the warm and fuzzy feelings | review corner

by - 2:00 PM

Hello there! Happy DAY TWO of 2021's FIVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS where I attempt to post every day until December 25th. Apologies for starting off on a bit of downer with yesterday' review corner topic but I did read those books back in the fall so it seemed right to review them first before getting to some of my more recent reads. 

I've been attempting to incorporate audiobooks into my daily routine especially since I have a 45+ minute commute and it's allowed me to read some more these past few months. It has also allowed to me "rediscover" young adult contemporaries which was a genre that was always a hit or miss for me. Maybe it's just my luck but the past three books I've listened to have given me all the warm and fuzzy feelings and overall just brightened my day which have been so much appreciated so I'm glad to share my thoughts on them today!

pages: 320  | source: library, audio
publication date: November 10, 2020
genre: ya, contemporary
rating: 7.3/10

B O O K S H O P *    |    G O O D R E A D S    

A Cuban Girl's Guide to Tea and Tomorrow literally gave me pure serotonin as I was reading it and officially placed me on my contemporary kick. The story follow Lila Reyes who has been shipped off to England following a falling out with her best friend and a temporary break with her boyfriend. However, being away from her family, her grandmother's bakery, and her beloved hot Miami summer makes the trip to England more of a punishment than an adventure. Experiencing Winchester, England was supposed to be miserable until Lila meets Orion Maxwell who appoints himself as her tour guide and shows her all that England has to offer. 

I'm legitimately not kidding when I say this book had me smiling almost every day as I was driving home and it really is because of the characters. Laura Taylor Namey writes her characters and fills them up with a passion that just envelopes their personality without making it too obsessive. For Lila, it's making Cuban recipes that honor her heritage, and I was positively drooling every time food was mentioned. For Orion, who has also set the new standard for male love interests in stories for me, it's enjoying life's every little detail to the fullest. Their dynamic was both simple and complex if that can make any sense and I just adored them together so so much. 

In addition to the fuzzy feelings, this book also takes a look into the grief of losing a loved one, the fear of losing friends because of personal growth, and the challenges of adapting one's future to find new goals and dreams. This perfectly encapsulates the emotions of a "coming of age" novel in a way that felt so poignant and real that it made me want to take a step and just reminiscence on the past. This is a story that I can see myself revisiting in the future whenever I need that gentle reminder that growing up and growing apart is okay.

ultimate verdict - your dreams are allowed to change

pages:  336 | source: library, audio
publication date: May 11, 2021
genre: ya, contemporary
rating: 7.2/10

B O O K S H O P *    |    G O O D R E A D S    

The Other Side of Perfect did two things to me immediately: 1) It made me want to go see a ballet and 2) It made me go into my lesson plans and edit how I wanted to teach the Nutcracker's music and tradition to my students. Alina Kessler has just experienced the most traumatic injury of her life which leaves her dreams of ABT and becoming a professional ballet dancer in the past. The story explores the physical and emotional pain that comes from losing something you love as well as the healing process that follows. When Alina auditions for the school play to get her parents off her back, she doesn't anticipate the challenges of dancing again (ballet or not) and the relationships she makes with the cast that begin to help her reconnect with reality. 

This book really cemented my "lonely feels" because the relationships in this book were amazing. If you also love a little bit of grump x sunshine then you'll absolutely adore Alina and Jude's interactions. While Alina spends a good majority of the book pushing her friends and family away because she's unsure of how to process her injury, her character arc follows through the different stages of grief as she has to let go of something that was so crucial to her identity. Her experience branching out and trying for the musical and meeting new friends help her to slowly come to terms with what she thought was the most beautiful and perfect art form. I loved as well how Mariko Turk wove commentary on the Eurocentric gate within ballet and the unspoken prejudices in Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker. The story has a way of making you fall in love with ballet while also expanding your perspective and that coupled with a heartfelt story of healing warmed my heart and gave me all the feelings.

ultimate verdict - when your world is shattered, it's okay to not be okay

pages: 336 | source: library, audio
publication date: August 4th, 2020
genre: ya, contemporary
rating: 5.6/10

B O O K S H O P *    |    G O O D R E A D S    

So after I finished The Cuban Girl's Guide to Tea and Tomorrow, I was really in the mood for more of Laura Taylor Namey's writing so I picked up her debut novel The Library of Lost Things. Darcy Jane Wells is a reader and books are her haven especially when she has to deal with the stresses of senior year, her mother's struggle with mental health and obsessive hoarding, and a new landlord who has to power to render her homeless if he continues snooping around. When she finds a used copy of Peter Pan with scribbles all in the margins, Darcy begins to find a companion in the mystery owner's ramblings and wisdom to help her navigate her messy life.

Before picking this up, I had read a couple reviews that prepared me for how dependent Darcy was on books. She had to have 2 or 3 in her bag, her fingers always itched to touch the pages when she's caught in uncomfortable situations, she references book characters and plots in every other thought - it gets to be overwhelming. But it also drives the point forward that the author was trying to make: amidst the chaos of her mother's hoard, Darcy developed a strong dependent connection on reading and as soon as I came to that revelation, it became easier to understand why the author was bringing up Darcy's obsession with books so much. I'm actually glad that I got to appreciate what Laura Taylor Namey was trying to do with Darcy's character and using her love of words as a way to explore the effects of her mental health.

Like with her other work, I adored how Laura Taylor Namey wrote friendships and relationships. There was authenticity in Darcy and Marisol's bond and I appreciated the portrayal of both the high moments that make their friendship so amazing and the hurtful moments where they need to step apart to reflect. It brought out the characters' individual maturity and highlighted their growth as they realized how much they valued each other. The only aspect that I wasn't as on board with was the relationship with Asher but he still managed to shine as an individual character. Despite not being the biggest fan of Darcy x Asher, I could still appreciate their characters apart which slowly allowed me to root for them as a couple.

ultimate verdict - friendships and the wisdom of peter pan

Since finishing these three audiobooks I've been almost exclusively consuming contemporaries which feels incredibly weird to say and I'm starting to feel the urge to dive back into a fantasy book. I do however have a growing list of future audiobooks to check out so if there's a YA contemporary you love please share it with me!

What's the last book you read that made you smile so much your cheeks hurt?

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