Mini Reviews: Audiobook Edition!

Mini Reviews

As I’ve now mentioned countless times, I really slacked on the bookish content in August. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I didn’t read anything (more about that in the monthly recap), but I astonishingly checked out TWO audiobooks. I’m notorious for struggling with audiobooks (I wrote a whole post about it, which you can find here), because I find it so tough to focus on just sound without having anything to visually focus on. However, I got some free Audible credits this month, so I want to talk to you about the books I checked out!

*links to Goodreads and Storygraph will be provided after the ratings!*

I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy

I'm Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdyPublisher description:
Jennette McCurdy was six years old when she had her first acting audition. Her mother’s dream was for her only daughter to become a star, and Jennette would do anything to make her mother happy. So she went along with what Mom called “calorie restriction,” eating little and weighing herself five times a day. She endured extensive at-home makeovers while Mom chided, “Your eyelashes are invisible, okay? You think Dakota Fanning doesn’t tint hers?” She was even showered by Mom until age sixteen while sharing her diaries, email, and all her income.
In I’m Glad My Mom Died, Jennette recounts all this in unflinching detail—just as she chronicles what happens when the dream finally comes true. Cast in a new Nickelodeon series called iCarly, she is thrust into fame. Though Mom is ecstatic, emailing fan club moderators and getting on a first-name basis with the paparazzi (“Hi Gale!”), Jennette is riddled with anxiety, shame, and self-loathing, which manifest into eating disorders, addiction, and a series of unhealthy relationships. These issues only get worse when, soon after taking the lead in the iCarly spinoff Sam & Cat alongside Ariana Grande, her mother dies of cancer. Finally, after discovering therapy and quitting acting, Jennette embarks on recovery and decides for the first time in her life what she really wants.

My Thoughts:

The internet just about exploded when Jennette McCurdy’s book I’m Glad My Mom Died released. I think, despite the title, a lot of people expected a tell-all book on her life in showbiz, but it’s truly so much more personal than that. Yes, there are mentions of shows and movies we know as well as some other behind the scenes stuff that surely didn’t always better her situation, but the focus is really on her relationship with her mom and how that affected her relationship with herself and her body.

“She wanted this. And I wanted her to have it. I wanted her to be happy. But now that I have it, I realize that she’s happy and I’m not. Her happiness came at the cost of mine. I feel robbed and exploited.”

I can see I’m Glad My Mom Died being very triggering for many readers out there and I would caution them to pick it up if they struggle with detailed accounts of eating disorders and parental abuse. I, for one, am glad I chose to listen to the audiobook, which is narrated by Jennette McCurdy herself, but it made the situation all the more severe in my mind. This was such a vulnerable and raw account of her life and I wish her nothing but healing and love moving forward. Still, I completely emphasized with her conflicted feelings and am just in awe of what all she dared to share. She seems to be on a good track now and I bet she’s making more cash with this book than the Nickelodeon hush money could have ever been.

“Why do we romanticize the dead? Why can’t we be honest about them? Especially moms, they’re the most romanticized of anyone.”

CW: eating disorders, child abuse, emotional/physical abuse, death of parents, substance abuse

Fazit: 5/5 stars! Raw and emotional and brilliant.

Goodreads | Storygraph

Critical Role: Vox Machina – Kith & Kin by Marieke Nijkamp (narrated by Robbie Daymond, Laura Bailey and Liam O’Brien)

Critical Role: Vox Machina—Kith & Kin by Marieke NijkampPublisher description:
Written by #1 New York Times bestselling author Marieke Nijkamp, Critical Role: Vox Machina – Kith & Kin will follow a brand-new story, featuring the cunning ranger Vex’ahlia and the conning rogue Vax’ildan (and, of course, Trinket) years before they meet Vox Machina. After leaving the unwelcoming refuge of Syngorn, the twins become entangled in a web spun by the Clasp, and for the first time Vex and Vax find themselves on opposite sides of a conflict that threatens the home they have carried with each other for years.
This story lands in the canon timeline of Exandria before any of the events of both the home and livestreamed campaign and even prior to Vox Machina’s first meetings in Vox Machina Origins, our comic book series with Dark Horse Comics. Simply put, even if you’ve never met Vox Machina before, you can dive in right away and breathe in that fresh book scent without missing a beat. If you’ve already joined Vox Machina on any of their adventures, this novel grants a nostalgic return to these characters we love.

My Thoughts:

You know me, I haven’t shut up about Critical Role in MONTHS. I probably won’t shut up about it for a long time to come, because I really enjoy it with my whole being, but I’m not entirely sure I love it in all its iterations.

As the universe grows, the team of Critical Role seems to try and expand their way of telling the story of these fantastic characters in different media. We have comic books (which I’m yearning to get my hands on), games (the Mighty Nein Clue game is all I want for Christmas) and now also books/audiobooks. It makes sense, because the narration of Robbie Daymond with Laura Bailey and Liam O’Brien voicing the twins again was all flawless. I adore their voices and will never not rejoice at hearing them in character, but the story itself? Unfortunately, it didn’t grasp me as much as some of their other content has.

Kith & Kin is part of Vex and Vax’ backstory and shows several crucial moments in their life. Now, I don’t know if it was the format, but it just sort of felt dragged out. Ultimately, w weren’t really telling the tale of the twins, who got separated in a conflict and ended up on opposing sides, but rather these NPCs we met along the way. There were several hooks to create an emotional connection, but I still felt like an outsider looking in rather than really invested. It’s a shame, because I love supporting all things Critical Role, but this was mostly just a joy because of the voice acting.

CW: violence, blood, slavery, racism, death of parent, grief

Fazit: 3.5/5 stars! It wasn’t not interesting, just a bit too dragged out for my taste.

Goodreads | Storygraph


Have you listened to a good audiobook as of late? Let’s chat!

