five YA contemporaries narrated by straight male characters (because i swear not all of them are trash)

book recs.(1)

Hello, friends!

For today’s recommendation post, we’ll be focusing in contemporaries narrated by straight male characters. I know this sounds like a nightmare at first. At least for me, who’s allergic to straight teenage boys. But they may just restore your faith in their kind, because these books are *actually* good!

I know for most people who are reading this post, straight teenage boys are the last people they expect to relate with. But even if relatability-wise, these books may not be the best, they still offer enough I do feel like more people should read them.

(I really need to read more books narrated by straight Asian male characters, so if you have any recommendations, let me know!)

NOT SO PURE AND SIMPLE

IMG_4563This is a very underrated YA 2020 release and centers around our main character, Del, who decides to join the purity pledge at his church in order to get closer to the girl he likes. This girl has never been “available”, so now that she’s finally single, Del decides to make a move.

There’s a lot to like about this book. First, it talks a lot about the idea of “nice guy”. Del believes that, because he’s not a fuckboy and is actually respectful and nice, he should be rewarded by his crush’s immediate requited love. And that mindset is toxic AF, not to mention deeply mysognistic. Even though Del starts as a very unlikeable character, the book puts him in the center of the discussion about toxic masculinity and double-standard expectations and his growth is remarkable.

It’s also interesting because the novel will talk a lot about sex education. Del is the only one in the purity pledge allowed to take sex ed classes at his school, so he ends up taking a lot of questions from the purity pledgers to his sex-ed teacher and the answers back. I am always here for more sex-positive and realistic conversations in books, and, like the book praises, having healthy and productive discussions is a ton more effective than avoiding the subject.

This book tackles so much, while being entertaining and hilarious, so really, props to this author!

ALL AMERICAN BOYS

Trigger warnings: violence, racism, police brutality, death of a parent

IMG_0515In this dual perspective novel, we get to know Rashad: who’s a victim of police brutality and Quinn, who witnesses it. Even though both of these characters attend the same school, their lives had never intertwined until that moment. It’s really interesting breaking down the similarities and differences between these two.

Both perspectives add something unique to the story. When we follow Rashad, we really get to see the consequences of a police brutality episode in someone’s life and in that person’s family. It is also nice seeing the contrast in Rashad’s family members: his brother is a loud advocate for black people’s rights, whereas his dad shields himself from any violence by also rejecting his culture. It is amazing how the author develops both of them, as well as Rashad’s character.

Quinn’s perspective is just as complicated. His will definitely touch more on activism and standing up for what’s right, even when it’s hard. Quinn is definitely written to be a bit unlikeable, but I could actually understand where he was coming from and ultimately appreciate his growth even more because of where he starts the book at.

This discussion of privilege was so well done that even though the first two chapters may sound very “teenage-boy-like”, I do encourage you to push through because it does get a lot better.

A LIST OF CAGES

Trigger warnings: domestic abuse with brief mentions of sexual abuse, death of a parent, grief, bullying.

This is another dual perspective novel, but will deal with completely different topics from the previous one. In A List of Cages, we’re talking about foster system, domestic abuse and found families. It’s a very hard-hiting, but ultimately hopeful story.

IMG_4565Adam and Julian used to be foster brothers, until Julian moves out with his uncle. After that, the two barely see each other, until they end up being reunited at school – Julian being a freshman and Adam a senior. They start hanging out a lot more and I absolutely love the development of their friendship, as well as how Julian is essentially adopted by Adam’s friend group.

Both perspectives are equally strong. Julian’s is a lot more emotional, as he’s such a young boy who’s been through a lot. Not only the death of his parents is an event he’s still mourning, but the domestic abuse also makes him very vulnerable. I loved how the author created his voice, because he does sound a lot younger than Adam – which he is -, but I also think has to do with the fact that the trauma has definitely affected the way he matures.

As for Adam’s, his perspective is a lot more hopeful, because that’s who he is. He’s a total human labrador, who makes friends with absolutely everyone. He also has ADHD, which was nice to see being worked out on page.

HERETICS ANONYMOUS

I shall not shut up about Heretics Anonymous until I know more people are actually reading this book.

Following Michael, an atheist going to a catholic school, Heretics Anonymous will talk about a lot more than just religion. In his school, Michael ends up joining this underground group, the Heretics Anonymous, with other people who do not 100% align with the beliefs of their catholic school.

IMG_0973Here’s a small list of things to love about this book:

  • SOUTH-AMERICAN REP! Lucy, our main’s love interest, is Colombian-American and a badass feminist.
  • Diverse cast of supportive characters.
  • Romance descriptions from a male character’s POV that didn’t make me uncomfortable at all? Absolutely unheard of.
  • Discussions of religion, beliefs and skepticism all done in a very respectful way.
  • Amazing writing.
  • Our main character being challenged for being an ass about his “1st-world-problems”, but also acknowledged that his problems are valid because they’re his.
  • Older brother/little sister relationship to compensate for his jerk of a father.

Even though I have no actual complicated relationship with religion and it’s not a topic I tend to think about often, I found this one to be so deeply entertaining and real. And Michael was too much of a great narrator, even if annoying at times.

OPPOSITE OF ALWAYS

IMG_1063Opposite of Always is a contemporary with sprinkles of magical realism, as it talks about time-travel. Our main character Jack meets Kate at a party and they hit off right from the start. Until Kate dies and that throws Jack on a time-loop to the night where they first met, in hopes that he’ll be able to save her.

I will admit I did not like the ending of this book, but I still wanted to recommend for the other layers that I feel like are worth reading it for.

Jack and Kate have such great banter and all the dialogues in this book are the perfect amount of hilarious. I loved seeing his friend group and how complicated things get, depending which choices Jack makes. They were equally fleshed out and amazing. His relationship with his parents was also the sweetest – they had so much love and trust in each other, but also knew when Jack needed his time to cope by himself.

It’s also nice seeing an entirely non-white cast, but not having the book necessarily focus on it, but having these characters simply *exist* and be black, and not be defined by that at all.

Again, if you guys have any book recommendations for Asian male characters, please let me know! And if you have read any of these books, tell me how you like them down in the comments!

olympic games readathon wrap up!

read-a-thon wrap up. (1)

Hello, friends!

I finally concluded the Olympic Games readathon, which was a Percy Jackson inspired readathon organized by Ishi @ Ishi Time. I was competing for Cabin 3 – Poseidon – and I’m happy to say I accomplished all challenges – the five mandatory + four advanced ones!

GAIN FAVOUR OF THE SEA GOD

Read book set at sea or at coast

Trigger warnings: character death, grief, depression, abandonment

IMG_4175
★★★★☆

I actually enjoyed Summer Bird Blue so much! As I’d mentioned in my TBR, I was a bit aprehensive going into this one, because of my high expectations as well as my initial not-so-good experience. But it was actually really great! Our main character is certainly unlikeable and I didn’t love reading about her, but the discussions on grief were very well done. This is definitely a heart-wrenching novel, but I loved how the relationships with the side characters – mostly Mr. Watanabe (my favorite) and Kai – added some lightness to the story.

 

PERCY IS A TALENTED SWORDSMAN

Read a book in which the main character uses a sword.

 

IMG_4174
★★★★☆

I initially thought An Assassin’s Guide to Love and Treason was going to be my one non-queer read of the month, but one of our main characters is actually bisexual! We didn’t have as much swordsfight in this one as I thought, but I liked the theater setting and following how the Shakespearean plays were organized back in the 1600s. I found both perspectives to be equally interesting, but I didn’t love how the female character sounds badass from the premise – a girl who’s determined to kill the Queen of England -, but she’s not as strong or as smart as you would expect and the ending was a bit lackluster too. Still, I liked the romance a lot and was super rooting for them.

