June: Books I’ve Read Recently

"Books I've Read Recently" is a series where I, Penelope Gomez, will do a monthly wrap up of the books I've read throughout the past month. In this series I will give a brief synopsis of the story and then give the book a rating out of 5 stars. 5 stars being the best and 1 star being the worst!

I will then give a brief description of why I chose to rate a book a certain way.

So without further delay lets get into the "Books I've Read Recently," and as always leave a comment down below and tell me which of these books you've also read, or plan on reading next.

Books I've Read Recently

The Ivies, book cover

The Ivies by Alexa Donne

Everyone knows the Ivies: the most coveted universities in the United States. Far more important are the Ivies. The Ivies at Claflin Academy, that is. Five girls with the same mission: to get into the Ivy League by any means necessary. I would know. I’m one of them. We disrupt class ranks, club leaderships, and academic competitions…among other things. We improve our own odds by decreasing the fortunes of others. Because hyper-elite competitive college admissions is serious business. And in some cases, it’s deadly.

Alexa Donne delivers a nail-biting and timely thriller about teens who will stop at nothing to get into the college of their dreams. Too bad no one told them murder isn’t an extracurricular.

My Rating: 5 Out of 5 Stars

I don't know what it is about the rich girl aesthetic that I love so much, but I was hooked on the characters in this novel.  This book was like Gossip Girl meets murder! Avery is the Queen B of Claflin Academy; she is basically like the Blair Waldorf of the school. She is rich, pretty, is conniving, loves to scheme and has her minions do all of her dirty work!  In this book, Avery wants nothing more than to attend her mother's alma mater, Harvard, and she is willing to do anything in order to get in, including sabotaging the other students at Claflin. I loved Avery's character! Why she was not the main character I’ll never know, but she had major main character energy. Anyway this story actually follows one of her minions named Olivia. Olivia comes from a poor family, she's a goody two shoes and is only willing to go so far with Avery's sabotage schemes. Olivia wants to go to Harvard too, but has to keep it a secret to avoid getting on Avery's sabotage/competition list. When another student ends up getting into Harvard instead of Avery and that student mysteriously winds up dead, all signs point to Avery being the main murder suspect. Wanting to know that truth, Olivia goes into a major investigative spiral, that could potentially get her killed as well! This book was enthralling from start to finish. I loved that this book was set at an elite boarding school for the wealthy. It was just so aesthetic to read and really gives you a taste of what campus life must be like. I definitely recommend this as a "back to school read,” there were school uniforms, club activities, and essays to write. This book gave me all the Prep School Aesthetic Vibes.

One Year at Ellsmere, book cover

One Year at Ellsmere by Faith Erin Hicks

Was boarding school supposed to be this hard?

When studious thirteen-year-old Juniper wins a scholarship to the prestigious Ellsmere Academy, she expects to find a scholastic utopia. But living at Ellsmere is far from ideal: She is labeled a “special project,” Ellsmere's queen bee is out to destroy her, and it’s rumored that a mythical beast roams the forest next to the school.

My Rating: 3 Out of 5 Stars

When I first picked up this book I had really, really, low expectations. I did not think I was going to like this graphic novel at all, but since it was written by the same author who wrote Pumpkinheads (which I really loved) I thought I'd give it a try. In this novel we follow a main character named Jun. Jun has just received a full scholarship for a prestigious all girls boarding school. Right away Jun makes an awful first impression on her roommate and also quickly becomes the number one new target for her school’s bully. So right away I'm thinking Jun is not going to survive very long at this school. Somewhere along the way things finally turn around for Jun and she finally makes her first friend, but she is still being bullied. This book wasn't anything groundbreaking, but it was entertaining enough. I did like this graphic novel, but it definitely wasn’t in my Top 10, it was just kinda average. I will say the artwork for this graphic novel was stunning. In particular, I thought the school was very beautifully drawn, think non-magical Hogwarts. The aesthetic for the boarding school was superb. It was a cute read, it had a very cute friendship dynamic. I will say the one thing that I didn't like about this novel was that the ending was left very much in the air. I do feel like this could have been a series and we could have followed Jun through multiple years at this noteworthy school but it just isn't going to happen. If Erin Hicks had just wrapped up the book a little better and given us a really solid ending then this would have been an A+ read, but that ending was just lacking something for me, hence the 3-star rating.

The Hazel Wood, book cover

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice's life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice's grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: Her mother is stolen away--by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother's stories are set. Alice's only lead is the message her mother left behind: "Stay away from the Hazel Wood."

