Mini Reviews From Quarantine Pt. 2 // The Second Installment of Me Crying Over YA and MG Novels!

I’m back again with more mini reviews!

As I’ve said a few times, one of the good parts about quarantine for me has been getting back into reading frequently. I didn’t realize quite how much I’d gotten out of the habit of reading consistently until I recently looked back at some monthly recaps from late 2019 and saw that during the school year I sometimes…didn’t read anything at all the whole month.

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Knowing that I’ll probably be in a similar situation like that again (though at this point, I would welcome in-person school stress, knowing my school will probably be online for the foreseeable future), I’m trying to take advantage of all my free time to read as much as possible! That’s resulted in me having read a lot of books that I would very much like to scream about and recommend to you.

To follow up with my first mini reviews from quarantine post, I’m going to be reviewing (in a bullet point fashion) some more books I read so far during quarantine! I’m unfortunately very behind on my reviewing, so these are mostly ones that I read in May but I will be doing more to talk about ones I’ve read in June and July as well.

I’m writing this post while absolutely freaking out about Taylor Swift’s surprise announcement of her new album, Folklore, coming out in (at the time of me typing this) around six hours, so I feel kind of like I’ve just had ten shots of espresso. Hopefully my nervous and excited energy translates into enthusiastic reviews and not rambling, muddled ones??

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Harley in the Sky

 

Title: Harley in the Sky

Author: Akemi Dawn Bowman

My Rating: ★★★★☆

 

I thought it was only right to start off with this novel, because it was highly anticipated by me and I’m sure many others, since Akemi Dawn Bowman’s other novels have been very well-received by the majority of readers I’ve seen. I initially had mixed feelings about this book, but as it went on, I was more and more drawn into the story and characters, and it did end up meeting my expectations!

  • The circus setting was truly magical. I haven’t ever read a book with a circus setting, but this one has multiple circuses in it. Harley grew up in the circus (her parents owned it), and she also joins a traveling circus. All the descriptions of the acts, people, and dedication that goes into the circus was so intriguing. One hundred percent Greatest Showman vibes.
  • I thought Harley grew a lot as a character throughout the book. I didn’t like Harley at first, which is why I almost put this book down. At first, her ambition was so huge that she was blinded to how her actions affected those around her, and I felt like she could be naive and made impulsive decisions. However, her character development throughout the novel really stood out to me in a positive way! Side note: Harley is the most Slytherin character ever. I don’t want it to seem like I didn’t like her because of that, though, because no- I just see the traits of ambition, cunning, and resourcefulness so much in her character.
  • There was a soft, sweet romance on the side. This was not a romance novel, but it still had romance, just as a much smaller subplot. I loved the slowburn, the tension, the slight enemies to lovers, the mysterious boy…*chef’s kiss* Romances that don’t take up the whole plot but are still sweet and true have my heart.

While I was reading this, I definitely thought I was going to give it three stars, but overall, the huge character development and the magical setting made me rate it four stars. If you’ve enjoyed past novels of Akemi Dawn Bowman, I think you’ll like this one as well!

content warnings: depression, references to suicide ideation, mood swings, heart attack

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A Quiet Kind of Thunder

 

Title: A Quiet Kind of Thunder

Author: Sara Barnard

My Rating: ★★★★★

 

I buddy read this with Annie back in May, but it still feels so fresh in my head and it’s certainly in the running for being in my top five books of 2020. I’ve learned that I love everything I read by Sara Barnard, and A Quiet Kind of Thunder is no exception.

