February 2019 Wrap-Up + March TBR

 

February for me was a lot of hurry up and wait. I got my acceptance to graduate school (although I am still waiting rather impatiently to find out if I have funding). I have been trying to sort out the plans for my VERY SMALL wedding in March, which is becoming more and more complicated. Mostly, February was about realigning my focus for the months ahead, and I am excited to see what March holds for me.

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in my reading life

This month, I wanted to tackle my pile of physical ARCs, many of which were already released before I had a chance to read them. Shame.

Halfway through February, I decided to sign up for some 2019 reading challenges. As such, I realized that I probably need to come up with a system to keep track of my reading in these monthly updates. I’m borrowing from one of the lovely Elise @ The Bookish Actress, by instituting a system of emojis to represent types of books read.

emoji key:

📚 = #UnreadShelf 🏛= borrowed 📱= e-book 💸= purchased in 2019 👓=nonfiction 🦕=classics (before 1970)
🌈 = lgbtq+ 💫 = diverse (POC, religion, disability)🗣 = #OwnVoices 🙋‍♀️= Reading Women 🐼=YARC

february reading stats

9 total books read
5 diverse books
5 from the unread shelf
12 books purchased
7 books by women
2 books by men

read in february

(links go to my review/Goodreads)

💫📚🗣ON THE COME UP by Angie Thomas (2019) – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – YA Fiction (#OwnVoices POC rep)
🏛📱A RULE AGAINST MURDER by Louise Penny (2007) – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – Mystery
👓📚🦕📱THE SOCIOLOGICAL IMAGINATION by C. Wright Mills (1959) – ⭐️⭐️⭐️ – Sociology
👓📚💫🗣THE BOLD WORLD: A MEMOIR OF FAMILY AND TRANSFORMATION by Jodie Patterson (2019) -⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – Memoir (WOC author + trans son)
🌈📱💸🗣THE SEAFARER’S KISS by Julia Ember (2017) – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – YA Fantasy (#OwnVoices bi rep + non-binary side character)
💫📚GOLDEN CHILD by Claire Adam (2019) – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – Literary Fiction (POC rep)
👓🦕💸THE PRESENTATION OF SELF IN EVERYDAY LIFE by Erving Goffman (1959) – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – Sociology
💫📚SONG FOR A WHALE by Lynne Kelly (2019) – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – Middle Grade (Contemporary)
👓🏛GIRL, WASH YOUR FACE by Rachel Hollis (2018) – ⭐️⭐️⭐️.🌙 – Christian Living/Personal Growth

IMG_0514Spotlight: The Bold World by Jodie Patterson

As I talked about in my review, this book was beautifully written and an important story. Not only does Patterson write honestly about growing up Black in a diverse neighborhood, but she also talks honestly about raising a transgender son. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in reading more diverse nonfiction.

march reading goals

  • catch up on #YARC2019 – especially monthly challenges
  • actually stop buying buying books until my birthday in May (considering I have purchased more books this year than books read…)
  • tackle Middlemarch, which I just realized is 800 pages

(tentative) march TBR

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on the blog

notable posts from february

I really tried to kick my blogging into gear this month. I started out 2019 with the goal of doing at least 2 new posts a month, but as I’m planning ahead I’m coming up with a lot more ideas and ways to get involved. I’m finally reaching a place where blogging—or at least scrolling through my WordPress Reader—is a part of my regular daily life. I miss it when I haven’t checked everyone else’s blogs in a while. I find myself thinking about blogging when I’m doing other things. Which brings me to my next point…

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in my writing life

I’ve really been struggling with writing this year so far. At the beginning of the year, I was forcing myself to continue work on a fiction project despite being pretty emotionally checked out. In February, I decided to focus my energy on something I’d been kicking around for a long time: a nonfiction book about my experiences working as a barista for ten years.

I started out just doing research: brainstorming ideas for chapters, questions I can ask my former coworkers, and anecdotes for my personal life, as well as doing some sociological background. As I’ve been doing this research, I’m realizing just how huge of a project this is…and how devoting all my energy to this project right now might not be a great idea. What’s the point of writing this entire book when the only way to get a nonfiction book deal is to prove you have an online presence?

