When You Read This by Mary Adkins // Book Review

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Iris’s first email details a go getter young person who wants nothing more than to get into her choice of college. Listing all of her extracurricular activities, desperation oozes off of anyone that age who needs to get out of their town with the help of an acceptance letter. What we find out immediately is that Iris is already dead and these emails are all that remains of her living life.

Cancer is not something Iris planned to have in her 30s. What she initially thought was many years she’s lived collapses to not having enough time to live. So, she tries to make the best of it by starting a death diary that connects with other users who have illnesses. They commiserate but overall it is a place to talk to people who understand and reach your own inner peace. After her death, all of her writings are sent to her former employer, Smith, to publish with of course the permission of her surviving sister.

Jade outright refuses assuming she knew Iris better and blames Smith for taking advantage of her sister. We get to see the other side of grief as Jade “hacks” into Iris’s email and realizes that Iris stopped taking chemo in her last year alive. A conspiracy forms that Iris was misinformed and chose marijuana over chemo because of incompetent doctors rather than maybe Iris just didn’t want to die in pain. This gives Jade a new cause to prove that Iris didn’t have to die if it was someone’s fault.

Both of the people in Iris’s life come together to remember her and learn about who she was to the other person. I would say that I found Jade’s arc more satisfying. It makes sense that she’s stuck in denial for the majority of the story. It’s hard to lose anyone. It takes reexamining her own life and career to see her sister as her own person with her own thoughts and not so nice opinions about the ways Jade has hurt her as well. Their traumatic childhood taking care of each other because of absent parents and a controlling mother. Breaking out of the idea that everything is always fine will require the level of introspection Iris took during the last months of her life recalling memories and reconciling with the actions she took.

If I had to say, the story felt lackluster with the romance between Jade and Smith. It seemed forced as if this is the logical conclusion heteronormative writing. There was hardly any chemistry especially if this was supposed to be a hate to love trope. Instead Jade was constantly aggressive, hostile, and rude to a person who was also grieving and also trying to help. Smith is not exactly the best character too as he steals money and emotionally manipulates his friend. I can’t begin to tell you how unlikable I found them. The time jump also did not help me to connect to Jade and Smith as what happens occur off screen (as most of the action since this book is written through found material) but you get the point. I would say it’s a decent read with just enough lightheartedness but really I wish there was more Iris in a book about her.

When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger // Book Review

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Aside from watching the movie, I had no prior experience in the DWPCU (Devil Wears Prada Cinematic Universe). Well, I guess since there’s only one movie it doesn’t count. Okay, let’s call it the BU (book universe). Nevermind, that’s just called a series. Oh well, no point trying to reinvent the wheel. And that’s how I felt about this book.

I was never athletic so my first foray into Lululemon was last year when I decided to start working out and found that leggings can be very expensive. Emily Charlton, former assistant to Miranda, has been in the celebrity managing business for a while. What that means is making sure they don’t get cancelled and are seen at the right place at the right time. When Karolina Hartwell is caught in a drunk driving incident, Miriam asks Emily to help her image out. If things get worse, Karolina might lose custody of her son. As the three women hang out and talk, that’s the majority of the book and I don’t mind since it simulates my having fun friends, they come to change their perspective about themselves. Emily realizes she isn’t old news and still got it. Miriam rediscovers her love for practicing law and Karolina stops undermining herself when it comes to her politician husband.

As you can expect, there’s a lot of scandal. The women learn the secret of what happened the night of the drunk driving incident and an all out war ensues. I found the middle section dragged as it focused a little too much on Emily when we could tell most of the plot had shifted to Karolina’s predicament. Even Miriam’s side story fell off because you could tell that this was a fake out. Everything works out in the end. There’s a comical comeuppance that follows each antagonist and it serves as a sort of closure. Well, until the next book in the series comes out.

The Afterlives by Thomas Pierce // Book Review

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asking more questions than it knows what to do with
stairs go both ways
creating a device that lets you sidestep reality
you can’t escape death but you can escape taxes
you can love more than one person in you lifetime

The Afterlives asks more questions than it answers. Jim had a cardiac arrest. His heart one day just decided that it didn’t want to work anymore which results him being dead for five minutes. However, he doesn’t see anything. Just darkness. What follows is Jim navigating through living a normal life to searching about what he saw. Jim encounters The Church of Search, holograms, a haunted stairwell, and a device that lets you bleed through your consciousness.

I found all of the characters Jim meets fascinating no matter how little their role were in his life. The many conversations with kooky people who wanted to cryogenically freeze their brain to the stable minded Annie who becomes his wife was like reading a really cool forum of fellow enthusiasts. I came for the exploration about life and death but stayed for the hot gossip in a small town.

