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!

Mini Reviews: Every Heart a Doorway, Take Me Home Tonight

As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m going to do mini reviews more often this year. Sometimes there’s just not enough to be said for a whole post, but some thoughts still want to be shared. Both books for today are in the YA age range, but the content couldn’t be more different!

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

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire (Wayward Children #1)

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuirePublisher desrciption:
Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.
But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.
Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.
But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of things.
No matter the cost.

My Thoughts:

Even before I read a single word, I just had a feeling that I would like this series and – to no one’s surprise – I was right.

For some reason, I thought that these books would be much more childlike, but Every Heart a Doorway is actually quite dark, weird and gritty. All of that’s fantastic, at least for me! With each book being around 200 pages, the whole series honestly seems like such a great palette cleanser between heavier books, if only they weren’t so expensive. I looked into it and I don’t think I can afford them at the moment, even though I definitely want to continue with the Wayward Children books.

“For us, places we went were home. We didn’t care if they were good or evil or neutral or what. We cared about the fact that for the first time, we didn’t have to pretend to be something we weren’t. We just got to be. That made all the difference in the world.”

I was especially surprised by the fact that I was really emotionally touched in the end. Considering how short and not entirely in depth the world-building was, I was rooting for those kids to get their doors back, to escape to those strange and at time gruesome worlds they were missing so much. It also got me started on wondering where my door would have led to, which world would have seen something special in me.

“You’re nobody’s doorway but your own, and the only one who gets to tell you how your story ends is you.”

I’m so very glad I finally picked this up!

CW: death, gore, transphobia (not condoned), body horror

Fazit: 4/5 stars! I wish I could dive into the rest of the series immediately!

Goodreads | Storygraph

Take Me Home Tonight by Morgan Matson

Take Me Home Tonight by Morgan MatsonPublisher desrciption:
Two girls. One night. Zero phones.
Kat and Stevie—best friends, theater kids, polar opposites—have snuck away from the suburbs to spend a night in New York City. They have it all planned out. They’ll see a play, eat at the city’s hottest restaurant, and have the best. Night. Ever. What could go wrong?
Well. Kind of a lot?
They’re barely off the train before they’re dealing with destroyed phones, family drama, and unexpected Pomeranians. Over the next few hours, they’ll have to grapple with old flames, terrible theater, and unhelpful cab drivers. But there are also cute boys to kiss, parties to crash, dry cleaning to deliver (don’t ask), and the world’s best museum to explore.
Over the course of a wild night in the city that never sleeps, both Kat and Stevie will get a wake-up call about their friendship, their choices…and finally discover what they really want for their future.
That is, assuming they can make it to Grand Central before the clock strikes midnight.

My Thoughts:

This book was a gift from my lovely friend, Marie! I cannot thank her enough for her generosity. Check out her review of the book here.

I have come to the very sad realization that I’m growing out of contemporary YA and that likely also means Morgan Matson. I’ve read every single one of her books (there’s a ranking for those coming soon!), but I had a really hard time staying engaged with this one.

The story is told from the POV of Kat, Stevie and Teri, but I quickly realized that I was most invested in Stevie’s life. When I was a 15-year-old teen, I was certainly a mix of all those girls and even if they seems super dramatic at times, I can attest to that being the authentic teen experience.

“Why do people see a benefit in disowning the things we loved when we were little? Why are we always casting everything aside?”

What I appreciate about Morgan Matson’s books is that they often focus on family and friendship and put the romance a bit on the back burner. It’s still there, but not always in the forefront. Take Me Home Tonight is no exception and even features a new dog to fawn over (another typical Matson feature). However, the events take such a ridiculous and convenient turn at times, that I couldn’t help but role my eyes. With Teri especially, I just couldn’t deal anymore, because it was neither necessary for the story nor believable. All of that ended in me clinging to Stevie’s more grounded parts and that not being entirely enough.

This was fun, but a bit too over the top.

Fazit: 3/5 stars! Unfortunately, not a new Matson favorite.

Goodreads | Storygraph


Have you read either of those books? Do you want to? Let’s talk!

Mini Reviews: Seven Days in June, Open Water

I really want to make use of this feature a bit more in 2022, as I don’t think I can always provide a full length review, but there’s still books I like to talk about. This time, I want to focus on two very beautiful novels about Black joy, love and pain. In no way is this post meant to pitch the two against each other, but rather shine a light on both! Let’s dive in!

