Picture
   I got this book after seeing that a few people absolutely loved it, in the hope that it would help me expand my comfort zone a little. It certainly did that, and it was also quite an enjoyable book. I expected it to be about a family before and after the loss of a daughter, with a bit of mystery surrounding the whole thing. Instead, what I got was a portrait of a complicated family with a lot of secrets.
   This book was very character-driven, with very little action going on, and that’s what I really like in a book, so I loved all the backstory. I didn’t really like any of the characters themselves, because they were all very selfish and unwilling to confront their problems, but I did like the way they were introduced and portrayed throughout the book.
   I couldn’t relate to the events in the story because my family is incredibly boring compared to the Lees, but I could understand the way that they all had their own secrets, things they didn’t want to share. They acted as though they were just a normal, happy family, but they never talked about important things, or about anything, for that matter.
   The one thing that bothered me was the relationship between Lydia and Nath. They act like they’re really close, but they both have a lot going on that they don’t ever discuss. This plays into the idea that everyone in the family is hiding something, but I guess I just couldn’t understand it because I confide in my siblings; I can’t imagine not having anyone in your family you can talk to, especially when you have all been discriminated against, as this family had.
   Some people have said they didn’t enjoy this book because it romanticized suicide, and in a way, it did. However, it also captured the reality of life after losing a loved one to suicide. The style of the story, in which so much of the family’s past was told in snippets throughout the book helps the reader understand what may have driven Lydia to do what she did, and reveal just how truly complicated families can be.
   In the end, this book was pretty good. It was slow, but it kept me engaged the whole time, and I read it in only a couple of days. It’s not the best book I’ve read this year, but it was an interesting look at a complicated family.

 
 
   I leave for college in two and a half weeks. Terrifying, I know. But as the date draws near, I’ve been thinking more and more about packing. I know I should probably be packing, rather than just thinking about doing it, but I have very little motivation to do so, and I find it rather overwhelming.
   So, in my quest to determine exactly what I’m going to pack before I pack it, I’m deciding what books I am going to bring with me when I move into my dorm. This is no easy undertaking, seeing as how dorms are incredibly tiny, and I have quite a lot of books that I love.
   This is when I have to make difficult decisions. So far, I’ve come up with four categories, into which I will sort the books I’m going to bring. If a book doesn’t fit into any category, it stays home. Obviously, I have to have the desire to bring a book at all before I determine whether it fits the criteria for each category, but that’s not a super difficult process; some books are much more important to me than others.
   The four categories I’ve come up with are: comfort, class, confidence, and coming up. Yes, I did give them all names beginning with the same letter because I’m a loser. Anyway, the ‘comfort’ category includes books that I’ve read before (possibly multiple times) that always make me feel good. This could also be described as my favorites category. I created the ‘class’ category as a way to justify bringing some of the books that I won’t necessarily want to read in the next year, but that make me seem classier. They can also function as conversation starters, or they may simply be books of literary merit that I appreciate as such. I realize now that this is a confusing category name, as it could be confused with books I need for my classes, but those are separate. I won't even purchase them until after class s
   The next category, ‘confidence,’ will serve to motivate me and make me feel better about myself. These books may not be ones that I need to read all the way through again, but I might pick them up from time to time and flip through to find passages that make me feel confident. The final category is ‘coming up,’ which consists of books that I want to read. That one’s pretty self-explanatory.
   My categories are not a perfect plan, and I might not stick to them at all when I’m actually packing, but they’re working for me right now. That’s really all I have to say about that for now, so I’ll include my current lists for the four categories. These will probably change (and grow) a lot before I leave, but here are the work-in-progress versions:

Comfort:
Harry Potter (at least the first one) by J.K. Rowling
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Class:

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Confidence:
Bossypants by Tina Fey
Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Coming Up:
The first few books on the top of my TBR pile when I leave
 