While we meander a lot, I found these moments like side quests in a video game. Much more interesting and meaningful than the main plot. This includes the relationship between Claire Lennox and the Lennox brothers. It shows how the decisions we make can result in monumental consequences and how something innocuous can ruin a life. What really sticks with me is that at the end of our lives we often regret what we haven’t done as opposed to what we have done.

The Second Home by Christina Clancy // Book Review

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This was such a frustrating experience. I’m well familiar with the misunderstanding trope. You know how a conflict could be resolved or transformed if only the characters talked to each other? However, that would result in the story ending pretty quickly because the author simply cannot imagine more for their characters. So they use this device that frankly cheapens the story for me.

It’s understandable that Michael, who has abandonment trauma, would rather disappear than confront the issue. What I don’t understand is why it takes until the 90% of the book for Michael and Ann to learn the truth. Even when Poppy, their sister, tries to tell Ann that she found the will, Ann interrupts not once but FIVE TIMES. Reading that scene still makes me pop a vein. By the end of the book, I found myself annoyed and despising all of them. Fuck this family.

In the summer of their junior/senior year of high school, the Gordons plan to adopt Michael. Sure, people think it’s odd for a family to let a teenage boy into a family of two daughters, but the Gordons are not ones to turn a blind eye to someone who needs help. Despite the attraction Michael and Ann have towards each other before the adoption, they decide to bury it for the sake of this new relationship as siblings. Everything seems to move along great as Michael and Poppy form a new alliance as best friends. Ann, being the controlling sister, decides there’s no place in the family for her (seriously, she’s portrayed as emotionally inept and it shows a little too much). All of this leads to a summer none of them will forget. Ann is sexually assaulted by her employer resulting in an unplanned pregnancy that she keeps. Michael gets roped into a scheme by her rapist. Poppy dissociates through drugs and surfing.

At first I thought it was implausible but as we find out, a lot of the hurt feelings can be placed on the rapist. I get that. But when he’s out of the picture and it’s time to talk to one another, Ann simply refuses to talk. She takes a more passive aggressive stance that allows her to be mad at Michael without understanding how this all happened? Isn’t it weird to just take your rapist’s word at face value over your own brother’s? Ugh, that was the least unenjoyable thing I’ve read this year so far. Michael on the other hand never thinks to confront Ann because he’s so down bad that when he thinks the girl he loves may be in love with someone else he just punishes the whole family by never talking to them? Idiots, every one of them. At least Poppy seems to be able to find her footing first after being neglected by these two incesty ego maniacs.

I seriously wouldn’t waste my time with this book. It sucked so much with some of the most unlikeable characters with hardly a redemptive ending. In fact, the ending seemed like an afterthought. Oh, they’re better because they got matching tattoos. Ta da. The grandkids are alright.

The Divines by Ellie Eaton // Book Review

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Ugh, maybe you can write really well but still miss the mark when it comes to the plot. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to get aside from the fact that the characters are bullies during adolescence and grow up to still be those people who care too much about appearances. I know this isn’t an inspirational Facebook video that teaches you the lesson of being kind to others least they have more power over you in the future. Rather, this book is a stark contrast about people who are born into privilege and who go on to have little in the way of any obstacles in their life. Sure, rich people have problems but can it be safe to say that those are usually small problems.

Who actually wants to read this book? Jo is part of a boarding school elite. Girls who make trouble (or think they do when in reality they’re just really annoying and mean). Everyone goes by boy’s names and none of the townies can touch them. The book switches back and forth between the past and present as Jo describes in detail her life as a Divine. The writing is top notch with careful descriptions that actually captures the perils and stakes of being a teenage girl. For instance, feeling left out that you’re the last one to get your period or saving particular gossip for the perfect moment to solidify your place at the top of the social hierarchy. It doesn’t seem important in retrospect but at the time it meant everything to be that girl where everyone wishes they were you.

However, as Jo continues to talk about her present life being married to a famous foreign artist and pregnant with their first child, it just made me lose hope that there was a general direction for the story. I didn’t even like Lauren who appears in her memories. A townie from the neighboring public school who constantly teased Jo for being a Divine and almost always pushing the limit of what was comfortable. Sure, I know that Jo will and is okay being that wealth affords you a moat to protect yourself from true harm but Lauren just rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t think I could ever be friends with someone who made fun of the way I talked, acted, and lived. That’s not really friendly.

While I do appreciate the accurate depictions of girl dynamics, I just don’t think this book was for me. It felt like I was waiting for something big to happen and it never comes.