Thursday, April 23, 2020

In a Nutshell Reviews: Library Edition


In a Nutshell Reviews are my version of mini-reviews, because sometimes, you just want the highlights.

The How & the Why
Cynthia Hand
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads
A poignant exploration of family and the ties that bind, perfect for fans of Far From the Tree, from New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Hand.

Today Melly had us writing letters to our babies…

Cassandra McMurtrey has the best parents a girl could ask for. They’ve given Cass a life she wouldn’t trade for the world. She has everything she needs—except maybe the one thing she wants. Like, to know who she is. Where she came from. Questions her adoptive parents can’t answer, no matter how much they love her.

But eighteen years ago, someone wrote Cass a series of letters. And they may just hold the answers Cass has been searching for.

Alternating between Cass’s search for answers and letters from the pregnant teen who gave her up for adoption, this voice-driven narrative is the perfect read for fans of Nina LaCour and Jandy Nelson.
This book! Seriously, it was a feelsplosion! I suspected I needed to buckle up, when I read the dedication, and started getting all emotional. It was touching and beautiful, and I am so grateful I got to spend a year with Cass as she filled in some of her missing pieces.

  • Pro: The format of this book was a win. I loved alternating between Cass in present time and her birth mother in the past. I always like, when I know part of the story, and slowly learn the rest. I like the build and anticipation, and Hand did an amazing job bridging the past and the present in this book. 
  • Pro: Cass's parents were phenomenal. Their love and affection was unquestionable, and there were so many hankie moments with these two. I loved them to pieces. 
  • Pro: It was interesting seeing an adoption from multiple points of view. Not only did I learn about Cass and her birth mother's experience, I also got to hear from her parents, and even her best friend, Nyla, whose circumstances were quite different. 
  • Pro: Though I keep talking about all the crying I was doing, there were a lot of happy, fun, and joyful moments in this book too. There, of course, was Cass's search for her birth mother, but she was also a teen visiting colleges, starring in the school play, and maybe falling in love. Hand deftly blended these elements to produce something really special. 
  • Pro: I loved how Hand kept me on my toes throughout the story. I was collecting pieces, left and right, and had quite a few amazing AHA! moments. 
  • Pro: The ending! The ending! The ending! I was crying and clapping, and it was just perfection. 
Overall: This book held me in its grip from beginning to end, while burrowing its way into my heart. It was simply stupendous!



This is My Brain in Love
I.W. Gregorio
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mental Health
Publisher: Little Brown Books FYR
Rating:  4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads
Jocelyn Wu has just three wishes for her junior year: To make it through without dying of boredom, to direct a short film with her BFF Priya Venkatram, and to get at least two months into the year without being compared to or confused with Peggy Chang, the only other Chinese girl in her grade.

Will Domenici has two goals: to find a paying summer internship, and to prove he has what it takes to become an editor on his school paper.

Then Jocelyn's father tells her their family restaurant may be going under, and all wishes are off. Because her dad has the marketing skills of a dumpling, it's up to Jocelyn and her unlikely new employee, Will, to bring A-Plus Chinese Garden into the 21st century (or, at least, to Facebook).What starts off as a rocky partnership soon grows into something more. But family prejudices and the uncertain future of A-Plus threaten to keep Will and Jocelyn apart. It will take everything they have and more, to save the family restaurant and their budding romance.
Just when Jocelyn was finding her groove, the family business takes a turn for the worst. In an effort to save A-Plus Chinese Garden, Jocelyn enlists the help of Will, and the two embark on a mission to rebuild the business. As the ideas to jumpstart the business flew, so did the sparks, but this romance hits a few roadblocks, and some may be insurmountable.
  • Pro: I had no problem rooting for everyone and everything in this story. I wanted the restaurant to succeed, for Jos's movie to be a hit, for Will to get his story, for Jos and Will to find their HEA. It was important for me to see them all get what they wanted or needed, because I guess I thought they deserved it.  
  • Pro: The food! Not only did we get to "enjoy" many Chinese treats, but there was also a bit of Nigerian food in the mix. It was all described in such rich detail, that my mouth actually watered. 
  • Pro: I never was involved in any sort of small business, but I was fully enthralled by all the different things Jos and Will were doing to try and resuscitate the restaurant. 
  • Con: I would have liked more time dedicated to the actual romance, though the bits that were there were wonderful.  
  • Pro: I always appreciate an OwnVoices perspective, and Gregorio wrote this story as an Asian person, who has battled mental illness, but is also a doctor. I think because this, she brings a lot of insight to this story, which is not found in many other similar type books. 
  • Pro: Depression, anxiety, and multiple spectrum disorders are featured in this book. Though the mental illnesses were given a deeper treatment, I appreciated the way all were explored. 
Overall: An honest story of family and young love, which tackles mental illnesses and the stigma that surround them.



Have you read any of these books?
Let us know in the comments!

40 comments:

  1. I'm currently reading the How and the Why and it's been difficult to stop reading at night. I'm completely happy with my recent purchase.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a wonderful book. I love the Janie books, but The How and the Why and The Last Time We Say Goodbye were stellar.

      Delete
  2. Now that I have more time (thank you, wages guarantee fund 😬), I'm committing to reading more reviews, even of books out of my favourite genres. What better place to start? 😉 Hopefully, I'll be able to continue even when thing get back to normal...