 
Picture
   I bought this book about a year ago after seeing it all over bookstagram, but as I have a habit of doing, I stuck it on my TBR pile and didn’t pick it up for eight months. I finally got around to reading it in March, and I was a little underwhelmed.
   It didn’t help that I’d heard such great things going into reading it, so I probably had unreasonably high expectations. Either way, I expected this to be a really great book. It was good, don’t get me wrong; but it wasn’t as good as I had hoped.
   The story was good, and the situations were relatable; even though I’ve never written letters to past crushes and had them sent out, I can relate to the way she felt about her family and the guy she liked, and to her general mentality about life, as she was going through the crazy world of teenager-dom. It was a pretty typical high school story, in my opinion, but I thought a few noticeable things were lacking.
   One major issue I had was that the main character, Lara Jean, had a lack of certainty about anything. Understandably, she was confused about things because her sister was leaving their family and she had to step into a new role as the big sister. Plus, she had a lot of internal struggle over who she liked and how she wanted to deal with her feelings, because she was a teenager. However, I felt that she was a little too wishy-washy on everything, and none of the situations seemed to change her thoughts or opinions. I’d expected her to have some things figured out by the end of the book, after she went through everything, but she hadn’t solved any of her problems. She seemed to just float along, experiencing things but never being affected by them.
   Another thing I had a problem with was that she was rather childish and annoying. I understand that she was having a stressful time, but she whined about everything and just didn’t sound like a sixteen-year-old. As a reader, I find it very frustrating when a narrator has a tone that annoys me because it puts a damper on the whole book. That was exactly what happened with Lara Jean; I didn’t like her as a narrator and I didn’t like her as a character.
   The rest of the characters in the book were okay, and I don’t think the plot was all that great, as I don’t really even remember much of it, but the main character was what really bothered me with this book.
   As I read, I kept expecting it to suddenly take a turn and get better, but in my opinion, it didn’t. All things considered, I didn’t like this book that much. It might be enjoyable if you can get past the whiny main character, but I simply could not. However, the cover is gorgeous, and let’s be real, that was 80% of the reason I bought it.

 
 
   Happy Tuesday! And yes, this post is a day late, as usual. But I have a really good reason this time! Yesterday was my sister’s birthday, and I spent most of the day with her, so I didn’t have time to write a post. However, we went out to a super fun restaurant for dinner, and there I found the inspiration for this post.
   If you’ve been to Colorado, or know someone who lives here, you may have been to or heard of a little restaurant called Casa Bonita (when I say “little,” I mean “gigantic,” and when I say “restaurant,” I mean “experience”).
   It’s not really possible to explain quite what Casa Bonita is, but I will describe the experience to the best of my ability. It’s located in a not-fantastic neighborhood, but it’s pretty breathtaking from the start, being a huge pink castle with a giant fountain in the front.
   When you enter the building, you are immediately enveloped by the sound of music and a humid aroma that can only be described as that of a fairly clean public restroom, possibly at a pool. You jump right into a line that snakes around what seems an entire building in itself, surrounded on all sides by children and families that look excited and vaguely frightened.
   The line moves at a decent pace, but due to the sheer amount of people, you’re stuck there for quite some time. Luckily, they’ve prepared for such situations, as there are televisions playing advertisements for the very establishment you’re already in, as well as signs that contain puns such as, “Eatso much, peso little.” (I spent a really long time laughing about this particular pun. Like, a really long time.)
   You finally get to the front of the line, order your (ridiculously overpriced) meal, and proceed to the next line, a cafeteria-style setup where your food comes out of some mysterious doors you can only assume are the kitchen. Then, you proceed to your table, which you can only hope has a view of the stage and waterfall. That’s right. Every fifteen minutes or so, a show takes place on the stage. It could be a swordfight, a gorilla and its crazy antics, or a number of other things, but it always ends with someone being pushed over the edge and into the water far below. If you’re seated near the waterfall, you can enjoy these shows while you eat. However, you may also be seated in a mineshaft, a fine dining-type room, or a cave (where you must carry your tray of food down the stairs).
   At your table is a red flag, which you raise if you need your waiter. You choke down the meal because you paid for it, and then you ask for your sopapillas. Contrary to what you might expect after the meal, the sopapillas are amazing, happy little dough clouds dipped in honey that are simply divine.
   When you’ve finished eating, you are free to explore. I know: explore a restaurant? Whaaaaat? That’s right. But this is not a place you want to leave without wandering all over the place. There is a multi-level arcade (housing many broken games), electronic fortune teller, mariachi band, caricaturist, puppet shows, cotton candy, snow cones, commemorative photos (for a hefty price), and strange haunted-house type cave that is actually a little terrifying, though you can’t put your finger on why.
   Throughout the restaurant, there are lots of random hallways and staircases, and areas that make absolutely no sense, such as a large fish tank or a bunch of car kiddie rides. And when you finally feel satisfied that you’ve seen everything you wanted to see, you get to check out the gift shop. By this point, you’ve realized this isn’t a restaurant at all; it’s just a theme park that requires patrons to purchase a meal upon entrance.
   You leave the restaurant confused, covered in germs, sick to your stomach, and still slightly in disbelief about everything you’ve just witnessed. But you laughed the entire time, and believe it or not, you enjoyed yourself. You’ll probably never come back, but you don’t need to. You will never forget the ridiculousness that is Casa Bonita, no matter how hard you try.
 
