On The Come Up: A Book Review

After the release of a fantastic debut with The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas continues to astound in the form of her latest novel, On The Come Up, in which Brianna Jackson, or Bri, is a 16-year-old girl who desires to become a famous rapper, like her father should have been before he died. She has the skills and the drive, but when people continue to misjudge her, issues arise which could make or break not only her career but her family as well. Throughout the novel, she questions what she will and will not do to make it because breaking is not an option.

No story can function without characters, and this one is no different of course. The main character of this novel was outspoken, and witty, which I loved. Bri did not allow life to happen to her. Instead, she made her life happen, for better or for worse. Unlike Starr, no one could mistake her for a wallflower, that is for sure. Her character was a delight, and her voice leaped off of the page. As for the other characters, I loved each one for what they brought to the table. Whether it be her family or friends, each person that surrounded Bri only added more depth to this novel.

The plot was intricate in that it weaved multiple layers together throughout, with each plot line that was tied in only strengthening the narrative. From representation of a recovering drug addict, to issues that I have only read about, such as gang violence, systematic poverty, and police brutality, Thomas has written another novel that addresses each of these, without sacrificing the main plot, which is Bri’s own narrative. Like the main character though, these are part of real people’s lives, and it’s great to see them spoken of in young adult novels like these, rather than glossed over as past ones have done.

Though it treads in its predecessor’s footsteps, Bri’s story is by no means a sideshow. Thomas’ sophomore novel is a book filled with hard truths, lessons learned, as well as lines that could make anyone laugh out loud. After completing it, I could not help but wonder when her next book would release, because this author has become one of my absolute favorites.

I rated this book a 5/5 stars on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: I read this book of my own accord, and was in no way compensated for this review. All thoughts are my own.

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Friday Fast Five: Why I Believe Writing Fanfiction Is Beneficial To Writers of All Genres

Thinking back, I can’t remember whether I’ve mentioned it or not, but here it is – I am a staunch advocate for fanfiction. In fact, I still write it now, despite the fact that I am also working on my own original stories. In the time that I have been involved with fandom, the attitudes toward this particular genre have shifted, for the better, I would like to think. Still, if you had told my fourteen year old self, who had just begun their fanfiction writing career, that they would publicly admit that in a blog with their name attached, they would have thought you were crazy. With that being said, while I do have a number of posts that will eventually go up later this year on the topic of fanfiction itself, today I’d like to focus on the actual mechanics of writing it, and why I believe it is overall a help, rather than a hindrance to writers of all skill levels.

I come to write this post with the knowledge that I carry from having written fanfiction for over 11 years. In that time, I have roughly written at least 500,000 words, if not more. Given the sheer amount of words I have written, it would be hard not to learn a thing or two, no? In that same vein, if I were to look back and compare my first work of fanfiction against the most recently posted, I can visibly see how I have improved as a writer. I, of course, still have a long way to go. I am well aware. Every single day, I work to write better than the last. There are some who will argue that being a published author of a novel is the only way to carry any weight as a “proper” writer, but I disagree, wholeheartedly. To have strung words together, and evoke emotion in another, is to be a writer. This is not to say that I am some guru, or a person having acquired a large amount of knowledge. More so, I simply acknowledge that I have learnt enough that I can safely speak about why I believe fanfiction is beneficial to someone who is considering writing original fiction outside of fanfiction.

Now that we’ve established that, I would like to say that like with all writing advice, that mine should be taken with a grain of salt. I just have opinions, and like anyone else with some sort of platform, I state them. Not all advice works for every single person, but it can be beneficial to others. In this post, I will be pro-fanfiction. I am aware, as with everything else, that it has its own issues, too. However, for me that doesn’t detract from what one has to gain from writing and interacting with it.

Okay. We’ve gotten this far, and if you’re still with me, despite my wordy paragraphs above, then I thank you. Below, you will find a list of why I believe writing fanfic is beneficial.

