G. Bianco, 2019
Maria Padian’s new novel, How to Build a Heart, shows one girl’s struggles as life constantly tries to test her with hardships, staying true to herself, and being honest with those that she cares about.
Sixteen-year-old Izzy Crawford just wants is to feel like she really belongs somewhere. Her father, a marine, died in Iraq when she was ten years old, and Izzy’s family has moved to a new town nearly every year since, far from the help of her extended family in North Carolina and Puerto Rico. When Izzy’s hardworking mom moves their small family to Virginia, all her dreams start clicking into place. She likes her new school, even if she hides her scholarship-student status hidden from her well-to-do classmates, and is smitten with her new athletic and popular boyfriend. When Izzy’s family is selected by Habitat for Humanity to build and move into a brand-new house, Izzy finally feels like she’s found a home. But what will happen when all the secret pieces of her life begin to collide and the truth starts slipping through her fingers.
This novel tells a great story about a girl dealing with a lot of change in her life and struggling to find the balance between her old life and new life. Izzy’s story deals with her splitting her life up into all of these pieces: her school persona, her home persona, and her friend persona. She tries so hard to keep these pieces of her life separate and eventually it all comes crumbling down as the all start to mix together. Izzy must also find the courage to stand up for herself and not be embarrassed about who she is. As money, social class, school drama, and relationships swirl around in Izzy’s mind, she loses sight of what’s truly important and what separates true friends and family from phony ones. Izzy’s perseverance and strength during the hardships in her life is admirable and truly shows that you need to set the truth free in order to make things right.
While it seemed a bit cliché and predictable at times, fans of YA will fall in love with this book! With first love, self-discovery, and self-acceptance being major themes in this story, readers will resonate with Izzy’s story and fall in love with this book.
*I received an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.*
Mackenzi Lee’s young adult novel, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, has made its mark in the YA book community. With two books and a novella already published in the series, I’m a little late to the party in reading the Montague Siblings Series! However, I still thought I’d give my review on it, in case there were other people like me who haven’t read the books, but are still intrigued.
Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but the finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men. But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, Monty vows to make this year-long escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.
It was really funny at times, but I did find it a bit redundant with the constant peril and roadblocks that the gang ran into along the way. I didn’t like Monty until maybe Chapter 3, although that may have been the point. However, I really liked Percy and Felicity! I’m looking forward to reading more about her in the next installment of the series. I feel like certain things didn’t get the closure it needed (what happened to Lockwood, what’s going to happen with Scipio and his crew, etc.), however, there will hopefully be some closure in the sequel.
However, I did appreciate the historical aspect behind the plot. The fact that young Europeans went on a tour of the continent as a way to enhance themselves culturally was interesting and insightful. I found it fascinating how they were reliant on banks and papers and sometimes the goodwill of others to get through their journeys and how it matches up with modern day study abroad and backpacking trips.
Overall, this was a fun and adventurous read and will have YA fans in love with the characters and story. While it took me a while to really get into the book, I am still looking forward to reading the sequel.
Anyone with siblings knows that it’s our brothers and sisters who push our buttons the most, but also have our backs when we need them. My One Month Marriage by Shari Low tells the story of four sisters living in Scotland whose secrets from one another can either rip them apart or bring them back together again.
“I just need to know...which one of you slept with my husband?” Zoe Danton thought that getting married would help her live her happily ever after. However, after only a month, her marriage is over after discovering a devastating secret. But what makes things worse is that one of her three sisters, who are her best friends, might have been the cause of her husband’s betrayal. Has Zoe lost more than just her happily ever after?
While I think that the title is misleading, My One Month Marriage tells the beautiful and complicated lives of four sisters and their search for happiness and love.
It becomes exceedingly frustrating to read about the lack of communication between the sisters, but perhaps that’s because anyone with sisters knows how complicated your relationship can be. Ultimately, the Danton girls find that the bond of sisterhood is not easily broken and that sometimes is hardships that bring you closer together.
While the novel gets off to a slow start, about midway through you start to see the light at the end of the tunnel and the pace picks up a bit. The alternating chapters was interesting since it gave the reader a broader sense of what was going on in each sisters’ life during a specific point in time and how it ultimately contributed to the situation they are in at the present. The jumping time periods and narration is a bit complex, so it’s definitely something to pay attention to, but ultimately shows how each sister is unique and how they react differently to the same events in their lives.
It was also interesting to see how the same events in their past shaped each of the sisters into the women they are in the present: Marina, who likes control over the situation; Verity, who shuts down when things get complicated; Zoe, who tries to keep the mood light; and Yvie, who tries to play peacemaker. Each sister assumes a certain role in their family and the reader sees how it affects their relationships not only with one another, but their everyday interactions. It isn’t until they are honest with each other again and break down their barriers that they begin to heal from wounds from both the past and present.
This novel is the perfect read for anyone who has siblings or has a crazy and dysfunctional family. If your expecting a romance book, then you might want to take a pass on this novel. However, My One Month Marriage is a touching story that will make you laugh, cry, and be grateful for the family that you have in this world. This is definitely a book to pick up when it’s published tomorrow.
*I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.
A People’s History of Heaven by Mathangi Subramanian highlights the different lives of young girls living in a slum in India. Now available in paperback, this novel shows how hope and strength can persevere and how a community can come together in times of strife.
