Book Review: Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff

This book has been on my TBR list for months. I finally got around to reading it, and thought it wasn’t what I expected, it was actually a lot better and more unique than what I had imagined it would be.

4/5 stars

 

cover pic me gone large

Amazon description of Picture Me Gone:

Mila has an exceptional talent for reading a room—sensing hidden facts and unspoken emotions from clues that others overlook. So when her father’s best friend, Matthew, goes missing from his upstate New York home, Mila and her beloved father travel from London to find him. She collects information about Matthew from his belongings, from his wife and baby, from the dog he left behind and from the ghosts of his past—slowly piecing together the story everyone else has missed. But just when she’s closest to solving the mystery, a shocking betrayal calls into question her trust in the one person she thought she could read best.

I expected this book to be a hyper-dramatic, fast-paced, psychological-type novel. In reality, I was pleasantly surprised by the intricate delicacy of the subtle plot Rosoff built and the complexity of the characters she crafted.

This book is seriously touching and surprisingly heart-wrenching. Rosoff discussed friendship, trust, lies, and mortality through a child’s voice perfectly. Her plot started off simple and gradually built up toward the climax, which was SO INTENSE. Her writing was great, not dominating her book with metaphors, only using a few key motifs to discuss her themes.

I actually took notes while I read this book, so here are some of my random thoughts I had about the book:

  • Accurate texting. No really guys, teens don’t txt like dis 4eva. Sometimes we type out full words. Using the excess of texting acronyms that many authors do just highlights how out-of-touch they are. Rosoff didn’t suffer from this affliction.
  • Interesting take on the US. Mila’s family is European, but the book takes place in America. Mila’s observations about the US were insightful without breaking from her youthful voice.
  • Mila’s voice and breaking the 4th wall. I loved the way that Rosoff wrote Mila. She’s twelve years old, so definitely younger than the characters I usually read. She’s smart and definitely more observant than most kids her age, but she feel young. Her age and her inexperience with the world of adults is a major part of the book, adding uniqueness and making her character realistic. She also broke the fourth wall by addressing the reader often, which helped bring me into the story and her character.
  • Jake. He was the perfect addition to the story. He appears in the middle of the story and I can’t really tell you much about him without spoilers, but he was great. Relatable and realistic. Right as the plot was in danger of lagging, he brought life back into the story.
  • The cover. The cover perfectly sums up the book for me. I looked back at it after I finished reading it (I always read books without their dusk jackets on) and realized how perfect it was for the story.

I would recommend this book to anyone in the mood for a poignant read that delves deeply in the intricacies of adult life, mortality, and trust through a lovable narrator.

I hope you guys read it, and if you have read it, how did you feel about it?

Just a sidenote: do you guys like the bullet point system? Should I make it a staple or scrap it? Feedback would be great!

Book Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

I read this book in one day, with only a few short breaks for food. Seriously. It was soooooo good.

5/5 stars

Genre: YA contemporary romance

cover isla and the happily ever after

Amazon description for Isla and the Happily Ever After:

Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart.
Featuring cameos from fan-favorites Anna, Étienne, Lola, and Cricket, this sweet and sexy story of true love—set against the stunning backdrops of New York City, Paris, and Barcelona—is a swoonworthy conclusion to Stephanie Perkins’s beloved series.

As with books one and two, book three was perfectly adorable, unique, and heartfelt. This book returned to Paris, but took place simultaneously with book two, which was an interesting touch. Isla was probably the most relateable of the three protagonists for me. I felt connected to her shyness, the way she puts herself down without even realizing it (don’t read too much into that, I’m just saying it was nice to have an introvert, instead of extroverted Anna and Lola).

Josh’s character was surprisingly complex. His artsy side, mixed with his politician’s son side, mixed with his sort-of-a-slacker side, mixed with his lonely side–everything worked together to create a vividly real love interest. Unlike some romances, where I feel like you never meet the guy beyond one main internal conflict (usually involving the protagonist’s love), Perkins took the time to flesh out her love interest as much as her main character.

The plot of this book was fascinating. So different from books one and two, and pretty much everything else I’ve read.

A short intermission of spoilers, skip over this bit if you haven’t read the book.

Lola and Josh get together really early on in the book. It was great to get to see your OTP together for large plotty portions, unlike most books that end the book as soon as they are together, but it also added SO MUCH TENSION. I think the main reason I read it in one day was I knew that something had to go wrong, and I had to find out what. And when it did go wrong–OHMYGOD, I couldn’t put it down.

Spoilers over. Please come back. Thanks

I cried a lot during this book. Especially the ending, which tied up all three books so perfectly. I fangirled again when Anna, St. Clair, Lola, and Cricket showed up again. It was perfect.

