Dec 8, 2017

Review | The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

Title:  The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
Series: Guide #1
Genre: YA - Historical Fiction
Publication: June 27, 2017 by Katherine Tegen Books
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not 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.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong 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. 

Thoughts: This is one of those books that I was getting myself into without really knowing what it was about, only I'd seen it everywhere and was curious. It's cool that with being on Booktube I get exposed to a lot more books than I have been in a while, and this was one of them. Everyone was talking about, and while I never would have gone out of my way to purchase it, it was available as an audiobook copy from my library.

Let me tell you, it lived up to the hype. That doesn't always happen, especially when reading something out of your comfort zone right? Well, it's not like I'm uncomfortable with any LGBTQ+ representation, because I'm not, I'm just a little unfamiliar with it still. I've read very few books that have gay characters, so I am always a little weary because I am not sure what to expect. And I mean that in the best possible way.

Anyways, The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue follows our protagonist Monty who is embarking on his last year long tour through Europe with his best friend (who he's in love with) and his little sister (much to his dismay) before he must follow in his fathers footsteps and taking over the family state (which he's not thrilled about.) Things don't go according to plan, and the story derails into quite the adventure.

Monty is a great protagonist, lovable and frustrating, but funny and charming. He had me grinning with his antics, and shaking my head *face palm* with some of the stuff he put the gang into. But he has a good heart, and really, you can't help but care about him.

The story is unlike any other I've ever read either, from highway robberies to pirates, hidden treasures to romance, it has so much packed into that you can't help but have a good time reading it.  The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue was such a satisfying and fun read, that I am really glad I picked up and highly recommend it to everyone looking for a historical adventure that has so much to offer. Definitely one of my favorite reads of the year, without a doubt.

Dec 7, 2017

Love of Reading November BOTM \\ The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict

NOTE  I recently joined a Goodreads group in which a new book is chosen every month. I thought it would be a fun idea (for myself) to answer the discussion questions, instead of writing a review, on the book we read each month here on my blog. That way I can share my thoughts on it, but also discuss it with others across a few platforms without having to write two things. These posts may contain spoilers. Proceed with caution. 

Synopsis: A vivid and mesmerizing novel about the extraordinary woman who married and worked with one of the greatest scientists in history.

What secrets may have lurked in the shadows of Albert Einstein’s fame? His first wife, Mileva “Mitza” Marić, was more than the devoted mother of their three children—she was also a brilliant physicist in her own right, and her contributions to the special theory of relativity have been hotly debated for more than a century.

In 1896, the extraordinarily gifted Mileva is the only woman studying physics at an elite school in Zürich. There, she falls for charismatic fellow student Albert Einstein, who promises to treat her as an equal in both love and science. But as Albert’s fame grows, so too does Mileva’s worry that her light will be lost in her husband’s shadow forever.

A literary historical in the tradition of The Paris Wife and Mrs. Poe, The Other Einstein reveals a complicated partnership that is as fascinating as it is troubling. 

Let me admit that I knew next to nothing about Albert Einstein before reading this. Did I know who he was and what he was famous for? Of course. But that's where my knowledge on him ended. I never focused on any aspect in him during school, and never read another book, fiction or not, of his life in all my years of reading. So what did I expect? I wasn't sure, but it wasn't the tragic, and truly heartbreaking story of Einstein's first wife.

Little is known about Albert and Mileva's lives, so there is a lot of speculation. The facts are that they did meet in school and fall in love. They did become pregnant before they married, and their daughter possibly passed away or was adopted in her early life. They did marry later and have two boys, and further on, Einstein did have an affair with his cousin Elsa, whom he married and lived with the rest of their lives together. So, the question remains on how their marital life really was behind closed doors? And did Mileva contribute to Einstein's success more than he ever admitted? It's possible.

I can say that my dislike for him grew as I read more about their story in The Other Einstein. Of course, I had to remind myself that we have no way of really knowing if their relationship was like this book details. But it's possible. And that is enough for me to think that Einstein may not have been the genius we have been taught of all these years. Yes, there is no denying that he was a brilliant man, but was it all his own work on relativity? Maybe not.

The story captivated me from beginning to end, and yes, it is a simple story of a very smart woman who gave up a lot for the man she loved, and for a family life that she wasn't hoping for. But it is so much more. It is a story of courage, and strength. It is not about a brave, feminist icon, but about a woman who struggles like woman do today, in the shadow of a man. There is no denying that then and now, women are still a marginalized group. This book shows the heartbreaking story of another woman who endures a life where she is treated poorly by the men she allows to control it.

Discussion Questions

1. Discuss the various ways that gender affects the characters in this novel. Do you think gender would influence Mileva’s life in the same way if she lived today?

Yes, definitely. That's the simple answer, but today, I think she would have to give up something in order to live the life she wanted.

Many people discuss how it's difficult to raise a family and have a career, and yes, it's possible to do both. Most women today do it, and are happily enjoying a fulfilling career and also, having a family life. But is it difficult? Yes, of course. Do they have to sacrifice time and sleep in order to get work done, or make sure to spend time with their children? Or spend sick hours caring for a child, or going to a recital, or spend weekends not resting because with children, do you really rest? I can't answer any of these questions with true knowledge of knowing what it's like.