  1. From writing fanfiction, I have learned how to take constructive, and even hurtful criticism. Likewise, I have learned to air my frustrations about the latter in private venues, rather than public ones. Publishing a book is like bearing a piece of your soul, from what I hear, quite like how it feels to press publish on something you’ve toiled over for hours, and possibly even weeks, months or years. Unlike with publishing a book though, the setting for giving feedback is more intimate, and you directly handle whatever you’ve been dealt, be it good or bad. That causes a writer to grow a thicker skin, and to learn that not every one can or will like your work.
  2. Writing fanfiction has taught me to dissect every choice that writers have made before me for strengths and flaws. Thinking critically about the original source material is integral to writing fanfiction. Not only do you have to hop inside the characters’ heads, but also be able to deduce where the writer erred or exceled, and how you can expand upon that in ways that does not take the realism of the world and or characters you are borrowing away from potential readers.
  3. Because I write fanfiction, I have learned how to research and be patient on a project that I would otherwise have sped through creating before. Last year, at some point, I discovered a post on Tumblr where countless fanfiction writers were discussing obscure knowledge they now held, because they had to research for their fics. Before I found that, I had no idea how universal of an experience that was. Furthermore, there have been countless times in which I wanted to plow through a story, only to realize I needed more information than what I had. Though this might seem mundane to mention, I do have a reason for it – a lot of writers have been guilty of skimping on research, when they should have spent more time exercising their ability to do so. Research makes a story stronger when used well, but without it, there will be plot holes and less believable scenes.
  4. From writing fanfiction, I learned how to market and advocate for my writing. As I prepare to work towards publishing original works, I have watched different videos and read a number of articles on the topic. In them, similar advice is employed and mirrors what I, and other fanfiction writers, do for our own work, such as cross posting to multiple sites, and when given the space, discussing with those who might be interested in reading. Of course, marketing in the world of book publishing will not be the same, but the advice is similar and does ring true in both areas.
  5. I learned how to finish novel length projects. The writing process will look different for each person. Regardless, if you have the desire to be published, then you have to first write your work. New writers find this inherently difficult because it is a bear to tackle, especially when you’re not sure what angle is best for you to come at it from. Writing, regardless of project length, it an act of perseverance. If a person cannot persevere, then nothing they write will ever be complete.

Well, there you have it. I could list a few more, because fanfiction has taught me a decent amount, but these are the few I chose to give a spotlight to because as I write my original drafts, I realize how important these lessons were. They have strengthened my skills as a writer and allowed for me to advance as I continue to learn about this craft that I love.

What do you think? Do you write fanfiction? Did I leave any out? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Until next time,

T.J.

In Joy, Too

In a change of pace, because we all need that with the dour circumstances surrounding the trans community as of late, I want to express my thoughts on the times where I feel joy in regards to my gender, because I don’t do that often enough, even though there are times where that emotion does overwhelm me, against the odds.

  1. When I sing a song, and my voice is right either between what people consider masculine and feminine sounding octaves, or more masuline. One of the constant thorns in my sides on the days I have any form of dysphoria, is the sound of my voice. If I take a phone call, sometimes I will make my voice lighter out of habit, because it is expected as a social norm. Furthermore, I am self conscious still when my voice sounds masculine around people I do not know, so in person, if I am nervous about a reaction, I will also do this then too. However, singing songs by Ed Sheeran, and other similar voices that tread that line helps, as I can form my voice in a way that does not adhere to the gender stereotypical binary when I do, or in a more masculine way.
  2. When people I know, or anyone really, uses my chosen name and proper pronouns, as opposed to my dead name, etc. My heart does leaps and bounds when I hear T.J. versus the name which shall not be spoken of. There are times where I have to go by my dead name and assigned at birth gender pronouns for legal or protection reasons, but otherwise, T.J. is the only name that feels like mine, and I become ecstatic knowing that people who have known me for years work to using it and my preferred/proper pronouns.
  3. When I am able to dress androgynously, or in a more masculine fashion, and no one bats an eye about it. There have been times where I have either dressed in a more masculine fashion, or androgynously, and I can visibly see that people are trying to figure out my assigned at birth gender, or they glare at me. It’s frustrating and scary. So, to be in an environment where I feel safe to express myself through what I wear, is everything to me.
  4. When I sign up for a new service or website, and Non-Binary is an option to denote my gender. As far as inclusion goes, I know society has miles to go, and that does frustrate me. However, it is exciting that larger websites such as Spotify and Pinterest have given that as an option. It makes my mind and heart soar.
  5. Discovering well done representation of Non-Binary people in any media form. I’ve mentioned before how the lack of Non-Binary rep is aggravating. However, this year I have been exposed to more than ever, and I am grateful to have discovered those few. Progress, even at a snail’s pace, is progress. I, for one, am grateful for it.