HUMANS ARE NOT COMMON IN POSEIDON’S UNDERWATER PALACE

Read a book with a non-human main character

IMG_4172
★★★★☆

I finally carried on with the Trials of Apolo series, by picking up The Burning Maze. I love how Rick Riordan crafted Apolo’s character arc and I am even more invested in him and his story now, because you can actually watch his growth but he still keeps so much of his hilarious, over-the-top personality. It’s also nice seeing cameos from other characters in the Riordanverse, but Meg and Apolo will forever be my ride or die. I love their unlikely friendship and they continue to make me feel all the things.

 

TRIDENT

Finish a book in 3 days

IMG_4184
★★★☆☆

Her Royal Highness really was the perfect read for this prompt, as it was incredibly fast-paced. While I felt like more could’ve been given to the side characters – more personality, more time on page, more development – and I loved Perry and Sakshi’s banter so much I could read an entire novella about them (tall girl/short guy is my aesthetic), I still enjoyed the book for what it was: very cute, sweet and entertaining. I also felt like things were resolved a bit too quickly, but I feel like I needed a mindless read for a moment and this served me well.

 

THE OCEAN IS VAST AND UNEXPLORED

Read a book you have not heard much about before

IMG_4178
★★★★★

I am so glad I picked up Camp, even without many reviews or buzz over it. This book was AMAZING. When I started it, I thought it was going to be a cliché rom-com-like story of this boy who wants to “change” for a more masculine version in order to impress his crush, and then realizes it’s not worth it and he’s great like he is. But Camp is SO much more complex than that. In the midst of all theater things and camp shenenigans, the author actually created phenomenal, three-dimensional characters who send a positive and super powerful message: you can be whoever you *want* to be. It’s not about boxes, femme or masc, but it’s about making queer-ness whatever it is to you.

PEGASUS RIDING

A book published within the last 5 years

Trigger warnings: character death, grief, depictions of AIDs, police violence, homophobia, bullying.

IMG_4187
★★★☆☆

I picked up Like a Love Story, by Adib Nazemian and had a lot of thoughts. I have a full review up on my blog about it, but in short: I felt like this book had both very good layers, and others not so much. I liked how real and raw the characters felt and I do think it’s a very empowering read to educate others on what the AIDS crisis was in the US during the 80s. However, there were also some problematic elements and the pacing was not my favorite. I’d still recommend it, though, because I do feel like it discusses a very important theme that more people should be aware of.

 

CANOEING

A book with a blue cover

Trigger warnings: bullying, homophobic slurs, abandonment

IMG_4182
★★★☆☆

Kings, Queens and in-Betweens is definitely a book that deserves more attention! It stars a lesbian MC, a bunch of drag queens and kings, and a questioning jock as a sidekick. I really liked Nima’s character: she was absolutely chaotic lesbian and fell in love with every cute girl that showed up in front of her (but like, can you blame her?), had a very intense family dynamic that I felt a lot for and was just the kindest, sweetest soul, which didn’t stop her from making mistakes at all, but still. However, I did not vibe with the writing style, as it was a lot more descriptive and detailed than I typically like for my contemporaries.

 

CAPTURE THE FLAG

One of your most anticipated releases

IMG_4190
★★★★☆

You Should See Me in a Crown came out in June, only a few days before I decided to read it. And I am so glad I did it. I’d absolutely love for this book to be turned into a movie, as it offered a lot of your “teenage rom-com” tropes, but with amazing twists that added even more to the story. I loved the side characters and felt like the author handled all of the themes so well: disability, sexuality, being a person of color, friends break-ups and make-ups, romantic relationships, anxiety… I’m in love and urging everyone to read this already.

 

If you have read any of these books, what are your thoughts? Did you participate in Olympic Games? If so, how did you do? Let’s chat in the comments!

book review: like a love story, by adib nazemian

IMG_4187It’s 1989 in New York City, and for three teens, the world is changing.

Reza is an Iranian boy who has just moved to the city with his mother to live with his stepfather and stepbrother. He’s terrified that someone will guess the truth he can barely acknowledge about himself. Reza knows he’s gay, but all he knows of gay life are the media’s images of men dying of AIDS.

Judy is an aspiring fashion designer who worships her uncle Stephen, a gay man with AIDS who devotes his time to activism as a member of ACT UP. Judy has never imagined finding romance…until she falls for Reza and they start dating.

Art is Judy’s best friend, their school’s only out and proud teen. He’ll never be who his conservative parents want him to be, so he rebels by documenting the AIDS crisis through his photographs.

As Reza and Art grow closer, Reza struggles to find a way out of his deception that won’t break Judy’s heart–and destroy the most meaningful friendship he’s ever known.

Hello, friends!

Like a Love Story has been on my TBR for a while now and I had only heard positive reviews prior to picking it up. I actually found myself being very conflicted on this read, and that’s why I decided to write an entire review, because I feel like it would be the best way to properly lay out all my feelings.

TRIGGER WARNINGS: character death, grief, depictions of AIDs, police violence, homophobia, bullying.

coisas-boas-novo-1

“Love might just happen to them, but for us, it’s not as easy. For us, it’s a fight. Maybe someday it won’t be Maybe someday, love will just be… love.”

  1. Unapologetic and diverse characters. One of our protagonists is Reza, who was born in Iran and is gay; we also have Judy, who’s fat, and Art, who’s also gay. It’s always nice seeing a diverse cast of characters, but when it comes to Art and Judy, I also really liked how they were unapologetic themselves the entire time. Art is out and while that is not an easy path, at all, and he is rejected by his parents and harrassed by his classmates, he continues to strive to be his most authentic self. Judy is also fat, but that is never described as an insecurity for her, and I appreciated that a lot.
  2. A lot of 80s references. I really like a lot about the 80s and it was nice identifying a lot of references here. Obviously, the main one throughout this book was Madonna, which is understandable, but still, I loved seeing how much her music transforms these characters and their relationships. That’s how I wish more books perceived music and artists: showing how truly life-changing they can be for their fans.
  3. The discussion of social activism. I finished this book only a couple days into Pride Month and during the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement. And it was really nice reading a book set in the 80s and paralleling the social activism of back then with today. Obviously, these people couldn’t organize themselves in social media, so they actually had to go to reunions; they didn’t have cellphones where anyone could snap a picture, so Art had to be their official camera man. It made me think a lot about how my generation perceives social activism, compared to theirs, and made this a very immersive read.
  4. Low-key heartbreaking, but also empowering. This book is, on its core, very sad. It talks about the AIDs crisis in America, but I appreciated how the author didn’t limit this discussion to the grief and the loss – while he didn’t sugar coat it, he also made sure to talk about how that was a time for community, for strenght, and for empowerement, and I thought that was a really complete take on the situation.
  5. It felt *real*. These characters are not perfect, that’s for sure. And yet I did find them weirdly likeable. They make a bunch of mistakes, say a lot of problematic shit, and everything, but at the end of the day, isn’t that life? I don’t expect any of my friends or family members or even people I meet to be perfect and right all the time, so I liked that these characters, albeit unlikeable at times, felt realistic.

coisas-ruinsnovo-1

“The most important four-letter word in our history will always be LOVE. That’s what we are fighting for. That’s who we are. Love is our legacy.”

  1. Honestly, it was kinda problematic. This book had a lot of questionable sentences. Like, when Art says that he can use the word ‘bitch’ because he’s a honorary woman, since he’s gay. Like, uhhh, no, that’s not how it works. Or when Judy tells Reza that his country is known for killing gay people, as if she didn’t live in America, that was doing the exact same thing, lol. While I understand this is own-voices and the author could make criticism about his own country (Iran), I wish he didn’t do that in a white-character’s perspective, because it just sounds racist. It also didn’t sit well with me how Art felt the need to push everyone to also reclaim homophobic slurs, without taking into consideration not everyone felt comfortable doing so.
  2. The love triangle was a lot and unnecessary. I don’t know if it’s because I am seriously fed up with stories where gay guys date girls just so they can meet the actual guy they’ll fal in love with, but I really did not like the love triangle here and I don’t feel like it was necessary, and the story could’ve been pretty much the same without it.
  3. Pacing and editing. I feel like some chapters could’ve happened earlier than others, and just had some things changed to really help with the pacing, that I felt to be very off. There were moments where a lot was going on, and then others not so much, and we’d be in a certain character’s perspective when I felt like we should’ve seen that scene from the others perspective… It was really weird and I feel like this book could’ve been edited completely different.