It’s not that I’m giving up on my writing project. It’s more that I’m turning to this blog as a vital part of my writing life.

Starting in March, I’m going to do a series of discussion posts about my writing—what got me started, struggles I’ve gone through as a writer, how I deal with doubt, etc. Beyond that, I’m focusing a lot of my energy on making this blog a part of my life. How can I make this better? How can I grow as a blogger, not just in terms of numbers but in terms of how I’m connecting with other people? It starts now.

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around the blogosphere

This is a feature I used in my wrap-ups on my old blog and one that I want to bring back. Basically, it’s a chance for me to spread love to the bloggers who’ve come out with great content this month—whether it’s a stellar review or a discussion piece that really got me thinking.

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Thank you for joining me on the wild ride that has been this wrap-up! How was your February? What was your favorite book you read? Let me know in the comments!

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Review | Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary

Diverse Rep: Deaf MC + side character of color

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.🌙

“Sound can move anything if it’s strong enough.”

IMG_0546**I received an ARC of this book through my work. While I am grateful for the opportunity to review, this in no way influences my opinion of the book.**

When 12-year-old Iris learns about a whale called Blue 55, who can’t be understood by other whales because he sings at a different pitch, she’s drawn to help. Using her wiz kid skills with electronics, she crafts a song at Blue’s frequency. Despite her parents’ refusal to understand, Iris manages to travel all the way to Alaska in search of one lonely whale, determined to let him know that he’s not alone.

I picked up this book for the beautiful cover, but I decided to read it as soon as I learned that the main character is Deaf.

It’s been a looong time since I’ve read anything Middle Grade, but this story really sucked me in. I was impressed by Iris and her skills at deconstructing and fixing old radios. While I don’t know much about whales, I enjoyed getting to learn more about their communication skills. Lynne Kelly’s poignant and descriptive writing really helps the reader feel Iris’s loneliness. I haven’t read a lot of MG books, so I don’t know how it compares, but I found this a really fun read that didn’t feel “dumbed down” for kids.

Blue 55, the whale who sings differently from the others, acts as a metaphor for Iris and her struggle to connect with hearing people.

Iris quickly becomes obsessed with helping him, because she understands so deeply understands what it’s like to feel unable to communicate with people. At home, Iris has her hearing family, who do pretty well at using sign language but don’t truly understand her much of the time. Iris has her grandmother, who’s also Deaf, but both she and Grandma are mourning the loss of Grandpa. Grandma’s healing is a big part of the story as well, which was beautiful to see.

This kind of story is so important, not only for hearing kids to understand what it’s like for someone who’s different from them, but for Deaf kids to see themselves represented. My only real “concern” with this book is that it might encourage kids to solve their problems by running away from home, which isn’t really a great thing to promote. It’s pretty clear that Iris’s parents are mostly okay with things in the end, too, which I felt was a little unrealistic. For more on this perspective, check out this review.

Iris as a character is believable, spunky, and incredibly relatable.

Her loneliness, while specific, really hit home for me. I think most kids struggle to be understood by and fit in with their peers at some point, and I vividly remember my feelings of invisibility at this age—and I spoke the same language as my peers!

I loved watching Iris grow and progress in the story. In the beginning, she’s very isolated, communicating only with her friend Wendell who attends another school. As the only Deaf kid in school, Iris resents Nina, a girl who attempts to learn sign language but mostly just flails around. Later, though, we see Iris learn to reach out through her friendship with Bennie, who shows Iris that hearing people can be her friends too. Lynne Kelly is not Deaf, but has made her career as a sign language interpreter. It’s my understanding that she spoke to Deaf people while writing this book. I would defer to Deaf readers to verify the accuracy of the rep.

Iris’s grandma was also a wonderful character. For such a hopeful book, Song for a Whale does a great job at showing the process of grief. At the beginning of the story, Grandma is in a cloud of sadness, but through the journey with her granddaughter she begins to come back to life.

Overall, do I recommend:

I love that there are kids’ books with this kind of representation as well as the hopefulness of the storyline. I will definitely be recommending this book to my customers at work, as well as to anyone who’s interested in reading more Middle Grade books.

Reading Challenges: My Thoughts + How I’m Challenging Myself in 2019

IMG_0473Welcome to my very first book-ish discussion! One of my goal for this year is to get back into blogging, so I decided to try and work in more discussions about bookish topics.

