Book Title and Author: Failing Up: How to Take Risks, Aim Higher, and Never Stop Learning by Leslie Odom, Jr.
General Thoughts: I was actually fortunate enough to attend the Naperville, Illinois, stop of Leslie Odom, Jr.’s book tour for his new (and first) book, Failing Up: How to Take Risks, Aim Higher, and Never Stop Learning, so I heard some insight from him concerning his book before I actually even read the book. One of the things he mentioned was the book is formatted similar to a commencement speech. No worries, though. While commencement speeches can sometimes be seen as boring, his book is far from it. And it’s not full of motivational clichés either.
In this memoir meets motivational book, Odom really takes moments from his life—many of which concern his acting and musical theatre background—and advice he has been given and uses and employs them in a way that can relate to anyone. It’s definitely a good, quick, easy read for someone like me who is young and easily discouraged when even one thing goes wrong.
Book Title and Author: Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland
General Thoughts: I actually found this book in the bargain/clearance section of Barnes and Noble, which surprised me because I hardly find any young adult books in that section. In terms of the basic story, it’s similar to a typical John Green novel about a high school boy who falls (or thinks he is) in love with a girl, but this story was different and more than that. First of all, the little cover blurbs make it very clear that Henry seems to be falling for new girl Grace, who is definitely not the typical girl high school boys would fall for, and he doesn’t really know why.
For most of the book, she wears dirty clothes that don’t fit or match, and her hair is like a nest. Grace is clearly a mess, inside and out. Throughout the book, the pair spends time together and seems to be in an undefined relationship that ends up causing tension between them because of perceptions and his infatuation and desire to “figure her out.” Overall, I enjoyed the variety of characters and that it wasn’t a “happy fairytale ending” book in which the guy gets the girl, because sometimes who you fall for isn’t who he/she really is. However, some of the supporting characters made me cringe because of the stereotypes and clichés.
Book Title and Author: Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow (If you click the link: Self-harm trigger warning for the cover)
General Thoughts: My very first thought for when I saw this book was ‘Why is that the cover?’ I won’t describe it in detail, but the book is about a girl trying to recover from self-harm, and the cover is clearly a self-injury trigger. So that’s an odd and poor cover choice, especially considering that the author has personal experience with self-harm. Regardless, I enjoyed how the book was formatted, as it’s split into three parts, and each part begins with an important event. In lieu of normal chapters, the story is told through sections that very much feel like journal entries, which I think is a great choice because the main character, Charlie, definitely has a lot of thoughts and feelings she’d want to get off her chest and document.
It’s no surprise a story about someone trying to recover from self-injury and depression has some scenes that can be difficult to read and make readers uncomfortable. But that’s necessary to accurately portray mental illness and other topics (I’m not going to name them because I don’t want to spoil anything) that can be hard to deal with. It can get dark at times, but other times the story’s kind of slow. Overall, the book does a pretty good job demonstrating the struggles of mental illness and recovery while still keeping hope alive in the story.
Book Title and Author: Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
General Thoughts: This was my second time reading this book; whenever I am feeling stressed out or anxious about the things that are currently happening in my life, I resort to books that bring me comfort, and this is one of them.
There is something about returning to a simpler time period (set in 1870s Victorian England), as well as Hardy’s straightforward writing style, that brings me a sense of contentment and helps me to keep things in perspective. The plot revolves around a love triangle headed by a strong female protagonist. Hardy is truly able to transport me into a whole different world where I can experience the joys and hardships of living in an agrarian society.