Review: Things We Know By Heart by Jessi Kirby

 17571215.jpgThings We Know By Heart by Jessi Kirby

Published by HarperTeen on April 21st 2015

Page Count: 304

Genre(s): YA, contemporary, romance, coming-of-age, grief

Format: Hardcover, library copy (but will be purchasing a shiny hardcover copy of ASAP!)

Would I recommend? Yes, absolutely. This is by far the best book I’ve encountered this year and one of the most perfect books I’ve ever read. A unique concept, lovely characters, and a brilliant, long-lasting effect. I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone.

Rating: ★★★★★

When Quinn Sullivan meets the recipient of her boyfriend’s donated heart, the two form an unexpected connection.

After Quinn loses her boyfriend, Trent, in an accident their junior year, she reaches out to the recipients of his donated organs in hopes of picking up the pieces of her now-unrecognizable life. She hears back from some of them, but the person who received Trent’s heart has remained silent. The essence of a person, she has always believed, is in the heart. If she finds Trent’s, then maybe she can have peace once and for all.

Risking everything in order to finally lay her memories to rest, Quinn goes outside the system to track down nineteen-year-old Colton Thomas—a guy whose life has been forever changed by this priceless gift. But what starts as an accidental run-in quickly develops into more, sparking an undeniable attraction. She doesn’t want to give in to it—especially since he has no idea how they’re connected—but their time together has made Quinn feel alive again. No matter how hard she’s falling for Colton, each beat of his heart reminds her of all she’s lost…and all that remains at stake. description

My Thoughts

I really, really tried to word a review that would do this book justice, but I just couldn’t. Not in my typical review format, anyway. One of my blogging resolutions for 2016 was to play around with some different review formats, so who knows, maybe I’ll try doing something like this again in the future! There’s no need to worry about spoilers in this review; as always, there is none. Hopefully reading this post will give you a little insight as to why I loved and needed this book so much.

Dear Jessi,

I went into Things We Know By Heart with pretty high expectations. After you completely stole my heart with your lovely novel In Honor, how couldn’t I? When I was perusing Goodreads one day and stumbled across your latest novel (and this was before I even knew you existed, mind you), I instantly fell in love with the title, cover, synopsis, everything. I knew from that day that Things We Know By Heart would be a definite 5-star read, and I certainly wasn’t wrong.

Things We Know By Heart was a beautiful, utterly perfect novel. I honestly couldn’t have asked for anything more. I read some reviews and noticed that a few people said that the novel’s concept is a bit cliche or stereotyped, but really, how could it be? There may have been a few common tropes I recognized, but every novel has those. The concept in its entirety is so unique, so brilliant, that I don’t think any other author has ever written anything like it before.

I already knew from reading In Honor that your writing style is gorgeous, Jessi, but Things We Know By Heart gave a whole new definition to amazing writing. Your prose is so seamless and flows so well that I found myself reading every sentence twice in effort to savor every word. There was also lots of dialogue, which I adored. What struck me most about your writing, though, was the descriptions. I absolutely loved how you described the setting of the novel in such a powerful and poetic way that left me thinking, hey, I want to go there! A few days ago in English class, we were discussing how setting can make such a big impact on the overall effect and theme statement of a book, and I really saw this aspect come into play with your novel. A big part of your book took place at a beachy setting, which I really appreciated because I could relate to Quinn’s and Colton’s connection with nature on a very personal level.

When I read this novel, I was in a pretty tough place. It was near the end of the year and I was stressing out about all the assignments teachers were piling up, I hadn’t read any good books lately, I hadn’t gotten a chance to go on an ocean swim recently, swim practice was super stressful. Honestly, I was just really tired. I felt like I needed a long break, like life was this never-ending cycle of stressfulness and tough situations and I had to fight to make it through every day. This is why I was so, so thankful that I read Things We Know By Heart when I did. I needed to read that novel desperately just then, and you, Jessi, allowed me to do just this. So thank you. Thank you so much.

