5 Uplifting Books to Keep You Company

There’s a lot of uncertainty in the world right now. Lately, I’ve found myself having to look harder for bright patches in the everyday, and what I’ve found is that no matter what is happening, or what is out of my control, stories are always there to give me hope. Or, at the very least, some fictional friends to keep me company when I need it. If you find yourself in the same boat, then you may enjoy a pick-me-up from any of these five recommended books.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

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Raised among backstage curtains by her ruthless father, illusionist Celia is trained to compete in an age old rivalry. Her grooming leads her to Cirque de Rêves, a massive and fantastical undertaking like the world has never seen. As strategies unfold and terrible secrets are revealed, Celia and her opponent begin to realize they are competing for more than victory–they are competing for their lives. (Read my review or find a copy online.)

No Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Kay

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This beautifully written collection of poetry celebrates the bonds of family, moments of everyday life, the joys and sorrows of searching for a place to belong, and so much more. I loved it from page one. Sarah Kay’s style is brilliantly insightful and charmingly funny. She is also one of the minds behind Project Voice, an organization that teaches students from Kindergarten to University the importance of telling your story and how to harness your voice through poetry. (Find a copy online.)

Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris

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Fun and whimsical, this YA romantic comedy is an easy and enchanting read. It follows the antics of Christian, a love-sick commoner living in a cave with his trollish companion. Determined to find his happily ever after with Princess Marigold, Christian must find a way to save her from the evil schemes of the power-hungry queen. This book is an odd mix of traditional fairytale and contemporary lit, and is the kind of guilty pleasure you can read over the weekend for a quick smile and warm heart. (Find a copy online.)

Again, but Better by Christine Ricccio

For Shane, college hasn’t been like she expected. Pushed into a degree she doesn’t want by her parents and alone except for her fraying relationships with once-close cousins, she decides to break from her complacent, wallflower life by embarking on a study abroad in London to try again. Make friends. Be who she wants to be. But life outside her comfort zone is messier than anticipated, and it may take some unexpected magic to make it better. (Read my review or find a copy online.)

Tumble & Blue by Cassie Beasley

Blue Montgomery was destined to be cursed. He is a Montgomery after all. His particular affliction? To lose at everything. Abandoned at his grandmother’s house for the summer, Blue finds himself surrounded by equally unlucky relatives, and each of them is determined to be the one chosen. Chosen to go into the swamp, face the legendary monster that first cursed their ancestor, and change their fate. But when he meets Tumble, an idealistic girl with a hunger for heroics, they both wonder: What if you can change your own fate? (Read my review or find a copy online.)

Happy reading!

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What to Read: The Starless Sea

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern


Summary

After finding a magical door painted into a wall as a boy, but choosing not to open it, Zachary Ezra Rawlins has always felt there is somewhere else he was supposed to be. Now in college, Zachary discovers a book that launches him deep into the heart of one of the world’s oldest, best kept secrets—an impossible, magical place built from and containing lifetimes of stories. Suddenly caught between two underground societies, one bent on destroying and the other on preserving this place, Zachary finds himself part of an ancient love story that has been unspooling itself across time and space.

Overall Impressions

I still cannot fully wrap my mind around this beautiful piece of art. (Full disclosure, I may be a little bias being that Erin Morgenstern’s other novel The Night Circus is still my absolute favorite book.) The inexplicable world Morgenstern builds is as poetic, creative and mind-bending as ever. It is every story lover’s dreamscape. Every time a new piece of the narrative wove itself together to reveal an ounce of the mystery surrounding the existence of the Starless Sea and its defenders, new questions emerged in a thrilling, intoxicating way. All of that said, The Starless Sea is not a light read, and with so many narrative threads to follow, deciding to dive in is a definite time commitment. But if you have the time and are looking for an immersive new story full of tragedy, magic and love, I highly recommend adding this book to your list.

Happy reading!

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What to Read: Not Your Sidekick

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Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee


Summary

As if high school isn’t hard enough, Jessica Tran is trying to come to terms with the fact that she’ll likely never exhibit superpowers like her hero-class parents. When she is chosen for an internship at the biggest company in Andover, Jessica is thrilled. However, she soon learns that the lab where she interns is led by her parents’ arch nemesis. (She may also have a crush on the head intern, Abby, but that’s beside the point.) The lab isn’t the only mysterious thing happening in Andover, and as Jessica dives into the world of heroes and villains, she discovers a plot that goes far deeper than she could have imagined.

Overall Impressions

Jessica is a hero you root for from the first line—relatable, charming, and determined. Like many of us, all she wants is to be somebody, and her journey to define what that means is entertaining and heartfelt. Her story is told in first-person present tense, giving the reader a front seat to her thoughts. Personally, it’s not my favorite point of view as a reader, but I appreciated how it created a natural flow to the narrative as I followed Jessica through her different identities as a student, daughter, hero, smitten teen, etc. Overall, this book is a fun, light read that at its end packs a punch of commentary about government, media, and societal perspectives. I recommend this novel to readers who enjoy YA, superheroes, LGBTQ+ protagonists, and stories that emphasize the value of friendship.

Happy reading!

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What to Read: This Savage Song

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab


Summary

The world changed when violence began birthing monsters. Living in a divided city, Kate and August find themselves on opposite sides of a quickly fraying truce. On Kate’s side of the Seam, monsters roam the city under her human father’s thumb. Meanwhile, August and his family seek to eliminate monsters—despite August being one himself. When Kate and August’s lives are forced together in an assassination attempt, they must rely on each other to survive. But how far can a man trust a monster?

