Recently Read #7: Historical Fiction & Contemporaries

Hello and happy Wednesday, you guys! I hope you’re having a good week so far – are you being blessed with super nice weather too? Because I sure am but can’t take full advantage of it since I don’t have a yard or balcony to sit on. *cries*

For today’s post, we’re once again talking about the books I’ve read recently because I still have so many to get you guys caught up on. The first two, I read in April, I think? And the other three are all May reads that I ended up enjoyiing a ton!

There’s definitely one more post coming your way with more books I’ve finished and then it’s back to regular programming and more variety in my posts. xD I just don’t want to fall behind too far as I enjoy giving you guys my thoughts rather close to when I finished the books I talk about. The next post is going to focus on some sci-fi and fantasy books and I cannot wait to talk about those!

But for now, let’s jump into today’s post and let’s talk about some contemporary and historical fiction novels I’ve read recently!

This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee

The first book we’ll talk about for today’s post is my third Mackenzi Lee book: This Monstrous Thing which is a young adult historical fiction novel that was published on September 22nd, 2015 by Katherine Tegen Books.

I ended up buying this book because a) I absolutely adored The Lady’s Guide To Petticoats And Piracy (more thoughts here) and b) it was on sale for a great price – how as I supposed to say no? Unfortunately for me, I didn’t end up enjoying this book as much as I was hoping.

It took me so, so long to actually get into the story and to the point where I’m so hooked on the story that I just want to continue reading until I’ve turned that final page. Overall, it took me almost two weeks to read this not even 400 page book. That’s so unlike me and usually a sign that I’m just not enjoying what I’m reading as much as I would hope.

However, once the story finally grabbed me (somewhere around the 60-70% mark) I was able to binge read chunks of the book and I found myself actually enjoying my reading experience which was a welcome turn of events!

I was wondering if maybe the Frankenstein retelling element of the story just isn’t for me? This was the first retelling of that particular story that I’ve ever read too so I don’t really have anything to compare my reading experience to. I’m curious how people who’ve read other Frankenstein retellings felt about this book!

Overall, I ended up giving this book a 3 – 3.5 star rating.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The next book we’re talking about is Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, a young adult historical novel released on September 1st, 2005 by Picador.

I honestly don’t know what it is with me lately, but I keep finding myself in positions where I’m not enjoying the book I’m reading as much as I hope to until almost the very end when things suddenly turn around completely.

That’s exactly what reading The Book Thief was like for me. I had started reading the book years ago and gotten about 200 pages into the book before putting it down and as I crept up to that point in the book again this time around I kept saying to Caro and Sandra how I wasn’t enjoying the book as much as I had hoped. I was honestly considering DNFing it again.

But then I picked up the book one afternoon and read it myself (I’d been listening to the audiobook before) and suddenly I found myself flying through it – especially the last 100 or so pages. The more horrible the overall situation was becoming, the bigger my need to know how the story would end became.

And then came the last 50 pages and I basically sobbed my way through them. I cried so much and hard at times that by the time I turned the final page I was just exhausted and emotionally drained. I don’t remember the last time that happened to me while reading.

Overall, this was definitely a book I’d recommend people read while also warning everyone going into this that it deals with some heavy topics – Germany/Europe during World War 2 is a horrible place to be for a lot of people, especially Jews.

In the end, I ended up giving this book 4 stars – I would’ve loved to give it five but the fact that I didn’t start loving this book until almost the end makes that impossible. But as I said, I’d still very much recommend you read this book!

There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon

Up next, we have Sandhya Menon’s There’s Something About Sweetie, a young adult contemporary novel which is part of the Dimple & Rishi universe an was published on May 14th, 2019 by Simon Pulse.

At this point it’s more than well established that I reach for more contemporaries as soon as the warmer months roll around and one thing I always find myself looking forward to is reading a new Sandhya Menon book. The author has released three young adult novels so far, and I loved them all. Including this one.

Something Sandhya seems to always pull off is writing a main character that you can’t help but relate to and I have to say, Sweetie might just be the one I’ve related to the most so far. She’s a fat Indian girl growing up in a household with a mother who always tries to convince Sweetie that she needs to loose weight – going so far as to say that Sweetie isn’t allowed to date Ashish because she’s fat and he’s thin. I really, really didn’t like the mother as so much of what she kept telling was just so, so horrible and I’d say abusive too.

Sweetie doesn’t think she needs to loose weight to be worthy of someone else. Sweetie wants to reclaim the word ‘fat’ as just another descriptive word. But so many people around her (and in society in general) have this negative association when they hear the word ‘fat’ when it really shouldn’t be that way.

I’ve already shortly mentioned Ashish, aka the love interest and younger brother of Rishi Patel (we actually meet Ashish in When Dimple Met Rishi) but let’s talk about him in more detail too. Ashish hasn’t had much luck with the girls he’s been dating and actually starts out the book with a broken heart after a recent break up. His friend then suggests that Ashish should just ask his parents to find him a girlfriend as they were quite succesful with Dimple before. That’s the event that kicks off this entire book and sends us out on multiple, parents approved dates with Sweetie and Ashish that are both super precious but also help Ashish grow closer to his heritage and learn to appreciate it more.

Honestly, both Sweetie and Ashish have such great character arcs in this book on their own but also together with such a sweet slow-burn romance that I couldn’t help but root for.

Something I’ve come to love about Sandhya’s books is that while they’re cute and fun summer reads, they also always deal with heavier topics which was the case here too. I already mentioned Sweetie’s overarching plot but Ashish has stuff he’s dealing with too. Not only does he feel distant from his own culture and background, he’s also sees himself as the ‘black sheep’ in the family compared to Rishi and just seeing that play out was so, so great. I honestly wantd to hug both Ashish and Sweetie multiple times throughout this book.