   Doesn’t that sound fun? If you’ve never been to Casa Bonita, you’re doing something wrong. Add it to your bucket list, and make sure this one gets crossed off, because it is really worth the experience. And trust me, you don’t want to be the loser that says they’ve never been.
 
 
Picture
   Before reading this book, I wasn’t sure I wanted to because it seemed a part of a genre I don’t read that much of. I decided to read it anyway, though, because it had gotten really good reviews and was getting a lot of attention in general on the Internet.
   Fortunately, I ended up liking it a lot more than I thought I would. The story was told as a series of flashbacks interspersed with scenes from the present. However, unlike most books that include a lot of flashbacks, these ones didn’t feel at all forced; they fit with the story and helped with the flow of the plot.
   Somehow, I didn’t catch on to the fact that this book was about superheroes before I started reading it, but I really loved that aspect of the story because it wasn’t like most other superhero stories. I have a very short attention span when it comes to comic book-like things, but this book kept me engaged the whole time, and I loved the story as a whole. Some parts were a bit slow, but it always picked back up quickly. Schwab’s writing style was easy to comprehend, but it still kept me engaged, which made for a very enjoyable reading experience.
   The characters in this book were great because they were all just complicated enough to keep things interesting, and there was always something new to discover about them, which is great for a book whose plot relies so much on the mysteries of the world.
   My favorite thing about the characters, and the book as a whole, was that none of the characters were all that likable. This book broke the traditional mold by making all the people with superpowers a little villainous, rather than having clear heroes and villains. Even more than that, though, I didn’t like any of the characters because they were all selfish, a little evil and, well, vicious. While this is usually annoying in a book, especially if you dislike the main character, it was nice in this book because it revealed the reality of so many situations: no one is ‘right’ or ‘wrong,’ but everyone has their own point of view and their own beliefs about what ‘right’ is.
   All in all, I didn’t know quite what this book was going to be, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. The story was good, and unlike anything I’d read before. And somehow, I liked reading about the characters, even though I didn’t like any of them as people. I would recommend this book if you’re interested in superheroes in general, because it presents a very unique approach to the usual story.

P.S. Sorry that this post is late! I had serious writer's block yesterday!

 
 
   Happy Monday, everyone! That’s right, this post is coming on the day that it’s supposed to, which is unusual for me because I’m a huge slacker, but here it is!
   I had a really hard time deciding what to write about today, but after a lot of thought (and a couple of half-written posts), I have decided to talk about why this blog is important to me.
   Obviously, it’s important to me because it allows me to voice my opinions for anyone that cares to read them and talk about the things that are important to me, but it’s also important to my well-being.
   Any self-care article or book will tell you that you need some creativity in your life if you want to be a happy, healthy, fulfilled, well-adjusted, individual. I totally agree with this advice because creativity helps you see the world in a way that only you can, and it helps you figure things out in your own way. But if you’re like me, and are not very creative in general, it can be hard to find activities that fit the criteria and help you be a better person.
   That’s where you have to get creative! (See what I did there?) In this day and age, there are so many things you can do that it’s almost impossible not to find something you enjoy, even if you’re not good at it. And it doesn’t matter if you’re good at it or not, because all that matters is that it helps you in some way!
   I find creativity in writing (obviously), dancing, making crafty-type things, taking photos for Instagram (you can get real creative for those), and even sometimes cleaning and organizing my stuff. These aren’t really the most traditionally creative activities, but they all make me think about things differently than I normally would, and they all allow me to step outside of my comfort zone mentally.
   If you find yourself in a creative rut, as we all do, I recommend just trying something different! Often, if I’m really having trouble coming up with something, I scroll through Pinterest and come up with something I’ve never tried before. Creativity is all about getting outside your own head and doing things you’re not 100% sure about, things that make you feel something your everyday life doesn’t allow you to feel.
   So, that’s why this blog is important to my mental health. Because this blog post might have been all over the place and random and maybe a little confusing, but it made me think about things I don’t always get to think about, and I needed that to fuel everything mundane that I have to do! Basically, be creative, even if your creativity is silly or weird or doesn’t make sense.
Picture
This is a project I made a few weeks ago for a friend. I thought it would be a failure, but I ended up loving it, and it made me feel creative!
 