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

Seven Days in June by Tia Williams

book cover of the novel "Seven Days in June"

Publisher desrciption:
Brooklynite Eva Mercy is a single mom and bestselling erotica writer, who is feeling pressed from all sides. Shane Hall is a reclusive, enigmatic, award-winning literary author who, to everyone’s surprise, shows up in New York.
When Shane and Eva meet unexpectedly at a literary event, sparks fly, raising not only their past buried traumas, but the eyebrows of New York’s Black literati. What no one knows is that twenty years earlier, teenage Eva and Shane spent one crazy, torrid week madly in love. They may be pretending that everything is fine now, but they can’t deny their chemistry-or the fact that they’ve been secretly writing to each other in their books ever since.
Over the next seven days in the middle of a steamy Brooklyn summer, Eva and Shane reconnect, but Eva’s not sure how she can trust the man who broke her heart, and she needs to get him out of New York so that her life can return to normal. But before Shane disappears again, there are a few questions she needs answered …

My Thoughts:

Reese Whiterspoon really knows how to pick ’em, because this was also one of her book club picks (I’ve previously read Daisy Jones & The Six as well as Where the Crawdads Sing)! So, far I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read that she has chosen, even if not everything has become a favorite of mine. That’s what I call good taste and a definitely a way to get me interested in future novels that she endorses.

From the get go, Tia Williams’ voice is engaging and reels you in. I can’t remember the last time I read a prologue that got me so hooked, while I can also really commend the epilogue (as well as the whole story in between, of course). Add the setting in the world of literature to the great writing style and you have my whole attention. I don’t know what’s up with that, but I’ve read two books about writers, who express their feelings about each other through their stories, in a row and I love it.

“One thing,” she whispered, her lips by his jaw. She didn’t want anyone to overhear. “Before I forget.”
“What’s that?”
“Stop writing about me.”
Only Eva could’ve noticed the change in his expression. She saw the flinch. The slow, satisfied curl of his lip. His bronzy-amber eyes flashing. It was like he’d been waiting years to hear those words. Like the girl whose pigtails he’d been yanking during recess all year had finally shoved him back. He looked gratified. In a voice both raspy and low, and so, so familiar, Shane said, “You first.”

Over the course of seven days, you will fall in love and get your heart broken by our leads, Eva and Shane. Somehow their story is tragic, they face so many struggles and while all of that hits you emotionally, the writing never gets too heavy. You feel their past weigh on their present, but there’s also plenty of humor and joy to offset it. At the same time, this is not just about romantic love, but generational trauma, self-realization and motherhood. Truly a beautiful balance of topics and emotions in my opinion. 

Definitely give this a go if you are into second-chance romances! 

CW: self harm, substance abuse, absent/dead parents, kids in foster system, chronic illness, sexual content, racism, domestic abuse

Fazit: 5/5 stars! Engaging, funny as well as emotional – it took out all the stops!

Goodreads | Storygraph

Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson

book cover of the novel "Open Water"Publisher description: 
Two young people meet at a pub in South East London. Both are Black British, both won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong, both are now artists – he a photographer, she a dancer – trying to make their mark in a city that by turns celebrates and rejects them. Tentatively, tenderly, they fall in love. But two people who seem destined to be together can still be torn apart by fear and violence. At once an achingly beautiful love story and a potent insight into race and masculinity, Open Water asks what it means to be a person in a world that sees you only as a Black body, to be vulnerable when you are only respected for strength, to find safety in love, only to lose it. With gorgeous, soulful intensity, Caleb Azumah Nelson has written the most essential British debut of recent years.

My Thoughts:

Meeting a person you just click with, someone you can be your most vulnerable self around (until you can’t) – it’s rare and it’s beautiful and it’s what we get to witness in this book.

“It’s one thing to be looked at, and it’s another to be seen.”

Written in a second person POV, the style of writing takes some getting used to. We never learn the names of our protagonists, but hash glimpses of their lives, growing connection and the inevitable limitations of unconditional love. Some things you just don’t want to unburden, ultimately closing you off from the person who only wants the best for you.
Despite it’s short length of 145 pages, this book took me several days to finish. In all its poetic beauty, Open Water is quite heavy as it illuminates some of the more terrifying aspects of the Black experience.

“You have always thought if you opened your mouth in open water you would drown, but if you didn’t open your mouth you would suffocate. So here you are, drowning.”

