The Way I Used To Be by Amber Smith

Book Review - The Way I Used To Be by Amber Smith

Hi friends!

A couple of weeks ago I read The Way I Used To Be by Amber Smith. I had read the first two chapters online and really wanted to know what ended up happening to Eden. I knew this would be different than the other books I have been reading recently.

I will start off my saying that I didn’t completely love this book. It was tough to read at times but the message is so important. After reading this I feel compelled to have others read it too. It may not end up being your favorite book but it might give you perspective and understanding of what other’s are feeling.

Here’s the description:

Eden was always good at being good. Starting high school didn’t change who she was. But the night her brother’s best friend rapes her, Eden’s world capsizes.

What was once simple, is now complex. What Eden once loved—who she once loved—she now hates. What she thought she knew to be true, is now lies. Nothing makes sense anymore, and she knows she’s supposed to tell someone what happened but she can’t. So she buries it instead. And she buries the way she used to be.

Told in four parts—freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year—this provocative debut reveals the deep cuts of trauma. But it also demonstrates one young woman’s strength as she navigates the disappointment and unbearable pains of adolescence, of first love and first heartbreak, of friendships broken and rebuilt, all while learning to embrace the power of survival she never knew she had hidden within her heart.

If you have been through high school you can probably relate to Eden in some ways. High school is about finding yourself and Eden lost her way for a reason that was completely out of her control.

The book follows Eden through her high school career and gets darker as time goes on. I was mad at her for not telling her mom right after it happened and it hurt watching their mother-daughter relationship falter as the years went on. I wanted her family to understand how she was feeling so badly but completely understand why she felt that she couldn’t say anything.

The Way I Used To Be was a powerful book with a strong female lead. I actually hurt for Eden and it opened up my eyes to how people feel in her situation. It may not be based on a true story but it shows the victim’s perspective after being raped.

Have you read any insightful books that changed your way of thinking?

Thanks for reading!

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Summer 2018 – What I Read

summer 2018 reading list

Hellloooo!

I keep talking about books and reading on the blog. I have always loved reading but just didn’t have the time in college to read for fun. After graduating I really wanted to get back into reading and this summer I was able to fall back in love with books. I’ve been sharing a few book reviews but I wanted to share the whole list of books that I read this summer.

Just a side note, please let me know if you’d like full reviews on any of these books. I did review To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and 99 Days if you want more information on those. I have a hard time finishing books that I don’t like so I can honestly say that I would recommend every one of these.

  1. Empty Mansions – Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr.
  2. Love & Gelato – Jenna Evans Welch
  3. 99 Days – Katie Cotugno
  4. 9 Days and 9 Nights – Katie Cotugno
  5. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before – Jenny Han
  6. P.S. I Still Love You – Jenny Han
  7. Always and Forever, Lara Jean – Jenny Han
  8. I See London, I See France – Sarah Mlynowski
  9. Tell Me Three Things – Julie Buxbaum
  10. Wanderlost – Jen Malone
  11. My Life Next Door – Huntley Fitzpatrick
  12. The Boy Most Likely To – Huntley Fitzpatrick

I think this is pretty good considering my goal was to read 1 book per month! I started a few other books but didn’t like them so I didn’t finish reading them.

What were your favorite books that you read this summer?

Thanks for reading!

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99 Days by Katie Cotugno

99 Days Katie Cotugno Book Review Summer Reading List

Happy September, friends!

This summer has been full of reading for me! I just can’t seem to get enough of the fun “beach reads” even though I haven’t actually gone to the beach to read them. 😉 I am a fast reader but I have been amazed at how quickly I have been getting through books lately.

99 Days by Katie Cotugno was a quick and easy read that I couldn’t get enough of! I found myself relating so well to Molly even though (thankfully) my life has been much less dramatic than hers.

Molly Barlow just graduated from her high school boarding school in Arizona. Before she can head off to college in Boston she must spend 99 days back at home. The home she ran away from when her mom wrote a book detailing her love life.

I don’t want to give too much away but I spent pretty much the whole book hating Molly’s mom for her decision to publish the book. Of course, Molly should have made better decisions in the first place but moms are supposed to help and guide you. Not write every single detail of your most embarrassing moments for the whole world to read. Plus, high schoolers don’t make the best decisions. Mistakes help people learn and Molly should have been able to leave her mistake behind.