This or That: Comparing English/American & German Book Covers! #2

Not too long ago, I compared book covers from different countries and you all seemed to really enjoy that. Therefore, I’m bringing this feature back and hope you all enjoy another round of pitching UK/US covers against German ones.

Obviously these are all my own, very subjective opinions! BUT I’d love nothing more than to hear your thoughts in the comments below, because the discussions were a lot of fun last time around. Also, as a little heads up, I don’t actually know which covers are from the US or the UK – I just either pick the one I own or see the most.

ROUND #1

a face made of stars with their eyes closed only the title of the book written in white all caps below it - "Sleeping Giants"       The cover is white with one robotic eye with a light blue iris. The black font takes up most of the space saying "Giants - Sie sind erwacht"

The Themis Files are one of my all time favorite Science Fiction series and I’m the proud owner of the hardcover copies, which I will gladly display on my shelf. The stars are actually all made to look shiny and silver and it’s such a treat to look at.

The German cover however … WHAT WERE THEY THINKING? First of all, “Giants – They have awoken” (which is the translated title of “Giants – Sie sind erwacht” sound so incredibly menacing and that message is just underlined with the cover. It completely loses the whimsy and curious feeling of wanting to explore space and discover who might else be out there. All the German cover gives me is evil robot vibes.

Right out of the gate, I have to hand this to the UK/US cover! So much more beautiful!

Read my review of Sleeping Giants here.

ROUND #2

A girl, who's face we cannot see, is riding a bike on a beach. The cover text says "Along for the Ride" in dark blue and "Sarah Dessen" in a lighter blue font     You can see the bare feet of a girl who is sitting on a washing machine and the back of a boy in jeans and a dark blue shirt. The title says "Because of you" in the curve of the washing machine door in red font and "Sarah Dessen" in orange font

In terms of the themes shown on the covers, both versions of Along for the Ride are valid. If you’ve read the book, you know that it ties into the story either way, but I have to admit that this isn’t an entirely fair fight. The cover on the left is a recently updated version, due to the release of the Netflix adaptation a couple months ago. While the original version from the 2010s still shows a girl on a bike, it has the same “outdated” look as the cover on the right.

I’m not super mad about the “German” cover, especially considering from when it is, but I’m definitely confused about the title change. Why choose something English, but not the original title? Sure, I know that they worry about people understanding it and “Because of you” is easier, but it still feels like an incredibly odd choice and not as fitting.

As I said, it wasn’t fair to begin with, but this one goes to the UK/US one again, just because it looks fresher.

Read my review of the Along for the Ride and the comparison to the movie here.

ROUND #3

a cubic looking red bird is mirrored by a blue one. The title of the book is "This Is How You Lose the Time War"       The background is a dark blue, on the right upper corner are blue leaves with geometrically placed light blue dots. On the lower left corner is a branch of deep red berries. The title of the book is "Verlorene der Zeit"

This Is How You Lose the Time War is a unique book and I can see the struggle of having to encapsulate that in a cover. I enjoy the simple background and the fractured birds from the English language cover, but I also understand the thought process behind the German one.

They once again chose to change the title, which would mean “Lost ones in time” if you translated it. Personally, I prefer the wittiness and the promise that comes with the original English title more. The one the German publisher chose makes me think about stranded people, rather than a complex story about how love can topple the best of plans.

This is very much a personal preference, but I’m once again here for the English language cover.

Read my review of the book here.

ROUND #4

a blue and green landscape of a small mountain town with figures skating on a frozen lake to play hockey. The title says "Beartown" in large white font that partially gets hidden by the tree line       a blue and green landscape of a small town. The title of the book is "Kleine Stadt der großen Träume", which means "Small town of big dreams"

Sometimes changes can be much more subtle, but still impact a lot. At first glance, these two covers are obviously very similar, but again … curious choices from the German publisher.

For those of you who don’t know, Beartown is a book about a Swedish High School hockey team that is about to make it big and help out the entire town with their success. The original cover has the hints of boys playing hockey right there, but because the German publisher amped up the saturation and made the green color more prevalent, it now looks like a small town with a field of grass rather than a frozen lake.

This is one of the few occasions where I’m actually fine with the translated title though. “Small town of big dreams” makes a lot of sense in this context. I’m going to say this is a tie, despite me actually leaning more towards the original cover.

Read my review of Beartown here.

ROUND #5

the background looks like a light wooden floor, with crushed pink flowers strewn on it. The title "It ends with us" by "Colleen Hoover" is written in a slightly darker pink than the flowers are colored over the entirety of the cover      

It Ends With Us is the only Colleen Hoover book I’ve read, but since it’s having its renaissance on TikTok/BookTok, I thought I could feature it as well. To begin with, the German title translates to “Just one last time”, which fits the novel still, but conveys a very different message to the original title in my mind.

Again, these covers aren’t super different from one another and yet … the UK/US one just looks better. There’s something about the German one that makes it seem cheap, maybe it’s the white background, maybe it’s the changed font for the author’s name? I don’t know, but my vote goes to the English cover again.

Read my review of the book here!


That’s it, you’ve made it! The UK/US covers are the obvious winners! I don’t even need to tally the exact points. I really tried to put more effort into finding good German covers this time around, but somehow they keep disappointing me. Maybe I’ll have more luck next time?


What did you think of the revival of this feature? Would you like to see more comparisons in the future? Let’s chat!

This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub (ARC Review)

on the lefthand side is the cover for Emma Straub's This Time Tomorrow. There is not much on the cover, except for the author and title written in all kinds of muted colors on a beige background. The letters are disturbed by loops going over the entire cover. There is also a synopsis for the book stating the following: "On the eve of her 40th birthday, Alice's life isn't terrible. She likes her job, even if it isn't exactly the one she expected. She's happy with her apartment, her romantic status, her independence, and she adores her lifelong best friend. But her father is ailing, and it feels to her as if something is missing. When she wakes up the next morning she finds herself back in 1996, reliving her 16th birthday. But it isn't just her adolescent body that shocks her, or seeing her high school crush, it's her dad: the vital, charming, 40-something version of her father with whom she is reunited. Now armed with a new perspective on her own life and his, some past events take on new meaning. Is there anything that she would change if she could?"