I WANT MORE BOOKS IN THIS SERIES. WHY DID IT HAVE TO END????

Seriously, if you even like contemporary romance a little, or if you like cute stories, read these books. Definitely one of my favorite series I’ve read this year.

Book Review: Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

I had no idea how Stephanie Perkins would match the incredible love story that was Anna and the French Kiss, but Lola and the Boy Next Door accomplished this, without being a carbon copy of book one.

5/5 stars

Genre: YA contemporary romance

cover lola and the boy next door

Amazon description of Lola and the Boy Next Door

Lola Nolan is a budding costume designer, and for her, the more outrageous, sparkly, and fun the outfit, the better. And everything is pretty perfect in her life (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the negihborhood. When Cricket, a gifted inventor, steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

The characters of this book made it for me. Lola, with her wacky outfits, spunky wigs, and band-member boyfriend, was undeniably one of the weirdest characters I’ve ever read about (as a main character). What really impressed me was that I actually liked her. In real life–I’m not going to lie–I would not like her. I wouldn’t bully her, like some characters in the book, but she would be a tad too weird for me to go out of my way to talk to.

But in this book, I loved her. Perkins managed to draw me so completely into her life and gave me such a profound understanding of the mentality behind her costumes that I loved her. (This juxtaposes with one of my last reviews, The Kiss of Deception, where the main character’s personality was one of the main reasons I didn’t like the book.)

Cricket was alive from his first scene. I felt that I totally understood his character, and why Lola and him fell in love (which was beyond adorable, but I’ll get to that in a sec). His twin, Calliope, was realistic, and the dynamic between the two actually felt twinny (it is a source of continued frustration for me when authors decide to write twins, and then write a dynamic that is nothing like my relationship with my twin).

Max, Lola’s boyfriend, was a strange character for me. He’s older than her, in a band, and an all-around bad boy. Chicklit tropes had me assuming he was playing her, cheating on her, etc. But then scenes between the two of them were felt genuine, and I spent a good portion of the book going back and forth between “he’s a horrendous piece of trash” and “he’s a nice guy in love with her.” This conflict helped make the book be more than the predictable contemporary romance plot line I’ve read over and over.

Lola’s parents and her best friend were good additions. I liked how Lola had gay parents without it dominating the plot; Perkins was very plainspoken about it, in a refreshing way. Their over-protectiveness felt familiar (I have friends in similar situations) and was much more important to the overall story. Lindsey, her best friend, didn’t have an overwhelming amount of personality for me–I don’t feel like she was in the story that much–but she was useful for the development of other running conflicts.

Now for the plot. It was great. Different from book one, which was a relief. I don’t think I would have been able to stand it if the two couples fell in love the same way. This book was sadder than the first, and I almost cried. I don’t have any complaints, though, about how the plot panned out.

Anna and St. Clair’s cameos in this book were awesome. I fangirl squealed when I realized who Lola’s supervisor was. I love that even though these books could stand alone, Perkins decided to give us glimpses of the previous book in the next one.

I read all of book three today, and I’ll post a review for it tomorrow.

100th Post: Time for Another Rant (AKA Sh*t People Like to Tell Me about my Generation)

*For my 50th post, I ranted about my little sister being told not to read the Harry Potter books, and the general culture behind “reading levels” in schools. For post #100, I’m ranting about high school. I’m sorry if I offend anyone, but only a little. These are my pure, unorganized, sleep-deprived, pissed-off thoughts. Enjoy, or not. Feel free to comment at the end.


I am 15 years old right now. I’m a sophomore in high school. I’m white and I live a fairly comfortable, middle-ish-class life. I have a smart phone and a laptop to call my own. I like wearing “short” shorts and I’m a sucker for a Starbucks (though Coffee Bean is obviously better).

I am not an idiot.

Yes, I am a teenager. That doesn’t mean you get to walk all over me. That doesn’t mean you get to act like you know me before you’ve had a conversation with me. That doesn’t mean my life is easy.

I’m saying this because I encounter a lot of this on the internet and from the people all around me:

rant 100 pic 1

But from my point of view, high school is more like this:

Truthfully, I’m taking hard classes and doing a lot of extracurriculars.

But not as many as the person sitting next to me.

And I’m sacrificing every minute of my spare time to do more, to study harder, to impress the nameless, faceless college admittance people who will judge me based on a list of clubs and a GPA during my senior year. I’ll probably never meet these people. I’ll just be a name on a sheet to be judged against the thousands of other names-on-sheets, based on how well-rounded and dedicated we can make ourselves look in 2-D, on a sheet of paper and a carefully-worded college app.

