BEAUTIFUL & HISTORICAL READ: My Real Name is Hanna Review

Summary: Before the Gestapo invade Hanna’s Soviet-occupied Ukranian shtetele, the girl spends her time exploring her village with her siblings, helping her neighbor decorate pysanky eggs, and admiring the drawings of the handsome Leon. When the Gestapo closes in, intending to make the village “free of Jews,” Hanna’s family and friends are forced to flee and hide in the forest and then into the dark caves beneath the rolling meadows. Underground, they battle sickness and starvation, fighting for their lives. When Hanna’s father disappears, it’s up to Hanna to find him and keep the rest of family and friends alive.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

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My Thoughts:

 Although it’s one of my favorite genres, I didn’t pick up too many historical fiction books back in 2018. However, I am much more inspired to read more historical fiction this year, thanks to Tara Lynn Masih’s My Real Name is Hanna. Especially considering its short length of 184 pages, My Real Name is Hanna is the type of book you won’t be able to let go, during and after reading it. I highly recommend binge-reading this book over the course of a day or weekend.

Much like Ruta Sepetys’ Between Shades of Gray and Salt to the Sea, My Real Name is Hanna tells an often untold story set during World War II and the Holocaust. The book follows Hanna, a young Jewish girl living in the Ukraine, and her family as they are forced into hiding when the Gestapo raids their village. Told over the course of four years, Hanna’s life goes through transformation after transformation, from hiding in her house to a cabin in the forest to a cave.

The book begins with Hanna’s village life in Kwasova, as she takes in the beauty of the Ukranian countryside and paints pysanka (Ukranian Easter eggs) with her beloved Alla. I haven’t heard of pysanka before reading this book, and I thought it was such an interesting cultural element. Hanna’s family is also very religious, and I liked reading about their different customs. She has really strong relationships with both of her parents. Her father often relies on Hanna to keep the family safe, especially when it comes to their secret communication messages with the outside world. As I’ve also learned in Holocaust Studies classes, their faith really helps them get through the toughest of times.

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2019 FAVORITE READ: Serious Moonlight Review & Inspired Recipe

36511805._UY2114_SS2114_Summary (from the publisher): Mystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.

In her new job, Birdie hopes to blossom from introverted dreamer to brave pioneer, and gregarious Daniel Aoki volunteers to be her guide. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

My Thoughts: 

Between Alex, Approximately and Starry Eyes, Jenn Bennett stole my contemporary-loving heart in 2018. Her latest novel, Serious Moonlight, is and now was my most anticipated release of 2019, thanks to its swoon-worthy synopsis. Swoon-worthy for the romance, and swoon-worthy for the fact that this book follows a mystery book-loving girl working in a hotel and trying to solve a mystery with her swoon-worthy co-worker. So basically any (okay, my) fangirl’s dreams!

It may be no surprise, but I seriously adored Serious Moonlight. I loved just about every element in this book. From the atmospheric setting to the relatable characters to the romance, Serious Moonlight is a new favorite read of mine.

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Serious Moonlight is set in Seattle. While I plan on travelling to the West Coast one day, this book solidified my goal to visit the city. Jenn Bennett made this book feel so atmospheric, from Pike Place to the Cascadia (the hotel where Birdie and Daniel work) to the Space Needle. My favorite spot was probably the Moonlight Diner, and I promise it’s not just for the pie. But seriously, this book made me break out my apple pie recipe! I’d love to try and recreate a few of the Moonlight’s pie of the days!

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IT’S A LOVE STORY: The Girl He Used to Know Review

36117813.jpgSummary (from the publisher): Annika (rhymes with Monica) Rose is an English major at the University of Illinois. Anxious in social situations where she finds most people’s behavior confusing, she’d rather be surrounded by the order and discipline of books or the quiet solitude of playing chess.

Jonathan Hoffman joined the chess club and lost his first game—and his heart—to the shy and awkward, yet brilliant and beautiful Annika. He admires her ability to be true to herself, quirks and all, and accepts the challenges involved in pursuing a relationship with her. Jonathan and Annika bring out the best in each other, finding the confidence and courage within themselves to plan a future together. What follows is a tumultuous yet tender love affair that withstands everything except the unforeseen tragedy that forces them apart, shattering their connection and leaving them to navigate their lives alone.

Now, a decade later, fate reunites Annika and Jonathan in Chicago. She’s living the life she wanted as a librarian. He’s a Wall Street whiz, recovering from a divorce and seeking a fresh start. The attraction and strong feelings they once shared are instantly rekindled, but until they confront the fears and anxieties that drove them apart, their second chance will end before it truly begins.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

Over the past few years, I’ve been finding myself reaching more and more for adult contemporary fiction, which led me to Tracey Garvis Graves’ upcoming release, The Girl He Used to Know. Readers who love Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and anything by Taylor Jenkins Reid will really enjoy this sweet love story about college sweethearts, Annika and Jonathan.

The Girl He Used to Know flips between the couple’s senior year of college at the University of Illinois and their present, set ten years later. I often have a love-or-just like relationship with narratives that flip between time periods, but this style really worked for this book. I loved learning about Anna and Jonathan’s past and seeing how their history has affected their present. I admit that I enjoyed the college years a tad more than the present, mostly because I loved seeing their relationship bloom. I also loved the support of Annika’s best friend and roomie, Janice.

At its heart, The Girl He Used to Know is about Annika and Jonathan’s second chance at  first love. While Annika’s perspective takes up the majority of the chapters, I did enjoy Jonathan’s point of view as well. The book’s few romance scenes were the perfect balance of romance and relationship building, as this is Annika’s first real relationship.

