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Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

9780142420591-1-683x1024Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Published by Philomel Books on March 22, 2011
Genres: [Young Adult] Historical Fiction
Pages: 344
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased

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5 Stars, Completed January 14, 2017

– SPOILER free –

Between Shades of Gray sets place in early 1940s Europe. A young Lithuanian girl and her family are torn from their comfortable life and sent to a camp in Siberia and later a prison in the Arctics; at both locations and during the passages between they will witness and endure horrifying treatment from the Soviets under the rule of Stalin. This affecting novel recounts a journey that spans over several years and covers 6,500 miles. It displays one of humanity’s unfathomably darkest and most hidden parts of history.

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When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

whenbreathbecomesair_0When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Published by Random House on January 12, 2016
Genres: [Adult] Nonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir
Pages: 208
Format: Hardcover –> eBook
Source: Purchased –> Borrowed

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5 Stars, Completed January 8, 2017

– SPOILER free –

When Breath Becomes Air shares the story of Paul Kalanithi, an exceptional and gifted neurosurgeon that found his life upended while in his last year of residency when signs of illness started to appear. After medical tests, it was discovered that he, in fact, had stage IV metastatic lung cancer. With his life no different from a ticking clock, he began to ask questions that would confront his mortality. What should he do with the remaining time he has left? Should he return to neurosurgery, or should he write? Should he and his wife, Lucy, have children? In this memoir, Kalanithi answers these questions (and provides responses to many more) by taking readers along his trek of leading a life as (some days) a doctor, (most days) a patient, and (everyday) a human desperate to stay alive.

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The Winner's Kiss

The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

9780374384739_FC_n6GzO0HThe Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner’s Trilogy #3 (3/3)
Published by Farrar Straus Giroux on March 29, 2016
Genres: [Young Adult] Fantasy
Pages: 484
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

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5 Stars, Completed April 3, 2016

– to avoid major SPOILERS read bold text only –

As he spoke, it occurred to her that maybe he, too, felt like two people, that maybe everybody does, and that it’s not a question of whether one’s damaged, but of how easily or not that damage is seen.

In the third and final installment to The Winner’s trilogy, war has begun and Arin is among his enemies hoping to forge an alliance against the empire to save his people, the Herrani. He still believes he’s fallen out of love with Kestrel and despises her for her evident cruelty and inhumanity. Meanwhile, Kestrel is in the freezing north as a prisoner paying for the grave mistake of betraying her people, the Valorians, by helping the Herrani before Arin left for the east. She only wishes that Arin knew what she had sacrificed for him. With the abundance of misunderstandings, increasingly intensifying war, and distance to separate them, there’s much more of a strain on Arin and Kestrel’s relationship than ever before.

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A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

A Gathering of Shadows9780765376497 by V.E. Schwab
Series: A Darker Shade of Magic #2 (2/3)
Published by Tor on February 23, 2016
Genres: [Adult] Fantasy
Pages: 509
Format: Paperback, ARC
Source: Publisher

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5 Stars, Completed February 24, 2015

– read the bold text to avoid SPOILERS –

Alright, it’s official. Victoria Schwab has earned her place among my top tier must-buy-new-releases-immediately authors. I enjoyed A Darker Shade of Magic when I buddy read it mid-2015, but I was still hesitant to claim Schwab as a favorite-precisely because I had only read one book of hers and there were small flaws I couldn’t overlook in ADSoM. But, after this thrilling sequel, it’s been confirmed.

[I don’t normally do this before my reviews to sequels, but in case you haven’t read my review of A Darker Shade of MagicYou can go here. I’m extremely proud of it. (I really believe it was the primary reason why I got an ARC of A Gathering of Shadows and it was a post that literally prompted weeks of writing/deleting drafts before I could gather my thoughts. (Did you see what I did there? “Gather my thoughts”… A Gathering of Shadows…)]

A Gathering of Shadows takes place four months after the events of A Darker Shade of Magic. Red London is still dealing with the repercussions after the fateful Black Night. However, this doesn’t deter all from preparing for the Element Games, an international tournament between the strongest magicians held to strengthen political ties and entertain the populace. Meanwhile, White London seems to be in a weary disarray after the Dane twins’ deaths. Grey London is experiencing an unforeseen pandemonium and is missing a certain female aspiring pirate. And Black London is stirring. With the rise of the latter London, the balance has been tipped and another London must fall.