  • It was very informative. The main character, Steffi, is a selective mute, and the other main character, Rhys, is deaf. This book was so informative, mostly about Steffi’s experience (it was from her point of view) with social anxiety and selective mutism, but also about Rhys and how they were able to communicate. One part that stuck out to me was Steffi’s description of the differences between being selectively mute, having social anxiety, being an introvert, and being shy.
  • I was so into the romance. I was SO there for Steffi and Rhys’s relationship from the start and thought it was properly adorable. They started off messaging online, then they were close friends, and then became more: the strangers-to friends-to lovers slowburn that I am Here For. Rhys was incredibly sweet and I’m here for this healthy relationship!!
  • The family and friend relationships were phenomenal. Steffi had a great relationship with both her parents and both of her step-parents, as well as her younger half-sister, which isn’t something I’ve read a lot of in YA. Her relationship with her best friend also struck me as being so realistic because it was flawed, yet you could tell they loved each other at all times- we love girls supporting girls and non-toxic friendships.
  • Fluff! But not too much fluff. I won’t deny it, this book is fluffy. However, despite all this fluff (ahem I do love the fluff though) I still walked away from reading this book feeling like I got something out of it, and that’s what made it so amazing to me.

I haven’t had *too* many five star reads this year (look at me, getting critical about books?!), so the fact that I rated this five stars definitely means something. This book made me feel all the emotions and for that reason, I will be singing its praises from the rooftops starting now.

content warnings: anxious thoughts, panic attacks

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House of Salt and Sorrows

 

Title: House of Salt and Sorrows

Author: Erin A. Craig

My Rating: ★★★★★

 

Oh, look! It’s another five star novel I read that is definitely going to be making my top reads of 2020 list. (Late May/early June was apparently a really good reading time for me.) This is absolutely a new favorite and I haven’t been so pleasantly surprised by a book in such a long time!

  • The vibes are immaculate. A retelling of the 12 Dancing Princesses? (@ the Barbie movie) A seaside setting? Fog constantly rolling in? Brine and eerie cliffs and lighthouses and people of salt and all the haunting, magical, atmospheric energy? I…this book has such an amazing aesthetic.
  • The sister relationships were stellar. I know a retelling of the 12 Dancing Princesses invites sister relationships, but they went above and beyond my expectations. I was prepared to like them, but was not prepared to get attached. The main character, Annaleigh, has such a deep love and sense of protection towards all her sisters and it was so beautiful to read about.
  • The plot lives up to everything else. Me being the contemporary reader I am, I’m not always ready for fantasy plots to take me on such a rollercoaster. This one certainly was a whirlwind of a ride! There wasn’t a dull moment, and I literally couldn’t put down the book through all 400+ pages. Plot twists abounded and I’m pretty sure my jaw is still on the floor where the end of this book left it.

I don’t know what else to say except that this is the kind of book that creeps into your subconscious and stays there. I’ll be going about my daily life, and suddenly my mind has turned to Annaleigh and her sisters. This gave me a thirst for more fantasy and rejuvenated my love for retellings and for stories set by the ocean. I adore it.

content warnings: death (sometimes gruesome/violent), assumed suicide, loss of a loved one

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Amina's Voice

 

Title: Amina’s Voice

Author: Hena Khan

Rating: ★★★☆☆

 

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of middle grade recommendations, and I love it because middle grade fiction was my absolute world for so long. Now that I don’t keep up with new MG series or look at that section in the library anymore, it makes me very happy to still hear positive reviews of MG novels and then inevitably end up reading them myself. This was the case with Amina’s Voice!

  • Everything felt so true. In this novel, Amina is in sixth-grade, so a lot of focuses on her daily life as a sixth grader: her friendship troubles, school assignments, and relationships with her parents and brother. Everything felt so accurate and very much “sixth-grade.” I was taken back, in a way, to a lot of the thoughts and feelings I had as a sixth grader, and I think that’s a sign of a great book.
  • It was genuinely so heartwarming. Another thing I love about MG is that they’re nearly always heartwarming, and this one certainly was. I felt for Amina during all her trials at school and at home, and I was rooting for her and wanted to support her through everything. This book really gets you to love Amina, and feeling emotions towards fictional characters clearly brings me serotonin.
  • There were amazing discussions of culture! Amina is a Pakistani-American Muslim and she’s really involved in her mosque and her community. Throughout the book, she has moments of struggle with her religious and cultural identity, but at the end of the day, you can truly see how important her culture is to her, and that is so admirable.