I spent many years in college, taking my time, and lazying about. Now I have a career. I'm almost 30 years old and I'm not married. I don't have children. And according to society, I'm falling behind. Do I regret any of this? Fuck no. I am 100% happy with the choices I've made, but will I ever really make time for a family? Who knows.

But if Mileva was in today's world, and her life would've taken on the same outcomes as it did today, I think she would've still found herself in the same situation. Maybe she would've left Einstein sooner, maybe she wouldn't have cared about divorce because it is so common, but yes, I think she would've sacrificed some part of her career or schooling in order to have her children.

2. This novel can be seen as quest for understanding, a search for the divine in the natural order of the world. How does the study of math and physics become this quest for Albert and Mileva? Are they, either separately or together, successful in their crusade? Does unmuzzling life’s mysteries have disparate meanings to them?

3. Betrayal is a recurrent motif in the book and an unfortunate reality in Mileva’s life. What forms of betrayal does she experience? How does her reaction to those betrayals propel the story forward, for better or worse? Has Mileva engaged in betrayal herself?

Not only does Einstein betray Mileva as a husband (yes, he does have an affair that is publicly known about,) he also betrays her as a partner in the scientific world. Mileva contributed to so much of his work, yet Albert never gave her credit for it. After countless excuses to why he couldn't, eventually he completely ignores any contributions. To her face. It propelled the story to the conclusion we could've expected for the end, a failing marriage and lack of Einstein to really come up with any more ideas on his own later in life.

Mileva betrayed herself, yes. I wanted to scream at her to leave Albert, to find her own path. I wanted her to stop following after him, even when she wanted nothing more than to enjoy a happy life with him and a shared companionship in their work. I knew from the beginning that it wouldn't work out, and even though I secretly hoped that it would, I knew that it was her love for him that blinded her for so long.

4. Discuss the setting of the book, a world on the brink of astounding scientific discoveries, political upheaval, and ultimately horrible World War I atrocities. Does this historical setting affect the characters? What role, if any, does it play in shaping their lives?

5. On several occasions throughout the novel, the characters undergo metamorphoses. What are Mileva’s changes, and what instigates them? Do some of them frustrate you or take too long? Does Albert change during the course of the novel? If so, how would you describe his evolution?

The one change that did frustrate me for taking so long was Mileva being her true self, which happens towards the end of the book. Like her friend Helene asked her to, she needed to find her old self and get away from Albert. For the sake of her happiness, and her children, and everything she had worked to become when she first started at the Polytechnic. It took her years to see this and it was frustrating. Yet, understandable because of her situation.

Albert also becomes his true self as the novel progresses. His selfishness becomes more apparent as the years go on, and his distaste for the home life he feels he's stuck with made me wanna smack him.

6. Albert Einstein is arguably one of the most famous figures of the twentieth century, but The Other Einstein shares a story about him that you might not have otherwise heard. Did this novel change your perception of him, or about the stories we are told regarding other women in history? 

Yes, and I have stated this rather clearly in my thoughts above.

Dec 6, 2017

Review | Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist

Title: Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist
Series: N/A
Genre: Contemporary
Publication: January 3, 2017 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: On his first day at a new school, blind sixteen-year-old Will Porter accidentally groped a girl on the stairs, sat on another student in the cafeteria, and somehow drove a classmate to tears. High school can only go up from here, right?

As Will starts to find his footing, he develops a crush on a sweet but shy girl named Cecily. And despite his fear that having a girlfriend will make him inherently dependent on someone sighted, the two of them grow closer and closer. Then an unprecedented opportunity arises: an experimental surgery that could give Will eyesight for the first time in his life. But learning to see is more difficult than Will ever imagined, and he soon discovers that the sighted world has been keeping secrets. It turns out Cecily doesn’t meet traditional definitions of beauty—in fact, everything he’d heard about her appearance was a lie engineered by their so-called friends to get the two of them together. Does it matter what Cecily looks like? No, not really. But then why does Will feel so betrayed?

Thoughts: Honestly, I had no idea what this was about and expected a cute romance from the cover. And it did have a cute romance, but that was not what this book was about. The protagonist, Will, is blind and has decided to mainstream into a school for sighted, which is a daunting task since he's gone to a school for the blind for his school career.

I thought Love and First Sight was short and sweet. I liked Will and his attitude on life, even things were going tough for him. I appreciated how real his relationship with his parents was, and the togetherness they had. I already liked all the friends he made, and how they were all unique, but a great group. The love interest was also a friend first, before anything, and it was great to see their relationship grow.

I really thought this book was great, there wasn't anything I didn't love about it and enjoyed the story thoroughly. I highly recommend it to contemporary lovers, especially if you are looking for something a little different, that doesn't shove the romance in your face.

