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Review: The Secret History of Us by Jessi Kirby

the secret history of us -jessi kirbyGorgeously written and emotionally charged, The Secret History of Us explores the difficult journey of a teenage girl who must piece her life together after losing her memory in a near-fatal accident.

When Olivia awakes in a hospital bed following a car accident that almost took her life, she can’t remember the details about how she got there. She figures the fog is just a symptom of being in a week-long coma, but as time goes on, she realizes she’s lost more than just the last several days of her life—she’s lost her memory of the last four years. Gone is any recollection of starting or graduating high school; the prom; or her steady boyfriend Matt. Trying to figure out who she is feels impossible when everyone keeps telling her who she was.

As Liv tries to block out what her family and friends say about who she used to be, the one person she hasn’t heard enough from is Walker, the guy who saved her the night her car was knocked off that bridge into the bay below. Walker is the hardened boy who’s been keeping his distance—and the only person Olivia inexplicably feels herself with. With her feelings growing for Walker, tensions rising with Matt, and secrets she can’t help but feel are being kept from her, Olivia must find her place in a life she doesn’t remember living.


3.5 Drink Me Potions


**The Secret History of Us came out August 1, 2017**

Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

A heartfelt and fast-paced read, The Secret History of Us had me guessing along with Liv as she tried piecing her life back together without her memories. I’ve enjoyed many of Jessi Kirby’s previous books for their grit and ability to make readers think about the deeper questions in life, and likewise this one has been another interesting novel to ponder over.

What if you lost 4-5 years of your life’s memories? Do those experiences shape who we are today or is there something about you intrinsically that defines you?

The emotional journey Liv takes captured me. How loved ones who have your best interests at heart may still want to define you in a way that they think is best. How some relationships may come out of a single moment that might not be reformed in the same way again. These were things plaguing our protagonist and I’m glad that it was the focus of the book.

Relationships were a huge deal too. I liked that her family wasn’t your typical dysfunctional group, but your average American family with 2.5 kids. The family dynamic was still real as they too dealt with the loss of those years almost as personally as Liv did. The exploration of changing friendships such as with middle school besties was also interesting and posed the real question about how one can lose people without really intending for that to happen.

But the highlight of this story was on finding ones identity. Whether that be with what Liv loved to do or the guy she was dating, what made her her? The romantic aspect was present as she couldn’t remember her boyfriend, and there seemed to be a new love interesting forming, but this added to everything else the book was exploring. Can we find our way back to someone we fell for without the relationship history there?

It’s so hard to explain still, but the feelings and emotions reading Liv’s story was truly thought provoking. The only thing that could be improved was the length. Everything happened quite fast and organically, but I kind of wish that the ending was developed more. The romance with Walker was almost non-existent. Honestly, I would’ve been fine if she had decided she needed some quality time alone and single in order to better find herself again.

Whatever it may have lacked near the end, the journey throughout the rest of the book was quick and deep. Jessi Kirby is a master of producing stories that tug at my heartstrings with her almost-lyrical prose and expertly weaved plot that makes the romantic in me sigh.

Overall Recommendation:
The Secret History of Us was a compelling story that I flew through, a story about a girl finding out who she was again. Liv had lost 4 years of her life’s memories, crucial years in high school where so many things had shaped her into the young woman she was. Forgetting both people whom she loved and how she lost a best friend, the emotional journey she takes in figuring out what made her her was poignant and heartfelt. Though the story was a little short and the ending could’ve been developed more, Jessi Kirby makes another thought provoking book, and I’m still a huge fan of hers.


Reading this book made me really think. And the below is a question I’d like to pose to you too.

What events in your life do you think defines who you are? What if you one day lost them? Would you still be you?

Review: Everything All At Once by Katrina Leno

everything all at once -katrina lenoFrom the author of The Half Life of Molly Pierce and The Lost & Found comes a magical new YA novel about 24 dares, 3 weeks, and taking a leap into the unknown.

Lottie Reeves has always struggled with anxiety, and when her beloved Aunt Helen dies, Lottie begins to fear that her own unexpected death might be waiting around every corner.

Aunt Helen wasn’t a typical aunt. She was the author of the best–selling Alvin Hatter series, about siblings who discover the elixir of immortality. Her writing inspired a generation of readers.