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MY READER HEART: A Heart in a Body in the World Review

Summary: After everything has been taken from Annabelle, she’s decides that there is nothing else to do but run. Running from her hometown of Seattle all the way to Washington D.C., Anna begins to run and tries not to think about why. But no matter how hard she tries, she just can’t seem to escape the tragedy from the past year and the person who haunts her. Followed by Grandpa Ed in his RV and tracked by her self-appointed PR team (her two best friends and brother), Annabelle forms into a reluctant activist as people connect her with her past and trauma. Being welcomed with block parties and being cheered on by crowds as she crosses borders is nice, but Annabelle is unable to leave her guilt and shame behind. Through good and bad distractions, Annabelle is set on running to Washington D.C. and face her past and future.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

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My Thoughts:

Deb Caletti’s A Heart in a Body in the World was featured on many 2018 favorites lists this past December. Between the hype and being the contemporary fan that I am, I knew I had to read this book following Annabelle’s run from Seattle and Washington D.C. after a devastating tragedy. A Heart in a Body in the World is a heart-breaking, yet impactful and current read with a fantastic cast and writing style.

A Heart in a Body in the World writing style differs from most YA contemporaries, told in the third person perspective. However, this did not prevent me from connecting with Annabelle and the other characters. From the novel’s start, Annabelle starts to run and makes the decision to run the entire 2,7000 miles to Washington D.C. The tragedy that causes Annabelle to run in the first place isn’t fully explained until the end, but Caletti does provide snippets of her past life and experiences with “The Taker.” This book is very much a feminist YA read addressing toxic masculinity, mental health, violence, and loss. I found myself near crying in both in the novel’s happy and sad moments. The moment when Annabelle crosses into Idaho especially got me.

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NEW AUTO-READ AUTHOR: This Adventure Ends Review

Summary: When Sloane moves from New York to Florida for her senior year, she doesn’t expect to fall in love with such a tight-knit group of friends, layered with private tragedies and secrets. Sloane becomes closest with Vera, a social media star with a big heart, and Gabe, Vera’s quiet and serious twin brother. When a painting by Vera and Gabe’s mother goes missing, Sloane makes it her mission to find it, creating a journey that takes her deeper into her, her friends, and surprisingly, her father’s, lives.

Cover Lust: This Adventure Ends cover designer, please teach me your ways! I seriously would love to be able to paint like this. The cover scheme also matches the book really well, giving me both night-sky and ocean vibes.

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

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My Thoughts:

Emma Mills is a much-loved contemporary YA author among many of my fellow bloggers. My 2019 reading plan is all about prioritizing books and authors that I’ve really been meaning to read. This Adventure Ends, following Sloane’s incorporation into a tight-knit friend group after moving to Florida, met my expectations and more, making Emma Mills a new go-to author for me.

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CAN’T PUT THIS BOOK DOWN: Girls with Sharp Sticks Review

36442895Summary (from the publisher): The Girls of Innovations Academy are beautiful and well-behaved—it says so on their report cards. Under the watchful gaze of their Guardian, they receive a well-rounded education that promises to make them better. Obedient girls, free from arrogance or defiance. Free from troublesome opinions or individual interests.

But the girls’ carefully controlled existence may not be quite as it appears. As Mena and her friends uncover the dark secrets of what’s actually happening there—and who they really are—the girls of Innovations Academy will learn to fight back.

 Cover Lust? I need this book cover in poster form ASAP! 

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

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My Thoughts:

As many of you likely know, I am a huge fan of books that I simply can’t put down. Suzanne Young’s latest release, Girls with Sharp Sticks, is the type of book that will stick with you during and after putting down this eerie and at times, scarily realistic read. This eye-opening read will resonate with readers who love seeing real world issues in different contexts, from Tracy Banghart’s Grace and Fury to Jennifer Mathieu’s Moxie.

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BEACH & BAKING: Small Town Hearts Review & Recipe

smallheartcoverSummary (From the publisher): Fresh out of high school, Babe Vogel should be thrilled to have the whole summer at her fingertips. She loves living in her lighthouse home in the sleepy Maine beach town of Oar’s Rest and being a barista at the Busy Bean, but she’s totally freaking out about how her life will change when her two best friends go to college in the fall. And when a reckless kiss causes all three of them to break up, she may lose them a lot sooner. On top of that, her ex-girlfriend is back in town, bringing with her a slew of memories, both good and bad.

And then there’s Levi Keller, the cute artist who’s spending all his free time at the coffee shop where she works. Levi’s from out of town, and even though Babe knows better than to fall for a tourist who will leave when summer ends, she can’t stop herself from wanting to know him. Can Babe keep her distance, or will she break the one rule she’s always had – to never fall for a summer boy?

 My Rating: 5/5 Stars

 My Thoughts:

If you’re ready to trade your winter jacket for your bathing suit and need a book to match the mood, look no forward than Lillie Vale’s Small Town Hearts. Better yet, if you’re seriously in the mood for a dessert (or three), Small Town Hearts is sure to spark the baking (or dessert-eating) within you. If you haven’t been able to tell yet, I was totally charmed by this adorable YA summer contemporary following one girl’s summer in her sleep Maine beach town.

Small Town Hearts has everything you need in a summer contemporary: days spent at the beach, working at the local coffee shop, and picking blue berries. There’s also plenty of friendship and romance to go around. Speaking of romance, outside of her amazing baking and barista skills, our main character, Babe, is a unique YA protagonist for her bisexuality. Babe deals with the past when her ex-girlfriend is back in town for the season as she breaks one of her most important rules: never fall in love with one of the summer boys.

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