Everything about this novel feels deeply personal and will have your heart aching. There’s many great references to music, films and literature, making it feel relevant and timely. I can only say that the impact of the introspective writing will last and linger much longer than the size of the book might suggest.

CW: racial profiling, police brutality, death

Fazit: 4/5 stars! Beautiful heart and gut-wrenching, but possibly not for everyone.

Goodreads | Storygraph


Have you read either of those two books or do you plan to? Let’s talk! 

Mini Reviews: Daisy Jones & the Six, Taste: My Life through Food

I haven’t done one of these in a while, but there are two books I’d like to share some thoughts on, while I also believe that I don’t actually have enough to say to warrant separate full review posts. So, I’m bringing mini reviews back at the end of this year!

Click on the covers to get redirected to Goodreads!

Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (audiobook)

Daisy Jones & The SixYou all know I’m not a big audiobook person, in fact, I usually actively dislike them. I cannot focus on what is being said, I drift off and then loose the narrative thread entirely. Well, good thing full cast audiobooks that feel more like plays exist! Voiced by the likes of Jennifer Beals, Judy Greer, Pablo Schreiber and Benjamin Bratt, this story really had a life of its own as I listened to it and thankfully found myself enjoying it for the most part.

Taylor Jenkins Reid tried something new with this format and I think it worked really well. The reason I struggled with it though was entirely a me-problem. I, personally, don’t seek out and actively try to avoid stories that focus heavily on substance abuse and that was definitely a focus throughout Daisy Jones & the Six. Other than that, I could appreciate the different takes on love and like that it had a Mick Riva cameo (I’ve previously read Malibu Rising and am planing to read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo next year, so I’m getting his story in reversed publishing order). However, while I don’t think characters have to be likable, I didn’t find myself connecting with anyone here. I was rather frustrated with a lot of them …

Fazit: 3/5 stars! Not my favorite TJR read so far.

Having said all of the above, I am so hyped for the limited run series that will release on Amazon Prime Video next year. In my humble opinion, Amazon is doing some really great work with adapting pre-existing properties, so I am quite optimistic. The set photos and BTS stuff from the cast does make it look like it will be hard to tell people apart at first (the guys all look alike), but I cannot wait what they’ll do for the songs. I expect some downright magic!

    

Taste: My Life through Food by Stanley Tucci

Taste: My Life through FoodEver since I can remember, I’ve been a huge Stanley Tucci fan. I knew some stuff about his personal life, but I didn’t go digging very deep. I just enjoy his work and the way he always makes his roles memorable, even if they aren’t always the biggest parts. I’m part of the Tucci Gang for sure (if you’ve never seen that SNL sketch, go remedy that right away here).

Some of you already know this, but I even own the Tucci Table cookbook, so it was a no-brainer that I wanted this mix of autobiography and formidable recipes in my life as well. It really was such a treat to find the book under my Christmas tree and then it was even more of a treat to devour it in the shortest amount of time.

In the words of Ruth Rogers, who is featured on the back cover: “This is a book I shall have in my kitchen, by the bed and in my suitcase.”

Stanley Tucci‘s love for food shines throughout this entire book, but I’ve also learned a lot about his life and more recent struggles. Things I personally had never heard of before, but that made my appreciation for him grow even fonder. Do not read this book hungry, but read it when you’re yearning for good food and conversation at a friend’s house or at a remarkable restaurant, which is so lacking these days, but something we all deserve.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! If you’r even remotely interested in Stanley Tucci and food, this book is for you.


So, are you interested in reading or listening to either of those? Let’s chat!

Like a Love Song by Gabriela Martins (ARC Review)

Publisher: Underlined
Page Count
: 303
Release Date: August 3, 2021

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

Everything I knew about this book before I started reading it just made me want to dive into it even more. From the fake-dating-trope to the setting among the LA music and film stars – I truly thought Like a Love Song was written for me, because it basically covered everything I love. I’m so very happy to report that it didn’t disappoint!

Natalie, as a narrator, has a fun and easy voice. She effortlessly manages to make herself relatable to the reader, even though she has a couple diva-moments, which the people in her life notice and even shade a little at times. All of that is part of her journey though and what a sweet one that is. Because when you are followed by paparazzi all the time and every moment of your life gets captured for the internet (be it in a professional capacity or by the shoddy phone camera of a fan), it may happen that you lose sight of who you really are. Natalie was vulnerable and anxious, constantly overthinking what the public, but also her friends and family, were thinking of her, and that made her so beautifully human. I really enjoyed watching her find her way back to herself.