Although I thankfully hadn’t ever gone through an experience similar to the one Quinn had to go through, I still related to her and empathized with her so much. You have a way of carving out characters that manage to find their way into your heart within the first few chapters, and I’m so grateful for this. I’m so grateful that I had the pleasure of meeting Quinn, and of learning about – no, living – her incredible story. She is such a strong, unique, and very real character, and I genuinely felt while reading this book that I experienced some degree of every emotion she went through. I understood her, I empathized with her, I cried with her. At first glance you might think that it’s unrealistic and naive for a young character to be going through this much grief after the death of a boyfriend, but once you get to know her and understand the bond she and Trent shared, it makes so much sense. I feel like going looking for Trent’s heart recipient was exactly what I would have done if I was in her shoes. I understand why she wanted to look for Colton in effort to find a piece of one of the people she loved the most. She was incredibly strong, but she definitely had some flaws, too. Her mistakes and weaknesses were what really made me be able to love her and relate to her so much.

Alright, now I should talk about Colton. Earlier in my review I talked about some of the aspects of your book that made such a lasting impact on me, but in all honesty, Colton’s character was what really made the difference. I started this novel feeling small, tired, and relatively insignificant. I finished this novel feeling empowered, inspired, and ultimately fulfilled. This was the result of having the pleasure of meeting a lovely character by the name of Colton Thomas.

Colton’s character was just wonderful. He was one of the most real, fleshed-out characters I had ever met, and definitely one of my favorites. He’s sweet, quirky, idealistic, weird, observant, and independent. He cares so much for Quinn and his family, and he’s a real gentleman. He’s strong, flawed, and pragmatic. He has had to go through so many tough experiences, and these experiences have helped shape the lovely person he is. What struck me most about his character, however, was his passion for nature. He literally lived every day like it was his last because his experiences had taught him to, and he taught Quinn to do the same. He fed his passions boldly and fearlessly, and invited others to do the same. He had such a deep connection with nature – the ocean, in particular – that it immediately made me want to put on a bathing suit and dive in to the 56 degree surf.

In fact, that’s just what I did after finishing this novel. I put your book down, careful not to bend any of the pages, slipped into my favorite one-piece, drove down to the beach, and plunged into the frigid ocean. I floated out there for a while, feeling the waves lap against my body, feeling the seaweed thread in between my fingers, watching the way the sun set over the water, feeding my passion boldly and fearlessly just as Colton had. This book was one of the most powerful, inspirational, impactful books I’ve ever read.

So thank you, Jessi. Thank you for creating characters that I could empathize with and relate to. Thank you for your beautiful writing that made me want to get up at 6am every morning to read it. Thank you for making me smile, cry, laugh, swoon, think, and act. Thank you for creating such wonderful relationships between your characters and your readers (AKA me). Thank you for inspiring me and moving me in a way that no book has ever inspired me and moved me before. I appreciate it so much. If you ever end up reading this letter, Jessi, I hope it gives you even the smallest insight to how much I loved and appreciated you book. Really, it meant the world to me.

Love, Paige

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Woah, that was a long post. To everyone who managed to get to the bottom of all that: thank you so much! I hope you enjoyed it, despite my rambles.

Let’s talk: have you read Things We Know By Heart? What did you think of it? What is your favorite Jessi Kirby book?

Just Keep Swimming

Hi, guys! If you haven’t already noticed by the title, I decided to post something a little different than what I normally do. I’ve been doing a lot of writing in the past few months, and I figured it was a good idea to post some of it to get, so you’ll probably see a lot of posts in the near future that deal with a similar concept as the following writing snippet. Anyway, I hope you enjoy!

It was a windy afternoon on the ocean; much chillier than I expected it to be. The wind whipped at my hair as I secured it into a tight ponytail. Sea spray splashed up on me, making a shiver go down my spine. I looked out at the ocean with a grin. The sea drew me to itself like a magnet, beckoning to me with its white-tipped fingertips. It was the day I had been looking forward to for months, and one I had no intention of forgetting anytime soon: the Boat To Beach Swim of 2015.