The idea for this post comes from reading other bloggers talking about reading challenges: why they like them or hate them, and what challenges they’re interested in. I was specifically motivated by Simone @ Simone and Her Books as well as Jackie @ Death by Tsundoku’s guest post on my friend Wendy’s blog.

When I started thinking about reading challenges, I wasn’t really sure how I feel about them.

In the past, I’ve generally avoided tying myself down to any specific challenges other than the yearly Goodreads challenge of seeing how many books I can read. I don’t really consider myself a mood reader; in fact, I generally like focusing my reading in a particular direction for a month at a time. Still, I’m not good at limiting myself to one topic completely and I’m petrified of falling short of my goals.

Right after Trump got elected in 2016, I was inspired to really diversify my reading.

As a white straight-passing individual, I realized that I needed to take it upon myself to read diverse experiences in order to really understand my own privilege. So when I first started a book blog called The Story Salve, I participated in the Diverse Reads 2017 Challenge. This involved monthly mini-challenges that focused on a particular aspect of diversity, and I discovered a lot of great books through the suggested reading list. Although I tried to read at least one book from each category, I still allowed myself to read books outside the challenge as well, so this worked well for me.

Since coming back to blogging last month, I’ve been trying to think about how I want to be involved in the book community.

I’m not really one for Twitter (tbh, it gives me a lot of anxiety trying to keep up with the conversation), and I’m not really all that popular as a bookstagrammer either. Even though I don’t like limiting my reading choices, I think it would really help me to get involved in some challenges, if only because it’s an amazing way to connect with other bloggers—namely, you! if you’re reading this.

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Challenging Myself in 2019

The Unread Shelf Challenge

I love Whitney’s Instagram, and I have a book buying problem, so this challenge is great for me. It’s really flexible with your lifestyle too: basically, you count up how many unread books you have and set your own goal about how many you want to read. Since I have about 50 unread books, my goal for this year is to read at least 25 of them. Whitney also posts monthly challenges as well, where you select one book based on a prompt and either read it or ditch it after the month is over. I started this one at the beginning of 2019, and as of this posting, I’ve read 9 books from my Unread Shelf!

rwc2019-igThe Reading Women Challenge

Hosted by the lovely ladies of the Reading Women podcast, this challenge is all about “reclaiming the other half of the bookshelf.” Particularly when I was just out of college, it was so easy to get sucked into the world of white male literary fiction. As a Women’s Studies grad, I’m a huge fan of this challenge. It comes with a set of 24 prompts, and the goal is to complete as many as you can. Some of them will be relatively easy (like reading a YA by a woman of color) while others will require a little more seeking out, but I’m excited about that process as well.

#OwnVoices 2019

I discovered this through Feed Your Fiction Addiction’s masterlist of challenges, which I highly recommend if you’re looking to add on any challenges. This one is just on Goodreads and comes with 26 prompts to track. I love this idea because, while I want to read diversely, I definitely want to focus on reading books by marginalized authors specifically.

2019 Year of the Asian Reading Challenge

badge_tapirI discovered this through the lovely CW @ The Quiet Pond, one of my favorite diverse book blogs, but I’ve seen YARC around on a lot of blogs this year. While I was initially anxious about signing up for such a specific challenge, this one takes place over the whole year as well, and comes with some neat monthly prompts. I really like the set-up of levels as well, so everyone who participates even by just a couple of books is included! I’m going to challenge myself to read 20 books.

Book Blog Discussion Challenge

2019-discussion-challengeThis challenge is hosted by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction AddictionNicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction & Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight. I had no idea that there was such a thing as a blogging challenge so I’m really excited to join this one. In starting this new blog, I decided I want to focus specifically on discussions, so this will be a great challenge to keep me motivated in writing more posts! The goal is to write one discussion post per month and link up. Since I’m always looking for more blogs to follow and connect with,  the link up will be the best part of this challenge.

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Do you participate in reading challenges? Why or why not? What challenges are you doing this year/month? Let’s connect in the comments!

Review | The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember

Genre: YA Fantasy | Diversity: bi rep | My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

“I was through living a life driven by others.”

