Check out my thoughts on some of the books I’ve been reading in quarantine!
One good thing that’s come out of this pandemic is how much extra time I have to listen to audio books. I’m a huge bookworm, and I love to read, but I’ve found that my lifestyle is more conducive to audio books, and I’m totally okay with it.
I don’t pay for audio books or any audio book services. Instead, I use an app called Libby. With Libby, you can create an account and connect it to your local library card. Once you’ve done this, you have access to countless ebooks and audio books. I’ve been using Libby for years, and I absolutely loved it. Also, sometime in March, Scribd was doing an awesome thing where they allowed people who had never used their service before to try it out for free for 30 days. Unlike other companies, they didn’t make you put in any credit card information, so there were no surprise fees at the end of your 30 days; it just ended. I’m not sure if they are still offering this, but it’s worth looking into if you’re interested in getting access to audio books.
This pandemic has definitely changed my reading preferences. I used to gravitate toward books mysteries and thrillers that stressed me out and dystopian societies where everything looks grim. During the quarantine, I’ve mostly been reading uplifting memories, contemporary romances, and books with guaranteed happy endings, and I’ve also been rereading books because it’s comforting to already know what happens at the end. Is it obvious that I have anxiety or…?
As of the time I’m typing these words, I’ve managed to read or listen to 19 books, which is absolutely insane! I’m almost done with my Goodreads goal, but I strayed away from the POPSUGAR reading challenge I took on at the beginning of the year and read some books that didn’t fit any of the prompts. I’m not worried though because it’s only May, and I still have plenty of time to play catch up.
This is only part 1 of the books I’ve been reading in quarantine. Part 2 will be coming out later this week!
OPEN BOOK by JESSICA SIMPSON
Completed on March 21, 2020 | Published on February 4, 2020
POPSUGAR Prompt: A book with the same title as a movie or TV show but is unrelated to it
I was a huge fan of Jessica Simpson growing up. I thought she was one of the prettiest people on TV, and even thinking about the songs she released at the beginning of her career pretty much forces me to take to YouTube and rewatch all of her old music videos. She was just so much fun, and I loved all of her music.
When she and Nick Lachey started their Newlyweds show on MTV, I was a faithful watcher of the first season. I remembered the “Is it tuna or is it chicken?” incident. I didn’t really follow her career much, but I remember listening to her music and being a fan of the show.
I also remember how devastated I felt when she and Nick Lachey broke up. I was too young to understand the complications of adult relationships. I took Nick’s side because he was the only one who spoke publicly about it. Plus, he released the most heartbreaking song while Jessica’s first single after the breakup was upbeat and fun. That meant it was 100% her fault, right?! Because she was so happy, and he was so miserable. He did nothing wrong.
Yea, I was pretty naive.
Reading Jessica Simpson’s book was absolutely fascinating. Her career started at such a young age, and she went through some horrendous things as a child that are seriously so heartbreaking. The fact that she held onto her faith so tightly throughout her entire life is so incredible to me considering how easy it would have been for the average person to give up on faith after some of the things she went through.
Me being the nosey person I am loved getting the inside scoop on what really happened between her and her romantic relationships, namely Nick Lachey. When I was young, I had no comprehension of what was involved in being in a relationship, and I can only imagine how being in the spotlight took an even bigger toll on an already crumbling relationship. I had no idea that Jessica Simpson even dated John Mayer (umm…whoops). I’ve never been one to follow celebrity lives too closely, so reading about their entire relationship was fresh and fascinating to me. It was no surprise that John Mayer wasn’t a gentleman, to put it nicely. That man can write some beautiful music, but why does it have to be at anyone’s expense. Of course, I’m lumping Jessica in with Taylor Swift here. Although, Taylor got a beautiful song out of that too.
Even if you aren’t interested in Jessica Simpson’s relationships, there’s so much about Jessica’s life that was so interesting to read. Admittedly, I enjoyed this book a lot more than I expected to. Even though I’m not a huge fan of Jessica Simpson’s newer music releases, you can still catch me jammin’ to her old pop tunes and rockin’ some Jessica Simpson heels.
