January 2020 has been one of the busiest months of my life. I spent so much time with my friends this month, went abroad (for the first time ever) to Ireland, and jumped into my final undergraduate semester. Between friends, school, and abroad, I didn’t have too much time to dedicate to reading in January- and I’m content with that. I really enjoyed the books that I did pick up, as well as the TV and films I was able to also watch this month.
The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper (ARC) | 3/5 Stars
The Gravity of Us delivered on its NASA and space-premise, but I just wasn’t a fan of the chemistry between the main characters and character development.
The Risk (Briar U #2) by Elle Kennedy | 5/5
The Risk is my favorite book in the Briar U series! I loved everything about this book, and I can’t wait to read the last book in the trilogy- even though I am putting it off for a bit longer because I don’t want to be done with the Off Campus world yet!
You’re Not You by Michelle Wildgen | 4/5
You’re Not You was a really enjoyable adult contemporary and I’m interested in watching its film adaptation.
Together We Caught Fire by Eva V. Gibson (ARC) | 3/5
Together We Caught Fire is definitely a unique YA contemporary romance and provides an in-depth look at a lot of issues. However, I was not the biggest fan of the character and plot development and relationships.
As much as us readers do our best to make our TBR piles smaller, we love adding even more books to them just as much- if not a bit more!
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been adding more 2020 releases and a few backlist titles that I’ve always had my eye on to my TBR. I have a pretty solid idea of the books I’m going to be reading in February, focusing on some review copies, rereading, and hopefully a backlist book or two. But me being me and often straying away from my TBRs, I wouldn’t be too surprised if a few of these make an appearance in my February reading life.
Most Likely by Sarah Watson (Release Date: March 10)- You had me at The Bold Type meets future female president of the United States. Most Likely follows four best friends as they head into their senior year of high school together, with one of the girls destined to become the future president of the United States. I’m so intrigued to see how this book comes together, between the four main characters and how- and if-the identity of the future president is revealed.
They Went Left by Monica Hesse (Release Date: April 7)- Having loved Monica Hesse’s Girl in the Blue Coat and The War Outside, I can’t believe I didn’t know about this 2020 release until I was scrolling through Twitter earlier this month! They Went Left is set in in a similar time period as Monica Hesse’s other two YA books, taking place in 1945 and following Zofia’s life after being liberated from the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.
The Betrothed by Kiera Cass (Release Date: May 5)- 2020 may just finally be the year in which I read a Kiera Cass book- and no, it still won’t be The Selection (but maybe one day!). The Betrothed is set to be a YA historical romance. Having loved so much new adult and adult contemporary romance lately, I’m ready to delve into the genre.
All sixteen-year-old Izzy Crawford wants is to feel like she really belongs somewhere. Her father, a marine, died in Iraq six years ago, and Izzy’s moved to a new town nearly every year since, far from the help of her extended family in North Carolina and Puerto Rico. When Izzy’s hardworking mom moves their small family to Virginia, all her dreams start clicking into place. She likes her new school—even if Izzy is careful to keep her scholarship-student status hidden from her well-to-do classmates and her new athletic and popular boyfriend. And best of all: Izzy’s family has been selected by Habitat for Humanity to build and move into a brand-new house. Izzy is this close to the community and permanence she’s been searching for, until all the secret pieces of her life begin to collide.
How to Build a Heart is the story of Izzy’s journey to find her place in the world and her discovery that the choices we make and the people we love ultimately define us and bring us home.
My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Maria Padian’s How to Build a Heart was recommended to be by Jessica of The Book Bratz. As a contemporary girl at heart, I’m always on the hunt for new contemporary books and authors.
After constantly moving for her mother’s job, high school teen Izzy finally feels at home in Clayton. She’s made a few friends at her all girls Catholic school and is part of the a capella group. However, Izzy finds herself hiding her home life from her friends. She doesn’t want too many people to know that her father died in Iraq a few years ago, or that she lives in mobile home community with her mother and younger brother, not to mention that Habitat for Humanity is helping them build a new home in a neighboring community. As she becomes closer to the new girl, Aubrey, and her cute older brother, Sam, Izzy finds herself having to become even more protective of her secrets.
How to Build a Heart is really about Izzy coming to terms and learning to be unashamed of her identity and home life. Izzy comes from two very different cultures, her mother having been raised in Puerto Rico and her father from a very traditional, white Southern family. Even before her father’s death, Izzy’s dad’s side of family wasn’t very accepting of Izzy and her mother. Family is a huge element in How to Build a Heart. While much of the family emphasis is on Izzy’s relationship with her mother and brother, Maria Padian also explores Izzy’s relationship with her father’s side of the family. I thought it was well-balanced and I liked how much of that development didn’t come to the end of the story.