Overall Impressions

Schwab’s urban fantasy novel is a well-balanced diet of poetry and gore, one that I really enjoyed. Verity and its monsters are bone-chilling, sophisticated, and (sometimes) wildly human. August’s struggle to discover what it means to be human is a poignant compliment to Kate’s dark determination to prove herself invulnerable, creating an irresistible tension that left me racing through the last half of the book. The story starts with a bang and ends with a spine shiver. I recommend it to fantasy readers who enjoy stories about dark family histories, enemy-to-ally relationships, and imaginative post-apocalyptic landscapes.

Happy reading!

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What to Read: The Merciful Crow

The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen


Summary

The nomadic Crow caste is looked down on by everyone but their own. Yet without the mercy-killing magic of the Crow’s chiefs, the plague of sin would ravage the entire kingdom. When Fie’s clan makes a deal to help fake the death of a fugitive prince and his body guard, they find themselves thrust into a deadly battle for power. Sent on the run, the Crows can only hope to reach the prince’s allies before the enemy reaches them first.

Overall Impressions

Where to even start. This novel communicates the hurt and the helplessness born out of prejudice like no other fantasy book I’ve come across so far. The characters’ voices and the injustices they face are so clear and so human. They are diverse, complex, and expressive in a way that is equal parts beautiful and infuriating⁠. Additionally, Owen has created an awesome world of earthy, unique magic that I love—this is the kind of fantasy we need right now. I highly recommend this book for fans of Maggie Stiefvater and Leigh Bardugo, but really to all YA fantasy lovers in general.

Happy reading!

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What to Read: Other Words for Home

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga


Summary

Jude is a young girl living in Syria with her family in a quiet town. Political unrest endangers cities around them while Jude dreams of growing up and becoming a movie star and her older brother grows increasingly invested with people who some dub “radicals,” but who he sees as people wanting better things for their country. When Jude and her mother are eventually sent to live in the United States, Jude must wrestle through the complexities of middle school life while learning how to reconcile two lands, and cultures, as home.

Overall Impressions

This is a story all about hope and the struggle that it blooms from. Jude is such a relatable, lovely character and her innocence makes her the perfect narrator to take on the heavy topics of the book. The lyrical and poetic structure of the novel crafts a story that handles big ideas in beautiful and simple terms that are easy to understand and take to heart. Not only did I love the story in its fictional elements, but I gained a deeper understanding of the beauty and struggle of another culture. This is the kind of book that bridges differences and opens us up to empathizing with those who we may think are too different from us, but are really looking for what all of us are looking for–love, security, and acceptance. Although this book is marketed for middle-grade readers, I would highly recommend it to readers of all ages.

Happy reading!

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Weekend Writing Prompt: The House on the Hill

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What to Read: The Girl from Everywhere

The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig


Summary

The Temptation can travel to anywhere and to any time, so long as it has a map to get it there. Nix has spent her entire life helping her father, Captain Slate, travel the world–past, present, and future–to obtain the only thing he’s ever cared about: a map that will take him back to before his wife died in childbirth. But no one knows what will happen if they succeed. If Slate can Navigate their motley crew back in time to prevent his wife’s death, will Nix, this Nix, cease to exist?

Overall Impressions

I really liked the premiss of this book, and while the story itself felt simple, it was just the right amount of unpredictable and familiar. The characters’ relationships are engaging, frustrating, and intriguing throughout. I was immediately charmed by Nix and Kash as a partners-in-crime duo and subtly flirtatious duo. Their underlying charisma paired with the magically tinted world they reside in makes for a satisfying read. I recommend this book to those who enjoy YA novels with complex family relationships, a hint of romance, and time-bending adventures.

Happy reading!

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What to Read: America for Beginners

America for Beginners by Leah Franqui


Summary

After the death of her husband, Pival embarks on a journey from India to America in search of the truth: is her son really dead, or was that a lie made up by her husband after learning that their son is gay? Led by Satya, a Bangladeshi immigrant and newly employed tour guide, and Rebecca, a struggling American actress, the widow tours the U.S. from New York to California in search of her son—though neither guide knows quite what they’re in for.

Overall Impressions

I know, the premiss sounded a little strange to me at first, too. But the story turned out to be far more than I expected and in the best way. At its core, it’s a story about challenging perceptions and finding space to discover something beautiful in every circumstance. Its subtle humor, poignant observations, and genuine approach to divisive topics are sewn together neatly inside the lives of the characters. I would highly recommend America for Beginners to readers looking for a book with simple prose that is diverse, enlightening, and full of heart.

Happy reading!

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What to Read: We Hunt the Flame

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal


Summary

Zafira hunts the Arz forest to feed her village, a place where most who enter go mad. But her people wouldn’t be thanking her if they knew she was a woman. In her village, women have been blamed for every misfortune since the Six Sisters, powerful protectors of the realm, vanished. When mysterious forces lead Zafira away from home and into a shaky alliance with the assassin prince Nassir, she must find a way to outsmart those who would keep her from obtaining the one thing that may save not just her village, but the entire kingdom.

Overall Impressions

This book felt refreshing in a genre overflowing with the same retold stories (this coming from a writer who largely writes fairytale retellings). Centered in an Arabian styled world, it injects some much-needed diversity into the realm of fantasy, and the author’s world-building is beautiful. It took me a few chapters to settle into her style, but once I did I really enjoyed it. There’s a classic push-pull in Nasir and Zafira’s relationship throughout, jaded assassin versus resilient small town hero; a dynamic I can happily get behind, romantic or otherwise. And throwing comedic relief and right-hand-man Altair to the mix made me laugh more than once. I recommend this book for fans of fantasy, especially darker stories, like the Shadow and Bone series.

Happy reading!

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