34181737The Seafarer’s Kiss follows 19-year-old Ersel, a blue-haired mermaid who wants more for her life than society’s prescribed role of baring children. She risks everything to rescue and aid Ragna, a human woman who’s survived the destruction of her village. Ersel must decide what she’s willing to give up in order to gain the freedom she desires.

This f/f Little Mermaid retelling has been on my TBR for ages, which is why I picked it for the first selection of the Gay Book Club I’m starting with two of my coworkers. I was pleasantly surprised that this reads more like Ursula’s story than Ariel’s, but I’m not mad about it. It’s clear that Julia Ember did her research when it comes to the mythology behind her story; reading this inspired me to look into this more.

Ersel’s voice is incredibly believable as a young rebellious mermaid. For anyone who’s ever disagreed with authority, her feelings are incredibly relatable. In the beginning, Ersel wants nothing more than to escape her home and explore the world—which is pretty much exactly how I felt at 19.

This is mostly a story about Ersel’s personal growth, from a selfish young person who will sacrifice anything to get what she wants, to someone who fights for her community and the people she cares about. In the beginning, when she first meets Ragna, Ersel really admires the human girl who’s fought her way through everything just to survive. While she dreams of escaping, Ersel doesn’t really have any experiences aside from exploring ruined human ships with her best friend Havamal. As the story progresses, though, Ersel has to step it up and take responsibility for her actions—even when it means admitting that she’s seriously screwed up. For that reason alone, I really appreciated this story.

However, I wasn’t as sold on the romance aspect of the story. I picked up this book for the f/f romance, but I wasn’t really convinced by Ersel and Ragna’s romance. They spend very little time really getting to know each other, and then they’re separated for a good portion of the book. When they’re reunited, it’s as if no time has passed. I really wanted to read more of Ersel’s feelings, what drew her to Ragna and what made her believe in their love. As it stands, it all happened really quickly and I don’t feel like I got to know Ragna all that well.

The characters are portrayed as being complex people who make mistakes and then learn from them. Although Ersel resents Havamal at the beginning of the story, and he makes a huge mistake that costs Ersel her place in her community, he eventually comes to see the error of his ways. Similarly, Ersel hated the “mean girl” character, only to discover that she, too, has a complexity of emotions and desires. With the possible exception of the king, the true villain of the story, everyone is blurring lines in one way or another.

Another great thing about this book is the normalization of bisexuality among mermaids. In fact, the king encourages mermaids to make love to each other in order to make them more receptive to touch and therefore (hopefully) more fertile. It’s more of a big deal that Ersel’s with a human than that she’s with a girl. On top of that, Ersel talks about being fat in a way that comes across as completely natural and beautiful, which is really nice to see in a book for teens.

When it comes to Loki, the god of lies, my impression is more complicated. Loki uses they/them pronouns, which was really refreshing to see. Again, this is viewed as just the way it is, rather than an abnormality. I found Loki’s character really interesting, too. Despite the fact that they compel Ersel to do questionable things to get what she wants, I don’t really buy that Loki is the villain of the story. Depending on how you read Loki, though, it’s problematic that the genderfluid character comes across as villainous with questionable morals. Since I’m cisgender, though, I defer to other reviewers on this subject, and would urge caution for non-binary readers.

Overall, do I recommend?

This was such a fun book to read that really kept me guessing. I appreciated the complexity of the characters and the way everyone in this story seems to blur the lines in one way or another, from Ersel’s bisexuality to Loki’s mischief that ultimately helps Ersel grow as a person. I’d definitely recommend this to someone who wants a book with queer characters where their gender/sexuality doesn’t define them and is taken for granted.

find this book

Goodreads | B&N | Book Depository

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Have you read this book or its sequel? What did you think? What are your favorite retellings of fairytales or mythology? Let me know in the comments!

#MentalHealthMonday | Childhood Mental Health Issues, Then & Now

#Mental Health Monday is a (sometimes) weekly discussion series I discovered through Wendy @ what the log had to say. To see more of my posts on this topic, check here.

The topic of childhood mental health crosses my mind quite a lot. Up until pretty recently, I’d never considered myself a depressed kid. Yet, in considering my childhood as an adult, there were definitely signs that, at the time, neither myself nor my family really recognized.