Now, enter William. I sometimes wished we had gotten to know his family and his struggles on an even deeper level, but he was so easy to fall in love with regardless. There was a certain dorkiness and cluelessness to him that felt so endearing, but most of all I appreciated his willingness to keep it real despite the circumstances. Even when Natalie sometimes doubted him, I think his sincerity shone through. However, I’d like to add that I will not tolerate any slander of superhero movies, especially not from indie movie snobs.

So much about this story was cute and funny, but it really had a lot of heart as well. I read it in just one day and that’s because it flowed really nicely, but also because it didn’t always go into great depth. Natalie’s feelings were very clear and I loved the glimpses at family and friends, funny text chains and hints at their life off the page, but sometimes I also wanted even more. I’m forever greedy that way.

The one final thing I will say is that the characters didn’t really feel like 17-year-olds to me. They could have just as easily been in their early twenties and I don’t see how that would have changed the story, but then again, I really didn’t mind that they sometimes seemed older in my head. Maybe I even preferred that in some scenes …

Lastly, Like a Love Song will officially release on my birthday and I think that is an especially good omen. I hope that date will put it under a lucky star, because I really think that a lot of people could potentially enjoy this fun story!

Fazit: 4/5 stars! If you like tropey (in the best sense of the word) teen romances, you should check this out!


Do you plan on reading Like a Love Song? What’s one of your favorite romance tropes? Let’s chat!

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid (ARC Review)

Publisher: Ballantine Books
Page Count
: 384
Release Date: June 1, 2021

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

CW: alcoholism, parental abandonment, loss of a loved one, adultification, mention of drug use, cheating

Many of my friends would probably gasp at the statement, but Malibu Rising was my first full length novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I had always meant to check out her books, had made plans so many times before, especially because I had enjoyed her novella Evidence of the Affair a whole lot, but apparently never followed through. I’m so very glad I remedied that now.

As we follow the Riva family through the decades, it is somehow easy to fall in love with all these characters. They felt real and flawed and relatable. With so many mentions of people that actually exist(ed), you were almost tempted to look up if their story was based on someone’s actual life.

As you alternate between the siblings Nina, Jay, Hub and Kit as grown-ups in the 80s and their parents June and Mick falling in love in the 50s, it becomes clear early on how these people shaped each other. While I first worried that some of the characters would get lost, there was a great balance between all of them and it felt astonishingly easy to follow their tale. Character traits as well as relationships to others but also money make a lot of sense when you consider the decisions made by those who came before you. It is all interwoven and shows how you can become the person you want to be because of or despite of your upbringing. My heart broke for these characters over and over and over again. I really just wanted to hold them and was proud of how they continued to trust in people and gave their love so freely even after the hardships they endured.

I have to say, as much as the book had me in the first half, it kind of lost me at times in the second one. I was so invested in the fate of the siblings, in their life story, I didn’t even really care if there was a bigger plot to it all. Just following their struggles and growth, seeing them get through it together, was enough for me. However, as much as I had forgotten the big life-changing party was going to take place later on in the book, it still came barreling in in the second half.
While I thought it was already bordering on too many POVs when we just had the siblings as well as their parents, Taylor Jenkins Reid doubled down and introduced many one-off POVs to show just how crowded and wild the party was getting. I understood that some of the fleeting perspectives added to the atmosphere, but overall, they weren’t necessary to further the story in my opinion. It all just became a bit too much and too disjointed for me.

Still, I cannot help but feel touched by all of it! Family and all its intricacies is one of my favorite topics to read about and Taylor Jenkins Reid managed to really bring that home. Each of the siblings was unique in their own way, but it was easy to find part of myself in each of them. The style of writing is engaging and manages to capture the flair of the setting and time period perfectly. I could picture everything in my mind as if I was watching a movie from back in the day. It’s rare that I read about a bunch of siblings who all love to surf with all their heart (something I know nothing about) and still feel so very connected to them. Definitely a read I will continue to cherish!

Fazit: 4/5 stars! Very strong start with a bit of a jumbled second half, but still SO MUCH heart!