PublisherA button to add a book to the platform "The Storygraph"A button that says "Add book to Goodreads": Riverhead Books
Page Count
: 320
Release Date: May 17, 2022

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: loss of a loved one, mention of drug use, underage drinking, sexual encounters between minors (technically)

First, I feel like I need to apologize for being so late with my review for Emma Straub’s This Time Tomorrow. I always try to review ARCs I receive in a timely manner to make sure I can help create some buzz around the release date, but I really had to take my time with this one. This has very little to do with it not being good – on the contrary, it was gobsmackingly fantastic and I forced myself to not start another chapter several times – but rather with the fact that this currently hits way too close to home.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s work our way through this from the start to my emotional destruction.

A TIME TRAVEL LOVE STORY?

I’m sure when you hear “time travel love story” the likes of The Time Traveler’s Wife, 13 Going on 30 or the Lake House come to mind. This Time Tomorrow is no such tale. Instead it is the love story between a single parent and his daughter. It’s about the relationships we forge and neglect over time, the questions that remain unanswered and the very human urge to play with the very fabric of time if it meant to get a couple seconds more.

Told from Alice Stern’s perspective, we follow her from her 40s to her 16th birthday and back again. We get to see the consequences of her actions, but also the underlying motivation for everything – more time with her dying father. She’s a very chaotic, but relatable lead to follow and I could understand many of her choices, even if I didn’t agree with the selfishness of it all at times. I don’t know if I could live with fundamentally altering other people’s lives to gain something in mine, but as I said, I understood her motivations perfectly. A grieving heart can be capable of a lot.

THE SCI-FI ASPECT?

While I love time travel and science fiction (my Doctor Who phase is proof enough), this wasn’t really like anything I had read or seen before. To me, the take on how the time travel worked, what and how it affected things and people, felt very unique. And yet, This Time Tomorrow also felt very grounded. The present day New York City setting, the heavy focus on relationships and nostalgia rather than gimmicky machines or quantum physics and the almost meta approach of Alice’s father Leonard Stern being a renowned author of a time travel book series, made it approachable and charming, rather than confusing.

VERDICT

The author, Emma Straub, has mentioned in many interviews that this is a very personal, almost autobiographical story and I think that very much comes through when you read it. I wept early on in the book, several times throughout and then just plain through the entirety of the final part. As I said early on, it could have had something to do with it just being a little bit too close for comfort right now, but I strongly believe in books finding you at the right time. This one was another one that went straight for the heart.

Fazit: 4.5/5 stars! I silently cried through large chunks of it, what other rating did you expect?


If you see a pattern in the books I read, no you don’t! Do you think you’d enjoy This Time Tomorrow? Have you read it? Let’s chat!

My Mechanical Romance by Alexene Farol Follmuth (ARC Review)

Cover image of the book My Mechanical Romance by Alexene Farol Follmuth, showing a girl with long dark hair in jeans and a light T-shirt holding a console looking at a slightly taller guy with light brown skin in brown pants, a white t-shirt and a blue sports jacket also holding a console. It also has the summary of the plot: Nerds are so hot. Especially battle robot building nerds.  Bel would rather die than think about the future. College apps? You’re funny. Extracurriculars? Not a chance. But when she accidentally reveals a talent for engineering at school, she’s basically forced into joining the robotics club. Even worse? All the boys ignore Bel—and Neelam, the only other girl on the team, doesn't seem to like her either.  Enter Mateo Luna, captain of the club, who recognizes Bel as a potential asset—until they start butting heads. Bel doesn’t care about Nationals, while Teo cares too much. But as the nights of after-school work grow longer and longer, Bel and Teo realize they've built more than just a combat-ready robot for the championship: they’ve made space for each other and themselves.  This sharply funny, academic rivals to lovers romance explores both the challenges girls of color face in STEM and the vulnerability of first love with unfailing wit and honesty.

PublisherA button to add a book to the platform "The Storygraph"A button that says "Add book to Goodreads": Holiday House
Page Count
: 273
Release Date: May 31, 2022

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

Earlier this year, I thought that I was slowly moving away from enjoying YA books, but My Mechanical Romance has enchanted me and brought be back into the fold! It was such a lovely, fast-paced and delightful read, I basically had to hold myself back from reading it through the night (and if I hadn’t had some other responsibilities the next day, I probably really just would have torn through it in one sitting).

While there’s always something great to say about a well executed teen romance, which this definitely is, I loved that it wasn’t the entire focus of the book. Yes, we had a bit of a rival phase that slowly (almost agonizingly) developed into something genuine and sweet, but we also had so much more.
Alexene Farol Follmuth managed to capture the intricacies of a teen at the brink of finishing school. There’s so many expectations from family, friends and teachers to know exactly what you’re going to do with your life. And in all honesty, some kids do know what they want, but it’s also okay to need time to figure it out. Life is long and full of surprises and sometimes it puts you on unexpected paths. But there’s not just pressure to get into the right school or to keep grades up, but there can be so many more contributing factors to make that time extra stressful. Sometimes it’s a crumbling family life, other times it’s the world being misogynistic or racist – paired with a blossoming first love, it’s bound to cause emotional chaos! I think the balance was handled so well in this book.

THE CHARACTERS 

There’s a very clear focus on Bel and Teo, who each have POV chapters of their own. They couldn’t be more different at first glance, but sort of complete each other in the cutest way. Seeing their relationship spark and grow was such a joy.
Sometimes I did wish we had learned some more about certain side characters (like Neelam for example, who was portrayed as unnecessarily harsh), but I understood people’s motivations overall and felt like they were all three dimensional characters. I can say that, because Dash is literally my favorite supportive foodie chaos character in the whole entire story. I also really liked that the parents were included in the story and even if they weren’t always 100% present, there was a reason for that too.