If you’re looking for a great summer read that you’ll be able to finish quickkly, this is definitely that! Or, any of the author’s other books. You pick what appeals most to you! There’s Something About Sweetie was a clear 5 star read and I can’t wait to read whatever the author releases next!

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

Next, we’ll talk about Ramon Blue by Julie Murphy, a young adult contemporary novel that was originally released on May 9th, 2017 by Balzer & Bray. I received the German translation from the publisher.

Here’s a book that I requested because it sounded interesting but I didn’t know how quickly I’d be able to get to it. Then I picked it up shortly after I got it in the mail because I wanted a break between two sci-fi novels and I ended up flying through Ramona Blue.

We follow Ramona Blue, who at the start of the book identifies as a lesbian and is in a relationship with a girl. Later, when her childhood friend moves back into town, she starts developing feelings for him and she starts to question her sexual identity and goes on this journey of trying to figure out who she is and if maybe a different label describes her better or if she even wants a label for herself.

Personally, I thought this storyline was done really well. Ramona often thinks and talks about how she’s feeling and it’s never in a way that makes it seem like Freddie (her childhood friend) is ‘curing’ her of being a lesbian – I’ve seen that brought up in reviews (or, more like comments from people who were angry but hadn’t read the book) so many times. Ramona repeatedly brings up the fact that she is still very, very much interested in women. But she also has these feelings for Freddie. She even talks about how it might just be the person she is attracted to rather than the fact that the person is a woman or man. Ramona never ends up defining herself with any label, so I won’t do that either.

This book had multiple characters that were part of the LGBTQ+ community (specifically gay, lesbian and a demisexual character) as well as racially diverse characters and I absolutely loved the way they were all included in this book! These characters also gave the author the chance to point out and challenge certain issues that came up, for example when Ramona is asked how many boys she kissed before she knew she was a lesbian or when Ramona doesn’t realize the situation she’s put Freddie in by not giving him all the details about something they all get up to. In both instances, the characters get called out for what they’ve said and/or done. Or even when we meet a characters lesbian mothers and they’re asked why they’ve never mentioned it before and it’s because those are just this characters parents.

If you’re looking for a great group of friends in your fiction, this book definitely has that! They are all supportive of each other and there for their friends and it’s heartwarming, really. I especially loved a scene between Ruth and Ramona because of how supportive Ruth was even if she didn’t entirely understand why Ramona was feeling the way she did.

Something else I really enjoyed was how the author made sure that consent was given and asked for during a sex scene. With the conversations we’ve seen happening over the past year or so, I think it’s very important that we all realize that we need to ask for consent and to give and take it back verbally and clearly. However, there is a scene earlier in the book where Ramona is kissed without having given consent and in the context of the other person knowing that Ramona is a lesbian, which isn’t okay. I don’t remember if/how it’s handled anymore, but I wanted to make sure I mentioned it here.

Lastly, since we’re already talking about something that wasn’t handled well in the book there is one more thing I want to point out: there’s a scene in which Ramona talks about how she isn’t some sex obsessed crazy person, but she is human and thinks about sex which has been brought to my attention as a very acephobic way of talking about sex and who does or doesn’t think about it. Just so you’re aware and aren’t caught off guard, this happens early in chapter 12 (in the translation it’s the second page of chapter 12).

Overall, I thought this was a fantastic book and has definitely made me curious about the author’s previous works too, which is always exciting. I ended up giving Ramona Blue 4.5 stars!

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Lastly, we’re going to talk about Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient, an adult contemporary novel which was released on June 5th, 2018 by Berkley.

Sometimes, when I can’t sleep at night I like to browse through Scribd to see if there are any audiobooks that spark my interest in the moment to help myself fall asleep. Sometimes, I end up listening to hours on end instead which is fine too. And that’s actually what happened with The Kiss Quotient.

I haven’t read too many adult contemporary novels in recent years but sometimes I’ll hear about some of them because everyone seems to be reading them regardless of what they might read otherwise which was definitely the case here too.

Here’s the thing though. I flew through this book in absolutely no time because I was having a great time listening to the audiobook so I shared barely any updates anywhere. Apparently I didn’t keep in mind that I would have to include my thoughts in a Recently Read post soon – silly me!

All I really remember is that I adored the relationship between Stella and Michael, I loved the concept behind this book (aka Stella, a womon with Autism decides she wants to learn more about the sexual side of relationships and hired an escort (Michael) to teach her), I thought the sex scenes were written beautifully, Michael’s family was really fun to get to know and we’ll actually get to know two people even more in upcoming books.

But if you’re looking for a proper review, Melanie from meltotheany shared one on Goodreads that rang very true to how I felt while reading too, so I’ll link you to that!

Overall, I ended up giving The Kiss Quotient 4 stars and can’t wait to read more from the author in the future!

Phew, this post turned out to be so much longer than I anticipated. And I actually had to leave out another contemporary because this was already getting out of hand. xD

But I want to know, have you guys read either of the books I talked about above and what did you think about them? Did you struggle with some of them too? Or fly through them super quickly? Let me know in the comments below, I can’t wait to talk to you. 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Recently Read #7: Historical Fiction & Contemporaries

  1. I love how you gave a little mini review for each book! I actually had a similar experience with The Book Thief! I started reading it as a physical copy and couldn’t get into it. So I started listened to the audiobook, and then a few months later I picked up the physical copy again and read it straight through, from beginning to end! I really enjoyed it! I also really, really love The Kiss Quotient! I think it’s such a wonderful romance! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

    Liked by 1 person

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