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. However, xenophobia was rife in it, and therefore no longer something I wished to consume.

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.

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.

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.

The Song Of Achilles: A Book Review

The Song Of Achilles: A Book Review

The follies of boys and men begin this story and drive the narrative to the end. The Song Of Achilles by Madeline Miller is a tale of faults, loss, love, and meddling Greek gods. It centers on the life of Patroclus and his famous lover Achilles. With that being said, it goes without saying that the book in question will not end with our typical version of a happily ever after. Given the steady praise that this tale has received since being published in 2011, I figured that this book deserved a glance though. As seen from my perspective, it seemed that I was in the minority of those who read Young Adult who had not perused a copy. Still, I feel the need to voice my own opinions on this one, as it is a book that I enjoyed enough to consume voraciously until the end.

The story in question begins with young Patroclus in a kingdom that would one day become his by birthright, or at least that is what was planned out for him until a miscalculated judgment of his own ousts him from his position as the prince, forcing him to be taken in by another land – the Kingdom of Phthia. It is there that his life begins in earnest.

For those familiar with Greek mythology, this book does hold closely to previously published works regarding the mythos. I am not an expert on that subject. However, I did recognize certain storylines as I read along. Coupled with the love story woven through the pages of this fictional take on a particular section of Greek lore, it is likely that romance readers and lovers of that genre alike might enjoy this tome.

In the hands of any other writer, this novel would not have been done justice. The author proved that with each sentence further that I read. The prose and Miller’s seemingly endless knowledge of this world are what pulled me into the story alone, but the emotions evoked within me courtesy of the writing, as well as the characters themselves, are what held my attention throughout.

I will say though, despite my love for this book, it does not come without its warnings. As this deals with Greek mythology, which undiluted includes stories that showcase the worst traits of the human race, I feel I must point out that this book is graphic. Within the pages, there are idealizations of suicide and death, descriptive violence, along with mentions of and full out rape. For younger readers of Young Adult, or those who may be unable to handle reading about these specific topics, please tread with caution.

With that being said, I must conclude that overall this book is worth the recognition that it has received. A bold retelling of what have been deemed classics in regards to Greek mythology, Madeline Miller does a fantastic job of weaving a story together that has fleshed out characters, faults, and heart.

I gave this story 5/5 stars on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: All opinions stated in this review are my own. I did not receive compensation of any sort for this review.

Six For Sunday – Favorite LGBTQ+ Reads

Hi everyone!

I came across a blog called ALittleButALot, who hosts the #SixForSunday challenges. I love lists, so I figure I might give it a try, despite my dislike of the number six.

For today’s Six For Sunday Challenge, the topic is favorite LGBTQ+ reads. For my top picks, which will actually number in more than 6, I’ve chosen the following:

  • Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family 
    “When Wayne and Kelly Maines adopted identical twin boys, they thought their lives were complete. But by the time Jonas and Wyatt were toddlers, confusion over Wyatt’s insistence that he was female began to tear the family apart. In the years that followed, the Maineses came to question their long-held views on gender and identity, to accept Wyatt’s transition to Nicole, and to undergo a wrenching transformation of their own, the effects of which would reverberate through their entire community. Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Amy Ellis Nutt spent almost four years reporting this story and tells it with unflinching honesty, intimacy, and empathy. In her hands, Becoming Nicole is more than an account of a courageous girl and her extraordinary family. It’s a powerful portrait of a slowly but surely changing nation, and one that will inspire all of us to see the world with a little more humanity and understanding.”
  • Wolfsong by T.J. 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.”
  • Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult
    “Every life has a soundtrack. All you have to do is listen.
    Music has set the tone for most of Zoe Baxter’s life. There’s the melody that reminds her of the summer she spent rubbing baby oil on her stomach in pursuit of the perfect tan. A dance beat that makes her think of using a fake ID to slip into a nightclub. A dirge that marked the years she spent trying to get pregnant. 
    For better or for worse, music is the language of memory. It is also the language of love.
    In the aftermath of a series of personal tragedies, Zoe throws herself into her career as a music therapist. When an unexpected friendship slowly blossoms into love, she makes plans for a new life, but to her shock and inevitable rage, some people—even those she loves and trusts most—don’t want that to happen. 
    Sing You Home is about identity, love, marriage, and parenthood. It’s about people wanting to do the right thing for the greater good, even as they work to fulfill their own personal desires and dreams. And it’s about what happens when the outside world brutally calls into question the very thing closest to our hearts: family.
    Includes a link to listen to or download original songs to your computer
    Music by Ellen Wilber
    Lyrics by Jodi Picoult
    All songs performed by Ellen Wilber “
  • 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.”
  • 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.”
  • 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.”
  • Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
    Summary for Six of Crows only to avoid spoilers – “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.
  • All For The Game Series by Nora Sakavic
    “From Book 1: Neil Josten is the newest addition to the Palmetto State University Exy team. He’s short, he’s fast, he’s got a ton of potential—and he’s the runaway son of the murderous crime lord known as The Butcher.
    Signing a contract with the PSU Foxes is the last thing a guy like Neil should do. The team is high profile and he doesn’t need sports crews broadcasting pictures of his face around the nation. His lies will hold up only so long under this kind of scrutiny and the truth will get him killed.
    But Neil’s not the only one with secrets on the team. One of Neil’s new teammates is a friend from his old life, and Neil can’t walk away from him a second time. Neil has survived the last eight years by running. Maybe he’s finally found someone and something worth fighting for.”
  • 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.”