THE WRITING 

I really have to give Alexene Farol Follmuth credit for writing such authentic, quirky and fun dialogue. It’s what propels this story forward and keeps you invested and engaged throughout. If you like dialogue and inner monologues more than lengthy descriptions of surroundings and looks, this really is the book for you.

In addition to that, there was also a lot of use of text messages, which I think fits the vibe but also the age group really well. Let’s face it, I mostly communicate through text with people and I’m not even a teen anymore. I can’t really picture anyone calling anyone else all the time anymore …

VERDICT

I was one of the only girls in my mathletics team and I still remember clearly how surprised some people were that I was good at math, physics and chemistry. I was also really decent, although not patient enough, in shop class, having inherited some skills from my mom (who is the handy one when it comes to my parents). My school did not have a robotics team, but it’s definitely something I could have seen myself doing. I wasn’t really the type to participate in a lot of clubs and yet, Bel’s experience spoke to me. As I said earlier, My Mechanical Romance wasn’t just a fun and quirky romance, it was also heavily focused on girls in STEM and finding something you’re passionate about despite all the pressure and discouraging voices. I really hope this brings people joy and the knowledge that they can try anything they want, no matter what other’s say, and be successful, if they put in the work.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! Such a lovely book!


Fun fact: Alexene Farol Follmuth is also the author behind the pen name Olivie Blake and therefore one of my favorite book series. Read my other posts here:


What do you think about My Mechanical Romance? Can you see yourself checking it out? Let’s talk!

The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston (ARC Review)

The cover image of the book "The Dead Romantics" by Ashley Poston, showing two figures lying horizontally on the letters of the title, both reading a book. Also, the description for the book: A disillusioned millennial ghostwriter who, quite literally, has some ghosts of her own, has to find her way back home in this sparkling adult debut from national bestselling author Ashley Poston.  Florence Day is the ghostwriter for one of the most prolific romance authors in the industry, and she has a problem—after a terrible breakup, she no longer believes in love. It’s as good as dead.   When her new editor, a too-handsome mountain of a man, won't give her an extension on her book deadline, Florence prepares to kiss her career goodbye. But then she gets a phone call she never wanted to receive, and she must return home for the first time in a decade to help her family bury her beloved father.   For ten years, she's run from the town that never understood her, and even though she misses the sound of a warm Southern night and her eccentric, loving family and their funeral parlor, she can’t bring herself to stay. Even with her father gone, it feels like nothing in this town has changed. And she hates it.   Until she finds a ghost standing at the funeral parlor’s front door, just as broad and infuriatingly handsome as ever, and he’s just as confused about why he’s there as she is.   Romance is most certainly dead . . . but so is her new editor, and his unfinished business will have her second-guessing everything she’s ever known about love stories.

PublisherA button to add a book to the platform "The Storygraph"A button that says "Add book to Goodreads": Berkley Publishing Group
Page Count
: 368
Release Date: June 28, 2022

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: loss of a loved one

The Dead Romantics has been on my radar, and frankly on my “most anticipated releases of 2022”-list, for the longest time now – so, when I was presented with the opportunity to read an advanced copy, I jumped at the chance! The official release is still a month away, but I just couldn’t stop myself from reading it and now you will all have to contend with me screaming about my love for it for eternity.

Sometimes, books just find you at the exact right moment in your life and I would say that The Dead Romantics is a prime example of exactly that happening. I’ve had the most fun with a romance in a while, but at the same time, there were instances where I just bawled my eyes out. This isn’t simply a story about love, but also grief and family and we all know I’m drawn to grief-books like moths to light. But at the same time, nothing about this book left me sad. I’d even go so far as to argue and say that it brought me hope, all the warm feelings inside and a whimsical smile on my face once I turned the last page.

THE CHARACTERS 

Florence Day – our narrator throughout the story – is the typical small bean but mighty and messy tornado of a person that I think many of us can relate to. She’s into fan fiction, buying books despite having a massive TBR already and she loves a good love story. In fact, she used to believe in the big love, in finding that one person who might be the exception to the rule, until she got disappointed in the worst ways. And you just understand her reluctance, her despair, and then life just knocks her down some more.
Enter – Benji Andor! He’s meticulous and tall as a tree (one would like to climb) and seemingly stoic, while actually being very kind and considerate once you get to know him a little bit and he definitely wants a happy ending for Florence. I loved him as a counterpart for Florence, although I would have loved it even more if we had gotten to spend some more time with him. I feel like, we, the readers, didn’t get to know him that much, but even Florence acknowledges that several times throughout the story. Their connection is based more on vibes and actions rather than exchanging hobbies and favorite songs, which is fine, but I just enjoyed his character and would have loved to learn even more about him. It really seemed like he had quite the story of his own.

Lee Pace entering the room with one hand on the door frame looking tall and sexy while doing absolutely nothing.
This is Benji Andor for me and I have a feeling Ashley Poston would be okay with that.

Aside from our two leads, there was an array of formidable side characters, many of which were also part of the LGBT+ community. We had supportive best friends, authentic sibling relationships and the despicable ex. A stand-out for me was Florence’s dad though, because his presence could be felt on nearly every page and that stuck with me. It very much reminded me of someone I lost and how sometimes a whole town can show up for that person and their family, when things get tough.

THE SETTING

First things first, I loved the supernatural twist to it all. It never felt forced or out of place, but just like something that naturally fit the story.