Many of my favorite scenes in the novel involved Izzy’s mother and brother and the progress of the family’s Habitat for Humanity house. The Habitat for Humanity element is something that I haven’t seen done before in YA. On the one hand, Izzy cannot wait to move into her new house and will do almost anything to help with the house’s development. On the other hand, the one thing Izzy refuses to do is get involved in any publicity efforts to get more money for the house and organization. Izzy doesn’t want her friends to find out that her family is getting a ‘free’ house. Izzy and her family don’t necessarily have a strained relationship, but much of the tension comes from Izzy’s desire to keep her home life hidden from her friends. Izzy is surrounded by predominantly white and wealthy peers, other than her neighbor, Roz. Some elements surrounding Izzy’s secrecy are of course very predictable, as she builds up her friends’ potential reactions in her head.
For the past few years, my new year usually begins in a quiet way, wrapping up winter break and trying to get to all the books I can before heading back to school and ‘real life.’ However, my 2020 started in the most exciting way possible by going on a study abroad trip to Ireland!
I always knew that I wanted to do some sort of study abroad program while in school. Blame it on all the books I’ve read, but I’ve had this growing sense of wanderlust in me for the past few years. I admit that I was intimidated by going abroad, having never travelled outside of the United States before and how pricey study abroad and travelling can be. However, everything seemed to fall into place during the fall semester of my senior year and I decided to apply to my school’s winter break program in Ireland. I have a few countries on must travel-to list, but Ireland has always been in the #1 spot because of my own Irish heritage.
In short, I am so, so glad that I went to Ireland because I had such an incredible experience. I have a ton of photos featured below, but even they do not fully capture how beautiful everything is there. I’m going to be breaking down my trip more for you below, but I quickly fell in love with the West Coast of the country and know I need to go back someday. It’s true what they say about going abroad or travelling: once you go somewhere, you want to get back on a plane and go somewhere else! I’m hoping my adventures abroad or at a travel feature will become a somewhat regular series here on Fangirl Fury.
And yes, I admit that I’m disappointed with my bookish self for not taking a long a copy of Jenna Evan Welch’s Love & Luck for ALL of the bookstagrams.
My day spent in Derry was one of the trip’s highlights. As a Derry Girls fan, going to Derrry was one of the things I was most excited about. During the first half of the day, we visited the Museum of Free Derry, hearing from a relative of a Bloody Sunday victim and walking through the museum’s exhibit on civil rights. After the museum, we toured the Bogside murals.
The second half of the day was spent in Derry City, where we had complete free range to explore the city. Since our bus dropped us off at The Guildhall, we walked through the Plantation of Ulster exhibit and later took some nice nightsky photos. After the exhibit, my friends and I walked across the Peace Bridge, which again prompted for the nice photo ops. We then went into the city, with our first stop at the Derry Craft Village. We popped into a few stores, where I picked up a belated Happy Christmas ornament for my family and a pair of claddaugh earrings for my sister. My must-see stop for the day was of course the Derry Girls mural! After, we walked along the 17th century wall near there and also stopped at St. Columb’s Cathedral. We also stopped at a print shop that sold a ton of Derry Girls merchandise, picking up a postcard for my equally obsessed Derry Girls friend and I, and at an ice cream shop called Joe Jackson’s. After falling in love with lemon meringue pie at dinner earlier in the week, I treated myself to lemon meringue and salted caramel ice cream.
Phil Stamper’s YA debut novel, The Gravity of Us, was the first 2020 release and first completed book in my new reading year. The book’s unique premise really caught my attention back at Book Expo 2019. The Gravity of Us is narrated by Cal, a Brooklyn-based social media star whose life is upended when his dad is chosen for NASA’s mission to Mars. Cal’s family moves to Texas and lives with this other astronauts’ families, which includes the quiet and attractive Leon. Cal deals with a reality TV show about the space mission, his future living under his dad’s dream, and his mutual attraction to Leon.
