My 1st DNF and 1 Star Book of The Year

Well, it finally happened. I read a book I could not finish, as well as another that received a 1 star rating. A quick perusal of my Goodreads page will lead anyone towards the correct conclusion that I generally rate books between 4-5 stars, because I rarely subject myself to a book I think I might never enjoy. However, I went in blind, reading both of the aforementioned books without researching, and this was the result.

One of the books, The Art of Being Normal, has been on my TBR for ages, so it’s a miracle I never did seek out any non-spoiler reviews where I might have gleaned even a hint of whether I’d enjoy it or not. If I had though, I would have realized it wasn’t a book for me, because it was a non- OwnVoices hot mess, to put it frankly. However, I was fooled by the beautiful rainbow cover, and so here we are. As for the other, The Keeper of The Mist, I picked it up at random from the library, and the synopsis immediately grabbed my attention, so my hopes were high.

This is not to say, however, that I am not pleased with the outcome. Despite the terrible ratings I gave, I am thankful to have read these books, because one – they were both published roughly 3-4 years ago, and after knowing the majority of their contents, it is easy to see that publishing in YA is transitioning to something somewhat better, even if it’s at a snail’s pace in certain aspects, and two – I will now advocate even more strongly for OwnVoice novels of all sorts, including my own future ones. There are moments in life that shape us, and I believe reading these books was another one for me.

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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.

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.

I’ve Got My Outline, So Now What?

I’ve Got My Outline, So Now What?

The end of the first quarter of the year is approaching with haste, even though it feels like only yesterday we were putting the finishing touches on our resolutions for the year. My, how time does fly. So far this year, with writing at least, I’ve fared well. Between this blog and my other projects, I’ve accomplished a fair amount. As far as my novel goes, my outline is complete, and the first Camp NaNoWriMo session is just around the corner with only a few weeks away.

With the outline in hand, I’ve been researching in preparation to dive deep into the heads of the characters I plan to portray. For this novel and series in particular, I am not writing Own Voice, which is intimidating. There will be Own Voice rep in it, but it will not exclusively come from the main character, who is a far cry from who I am. Still, I adore this MC, as well as every other single one in this series, and so I plan to do right by each one of them.

Within the next few weeks, I will be inhaling more novels, information, and hopefully some rest, as I continue to plan for Camp NaNoWriMo. At this point, I would like to hit 50K if possible, or write until the manuscript is complete. Whether or not my time or life will allow that, will be better determined throughout the course of April. The minimum goal I plan to set is 30K though. I’d like to write at least 1K a day, and then if I need to, complete the manuscript in May. As of right now, that is where I’m at in the writing process of what will hopefully be my debut novel.

With that being said, throughout the course of April, some Friday writing posts will include updates on my progress throughout Camp NaNo, what I’m learning from it, etc.

So, that’s about it for today. This post is a bit more informal than what I normally write, but NaNoWriMo is just that, so I figured I’d follow suit.

If you’re reading this, are you participating in Camp NaNo? Have you heard of it? Let me know down below in the comments if you like. Thank you for reading!

Until next time,

T.J.

Little & Lion: A Book Review

Siblinghood and social stigmas are at the core of this novel, which was woven together with a deft hand by Brandy Colbert. From the synopsis alone, I was drawn in. The entire book itself, however, kept me hooked from start to finish.

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert is the story of Suzette, or Little, who has returned home from boarding school for the summer. There, she reconnects with her friends, as well as the rest of her family. However, her brother Lionel, or Lion, is less than receptive upon her arrival, as well as struggling with his mental health. Through a series of events, she is hurtled back into the world of watching over her older brother, as well as spending time with others that she had been made to leave behind. Along the way, she begins to question her identity, as she finds herself feeling romantic intentions for not just a boy, but also a girl. A girl who Lionel just happens to be falling for too.

While this happened to be a last minute addition to my February TBR, I am thrilled that I chose to delve into it sooner rather than later. This book is not what I expected but in all of the right ways. Suzette is a wonderful MC, who is smart as well as compassionate. Her relationship with her brother is a foundational part of the book, which I found to be a well laid one. Along with the parents that these step-siblings share, this was a realistic depiction of family, and what it means to be a familial unit.

As for the story itself, I thought it ebbed and flowed well. Each scene added something to the story, including the flashbacks that are peppered throughout the book. Coupled with the concise writing, and well-portrayed discussions regarding various topics such as racism, mental health, and being bisexual, all made this a joy to read.

With regard to the pansexual representation displayed in this book, despite what I have read in other reviews to the contrary, I as a pansexual individual enjoyed it. Art truly does imitate life. Therefore, not every LGBT+ person in a book has to be a decent human being. Does that represent every single person of that group? Hell no. So, with that being said, it stands to reason that there will be characters who are LGBT+ that are not the greatest as well. That does not necessarily mean a writer is villainizing that subset of sexual preference, but more so just being accurate to the world as a whole.

On a different note, as far as the mental health representation goes, I cannot wholly speak for it, because I do not have any form of bipolar. However, as I have anxiety, certain points really stuck with me, and I felt that they were conversations that need to be heard.

In that same vein, I am neither Jewish, as Suzette and her family are, nor African American, as the main character is. However, it was interesting to see this intersection. I loved reading about this character’s experience with it, as it was enlightening.