Anyway, I will get off my high horse and continue on with the book. Here’s the details according to Katie:

Molly Barlow is facing one long, hot summer—99 days—with the boy whose heart she broke and the boy she broke it for . . . his brother.

Day 1: Julia Donnelly eggs my house my first night back in Star Lake, and that’s how I know everyone still remembers everything. She has every right to hate me, of course: I broke Patrick Donnelly’s heart the night everything happened with his brother, Gabe. Now I’m serving out my summer like a jail sentence: Just ninety-nine days till I can leave for college and be done.

Day 4: A nasty note on my windshield makes it clear Julia isn’t finished. I’m expecting a fight when someone taps me on the shoulder, but it’s just Gabe, home from college and actually happy to see me. “For what it’s worth, Molly Barlow,” he says, “I’m really glad you’re back.”

Day 12: Gabe wouldn’t quit till he got me to come to this party, and I’m surprised to find I’m actually having fun. I think he’s about to kiss me—and that’s when I see Patrick. My Patrick, who’s supposed to be clear across the country. My Patrick, who’s never going to forgive me.

Gabe is so sweet to Molly throughout the book and for a second he is the only one who will talk to her. I really liked his character. I thought he was funny, charming, and so down to earth. I never really understood what Molly saw in Patrick.

In my opinion, cheating is very wrong. Judging people when you don’t know the whole story is also wrong. And as Ross Geller from Friends said, “We were on a break!”

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Break ups can be messy and confusing. Maybe they weren’t really broken up? Who knows? Point is, people shouldn’t have been so judgmental. Molly should not have been shunned and driven out of her hometown.

This book was addictive. I immediately ordered the sequel, 9 Days and 9 Nightsfrom Amazon and impatiently waited for it to be delivered. I even scoured the internet looking for free chapters while I waited. And let me tell you, 9 Days and Nights did not disappoint!

Have you read any amazing books lately?

Thanks for reading!

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To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Helllloooooooooo!

I finally took it upon myself to order the To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before series by Jenny Han on Amazon before our trip to New York. I’ve been hearing rave reviews for the past couple of years from other bloggers but I had never taken the time to order the books. I’ve been really into reading lately, especially books that I can read in a single day.

With the Netflix movie coming out on Friday so I knew that I needed to read the books before I watched the movie. I don’t even watch TV that much so I’m not sure why I was so worried. I just like to be prepared I guess. Anyway, I took a chance and ordered all three books at once. I figured that if I didn’t like the first one I could return the rest. I usually never order a whole series before reading the first book to see if I like it.

The books arrived just in time for our trip to NY to visit my sister. I read the first book on the two airplane journeys. I couldn’t put it down! Jenny’s writing is amazing and Lara Jean ended up feeling like a friend in the end! Plus, I could not get enough of Peter 😉

Here’s what the back of the book says:

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them…all at once?

Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

The description sounds like your typical YA novel. However, I am here to tell you that this isn’t just a normal book. Jenny Han is SO detailed with her writing and really captures the struggles of a high school girl trying to fit in and make something out of herself. My high school experience wasn’t quite so dramatic but I can relate to how Lara Jean is feeling for much of the book. Confusion, heartbreak, loneliness, and the surprise of falling in love.

Lara Jean is so lovingly quirky and I honestly love her character! She’s sassy while introverted and so very funny. Her mom died when she was young leaving her sisters, Margot and Kitty, and her dad behind. Margot took on most of the responsibilities but when she goes off to Scotland in the beginning of the book Lara Jean is left to take care of the rest of her family. Family is very important to Lara Jean and she makes that known very early on.

Can we also talk about how mortifying it would be to have all of your crushes find out that you liked them at once? I can’t even imagine how Lara Jean was feeling when Peter confronted her about the first letter. Everything happens for a reason though… the letters pushed Lara Jean and Peter back together in the most awkward way. It’s sweet, cringe worthy, and hilarious all at the same time.

So here’s my advice to you, dear reader. Go grab yourself a copy of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and read it. You will thanks me later 🙂

Seriously though, I loved this book and the two sequels, P.S. I Still Love You and Always and Forever, Lara Jean. I read all three books in a single weekend! They were just that good!