But the settings in general were so special and intriguing. On the one hand, you have the funeral home and something that usually holds a lot of sadness for people filled with so much life. A thing of beauty really! And then there’s just something so fun about reading a book that takes place within the publishing industry. I don’t know how accurate it is, but it felt like an inside look and gave way to a lot of references to real life publications, which I loved.
Parts of it are in the big city, parts of it are in a small town and it all just made sense?

VERDICT

I don’t know why writing reviews for books I absolutely adore is the hardest thing ever. It might be, because I just want to do a key smash and thrust the book into people’s hands for them to read it, but that wouldn’t be very informative now, would it? I hope this gave you a bit of a clearer idea of just how charming yet quirky I found The Dead Romantics! I genuinely hope that many people will pick it up, because it filled my heart to the brink and I would without a doubt just read sequels where they help different ghosts together. I’m greedy and just want more, please!

Fazit: 5/5 stars! There’s something so incredibly satisfying when an anticipated read turns out as amazing as you had hoped.


My other reviews of Ashley Poston’s work:


Do you plan on reading The Dead Romantics? Let’s talk about that!

Conversations with Friends: Book vs. TV Show

I love doing post where I compare books and their adaptations, so welcome Conversations with Friends into the fold. This is the second time I’m doing this for a Sally Rooney story, so I might have a lot of … thoughts.

General Plot

College students and former lovers Frances and Bobbi get swept up in the (romantic) life of married couple Nick and Melissa. Can they find themselves and the relationships they seek or will it all end in sorrow?

CW: adultery, self-harm, depression, blood, endometriosis, mention of miscarriage, alcoholism (+for the show especially: graphic nude scenes)

Book

I have an odd relationship with Sally Rooney‘s books. I love their impact on me, but I don’t always enjoy the content. This time, knowing at least a little bit of what I would be getting into with her style of writing, I felt more prepared to face it all. Reading it was still emotionally taxing and I don’t think that this is a story that’s necessarily for everyone.

Generally, an entire book about adultery with somewhat unlikable characters isn’t exactly a tale with universal appeal. That fact alone has put some people off reading it and I can’t blame them. However, as I mentioned, I felt much more ready when I started Conversations with Friends and found it flowing easier than Normal People. It could potentially be connected to the fact that this was one continuous story from one sole POV, that of Frances, instead of something that spanned ages with multiple time jumps.

Even if one can overlook the theme of “adultery” though, which is fairly easy if you approach this as an exploration of what “commitment” can mean to any one person and whether open relationships might even be for the better at times, there’s still the issue of it being incredibly hard to root for the characters. We are “trapped” in Frances’ head and while I could see some relatable traits in her, she is extremely self-absorbed and doesn’t always cast the people in her life in the best light – despite idolizing quite a few of them. She completely misjudged the way she feels inside and how different the things that she conveys to the outside world are. I still don’t know what it is she really wants, because sometimes I doubt that she truly understands that her actions have an impact/consequenes.
A lot of what drove me, as a reader, nuts was the simple fact that every single person in this novel was terrible at communication. If they had just openly shared their emotions and concerns, a lot of trouble could have been prevented, but in the end, you can barely blame them? They feel human, real and authentic. There’s things I don’t want to talk about or where I feel like I don’t want to burden someone else with what I’m going through, there could be so many reasons.

Ultimately I know that reading a Sally Rooney book will always leave me with nervous tension and a tightness in my chest. It seems so simple, but there is so much complexity hidden in seemingly plain sentences. The emotions of everyone go so deep and are so layered, but like many people in real life, they struggle to express themselves correctly. Adding to that the fact that a Rooney book always has an open end, ready to be interpreted in a million different ways by each reader, you can’t help but have the story be a lingering companion long after the last page has been turned.

Rating: 4/5 stars! I cannot explain why I gave it such a high ranking, it’s mostly just the amount of inner turmoil Rooney causes in me.

Page count: 323
Publisher: Faber & Faber

*For more information on the book, head over to Goodreads or Storygraph!*

TV Show

Normal People was one of the most accurate adaptations I had ever experienced – be it in terms of story, dialogue or just sheer vibes – and Conversations with Friends is definitely up there in terms of faithfulness to the source material as well. Seen as the shows were helmed by a close to identical creative team, I know that expectations were really high, but also suspect that people were bound to be let down because of them.

I understand that people wanted it to be more Irish, but I thought that the different accents made sense in the context of the TV show. I personally was really happy with all the cast choices. Everyone looked the part, fit the age group and helped in creating the awkward tension that is so key to the production. (Also, Joe Alwyn’s voice is just divine. I could listen to him talk all day long.) These shows live off of vibes and I thought they were captured perfectly again, giving each interaction meaning and weight, even if it doesn’t go smoothly or the way you want it to at all.

Something I have to criticize though and that felt a bit hindering for my enjoyment was the pacing. While it has the same number of episodes as Normal People (12 in total) and only a run time of 30 minutes each, it felt incredibly slow. I ascribe that to the numerous exposition and silent, lingering shots on Frances. Yes, she is our main character and I could fill the silences with the inner monologue I remembered from the book almost word by word, but I only just read the book. Had it been longer, had I forgotten more of the details, these scenes would have often felt pointless.

In general, I noticed that I often filled in the meaning of certain interactions by remembering what Frances’ thoughts were in that moment in the book. While I think that a lot of scenes were softened and maybe even lightened a little bit because of that, I couldn’t help but wonder what my experience as a non-reader would have looked like. I feel like some of the vast complexity might have gone out the window and not translated to just the visuals.

They also completely missed the opportunity to have a cameo of Normal People‘s Daisy Edgar-Jones as Marianne on the show. In the book, there’s a friend of Frances and Bobbi called Marianne, who they meet up with to chat about her trip to Brooklyn. I just *know* in my heart that a lot of Normal People fans would have appreciated that nod to the previous show, even if it’s not confirmed that the books are connected.