The Poet X: A Book Review

I stalled breathing at the close of a book that made use of beautiful and vivid prose; this was my reaction to The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. This novel, which is written in verse, is an empowering work that reminds us all we have the power to speak up for who we are, even in the face of adversity.

Xiomara Batista, also known as the Poet X, is a sophomore in high school who crafts poems to escape the rigid life that is being the daughter of a devout Catholic mother, who expects more than she is willing to give. Her writing is her escape from her life and a place where she finds her own voice. Throughout the book, we watch as Xiomara changes from passively floating along, to taking charge of her life when she can no longer take what it has become.

For anyone who has toxic family members or parents, or a difficult relationship with their relatives, this book may hit quite close to home. I personally connected with Xiomara as she too had a tense, and at times tenuous relationship with her mother. The representation that remains at the forefront though, I am not, so I will not comment on that. However, even so, that matters little as a well written book transcends identities, and allows us to view that which we might not else be privy a window into were it not for novels such as these.

From beginning to end, I was compelled to complete this story as I became encompassed with raw emotion. Even as I came to the close, I felt that this novel is better left as a bit of mystery, and something that each reader should experience for themselves.

Trigger warnings: Abuse

I rated this 4/5 stars on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: I read this book of my own accord, and was in no way compensated for this review. All thoughts are my own.

Tag: The Real Neat Blog Award

Thank you so much to Sara at The Bibliophagist for nominating me for the Real Neat Blog Award!

The guidelines for accepting the Real Neat Blog Award are simple:

  • Answer the seven questions posed to you
  • Gift 3 bloggers
  • Pose a further seven questions

Sara’s questions:

  1. What’s your favorite city to visit? New York City, hands down. I went there for the first time last year for Pride, and besides attending the parade, my family and I also went sightseeing. Though we didn’t get to every corner of the city, by foot in less than two days, we were able to see a lot that we would not have gotten to otherwise, if we had rented a car. We are planning to return for more sight seeing within the next few years.
  2. If someone gave you $50 and dropped you in a bookstore right now, what would you buy? I would either buy as many children’s books for my daughter as possible, or a collector’s edition of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas in both English and Spanish.
  3. What’s the best book you’ve read so far this year? If we’re talking about best book overall, as in well-executed prose, characters, plot, relationships, setting, etc. Then that would have to be The Diviners by Libba Bray, which I reviewed here. However, if we’re talking about what book elicited the most raw emotions, as well as included strong prose, then I would say Little Birds by Hannah Lee Kidder, which I reviewed here.
  4. What are some of your favorite book blogs? I actually do not frequent many book blogs, despite having one. I gravitate towards BookTube infinitely more, only because I can play it while doing other stuff. However, I do have a few still. — Almost, Almost , The Critiquing Chemist, Cheers to the Bookends, The Library Looter, and The Bibliophagist.
  5. What’s your favorite thing to order at a coffee shop? If I’m at Starbucks, then I’m prone to ordering the Mango Dragonfruit Refresher or a Mocha Frappuccino. However, if I go to a standalone cafΓ©, then I will try whatever sounds good. I love Starbucks, but I also am a huge proponent for supporting small businesses.
  6. Which book do you recommend most often? That depends on whether I know what genre the person I am giving the recommendation to likes. If I know they’ll read YA, then The Hate U Give, Six of Crows, or The Diviners. If not, then I would say any of Jodi Picoult’s books. She is one of my all time favorite authors.
  7. Which fictional character do you wish you could hang out with for a day? I’ve never given any thought to this, but probably a character from Avatar: The Last Airbender, like Toph or Aang. Either that, or Ryder Wolfe from Port Lewis Witches by Brooklyn Ray.

My nominations: Alex Logan at Almost, Almost, Cheers to the Bookends, and The Critiquing Chemist.