Do you plan on reading Taylor Jenkins Reid’s latest novel? What is your favorite one by her you’ve read so far? Let’s talk!

Any Place But Here by Sarah Van Name (ARC Review)

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Page Count
: 336
Release Date: May 1, 2021

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

CW: underage drinking

Any Place But Here is my first encounter with Sarah Van Name’s writing and I immediately felt drawn into the world of her characters. You meet June and Jess at an evening that feels like it could be any night of the week for them, beyond tipsy and definitely drunk, just that it’s at a school venue and things are spiraling fast after they get discovered with booze in the bathroom.

After that, no matter what June says, her parents don’t trust her anymore and send her off to live with her grandmother (lovingly called Oma, which is also what I have always called my grandmothers too) to attend an all-girls-school. In the beginning, I struggled a bit with that punishment. I understand the concern of June’s parents and the way they mostly blame it on her “friendship” with Jess, but June is literally a straight A studen and … I come from a country where the legal drinking age is 16, so I always roll my eyes a bit at American laws. Of course, there is a difference between drinking responsibly and just getting wasted and I don’t condone the reckless kind since I’m not much of a drinker myself, but it’s always a bit difficult for me to wrap my head around why it is such a huge deal. I literally had bartending classes at my school when I was 16, but I’m veering off course. This conflict sets up the rest of the novel and does so really well.

Who would want to leave behind everyone they know, including the person they care about most, to live in a town where they know no one and nothing ever happens? I can tell you that the answer is not June.

As we see the world through her eyes, it quickly becomes clear that June’s relationship with Jess was more than “just” a friendship. Whenever she speaks about her, their shared bond seems undeniable, but the longer they spend apart, the harder it becomes. And you also start to wonder what held them together in the first place. Things become even trickier when June’s new friends bring up the question of her sexuality (in an intimate and non-pressure related setting) and June has no real answer for it, especially since she finds herself drawn to one of the new acquaintances. I find it’s not often that bisexuality is explored in young adult books, but I enjoyed the way it was done here.

I have spent my fair share of time away from family and friends and I always felt like I was a different person when I came back. Sometimes I was shocked to see how much had changed in my absence, other times I found myself annoyed with the lack of change in my environment when I felt so utterly different. This book perfectly mirrored my emotions and dealt with how hard it can be to let go or fight to keep someone in your life. It’s always a decision you have to make and sometimes you don’t ultimately get what you want.

When you meet new people that enrich your day to day and you find new hobbies that bring you joy, it can be hard to arrange and combine this with your old life. Things change and so do people. Aside from this beautiful exploration of love and friendship, it was also a great but nonchalant portrayal of family. The messiness of it, but the love that was woven through all decisions really warmed my heart. Even with them being miles apart, June’s younger siblings were always present in her thoughts and the struggle with her parents was so relatable. They always made her feel like she had to compete for their approval, but when she lived with her grandmother she experienced such a different parenting style and through that could actually find things she enjoyed.

Overall, I loved being on this ride with June and seeing her find her own way. It also got me really interested in photography, which I didn’t expect, but hey, maybe I’ll find my own Sam there.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! A great read about changing relationships, family and expectations. Enjoyed it a lot!


I know the release is still a while away, but could you see yourself pick up Any Place But Here? Have you had experiences with toxic relationships? Let’s talk about it!

Admission by Julie Buxbaum (eARC Review)

Publisher: Random House Children’s Books/Delacorte Press
Page Count
: 352
Release Date: December 1, 2020

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

I have not read any book by Julie Buxbaum before, but know a couple of friends who quite enjoy her style and I was excited to check out Admission. As far as I gathered, this story was inspired by the very much real admission scandal but is an entirely fictitious version of similar events. Neither research nor any association with real people exists and since the author makes a point of mentioning that very clearly, I thought I should too.

Julie Buxbaum did not choose an easy topic, that much was obvious from the get go to me. You have this family steeped in privilege and while you do want to allow the reader to connect to the characters, you don’t want to redeem them or excuse their actions. I am not quite sure how, but Buxbaum managed this balancing act phenomenally.