Lastly, I feel like I should praise the music coordinator again. Some excellent choices once more and I’m not just saying that because they got Phoebe Bridgers to do a song (and she feels connected to the Rooney universe by dating Paul Mescal).

Conclusion

While Conversations with Friends didn’t stack up to the phenomenon that was the Normal People adaptation, I still don’t think there is a clear winner or loser. The two go hand in hand and each medium enriches the other.


Previous book to adaptation comparisons:


Have your read or watched Conversations with Friends yet? Let’s talk about that!

Are Harry Styles and I compatible (readers)?

Disclaimer: I do NOT know Harry Styles. All the information is taken from various social media posts, articles and interviews and could potentially be outdated.

A black and white picture of artist Harry Styles and the blogger Kat Impossible with the headline "Are Harry Styles and I compatible readers?"

The most popular feature on this blog is back with yet another installment of the reader compatibility series or celeb book club, as I like to call it! In case you missed the previous ones, which there are quite a few of by now, don’t hesitate to check out the following posts:
Are Tom Hiddleston and I compatible (readers)?
Are Chris Evans and I compatible (readers)?
Are Sebastian Stan and I compatible (readers)?
Are Pedro Pascal and I compatible (readers)?
Are Lupita Nyong’o and I compatible (readers)?

And here comes the obligatory reminder that this is done with the sole intention of it being fun and not taken too seriously. I’m comparing my taste in books with that of actors and artists to see if we would be “compatible” on the basis of those reading tastes alone. There’s really no world in which my pseudo analysis holds any scientific value.


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Along for the Ride: Book vs. Movie

Movie poster of Along for the Ride with the text "book vs. movie"

What is better – the book or the movie? It’s an age old question that we bookworms ask ourselves and I’m happy to share my perspective on the novel Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen as well as its Netflix adaptation. It’s been a while since I’ve done a post like this, but I hope you’ll love diving into this as much as I did reading, watching and now writing the post for it.

General Plot

Ever since her parents started fighting and eventually divorced, Auden hasn’t had a full night of sleep. She did, however, do everything that was expected of her. Got good grades, excelled in academics, attended her mother’s soirees rather than hang out with people her own age … forgetting to be a kid/teen in the process. Now, it’s the summer before college and Auden decides to spend it with her father and stepmother in a quaint beach town. What promises to be a carefree summer proves to have more challenges in store for her, especially after meeting fellow insomniac Eli.

Book

Some of you already know this, but Along for the Ride was my first foray into the writing of Sarah Dessen. My expectations were pretty high, just because so many of my friends and fellow bloggers have gotten lost in and fallen in love with her stories. I can confidently say that I devoured and enjoyed the book, but that I was also painfully aware that this was written more than a decade ago.

The way “girly” things were constantly put down and judged, even after some growth on several characters parts, just really nagged me. A lot of Auden’s POV was very much along the lines of “I’m not like other girls” and that was honestly quite frustrating. I’m not saying that this doesn’t happen in books today at all, but I think we’re more aware of that kind of internalized misogyny and try to avoid it.

Auden was hard to love at first, but it made sense in the context of the story and how she was raised. I loved seeing her warm to the people in her life and while her love story with Eli was cute, I preferred her interactions with her stepmother, Heidi (I did not and probably never will like her biological parents in the book). I also appreciated that Auden’s friendship played a huge role in the book. In general, the teen romance came second to the parental struggles for me. I don’t know if that has something to do with my age or because I thought that these conflicts were better developed, but those were definitely the emotionally hard-hitting scenes. Complex family structures will forever be my jam.

Still, Eli is a big part of the picture and something about their late night adventures just really appealed to me. I wasn’t a very adventurous kid myself, even though I’m sure a couple people would like to disagree on that, but something about the way their relationship came to be satisfied a yearning within me. Nonetheless, I kept wishing to know more about Eli. To maybe follow his perspective every once in a while to truly understand his pain.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars! True to the story, I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish reading it.

Page count: 383
Publisher: Viking Books

*For more information on the book, head over to Goodreads or Storygraph!*

Movie

When the movie started, for the first ten minutes or so, I was certain this was going to be a super faithful adaptation and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. I liked the book alright, but I knew that it wouldn’t hurt to update a lot of the material. The longer I watched though, the more changes I noted and … I think most of them are for the better?

The main story still stays completely the same, barely anything major differs from the source material, but a movie only gives you a limited amount of time to tell a story and Along for the Ride is on the longer side of YA fiction. There had to be some decisions made and I’m on board with most of them. Here are the most notable ones:

  • In the book, Auden has an older brother, which is not the case in the movie. He is the kind of boy, who can seemingly do no wrong and does all the carefree and irresponsible activities Auden never dared to. While I think he was an interesting counterpart in the book, I think it would have diluted what they were trying to tell here. He also tended to jetset around the globe and it would have just been too complicated to incorporate for not a very big payoff.
  • When Auden first arrives, she goes to The Tip, a place where all the youth comes to party. She ends up making out with this guy, Jake, which sparks a lot of drama. That does happen in both stories, but felt way less annoying in the movie because of one big change – Jake is never mentioned to be Eli’s brother. I’m not saying this never happens in real life, but it did make things unnecessarily uncomfortable, when there was plenty of Jake-drama to be had without that little detail.
  • The entire third act conflict – which is one of my most dreaded elements of romantic storylines – was handled so much better. By cutting some characters and instead using already established ones, they tightened up the relationships and even made some people more likable to me. It also wasn’t dragged out over weeks, but rather quickly resolved through some internal reflection. I was here for that!

I really loved this movie. It made me miss being by the ocean, which is a general state of being for me, but was amplified here. It made me want to go on adventures with strangers in the night and made me reminisce when I did some stupid stuff when I was younger.  Due to the time constraints, there wasn’t as much depth and exploration of the family troubles, but I think that Eli got a better third act instead, which was maybe also necessary.