I reached down to grab my cap and goggles from the plastic bag I had brought on the boat, a huge grin still plastered on my face. It was a grin that I doubted would be going away anytime soon, even during the race itself. I was known for having such a huge love of ocean swimming that you could see me smiling every breath during the end of each race. The thought just made my smile widen even more.

As I reached up to cap myself with my new, barely-used silicone swim cap, I felt a harsh snap against my hands and forehead. An overwhelming sense of dread filled the pit of my stomach. This couldn’t possibly be happening. Not before an event I had been looking forward to for so long, not without an extra caps or friends and family to comfort me.

Another snap. Somehow, by some stroke of horrible luck, my goggles had broken as well. I felt my eyes fill with tears.

No, Paige, I told myself. Pull yourself together. Right now, right here. You can’t ruin an event you’ve been looking forward to for so long just because of a stupid cap and goggle mishap. You’ve had your goggles fall off plenty of times before in the pool, and what do you do? You just keep swimming. That’s it. Just keep swimming.

And so, with the help from that particular quote from Finding Nemo, I forced myself to jump into the ocean a mile out from shore wearing nothing but a swimsuit and a once-tight ponytail that now had stray locks sticking out every which way. I closed my eyes, feeling the harsh cold as the water enveloped me.

I opened my eyes and looked all around me. Looked at the stray tendrils of seagrass twined around my ankle. Just keep swimming. Looked around at the other swimmers, egg beating furiously to try and stay warm. Just keep swimming. Looked at the way the sun shone through the water, piercing the deep green tint of the ocean with a bright white light. Just keep swimming.

Underwater, I smiled.

1-Year Blogoversary! *cue happy-dancing*

First of all, I guess you guys should know that it’s not my actual blogoversary. The exact date I started this blog was August 16th, 2015, but I figured today was close enough.

To all of you wonderful people who are still willing to take the time to read my posts, THANK YOU SO MUCH! I know I haven’t been the most consistent blogger in the world in the last few months, so it means the world to me that you guys still value my content and what I have to say.

If you’re wondering why I’ve been so absent in the last couple months, most of it is, as you might have guessed, time. Or, more accurately, a lack of time. I won’t go into details, but I feel like I’m going to have a lot more time in the future to do more writing and blogging, which I’m incredibly grateful for. I’ve really, really missed it.

You can also probably tell by my post so far that I’m definitely out of practice with my writing. It will probably take a few more posts, but by then, I’ll have (hopefully) gotten into the flow of things.

And now, for the main part of this post, I just want to give you all a huge thank you. Each and every one of you puts a smile on my face every day, and I’m so incredibly grateful for that. Blogging has played such a huge role in my life over the past year – even though I might not have shown it in the last couple months – and, as cliche as it sounds, blogging has become a part of me, a part of me that I couldn’t have imagined my life without.

So, thank you to everyone who liked, commented or followed my blog. Thank you to those of you who sent me thoughtful emails – it truly made my day. Thank you to those who even just stumbled onto this page by accident – I really appreciate you making it this far into this post. I’m not one to care too much about stats and pageviews and whatnot, but it still manages to astound me when someone across the world cares enough to take the time to read my posts.

On a more personal note, I’ve had a few tough times in the past year, as I’m sure you all did. Blogging was my outlet during these tough times, my secret space on the internet, and it’s helped me get through so much. I’ve changed an incredible amount in the past year, but one thing has stayed my constant – the blogosphere. No matter how many days I decide not to write a post, no matter how few comments I post some days, you guys are always there for me. Posting the simplest of comments on one of my posts might seem like no big deal to you, but it means the world to me. It shows me that somewhere in the world, someone truly cares about what I have to say. I honestly could never have gotten through the last year without your guys’ support and generosity.