Dec 5, 2017

Monthly Rewind | November 2017

I'm a little late with this rewind, but I want to be consistent so here goes a few days late! November was a good month, but towards the end of it, I found myself feeling really low. I've noticed that when the weather starts to change, I feel a little sad. My boyfriend is the same way, so for the last week of November I focused a lot on self-care and just getting myself out of sad days. There were a lot of good things this month as well, so let me focus on those. 

5 Good Things in November

1// I went to two shows, one being a favorite band of mine: The Front Bottoms. My boyfriend bought me tickets to both these shows for my birthday (in September) so we'd been anticipating these shows for a little under two months. We had so much fun in the first one, Passafire, which is an all time favorite of my boyfriends. 
2// I read a lot: Normally I finish a few books a month, but in November I got a lot more reading done than usual. I'll share more of that below but it definitely inspired me to read a lot each month (or try to!) because I really enjoyed it :)
3// We started exploring used bookstores: My boyfriend and I have been obsessing over Stephen King for a couple months now and this past month, he sent me a list of the best used bookstores in LA, so we've made it an adventure every Sunday to go to a few. We mostly look for King's books but I have found some other great stuff, too! I'm trying to vlog our trips but haven't edited a final video just yet.
4// Went to Solvang with my parents: It had been a long while since my brother and I took a day trip with our parents, but the weekend after Thanksgiving was a free one for both of us so we went down to Solvang and had breakfast and shopped. It was a good day.
5// I started hiking again! My aunt asked me to go hiking and it was really early, and really tiring, but I was so glad to finally be out and about doing that. 

What I Read in November

Around the Blog

Quick Reviews #8 | My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga // Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossan

Wow, I didn't realize I posted so much this month! I am trying really hard to catch up on reviews so that I can start with a clean slate in the new year, so December will have as many reviews, if not more. 

Next Month

I have another ambitious TBR for December but since I did well in November, I think it's more doable. 
December TBR
A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (currently reading)
Saving June by Hannah Harrington (currently reading)
The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict (currently reading)
There's A Stranger in Your House by Stephanie Perkins
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
Landline by Rainbow Rowell
The Becoming of Noah Shaw by Michelle Hodkin
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, Lauren Myracle
The Snowman by Jo Nesbø
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Anticipated Releases
Roomies by Christina Lauren | December 5, 2017
The Young Queens by Kendare Blake | December 26, 2017
This month doesn't seem to have as many awesome releases, at least not that I am interested in. I haven't started the Three Dark Crowns series but I have the first book and I am excited to read it, so it seems cool that a prequel is coming out. 
To be honest, the only thing I am really excited coming out this month is the newest Star Wars movie! I cannot wait, and am starting a marathon of all the movies tonight, so that's fun! 

Dec 1, 2017

Quick Reviews #11 | Juniper Lemon's Happiness Index by Julie Israel // The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie Sue Hitchcock

Juniper Lemon's Happiness Index by Julie Israel

Synopsis: It’s been sixty-five days since the accident that killed Juniper’s sister, and ripped Juniper’s world apart.

Then she finds the love letter: written by Camilla on the day of the accident, addressed mysteriously to “You,” but never sent. Desperate to learn You’s identity and deliver the message, Juniper starts to investigate.

Until she loses something. A card from her Happiness Index: a ritual started by sunny Camie for logging positives each day. It’s what’s been holding Juniper together since her death – but a lost card only widens the hole she left behind. And this particular card contains Juniper’s own dark secret: a memory she can't let anyone else find out.

The search for You and her card take Juniper to even less expected places, and as she connects with those whose secrets she upturns in the effort, she may just find the means to make peace with her own.

Quick Thoughts: This was the group book for the Booktube-A-Thon, hosted over on YouTube, and I was really excited to read it, but this book was just okay for me. To be honest, it's pretty forgettable. As I am writing this review, a few months after the readathon took place, I am finding it hard to remember much about it. I do know that Juniper is suffering through her grief, and that leads to her overreaction to losing one of her cards, I think. She literally goes digging in trash trying to find this card, for several days. 

The friendships, I think, were realistic. Juniper develops a relationship with the misfit, as is common, and they each deal with family struggles. I liked the idea of Juniper creating cards like her sister did, but wasn't sure if she was handling her sisters' death very well and really wanted her to get some help.

The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock 

Synopsis: In Alaska, 1970, being a teenager here isn’t like being a teenager anywhere else. Ruth has a secret that she can’t hide forever. Dora wonders if she can ever truly escape where she comes from, even when good luck strikes. Alyce is trying to reconcile her desire to dance, with the life she’s always known on her family’s fishing boat. Hank and his brothers decide it’s safer to run away than to stay home—until one of them ends up in terrible danger.

Four very different lives are about to become entangled.

Quick Thoughts: I think the cover got my attention, and I really didn't know what this was about but I'd seen it around a bit and was intrigued. The story weaves four characters lives, each dealing with a problem of sorts. The book was an easy story to get into, but I wasn't particularly interested in any one of the characters, so I felt like I was listening to it to get it done. The story was okay, I liked how all the lives connected in the end, but didn't feel there was anything particularly special about this one.