IMG_4188“Tell your story until it becomes woven into the fabric of our story. Write about the joys and the pain and every event and every artist who inspires you to dream. Tell your story, because if you don’t, it could be wiped out. No one tells our stories for us.”

Overall, even though this is a book that I felt conflicted by, its’ still one I recommend. I think my generation, especially, takes a lot of things for granted, and that’s probably why we honestly were not educated enough on what the AIDs crisis really was and how deeply and awfuly impacted the LGBT community all around the world.

This book talks a lot about how sharing your story is important, and I loved that the author really did that, and that’s why, regardless of my gripes with it, I still feel like more people should read it.

3 ESTRELASNOVO

If you have read Like a Love Story, what are your thoughts on it? Let me know in the comments!

five YA heart-soothing reads for Pride Month

book recs.(1)

Hello, friends!

June is Pride Month and I’m sure y’all feeds are already flooded with recommendations for queer books. So I decided to be annoying and repetitive and share five other books I love that are very soothing and heart-warming. I know a lot of books dealing with sexuality can be very hard-hitting and triggering for some people, so I decided to share a much lighter list, but that hopefully can still be appreciated.

Let’s get onto those books then!

(Also, unrelated, but I achieved 200 followers yesterday and I’m SO THANKFULLLLL. You guys are the best, seriously!)

Just as a heads-up, I will be using “queer” as a reproclaimed word to define those who fall outside of cisgender or heterosexual identities.

HEARTSTOPPER, BY ALICE OSEMAN

gay main character and bisexual main character

IMG_3931No one is surprised. Literally, no one.

This comic series is incredibly popular in the bookish community, but I wanted to give it a shoutout anyway, because I have only recently read it and truly understood the hype.

Here, we follow two main characters, Nick and Charlie, and their friendship that slowly becomes something more. They’re quite different – Charlie is an overthinker with not many friends, while Nick is the popular rugby player. And yet they find enough things in common to build a heart-warming friendship.

I really like the layout of this comic, which the author mentioned to be very intentional. It’s not exactly linear and it doesn’t follow all the moments from these character’s lives. It’s just a compilation of episodes and meaningful scenes and it still feels very realistic. It didn’t stop me at all from connecting with the characters, even if we’re only seeing slices of their every day lives.

While this series is adorable, fluffy and perhaps even a bit too predictable and cliché – which I don’t think it’s a bad thing, because straight people have been able to see themselves in all these tropes over the years, while queer people haven’t -, it still discusses serious topics, such as bullying and mental health, so it still has some meaningful discussions as well.

It also contains lovely cameos from other works by Alice Oseman. I have not read Solitaire yet, but I loved seeing known characters from Radio Silence in this first volume!

QUEENS OF GEEK, BY JEN WILDE

bisexual protagonist and lesbian side-character

Name a more adorable book. Honestly.

IMG_4113Queens of Geek is the type of book that will make you swoon and kick your feet in happiness and giggles. It may not be the most outstanding writing or have the most unique plot lines, but it’s still lovely nonetheless.

Here, we’re following Charlie (a different one this time, though, lol) and Taylor, best friends who are attending the convention SupaCon for the first time. Each character is going through their own thing and yet, I found both perspectives to be equally interesting, which can be quite hard to achieve.

Charlie is bisexual (and Chinese!) and is trying to get over her famous and obnoxious ex, who’s also at the convention. She ends up meeting other YouTuber, Alyssa Huntington, who may just be very helpful with that. *winks*. Okay, but in all seriousness, I really like how these two characters are their own person. It’s all about two confident, badass young women falling in love, and I was very much there for it.

Taylor is also adorable. She has sort-of-secret-but-not-really crush on her best friend and is also navigating anxiety and Aspergers at a crowded event like a convention. It also makes me happy to say that she’s a fellow fat girl, and yet, that is never shown as an insecurity, which is the level of confidence I hope to achieve one day.

Again, this book is not the most pristine work of fiction you’ll ever find, but if you really want a heart-warming read that is going to make you smile a lot, I don’t think Queens of Geek can disappoint.

A BOY WORTH KNOWING, BY JENNIFER COSGROVE

gay main character and bisexual main character

I literally have no idea how I stumbled upon this book, but I am kind of really glad that I did.

In this one, our main character Nate can see ghosts. Yes, very Sixth Sense of him. He’s also developing a major crush on the new guy at school, James, but the fact he can see the ghost of James’ dead brother can become an issue.

Even though this book has fantastical elements, I would not say it is the biggest part of the story. If anything, I wish it could’ve been further developed, so I think it can be a good choice if you’re not a fan of paranormal elements.

IMG_4186Things to note about this book that make it the adorable, fluffy read it is:

  • The family dynamic is A+. Nate lives with his aunt, and she’s all about supporting his relationship with James but also being protective of Nate.
  • Nate is lowkey chaotic gay and he barely knows how to process James’ existence, moreover James’ interest in being his friend.
  • They watch movies ALL AFTERNOON. Which like, same.
  • There are a lot of talks in consent and boundaries which we love to see in YA.

This book is very short, and it’s honestly a bit too good to be true – like cute guy walks into school and also *magically* happens not only to be bisexual, but also in love with you? -, but it was such a heart-warming ride, I had to recommend.

LET’S TALK ABOUT LOVE, BY CLAIRE KANN

asexual bi-romantic protagonist

IMG_3536This book is such a gift.

Alice is a fantastic main character and I related to a lot of the struggles she was facing: not only in embracing her asexuality completely, but also in figuring out her future. Even though she is already a sophomore in college, Alice has not declared her major yet, and feels very conflicted about her actual interests (cute things and wandering around Pinterest) and what her parents expect of her – law school.

Despite the romance being biggest layer of this novel – and Takumi was an adorable love interest, who was flirty, humourous *and* good with kids -, I also have to highlight the friendships. Alice’s friend group was equally important to her and I liked how the book discussed the tensions that can arise in friendships once one person starts dating.

Obviously, I can’t say much about whether or not the representation was impecable, as I do not identify as biromantic, but I did like the different discussions on asexuality that happen throughout the book – like the one Alice has with her therapist, and then the one she has with Takumi by the end of the book.

DARIUS THE GREAT IS NOT OKAY, BY ADIB KHORRAM

gay protagonist

I recently watched Adriana’s video on 5 Reasons to Read Darius the Great and it just struck me how amazingly soft this book is. (By the way, watch their video for more in depth reasons as to why this book is amazing and deserving of all the hype).

Even though it tackles serious topics, such as depression, identity, terminal ilness, body image and bullying, the author worked some type of magic where this still comes across like a beautiful and hopeful story. It truly shows that life can be great in its difficultness.

IMG_0975There are a lot of elements to love in this story. Darius working through his identity – learning more about Persian culture that he felt disconnected for years, while also feeling like he doesn’t fit as white, especially because that would make him and his dad a team and they do not work together at all – is powerful and makes this relatable in very different ways.

But since this is a post about queer books, I also have to discuss the role of sexuality here. It is not an overwhelming one and is not the main point of the book, but it’s still important because it is a part of Darius’ identity he also doesn’t have figured out. It also involves a platonic but adorable relationship with Sohrab, which is by far the softest love interest of all times.

I’m sorry – again – this post is so long. It’s hard for me to shut up whenever talking about books I love. If you have any more recommendations of cute & soft queer reads, please leave them in the comments!

 

five YA contemporaries about mental health issues that are likely to break your heart

book recs.(1)

Hello, friends!

As many of you may now, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Going through my shelves, I realized I’ve actually read quite a few books that discuss mental health issues and decided to compile a list of some of my favorite titles that are definitely hard hitting and likely to make you cry.

Hope you guys enjoy it!