I can’t wait until the Netflix movie comes out on Friday! If I had a group of girl friends I would totally have a viewing party complete with Pocky Sticks and homemade chocolate chip cookies. I will still be watching on Friday, viewing party or not!

Let me know what your favorite summer reads have been! I’ve been averaging about 8 books a month so I need some suggestions!

Thanks so much for reading!

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The Royal Wedding With The Royal We

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Hey there!

I am back with another book review for all of my bookworm friends out there. You may or may not already know that reading is one of my all time favorite pastimes. If I find a book that I really like I will not put it down until it’s finished.

My favorite book series of all time is Harry Potter. I thought I would never find another book that I could read multiple times without getting bored until I found The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan. These two hilarious ladies run the website Go Fug Yourself. Heather and Jessica are actually in London right now to celebrate the Royal Wedding!

Brett bought me this book for Christmas a couple of years ago and I have read it at least 6 times since then. This is a big book but I still got through it in a little over one day because I could not put it down. After I finished it the first time I immediately read it again because it was just that good. I also took it on our honeymoon in London and loved visiting many of the places in the book. We even went to Windsor Castle and walked through the chapel where Meghan and Harry are getting married. So cool!

With the Royal Wedding coming up on Saturday (or today if you’re in the UK!) it is the perfect time to dig into this book that is based very loosely on Prince William and Kate Middleton’s relationship. I know that I will be re-reading The Royal We in celebration! I may or may not be drinking a cup of tea in my Royal Wedding cup as well (Homegoods for the win!)

The Royal Wedding, Royal We, Meghan Markle, Prince Harry


The Royal We
by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

American Bex Porter was never one for fairy tales. Her twin sister Lacey was always the romantic, the one who daydreamed of being a princess. But it’s adventure-seeking Bex who goes to Oxford and meets dreamy Nick across the hall – and Bex who finds herself accidentally in love with the heir to the British throne.

Nick is wonderful, but he comes with unimaginable baggage: a complicated family, hysterical tabloids tracking his every move, and a public that expected its future king to marry a Brit. On the eve of the most talked-about wedding of the century, Bex looks back on how much she’s had to give up for true love… and exactly whose heart she may yet have to break

 

Bex Porter is an American studying abroad in England who meets and eventually falls in love with the boy across the hall, Nick. This book follows the story of Bex and Nick from the moment they met to their wedding day. If they make it to the wedding that is. 😉

The words flow easily and make this story feel so real. I am still hoping for a sequel! You can tell that Heather and Jessica put a ton of research into this book.

This book is not exactly a true story like I mentioned before. But it does shed a lot of light on customs of the Royal Family and life in England. I studied abroad in London and could relate to many of Bex’s feelings from the first few chapters. Missing home, missing my sister, not quite understanding all of the British customs, etc.

Ever since I read this book I feel like I have a different perspective when it comes to Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle. They are always in the spotlight and I can’t even imagine how hard it is to constantly be criticized and talked about. I have a lot of respect for these two women.

It also makes me think about the Royal Wedding. I can’t imagine how much pressure is on Meghan as she prepares for her wedding day. I will be sending lots of positive thoughts her way and hope that she can enjoy her day with Prince Harry!

I honestly love this book so much and would go as far to call it my favorite book! I keep looking for other like it but none even come close.

What are your favorite books? Will you be celebrating the Royal Wedding?

Thanks so much for reading!

 
Lifestyle Blog, Life of Hayley

Book Review – I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives

I Will Always Write Back Book Review by Caitlin Alfirenka & Martin Ganda

 

Hey friends,

I am back with my first book review of 2018! One of my New Years resolutions is to read more so I figured I’d start out the year with a review of my favorite book of 2017, I will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives. I can honestly say that this book changed my way of thinking and made me reflect on the changes that I can make in order to give back to my community and make an impact.

This book was a recommendation on one of Jansen’s (Everyday Reading) blog posts. I was initially drawn to the book because one of my co-workers is from Zimbabwe and I have always enjoyed hearing his stories about growing up. He talked about the reason he went into Finance was because of the Financial crisis that occurred while he was growing up in Zimbabwe. He came to America to learn all he could with the goal of going home one day and using his experiences in finance to make a positive impact. This book goes into detail about the same Financial crisis that my co-worker experienced.

