On the day of my birthday – back in November – I was surprised to see that Sabrina decided to dedicate a whole post to discussing the books she read because of me. I was so touched by that, because one of the best compliments you can pay to me as a reader / blogger is that you appreciate the recommendations I give you. 🥰 Immediately, I wanted to repay the favor and do something similar for Sabrina’s birthday, but alas, I didn’t have the time. Her birthday is less than two weeks after mine, and I needed more time to make something similar – but still different and creative – happen.
Ultimately, I came to the decision that she will probably enjoy this post even if she gets it months after her birthday, so here we are today. Like I said, I didn’t want to copy her post – also, regrettably, she is much better at reading the books I recommend to her than I am – so my post is rather different. I have selected five books Sabrina loves – all of these she rated five or four stars – and have read them for this post. I thought that this post would be more meaningful if I got out of my comfort zone for it, so with the exception of one of my picks, I probably wouldn’t have read these if not for this post / Sabrina loving them… which is nerve-wrecking, as I don’t want to dislike Sabrina’s favorites.
I did this in top secret, so I didn’t mark any of these as currently reading or read on Goodreads and I won’t do so until after this post goes live. I’m proud of myself for (1) religiously following this small to-read list during the first half of January and (2) not spoiling what I’m doing by telling it to Sabrina. We tend to message each other nearly every day, and I can’t tell you how many times I caught myself right before I was about to tell her about how much I’m enjoying her favorites. 💀 I’m bloody terrible at keeping secrets that I’m excited to share.
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
⭐️ Found in Ten Reasons Why I Love My Favorite Books.
🌙 Expectations Before Reading: I’m probably the most scared of this one out of the five novels I selected for this post. Strange the Dreamer is one of Sabrina’s all-time favorite novels, so I feel like there’s a pressure for me to at least not hate it. 😅 On top of that, while I enjoyed the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor, I wasn’t particularly eager to try other books by her.
🌕 Thoughts After Reading: Ahh, I loved this so damn much! I can’t believe I waited so long to pick it up and that I needed this push to finally get to it, because it’s one of the best young adult fantasy novels I’ve read in recent years. I think the strength of this book lies in its characters, especially Sarai and Lazlo, who feel very realistic and complex. I was rooting for these two all through, and even though their romance was rather insta-lovey, I loved it and them nonetheless. The only negative I can think of is that unless I was actively reading the book, I didn’t feel a strong desire to jump back into it and continue, but ultimately that could have been just my mood, so this is still a five star read. I’m not sure I’ll have the chance to read the sequel before this post goes up, but rest assured, it’s on my immediate tbr.
Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
🌙 Expectations Before Reading: I’ve only heard about Friday Black through Sabrina, and it sounds wonderful. That said, I’m fairly certain I’d be too intimidated by it were it not for this post, as I’m usually reluctant to pick up anthologies, so I’m glad for this push.
🌕 Thoughts After Reading: As expected, I loved Friday Black and I can’t wait to push it at as many of you as possible, as I think it’s an exceptionally fantastic short story collection. It’s basically Black Mirror in book form, if Black Mirror wasn’t centered around technological inventions, rather around topics like racism and capitalism. It’s so difficult to talk about short story collections, because I cannot go into any of the stories lest I share too much and ruin them for you, but I can say that this collection was a splendid reading experience. If you want to read something thought-provoking and unique, Friday Black is for you.
Soulless by Gail Carriger
🌙 Expectations Before Reading: I actually have this marked as “read” on goodreads, but that is a complete lie. 😂 When I was about thirteen I picked up Soulless and put it down immediately after starting it… then proceeded to mark it as read and even rate it. Even though I remember literally nothing from those first few pages, that first try left a bad taste in my mouth, so I never went back to this novel again.