 
Picture
   I’m not gonna lie. This book was pretty much a cover buy. It was just so pretty that I thought it must be amazing, but I did read a bunch of reviews before adding it to my TBR, and they all said it was good, so I figured it would be. And oh my goodness, I underestimated it.
   From the synopsis, I expected it to be similar to Paper Towns by John Green, with a teenager going on a road trip to find their best friend. This book is so much more than that, and the road trip wasn’t a big part of it, which I was thankful for, because I loved the rest of the book (not that I didn’t love the road trip too).
   If you’re unfamiliar with the book, it’s about a shy girl named Emily whose best friend, Sloane, disappears at the beginning of the summer, leaving her feeling empty and lost. Sloane leaves her only a list of thirteen random things to do, such as “kiss a stranger,” “dance until dawn,” and “hug a jamie,” which obviously leaves Emily with a lot of questions. Believing it will help her find her best friend, Emily decides to take on the list, and learns a lot along the way.
   This book was a really great summer read because it was all about doing awesome things during the summer. I’m not a very outdoorsy person, but this book made me want to go outside right away. I’d definitely recommend reading it while eating ice cream, if you’re skilled enough to do so. However, there was a lot more I liked about it.
   It was easy and devour-able, but it definitely wasn’t a fluff read. It was full of quirky characters who helped with the plot and actually had some depth. The main character was not annoying, as I’d kind of expected her to be, for some reason. Her adventure brought her a lot of new, unexpected friends, and she tackled things with a bravery I can only wish to have one day. The friends that she made along the way were fun and charming, but they weren’t the best part of the book, in my opinion.
   I found it difficult to like Sloane at first because she seemed like a stereotypical cool-girl-best-friend character, but as the book went on it became harder to dislike her because she was so important to Emily, and she was truly a great best friend. She reminded me a little of my best friend, though my best friend is a little more tame, and it made me love her, because best friends are the most amazing thing in the world.
   The friendship between Emily and Sloane was so realistic and fun that it was impossible not to love them. Plus, Sloane continued to make Emily a better person, even after she was gone, which is what best friends are for, if you ask me. After reading this book, I wanted to call my best friend right away and go on an adventure. I would recommend reading this book if you want a really fun summer read that’ll make you appreciate your best friend (and give you a serious craving for ice cream).

Side note: I bought another book by Morgan Matson while I was in the middle of reading this one without reading anything about it, because it was that good.



 
 