THE 100 by MORGAN CASS
Completed on March 22, 2020 | Published on September 3, 2013
2020 Tiffany is disappointed in 2014 Tiffany for ever thinking this was a 5-star reading. 2014 Tiffany, are you freaking kidding me?!
My fiance, Kyle, and I like to read a book out loud to each other, and we chose The 100, because we were starting the packing process, so many of our books were put away already. I’m kind of sad that The 100 wasn’t one of them. This book takes place in a dystopian society where Earth is no longer safe to inhabit, so people live in space. For a super secret (but pretty obvious) reason, the people in charge decide to send 100 juvenile delinquents to Earth to recolonize the planet and see how safe it is. Sounds cool, right?
I genuinely can’t believe that I loved this book so much, but I’m glad I gave it a reread with Kyle so we could suffer through it together.
Y’all, every single character in this book in unlikable. I hated everyone. No one had any redeeming qualities. They all made stupid and selfish decisions. No one was good at communicating. I didn’t care about anything going on on Earth. I didn’t care about what was going on in space. I just didn’t care.
There was a point past the halfway mark of the book where Kyle finished a chapter, and we looked at each other and asked, “Is anything going to happen?” The answer is no. Nothing happened in this book. It kind of reminded me of old book series that I used to read was a kid, like Animorphs. The first book was pretty much an introduction to what was going to happen in the rest of the series. So much of this book felt like that, but nothing was set up in a way that made me want to keep reading. I was hoping that by rereading this book with Kyle, we could finish the series together because I had actually only read the first two. Now I’m guessing there’s a reason that I didn’t continue on with the series. It’s not good!
This review turned into a rant, which wasn’t my intention, but I’m just sad that a book Kyle and I chose to read together turned out so bad when I had read it before and loved it. I must’ve had low expectations for books back then. Who knows?
I did give it two stars instead of just one because there were small, teeny, minuscule parts that did keep me interested. Also the beginning of the book did have a good setup, but then it just went downhill fairly quickly. Needless to say, I won’t be continuing with the series, but I’ll probably keep the book on my shelf because I got it signed by Kass Morgan when I went to the Texas Teen Book Festival.
Also, the TV show is not any better. Arguably worse if you can believe it.
FIVE FEET APART by RACHAEL LIPPINCOTT
Completed on March 23, 2020 | Published on November 20, 2018
POPSUGAR Prompt: A book with a three-word title
This was one of the rare occasions where I watched the movie before I read the book. The movie actually made me excited to read the book, and I’m glad I got to experience both several months apart because I ended loving both of them.
Five Feet Apart is two teenagers named Stella and Will who both suffer from cystic fibrosis. Stella is super type A and has decided to make the most of her situation by taking control of it and also sharing her CF journey online. Will on the other had doesn’t give a crap about his treatments, and once he turns 18 in a few months, he wants to stop them altogether. The two meet and form an unlikely bond that forms into the cutest and most heartbreaking YA love story.
Because I and no one I know has ever dealt with CF, I can’t speak to how the book handles this disease, but for someone reading this book as entertainment outside of the CF community, I will say that I absolutely loved this book. Admittedly, I’m uneducated about CF, so getting to read about it intertwined with a love story was super interesting to me.
The Fault in Our Stars is one of my favorite books, so I went into this trying to make sure my brain separated that story from this one. Turns out, I didn’t even have to. While both books are YA and deal with two teens falling in love in the most unfortunate of circumstances, both authors dealt with the diseases in their respective books in such different ways. The way Stella had to balance her attempts to be happy for her friends who went on the senior trip that she planned without her, becoming responsible for her treatments and even creating an app for other people with CF, sharing her journey with world on YouTube, and also caring for her hospital family and future love interest just makes me want to cheer for her and give her a much deserved hug.