The premise of The Gravity of Us really delivered. The whole NASA/Mars mission was very well-done and as somewhat unexpected, the setting was very different than other YA contemporary books. I really liked when Phil Stamper delved into some NASA or space history facts, as Cal’s neighborhood in Texas is a replica of the 1960s and 70s astro-family communities. Much of this has to do with StarWatch, a reality TV show tracking the mission and the lives of the astronauts and their families. I’m still not sure how I feel about the reality TV element. On the one hand, it added another layer of tension, as Cal sees right through the reality show, but on the other hand, it added a lot of unnecessary tension. While I loved reading about the NASA narrative, there was a lot in the StarWatch vs. NASA battle that was hard to follow. The other main element that I unfortunately was not the biggest fan of was Leon and Cal’s chemistry. Cal admires Leon from afar in the beginning, it’s hinted by Leon’s sister that Leon finds Cal attractive too, and all of a sudden, they’re flirting and then they’re somewhat dating??
Overall, I enjoyed the premise of The Gravity of Us and its space-centric plot that actually had a lot of family development, as Cal and his parents contend with their different dreams and aspirations for their family. Yet, I was not a fan of the book’s writing style and romantic relationship development.
The Gravity of Us comes out on February 4, 2020.
This review is based on an advance uncorrected proof. By no means did receiving this review copy affect my thoughts or opinions.
In honor of the new Little Women film, I dove back into the world of one of my favorite classics with Virginia Kantra’s Meg & Jo. Meg & Jo is a modern retelling of the classic, following Jo’s life living as a struggling professional writer and successful food blogger in New York City and Meg’s life being married and raising two children while feeling like she must take care of anything and everything. When the March sisters’ mother becomes ill over the holidays, the four March girls return home for the holidays. Having read this book in December, I loved Meg and Jo’s holiday spirit. This is the perfect kind of holiday reads for readers who may not be looking for books that scream Christmas, but still involve a festive atmospheric or stories where the backdrop is Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The I Should Have Read That Book Tag has been on my book-tag to-do list for quite a while. I love this tag because I have a love for talking about the books I haven’t read– and don’t even get me started on the ones that I have read. I’m not too ashamed of admitting what books I haven’t yet picked up yet or ones that I really have no intention of reading. The ‘I should have read that book’ tag was created byBeth of Books Nest.
A book that a certain friend is always telling you to read
So many of my book blogging friends have told me that it’s finally time for me to pick up Natasha Ngan’s Girls Made of Paper and Fire.
A book that’s been on your TBR forever and yet you still haven’t picked it up
I haven’t been afraid to admit that there are a few books on my TBR that have sat there for a while (hello Magnus Chase), but one that I haven’t mentioned before is Jeff Zenter’s The Serpent King. According to Goodreads, I’ve had this book on my TBR since June 2017 when I picked up a physical copy at Book Con. This book seems to be everyone’s Jeff Zenter fave and has definitely caught my interest for having a character who is a fashion blogger.
A book in a series you’ve started, but haven’t gotten round to finishing yet
I’m currently not in the middle of reading a book in a series, but one book I would like to read somewhat soon is Marissa Meyer’s Supernova, the final book in the Renegades trilogy. I’m usually someone who loves to binge-read series or read the books as close together as possible, but I didn’t find myself wanting to jump right away in Supernova after finishing Archenemies last month. I plan on checking Supernova out from the library the next time I’m home from college.
A classic you’ve always liked the sound of, but never actually read
Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club has been on my TBR for at least two years. If I pick up a classic anytime soon, it has to be this one.
One of my new favorite ways to ring in the bookish year is by choosing new releases that I believe will earn 5 stars upon reading them. In 2019, I was pretty accurate about the books that I predicted would be 5 star reads, and even the books that didn’t get a full 5 stars were mostly pretty close.
We Are the Wildcats by Siobhan Vivian
Release Date: March 31
We Are the Wildcats is currently my most anticipated contemporary release of the year! I loved everything about Siobhan Vivian’s previous release, Stay Sweet. The book is told over 24 hours, following a high field hockey team’s sleepover/initiation.
Chasing Lucky by Jenn Bennett
Release Date: May 5
I haven’t met a Jenn Bennett that I haven’t LOVED, so I’m sure Chasing Lucky will be no exception. I always love the character growth, relationships, and maturity in her books. Chasing Lucky also takes place in New England at a family-run BOOKSTORE.
House of Earth & Blood (Crescent City #1) by Sarah J. Maas
Release Date: March 3
Sarah J.Maas is another favorite author of mine whose books I haven’t ever not loved. I’m so excited for her to enter the adult fantasy world with Crescent City. I’d read this book regardless of its synopsis, but I’m so intrigued by this one. I’m also excited to see SJM take on a contemporary fantasy setting, although Fae will of course be involved.
