Lead Me Not: A Book Review

Beliefs are formative for not only our thoughts, but the actions we carry out daily, as well. In the case of Isaac Morris, in Lead Me Not by Ann Gallagher, he is entrenched in the mindset of homophobic rhetoric, alongside the majority of his fundamental Christian church and family. One could wonder, what would it take for him to be educated on the world outside of the groupthink he has been forced to drown in?

For a while now, I’ve been in search of a book that not only tackles the subject matter that this one does, but which also sets up a realistic depiction of both sides in this contemporary argument. Though I disliked reading the homophobic bits, and detested certain characters throughout the novel, what sold it for me was Isaac and his transformation, as well as the in depth look at not only the mindset of people like him, but also the scripture in the Bible as seen through each other’s eyes.

With that being said, was Isaac a good or likable character for the majority of the book? I suppose that depends upon each reader. As for me, as a character, I loved him. Certain choices he made though, were reason enough for a person to dislike him, if he were a real person. His background does play a large part though on how he reacts or interacts with certain revelations, because hatred buried that deep in someone is not changed overnight. However, eventually, the pay out that comes later is worth his less than likable tendencies, thoughts, and actions.

As for the other characters, I enjoyed each one, honestly. The love interest, Colton Roberts, a stark contrast to everything that Isaac believed previously, was also well written, and a great choice to be set opposite of him. I enjoyed reading his chapters as much, if not more, than Isaac’s, to be honest. As for the antagonists, though they made me want to scream or toss my Kindle, were realistic. The siblings outside of the ones who were cast in with the rest of the antagonists were decent, as was the older pastor who had taken care of Colton from a young age. He ground the story in ways that made me grateful that he was included.

The setting, which is Seattle, Washington, as well as the different places that are visited throughout the course of the novel, compound the message that the narrative is seeking to show overall – we all have our own struggles, but it costs nothing to hear each other out and be kind to our fellow humans. I enjoyed watching Isaac interact with his choice of occupation – a gay bar, of all things. Likewise, how his opinion of Colton’s church changed over time after various visits, was interesting as well.

My one bone to pick with this book, honestly, is the way that the older sister who has been distanced from the family, reacts to the news of the whole project, which is the driving force of the plot for much of the book. Being that she is removed from it emotionally, outside of worrying about Isaac, I felt she should have also asked how it was fair to treat someone the way that her brother and sister were, for a manipulative venture. Addressing that better on page would have been most welcomed, honestly, and is ultimately what led me to knock down a star from my final rating.

Overall, I will recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Christian and LGBTQIA+ romance melded together. The subject matter is tough, but it is still a good story, and one that does deliver a powerful look at what can happen when we all put aside our pride, or toxic beliefs, and just listen.

I rated this book a 4/5 stars on Goodreads.

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I Wish You All The Best: A Book Review

What a time to be alive, where fiction about Nonbinary people, has gone mainstream! In my wildest dreams, I never would have imagined it, to be honest. Here we are though, just a day shy of the whole first release week of I Wish You All The Best by Mason Deaver having taken place, and it has taken the internet by storm for all of the right reasons.

From the get go, it is made apparent that this book will be delving into subjects with emotional depth, as the story begins with the main character, Benjamin De Decker, being kicked out of their home for outing themself to their parents. From there, it becomes a narrative of healing for them, as they try to piece back together a life in shambles.

If you are looking for light-hearted, then I suggest searching elsewhere, because though there are humor laden exchanges and a romance between the MC and another character, which builds gradually throughout, this book is first and foremost about trauma and healing from it. With that being said, this was a harder read for me, but I am so grateful that this book exists. Years ago, as a Nonbinary teen, I would have benefited greatly from it, had it been available at that time.

As for the mechanics of the story, the character driven plot was done well. There was nuance and growth throughout, especially from Ben. Though their healing takes center-stage, Ben’s sister also transcends her original starting point, as does the love interest. Their motivations and facets are fleshed out to where I can see them being actual people. These three are the characters we see the most, so I feel it’s important to highlight those above the others. However, each person in the cast of characters was unique, and believable, which added layers to the story that would not have previously been there otherwise.

Overall, though a difficult read for anyone who can remotely relate to Ben on certain issues, this book is one of the best to come out of this release year. I am grateful to have read it, and I can only hope that the author will continue writing, as I look forward to their next work.

I rated this book on Goodreads 5/5 stars.

Shadows You Left: A Book Review

There is something to be said for laid back novels, such as Shadows You Left by Jude Sierra and Taylor Brooke, which offers up an intriguing plot and the potential for great character development, then delivers. It is the sort of book that can keep a reader up at night with anticipation, urging them to continue until the end. A whirlwind romance with teeth and truth, this book is a stunner.

With that being said, this story revolves around two main characters – Erik and River – whose points of view alternate throughout. Erik is a cage fighter and mediocre bartender, while River is a talented tattoo artist. Right from the start, their lives converge, and the story begins. Even from the opening though, it becomes apparent that while this is a romance, each character has his own separate life to sort out, and live too. While it does indeed focus on their nascent relationship, importance is also placed on who they are outside of each other, including their friends or family.

Furthermore, well-executed prose and beautiful imagery populate this slice of life and love novel, which only engendered me to this narrative further. Those aspects, coupled with a well-constructed combination of fleshed out characters, and sub-plots that had believable resolutions at the end, made this easily one of my favorite books of the year.

If the premise of two imperfect people navigating their separate worlds alongside their budding romance draws you, then the following love story might be for you. It is not cotton candy, by any means, as it deals with darker topics, such as addiction and substance abuse. However, it is a novel that adds depth to the New Adult category and romance genre in its execution.