It’s exhausting and demoralizing and I have three more years of this.

I feel like I’m trapped in a culture of impossible expectations, where you have to perfect every minute of every day and fit 25 hours into a 24 hour day and never sleep and sacrifice a goat every full moon just to get into college.

Then you get to pay for college, but that’s its own pile of impossible.

And on top of that, I’m a high schooler. I’m “supposed” to be dating and having friends and going to football games. Now is when I’m supposed to learn not just encyclopedias worth of information, but also how to be a social, semi-mature adult.

Because clearly the portion of your life that asks you to learn to deal with no sleep, hormones, new social orders, homework, and extracurriculars is “easy.”

If you spend your entire life studying, you’re shamed for “not having a life” or for being a “try hard”–not just from your peers, but also the random teachers, parents, and adults that decide to give you their personal opinion on your life.

Then there is the countering view of teenagers many adults have, in which all of us ages 13 to 18 only care about boy friends and texting and not chipping a nail. We are antisocial for the heck of it, rude to authority, and probably on drugs.

You see the problem?

Interacting with adults is probably the most frustrating part of my life right now. I really try to engage people in conversation, and I genuinely like having discussions with adults.

Until this happens:

  • I mention that school is stressful/tiring/intense or any of the other millions of adjectives I could think of and they try to tell me high school either “isn’t hard” or “isn’t a big deal” or that I “don’t need to try so hard” or that I shouldn’t “stress myself out so much” or that I should try “working smart, not hard”–Basically that it’s all in my head, or at least all my own fault that my life is stressful. And not that in glorifying colleges like Harvard and Yale they are perpetuating a society that demands this of me.
  • I try to engage in a mature conversation about something going on in the world and the adult either A) stops listening and just plain starts talking to someone else, B) barely pays attention to me and obviously thinks I’m an idiot–Because I’m just a teenager (drugs and Starbucks, remember?), and I could never understand what is going on outside the world of Forever XXI sales or hot guys (Even though I’m on freaking speech and debate, people! This is my thing!)

I work hard by default. I care a lot about my grades, and a lot less about how my school does in a football game or what filters people use on Instagram. My life is my choice, yes, but also the byproduct of a society that demands 110% of me every day without giving me any credit for surviving it.

This is the message high school students hear (with helpful translations for adults, or people from other countries with different systems):

If you want to get into college, you need to take as many AP (advanced placement–AKA college level classes) as possible, get A’s in the class and 5’s on the AP exam (a big test in May that tests you on everything you learned in your AP class, graded from 1-5, you need a 3 or higher to get the college credit, 5 is the best possible, and basically impossible). You need to have hundreds of hours of community service, have leadership positions in as many clubs as possible, and be well-rounded, so try learning a sport and an instrument and another language, if you can fit it into your schedule.

High schoolers hear this everywhere: from teachers, school meetings, the internet, word-of-mouth, even parents.

But parents are under some delusion that the above requirements are easy.

Things I’ve been told by my family, or other adults in my life:

  • In the US, it’s really easy to get into college. (What US do you live in?)
  • You don’t need to be perfect, you can just go to a UC. (Just?! WTF people? They are some of the best colleges in the country!!!!)
  • You stress yourself out too much about school. (Oh, maybe because it’s STRESSFUL?)
  • I’m sure you don’t need to spend that much time on a weekend working on homework. (My vain efforts to get ahead on the weekends so that I can breathe during the week should never be scorned.)

I’m so tired of it. And all my friends are given similar “pep talks” by adults.

THEY AREN’T ENCOURAGING, PEOPLE!

I don’t want to demonize adults. I have some great ones in my life.

But seriously, my life is stressful. Can I please be allowed to talk about it? So many times, an adult will ask me how school is going, and then as soon as I try to actually engage them in a conversation about what is going on in my life (usually up-coming tests, frustrating teachers, or big projects) they shut me down, deciding it’s a good time to remind me that all the stress is in my head or that I’m working myself to hard. Like, thanks, I’ll try to remember that, along with 100+ facts about the Protestant Reformation for the test I have tomorrow.

And yeah, I pretty much only talk about school. But my life is school. I see my friends at school. All my clubs are at school. Almost every funny thing that happens to me happens at school.

I enjoy school, even though it’s a little Stockholm’s Syndrome-y. Yeah, I have a lot on my plate–but I also have a big appetite. I want to talk about school, and have someone listen.

So if you’re an adult out there, and you want to help your kid or your niece or your student survive high school? Don’t tell us it’s easy. Let us rant, get it all out. If we decide to try to talk to you, embrace it, please.