Right after reading of course, my favorite way to relax and unwind is with a good binge-worthy TV show or ten. While there are plenty of books I am looking forward to in 2020, today I’ll be discussing the TV shows and films that I can’t wait to hit the big screen and my small screen this year.
Schitt’s Creek S6 (Pop TV)
Release Date: January 7
Although I just discovered Schitt’s Creek in 2019, I know the final season of the show will be bittersweet because it’s just so well-done and it will be so sad to know that it’s over!
Zumbo’s Just Desserts (Netflix)
Release Date: January 10
Everyone knows that I love a good baking competition show. One of my favorites is Zumbo’s Just Desserts. I’ve been honestly waiting for a second season since finishing the first one in October 2018.
Grace and Frankie S6 (Netflix)
Release Date: January 15
Grace and Frankie just might be the show I am anticipating the most on this list! After binge-watching the first five seasons this summer, Grace and Frankie absolutely stole my TV-loving heart.
Summary (from the publisher):Friday Night Lights meets Morgan Matson’s The Unexpected Everything in this contemporary debut where swoonworthy romance meets underdog sports story.
When softball star Liv Rodinsky throws one ill-advised punch during the most important game of the year, she loses her scholarship to her fancy private school, her boyfriend, and her teammates all in one fell swoop. With no other options, Liv is forced to transfer to the nearest public school, Northland, where she’ll have to convince their coach she deserves a spot on the softball team, all while facing both her ex and the teammates of the girl she punched… Every. Single. Day.
Enter Grey, the injured star quarterback with amazing hair and a foolproof plan: if Liv joins the football team as his temporary replacement, he’ll make sure she gets a spot on the softball team in the Spring. But it will take more than the perfect spiral for Liv to find acceptance in Northland’s halls, and behind that charming smile, Grey may not be so perfect after all.
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
One of the best ways to get a book on to my TBR, let alone in my bookish heart, is having a blurb that combines two or more of my favorite fangirl things. I was sold on Sarah Henning’s upcoming release, Throw Like a Girl, immediately after reading its Friday Night Lights – one of my all-time favorite TV shows- meets Morgan Matson’s The Unexpected Everything– one of my favorite authors- inspired blurb. After throwing an ill-advised punch during the last softball game of the season, Liv’s plans for her senior year change. Losing her scholarship to her private school, her boyfriend, and teammates almost all at once, Liv transfers to the rival public school and must show the softball coach that she is a true team player. The solution? Join the football team as the back-up quarterback.
Throw Like a Girl is one of those contemporary books that you just fall so easily into. The book definitely hit the Friday Night Lights and The Unexpected Everything vibes, as Liv turns to football when her school and athletic lives are completely upended. It’s such a fun story with all the drama that somewhat stereotypically comes with being the only girl on the football team. Not to mention that Liv’s ex-boyfriend is on the team and she soon finds herself having feelings for the star quarterback, Grey. This book didn’t really surprise me or throw any curveballs- gotta have at least one softball pun, right?-, but it was definitely a very enjoyable story.
When you read 100+ books in one year, you’re unfortunately bound to have some disappointments and books unfinished like this fangirl did. As much as my 2019 was filled with so many great reads (see my 30+ book favorites wrap-up), I had some books that I did not enjoy as much as I had hoped and didn’t enjoy enough to finish. This post is split between my most disappointing books of 2019 and the books that I did-not-finish (DNF).
I will say that just because a book made my disappointing books and DNFs lists does not mean that I didn’t enjoy them at all or that other readers of course wouldn’t enjoy them way more than I did.
Most Disappointing Reads
When Summer Ends by Jessica Pennington
When Summer Ends is the type of book that I should’ve really DNF’ed. Everyone knows that I love reading summer contemporaries during the summer, and I was really looking forward to reading one of Jessica Pennington’s books. That being said, I really pushed myself to stick with this book and honestly ended up skimming through the last one hundred pages or so to find out the ending. The book is told through two perspectives, Aidan and Olivia. I unfortunately did not find myself invested in either character and the general plot.
The Queen of Nothing (Folk of Air #3) by Holly Black
Andddd here come the books that will get the most screams from my fellow readers. I admit that I was never the biggest fan of The Cruel Prince and never really understood the hype around it… until I read and absolutely loved The Wicked King! I had such high expectations for The Queen of Nothing. But by the first 100 page mark in QoN, I had no idea where the story was going and it stayed that way throughout the rest of the book. So much of the story was built around the Cardan vs. Madoc conflict and I really didn’t understand much of what was going on. Even with the one steamy scene, Cardan and Jude’s chemistry just felt so off.