Will was also a very realistic character to me in the way that he knew his fate and had accepted it, and instead of going through the treatments and following his mother’s wishes, he wants to instead be a rebellious teenager and live the rest of his seemingly short life outside of his hospital room. Totally understandable.
The movie script and the book were written in tandem, and it’s so easy to see that if you’ve experienced both. If you like one, you’ll be sure to like the other as well. I, myself, can’t wait to cry my eyes out again while watching the movie.
WITH THE FIRE ON HIGH by ELIZABETH ACEVEDO
Completed on March 27, 2020 | Published on May 7, 2019
POPSUGAR Prompt: A book by a WOC
This was the exact stress-free novel I needed in the midst of quarantine. As mentioned, I’ve been gravitating toward books that guaranteed happy endings, and With the Fire on High came through! This book is about a high schooler named Emoni who has an undying love of cooking and also a daughter whose baby daddy was a one time mistake. When the school starts up a new culinary arts program, she is hesitant to join, knowing that she won’t be able to go on the class trip to Spain, but she decides to take a chance anyway.
I can’t even begin to tell you how much I needed this book. This book had many things that could have been major stressors – an absent father, a high schooler with (the cutest, sweetest, most perfect) baby, a semi-controlling baby daddy, issues with money. Luckily, the main character is such a strong person that the obstacles that were put in her way were just flicked away. There were moments when I was waiting for things to fall through or turn out badly, but even the moments that did didn’t last long enough for me to truly get anxious about anything.
I spent this entire book just believing in Emoni and wanting things to work out for her because she’s such a likable main character. I realize that she’s a fictional character, but I’m just proud of her! She’s a teenage mom who was abandoned by her dad, living with little money in Philly. She had the cards stacked against her, and she just did the dang thing! Such a great read, and I’m grateful that I stumbled upon it when I did.
OVER THE TOP: A RAW JOURNEY TO SELF-LOVE by JONATHAN VAN NESS
Completed on March 28, 2020 | Published on September 24, 2019
POPSUGAR Prompt: A book by a trans or nonbinary author
I’m thankful that I listened to this book on audio because I’m not sure that I would have enjoyed it quite as much written. I, of course, enjoyed the book overall, but Kyle said it best when he said “Jonathan Van Ness is a personality, not a writer.” Actually listening to him tell his own story was so much fun (and heartbreaking in some parts), so if I ever choose to give this book a reread, I’ll probably still stick to audio.
I picked up Over the Top purely so I could fill a prompt for the POPSUGAR reading challenge. I knew who JVN was, but at this point, I had never watched an episode of Queer Eye in my life. That quickly changed after reading this. I fell in love with JVN, and as soon as I finished listening to this book, I turned on Netflix and binged every episode of Queer Eye. New episodes on June 5th! Woo woo!
Anyway, back to Jonathan…
It should come as a shock to no one that JVN didn’t have the easiest time being gay and so “over the top” in his small Midwestern hometown. Let’s be honest, people suck sometimes, and there are so many people who shy away from those that are different than them rather than embracing and accepting them. JVN grew up surrounded by people who judged him in the worst way, so the fact that he is a gorgeous specimen of positivity today goes to show just how strong he truly is.
This book touches on his highest highs, his lowest lows, and everything in between. Even those that aren’t a part of the queer community can find a way to connect and relate to JVN and many of the struggles he endured throughout his life.
I’m so grateful that the POPSUGAR reading challenge led me to reading this book and bringing Queer Eye into my life. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I’ve cried while watching the series. It’s truly touching, and it was the exact binge show I needed in the midst of all this uncertainty.
NEXT YEAR IN HAVANA by CHANEL CLEETON
Completed on April 1, 2020 | Published on February 6, 2018
POPSUGAR Prompt: A book set in a country beginning with a “C”
I. Did. Not. Think. I. Would. Like. This. Book.
This was another book that I picked up purely to fill a POPSUGAR reading challenge prompt. I was so pleasantly surprised by how much I didn’t want to put this one down.