And don’t you dare blame us for making our lives hard if you would like your kids to go to a good college. That’s not fair.

Stop assuming I’m shallow because I was born fifteen years ago. Stop calling my generation the worst generation in the history of life, when some one us (A LOT of us) are actually trying really freakin’ hard to overcome your expectations.

Stop telling me the hardest thing I’ve ever been asked to do is easy.

I’ll play your game, but at least admit that there is a game going on.

Book Review: The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

I’m not sure what I expected from this book, but the fairytale tone, the budding romance, and a surprise plot twist were definitely worth reading, even if parts of the book frustrated me.

3.5/5 stars

Book one of the Remnant Chronicles

Genre: fantasy/fairytale-esque YA

cover the kiss of deception

Amazon description of The Kiss of Deception:

In a society steeped in tradition, Princess Lia’s life follows a preordained course. As First Daughter, she is expected to have the revered gift of sight—but she doesn’t—and she knows her parents are perpetrating a sham when they arrange her marriage to secure an alliance with a neighboring kingdom—to a prince she has never met.

On the morning of her wedding, Lia flees to a distant village. She settles into a new life, hopeful when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deception abounds, and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—even as she finds herself falling in love.

I’m still a bit on-the-fence about this book. I like it, sure, but there were some parts of it that didn’t really work for me.

But the positive first:

The writing style really worked. The chapters told from the assassin’s and the prince’s points of view worked well with the story without breaking up the pace of the plot. Lia’s voice definitely came through in the writing.

The romance was great. Both love interests were good, though I definitely favored the prince. Not quite sure why, but I think his character’s conflicts were more interesting than the assassin’s, which felt semi-predictable.

The book’s messages about tradition were interesting. Lia runs away from the court that she hates because of the traditions that rule it, but finds the traditions of the quaint village she runs to charming. However, this juxtaposition could have been played up more to create more of a conflict with Lia’s idealistic character.

Which leads me into the negative:

I didn’t really like Lia. Honestly, she was annoying for large sections of the book. I’m sure she’s the kind of girl a lot of people love, but her lofty character that had deluded itself into notions of simplicity, combined with an idealistic view of poverty and a refusal to accept the realities of the real world did not work for me. She felt like a clueless princess–which, yeah, was the point, but it was still annoying, and I had hopes that she would get over herself by the end of the book, which didn’t really happen.

Pauline was annoying too. Genevieve was cool, especially when she drew attention to Lia’s (ignorant) idealism.

The prince had a good character but I felt that the conflicts that drew me to him (namely not being tested in battle) never really developed. The assassin, as I’ve already said, came off as the stereotypical indebted-to-and-loyal-to-a-bad-cause character, who even when *dramatic plot points ensued* didn’t really face his character conflicts.

Also, I felt like the threat of rape should have been a larger part of the book. Especially in the second half of the book, Lia is in situations that would have had heavy rape-implications, but Pearson only emphasized this a few times, and not to what I felt like an appropriate extent. I get that not every author wants to go hard-core rape culture in their books, but Pearson presented these scenes where Lia should have been flippin terrified for her safety, and she seemed just as impervious as usual.

I guess my main problem with this book is that it didn’t feel done. There were great character elements, but they didn’t pan out. The parts I loved about the story weren’t played up, the parts that annoyed me took center stage. Conflicts that I expected to heavily influence the plot faded away.

Still, this book is good. A quick read, despite its length (in hardcover it’s like two inches thick). I’d recommend it for people who enjoy fairytale-esque tales, budding romances, and don’t mind a few whiny characters.

*spoilers below*

There is one thing I must address, but this is only for the eyes of people who have read the book. If you haven’t, this review is basically over, hope you enjoyed it.

When Lia gets kidnapped by the assassin, I was surprised to find out that Kayen, not Rafe, was the assassin. I’d been reading the first half of the book assuming Kayen = prince and Rafe = assassin. Was I being an idiot or was this an intentional device the author employed? Simply the fact that I couldn’t tell definitely put me off the book. If you want a dramatic reveal, it should be clear that it’s dramatic.

Am I being an idiot? Was I supposed to “fall for it”? Did you guys fall for it?

Book Review: Nina and the Magical Carnival by Madhvi Ramani

This review is a bit different than usual.

Madhvi Ramani contacted me earlier this week, requesting that I review her upcoming children’s book, Nina and the Magical Carnival. It’s definitely not what I usually read, but I was honored that she wanted to know what I thought about it, and to be honest, it was really nice to read a younger book. I seriously enjoyed reading this story, and I’m not just saying that to be nice. I felt that this book was refreshingly unique.