In the tight-knit community known as Heaven, a ramshackle slum hidden between luxury high-rises in Bangalore, India, five girls on the cusp of womanhood forge an unbreakable bond. Muslim, Christian, and Hindu; queer and straight; they are full of life, and they love and accept one another unconditionally. Whatever they have, they share. Marginalized women, they are determined to transcend their surroundings. When the local government threatens to demolish their tin shacks in order to build a shopping mall, the girls and their mothers refuse to be erased. Together they wage war on the bulldozers sent to bury their homes, and, ultimately, on the city that wishes that families like them would remain hidden forever.
This story is just beautifully written. It’s unlike any other novel I’ve read and is one that everyone should read. I don’t think I’ve ever read a story set in India, so it was super interesting to learn about the culture through the lives of the characters. The way each of the characters’ stories intertwine and the way the chapters intermix past and present shows how even if history repeats itself, spirit and hope can be replicated in a new generation as well.
I also really liked the use of "heaven" as a double meaning. The phrasing of certain lines like “The city is loud, but Heaven is louder” was very clever and created a metaphoric dichotomy and juxtaposition showing what the slum means to these women and how it has become a sanctuary of sorts for them.
The only thing that bothered me about this novel was the style of narration. We never really find out who the narrator is. Are they one of the young girls? Are they an omniscient presence? The way the narrator uses personal pronouns like "we" allows the reader to think that they are present for all of the events, but there are certain scenes and parts of the story that the narrator would have no way of knowing unless they were just a third person narrator. It just proved a bit more confusing to follow certain parts of the text.
Overall, this is a story that everyone can appreciate and should read at some point in their lives. The resilience of women is so moving to see and Subramanian does a phenomenal job of showcasing it in her story. Feminists and those who wish to view the world through different eyes will fall in love with this eloquent and beautiful novel.
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion
Molly Ringle’s novel, All the Better Part of Me, follows a young actor living in England as he grapples with his sexuality and the obstacles life throws at him. While this novel hosts a cool cast of characters, it’s premise is lackluster upon actually reading the book.
It's an inconvenient time for Sinter Blackwell to realize he's bisexual. He's a 25-year-old American actor working in London, living far away from his disapproving parents, and enjoying a flirtation with his director, Fiona. But he can't deny that his favorite parts of each day are the messages from his gay best friend, Andy, in Seattle—whom Sinter once kissed when they were 15. Finally, he decides to return to America to visit Andy and discover what's between them, if anything. He isn't seeking love, and definitely doesn't want drama. But both love and drama seem determined to find him. Family complications soon force him into the most consequential decisions of his life, threatening all his most important relationships: with Andy, Fiona, his parents, and everyone else who's counting on him.
It was a good book. I thought the characters were interesting and the friends-to-lovers trope would make for an interesting read. However, this novel fell flat for me.
I wasn’t a fan of some of the turns the plot took, including an unplanned pregnancy, disapproving parents, and car crash. It felt a bit too dramatic, yet also really predictable. However despite the drama, the story was also a bit bland at times. It wasn’t super fluffy and it wasn’t super steamy either. It just kind of toed the line of romance without crossing over said line, which might’ve been the thing to take the novel up a notch.
While this is a love story, there is also a lot dealing with family and personal issues and accepting one’s sexuality. That being said, I did find Sinter’s realization about his sexuality to be a bit rushed. The pacing of the novel and the way the story jumped time periods so quickly made it hard to keep track of what time of year it was and what the characters were going through.
It’s not that Ringle’s book was bad; it just was not as fluffy or steamy as I had hoped for. This novel just didn’t have anything to really hook me in and keep me engaged in the story and lacked the depth that you can normally find in a romance or self-discovery story. It could have been dubbed “really good” but lacked that one (or few) thing(s) to push it over the edge.
While it’s probably safe to assume everyone has at least one moment of awkwardness or one bizarre social encounter, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman take those moments to a whole other level through the titular protagonist.
No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine and she’s perfectly satisfied with just existing. She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding unnecessary human contact, and weekends filled with frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen, the three rescue one another from the lives of isolation that they had been living. Ultimately, it is Raymond’s big heart that will help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one. If she does, she'll learn that she, too, is capable of finding friendship—and even love—after all.
This book was funny, moving, and quirky (in the best way possible), but alongside those adjectives, this book is just beautiful.
We learn that Eleanor is, in fact, not completely fine from the get-go. She adheres to a strict routine and purely does things out of necessity. Through a budding friendship and bizarre crush, the reader sees how Eleanor tries to change her life. Sometimes these changes are for the better, and other changes not so much, but overall, Eleanor’s strange way of interpreting the world is funny and endearing.
Eleanor is a unique character and getting into her mind via first person POV is refreshing. Her logic, while mostly bizarre, is sometimes sound and you can’t help but root for her, while cringing at her awkward social encounters. Her deadpan, and unconscious, sense of humor and her weirdness resonant with the deepest parts of ourselves and shows that opening your heart is tough, but necessary in order to make life worth living.
The story flows very nicely and hits all the right notes. The questions raised in the beginning of the novel are resolved in the end and the story is woven together beautiful. This is not a love story. This is not a mystery. This is simply a story about a woman who learns that life is something worth living. And that is a beautiful thing.
Hi! My name is Elisa and my bookshelf is quite literally overflowing! Join me in my journey of reading as many books as humanly possible!