CHALLENGER DEEP, BY NEAL SHUSTERMAN

schizophrenia-spectrum

Even though Challenger Deep is not technically own-voices, it was inspired by Neal Shusterman’s son experience in being in the schizo-spectrum. He even collaborated with some of the illustrations you find throughout the book! It definitely shows that the author knows what he’s talking about when building this story, and that was very important.

img_1087Our main character Caden is trying to stay afloat as he experiences multiple hallucinations. He knows he has his life – with his friends, his little sister, homework and videogames -, but he also knows he’s the captain of a ship going straight to Challenger Deep – the deepest known point in Earth.

It’s really interesting seeing these two “lives” Caden is living intertwine. I really admired the way the author talked about therapy, being inside a schizo-spectrum which not always means you’ll get a definitive diagnosis and how challenging that can be, as well as the fact mental health issues are not something you can “cure”, but something you can work on to get better, but never 100%.

I think all of these were so positive messages to see in a YA book. I really think this one deserves more hype, as it was very hard-hitting but beautiful at the same time.

YOU’D BE MINE, BY ERIN HAHN

addiction and anxiety related to trauma

Trigger warnings: overdose, discussions on suicide, death of a parent

Honestly, I have no idea if addiction is officially considered a mental health issue, but from my research, some therapists do consider it, so it counts, I think.

IMG_3204It was interesting to me to see addiction being discussed at length in a YA book, because I typically see recreational drug use being often a trope in YA, and teenagers are almost always not ready to have a discussion on the dangers of such. It’s not being preachy, it’s simply being aware of what you’re ingesting and taking responsibility for any further consequences.

What I like about You’d Be Mine is that it touches on how drinking issues are typically linked to other issues, such as anxiety and depression, being possibly a coping mechanism or a development from the drug use. Even though this book deals with such hard topics, it never felt like the author was trying to glamorize them, even if the characters were celebrities after all.

In fact, I think it was done very responsibly and showed that both needed to be better as individuals before they could be good to each other too, which is *extremely* important when talking about such topics for a younger audience.

MORE THAN WE CAN TELL, BY BRIGID KEMMERER

post-traumatic stress disorder

Trigger warnings: mentions and attempt of sexual abuse, violence, abusive parents, divorce.

Having finished this book recently, my memory is fresh, so I had to add it on the list. Our main characters are Rev – an adopted child who starts getting messages from his abusive biological father – and Emma – who’s being harrassed at a game online that she designed herself.

IMG_3924I will mostly focus on Rev’s perspective here, since he’s the one dealing with the PTSD. I think the author did a really great job at allowing us inside Rev’s head and how his trauma was not as black and white as it seemed.

Rev’s father was a religious figure and used religion as a way to abuse him. Yet, Rev does have faith and beliefs of himself. Throughout the book, we can see how he’s trying to detach both things from each other: his own joruney with God and his relationship with his father. It’s interesting because the characters around him also struggle to understand how he can still believe in God after everything his dad put him through on His name, so I think it was really smart how the author built such a complex character.

I also think how the narrative discussed confronting a past trauma to be really great, even if it was particularly hard for me to read and I did skim through most of it. Not everything can be just forgive and forget. And you don’t have to do so in order to move on. It was kind of showing me the opposite of everything I believed, but in Rev’s case, it made so much sense.

THE WEIGHT OF OUR SKY, BY HANNA ALKAF

obsessive compulsive disorder

TRIGGER WARNINGS: graphic violence, death, racism

IMG_4039Okay, so maybe the title of this post is not entirely correct, because The Weight of Our Sky is not contemporary, but rather historical fiction. Set during the race riots in Kuala Lumpur in 1969, this book follows our main character Melati, a Muslim Malay girl who struggles with OCD.

Because the book is from her perspective, this can be a quite overwhelming trait in the writing. But I think this is what creates even more the idea of being inside Melati’s head. There are a lot of repetitions, long paragraphs with no punctuation, and you can feel the anxiety building up as you read. It made this read hard for me, but I imagine that for someone who also struggles with anxiety, it can be extremely meaningful to see your thoughts validated and understood in this way.

It’s also interesting the way the author approaches the topic of mental ilness and religion. What we identify as OCD, Melati and her family understand as a djinni that has been living in her head and the process of counting repeatedly or searching for a number three in everything is her way of “feeding” said djinni. Especially considering this was set in 1969, it is expected that there wouldn’t be as much information or resources on mental health and specifically, compulsive disorders, so it is understandable that people would go for religion in order to make sense of said behaviors.

This book is definitely not for everyone, as the race riots are quite intense and Melati’s thoughts and perspective definitely add to said tension, but I still want to recommend for a very authentic and own-voices representation.

HIGHLY ILLOGICAL BEHAVIOR, BY JOHN CAREY WHALEY

agoraphobia

It’s been a while since I read this book, so it’s definitely one I should probably re-read soon, but I wanted to recommend anyway because I think it discusses certain topics related to mental ilness that are very interesting.

IMG_4036Our protagonists are:

  • Solomon. Hasn’t left the house in three whole years.
  • Lisa. Knows Solomon from school, and is determined that “fixing” him will be her path to the second best Psychology school in the country.
  • Clark. Lisa’s boyfriend. Becomes friends with Solomon by talking about Star Trek daily.

Obviously, there’s a major issue being brought up here: the whole idea that Lisa will “fix” Solomon. Like I mentioned before in this post, Highly Illogical Behavior also dedicates itself to challenge the idea that mental health issues can be cured. It can’t. It definitely can get better and manageable, but never 100% cured.

It’s also nice that this book intertwines the topic of sexuality, as Solomon is gay and developing a major crush on Clark. Their relationship is very platonic, but it makes for really soft interactions and a ton of Star Trek references that contrast with some of the harder aspects of this book.

This read is very funny, don’t get me wrong. But there are other moments that are very difficult to read and likely to break your heart. But I loved the hopeful tone after all and especially the focus on how support can be so helpful when dealing with mental health issues.

Let me know some of your favorite books that talk about mental health. Are you planning on reading anything for the Mental Health Awareness Month? Have you read any of the titles I mentioned here? Let’s chat in the comments!

magical readathon o.w.l.s 2020 wrap-up!

read-a-thon wrap up. (1)

Hello, friends!

Hope y’all had a lovely April. This past month, I joined the Magical Readathon hosted by Gi @ The Book Roast and I wrapped up my O.W.L.S successfully!

At the beginning, I had chosen the Hogwarts Professor as a career, but as I realized I’d have more free time in April than I anticipated, I decided to aim for all twelve prompts, so I could decide my career only for the N.E.W.Ts in August.

I ended up reading all the books I needed for my career and others more, and here are all my thoughts:

ANCIENT RUNES

Heart rune: heart on the cover on in the title

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★★★★☆

It’s been a while since I’ve had Heartstopper on my TBR. This webcomic is very popular amongst the YA book community and I can definitely understand why. It’s a friends to lovers storyline, centered around Nick and Charlie and set in an all-boys school. As cliché as this first volume was, I like to remind myself that queer people have not been able to see themselves in trope-y stories for years and they deserve a swoon-worthy, predictable book as well. I am very excited to carry on with this series and I loved seeing cameos of characters from other works by Alice Oseman!

 

ARITHMANCY

Magical quality of number 2: balance/opposites – read something outside your favorite genre

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★★★★☆

Aurora Rising is a science fiction novel, therefore, very much outside of my favorite genre, which is contemporary. I have read The Illuminae Files, by the same authors, and this one follows a similar premise: band of misfits thrown together have to save the galaxy. As I mentioned in my TBR, I was very hesitant and intimidated to read this book, so it was a lovely surprise how much I actually enjoyed it. The characters are the best – Finnian, Kal and Auri are by far my favorites – and their interactions are hilarious and refreshing. This was very action packed and I love learning about the different alien species and their own dynamics as well. I am not so sure about the ending, but I feel like it was a really powerful start for this series and I can not wait for what happens next.