   Independence Day was two days ago (which is part of why this post is late, and this is America, so I’ll do what I want!), and in honor of the celebration of our country’s freedom and general awesomeness, I decided to talk about what we do to celebrate the fourth of July. That’s right:fireworks.
   We’ve been using fireworks in the United States since the beginning to celebrate our independence, and it’s a wonderful tradition. It allows people of every race, class, ethnicity, gender, and mindset to come together and watch a bunch of beautiful explosions. And all in the name of our country! Basically, you just have to have the American spirit to participate in this yearly occurrence.
   But, in the last few years, people have taken to purchasing tons of illegal fireworks and setting them off on their own. And that really gets my goat. Here’s why.
  1. It’s illegal. Duh. Why would you want to do something illegal on the day you’re celebrating your amazing country? Is it because you’re happy to have so much freedom? Because while that is what the United States was founded on, we need laws to maintain order and keep things running smoothly. Otherwise, things would be anarchy, and then who would organize Fourth of July parties?
  2. It’s annoying. I don’t want to hear that going on outside my house for no reason, but it’s not just humans that find it disruptive. If you’ve ever met a dog, you know that they’re easily frightened by loud noises. So you can imagine how they’d react to hearing a bunch of explosions all around them with no pattern or reason. It’s hard enough to keep dogs under control during the big fireworks displays; no one wants to be jumped on and woken up in the middle of the night by their terrified animal three days after Independence Day because you want to have a little fun.
  3. It’s dangerous. There’s a reason fireworks are illegal, and it’s not because the government just wants to take away all our fun. Fireworks can, and do, hurt people. “From 2009-2013, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 18,500 fires caused by fireworks,” as reported by the National Fire Protection Association. That’s a crazy statistic, and in the last few years, the amount of illegal fireworks being used has gone up considerably. So many people get hurt because they don’t use the fireworks safely; that’s why people get paid to make them and put on displays that won’t hurt anyone!
  4. It’s rampant. Leaving a party on the Fourth of July, where I watched a fantastic fireworks show, I found myself driving past consumer fireworks being used on every single block (not to mention pedestrians everywhere, many of which were under the influence). It was impossible to go a full minute without hearing or seeing fireworks. If we’re all desperate to do something illegal and dangerous, why don’t we all do it together? Isn’t this day about being around the people we care about?
  5. It’s endless. Doing it on the Fourth of July is one super annoying thing, but doing it for two weeks after is just ridiculous. It’s not patriotic to begin with, but you’re definitely not showing how much you love your country by using fireworks in an empty field in the middle of July.
  6. It’s disrespectful. Our forefathers did not do something so brave as to leave their homes and try to make a new place for themselves so that we could play with explosives whenever we want. And, what’s more, the soldiers that have fought and are fighting for our nation are not doing it because they want us to be able to use consumer fireworks. They’re doing it for our safety, which we are intentionally jeopardizing when we decide to blow things up ourselves.
  7. It’s not what this is about. We don’t all get together just to watch fireworks. We get together to hang out, eat food, celebrate a day off (which those firefighters and military personnel don’t get to do), enjoy the company of our loved ones, and be happy that we live in a country where we’re not all oppressed. We do not do it just so that we can watch things blow up in the sky. If you want to do that, there are places to get together with your family and friends and do that; you don’t have to do it yourself. Plus, a lot of the consumer firework usage happens outside events where fireworks can be seen, because apparently one amazing display isn’t enough!
 Consumer fireworks are useless and disrespectful, and, oh yeah, illegal. We don’t need to turn to juvenile activities that are against the law, can be rather dangerous, and frustrate everyone around us to enjoy our freedom. We can do that simply by gathering and watching the million dollar displays that every city puts on, and being happy that we live in a place where we can stuff our faces while watching government-funded explosions of color in the sky. Because what’s more American than that?
 
 
Picture
   I didn’t really know what to expect when I started this book. All I knew was that it was about a homosexual high school student who is afraid to come out and falls in love with a boy on the Internet. I’d heard from several sources that it was good, but I didn’t think I’d get around to actually reading it until I was able to download it for free on my Kindle, and then I figured I might as well give it a go.
   I’m glad that I did because this book showed a side of high school that we see over and over again in YA books in a different light. Every high school kid has secrets, but the way that we deal with them affects who we are. In many books of this genre, the main character suffers under the weight of their secret and the pressure from their parents and their peers to be like everyone else, and in a lot of cases, the secret and suffering are pushed aside.
   In this book, however, Simon’s secret was at the front of the story the entire time. Sure, he had a lot of other things going on in his life, but his being gay was his biggest issue, the thing that forced everything else from his mind. While things would have been a lot easier if he had just told his parents and friends from the start, these things don’t usually happen that way, and it would’ve made for a much different book.
   The characters in the book were pretty stereotypical high school characters, and the situations weren’t incredibly unexpected, but the thing that I thought made this book great was the realistic portrayal of what it feels like to be in high school.
   We all walk around carrying something that makes us different, something that sets us apart from everyone else. High school makes us believe that these differences are bad, that we should hide them, rather than embracing the things that make us individuals. While a lot of young adult novels show these things as annoyances, Albertalli shows it for what it is: something we feel we must carry alone that blocks out all the light and seems unable to be overcome.
   As expected, Simon’s life improved as things went on, but his quiet internal struggle and the way it affected his actions was a perfect example of what high school feels like when you’re not exactly like everyone else. However, it also revealed that everyone deals with something like that, and hides it, so in reality, we are all shockingly similar.
   All in all, this book exceeded my expectations, though I didn’t have many going in. It was an easy, quick read, and I finished it in about a day. I would recommend reading it if you’re looking for an honest depiction of the high school experience and the internal struggles of a teenager.

P.S. I was going to post this yesterday, but I didn't realize it was Thursday until this morning, when I realized today was Friday. Summer kills me.
P.P.S. Apologies for the sad picture, but I read this one on my Kindle. I am not ashamed.