I still would have liked to dig deeper on some parts. I don’t want to say that relationships were rushed, but I definitely felt like I was connected more to the characters because of my knowledge from the books rather than what I learned through the movie. Maggie, for example, is beautiful and warm in the movie, but I think that I knew her even better in the books. She’s a key figure, but we definitely don’t harp on her story as much. I’d still watch it again in a heartbeat though!

As a last note, I just have to say that this was some really perfect casting! Everyone was exactly how I envisioned them to be, down to little mannerisms. Kudos to the casting director!

Conclusion

For me, the movie is a winner. I missed some of the deeper emotional bits from the book, but much of the things that annoyed me were changed for the better and I have to give credit for that. Sofia Alvarez (who adapted the book for the screenplay and directed the movie, but was also involved with TATBILB) knows how to transform books into lovely movies.

Dance party in the movie Along for the Ride
credit: Netflix


Previous book to adaptation comparisons:


Do you agree with my assessment? Have you read and/or watched Along for the Ride? Let’s talk about that!

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Book Review)

Publisher: Washington Square Press
Page Count
: 302

CW: loss of a loved one, suppressed trauma

I’m slowly making my way through Taylor Jenkins Reid’s bibliography, albeit in reverse order. I just wanted to make sure that I read everything before their respective adaptations released (yes, that means The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is next. I will actually get to it. Don’t worry!) and I haven’t been mad at any of her books yet. Quite the opposite – I found everything I’ve read by TJR really human and easy to relate to – even if I did enjoy some stories more than others.
So far, I think I might like One True Loves best!? Malibu Rising hit some great notes for me and you all know that Daisy Jones & The Six won’t ever be my favorite, but I felt strangely connected to Emma’s struggle in this book, despite never having been in anything even remotely similar to her situation.

One True Loves is told with a Before and After, with POV shifts and at quite a fast pace. In the beginning, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to connect to some of the more emotional parts, simply because we were rushing through her love stories at an exorbitant speed, but I massively enjoyed the pace and never felt like I missed out on anything important. When we started, I thought that this woman was faced with an impossible choice and I had no idea who she was going to pick, if she was going to pick any of them, but the conclusion made sense and I loved that for her. This was just a simple “love triangle”, but rather an emotional tornado that held so much truth, honesty and vulnerability. I was in awe of the communication skills of the characters, because bad communication is a pet peeve of mine, but they articulated their needs, wants and fears so well. Of course, sometimes that wasn’t easy and/or well received, but the openness with which this hardship was approached was beautiful and heart-breaking at the same time.

“It’s a scary thought, isn’t it? That every single person on this planet could lose their one true love and live to love again? It means the one you love could love again if they lost you.”

It’s difficult for me to put into words what this book accomplished to evoke in me. It asks the question: What is true love? Something so slippery and hard to define, but something that felt so clear and easy here. It also dealt with change, how we don’t stay the same and therefore our partners and surroundings don’t either. Nothing, if you really think about it, ever does stay the same and this book made it okay. It doesn’t mean that what happened before has to be tarnished or bad somehow, you can still love and cherish it and appreciate it for getting you to where you are and who you are now. Even at the danger of repeating myself, that was such a beautiful gift from this book!

“I have changed over time. That’s what people do. People aren’t stagnant. We evolve in reaction to our pleasures and our pains.”

Lastly, you know how I am when it comes to grief – I seek these books like a bloodhound, relishing in the tears I’m about to shed and One True Loves? Such great grief rep. Obviously losing a loved one is different for everyone and not even my own approach is the same every time something devastating happens, but I felt this was such a good approach to the topic and I really enjoyed the pain that came with diving into the matter.

Big shout out to the family in this book especially, because they did the best they could, which is so hard sometimes.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! Highly recommend this if you are into complex love stories and just really human explorations of relationships (not even just romantic ones).


As I’ve mentioned previously, One True Loves has been adapted as a movie, starring Phillipa Soo, Luke Bracey and Simu Liu in the lead roles. There’s unfortunately no trailer yet, but I can already see everything unfold before my inner eye with these cast members. I’m genuinely excited for it and hope that the film will capture the same emotions, vulnerability and torn feeling. Not much more can be said for now, especially since there’s no official release date other than it being in 2022 and only one still has made it onto my timeline so far. I’m genuinely excited though! The cast seems fantastic either way.

One True Loves movie still of Phillipa Soo as Emma and Simu Liu as Sam


Have you read this TJR book? Do you want to? Where would it fall in your ranking? Let’s chat!

Should YOU Read “The Atlas Six”? (What I learned from my reread!)

If you’ve followed me for a while, you know that I’ve read The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake when it was still a self-published book sometime last year. I immediately fell in love with the characters and the world and was craving more. I “only” had a digital copy of the book, so, when it was traditionally published this year, I went to the shop and grabbed a copy to do something I usually never do – reread, annotate and highlight the entire thing! To my utter surprise, I loved it even more the second time around, but I also know that opinions on the book vary quite a bit.

With this post, I intend to highlight some aspects of the book (don’t worry, no spoilers!) to help you determine whether The Atlas Six is the right read for YOU or not. It’s not a traditional review by any means, so if that’s something you’re more interested in, I recommend you visit my post from last year here. While there were some slight edits made for the newly published version, the majority of what I said still rings true and is an accurate depiction of my feelings towards the story.

Now, let’s get started on me rambling on for way too long!

The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake

Blurb according to the publisher:
The world’s best young magicians accept the opportunity of a lifetime.
Six are chosen. Only five will walk away.