NIGHT CLASSES

Read majority of this book when it’s dark outside

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★★☆☆☆

OK, being honest here, I pretty much forgot that this was the prompt I’d chosen for I Hope You Get This Message so I’m not sure if I did read the majority of this book at night, but I’m pretty sure I did. I enjoyed this book’s representation – gay main character and Muslim main character -, and how it brought an apocalyptical scenario but as if you already knew it was coming (done very realistically, may I add. This book even mentioned how toilet paper was one of the things missing in all the stores! Ring a bell?), because the discussions were very interesting. But I feel like the book was never moving forward, it was very repetitive at times, none of the characters were likeable or memorable and the ending lacked proper closure.

CARE OF MAGICAL CREATURES

Hippogriffs: creature with a beak on the cover

IMG_3913
★★★★☆

I also decided to re-read some Harry Potter for this readathon, as it would be incredibly fitting. I’ve been meaning to finish the Harry Potter series and after seeing El was reading the 6th book– the one I stopped at -, I was struck with a sudden motivation. decided to go back and re-read the previous volumes. Chamber of Secrets has Fawkes on the cover, which was very fitting for this prompt. I really liked this one, because the universe is being expanded more and more and I love learning about Voldemort’s past. It was a sweet ride.

 

CHARMS

Lumos Maxima: white cover

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★★★★☆

I decided to listen to Jackson’s Bird memoir, Sorted. I had never heard of Jackson Bird before and picked this book up after seeing Adriana @ Perpetual Pages recommending it. This book had a very educational tone to it, that, to my understanding, is very on brand with Jackson Bird. Even before he came out as trans, he already had a YouTube channel where he talked about queer themes, so I can see where it came from. I really enjoyed this aspect, because as a cis person, there’s still a lot I need to learn. If you’re a fan of memoirs, this was a very fast-paced one.

 

DEFENCE AGAINST THE DARK ARTS

Grindylows: book set at the sea/coast

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★★★★☆

Alex, Approximately is a very sweet YA contemporary set at a surfer’s town in California and following two characters who are friends online and start falling in love with real life without knowing who the other person is. The setting was my favorite thing about this book and I loved the dialogue and banter the characters had too. It wasn’t a perfect book by any means – it bothered me to see certain characters being overly villanized, sex was used as a premonition, and the side characters would only come up when it was convenient to the plot. It was a bit all over the place, but I still had a solid fun time with it.

 

DIVINATION

Third eye: assign numbers to your TBR and use a random number generator to pick your read

IMG_3935
★★☆☆☆

I assigned numbers to the audiobooks I had in my “Saved” folder at Scribd and ended up with The Upside of Falling, by Alex Light. I didn’t know much about this book, except it was YA contemporary with fake dating. I also quickly learned it was originally, a Wattpad book, and let me tell you: it shows. I didn’t feel like the reasons for these characters starting to fake date were coherent or strong enough, the characters were so trope-y – the bookworm and the jock -, and while I appreciate how it discussed different family dynamics and divorce, it was incredibly predictable.

 

HERBOLOGY

Mimbulus mimbletonia: title starts with an M

TRIGGER WARNINGS: mentions and attempt of sexual abuse, violence, abusive parents, divorce.

IMG_3924
★★☆☆☆

Even though I loved the previous contemporary I read by Brigid Kemmerer, More Than We Can Tell was a very different experience. It’s a dual perspective and a follow up to Letters to the Lost, which I haven’t read yet, and I would recommend not being like me and actually reading it in order. Our protagonists are Rev – a boy dealing with PTSD from his abusive biological father – and Emma – who’s being harassed by a guy in a computer game she designed herself. I expected this one to be hard-hitting, but my main issue is that it tried tackling too many issues and it simply didn’t have time to explore all of them. I found Emma to be an incredibly unlikeable character and, overall, the two protagonists lacked so much in communication and emotional intelligence that it was frustrating reading from their perspectives most of the time. I also feel like they would’ve worked better as friends than as boyfriend/girlfriend, and I wish authors would be more open to not forcing all their characters in romantic relationships, especially when they’re not ready to do so.

HISTORY OF MAGIC

Witch hunts: book featuring witches/wizards

IMG_3911
★★★★☆

Before I could read Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, I of course had to start with Philosopher’s Stone. It’s really nice reading this book and revisiting this world and I had never noticed how much Harry’s connection with his family was already present here. It was particularly heartbreaking to see it here, as he actually doesn’t even know that much about his parents, but already feels the need to stand up for them. This book is not without its faults – the fatphobic remarks are very unnecessary -, but it made me lowkey happy.

 

MUGGLE STUDIES

Book from a perspective of a muggle (contemporary)

IMG_3918
★★★★☆

I read in literally one day my most anticipated book of 2020 – You Deserve Each Other. And I have a lot of mixed feelings. This is an adult romance, and it was definitely better than others I’ve read from this genre. It’s an enemies to lovers story, but they’re already engaged. I really liked Naomi as a character, I loved the banter and sexual tension between the characters and it was perfectly hilarious. However, I feel like it would’ve benefited from a double perspective, as I couldn’t connect with Nicholas in the same extent and the ending also turned really sappy and weird, in ways that I found to be OOC for the characters. I’d still recommend if you like enemies to lovers and childish banter, but it still wasn’t the perfect adult romance of my dreams.

POTIONS

Shrinking Solution: book under 150 pages

IMG_3921
★★★☆☆

I finally continued on with the Ao Haru Ride series and picked up volume three. This series is adorable and I love the protagonist a lot. I also really like how it’s more straight-forward that other shoujo manga I’ve read in the past, even if it’s not 100% realistic, because it makes the story more fun and fast-paced in my opinion. However, this volume introduced a love triangle that I found to be very unnecessary and I already have a headache trying to figure out how to untangle this situation.

 

 

TRANSFIGURATION

Animagus lecture: book/series that includes shapeshifting

a
★★★☆☆

I finished the second installment in the His Dark Materials trilogy. This book was definitely a step up, as we’re now being introduced to other characters and, most importantly, other worlds. I still find that most reactions in this book are a bit too convenient to be real, but it was really interesting being introduced to different worlds and especially knowing how you can travel between them. I liked Will as a character, but I’m not sold in his friendship with Lyra just yet. Ultimately, though, this book wasn’t as engaging as I’d have liked and the climax was very dull.

 

 

Wow! This was a long one. If you’ve taken part in the OWLS this year, let me know how you did. What’s your favorite book you read this month? And the least-favorite? Let’s chat in the comments!

five #ownvoices YA contemporaries you should read already

book recs.(1)

Hello, friends!

OK, maybe my title was a little bit aggressive there. While it is true that I wish y’all would just give these books the attention that they deserve, read it more like: I’m here to recommend own voices books y’all should read (when you have time) (because I know we all have ever-growing TBRs and it’s hard not to drown in them).

But, anyway, let’s get into the recommendations:

SICK KIDS IN LOVE, BY HANNAH MOSKOWITZ

chronic ilness and Jewish representation

I know I’m strictly recommending #ownvoices in this post, but I honestly do not know enough about the author to tell you if she shares diagnosis with any of the characters in this book, but that’s honestly kind of irrelevant to me. What matters is that the author definitely understands what is it like living with a chronic ilness, and it’s pretty obvious throughout the book.

Our two main characters, Isabel and Sasha, struggle with a chronic ilness. They meet at the hospital and develop a friendship that will eventually evolve into *something more*. And there are so many great elements about this book, I might as well do a list.IMG_3822

  • calls out New York City for its very poor accessibility which we always love to see
  • does not romanticize what is like being a sick person, and is in fact very open about the awkward/hard/uncomfortable/not pretty moments of living with a chronic ilness
  • but being sick also does not define these characters or the main conflict of their relationship
  • couples who TALK through their issues healthily!!!!@!@!
  • most positive sex conversations i’ve read in a book in a while
  • both characters have a significant relationship with their family
  • different perspectives on living with an invisible ilness and very realistic struggles, especially from Isabel

I’d say the only bad thing about this book is the fact they use “honey” when talking to each other, which we all know it’s a word to be exclusively used by white parents when coming home from work and NEVER, under any circumstances saved the sarcastic ones, by teenagers.