While I wish I had been able to read this book as a sixth-grader, as I know that’s more of the target audience, I’m so glad I read it now. I do wish there had been more of so much- more at the end, more of Amina’s relationship with her brother, etc.- which is why I ended up giving it three stars, but overall, I would recommend this! It was so cute and warmed my heart greatly. :,)

trigger warnings: Islamophobia, hate crime, racism

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I hope this post could give you some recommendations! I would have done more than four reviews, but it was already getting a bit long and I would rather have more installments of my mini reviews in quarantine than rush through a review for the sake of making this post longer. I really do love writing these, so I hope you enjoyed it!

As always, thank you very much for reading my rambles about books. (And my slight tangent about Taylor Swift at the beginning of this post. To continue with that, part of me is scared this is all just a joke because HOW can we actually be getting so many new songs less than a year after Lover? I’m not okay at all. I totally did not write this post as a way to distract myself from my excitement. And the fact that the songs might be out when most of you are reading this is crazy.)

Have you read any of these, or do you want to? What did you think of them? Please scream about Taylor Swift with me too!! I would love to talk to you in the comments.

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Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash >> credits for the image in my featured image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

48 thoughts on “Mini Reviews From Quarantine Pt. 2 // The Second Installment of Me Crying Over YA and MG Novels!

  1. OLIVIA I’M SO GLAD YOU WENT ON A TANGENT BECAUSE I DIDN’T KONW ABOUT THE ALBUM THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU ONCE YOU SEE THIS THE ALBUM WILL PROBABLY BE OUT SO WE CAN SCREAM OKAY I’M FORCING YOU INTO THIS

    I’ve been debating reading Harley in the Sky for a long time, and after your review I think I’ll give it a go!! Amina’s Voice is another one I’ve been looking at, and I’ll let you know what I think 😉 A Quiet Kind of Thunder I haven’t seen before, but I enjoyed Goodby Perfect last year so I’ll look into that as well haha – you’re really loading up my tbr :DD

    Hearing you rave about House of Salt and Sorrows.. where can I find this book!! I need it!! Lovely post Olivia, and I’m holding you to the screaming xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • OH MY GOSH, I’M SO GLAD I DID GO ON THE TANGENT THEN. AHHH LET’S SCREAM- thoughts?? This was my favorite Taylor album yet and I’m in awe of her lyrics and my brain has been unable to do anything else today except think about it and listen to it over and over again.🥺

      That makes me really excited to hear, and I hope you end up enjoying Harley! It definitely wasn’t what I expected but I think it’s worth a shot. Ahh, I read A Quiet Kind of Thunder after loving Goodbye, Perfect and it completely lived up to my expectations, and I hope it does to yours as well.

      Oh I’m so happy my rave could inspire you to want to read HoSaS!! I may have been a little overenthusiastic about it but I just adore it, it’s so spooky and magical. Thank you so much, Rhi!! I’m very much looking forward to the screaming. xx

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  2. Okay I know I just need to read House of Salt and Sorrow, because, retelling of 12 Dancing Princess? YASSS. Is it a standalone or series??

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  3. Ahhh Harley in the Sky is one of my absolute favorites ❤ ❤ totally agree that the circus setting was so amazing and whimsical and the romance was just enough to be swoony without being a huge part of the book! I'm glad you came around to liking it even if you didn't like Harley in the beginning ❤ I loved the spooky vibes in House of Salt an Sorrows too! lovely post ❤

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    • Aww, it was really good! I remember seeing your review of it on Goodreads when I was thinking about reading it and it definitely contributed to me getting it.🥰 The haunting vibes in House of Salt and Sorrows were absolutely everything, I’m still obsessed, ahh. Thank you so much, Kay! xx

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  4. yay omg, new Olivia post I AM EXCITED.

    I,,, am so pumped to read Akemi Dawn Bowman’s books! I’ve had Starfish on my tbr for ages and it MUST happen this year. And I want to try out some circus-themed books so definitely need Harley.