With an alternating Now and Then POV, you get to explore the events that led up to Chloe’s life and that of her family imploding, while at the same time seeing the very concrete fallout from it. I didn’t really wonder whether Chloe knew what was going on or not, but I enjoyed the debate on what it means to be complicit. Buxbaum managed to humanize her without sugarcoating that she is the villain in a lot of people’s stories. I feel like a lot of authors have that need to not just give their characters a redemption arc, but also one that absolves them of their wrong-doing, which thankfully wasn’t done here. I don’t want to say you empathize with what happened, because I was downright disgusted by some of the conversations that family had, because screw them for their entitlement, but it made you understand how their thought process was and that weirdly made sense in turn.

I don’t think this is one of those books where you fall in love with very many characters, however, I have found great pleasure in the way friendships and family are portrayed. I liked how inconsequential the romantic love interest was, because in the end, it’s very doubtful that it would be a priority in such an extreme situation. Instead it focused on so many different kind of relationships and I especially appreciated the one between Chloe and her best friend Shola as well as the one to her sister Isla (both of which were my favourite characters if I am being completely honest).

While definitely not the easiest of topics and quite frustrating to read about sometimes, it was still a page turner I quite enjoyed. I’m glad that no excuses were made and consequences were implemented. It once again made me really, really, really glad that I did not have to deal with the stress of going to university/college in the US though.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! An intense look at how far some people go for their children and how it all blows up!

Do you want to read Admission? Do you have university admission horror stories of your own? Feel free to ask questions about the system in my country if you want to!

Charming as a Verb by Ben Philippe (Book Review)

Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Page Count
: 336

I have said it before and I will say it again, there’s something about Ben Philippe’s writing that just works for me. I was utterly smitten with The Field Guide to the North American Teenager and extremely pumped to read Charming as a Verb. From the first couple of pages, you just sort of get the characters and their personality. They come to life easily and grow on you quickly.

All children are charming as an adjective, but you’re charming as a verb. 

Henri “Halti” Haltiwanger is, in all possible meanings of the word, charming. He has a Smile (yes, capital S) for every situation and knows how to navigate people like the back of his hand. In addition to that, he is also extremely smart and funny and handsome – a combination that makes him likable in every social circle he encounters, despite some massive income differences between him and his other classmates. And while you read, you get it! Henri is a go-getter and not beyond a little con here and there to get to the places he needs to go. He just knows exactly what to say and makes his flaws look endearing, so, it comes as little surprise when Corinne, the social opposite of him, blackmails him into helping her get a social life. A meet cute started by blackmail, not something you see every day!

“You want me to She’s All That you?” I manage to say, hiding the smile creeping on my lips.
“What’s that?”
“Oh, my God,” I groan. “Watch more movies. Maybe that’s been the missing ingredient all along.”

From there on, things evolve quickly and you have a sort of rivals to friends to lovers situation. Corinne and Henri are incredibly cute together and will have you smiling like crazy with their banter and endearing get-to-know phase. However, this book isn’t just a romance. It’s about so much more!

A much bigger component, and the source of many a problem, is the fact that Corinne, Henri and their friends are in their senior year at High School. Being at a very competitive private school is one thing, but Henri simultaneously has to keep his dog-walking-business running, help out at home and fulfill his dad’s dream of getting into Columbia. And that’s the source of one of the main issues!

Despite our both being the O-Generation – a concept I have to admit rings terribly true the more I think about it – Corinne isn’t an immigrant. Or the child of immigrants. It’s a distinction that’s mostly irrelevant except in the moments like these, where it could easily place us on two different wavelengths. There’s no Haitian in her, no Jamaican, no Puerto Rican. Her Blackness is American, born and raised. Stolen and enslaved, technically, but still, it’s rooted here. She never aspired to be here from another shore elsewhere. She might not understand.
“If I give up on Columbia, then … I don’t know.”
“Then it’s like you’re no longer Haltiwanger Hungry?”
“Something like that.”

So, Henri has to figure out why he wants to go to Columbia and how far he is willing to go to get there. I call it the main issue, because it leads to Henri doing something that just made me so irrefutably angry. Maybe it’s not fair for me to hold Henri to such a high standard, but I truly expected better from him and that just made me so disappointed in his actions.
Then again, that’s another sign of great writing! I was so invested in the life of the characters, I wanted them to do better. I wanted everyone to succeed and live their dreams. And I don’t even speak of just Corinne and Henri here, who were so lovable, but also side characters like Henri’s best friend Ming. That dude was exactly the kind of friend I wish everyone had!