I rated this book 5/5 stars on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: I was given a free ARC of this by NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.




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.

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.

Unbroken: A Book Review

Given the trigger warnings and the fact that it is Erotica, I will be honest and say that I did not expect to enjoy Unbroken by Brooklyn Ray as much as the previous novel of this series. However, raw and real, this book is the sequel to Port Lewis Witches, Volume One that we all deserve.

Unbroken follows the story of Michael Gates, a travel blogger who is transplanted to Port Lewis by his parents’ collective insistence that he do something with his life. Tucking tail and escaping Arizona, he follows his sister Janice to Port Lewis, Washington where they find themselves renting a house with two other roommates; one human and one demon. That is not even the half of the strangeness that begins to infiltrate itself into their lives after arriving in Port Lewis.

Outside of Michael Gates, there is Victor Llewellyn, Michael’s sister Janice, and their roommate Corey, as well as the occasional appearance of other Port Lewis regulars introduced in book one. Those I felt were tastefully done, and did not feel shoe-horned in whatsoever. Regarding the new characters, I felt that each were well-written, with not a single one feeling hollow or incomplete.

Furthermore, I adored each of the characters that are added to this world with the addition of this book to the series, including the main character. Michael is by no means perfect, but his character arc of learning to accept himself and the love he deserves is poignant and harsh, but relatable. I connected with him in ways I was not sure I would upon first glance of the novel.

As for the world building in this book, given the genre, it did take a back seat. However, it was still woven in so that those who read the first book will learn more about the magic system and world that Ray has created. I did not feel like it was lacking in the slightest.

Overall, for those who enjoyed Unbroken’s predecessor, and can handle darker subject matter, I recommend this book. Though it may be heavier material, I believe it is tastefully done, and well worth the read.

I rate this book 5/5.

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

Why Harry Potter Is No Longer Relevant To Me

There was a time period during my earlier youth when I was obsessed with Harry Potter, as were a large majority of children around my age at that point. It began around seven or eight, and lasted up until about 19 or so, for me. I fancied myself an aficionado on all things Harry Potter related, and indeed I was knowledgeable about it in a certain factual sense. However, until The Cursed Child came into existence, as well as the subsequent casting of an actress of color for Hermione, I did not realize how ignorant I had been up until then. After much thought and research, I will explain why this series does not stand the test of time for me.

At the time of inception of this seven book series, matters regarding the LGBTQIA+ community had only really became mainstream in recent years. The Stonewall Inn riots had been a turning point, but there was much ground to be made still in regard to national and international media in the U.S., and worldwide respectively. The Philosopher’s Stone, after all, was published by Bloomsbury in London just a scant three months after Ellen had announced that she was indeed gay, back in 1997. Harry Potter, at its core, is a children’s series that can be enjoyed by all ages. It is, however, a product of its time. One where those who were not what mainstream media expected them to be, would more than likely flop. Ellen’s show, after all, was cancelled shortly after her admission. While that seems a world away, as well as not that long ago, times have changed much since that pivotal year.

In recent years though, J.K. Rowling has been criticized for her lack of diversity in the books, which as an adult well into their 20s, is not lost on me. However, had it been brought up years beforehand, I would not have understood the condemnations properly for what they were, because as has been pointed out, it is not simply about lack of LGBTQIA+ diversity, but of all sorts of missing representation for a series that supposedly has people in it from all over the world.

Moving back to The Cursed Child – it opened in the same month, ironically, 19 years after the first book in the original series had been released. To long time fans, given the casting news it had been a shock to the system, as we all digested the newest lore and content that had been released, albeit knowing that it had not been Rowling who singlehandedly had penned it. While the actors and others who created the play, I have no qualms with, I do however, reserve a certain frustration with the original series author, Mrs. J.K. Rowling herself.

Why, you might ask? Well, it’s plain and simple. Her excuse of the political climate as a reason she did not create a single drop of LGBTQIA+ diversity in the series might have flown back then, but in this day, it is a lack luster one, bordering on insulting. The Cursed Child, which was released in 2016, easily could have been imbued with some of our community’s flair. Was it? Of course it wasn’t, because her ally ship only goes so far as her tweets.

Talk is cheap, they say, and she has done a hefty amount of that in recent years. Back when the series concluded, collectively, the fandom was heartbroken, as it had been a part of our lives for years. That, was understandable. However, if we had known then what we do now, I wish that we had bit the bullet, and thanked her, then moved on our merry way to other books that actually represent a larger portion of her reader base, rather than continuing to harp on the point of wanting more. I owe that time period in large part to what my favorite childhood author has done thus far publicly.

Bear in mind, that I do not believe an author must include LGBTQIA+ people or people of color, various religions, etc. in any work. However, I find it disturbing that given the diversity of the world, that one could wish to sideline or exclude these narratives all together, or add them in after the fact as an aside, rather than have canon text to back the claim up. In that same vein, professing that the only characters who are queer, happen to be a Nazi, and a deeply flawed man? It’s ludicrous, as well as a dangerous message to send to future questioning children, or those who are straight and viewing queer people through media, as well as their own lens. That is a topic for another day though.

So, where does that leave me, a parent, who wishes to pass on only the best of literature to my daughter, who is learning about the world around her, including history of those who came before us? While I have two choices, I can only condone one – shedding the attachments of my earlier years, in hope that I am able to find and boost works that show people of all kinds, rather than exclude them as so many other media forms have done before.

J.K. Rowling and the series of Harry Potter is not inherently bad, and I do still find value in it. Likewise, I did indeed learn from it, both what to do and what not to. However, given the lack of diversity across the board, it is one that I no longer care to uplift.