pick this one up immediately!

I want to read ALL of Jenny Colgan books now, especially the ones that have to do something with baking and food! And she has so many books centered on Christmas, including the sequel to Meet Me at the Cupcake Café!

Do you enjoy books about baking? Have you read anything by Jenny Colgan? Share in the comments!