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother's cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother's tales began--and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

My Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars

I was really on the fence about this book the ENTIRE time I was reading it. This book was rather chaotic and there were moments in this book that were really, really, good and well-written and absolutely enthralling and then there were parts in this book that were just so completely out of frame! There were a lot of moments in this book that were just soooo weird I had to force myself to power through many instances in this novel. The start of this book was amazing and captivating and so was the ending, but a big portion of this book, the middle in particular was like pulling teeth for me to continue reading. To be fair, this book is about a fairytale world that is just out of reach and unknown to most of the human world, so Melissa Albert took a lot of liberties when we reach “the half wood” or the "in between" the human and fairytale world, so things were really abrasive and intermixed in a really confusing and chaotic way. This was my least favorite portion of the book. I wish Melissa Albert had just skipped this few couple of chapters and just gone straight from the human, to the fairytale world. It would have been a much easier transition for me as a reader. Also the plot line was just superb, in my opinion. In this book we follow a girl named Alice. Alice's grandmother is a rather famous socialite who has published an obscure cult classic novel based on twisted fairytales. Alice has been estranged from her grandmother all her life, but has followed her life through newspaper clippings. Her grandmother lives on this massive estate called the Hazel Wood and all of her grandmother’s fans believe that her book of fairytales must be based on a real place and many have gone in search of her “Hazel Wood” estate. Only a lot of her crazy fans have gone mysteriously missing when they’ve gone in search of the estate, only adding to the intrigue. Something ends up happening and Alice must now go in search of the Hazel Wood Mansion, as well. Honestly, this plot just had me hooked! This is a series, but I felt like everything got wrapped up nicely at the end, so I'm not sure how the series will continue. I definitely will be reading it because I am now fully invested in this plot! Honestly, just power through the middle of this book, because I do think it’s really worth the read. It was just so incredibly unique. If it wasn't for that middle portion of the book, this would have been a 5 star read for me.

A Taste for Love, book cover

A Taste for Love by Jennifer Yen

To her friends, high school senior Liza Yang is nearly perfect. Smart, kind, and pretty, she dreams big and never shies away from a challenge. But to her mom, Liza is anything but. Compared to her older sister Jeannie, Liza is stubborn, rebellious, and worst of all, determined to push back against all of Mrs. Yang's traditional values, especially when it comes to dating.

The one thing mother and daughter do agree on is their love of baking. Mrs. Yang is the owner of Houston's popular Yin & Yang Bakery. With college just around the corner, Liza agrees to help out at the bakery's annual junior competition to prove to her mom that she's more than her rebellious tendencies once and for all. But when Liza arrives on the first day of the bake-off, she realizes there's a catch: all of the contestants are young Asian American men her mother has handpicked for Liza to date.

The bachelorette situation Liza has found herself in is made even worse when she happens to be grudgingly attracted to one of the contestants; the stoic, impenetrable, annoyingly hot James Wong. As she battles against her feelings for James, and for her mother's approval, Liza begins to realize there's no tried and true recipe for love.

My Rating: 3 Out of 5 Stars

The only thing this book did was make me hungry. If I got a quarter for every time this book talks about boba, or dumplings, or cake etc. I would be a very rich woman. I think my stomach was growling the entire time I was reading this book because it was nonstop talking about food. It was supposed to be a really good Romantic Comedy but I think it was more about the food, in my opinion, since most of this novel was centered around a baking competition. I personally found this book incredibly slow paced.  I got about half way through the book and there was still NO PROGRESS in the main character’s love life. Liza, the main character, comes from a very strict family and they basically come up with this elaborate baking competition to try to set her up with a “good Chinese boy.” Even with that GIANT push from her family where she was basically the “Bachelorette” on this baking competition show, there was still nothing going on in her love life! I read almost to end of this novel and Liza was no closer to getting a boyfriend then she was at the beginning of this novel. Although this was a cute read in a really cute baking competition setting, this novel was really disappointing as far as romance novels go. I got bored just waiting for something to happen and I found myself loosing hope for the main character. Then when things did finally pick up it was so out of left field, I couldn’t even pinpoint when Liza’s romantic feelings even started. Jennifer Yen's writing style was great and easy to follow but as far as the story line went it was bland and unseasoned (get it? because it was all about food!). If you are into baking, I would pick up this novel for that alone, but don’t go into this novel thinking it’s about to be some whirlwind romance or you'll end up disappointed. To me the cover was very deceiving.