I grew up in the 1990s, before mental health awareness was much of a thing.

By the time I reached fifth grade, I really struggled to bond with peers. I felt constantly excluded in tiny ways that couldn’t really be pin-pointed. I dreaded going to school so much that I vividly remember breaking down in tears one morning, much to my mother’s confusion.

I got special permission to go see the elementary school counselor once a week, but I don’t really remember us talking much about my issues. At no point was I told, “hey, you’re depressed, and that’s okay, it just means that sometimes you take things a little harder than other kids.”

Because I didn’t have a firm self-concept at that age, I became obsessed with making other kids like me in middle school. Then, in high school, I became really bitter about the fact that other kids didn’t understand or appreciate who I was. I felt invisible, which just contributed to my depression further. It was in high school that I finally got a label for my problem: depression.

How have things changed for kids and mental health?

While I don’t have children, I do have an eight-year-old niece, E. Because E’s parents divorced when she was five and she now splits her time between Mom’s and Dad’s, she understandably has some emotional stuff to work through that she probably can’t even fully process right now.

I recently found out, however, that E has been seeing the school counselor and that her mom has been informed that E has anxiety. I’m reasonably sure that E does exhibit some anxiety symptoms; I’m also reasonably sure that this counselor probably hasn’t done an official diagnosis. E is eight years old and has gone through some things that would surely qualify as trauma. I also know that depression and anxiety run in E’s family—because both my brother and myself have struggled with depression pretty much our whole lives.

What concerns me, when it comes to my niece, but more broadly with kids across America, is that we’re becoming a little too quick to diagnose young mental health issues like depression and anxiety. The major benefit of a diagnosis is that a doctor can prescribe medications—the same drugs that aren’t usually prescribed to people under 18. My question is: what’s the point of labeling children who haven’t even hit puberty yet? Why subject my bright, creative niece to a stigma that doesn’t help her deal with her problems?

Labels aren’t the answer, but more can be done to help kids with potential mental health issues.

After all, I survived adolescent depression, but not every kid does. 13 Reasons Why might be controversial for many reasons, but the one thing it did is remind the public that teen angst can mask mental health struggles. Instead of writing off these kids as angsty, or labeling them with an illness or even just “Trouble,” what if adults took it upon themselves to give kids better tools to manage the stress of being an adolescent? What if—hang with me now—adults actually took kids and teenagers and their problems seriously in a way that prioritizes actually helping them manage better?

What I’m getting at is this: YA and Middle Grade books have a responsibility to their readers. These books have a duty to reflect real experiences, whether it’s just the struggle of being socially awkward and not fitting in with classmates, or to deal with minor or major trauma that growing up can cause. Beyond that, though, these books have a responsibility to show kids how to manage these issues.

Writers, myself included, have a responsibility to our readers. Teachers, my future self included, have an opportunity to provide more than just a curriculum, but actual tools for life.

If we don’t take childhood mental health seriously while prioritizing helping kids succeed, who will?

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I realize this has been a long and rambling post that probably could’ve been more than one post, but I’d love to know your thoughts.

If you struggle with your mental health, how do you feel about diagnosis? If you were diagnosed, how old were you? Did you struggle with similar issues growing up? How do you feel about labeling kids early vs. late?

What are your favorite YA or MG books that talk about mental health?

I’d love for you to join the conversation, and if you think mental health is important, please share this post. As always, thanks for reading!

Review | The Bold World: A Memoir of Family and Transformation by Jodie Patterson

Genre: Memoir | Diversity: black author + trans son | My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

*I received a free ARC of this book through my work. While I am grateful for the opportunity, this in no way shapes my opinion of the book.*

IMG_0514Jodie Patterson’s memoir reveals her story of growing up black on the Upper West Side in New York, attending an all-black women’s college in the south, and building a unique family unit to adapt for her transgender son, Penelope.

the writing

Although it’s pretty exposition heavy, focusing on Jodie’s thought processes of her experiences, this book is a beautifully written portrayal of a black woman coming into her own. There were several places where I had to stop and just admire the way she constructed a sentence, or appreciate the profundity of what she had to say on a particular moment. Like any good memoirist, Patterson has a clear understanding of her own experiences, her feelings at the time and the significance of those experiences for her today.

the significance

Patterson truly has a gift of helping readers understand not just her struggle, but also Penelope’s struggle. She describes the human battle with the body, both from the cisgender perspective and the transgender perspective. The body is not the same thing as the soul, she argues, and in trans folks, their bodies don’t match their souls, and that’s what causes distress. Patterson’s writing has power to really speak to cis people who might not be able to wrap their heads around what it means to be trans by drawing a connection to the way we all have a fight with our bodies.

