Review #50

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich Alexander Solzhenitsyn is one of the most remarkable books revealing what went on in the gulags of the Soviet Union, and it all happens over the course of one day. Between the inhumane conditions and the bleak atmosphere the novel promises to be a boring recount of a historical event. The story quickly follows the clever and resourceful Shukhov through his daily life and drags the reader into the horrible reality of the camp.

I read this at a time that coincided with my newfound love for history, which made the historical context much more intriguing to me. Until this year I had always hated history and said it was my least favorite subject, but through the enlightening education of my teacher this year and novels like this one I find myself hungry for more knowledge. What happened? Where? When? Why?

Reading this book made me grateful that I have clothes on my back and a real spoon to eat with, to say the least.

With Smiles,

Ivy B. Lake

Review #49

Paradise of the Blind by Duong Thu Huong is an exceptional portrayal of Vietnamese life, the beauty of memories, and the trials of balancing culture with identity.

This novel is a bildungsroman for a girl named Hang as she tells the story of her family across generations, starting 10 years before she was born. The pain and betrayal that wracked her mother and father’s lives seeps into her childhood experiences and her attitude as an adult. Family is everything in Vietnam, but it is what slowly tears Hang apart and unravels her future until she breaks free from the traditions and blazes her own path.

I love this novel not only for it’s meaningful story, but also for the insight into a culture so different from mine. The importance of food, ancestors, and body language is radically different and Huong was able to weave the threads of her own life into the plot of Hang’s to reveal what living in Vietnam was really like. It is a deeply moving story that makes you question your own values and whether family is all that matters.

With Smiles,

Ivy B. Lake


Review #48

Morgan Matson’s The Unexpected Everything was phenomenal. Spectacular. Beautiful.

I’m struggling to find the right words to convey how good it was. Matson is one of the most talented writers I’ve ever read. She slowly builds worlds and creates characters that are right next to you as you’re reading, and then the plot sneaks up on you so suddenly you didn’t even realize you were missing it. Her writing is quality and I love it.

She also seems to have a deep understanding of loss, and that is shown in almost all of her books. Her characters experience feelings that we experience, and that makes them relatable. 

The Unexpected Everything slowly built a story that was light, happy, and moving in the right direction. But in classic Matson style, everything good was ripped away, and left shattered. You realize as you’re about to finish the book that there’s no way out. It’s over, ruined. I walked away for five whole minutes, swearing I was done with it… But then I came back just to see what would happen. And in a completely real way the story seemed to fix itself, not by giving us a perfect ending, but by letting life go on (which, in a way, is perfect). As I reached the last few pages my head was spinning with a million thoughts “wait, what… YES, oh well that’s kind of sad… Dang it, WAIT, oh my gosh, YES… Wow… That’s… Wow”. You won’t realize it at first, but this book is one that you’ll come back to read again. 

I hope you read it. 

With Smiles,

Ivy B. Lake 

Review #47

Fairest by Marissa Meyer was another example of skilled writing, but I just didn’t like Levana. After all, we’re supposed to hate her. But sometimes reading a book about someone you hate is kind of… frustrating? I love Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles, and I was exited for another installment, but there was just no way she could make Levana a ‘good’ character. She’s innately bad, manipulative, and delusional. So yes this book was good… but I can’t really say that I liked it.

I know, I’m confused too.

With Smiles?

Ivy B. Lake

Review #46

The List by Siobhan Vivian was suprisingly good. Not because I didn’t expect greatness from her, but because it was shockingly true.

Wow. It’s sad to admit that high school is really like how she described it to be. We should be ashamed that we act that way, as if hair, makeup, clothes, noses, dress sizes, and boyfriends are all that matter. Vivian laid it all out for us, clear as day, and it’s almost too real to accept.

This book shows the good, the bad, and the ugly (literally) and dives into the lives of 8 very different high school girls of each grade level. It’s dramatic and fresh, but it’s also sad when you look back at it.

With Smiles,

Ivy B. Lake


Review #45

No time for currently readings. Must… make… reviews…

Love and Luck by Jenna Evans Welch.

In this adorable book set in gorgeous Ireland we get to live the life of Addie, Lena’s best friend from Love and Gelato. It has just the right amount of sass, love, heartbreak, honesty, and Ren! I loved this book, and I thought it was a sweet sequel to the first novel. I would highly recommend it. Jenna Evans Welch is very gifted in the way that she transports you instantly into a different country.

I can almost feel the raindrops…

With Smiles,

Ivy B. Lake


Review #44

Alas! I’m back. It’s been a busy year.

To catch you up: Italy, gelato, stuck in Norway, work, work, work, baking, cello, flute, studying, work, learning another language, not sleeping for 72 hours, “wait… is it really Summer?”, and here we are.

To kick this season off, let’s start with John Green’s newest book, Turtles All the Way Down.

This book is very real. Who am I kidding, all of Green’s books are. But this one in particular was acutely in tune with a different kind of teenage reality. It wasn’t all about love, mystery, or death. It explored mental illness, and in a shockingly vivid way.

At times this book was redundant, and the characters were sometimes frustratingly imperfect. Annoying even. You could almost critique this book for that, but not quite. Because after reading it I realized that it was that way on purpose. We’re surrounded by books filled with perfectly designed character arcs, satisfying endings, good relationships, and solutions. This book was repetitive and flawed because mental illnesses are repetitive and flawed. Green doesn’t need to make his characters pleasant to make them award winning.