    But also HoSaS!! That 5-star review!! I’ve been on the fence bc the reviews have been mediocre but now,,, I HAVE TO READ. As well as A Quiet Kind of Thunder.

    also hi relatable about 5 stars and not being critical

    LOVED this post xoxoxo

    Liked by 1 person

    • YAY a Ruby comment, I am very excited and honored🥰❤️

      Oh, I really hope you love Akemi Dawn Bowman’s books! I’ve read Starfish and Summer Bird Blue and enjoyed them both, but it’s been quite a while, so I’ll look forward to hearing your thoughts and it might inspire a reread for me. Harley has ALL the circus vibes, so look no further!!

      Ahh, I will forever be hyping up HoSaS.👀 I hope you find it as captivating and magical as I did!! The same for A Quiet Kind of Thunder- agh so many books I love.

      Haha, exactly! I’ve been a little more intentionally critical this year but I still barely ever rate lower than 3 stars. Thank you so much Ruby, and for your amazing comment! xx

      Liked by 1 person

  5. […] Starry Sky Books The Wordy Habitat Lala’s Book ReviewsMarshmallow PuddingEndless PagesBlossoms and Bullet JournalsInside My Library MindRosy MusingsThe Book MermaidBethany & BooksRuby Rae ReadsAllonsythornraxxCaitlin AltheaIncessant BookwormTime of Our LivesStruck by StoriesThe Wordy HabitatInk & MythsBook Lovers BlogLife of A Literary NerdA Literary LatteHoard of BooksMoon Child Don’t CryWord Haven Paper ProcastinatorsNerd NarrationWith Love, SaoudiaEl’s Book ReviewsPurely Olivia […]

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  6. Oh, these all look so good! I love the idea of a book with a circus setting, but I’ve only ever read one that I can think of. Yes please more! My sisters, cousins, and I used to be obsessed with playing the 12 dancing princesses (with barbies, stuffed animals, ourselves, basically anything). Once we even started trying to write a musical based on it, but we didn’t get very far. Yes for stellar sister relationships!! I feel like with 12 dancing princesses it would be easy to fall into the trap of them just being a mass of sisters with only superficial things to mark them as individuals (a problem we ran into). But please give me excellent sister relationships and seaside setting and haunting magical atmosphere!!

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    • They really were! Ooh- what was the other circus setting book you’ve read? Now that I’ve experienced the magical vibe of it, I want to read more.👀 Haha, I love that! I was so obsessed with the Barbie movie for 12 Dancing Princesses, but starting to write a musical based on it is next level dedication. I agree, and one of the things I was most impressed with in HoSaS was how developed the sister relationships were, even though not every sister’s individual personality was able to be as developed as they would be with, say, two or three sisters. The seaside setting was everything, and if you read it, I hope you love it! Thank you for this very kind comment. xx

      Liked by 1 person

      • Just got HoSaS on hold at the library 🙂
        The other circus book I read was actually my sister’s unpublished manuscript, so unfortunately it’s not out there in the world yet. But it’s super dark and murdery and wonderful. Hopefully someday she’ll be able to get it published so we can all read it and scream about it together 🙂

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  7. I loved reading these reviews, Olivia! I haven’t read a book set at a circus before either, but Harley in the Sky sounds like it might be just the book to change that for me… A Quiet Kind of Thunder sounds so sweet, and I’m here for the romance and the fluff 😀 I’m so glad you found some books you loved!!

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    • Thank you so much, Margaret!❤️ Ahh, if you want the circus atmosphere, I think Harley in the Sky could be the perfect place to start. Same goes for all the fluff lying with A Quiet Kind of Thunder, and a romance I’ll ship to the end. Aww, thank you very much! xx

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  8. AHHH, the album is real!!! I can’t believe taylor swift released an album with no promo or warning at all 😭 i am being such a grinch by saying this but i didn’t like it much lmao. BUT, it’s because i only listen to music for the sound, not the lyrics, and i don’t really like ballads 😢😢 i 100% understand why people like the album so much, and i’m so happy for them!!