    These don't even feel like "mini" reviews (though of course, compared to my tomes, they are 😂). You managed to keep a great balance between informative and emotional, too. 5 stars! 😀

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's so odd. You would think I would be producing more, but I just seem to be doing the same things slower. I guess it's good, since I I don't want to get too used to anything, when it's only temporary. I am planning to unveil even shorter reviews called Tiny Tidbits.

      Delete
  3. They both sound like good YA novels, thanks for sharing your thoughts

    ReplyDelete
  4. Both of these sound great. I like the set up/format for The How and the Why - seems like it would work really well.

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I loved that I not only got Cassandra's story, I got her birth mother's story as well. It was woven together beautifully too

      Delete
  5. The How & the Why sounds super emotional but very good! Glad you enjoyed both of these.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It had emotional parts, but we also follow Cass as she is living her everyday life too. It was never super heavy despite have heavy moments.

      Delete
    2. Good to know! I don't think I can handle super heavy right now. :)

      Delete
    3. The situation with her mom gets a bit heavy, but it's full of joy otherwise.

      Delete
  6. I can just feel your love for The How & The Why, Sam! It's such a great feeling to have that kind of reading experience. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was so good! And, I was grinning and smiling like a fool at the end. The dedication, where Hand thanks her adoptive parents, had my hairs standing on end already. I was all in for the feels.

      Delete
  7. looks like you're on a roll with some great reads
    sherry @ fundinmental

    ReplyDelete
  8. Both of these sound really good. I'm an adoptive mom, so I always love adoption stories. The premise of MY BRAIN IN LOVE sounds like TWEET CUTE. Are the books similar?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My Brain in Love is so different from Tweet Cute, both in tone and subject matter. TIMBIL has a heavy focus on mental health. It starts out fun, but gets rather heavy, and the girl works in the family restaurant, while the boy, who is helping her, is a journalist.

      Delete
  9. I loved your review for Hand's book. It reminded me just how much I loved it. It was one of my top 10 favorites of last year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was so good, right? It didn't get that much hype either, which is a shame.

      Delete
  10. Wow, you’ve really sold me on The How & the Why! I’m going to have to bump that up on my TBR list.
    As for This is My Brain in Love, food in books is usually a win for me, so I have to check that one out too!
    Great reviews Sam!
    - Sabrina @ Wordy and Whimsical

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do it, do it, do it! The How & the Why was so special. It hit all the right notes for me

      Delete
  11. Both of these sound wonderful, Sam! The How & the Why sounds so emotional! I am glad you enjoyed both of these.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Aw, The How & the Why sounds really lovely.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It really was, and I loved that it was the story of both women too. I think that's what put it on that next level

      Delete
  13. Adding The How & The Why at speed light Sam!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sophie, it was so good! I hope you get a chance to read it

      Delete
  14. I actually really kind of loved that ending in The How & The Why! I really liked the format, too, switching between Cass and the letters. I felt a little bad that we knew the birth mother's true feelings before Cass did.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just got chills thinking about the ending. I didn't expect that, and it was just spectacular for me

      Delete
  15. I adored The How and the Why, I am so glad you did too! I have been very on the fence about This is My Brain in Love, because I am quite picky about contemporaries, but I did like the author's debut, so perhaps I will give it a go! Great reviews, glad you enjoyed both of these!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Brain took a turn I wasn't expecting, and became much heavier, but I liked the way Gregorio approached Jos's struggle with mental health. She gave many POVs with respect to stigma, medication, etc, that you almost couldn't decide which side of the issue she stood on. I liked that.

      Delete
  16. The How & the Why sounds amazing! Adding to my TBR right now. So far I've only read Hand's collaborations with The Lady Janies so I'm very interested in reading more from her.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I read The Time We Say Goodbye, which was really emotional, the Janie books, and Holly Chase. All my experiences with Hand have been great. The How & the Why was so well done, and I think because she had been adopted, Hand comes with a special perspective. I hope you read it and love it!

      Delete
  17. Feelsplosion -- I need to remember that! I love the format of The how and the Why, and the two storylines. I also like the focus on the different POVs ont he adoption -- I didn't expect that. I can already feel my heart breaking for them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It really was an explosion of feels. I promise! The beauty of the storylines was how complete they were. I thought I was just going to get snippets of the birth mother, but that wasn't the case. I learned so much about her, and Hand went deeper with her than I expected (and loved)

      Delete
  18. I've never read about adoption and it sounds like the the format/perspectives really made Hand's book effective!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oddly enough, I read two books in one week where adoption was part of the story.

      Delete
  19. I have heard so much about Cynthia Hand's writing and I just need to read one of her books at some point soon! I did read Gregorio's debut novel, None of the Above which I did appreciate a lot at the time, especially as it was the first intersex book I read. I like the sound of this one being an ownvoices book for her, and that she could offer up a lot of insight as someone who has struggled with mental health but who is also a doctor.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have read 5 books by Hand, and they were all excellent. My two favorites are The Last Time We Say Goodbye and The How & the Why. Both were real emotional gut punches.

      Gregorio's background definitely showed in the way she approached the topic of mental health. I liked how she came at it from so many different sides.

      Delete