Concerning the “emotional” love triangle that develops, though I am not usually a fan of these, I felt this one was well placed. Suzette is at a point where she is figuring out who she is, and in life, these types of situations can happen as a result. As someone who is attracted to “everyone”, I understood her misgivings as she wonders whether or not it is even possible, and if so, how does one choose between one or another? The end result of this plotline of the book as a whole, in my humble opinion, was also a feasible possibility that was not meant to denigrate any single sexual orientation, but rather emulate one life path choice.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I think the author did an excellent job with this one, and I do plan to pick up more titles written by her.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

Books To Fall In Love With – A Book Rec List

Ah, Valentine’s Day, one of the best or most forgettable days of the year, depending on your point of view. With capitalism aside, I see the value in a day to celebrate love, and those we hold most dear. The notion is not lost on this hopeful romantic, to say the least. Which is why I come bearing book recommendations. Below, you will find a list of books that I adore which contain relationships that showcase various forms of love, including but not limited to – platonic, romantic, and familial. Perhaps you’ll find a book to enjoy on this day of love. If not these, then what are your favorite novels about romance? Let me know in the comments below. Otherwise, Happy Valentine’s Day!

Stand Alone Novels

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

“Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.”

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

“It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped.

Shirin is never surprised by how horrible people can be. She’s tired of the rude stares, the degrading comments—even the physical violence—she endures as a result of her race, her religion, and the hijab she wears every day. So she’s built up protective walls and refuses to let anyone close enough to hurt her. Instead, she drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons break-dancing with her brother.

But then she meets Ocean James. He’s the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know Shirin. It terrifies her—they seem to come from two irreconcilable worlds—and Shirin has had her guard up for so long that she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to let it down.”

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

“A tale of gods, kings, immortal fame, and the human heart, The Song of Achilles is a dazzling literary feat that brilliantly reimagines Homer’s enduring masterwork, The Iliad. An action-packed adventure, an epic love story, a marvelously conceived and executed page-turner, Miller’s monumental debut novel has already earned resounding acclaim from some of contemporary fiction’s brightest lights—and fans of Mary Renault, Bernard Cornwell, Steven Pressfield, and Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome series will delight in this unforgettable journey back to ancient Greece in the Age of Heroes.”

My review for this book can be found here.

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

“Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah.

But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity.

It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him.”

What If It’s Us by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli

ARTHUR is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

BEN thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them . . . ?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t nail a first date even after three do-overs?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is?”

Picture Us In The Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert

“Danny Cheng has always known his parents have secrets. But when he discovers a taped-up box in his father’s closet filled with old letters and a file on a powerful Silicon Valley family, he realizes there’s much more to his family’s past than he ever imagined. Danny has been an artist for as long as he can remember and it seems his path is set, with a scholarship to RISD and his family’s blessing to pursue the career he’s always dreamed of. Still, contemplating a future without his best friend, Harry Wong, by his side makes Danny feel a panic he can barely put into words. Harry and Danny’s lives are deeply intertwined and as they approach the one-year anniversary of a tragedy that shook their friend group to its core, Danny can’t stop asking himself if Harry is truly in love with his girlfriend, Regina Chan. When Danny digs deeper into his parents’ past, he uncovers a secret that disturbs the foundations of his family history and the carefully constructed façade his parents have maintained begins to crumble. With everything he loves in danger of being stripped away, Danny must face the ghosts of the past in order to build a future that belongs to him.”

The Importance Of Getting Revenge by Amanda Abram

“Seventeen-year-old Lexi Turner has just been dumped by her boyfriend of three years—on the day she was going to, well, “do it” with him. And to make matters worse, he dumped her for a life-force-sucking demon!

Devastated by this turn of events, she decides there is only one way to deal with the situation: get revenge!

Enter Jase Holloway—Lexi’s former childhood friend and adversary to her ex. The plan is simple: somehow talk Jase into pretending to be her boyfriend to make her ex-boyfriend jealous, make him regret dumping her and make him come crawling back to her on his hands and knees, begging for forgiveness…

With Jase on board, Lexi is confident she will get the revenge she deserves. But nothing’s ever that simple, and Lexi soon finds out firsthand that sometimes what you want is not always what you get—and sometimes what you get is what you wanted all along.”

Parts of a Series

Wolfsong by TJ Klune

“Ox was twelve when his daddy taught him a very valuable lesson. He said that Ox wasn’t worth anything and people would never understand him. Then he left.

Ox was sixteen when he met the boy on the road, the boy who talked and talked and talked. Ox found out later the boy hadn’t spoken in almost two years before that day, and that the boy belonged to a family who had moved into the house at the end of the lane.

Ox was seventeen when he found out the boy’s secret, and it painted the world around him in colors of red and orange and violet, of Alpha and Beta and Omega.

Ox was twenty-three when murder came to town and tore a hole in his head and heart. The boy chased after the monster with revenge in his bloodred eyes, leaving Ox behind to pick up the pieces.

It’s been three years since that fateful day—and the boy is back. Except now he’s a man, and Ox can no longer ignore the song that howls between them.”

The Six of Crows Duology by Leigh Bardugo

From Book 1: Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone. . . .

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums. 

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.”

Geekerella by Ashley Poston

“Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom. Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.”

Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulhurst

“Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile kingdoms.

But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a land where magic is forbidden.

Now Denna has to learn the ways of her new kingdom while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses before her coronation—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine, sister of her betrothed.

When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two work together, they discover there is more to one another than they thought—and soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more.

But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms—and each other.

The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater

From Book 1: Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them–until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.

His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn’t believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.”

Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets Of The Universe by Benjamin
Alire Sáenz

“Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.”

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

“Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.”