 

I will Always Write Back by Caitlin Alfirenka & Martin Ganda

 

I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives by Martin Ganda and Caitlin Alifirenka with Liz Welch

 

The New York Times bestselling true story of an all-American girl and a boy from Zimbabwe and the letter that changed both of their lives forever.

It started as an assignment. Everyone in Caitlin’s class wrote to an unknown student somewhere in a distant place.

Martin was lucky to even receive a pen-pal letter. There were only ten letters, and fifty kids in his class. But he was the top student, so he got the first one.

That letter was the beginning of a correspondence that spanned six years and changed two lives.

In this compelling dual memoir, Caitlin and Martin recount how they became best friends –and better people–through their long-distance exchange. Their story will inspire you to look beyond your own life and wonder about the world at large and your place in it.

 

Martin was from a small village in Zimbabwe. He greatly valued his education but his family struggled to pay for his schooling. Caitlin was your normal 12 year old from Pennsylvania. Her troubles included boys, clothes, and friends. They started writing letters to each other because of a school assignment.

It took a while for Caitlin to realize just how hard Martin’s life was becoming. His worries were vastly different than his. She would send gifts, $20 here and there, that would feed Martin’s family and send him to school. The books spans years and details the daily struggles, and what Martin had to overcome in order to get his education and take care of his family.

I read this whole book in under 24 hours. I could not put it down and I could not go to sleep until I knew that everything was okay. “Wow” is the only word that comes to mind when I think about the experience I had while reading. It was thought provoking, emotional, and I was honestly cheering Caitlin and Martin on as I read. I felt invested in the outcome of the book.

As an American, I know I am lucky. I am lucky to have grown up with a roof over my head, food in the cupboards, two parents with jobs, and a free public education. It is very easy to take all of these things for granted. We see the news and hear about the troubling times in other countries but we may never have to directly deal with any of these issues. This book puts everything into prospective.

I could say so much more but I will just leave you with this:

One letter changed Caitlin and Martin’s life. One book changed mine.

As always, thanks so much for reading!

 

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Book Review – 13 Little Blue Envelopes

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A couple of weeks ago I was browsing the internet for Study Aboard blogs. I have pinned the blog Crossing Off #73 many times but I had never stumbled upon her review of this book. After reading the review I immediately went to Amazon where I ordered this book and the three others pictured below (I also bought a Butter London nail polish that’s not pictured).

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“Inside little blue envelope 1 are $1,000 and directions to buy a plane ticket. Envelope 2 contains directions to a specific London flat. The note in envelope 3 tells Ginny: Find a starving artist. Because of envelope 4, Ginny and a playwright/thief/bloke-about-town called Keith go to Scotland together, with somewhat disastrous-though utterly romantic-results. Everything about Ginny will change this summer, and it’s all because of the 13 little blue envelopes.”

I fell in love with the World that the author, Maureen Johnson, created. In 13 Little Blue Envelopes, Ginny travels to London, Scotland, France, Greece, Denmark, and Amsterdam. The cities are described in such detail that I actually felt like I was there with Ginny. I got caught up by the story and couldn’t put the book down until the very end. Now I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of the sequel, The Last Little Blue Envelope.

Basically, this book tells the story of a seventeen year old girl, Ginny, who is following the wishes of her recently deceased aunt. She travels all over Europe following the same path that her aunt took after leaving New York. Ginny begins to understand her aunt better and starts to let go of the anger about not knowing her aunt was sick and dying.

Reading this made me even more excited for my European adventure. I can’t wait to explore Harrods’s, travel to nearby countries, visit museums and galleries, and just become familiar with new places. I feel so much about traveling to London alone after reading this book. Even though it’s not a true story, I still find strength in knowing that others have made the same journey that I’m about to go on.

I seriously recommend reading this book even if you aren’t planning on traveling anytime soon. I think that any young adult can relate to the lessons and issues in this book. It is all about finding yourself and figuring out exactly who you are and what you want. I read this whole book in less than four days because it was just so good!

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have read this book!