BIRTHDAY, BY MEREDITH RUSSO

main character is a trans girl

Trigger warnings for suicide attempt, suicidal thoughts and internalized transphobia.

IMG_2889I realized I don’t scream enough about this book, which is a mistake. This was my favorite book of 2019, probably one of my favorite books of life, and definitely one I’ll be re-reading a number of times to come.

This book follows the birthday date of our two main characters, Morgan and Eric, from the years of twelve to eighteen. They’ve been best friends since forever, and throughout the book, we can see their friendship evolve and their individual growth as well.

I think it was really realistic how in some moments, these characters would be closer than in others, which I think it’s true for any long-lasting relationship. I also love how both perspectives are equally strong, and I never felt like I wanted to read more of one than the other.

Morgan is obviously struggling with her gender identity, while Eric is trying to figure out his place while being confronted with a lot of stereotypes and toxic masculinity. It’s really impactful seeing these two characters grow and their journey is quite heartbreaking. It’s not an easy one, definitely.

My favorite thing about the book, though, is the dynamic between Morgan and Eric. They are the childhood friends to lovers story that I’ve always dreamt of. I love how their feelings for each other aren’t immediately written all over their faces and, much like everything else in this book, is something they have to figure out. But, this time, together.

THE WAY YOU MAKE ME FEEL, BY MAURENE GOO

Korean-American main character

IMG_3814Summer is approaching, aka the best moment to read this book. It’s one of my favorite summer reads and one I wish more people would talk about.

The Way You Make Me Feel centers around Clara, the class clown who, after a prank that goes too far, is forced to work at her dad’s food truck the whole summer, along with her arch-nemesis, Rosie. It’s also important for me to note that her dad’s food truck is called KoBra, and it is a fusion of Korean and Brazilian cuisine. There’s actually a number of Brazilian elements in this book and they seriously made my day.

Clara was a really fun character too. Her enemies to friends dynamic with Rosie was hilarious and extremely realistic, in my opinion. She also has a love interest – Hamlet, who’s described as a human labrador – and they were equally adorable.

What I love the most about this book is how it discussed Clara’s struggle in “truly letting people in”. I know it can be a trope-y theme, but it was so well done here. I related so much to Clara keeping everyone in her life at arms-length, in order not to get hurt, but also missing out on a lot of amazing things because of it.

RUNNING WITH LIONS, BY JULIAN WINTERS

gay representation

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the lack of gay men in football. (Or should I say soccer? I think calling it soccer is a big load of bullshit, but oh well). From my research, there are less than ten players in all *worldwide* football that have ever come out as gay, most of them doing so only after retiring. (I’m not considering women’s football, by the way). It’s a really sad statistic, actually. Olivier Giroud has stated that he finds it’s: “impossible to be openly gay in football”. A lot of players have gone far as opening lawsuits against people who shared personal information about their love life.

IMG_3819The reason why I’m saying all of this is because Running With Lions, by Julian Winters is a hopeful read in the midst of all these awful statistics. Our main character, Bastian, is falling in love with one of his teammates, who’s also a childhood friend. There are a lot of openly queer characters in Bastian’s team as well and that’s not something they’re ever shamed for.

It is refreshing to see such a positive take on a space that is so, predominantly, toxic for queer people. I loved the representation in here – Muslim characters, black characters, bisexual characters – and I loved how it’s also a coming of age story for Bastian, as he’s figuring out his future as well.

While this book may annoy some British readers for some inconsistencies that just prove to me it’s incredibly hard for Americans to realize that they’re not, in fact, the center of the world, I still recommend the heck out of it.

DEAR MARTIN, BY NIC STONE

black main character

Y’all are NOT READING ENOUGH NIC STONE. And I’m forever mad, because she’s such a phenomenal author and while she’s definitely not totally underrated, I still feel like there are way too many people sleeping on her and all of her books’ glory.

IMG_3817Dear Martin is her debut novel and it may be short, but holds a punch in less than 300 pages. Our main character, Justyce, starts this personal project of writing letters for Dr. Martin Luther King after he ends up in handcuffs after trying to help his ex-girlfriend.

This book is incredibly fast paced, but still makes sure to discuss very relevant issues. I love how Nic Stone touched on the different levels of privilege – economic privilege vs. racial privilege and how they affect people’s lives differently as well.

I loved Justyce’s perspective and found to be very true to a teenage boy’s voice. I loved how dynamic and unique the writing was. I loved how this book totally broke my heart, but still made me feel hopeful after all.

 

This post is LONG AF and I’m so sorry. Let me know if you’ve read any of these books and what own voices recommendations you have for me as well!

book review: call it what you want, by brigid kemmerer

IMG_3357When his dad is caught embezzling funds from half the town, Rob goes from popular lacrosse player to social pariah. Even worse, his father’s failed suicide attempt leaves Rob and his mother responsible for his care.

Everyone thinks of Maegan as a typical overachiever, but she has a secret of her own after the pressure got to her last year. And when her sister comes home from college pregnant, keeping it from her parents might be more than she can handle.

When Rob and Maegan are paired together for a calculus project, they’re both reluctant to let anyone through the walls they’ve built. But when Maegan learns of Rob’s plan to fix the damage caused by his father, it could ruin more than their fragile new friendship…

This captivating, heartfelt novel asks the question: Is it okay to do something wrong for the right reasons?

Here’s a little annectode for y’all: out of all the books I had on my TBR, Call It What You Want was the one I was the least excited to pick up. It’s not that I had anything against it, but there were other books by Brigid Kemmerer I wanted to get to before this one. But I was at the bookstore once, and my mom was feeling generous, and offered to buy any book I picked up. Since this was one was the cheapest, we went to check out.

Immediately after I paid for the book, I felt a big regretful. I didn’t even know that much about it and the premise didn’t even sound *that* interesting. I thought about returning it, but didn’t want to sound ungrateful, since my mom had literally just bought it. So I went home and read it.

And, oof, I am so, so, so glad I did.

coisas-boas-novo-1

“Other people don’t have the challenges we have… but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their own.”

  1. Everyone kinda sucks. I know it sounds a bit contradictory, that my favorite thing about this book was how I couldn’t truly like any of the characters. But that’s the thing. I really enjoy myself some morally grey characters, but I feel like they’re always written the same way: a badboy with daddy issues. But Call It What You Want offered so much more than that. These characters were doing a lot of questionable things, but I still felt sympathy and compassion for all they were going through. It was very conflicting, but amazing at the same time.
  2. The side characters. I love whenever a book can develop its side characters as much as the main ones. It’s so hard to achieve, but Bridgid Kemmerer did it almost effortlessly. I loved Owen – a friend that Rob makes throughout the book – for his hilarious honesty; I loved Connor – Rob’s former best friend – even if he was a total jerk; I loved Samantha – Meagan’s sister -, for being a badass with too many feelings; I loved Rachel and Drew – for being honest about how race privilege allowed Rob and Meagan to get away with the stuff they’d done. They were just as interesting as our protagonists and had just as much to offer.
  3. Family means a lot. I am always happy to see family being a big role on characters’ lives, as I feel like it is in mine and it’s relatable for a lot of other people out there as well. Don’t be fooled – these characters families are just as bad as they are sometimes, but I still loved their role throughout the story and how they offered both comfort and stress, as I feel like all families do.
  4. The writing style. I didn’t feel like one of the perspectives was stronger than the other, though I did like Rob better, but that’s because I am a male character hoe. They were both very well written and distinct. I feel like Rob sounded so much like a seventeen year old boy and I don’t know how to explain it, because he exuded both the asshole energy that I find any straight teenage boy has as default, but also a lot of feelings that added to his complexity.

coisas-ruinsnovo-1

“When you’ve lost everything,’ he says, ‘sometimes you don’t see anything wrong with taking a little back.”