Dear Martin: A Book Review

Dear Martin: A Book Review

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. day, I am reviewing Dear Martin by Nic Stone. I had only planned on posting reviews to novels that I have read this year, but as there is only so much time in a day, I am making an exception. That, and I really enjoyed this book in the waning hours of this past December, and I felt that today would be a good time to share more about it. So, without further ado, here we go.

The story begins with a young man, by the name of Justyce McAllister, trying to help out his ex-girlfriend. She is drunk, and attempting to drive herself. Rather than walking away from the scene, as a friend suggests he should do, Justyce chooses to attempt to get her safely home. This leads to the incident that incites Justyce’s mental awakening that carries on throughout the book.

Owing to the fact that there are now countless cases of unjust racial profiling in this country and around the world where the individuals being unfairly treated were not able to walk away, this has sparked a literary response naturally, which calls out the abuse perpetuated based on racism and detrimental stereotypes. Each book is unique, but I was grateful to see that Justyce did in fact survive this encounter, as some of his real life counter parts have not. Make no mistake though, Nic Stone does not hold back any punches in this hard hitting and necessary book, given the times we live in.

Throughout the novel I found myself cheering along for Justyce as he worked through how to navigate high school as a young black man whose epiphany had him re-evaluating every action he carried out, his journey to act more like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and whether or not he should entertain the idea of a relationship with someone he deeply cared about given that his mother would disapprove for the sole fact that the object of his affections is white. Nic Stone’s writing made me care about Justyce not just because he was instrumental to moving the plot forward or the story at all, but because his character had heart. I could empathize with him in his lowest moments and cheer for him when he felt on top of the world, because he was written in a way that made me feel like he was a real person. Even though I had never experienced even a portion of what he had, I could still understand the universal themes in the story as well, such as the struggle of figuring out who you are in HS, and the need to be good enough for a parent. These themes transcend color and race, because they are what a majority of the world struggles with at some point during adolescence, or life in general. However, his lens as a person of color made it that much more important as a whole. I was allowed to see outside of my perspective, and learn about another person, or people, who deal with the problems he faced in the novel, but every day. In this political climate, being able to step into each other’s shoes and see each other as human, is more crucial than ever.

Outside of Justyce’s character, the rest were written much the same. Each one took on a life of their own and became someone I could easily see finding out in every day life. The social commentary and dialogue throughout was amazing as well. Compound that with the rest of what is within this book, and it makes for a page turning read that cannot be put down.

In conclusion, this book touched my heart and evoked emotions in me. I am grateful to have read it, and I hope others do too, regardless of skin color. My opinion, in the grand scheme though, matters little. This book, and others like it, matter more. So if this all sounds appealing to you, then go out and read it.

I rated this book 5/5 on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: All of these opinions are my own. I do not receive any sort of compensation for the review that I have posted today.