Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

This book left me feeling all warm and fuzzy on the inside. There’s something about young adult fiction that I just love and this book is a shining example of why.

Holding Up the Universe follows the story of Jack and Libby, two teens trying to figure out life in high school. Jack has a rare disorder that leaves him unable to recognize faces, while Libby is adjusting to being in a real school for the first time in years. Libby used to be called America’s Fattest Teen and had to be rescued from her house during a fire, since she was unable to move herself. Since then, she’s gone through years of therapy and has managed to get to a healthier weight, but still doesn’t fit into society’s ideal body type.

This book explores life with these two high school students and showcases the struggles that everyday teenagers face, such as bullying. I thought it was beautifully written and an engaging story. (Mini-spoiler alert) I also really appreciated how it didn’t end with Libby losing more weight and suddenly being attractive and happy, because weight has nothing to do with that. Definitely recommend a read.

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The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

I want to like this book, but it felt more like I had to get through it rather than I actually enjoyed reading it. I can’t actually explain the plot line that well because there were so many moving parts that I found myself getting lost while reading it. I suggest checking out the summary online or on the back cover. There’s an element of magical realism in the story, which I think is hard to pull off without losing your reader. Unfortunately, I felt lost at times. It wasn’t the worst book I’ve read, but I cannot give it a glowing recommendation.

The Regulars by Georgia Clark

By the time I got around to reading this book, I couldn’t remember why I had put it on my list or what the plot was going to be about. Let’s just say I was pleasantly surprised when it contained a supernatural element to the storyline.

The Regulars was a fun read about a group of women who receive the gift of “Pretty,” a magic potion of sorts that will basically turn them into  supermodels. At first, they try it just to see what it would be like, but after getting a taste of the “good life,” they find it hard to stop.

This book is pretty much what you’d expect from the description – fun to read, but not super deep. It was just what I wanted as a little escape from life and into ridiculousness. Good beach read for sure.

Faithful by Alice Hoffman

I walked away from reading this book feeling like I had been given the privilege of observing someone’s everyday life, which was very sweet. Faithful’s main character is a woman named Shelby, who is struggling to put her life back together after a tragic accident. As readers, we are taken through the details of the accident and aftermath, quietly watching as Shelby relearns how to connect with herself and with others. I found Faithful to be kind and loving in its descriptions of mental illness and recovery. I’d describe the pace of the novel as steady – there was not a lot of action, but the story was enjoyable and nice to read. I recommend this book if you’re looking for a slightly heavier read that still will manage to uplift your spirit.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

I was really excited to see this book by Gabrielle Zevin on the bookshelf of a store in Sydney. She wrote Elsewhere, which happens to be one of my favorite books about death and the afterlife (and it’s surprisingly light-hearted as well). I might be doing a reread of that soon, so keep an eye out for the review. Anyways, back to A.J. Fikry. The story revolves around none other than Mr. Fikry – a curmudgeonly bookstore owner who walks into his store one day to find an infant there with a note asking him to care for her. This book ties in a couple of my current favorite things: bookstores and coming of age stories. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

The Unseen World by Liz Moore

While it started a little slow, The Unseen World grew on me and I ended up really liking the book at the end. It follows the life of Ada, a woman whose brilliant scientist father becomes ill and slowly becomes incapable of caring for her. There are time jumps from Ada’s youth to the present day. As the story unfolds, the reader and Ada discover that her father is not who he said he was. As I said, it started a little slow, but once the story got going, I couldn’t put it down. There’s definitely some mysteries that I was able to solve early on, but I was also quite surprised about a couple of turns the story took. It gets my seal of approval.

The Assistants by Camille Perri

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Assistants. It was humorous, well-written, and very human. A short synopsis – a group of women who have spent years as assistants to very rich men end up stealing from their companies in order to pay off their student loans. I thought this premise was genius and definitely felt like I could see this happening in real life. I started reading this book on the bus while on the way to the beach and finished it right before I left the beach that same day. It’s a quick read and definitely one I recommend.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Just read this book. I honestly cannot recommend A Man Called Ove enough. It may be one of the best books I’ve read in many years and is definitely high on my list of all-time favorite books. It was so fun to read this book and I felt so much when it was over: joy, grief, wonder, etc. You’ll fall in love with Ove, an older man who is just trying to go about his life while everyone tries to get in his business. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll have a good time. Check it out.

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

Disclaimer: this book is messed up, but I liked it. There are some strong, intense themes in the book that relate to sexual assault and familial abuse, so if those are triggers for you, I suggest staying away. If you’re in the mood for something dark, I would recommend it. Amy Engel is an inventive writer and definitely succeeds in making her characters seem real. Yes, the storyline is hard to read at times, but it also opened up some deep thinking for me related to cycles of abuse and psychological tendencies. I would definitely love to hear your thoughts if you check it out, so please let me know what you think.

Crazy Rich Asians / China Rich Girlfriend / Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan

My only regret in reading this series is that I read it too fast. I needed a book to get me back into the reading world, as I’ve been experiencing quite a book rut. That hopefully helps explain my absence over the past couple years. Now that I’m on a two-month sabbatical and have reignited my reading obsession, I figured I may as well share what I read with the world, in case anyone needs some book inspiration. I’ve decided though to not write synopses of the books, as those are easily found on the back covers, so I just want to give my overall thoughts.

Back to the Crazy Rich Asians series – it’s a must read in my book if you’re looking for something fun, well-written, and engaging. It’s entertaining, the characters are hilarious, and the storylines are dynamic. If you have a love/hate relationship with reality TV, you may want to give these books a try. I really cannot recommend them enough. Perfect beach read or just want to escape from your life a bit and pretend you’re extremely wealthy and have a private jet. Fair warning: reading this series will make you hungry for Asian food, especially delicious noodles, so you may want to prepare yourself ahead of time for that.

Shoutout to my friend Steven for recommending this series to me. As always, you were right and it was SO good.