While I read this for the exploration of parenting a trans kid, what really struck me was the way Patterson writes about blackness. The very first chapter takes the reader down south and talks about the amazing black women in Patterson’s matrilineal history: women who could pass for white, but chose not to; women who fought for civil rights, even being jailed; women who infused a sense of a black woman’s power into everything they taught their daughters. Patterson talks about how her parents specifically spent time educating their two daughters in what it means to be black, giving them the history that was missing in schools (and still is) as well as instilling the importance of black community in them.

Blackness is practically a character in the book, but it gives her a sense of power, rather than just feeling marginalized by society’s racism. In this sense, Patterson’s story has the potential to be inspirational for all sorts of readers, but especially racial minorities.

Toward the middle of the book, Patterson talks openly about the point in her life where she wasn’t able to keep going. She was over-worked running her own business while trying to raise four kids of her own and one adoptee. Oh, and she was trying to figure out how to explain to people in her life that her son, Penelope, is actually a boy. So often, I feel like women—especially mothers—are compelled to put on a brave face, keep doing all the behind-the-scenes emotional labor of being women. I really appreciated how Patterson openly admits that she hit a breaking point and that admitting one’s weakness is often a huge part of being a strong woman. This part of the story shows that it’s okay to ask for help; it’s okay to need a break; it’s okay to not be okay.

what was missing

Literally the only I felt was “missing” from this amazing book was a deeper exploration of Patterson’s privilege. She mentions that her father more or less built his own wealth, despite white men not wanting him in their space; yet Patterson doesn’t really talk about the advantages she had over many people, especially in the NYC area, living in poverty and unable to enjoy the freedom she does throughout her life. She talks about feeling the pressure of other black people to focus on the “hard issues” like racism, poverty, and education, rather than on “soft issues” aka “white people’s problems” like trans rights.

Patterson acknowledges that we still have a lot of work to do on racism in society, but she believes that trans rights should be included in the fight and doesn’t take away from other issues. I just wished that Patterson had taken even a moment to address the fact that she is privileged to even have the ability, the education, and the knowledge of how to be an activist, when a lot of people are just fighting to survive. Of course, this is just my impression; ultimately, Patterson presents a compelling story as well as a call to action.

Overall, do I recommend:

This is one of those rare books I think anyone could learn something from reading. More than that, reading Jodie Patterson’s progression from a young woman who feels invisible to a mother who stands up for her kid—this book inspired me to keep fighting for what I believe in, even when things get tough. I highly recommend this book to anyone who needs a little inspiration and motivation to keep striving toward their dreams.

find this book

Goodreads | B&N | Book Depository

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Have you read this book? Who are your favorite black writers? Let me know in the comments!

Top 10 Books for Hopeless Romantics

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I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a huuuuge romantic. As a kid, I looked forward to falling in love more than almost anything else, aside from moving away from my hometown. I devoured romantic YA books like candy, and that’s not a habit I’ve ever really grown out of. While my ideas about the nature of love have certainly changed as I’ve grown older, I’m still a sucker for a love story. Valentine’s Day hasn’t always been the easiest holiday to handle, considering I was unhappily single for most of my life, but it’s as good an excuse as any to talk about my love of romance.

Without further ado, here are my––

Top 10 Books for Hopeless Romantics

10] The Mediator series by Meg Cabot (2000-2005)

Meg Cabot was my first favorite YA author, ever since I discovered The Princess Diaries in middle school. The Mediator is a series that follows Suze, a 16-year-old who has the gift of seeing ghosts and helping them find their way to the other side. When she moves to NorCal, she ends up disturbing a long-dead ghost named Jesse, who is possibly the sexiest dead guy I’ve ever heard of. What I love about their relationship, aside from their funny banter, is the nature of the fact that they both realize their love can never be. Basically, this series broke my heart (but don’t worry, there’s a decent ending).