In her will, she leaves one last writing project—just for Lottie. It’s a series of letters, each containing mysterious instructions designed to push Lottie out of her comfort zone. Soon, Lottie’s trying some writing of her own, leaping off cliffs, and even falling for a boy she’s only just met. Then the letters reveal an extraordinary secret about the inspiration for the Alvin Hatter series. Lottie finds herself faced with an impossible choice, one that will force her to confront her greatest fear once and for all.

This gorgeous novel is perfect for fans of Jennifer Niven, with the scavenger hunt feel of Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes, and a dash of magic that evokes Tuck Everlasting.


3 Drink Me Potions


Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

**Everything All At Once came out July 25, 2017**

[Books] help with everything. Books can make you live a thousand lifetimes, a thousand different lives. Books make you immortal.

Everything All At Once was a poignant novel that took a deep look at life, or rather, how short one’s life can be. Lottie’s aunt whom she was really close to had passed away, leaving her with 24 letters instructing her on different tasks to carry out after she was gone. This was a unique concept that really drew me in. The voice of Aunt Helen was so real, it didn’t matter that she had technically never breathed a single breath during the time span of this novel. Her fears and hopes for Lottie were made clear and her love for those she left behind was written everywhere, both explicitly and implicitly.

Besides that wonderful fact, Aunt Helen was a novel writer, a famous one akin to J.K. Rowling in this world. The little snippets and excerpts from her children novels at the end of each chapter was so cute and the story of Alvin and Margo Hatter drew e in as much as the main story did. In fact, sometimes I looked forward to those little paragraphs more than the book itself.

Now, I absolutely adored Katrina Leno’s writing and prose. It was heartfelt but simple. The characters came to life. From Lottie’s funny but smart brother who had the most realistic sibling relationship I’ve read in a long while, to the family dynamic with the parents, I came to know this family. Not only that, but I bled for Lottie as she struggled with her anxieties, what made her different from the rest of her immediate family aside from her aunt, and the aftermath of the loss of a loved one.

Panic attacks and anxiety wasn’t made the forefront of this story, but its presence was still just as crucial as Lottie learned to take a risk occasionally, to be brave, and to seek help when needed. This was powerful. Especially with the way it ended.

And what an ending. I did not really see that strange aspect coming. The big secret Aunt Helen had kept from everyone. And likewise, how this interesting boy who came into Lottie’s life would also be more meaningful than just a love interest to check off for the protagonist. That brought up my excitement for sure.

That being said, I felt the book dragged a lot. I loved the idea of the 24 letters, and there’s one chapter for each task that Lottie embarked on for that specific letter. Occasionally, I just wished it went by faster so we could get to the exciting parts. At the end of the day, this book was 100% heartfelt but 20% suspenseful in carrying you through all of Lottie’s pain. It just needed something more in the beginning and middle to really get readers excited.

To close, I did enjoy this book no matter the crazy slow pace. It made me think a lot. About life and death. Big themes like immortality and what we leave behind when it’s our time. I think they’re important to discuss and this book did it beautifully.

The possibilities [of death] were endless, and it didn’t matter if you played it safe or not. Here one minute, gone the next.

Overall Recommendation:

Everything All At Once is one of those books that just seems to have a little bit of everything that may attract different audiences. It was heartfelt and real about loss, while also being a little bit explorative and fun with the letters Aunt Helen had left behind for our protagonist, Lottie, to carry out. With a cast of down-to-earth and genuinely real characters, this book would’ve had it all if not for the EXTREMELY slow pace it was set at. While I encourage you read this book for its overall big themes such as death and life, it may not be the easiest book to get through. But the little book within a book element may just be the thing to keep you going.

Note: all quotes are subject to change when published

Review: I See London, I See France by Sarah Mlynowski

Series: I See London, I See France #1

i see london, i see france -sarah mlynowski I see London, I see France
I see Sydney’s underpants.

Nineteen-year-old Sydney has the perfect summer mapped out. She’s spending the next four and half weeks traveling through Europe with her childhood best friend, Leela. Their plans include Eiffel-Tower selfies, eating cocco gelato, and making out with très hot strangers. Her plans do not include Leela’s cheating ex-boyfriend showing up on the flight to London, falling for the cheating ex-boyfriend’s très hot friend, monitoring her mother’s spiraling mental health via texts, or feeling like the rope in a friendship tug-of-war.