I know this post may have gotten a bit rambly, and maybe a bit repetitive, but I’ll definitely be working on this in the future. Just know that I love and appreciate you all so much, and I’m so incredibly happy to be back in this wonderful community!

Happy 4th of July!

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Hi guys! I know I haven’t been to active on the blogosphere lately, but I just wanted to give you all a quick shoutout to wish you a great 4th of July. Even if you don’t celebrate this holiday, I hope you have a great day!🙂

My question to all of you: what are you currently reading, and what do you think of it so far? Let me know in the comments! I just finished reading This Is Where the World Ends by Amy Zhang, which I have mixed feelings about. Expect a whole bunch of mini reviews coming up on the blog in the near future!

Help Me Pick My Vacation Reads! | June 2016

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Hi guys! So, if you have been following this blog for a while, you may know that I’m a competitive swimmer and absolutely love the water. Because of this, my parents decided to get me something swimming-related for my birthday way back in December – tickets for the Olympic Swimming Trials in Omaha, Nebraska!

If you don’t know too much about swimming, the Olympic Swim Trials spans over an 8-day period and is the most competitive swim meet in the world. It is also one of the most exciting and emotional sports events in the world because it’s the moment that decides whether or not thousands of swimmers will become an Olympian for the rest of their lives.

I have tickets to go see the first four days of this meet, which means that I have a few hours each day between prelims and finals to hang out and go to tourist attractions around the city. And when I say “hanging out,” you probably already know that I mean reading!

Yesterday, I went on a library spree and I’m very pleased with the books I checked out! However, I did pick up a pretty large number of books (10 to be exact, but I’ve already read 2), so I need your guys’ help picking out the four books I should take.

Anyway, on to the book haul!

Book Haul

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Have you guys read any of the books I listed above? What did you think? Which books do you think I should bring on my trip?

8 Beach Reads I’m Planning On Reading This Summer

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Hi guys! So, summer has started, and you all know what that means….beach reads! The following list I compiled to share some of the beach reads I’m planning on reading this summer.

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Have you read any of the books I listed above? What did you think? What are some of the beach reads you’re planning on reading this summer?

Now Quoting: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

13330943.jpgThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Published by Doubleday on September 13th 2011

Page Count: 387

Genre(s): Adult, fantasy, historical fiction, magical realism, romance

Format: Paperback, purchased

Would I recommend? Absolutely! I don’t read very many adult books because I tend to grow bored of them quite easily, but this one held my attention the entire time. The plot is so incredibly creative and unique and the author’s use of imagery and figurative language is absolutely astounding. I loved every second of it! I would especially recommend this novel to fans of Bone Gap and Challenger Deep.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance. description

I just finished this book a few days ago, and I absolutely loved it! It did take me a bit of time for me to get into it at the beginning, but after I did, I was captivated. This book is one of the most beautifully-written novels I’ve read in a long, long time.

For those of you who don’t yet know, “Now Quoting” is a feature I try to do on my blog every week or two in which I share a quote from a recent read that particularly resonated with me and share my thoughts on it. I had a bit of a hard time choosing the quote from this book that I wanted to share with you guys because it contains so many amazing quotes, but I think I found my winner!

“I know there may be universes out there where I made different choices and they led me somewhere else, led me to someone else. And my heart breaks for every single version of me that didn't end up with you.” 2.jpg

I just loved this quote, especially the first line. “You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose…” This quote shows how stories can quite literally change someone’s life. Stories can teach you an important lesson, allow you to see the world through someone else’s eyes, and inspire you like you’ve never been inspired before.

I guess I just really related to this quote because while I may not be the best writer in the world, I feel like it’s my role and my gift to move people and drive people with my words. To educate them and empower them and inspire them. This is the reason why I get up early each morning and go to bed late each night to read and write. I want to change the world with my words.

Have you read The Night Circus? What did you think? What are some books that you’ve found particularly quotable lately?