9] The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli (2017)

This book isn’t a romance book. Instead, it’s a story of anxious, awkward teenager who’s had more unrequited crushes than anyone except for yours truly. Reading Molly was the first time I’d ever met a character who reminded me so much of myself as a teenager. If you’re a hopeless romantic, you’ll absolutely relate to her.

8] The Principles of Love (series) by Emily Franklin (2005-2008)

This is another of high school me’s favorites. The series follows Love (yes, that is her name) as she starts her sophomore year at Hadley Hall, where her dad is the new headmaster. Aside from having a fresh, unique voice, the reason I appreciate this series now, as an adult, is the fact that the romantic elements aren’t restricted to just one guy. This book normalized the fact that sometimes young love doesn’t last, but that doesn’t make it any less sweet. It also shows her being conflicted between different guys, something that YA rarely did, at least at the point it was published.

7] 99 Days by Katie Cotugno (2015)

On that topic, 99 Days is all about being torn between two loves. Even worse, Molly is torn between two brothers: Patrick, the guy she’s been with forever, and Gabe, his brother, with whom she destroyed her relationship with Patrick. Stuck in her hometown for 99 days, Molly deals with slut-shaming from everyone around her as she struggles to decide which brother has truly won her heart—and what it means.

6] What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera (2018)

IMG_8475If you’re looking for a gay meet cute that will undoubtably tug at your heartstrings, this is the book for you! Two YA faves team up, writing alternating chapters between two very different boys as they fall in and out of love with each other. This book raises age-old questions: Can you really meet your True Love when your lives are going in different directions? What I really loved about this was the realism in the depiction of young love. It’s messy, it’s complicated, and oftentimes it hurts. But that’s what makes it beautiful.

5] A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (2011)

IMG_0050This book is many things: urban fantasy, paranormal romance, literary fiction, a bestseller… The story follows Diana, a professor of history who happens to be a non-practicing witch. Diana is chilling at Oxford when she accidentally breaks the spell on an ancient manuscript that allegedly tells the story of how witches, vampires, and daemons came to be. With the help of Matthew Clairmont, a vampire, Diana escapes the clutches of those who wish her harm—and falls in love along the way. I highly recommend this series if you want something that’s a little more drawn out and adventurous.

4] How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake (2017)

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Sometimes love comes along just when you need it most; and sometimes even great love can’t heal everything. This is a great romance between a bisexual girl and a biracial lesbian that’s also about the more difficult parts of growing up with a dysfunctional parent. Read this if you want something that will make you cry, probably a lot.

3] Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (1814)

45032Everyone knows Jane Austen is an absolute genius when it comes to her characters. While Pride and Prejudice is everyone’s go-to Austen, I love the depth of Mansfield Park. Impoverished Fanny is brought up with her wealthy cousins, who never let her forget it. She’s shy and introverted, and the romance is understated, but this is one of Austen’s less sung works that deserves more attention, in my opinion.

2] This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen (2002)22205

This book broke 16-year-old me into a million pieces. The main character, Remy, refuses to believe that love is real, which makes sense considering her one-hit-wonder dad left her and her mom’s on her fifth marriage. But Remy finds herself falling hard for Dexter, the awkward musician whose life is a total mess. I loved this book because watching Remy turn into a bit of a softy melted my soul, but also because Dexter is the opposite of most YA Contemporary heroes. He’s a goofy kid who’s barely attractive and doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing with his life. He’s the opposite of anyone’s type but possibly mine. If you read anything by Sarah Dessen, I highly recommend this one.

1] The Melody of You and Me / The Paths We Choose by M. Hollis (2016)

M. Hollis is hands down my favorite New Adult Romance writer out there. These two novellas are quick, light reads that will make your heart swell. Despite being shorter than typical novels, the characters are well-developed and unique. They talk openly about sex, struggle with what to do with the rest of their lives, and there’s a slew of diversity. Cute + Steamy = 😍 Plus, there are honestly just never enough f/f stories out there.

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I could probably build a list twice this long, but I’d love to hear from you. What are your favorite romances: fluffy, steamy, or somewhere in between? Let’s gush in the comments!