Next Year in Havana is a dual-perspective novel about two Cuban-Americans. Elisa is living a pretty clutch life in Havana in 1958. She is the daughter of a sugar baron, and her biggest concern is finding a suitable husband. Unfortunately, she ends up falling for a revolutionary who opens her eyes to just how sheltered of a life she’s living.
Marisol is the granddaughter of Elisa, and she grew up hearing stories about how her family had to flee Cuba during the revolution. Elisa tasks Marisol with spreading her ashes in Cuba, so Marisol takes a trip to Havana under the guise that she is writing an article for work. While in Cuba, Marisol learns about a history that’s slightly different from the one she grew up listening to from her family, and she accidentally (on purpose?) uncovers some juicy family secrets.
Y’all, this book had me hooked from the beginning. I genuinely didn’t think I was going to be a fan of it because I know very little about Cuba’s history, and I thought my lack of understanding would be a hindrance to my enjoyment of the book. Obviously, that didn’t end up happening. I’m not usually one that enjoys historical fiction because I’m not a big lover of history in general. The way this book tied the history parts of the story in with issues of love and family ties made me want to keep reading and learn what happened.
The dual perspective really added so much to the story. The book was ultimately about Elisa, both in the present after death and as a teenager in the past, but the way Marisol is tied in to share the story of Cuba’s complicated past was done so well.
I’m so glad I decided to pick this one up. I genuinely loved it, and it makes me want to look into some more historical fiction books, particularly ones that don’t necessarily center around the history of America.
THE BOOKISH LIFE OF NINA HILL by ABBI WAXMAN
Completed on April 3, 2020 | Published on July 19, 2019
POPSUGAR Prompt: A book that has a book on the cover
A book about a book lover? Sign me up! This was the exact kind of light read that I needed during quarantine. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill follows Nina, a girl who has her life together just the way she wants it. She is a bookworm who works at a bookstore, she loves knowledge and uses it with her incredible trivia team, she’s the most organized person on the planet, and she’s a single mom to a fluffy cat named Phil. Her life gets a little crazy when the dad she never knew dies and leaves something for Nina in her will. Now she went from having her mom as her only family member to have a slew of brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, etc. that she just simply wasn’t prepared for.
This book is full of both extremely likable and unlikable characters, lots of witty banter, and the cutest love story. There were so many things about Nina that I could relate to, and I loved watching the all the crazy unfold with the news of this family that she didn’t know existed.
STARGIRL by JERRI SPINELLI
Completed on April 4, 2020 | Published on November 13, 2001
POPSUGAR Prompt: A book recommended by your favorite blog, vlog, podcast, or online book club
Stargirl was one of my favorite books in middle school, so when I saw the movie adaptation was on Disney+, I couldn’t resist giving the book a reread before I watched it. Even though it wasn’t as magical as it was when I was a preteen, I still really enjoyed diving into the book and falling in love with Stargirl all over again.
This book takes place in a middle school where it’s cool to not stick out. When Stargirl arrives on the scene, she does anything but. She sings to people in the cafeteria, wears vibrant clothing, and does sweet things behind everyone’s back. At first, the school is confused by her, but then they start doting on and loving her. Meanwhile, Leo is the king of blending in, so he is fascinated by Stargirl and when their lives intertwine, he starts falling for her.
I seriously loved this book so much when I was in middle school. My best friend and I even started a two-person club called The Jelly Beans, and we went around and (not super legally) put happy notes of encouragement in random people’s mailboxes. In hindsight, this was the most obvious sign that I’m totally a type 2.
This is a middle grade book, but even as an adult, I still thought this was such an adorable read. I’m glad that I read it before watching the movie so I could brush up on all the Stargirl magic. I thoroughly enjoyed diving into all the Stargirl positivity and seeing it play out on screen was the exact kind of good vibes I needed during quarantine.
What’s been keeping you busy during quarantine?