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A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

littlelifeA Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Published by Doubleday on March 10, 2015
Genres: [Adult] Literary Fiction, Contemporary
Pages: 720
Format: Audiobook –> Hardcover
Source: Audible –> Purchased

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5 Stars, Completed January 13, 2016

– SPOILER free  –

How do I even begin?

If you’ve read other reviews where readers said they enjoyed this book those reviewers are absolutely mad. This book intrigued, consumed, impressed, stunned, humbled, and perhaps even destroyed me, but it’s a stretch to say that I enjoyed it. A Little Life is the most depressingly bleak and disturbing book I have ever read. It’s one that leaves you at a loss for words, makes you sit there for a while thinking about what you’ve just read, and stimulates you to cry upon your awareness that this book, though fiction, has very real, nonfiction themes attached to it.

I just made a t-shirt using this graphic created by @littlelifebook. Source.

I made a shirt using this graphic by @littlelifebook. (I’ll be sharing photos of it on my Instagram soon!) Source.

Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life is an alternating present and past reflection of the lives of four friends that graduate from a prestigious New England college from their mid-twenties into their fifties. There is handsome Willem, a struggling actor hoping to make it big someday; JB, a confident and sometimes callous painter wanting entry to the distinctive art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a recognized firm; and brilliant, enigmatic Jude, a talented litigator only intimidating in court. Each yearn for their breakthrough into society and discovery of their place in life. It seems that early on, Jude is the only one that has settled into a successful, adult lifestyle. It’s also evident that he’s the centerpiece that anchors their friendship, but as the readers read and our cast ages, readers learn how Jude increasingly becomes a broken man unable to overcome the unspeakable trauma his mind and body has endured. Will love and friendship heal him or will he forever be haunted by these scars and demons of the past?

I could spend days discussing this book and it’s heartbreakingly beautiful qualities, from the quintessential flawed characters, captivating  writing, LGBTQ+ and ethnic diversity mentions, tasteful musical and art influences, to the New York City backdrop, but all of this would be meaningless to go into detail unless you’ve read this yourself. (Please message me if you have and would like to discuss it. I need a friend to vent my fictional woes!) So instead I’d like to focus on the key points that made this book so meaningful to me.

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The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

the summer of chasing mermaids by sarah ockler

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler
Published by Simon Pulse on June 1, 2015
Genres: [Young Adult] Contemporary
Pages: 416
Format: Hardcover
Source: Borrowed

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5 Stars, Completed July 18, 2015

– SPOILER free –

I borrowed The Summer of Chasing Mermaids from the library and had it in my possession for about two weeks before I actually started reading it, right when it was due. There was a long line of readers that put this title on hold (not surprised as to why, now that I’ve finished it) so I wasn’t able to renew it. Therefore I ended up reading this book in a day, hoping the overdue fee would be worth paying. And it was.

Elyse d’Abreau has always had her life mapped out. She was supposed to become a singer, tour with her twin sister around the world, and grow famous. Then one tragic boating accident changes this all and she’s left mute, unable to sing or even speak. Elyse then decides to leave her Caribbean home and seek quiet solitude in Atargatis Cove, an Oregan seaside town named after the mythical first mermaid. There Elyse meets Christian Kane, a charming and ambitious playboy, and his sweet younger brother obsessed with mermaid lore. Elyse’s life changes course once again when she becomes Christian’s first mate in the upcoming Regatta. Along with the sudden camaraderie, Elyse feels a connection with Christian and it seems like he’s the only person that actually hears her. The Summer of Chasing Mermaids is a summer adventure about a girl facing her past, finding her inner voice in the present, and, bravely, taking on the future.

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The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly by Matt McCarthy

120904.pngThe Real Doctor Will See You Shortly: A Physician’s First Year by Matt McCarthy
Published by Crown on April 7, 2015
Genres: [Adult] Nonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir
Pages: 324
Format: Hardcover, ARC
Source: Blogging For Books

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5 Stars, Completed June 7, 2015

– SPOILER free – 

“You do not want to be the physician who assumed the patient was sleeping,” the instructor had told us, “when in fact he was dead.”