    i’m so happy that you’ve been enjoying a lot of books lately, olivia! (can’t relate, but oh well.) i’m so excited to read harley in the sky! even though i’m not a contemporary person, i want to read it for the asian rep and also the cover is so pretty lmao. akemi dawn bowman gets the best covers 🥺

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    • It is!! I know, me neither.👀 So un-Taylor of her but I could not complain, haha. Aww, I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy it!! I for sure understand listening for the sound, though. I’m a very big fan of mellow songs and basically any soft pop so that’s why I love it so much, I think.❤️

      Aww, thank you, Caitlin!! I hope you find some new books to adore soon. xx All of Akemi Dawn Bowman’s books have been really well-loved by me and happy reading with it!! Agh, I know, the covers are so pretty. *cries because contemporary covers*

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  9. i love reading mini reviews; i think they’re so much fun! i’m excited for your excitement for this new t swift album–getting new, unexpected music from ur favs is the BEST. THING. EVER. i feel that way about one of my favourite bands in the whole wide world, switchfoot, as they have come thru in the clutch with daily/frequent songs/covers on their youtube channel, and now they’re going on a virtual tour! i’m so excited to watch their show each month!!

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    • Awh, thank you, Macey!💛 Ahh, I am SO excited and still can’t believe there’s a whole new Taylor album to listen to. Exactly, it’s really just THE best feeling!! Ohh, I can’t think of any titles off the top of my head, but I know I’ve enjoyed songs by Switchfoot before. That’s so exciting they’re doing a virtual tour, oh my gosh- yay! xx

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  10. […] Olivia @ Purely Olivia is so lovely, and always has a kind word for everyone. She’s the absolute sweetest when it comes to answering comments, and she always makes sure to share her favourite posts in her monthly wrap ups. She writes her posts with such a friendly tone, and visiting her blog always leaves me feeling warm and fuzzy inside. […]

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  11. i’m currently reading my first akemi dawn bowman novel (summer bird blue) because i’ve heard the best things about her writing and can’t wait to get further into it! i’m glad to hear you enjoyed harley in the sky, i’m planning on reading it soon as well as starfish 💖 and a quiet kind of thunder sounds beautiful, i hadn’t heard about it before so i’m so glad i saw your review!! i am so here for heartwrenching contemporaries 🥺

    also, i’m very intrigued by a house of salt and sorrows after hearing that it has sister!! relationships!! i need to read books other than ya contemporary haha so it’s definitely moved up higher on my tbr! i’m sorry you didn’t enjoy amina’s voice as much as you would have liked, but i agree that it was meant for a younger audience and i remember reading it a while ago 😅

    as always, your mini reviews were so fun to read and i can’t wait to pick up some of these books! 🥰

    (also, can we scream about folklore together ahhh!!!!!! 😭😭 i love it so so much, what’s your favorite song? ❤)

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    • Ahh, yay! I hope you’re enjoying it so far- I do remember really liking Summer Bird Blue.🥰 Starfish and Harley in the Sky are also both great and I hope you can read them soon! A Quiet Kind of Thunder is so so cute and fluffy but also meaningful, wow, I just love it.

      The sister relationships in House of Salt and Sorrows are everything!! There are a ton of sisters and it’s so nice to read about their interactions (and the youngest sister was so cute, she has my whole heart). I’m pretty sure I discovered Amina’s Voice from your blog, so thank you for that!! :,)

      Aww, Ash, you’re the sweetest- thank you so, so much.❤️😭Happy reading with whatever you pick up! xx

      YES, please I would love to scream about folklore!! I love it so so much. I’ve found that there aren’t any skips on it for me, but some of my favorites are Betty, Cardigan, Exile, and Epiphany- what about you?

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  12. I’ve had House of Salt and Sorrow on my TBR for foreverrrr omg!! People have been telling me that it’s creepy and atmospheric and ghostly and I *LIIIIVE* for books like that!