At times you will want to scream at Aza to stop thinking about spirals. But I want you to think about how she must feel.

I bet she wants to scream too.

With Smiles,

Ivy B. Lake



Review #43

I recently read To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee but I forget to create a Currently Reading post. It is very important that I share this book with you all, as it was spectacular.

This story is told from the point of view of a young girl from the deep south in the 1930’s. Every page is packed with imagination, humor, wisdom, learning, and curiosity. Scout was exceptionally bright and quick for her age, and seeing the world of Maycomb, Alabama through her eyes was quite an experience. This novel was brutally honest. Right is right and wrong is wrong. The life lessons and truths in this book are universally known, and it’s no wonder that it’s considered an American classic still today.

With some people, the word “classic” may make them shudder. Some may dread the reading of classic novels simply because they have preordained notions that to be old is to be boring. Well, this book is fun. It was fun to be 7 years old again, to run wild with an older brother and a neighbor, to terrorize neighbors and wreck gardens but have to pay for it later, to read on your father’s lap, and to go to school. Every moment of this story, even the times when sadness and death were at hand, had a lightness to it. Seeing through the eyes of a child brings you joy, innocence, and laughter. Scout was unashamed, snarky, and sweet, and she was wise beyond her years. You will undoubtedly fall in love with Lee’s characters.

This novel slowly builds and builds, settling you down in the quiet town and feeding you character after character until you feel as though you know every Tom, Dick, and Harry, and then suddenly the power and meaning behind every word comes crashing down on you. Finally you realize what it really means to kill a mockingbird, and it changes you.

(This image belongs to

Please read this book, you’ll be better for it.

With Smiles,

Ivy B. Lake

Review #42

Thirteen Reasons Why has gained impressive popularity from my peers since the release of it’s Netflix TV series. I had heard of the book a few years ago, but I never picked it up… until now. With everyone watching the show and not reading the book, I wanted to see what the book was really like before judging the filmed version. Everyone hearing the story for the first time loved the show, but I wanted to know what was at the heart; what had Jay Asher written so long ago that was now so famous? Well, I found out.

Unfortunately, I was not very pleased.

This story was disappointing to me, but I lend that to all of the excitement I was hearing about the TV show. Maybe I was expecting too much? I’ll never know, but I would never want to read this book again.

The story was not engaging, suspenseful, or heart-wrenching, which is what one may expect from a book about teen suicide. Instead, it was just a bland recounting of the reasons Hannah killed herself, and at such a fast pace that there was nothing hidden from you. The reasons came one after the other with no break in between, so there was no mystery or anything keeping you on the edge of your seat. I honestly don’t know what made me finish this book. Probably sheer curiosity as to why people liked it.

There was no passion in this book and very little love. Hannah was irrational and immature. She did not look to her parents ONCE, although she admitted to never having any problems relationship-wise with them. She hardly reached out to anyone, and when people presented themselves to her she pushed them away. Hannah wanted to die and no one could change that, and thus this book was depressing and boring. Even her reasons were lack luster and for the most part, fixable. She cared too much about the reputation everyone had made up for her, even though you shouldn’t care what people in high school think because in four years you won’t have to deal with them anymore. She let herself fall apart and it seemed to even entertain her. She was bored and upset, and so, she killed herself. Not the best idea for a book.

Was it realistic at the very least? I’m not too sure. Possibly. However, the parts where it was reminiscent of high school reality were simplistic. Going to a locker, the peppiness of cheerleaders, and the general character and attitude of all high school student bodies. This book was nothing special and it was the opposite of uplifting.

I do not recommend this book. If you are looking for help, this is something you should steer clear of: all it will do is make you feel more alone. I hate to have to give such a harsh review, but trust me, I’m downplaying it.

With reluctant Smiles,

Ivy B. Lake


Review #41

The Sun Is Also A Star is brilliant, engaging, fresh, and endlessly enjoyable. I thought that Yoon couldn’t top Everything, Everything and yet here she did it.

This book is centered around 1 day. 1 day where Daniel, a boy pressured by his Korean parents to go to Yale and to be better better better, and Natasha, a girl from Jamaica who is being deported that night, meet under the rarest of circumstances and have a wild day of events that bring them closer despite the odds. Everyone is connected, and one thing you say or do can change someone’s life, end someone’s life, or make their day just a little bit brighter. This book was witty and snarky, and within minutes of reading you felt as if these characters were right beside you.

Natasha is fact-driven, desperately unemotional, and determined to make things better for herself so that she can have the future she wants. Daniel lives in the clouds, where poets are respected and loved, and where love at first sight is a normal occurrence. However clashing their personalities may be, these two somehow run into each other in the city of New York and slowly (within a day) fall in love. Between Korean Karoke, thieving ex-boyfriends, an attorney who almost gets killed, and a girl mesmerized by a phone case, this novel weaves together the lives of so many people and creates the most perfect, intricate, and deep love story that you could ever imagine.

I recommend this book 1000%, it’s a perfect mix of joy and heartbreak, and I never want to stop reading it.

With Smiles,

Ivy B. Lake