The Alexandrian Society is a secret society of magical academicians, the best in the world. Their members are caretakers of lost knowledge from the greatest civilizations of antiquity. And those who earn a place among their number will secure a life of wealth, power, and prestige beyond their wildest dreams. Each decade, the world’s six most uniquely talented magicians are selected for initiation – and here are the chosen few . . .
– Libby Rhodes and Nicolás Ferrer de Varona: inseparable enemies, cosmologists who can control matter with their minds.
– Reina Mori: a naturalist who can speak the language of life itself.
– Parisa Kamali: a mind reader whose powers of seduction are unmatched.
– Tristan Caine: the son of a crime kingpin who can see the secrets of the universe.
– Callum Nova: an insanely rich pretty boy who could bring about the end of the world. He need only ask.

When the candidates are recruited by the mysterious Atlas Blakely, they are told they must spend one year together to qualify for initiation. During this time, they will be permitted access to the Society’s archives and judged on their contributions to arcane areas of knowledge. Five, they are told, will be initiated. One will be eliminated. If they can prove themselves to be the best, they will survive. Most of them.

REASONS YOU MIGHT LOVE/HATE THE ATLAS SIX

The Writing

First things first, this is the opening volume to a  dark academia/fantasy trilogy. I want to point this out, because sometimes I wonder if people think it’s a self-contained story, when it’s very much not. In other words, it is to be expected that The Atlas Six does not give you answers to all your questions, might even leave you confused on some subjects and definitely has a grueling cliffhanger.

Other than that, the story is told in third person and from multiple POVs. There’s quite a big cast of characters, but more on that later on. Something that’s very much notable in Olivie Blake’s writing is that everything sounds flowery, yet incredibly sophisticated, but even more so, she heavily focuses on dialogue. This can be both, actual conversations between certain people, or inner turmoil. There will be entire pages of discussions on matters of philosophy and science, which to me felt invigorating, while I can see others struggling to the see the point or importance of it. But that’s the thing, while I read it, I felt like there was a purpose to everything and we learned many things along with the characters. Also, it’s balanced well with humor!

“We study the realm of consciousness because we understand that to decide something, to weigh a cost and accept its consequences, is to forcibly alter the world in some tangible way. That is a magic as true and as real as any other.”

What I struggled with a bit reading it for the first time, but not so much on my reread, was figuring out how much time had passed between certain scenes. This book covers a lot of ground and not always linearly, so that’s something to keep in mind.

It’s definitely written in a witty and clever way with lots of turns and twists. Something I will admit though, is that it felt frustrating to me that the characters didn’t realize one of the biggest (in my opinion *obvious*) turn of events for the majority of the book. Ultimately, in this volume, we get eased into this world. We are meant to hopefully fall in love with who the story is about and to care deeply about what happens next. Because there will be a definite shift in The Atlas Paradox.

The Characters

Did you ever want a cast of characters where every. single. one of them is morally grey and (probably) also not straight? I present to you: Libby Rhodes, Nico de Varona, Reina Mori, Tristan Caine, Parisa Kamali and Callum Nova

“No one here is good. Knowledge is carnage. You can’t have it without sacrifice.”

There’s actually more characters in the book that aren’t exactly unimportant, but these six, they really are the backbone of the story! You won’t like all of them, I sure didn’t and they definitely often can’t stand each other, but you will appreciate every single one of them for what they bring to the table. There are almost limitless possibilities for shipping, there’s even a threesome somewhere in there, but the bonds are so complex that it goes beyond just romantic attachment.

I think a lot of whether the reader enjoys The Atlas Six hinges on how many characters fascinate them. I personally loved three characters with my entire being, was intrigued by one more, felt disappointed at the lack of page time for a certain someone and just despised the last. That one’s a literal psycho and I cannot. (I was just referring to the above mentioned six leads here.)
It’s easy to sense a certain kind of favoritism the author has, in my opinion, as some characters either got just more chapters in general or the more interesting (to me) plotlines. I don’t know if that will be consistent throughout the entire series, or whether there’s more “to do” for certain characters in the later books. Either way, that favoritism might also make the reader lean more towards those figures.

Something that can definitely go one of two ways were the ample illustrations of the characters between parts of the book. I, for one, adored them! They were done by Little Chmura in the indie version as well as the traditional one, although they are different (yet both gorgeous). I know that certain people prefer to imagine the appearance themselves and not get a certain look “forced” on them. Here’s a taste of what the portraits approximately look like, although I’ll forever be salty we don’t have colored versions in the printed books:

The World-Building

This is probably the point I heard the most criticism about since the traditional release. If you are looking for a book with a very strict and structural magical system, this might not be it for you! Honestly, I love when magic is just woven into the fabric of every day life, when there’s hints of otherness around every corner and you can see that there lies a certain power within some and not others, but it is never explicitly mentioned why that is. In a way, magic is common in this world and if you have it and can monetize it, you’re on top of the food chain. Power is everything and knowledge is power, which is why the Alexandrian Society is so secretive and competitive.

Those who can practice magic as more than just a spell or charm are called “medeians” and they usually have a specialty or tendency in which their power develops. Those powers can present phyiscally (being able to set fire to things, grow plants, etc.) or in a non-physical way (empathy, telepathy, illusions, …), giving each person a completely unique and individual experience with their magical gift.

Aside from people who can do magic, there also exist “creatures” in this world. That’s a point that could have definitely been expanded on and it’s something that regularly took me out of the story a little bit, as there’s only one POV that deals with the matter. “Creatures” (think satyrs, mermaids, etc.) are looked down upon in the magical society and if don’t fit into a pre-classified system, you are forgotten about altogether. I can imagine this being dealt with more in the future, but it was a bit of a lackluster point.

To sum it up, I adore books that just live off of vibes, never-ending philosophical and moral dilemmas with a little science thrown in. To me, that is heaven, but I understand that some people need more. They need certain charms or spells that only work when done just so, which The Atlas Six also has, but definitely doesn’t focus on. This is more of a trial and error way of using magic.

“The problem with knowledge, is its inexhaustible craving. the more of it you have, the less you feel you know.”


Have you made up your mind and did this help you? Did you already read the book? What are your thoughts? Let’s talk!