By the way, it is the third in a series (but I was fine not having read the first two books) and will be available at the end of November on Amazon.

One of my little sisters is just growing out of this age range, and the other is just getting ready to read this type of book, so I read this book both from my perspective as a teen and as also an older sister, thinking about how this book would affect my little sisters.

I give it 4/5 stars.

I don’t really have a synopsis, but here is my take on it:

Nina’s aunt has a travelling spice shed. In this book, she travels to Brazil during the famous Carnival in Rio, searching for her magical fantasia de cabeca that will help her shine in the up-coming talent show.

You can read about the rest of the Nina series from someone who actually knows what they are talking about here.


This book is adorable. I haven’t read a book this young in years, and I loved coming back to it. My English class really got into Grapes of Wrath this week, and I’m not going to lie, it was really nice having an easier read to fall back on after hours of annotating, on top of other homework (can you tell this week was really intense? It was.). The friendly characters, the exciting but perfectly ridiculous plot–they were exactly what I needed in my life.

Even though it was a kids book, I found myself caught up in the story. The jokes were funny, and there were some great gems thrown in for the parents (or big sisters) reading over their child’s shoulder. (Aunt Nishi is awesome.) The characters were definitely cast from a children’s-book mold, but they didn’t feel overly cliche. Nina’s character, a girl who would rather do homework than think of something to preform in the talent show, was relatable. It as nice to see a more timid (though she is brave when the time comes) main character, as I feel like most kids books focus on the same up-for-anything, bubbly character. I definitely wasn’t that kind of kid, and I enjoyed seeing my own type of girl cast in a leading role for once.

On a random note, Madhvi Ramani is British. I don’t think I’ve ever read a British kids book, and the novelty was amusing.

Madhvi introduced the premise of the series to me as Nina going to a different country in each book, and learning something about and from the culture she experiences there. This book, with its Indian characters and Brazilian setting, lives up to her description. It didn’t go overboard with life lessons, but sprinkled in facts about Brazil and the Carnival in Rio throughout the story.

The involvement of Nina’s Aunt Nishi, who (semi-willingly) brings Nina with her to Brazil was unique. From what I remember of books I read as a kid (and what I’ve seen my little sister reading), most stories involve kids keeping something like a traveling spice shed secret from their parents, and going on kids-only adventures (I’m looking at you, Magic Tree House books). Though Nina is separated from her aunt (tiny spoiler, sorry), she does feel obligated to keep her word to her aunt, and return on time, which I thought was cool, without being heavy-handed with a OBEY YOUR ELDERS message.

I really liked reading this book, and I can’t thank Madhvi Ramani enough for letting me read it.

Book Review: Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

I’ve always loved this story, but my only exposure to it was through movies and various pop culture references. I’m so glad I decided to read this book, even if it wasn’t what I expected.

3.5/5 stars

Genre: children’s classic

cover alice in wonderland

I’m not going to post an amazon description this time, because I sincerely hope you’ve heard of this story.

I loved the voice of this book. Alice is a undeniably weird child–one who can fall down a seemingly endless rabbit hole without screaming, and who will fearlessly walk into a house filled with the sound of breaking dishes and raised voices. However, her childish quirks felt familiar, and her optimistic and simplistic musings on the world brought me back to my own childhood.

I’m just going to put this out there: basically half of the events of this book don’t show up in any movie or visual retelling that I’ve seen. To those of you who haven’t read this book: have you ever heard of the Mad Duchess or the Mock Turtle? I certainly hadn’t, even though they took up pretty much the same amount of pages as the familiar Wonderland characters–the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts.

I had no idea what the plot of the book was going in, and after reading it, I can say that there really isn’t one. While this would usually ruin a book for me, Alice’s simple progression from weird character to weirder character was an enjoyable and intriguing read, so I’m not going to complain.

There are so many literary gems hidden in this book. Here is one of my favorites (the others are longer and you need the context of the scene to really appreciate them):

“And how many hours a day did you do lessons?” said Alice, in a hurry to change the subject.

“Ten hours the first day,” said the Mock Turtle: “nine the next, and so on.”

“What a curious plan!” exclaimed Alice.

“That’s the reason they’re called lessons,” the Gryphon remarked: “because they lessen from day to day.”

If only.

I read a version with the original illustrations (done by John Tenniel), and though I had expected them to be annoying, they actually really enhanced the story.  Here are some of my favorites (though I honestly could have posted all of them):

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a light read, who enjoys the bizarre, or who is a fan of the story. I read it in a day, an I’m considering reading Through the Looking Glass.