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  13. a quiet kind of thunder is in my TBR for next month and i’m so happy you loved it as much as you did! it makes me hopeful i’ll enjoy it too. i will admit, i am not the biggest fan of fluff, but i think it will be important to read about selective mutism & deafness. i really need to read more books with disability rep, i hope i love this one!

    i always feel a bit :/ when it comes to middle grade. like you, i grew up reading MG but now, i don’t know how much they would still work for me. but at the same time there’s so much amazing rep in middle grade lately, especially latinx rep. i think i just need to give them a second chance!

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    • Ohh, I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on it! I hope you love it as much as I did too.💛 I feel like there’s a good balance of fluff without too much fluff, if that makes sense- I came away from the book feeling like I gained something from it, which is always a sign for me that it wasn’t *too* fluffy.

      I feel similarly! I love rereading old MG favorites, but reading new MG definitely requires a different mindset because I have to remind myself that I’m not the target audience, so I might not relate or feel as connected to the characters. But, same as you, I want to experience all the amazing rep in MG novels now, so I’ve been trying to read more! Thank you for this comment, Lais. xx

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  14. Olivia you always have the very best recommendations, I love it so much, thank you! 💛 I’ve been wondering about Harley in the Sky! I loved Starfish by the author and am so curious to read more and Harley sounds lovely and I’m sooo curious about the circus setting.
    I’m SO HAPPY you loved A Quiet Kind of Thunder aaaaaaaaaaah it’s one of my favorites, such an underrated gem 💛

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    • What, you’re the kindest!! No, thank you for this very sweet comment.🥺 I think you’ll enjoy Harley in the Sky!! It has a pretty different vibe than Starfish, but I still really loved it and the circus setting was so magical.
      I’m pretty sure I first discovered it from your recs, so thank you! It is SO underrated and genuinely just the sweetest book ever. I’m still not over how adorable Rhys and Steffi are. xx

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  15. AHA Olivia I love so much how you wrote this while waiting for Folklore. (I hope you’re listening to it right now while reading this comment. Do you have any favorites yet?? Or is it too hard to choose?)
    Whoa, circus setting, that’s so cool. Dang, I just realized that I don’t think I’ve tried to sort characters into houses yet after reading Harry Potter. I want to try that soon. Hmmm, I think one of them in the book I’m reading right now is pretty Slytherin too. OH, wait there’s three other characters besides him, and one of them feels very Ravenclaw. I think I’m going to make the last two either Gryffindor and Hufflepuff just so I can have all four houses in my head.
    Ahhhh, A Quiet Kind of Thunder :)) I KNOW, it was so informative. Reading books = the best kind of school.
    HAHA, the 12 dancing princesses Barbie movie!!! That made me laugh as soon as I read that. Oh my goodness, the Barbie movies are so good. You know immediately when the person talking to you has watched them or not–if they have, they repeat back to you that they’re so great, if they haven’t, they look at you like what are you talking about. The ones stick most strongly in my memory are Princess Charm School and I think, Mermaid Tail? I think that’s the name.

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    • Haha, I had to distract myself somehow. Okay, I feel disappointed that I wasn’t in fact listening to it as I was reading this comment so I’m turning it on right now- we’re good now, I’m listening. ;)) I think my favorites are Cardigan, Betty, Exile, and The 1…those are the ones that I always hope come on and have already learned most of the lyrics, so I feel like that makes them my favorites (but I love a lot of other songs too).
      I think I just subconsciously sort characters in Houses, haha. Or sometimes a character just jumps out at me as belonging in one of the houses, like Harley did with Slytherin. Usually I notice Hufflepuff characters, though. Oh my gosh I love that- yes, having all four Houses represented is critical.
      Exactly!!
      This made me smile- I was so obsessed with the Barbie movies. People who also loved the Barbie movies are kindred spirits for sure. Okay, wow, I don’t think I saw either of those so now I’m feeling like a fake Barbie movie fan. The ones I remember most besides 12 Dancing Princesses was Barbie Nutcracker (I used to watch this every time I went to the dentist) and Barbie Mariposa.

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