The only thing I can name that made me a bit frustrated was the ending. As much as I appreciate how the author concluded it, considering everything the characters had been through, it happened way too quickly in my opinion. I would’ve really liked to have just a couple more pages, so we could tie some loose ends and give better closure to the characters and their relationships.

 

IMG_3365Overall, this is a book I’d recommend for people who enjoy reading about morally grey characters. You have to be open to disagree with these characters and roll your eyes at some of their actions, because that’s sort of the point. Call It What You Want does not claim to be a perfect story, following perfect characters. They’re not supposed to be role models – they’re supposed to be real.

I loved the book for exact those reasons, but I understand that it can not work for everyone. Nonetheless, I am really happy I decided to pick this book up out of all the options I had at the bookstore that day. I could’ve missed out on the chance to read an amazing story.

“One choice doesn’t determine your whole future.”

5 ESTRELASNOVO

Have you read Call It What You Want? Or any other book by Brigid Kemmerer? If so, let me know your thoughts in the comments! And if you have any recommendations for books with morally grey characters, please share them in the comments too!

 

my favorite books of 2019!

a yearly overview.

Hello, friends!

It’s finally the best time of the year: sharing my favorite books I’ve read. I read a lot, surprisingly, and yet I didn’t even have that many books to talk about. I was able to find a list of ten that I’m really invested in and that I have so much to talk about, so maybe it is for the best I don’t have so many, otherwise this post will last forever, lol.

Let’s go!

FIRST READ OF 2019

IMG_2886It’s so crazy to think that my first read of 2019 actually turned out to be one my favorites of the year. I’ve talked a lot about American Panda already, but this book was such a delightful ride. Mei, our main character, is struggling with being her own self in front of her very traditional Taiwanese parents. She’s in her first year of MIT, studying to be a doctor, even though her passion couldn’t be further from anything biology related.

There’s so much I loved about this book. First, Gloria Chao’s realistic writing, that had all the romantic moments but in ways that could happen in real life too; then, the complex relationships. Mei loved and respected her parents and was grateful for their sacrifices, but still felt the need to be her own self, which would never meet her parents’ expectations. It was very heartbreaking following her struggles and how alone she felt, but to me, it’s what made the whole ride even more beautiful and rewarding.

 

MY FIRST CO-WRITTEN READ

IMG_0515All American Boys was the first book I ever read that was written by two authors. Even though the first couple of chapters were really hard to get through, I was incredibly invested by the end. In this dual perspective novel, we follow Quinn and Rashad, and how their stories intertwine over police brutality, fear and doing what’s right.

I think the big lesson of this story – to speak up, even when it’s hard – was so incredibly powerful. The characters had a lot of layers, even the side characters, and Rashad’s father especially was one that hit me the hardest. The dual perspective added a lot to the story too, because it was so great seeing both the privilege that made both of these characters different, but also all the other aspects of their lives that made them so much alike. I really think this is one that deserves more hype.

 

BEST RE-READ

IMG_2881For 2019, I had the goal to re-read at least one book a month, which I accomplished. I have such a fun time re-visiting stories I love and reconnecting with characters that I’d missed. There were some books I already expected to love, and did; and others that I didn’t feel the same way after the re-read. The only one that I truly grew to like even *more* the second time around was The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue.

I remembered this book being hilarious, but I was taken aback by how sad it could be at times. Monty, our protagonist, is such a phenomenal character. In this journey he takes around Europe with his best friend and sister, and through all their crazy adventures with royalty, pirates and sinking islands, he grows so much and following such growth was remarkable. He not only learns and understands his own privilege, but also recognizes himself as someone worthy of love and affection, in ways that he’d never had before. It was heartbreaking to see his trauma, but also so heart-warming to see him find love. (And also incredibly hilarious to see his meltdowns over the most ridiculous things).

 

MOST SURPRISING READ

IMG_0973I think, to a certain degree, all the books I have in this list were books that I already expected to really, really like. Either because they had some of my favorite tropes or because they were really hyped and recommended over and over again. But prior to picking up Heretics Anonymous, I hadn’t even heard the most flattering stuff, but decided to read anyway, since the premise sounded so interesting.

And the payoff was incredible. Here, we follow our main character Michael, an atheist going to a catholic school, and the friends he makes there – a group called Heretics Anonymous -, that just like him, aren’t the biggest believers, and they form a very interesting friendship. The biggest take for this book, in my opinion, is how Katie Henry was able to both address that Michael was incredibly privileged being a white, straight, cis boy – especially in contrast to his very diverse group of friends -, and also recognize that his problems and struggles are all still very valid.

The dialogues were hilarious, the characters were so interesting and I was finally able to read about a South-American character, Lucy, who was our 10/10 love interest. Basically: this was so great I can’t believe no one else talks about it.

 

DESERVING OF ALL THE HYPE

IMG_0964Vicious is seriously a book I’ve been wanting to read since I found out BookTube in early 2014. Since then, I had never seen anyone giving this book any less than 4/5 stars. And when I finally got the chance to acquire a copy while in NYC last December and then to finally read it, this April, I totally comprehend all the people who *love* this book.

V.E. Schwab created such an intricate plot, that jumps into timelines, while following this villanous story that start out as a simple academic research and turns into an intense chase. Because of how the book is told, you end up going through it like finding different pieces to complete a puzzle and I absolutely love how invested I was in figuring out exactly what led these characters to where they were.

I really think this was the most outstanding writing I read this year and I really wish this could get turned into a Netflix show. It would be so amazing.

 

BY MY FAVORITE AUTHOR

IMG_2896It is official: Nic Stone is one of my favorite female authors of all times. This year, I read two books by her, and though the first one was bittersweet, it just showed me how great her writing is and Jackpot completely solidified that. I will never shut up about how more people need to read her books, because her work is truly fantastic.

In this book, we follow Rico and Zan, who despise their *very* different financial backgrounds, team up to find a missing lotto ticket. And this book delivers everything I expected: hilarious dialogues, fantastic & layered characters and deep discussions on very serious topics. This book explores privilege, money and race, while also being fun and entertaining. It truly is the best of both worlds.

 

MADE ME CRY THE MOST

UntitledI don’t really cry a lot with books, so whenever I find a novel that can bring these much tears, I know it is a keeper. That was Far From the Tree – a three-perspective novel about three siblings finding each other at the age of 16 and each of their struggles with family, love and identity.

There’s so much that this book discusses that this description I just gave barely scratches the surface. Even though there were characters and storylines I didn’t connect as much with (cof cof Maya cof cof), I still have such fond memories of my time reading this. Robin Benway creates fantastic family dynamics – the type that will bring tears to your eyes within two seconds – and I wanted so bad to just jump into this book and hug all of these characters so hard.

 

MOST RELATABLE

IMG_2884I don’t think I’ll ever shut up about Radio Silence, because just like Vicious, it was one of those books I had on my TBR for ages and as soon as I started it, I realized why everyone raves about it. But I was surprised to see how much I would actually relate to these characters.

While Radio Silence mostly focuses on a podcast and follows a girl who’s obsessed with it, I feel like the word “podcast” could’ve been replaced by book series or TV show and it would’ve been all about me. I also can’t tell you which character I relate the most with, because both were so well written and I could see myself in both Frances’ self-pressure to be perfect and in Aled’s way of using fiction to cope with his own feelings.

This was also so incredibly diverse and I am so glad that I picked this up, because it was truly so awesome being able to see myself in such phenomenal characters too.

 

A NEW FOUND FORMAT

IMG_2894At the beginning of the year, one of my goals was to explore different formats: try more e-books and, especially, audiobooks. And I fell in love with audiobooks – hence why most of the pictures you’re seeing in this post aren’t of physical books, because I listened to most of them. But the best audiobook I listened all year was definitely Me!

If you’ve read any of my posts before, then you probably know I’ve been obsessed with the movie Rocketman and it has become my favorite movie of all times. And so when I decided to pick up Elton John’s autobiography, Me!, I knew it was going to be a more developed and personal version of the movie and it totally delivered.