In this hilarious and unforgettable adventure, New York Times bestselling author Sarah Mlynowski tells the story of a girl learning to navigate secret romances, thorny relationships, and the London Tube. As Sydney zigzags through Amsterdam, Switzerland, Italy, and France, she must learn when to hold on, when to keep moving, and when to jump into the Riviera… wearing only her polka dot underpants.


2.5 Drink Me Potions


Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review.

**I See London, I See France came out July 11, 2017**

Although it may seem like any other fun YA contemporary novel with plenty of European travels, this book had its own moments too. Reminiscent of Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss and Gayle Forman’s Just One Day, this funny (yet still somewhat serious) novel would definitely entertain certain fans – especially since the book actually mentions the aforementioned novels within it as stories the protagonist herself read.

I have both good and not as good things to say about this novel. Being the half glass full kinda person I am, let’s start with the more negative stuff, shall we?

I will be honest. I didn’t like Sydney all that much. I guess it’s more a personal thing but I didn’t connect well with her (minus the fact that she had some anxieties – I will return to this later). She probably would be someone’s nice breath-of-fresh-air kinda character as she was very open about relationships and sex life. But there were other little things and attitudes she had that didn’t really make me feel for her.

Then there was her best friend. She’s flaky. Period. She goes from her ex back to Sydney and then back to her ex. She can’t make up her mind. She’s not dependable overall. And she’s possessive of Sydney in a way that she’ll throw a hissy fit if someone else has Sydney’s attention. Talk about a bestie relationship that needs some fixing.

Oh and then there’s the male love interest. Jackson. I didn’t feel a thing for him. He’s a player (ok, been there, done that), but he doesn’t really evolve past this stereotypical personality. He drinks, he pushes his best friend to do things that’re somewhat extreme, and he doesn’t do relationships at all. Sigh, I’m bored already. I feel like I know you and I don’t like you, Jackson.

So basically all the main characters were kinda eh, personality wise. Let’s leave it at that.

BUT, here comes the positive stuff. Mlynoski didn’t keep this story to just the little fluffy contents of some YA contemporaries. Sydney’s mother was agoraphobic. But more specifically, she was afraid to leave home because of panic attacks.

That floored me. Is this what it would like if someone let their anxieties rule over their lives? Being a person prone to anxiety and panic attacks too, I thought that was a really interesting note to include in such a novel. The author handled it well, I think, additionally challenging Sydney to overcome her feelings of responsibility to her family – to the point of it being something that held her back – as well as her own panic attacks that formed during the trip.

I may not love Sydney but that’s one lesson we can all learn from her.

I breathe. I breathe again. Faster. It’s coming. The end. 

No. No, no, no. 

I am lost. I am overwhelmed. But I am not being chased by a lion…

In and out. In and out. Slowly. Slower still. You are going to be fine, I tell myself. Everything is going to be okay…

I am not going to let the panic spiral. I am not going to let the fear win. 

I am strong and I am brave. 

I open my eyes.

Beyond this, I love the different cities they travelled to. It was unfortunately short for some places, but the locations that were explored for a longer time (e.g. London!!) made it worthwhile. I haven’t been back in London in a long while, but the descriptions made me feel like I was exploring that city again and experiencing it through a different set of eyes.

The author’s prose was easy enough to follow along. Very casual and Sydney’s voice wasn’t particularly boring. Would I recommend this? I’m not sure it’s the kind of book for everyone. I’ll say that it has its merits but read at your own discretion.

NOTE: this book is NOT meant for younger teens. The excessiveness of their pot smoking and sex shows along their travels made even me feel quite funny at my age. It’s not quite graphic, per se, but it doesn’t shy away from anything either. Just some forewarning.

Overall Recommendation:

I See London, I See France did well as a travel type of book. I thoroughly enjoyed getting a taste of Europe. However, it’s far too explicit in more mature themes and it was very hard to connect with pretty much all the characters, love interest and Sydney included. The one upside is how the author addressed mental health and anxiety here, and for that, I gave it a higher rating. Otherwise, this may not be worth your time, even on a relaxing summer day.

Note: all quotes are subject to change when published.