🌕 Thoughts After Reading: Ah, I’m so disappointed this didn’t work for me, and I’m not looking forward to Sabrina seeing my thoughts. 🙈 After giving up on it, I contemplated not including Soulless in my post at all, but I felt like that defeated the purpose of the post, so here we go. I should start by saying that no matter how many pages I had read back in the day, I made the right call then… and I made the same call now, when I was about 20% into the book. Sabrina is fantastic at DNF-ing books, so I took a page out of her book because, due to the characters and the writing being extremely hard for me to like, I could not for the life of me get into this book.
The Other People by C.J. Tudor
⭐️ Found while going through Sabrina’s Goodreads shelves and she also mentions it in this post.
🌙 Expectations Before Reading: The Other People is the only book on this list that I’m fairly certain I’d pick up on my own too… and one that I didn’t find on any sort of post or favorite list of Sabrina’s. 😅 I found it while looking at her goodreads shelf and thought it’d qualify as she rated it four stars.
🌕 Thoughts After Reading: And I was right! I really loved this thriller and I’m looking forward to reading more by the author – I already own one of his books, so I’m hoping I can get to it soon. But back to the book at hand! The Other People was able to keep me captivated nearly all through, as the mystery of what happened to the protagonist’s daughter was complex and layered. I was able to guess some of the plot twists, but there were always more shocking revelations to come, so I cannot be mad about the twists I figured out.
I have two small reasons for not giving this novel five stars. The first is that I felt like some of the story’s elements – I can’t be any more specific without spoilers – were a bit too far-fetched and thus felt out of place. The other reason is that, while I was fully invested and eagerly turning the pages up until I was 70% into the book, I found my enthusiasm and curiosity die down a bit after that. Thankfully, the ending picked up the pace and became intriguing again, but this was a bit disappointing after such a strong first half.
We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
🌙 Expectations Before Reading: To be fair, I’ve always wanted to try Nina LaCour’s novels, but as far as I understand they tend to be slower, more melancholic novels, which makes me wary because that is not my type of book at all. In any case, Sabrina really loved this one and even recommended it to me ages ago, so I’m really hopeful I’ll love it.
🌕 Thoughts After Reading: We Are Okay is officially the biggest surprise of this post! I expected to enjoy it, but I never expected it to be a solid five star read. In any case, I’m really pleased about this, so let’s talk about why I loved this short contemporary YA novel. I think the biggest thing to mention is that We Are Okay is a very character-driven novel; while it does have some semblance of a plot, the focus remains on Marin and on how she’s been handling the death of her grandfather and all that she learnt about him after he died. I can’t exactly pinpoint what aspects of LaCour’s writing made this possible, but I found myself constantly visualizing the settings in the story, which is not always the case for me. My favorite setting was the shop / pottery, but everything was so easy to imagine, perhaps because I felt completely engrossed in the novel from the get-go.
Another fantastic thing is that it wasn’t just Marin, the protagonist, whose characterization was fantastic, but everyone else’s too, including those characters’ that barely appeared on page. We might not have been given a lot of information about Hannah, for instance, but she felt so vivid and real, nonetheless. Having such great characters means that the relationships in We Are Okay were also fantastically crafted – in fact, some of the interactions between the characters (one in particular) pushed me close to tears. All considered, We Are Okay is a new favorite contemporary novel and I can’t wait to read more by Nina LaCour.
I’m really happy with how this experiment / post turned out, and I hope Sabrina will enjoy reading it, too. I loved reading her favorite novels, and I’m glad that only one of them turned out to be disappointing, while everything else was enjoyable and memorable. We Are Okay was my favorite read, closely followed by Strange the Dreamer, which was followed by Friday Black. The Other People was an entertaining thriller, but the other three were much more memorable and unique, so this can only take the fourth place, and is of course followed by Soulless. While it makes me sad that I wasn’t into Soulless, I’m happy I gave it another chance, because this was a title I’d periodically remember and try to guess if I’d like it more as a adult. At least that question has been answered, lol.
Have you ever tried to read any of your friends’ favorite books? How did it go? Have you read any of these novels?