But what I loved the most was the narration – done by Taron Egerton, who plays Elton in the movie. It made me feel like I was going through everything along with the characters, with the raw emotion during the sad parts, the chuckles during the hilarious parts and even some frustrated sighs at any mention of Elton’s mom. Even the change of accents was so natural! I really didn’t think any audiobook experience could be this good.

 

BEST BOOK OF 2019

IMG_2889I read a lot of amazing books this year, but the one that had the most long-lasting impact on me was Birthday, by Meredith Russo. In this dual-perspective novel, we follow the shared birthday of our two main characters over the years and their amazing friendship.

I didn’t think any book would make me feel this much and I truly can not remember the last time I was this invested by a contemporary pairing. Eric and Morgan are the best-friends-to-lovers story that I’ve always wanted, because while the romance can be a big part of this novel and one I was truly immersed in, they’re also amazing characters on their own.

This book is very much about: facing who you truly are, even when the world around you is cruel; feelings that can’t be explained but that make so much sense; people who change and who are worth fighting for. I loved every aspect of it, from the writing, to the dialogues, to the relationships. If you’re going to take anything from this immense post, take this: please, read this book.

 

That’s it, friends! Now, it’s your turn: what is the best book you read in 2019? Any favorite re-reads? Best pairing you read about and any genre did you find out about only this year? Most surprising read? Let’s discuss in the comments!

 

book review & discussion: wayward son, by rainbow rowell (carry on #2)

IMG_2052The story is supposed to be over.

Simon Snow did everything he was supposed to do. He beat the villain. He won the war. He even fell in love. Now comes the good part, right? Now comes the happily ever after…

So why can’t Simon Snow get off the couch?

What he needs, according to his best friend, is a change of scenery. He just needs to see himself in a new light…

That’s how Simon and Penny and Baz end up in a vintage convertible, tearing across the American West.

They find trouble, of course. (Dragons, vampires, skunk-headed things with shotguns.) And they get lost. They get so lost, they start to wonder whether they ever knew where they were headed in the first place…

With Wayward Son, Rainbow Rowell has written a book for everyone who ever wondered what happened to the Chosen One after he saved the day. And a book for everyone who was ever more curious about the second kiss than the first. It’s another helping of sour cherry scones with an absolutely decadent amount of butter.

Come on, Simon Snow. Your hero’s journey might be over – but your life has just begun

Wayward Son was my most anticipated release of 2019. I was so excited when this book was first announced, as Carry On is one of my favorite books and Rainbow Rowell is one of my favorite authors and I’m always happy to read more about her. (Yes, I know she’s problematic. You can enjoy someone’s work and still acknowledge they’ve done offensive things in the past. I know. Shocking.)

This review will be slightly different, because under the line, I’ll be discussing my favorite and least-favorite aspects of the book with spoilers. But if you haven’t read Wayward Son yet, I’ll share some of my non-spoiler-y thoughts first.

IMG_2056I think Rainbow Rowell’s writing style will forever be my favorite and there’s no difference here. I also appreciated how it discussed mental health issues, though it could’ve been much more developed. Apart from that, though, there’s not much I enjoyed about it.

The characters had no development and it truly felt like none of the problems they started the book with were actually resolved. I also feel like the magical system is so confusing and hasn’t been explained at all. My biggest gripe is probably the fact that there was so much that could’ve happened here and yet it was just 350 pages of much non-sense.

Unfortunately, I didn’t like this at all, but I still feel like there are people who could enjoy it. I, sadly, just wasn’t one of them. With that being said, I’d then recommend checking out Lauren’s review, that had a more positive note but still acknowledged some of the issues I had with it.

If you’ve read the book, keep reading, but if that’s not the case, please stop here.


SPOILERS AHEAD!

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  1. Baz. Baz is my favorite character in the series and I’ll never grow tired of him. I feel like, while in Carry On, we were mostly seeing him through Simon’s eyes as his villainous self and he did act like a villain for most of that book, in Wayward Son, we see his more laid back side and it was so fun. I also love that we saw him learning more about the vampires and it felt real to his character and what he went through and how much he was deprived from information about who he is. It was also hilarious seeing his insight on American culture – he was bitter about everything and all he pointed out was so real. Oh, and of course, the fact he was wearing flower suits made me the happiest.
  2. Discussions on mental health. When we start out the book, Simon is clearly struggling a lot with depression. And despise the crazy adventures this book take us, it’s something that it’s still there and that the other characters talk about as well. It wasn’t like he was “healed” by the trip, but you can see how being around magic, even if it was mostly magic that wanted to kill him, made him happy and alive again. (The fact Simon Snow lost his magic is a tragedy and I’ll never truly recover from it, tbh). Even though I’d have enjoyed to see it more from his perspective, rather than Baz or Penny talking about how he felt/looked, I still think it was a well done discussion.

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  1. Lack of character development and miscommunication. I honestly don’t think Baz and Simon shared more than two lines without being interrupted. Apart from that scene in the back of the truck, I missed a lot of the Baz/Simon banter we had in book 1. They finished the book with the same issues they left off and I feel like so much could’ve been worked out if they just *talked*. The lack of communication was probably to keep the angst, but it honestly felt frustrating after so many attempts of conversations that were interrupted by either Penny or Shepherd. All in all, Penny was the only character I could feel a development of and it didn’t even matter that much to me, because she annoyed me so much.
  2. Nonsensical magic system. Because we only learn the magic system along with the characters, I feel like we don’t know anything at all. In Carry On, this didn’t bother me, because it was clear that the author was trying to pull off a twist at tropes such as the “chosen one”, and therefore, the “complicated magic system” too. But, at this point, it just doesn’t make sense anymore. I need more information about it, and a lot more answers. The way vampires are portrayed is also really annoying. Again, didn’t bother me in the first book, because I could see where it was coming from and it was clearly a mockery on the way they have been portrayed on media forever, but now, I just think there literally is nothing vampires can’t do. They’re not immortal. They can eat. The sun doesn’t affect them. They can see themselves in mirrors. They can even BITE people and not immediately TURN them. Like, what? What makes vampires vampires then in this universe, if apart from needing to drink blood, they’re essentially humans?IMG_2054
  3. The wasted potential. When I re-read Carry On earlier this August, I created all this headcanons in my head of what could happen in the follow up. My main wish for this book was for Simon to find closure. I thought it would be the perfect way to both help him on his depression and tie some loose ends we had on the first book. Now, while I do think this will happen eventually in the trilogy, it made this book feel like a true wasted plot, as I feel like nothing *truly* happened. This ended up being much more of a Baz book and I wanted much more of Simon. I thought, since his mom had allegedly went to America, we would be able to find something there to connect all the dots and that led Simon to finally learn more about his family and where he comes from. I want Simon to know his mom showed up for him and not Baz. That he was loved and wanted, at least by one of his parents. That Snow IS a middle name. And I’m still frustrated that we got literally nothing here, but vampire shenanigans that didn’t even make that much sense.
  4. Penny. Okay, I may be being petty right now, but oh Lord, was Penny always this annoying? I feel like she just spent half of this book either cock-blocking Baz and Simon or making stupid decisions even though she’s supposed to be the smartest out of all. Her constant suspicion on Shepherd also didn’t make her smart, but rather showed how she was constantly asking the wrong questions and couldn’t really see past her prejudice against Normals. I was really annoyed by her in this book and, though I was happy to see more layers of her, showing how much of a control-freak she could be, like with her relationship with Micah, I still couldn’t stand much of her character.

IMG_2061Overall, I definitely enjoyed Carry On better than Wayward Son. I am still open to re-reading this book once the third one is out and maybe my opinion will change in the future, but unfortunately, this was a disappointment for me.

I’m definitely still going to carry on with the series, because I’m way too invested in the characters to back out now. I just wish this had explored a lot more than it did and just, in general, lived up to the hype that was built around it.

If you have read Wayward Son, let me know: did you like it? What are your thoughts on it? And if you haven’t yet, was there any book this year that really disappointed you? Let me know in the comments!