My 7 Questions:

  1. If you could rewrite any book, what would you change, and why?
  2. If you could bring one element out of any story into our world, what would it be, and why?
  3. Is there any book that has changed your worldview dramatically? If so, what was it, and how did it impact you and your future actions?
  4. Would you rather visit the land of your favorite book, or have a chat with your favorite character?
  5. What inspired you to begin blogging about books?
  6. Do you have any favorite book bloggers?
  7. If you had to read one genre, and/or category (Middle Grade, Young Adult, New Adult, or Adult) for the rest of your life, which of these would you pick, and why?

On My Unintended Hiatus, Health Status, & More

Contrary to what I said last week, I did not have as many posts queued up as I initially thought. I have many drafts that I need to finish, but given the status of where I’ve been mentally and physically, it was not possible to do so for this past week. Normally, I don’t speak up much about my personal life on this blog much outside of what fits the LGBTQIA+ themed posts, but I figure now might be a good time to explain at least part of the reason this past month and this past first quarter of the year exhausted me so thoroughly.

Health-wise, over the past few weeks, I came down with the flu. I’m not often sick, so when I am, the illnesses I do contract have me down and out for longer than most, it seems. This is merely an observation of my own, not an absolute fact. Secondly, I have seizures. It’s something I’ve dealt with for years now, but over the course of the past year, particularly since the beginning of this year, they have become more frequent than ever.

The seizures I have come in varying degrees and they leave me exhausted to the point my body overcompensates for sleep afterwards. Even with the “normal” amount of sleep an adult should have, sometimes that isn’t enough. There are periods after where I have to exceed that by a great deal to recover. Then there’s the other aftermath symptoms that come along with recovering, such as the inability to concentrate, amongst others. That one is particularly frustrating and overwhelming, especially when all I want to do is write or work on my school work.

That being said, I am working with health professionals to be diagnosed, get on medication, and I’m taking all of the proper precautions, etc. I even bought a bracelet which has SEIZURES emblazoned across the bright red band. Even so, it’s hard some days, to say the least.

Even though all of this has been going on, I’ve still managed to do more school work after copious amounts of sleep and mental rest. I’ve also finished a book. Just one from my 15 count long TBR for April. At this point, I don’t see that being finished, given all that I’ve got going on. As for Camp NaNoWriMo, I’m not where I want to be, but I’ve written a decent amount. Depending on how these last two weeks of April go, I may be able to finish my 30,000 word goal. All in all, I’m just winging it and hoping for the best.

As for this blog, if I don’t post on the days I normally do, it’s not for lack of trying. I am doing all that I can to be on a normal schedule. I’d like to say there won’t be any more gaps, but I’m not a seer. All I can do is do the best with what I’ve been given, and hope it’s enough.

I hope everyone’s April is going well!

Until next time,

T.J.


Gender Queer: A Memoir – A Book Review

I cannot express how elated I was to discover this graphic novel memoir on NetGalley. Reading the title felt like a beacon hailing me to shore, after a long, weary journey adrift at sea. Filled with equal amounts of excitement and apprehension, I downloaded it, hoping that it would live up to the expectations that roiled through me as I did.

Gender Queer: A Memoir is written and illustrated by a Nonbinary artist named Maia Kobabe, colored by Phoebe Kobabe. It follows eir journey through childhood up to present day where Kobabe has become confident in eir gender identity and expression. In accompaniment to the words, there are beautiful drawings that illustrate the peaks and pitfalls of being who e is.

As an AFAB, or Assigned Female At Birth, Nonbinary person myself, I deeply felt certain emotions that leapt off of each page in this book. Likewise, I believe that e exhibited all of the experiences well, so that even those who have not endured them, will understand. I will note though that I am not Asexual, nor do I use the same pronouns as the author. However, I did learn more about each aspect through this novel, so that in and of itself was an added bonus to picking it up.

I can say that without a doubt, I do recommend this work to everyone. If you’re questioning, or searching for Nonbinary or Genderqueer rep, then this is a wonderful one to choose. Likewise, if you’re wishing to be informed as an ally or learn of an experience outside of your own, then this novel can also be for you.

Overall, Gender Queer: A Memoir is a moving and well-illustrated graphic novel that I can see myself purchasing in the future to give to family members and friends. I feel this medium is the ideal one to tell the story that was presented. If any of this sounds up your alley in any way, then definitely consider buying a copy when it comes out on May 28th, 2019!

I rate this title 5/5 stars.

Disclaimer: I was given a free ARC of this title by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.