To recap, Ben Philippe’s writing style is still something that I enjoy very much. He manages to not feel the need to detail every second of every day the characters live through and yet you always feel like you have the full picture. His characters are full of life, relatable and fun. I didn’t enjoy the conflict in this one as much as in The Field Guide … but I still thought it had amazing parts focusing on the family-theme and very cute romance moments!

Fazit: 3/5 stars! I really wish Halti hadn’t done that one thing …

3s

Are you planning on reading Charming as a Verb? Have you read Philippe’s other book? Let’s talk!

Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles (Book Review)

Publisher: Little Brown Books
Page Count
: 305

TW: police brutality, murder, violence, racism

Tyler Johnson Was Here was on my TBR before it ever even got released. When I saw the cover and read the blurb, I knew this was yet another very important read. It’s not the first time I am tackling the issue of police brutality through fiction on my blog. The thing is, those reads are never easy (and they’re not supposed to be), but that’s not the reason I hadn’t gotten to Tyler Johnson Was Here earlier. I don’t know why it slipped through my fingers, but the murder of George Floyd and the protests that followed in the US and all over the world were a terrible reminder of how this is still very much the reality for Black people and people of color out there. So, I felt more compelled than ever to finally get to this book.

Jay Coles does not shy away from making it very clear that police brutality is a constant companion in some people’s lives. I hate the thought that children who should be carefree and playing with friends have to be educated by their parents about how to behave when the police stops them. How they could have done not even the slightest thing wrong, but everything they say or do could be construed as dangerous at the whim of some stranger. While most of the novels I have read before focus on one specific event of police brutality, Coles shows several incidents, each one shaking you to the core alongside the characters. So, while the main turning point that is mentioned in the blurb “only” occurs at the half-way point, you get this build-up of this constant companion of fear.

The cop yells, “Everybody shut the fuck up.” He looks at the three of us. “You three better get out of here before you’re next.” And now I’m wondering: What does next mean? Next to be treated like a punching bag or an animal? Next to lose my life?

I found myself very quickly attached to Marvin, the main protagonist. He is gentle, kind and smart and has a voice I loved to read about. Tyler is different and similar to him, two sides of the same coin. They were on the verge of growing apart a little bit, but still had that unbreakable bond. Marvin’s sadness was palpable on every single page while reading and I was close to shedding tears more than once. I never doubted that he was stronger than he thought himself capable of (albeit sad he had to be), but he was so incredibly brave towards the end. It was great to see his development throughout the story and see him stand up for what he believes in.

Yes, I’m willing to die for this cause, but the fact that there’s even a chance that I’ll die, become a hashtag, be remembered briefly, and then be completely forgotten and marked as a statistic fucking terrifies me.

I only wish I would have learned as much or at least a bit more about his friends and love interest. I understand that his mind was very much occupied by a traumatic event and I could see how much he cared for and appreciated the people in his life. But still, they fell a bit flat for me in comparison to Marvin, who we got a great feel for! Nonetheless, I enjoyed the focus on community and how it can be a source of strength in such trying times.

Some days, when I do, I just stare at the blackness I see in the mirror hanging on my closet door. I tell myself that I love this skin, that I’ve always loved my blackness, that if the world doesn’t love me, I will love myself for the both of us. After reminding myself that I matter, that I’ve always mattered, that Tyler mattered and still does, I make a promise to myself. I promise to never be silent about things that matter.

I don’t think the story needed a stronger focus on the trial, because the outcome wasn’t what was most important to Marvin in the end. He found his meaning of freedom and what mattered most to him through other means and in honoring his brother in his own way. Still, I’d like to say something: Video evidence should not be necessary to get people heard or to get a conviction or even as much as an arrest. People should not have to be excellent in order to not get killed by the people who were supposed to protect them. It all makes me so very angry, but I’m not surprised anymore. If you are still surprised by any of this, you haven’t been paying attention, because this has been happening for a while now.

Fazit: 4.5/5 stars! Another very important read!

If you want to engage with this topic through fiction some more, here are a couple books I have read and can recommend (as I am sure there are many more that I have not yet read that are really great):

The Hate U Give (The Hate U Give, #1)          Dear Martin (Dear Martin, #1)          All American Boys

Having said all that, I also encourage you to check out some non-fiction books. I have to work harder on that myself, but I found Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (part memoir, part essay) very insightful. I have also heard great things abut Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad.

More resources: https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/


Have you read Tyler Johnson Was Here? Do you plan on picking it up? Let’s chat!