The quote above is one of the many words of wisdom and advice Dr. Matt McCarthy learned as a first year intern at Columbia hospital, and it perfectly illustrates the pressure health care professionals have to deal with every day.

In this frank memoir, The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly, Dr. McCarthy beautifully writes about the brutal truths behind the field of medicine and a physician’s infallibility, but somehow manages to do so with humor through interspersed comedic relief. In less than 100 pages into the book, readers learn that on his journey towards becoming a “good physician,” Dr. McCarthy stitches a banana peel, has feces-stained scrubs thrown at his face, and witnesses a patient almost die his first night interning in the cardiac care unit.

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Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Simon Versus the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

SimonVS_quote_NEWSimon Versus the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Published by Balzer + Bray on April 7, 2015
Genres: [Young Adult] Contemporary, LGBTQ+
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: Borrowed

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5 Stars, Completed April 24, 2015

– highlight to view SPOILERS –

This fantastic book was on my goodreads TBR shelf for a while now, but after seeing Justin fanboy (yes, I just made “fanboy” a verb) in his review I had to get a hold of a copy as soon as I could.

Simon Spier is a Harry Potter fanboy, music enthusiast, theater boy, and Oreo addict, but among these many characteristics, he’s also a closet gay. Simon has a quirky family and close group of friends, however the only person that knows his secret is his somewhat online boyfriend, Blue. He and Blue have been emailing each other for months after Blue’s post about loneliness on the school’s tumblr, Creeksecrets, an internet outlet used by the student body to post anonymous confessions and secrets. The book begins with Martin Addison logging on the school computer and accidentally discovering Simon’s sexual identity and his secret email correspondence with the careful Blue. Martin also screenshots the emails and blackmails Simon into helping Martin get together with Simon’s close friend, Abby. (I hope that wasn’t too confusing to follow…) From there several misunderstandings arise and Simon’s world is a pandemonium.

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The Glass Castle by Jeannette Wall

71VBpx0qsmLThe Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Published by Scribner on January 17, 2006
Genres: [Adult] Nonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Source: Gift

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5 Stars, Completed February 27, 2015

– highlight to view SPOILERS – 

I’m not sure where to start. I recently made a new friend this last year, and she recommended me this book. After finally picking it up, I understood why it had stellar reviews and was on the The New York Times bestseller for a good 2 years.

The Glass Castle is a memoir written by former MSNBC gossip columnist Jeannette Wells, which narrates her unconventional upbringing and leads up to her success as a writer. In ways the book was simple and complex. Walls begins her story by describing one evening when she sees her homeless mother picking trash on the streets while she is on her way to a fancy party. When she sees her mother begin to look up towards her direction, she quickly bends down in her seat, in shame, hoping that should would pass unrecognized. Later she meets with her mom at a restaurant, slightly embarrassed by her mother’s appearance, and asks her mother how she should disclose about her family to her friends and colleagues. And her mother replies, “Just tell the truth, that’s simple enough.”

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Unbroken

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

unbroken-cover_custom-0a55df2637ae96369dd0302be5ad4de816c6b0abUnbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Published by Random House on November 16, 2010
Genres: [Adult] Biography, Historical Nonfiction
Pages: 473
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

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5 Stars, Completed February 12, 2015

– SPOILER free –

Unbroken is a WWII biography of Olympic runner and American prisoner of war survivor, Louie Zamperini. Hillenbrand beautifully crafts this story by, suitably, splitting Louie’s life into parts. The first part explores Louie boyhood full of mischief, troublemaking, and rebellion to the beginnings of his track career (Olympics included). The second part delves into his time during his enlistment in the U.S. Army Air Corps and adjustment to life at war. The third goes in great detail about the B-26 bomber’s crash, the 47 days lost at sea, and his hardships as a POW at the Japanese prison camps. And in the fourth and final part, Hillenbrand gives the readers a glimpse of Louie’s struggle of adjusting to civilian life after the end of the war and how he finds an end to the psychological war his mind battles long after the Second World War.

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