Book Reviews

Review|Saints and Misfits By S.K. Ali

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Published: June 13th 2017 by Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Source: Local Library

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Muslim MC

Synopsis: Saints and Misfits is an unforgettable debut novel that feels like a modern day My So-Called Life…starring a Muslim teen.

There are three kinds of people in my world:

1. Saints, those special people moving the world forward. Sometimes you glaze over them. Or, at least, I do. They’re in your face so much, you can’t see them, like how you can’t see your nose.

2. Misfits, people who don’t belong. Like me—the way I don’t fit into Dad’s brand-new family or in the leftover one composed of Mom and my older brother, Mama’s-Boy-Muhammad.

Also, there’s Jeremy and me. Misfits. Because although, alliteratively speaking, Janna and Jeremy sound good together, we don’t go together. Same planet, different worlds.

But sometimes worlds collide and beautiful things happen, right?

3. Monsters. Well, monsters wearing saint masks, like in Flannery O’Connor’s stories.

Like the monster at my mosque.

People think he’s holy, untouchable, but nobody has seen under the mask.

Except me.

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Trigger warning for descriptions of attempted rape. 

Spoiler Free Review:

When it comes to reading about a book with a Muslim, hijabi main character, I’m both excited to read a book about someone like me and very skeptical because correct representation is always important to me. Saints and Misfits is definitely the most accurate representation I’ve found in a fictional story. The author is easily able to capture the life of a Muslim teen, someone who attends mosque events, wears a hijab and experiences the typical teenage dilemmas. Though I did have a few issues with the book they’re more my personal issues rather than the story as a whole.

One of the most important things that this book captured is that Muslims do live ordinary lives.  Janna had hobbies, she liked photography and the author Flannery O’Connor. It felt like your quintessential, YA coming-of-age story which in this case isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The book was definitely targeted towards Non-Muslims and Muslims alike, but the incorporation of Islam never felt forced. Janna being Muslim fit in effortlessly just like how it is in most Muslim’s lives.

Janna is half Egyptian and half Indian, which was nice to see since in most Muslim rep. the character is always Middle Eastern (South Asian Muslims exist). Her experiences as a hijabi and growing up in a Muslim family were relatable and the experiences felt very realistic. However, I couldn’t seem to connect with the main character (Janna and I are actually the same age) which unfortunately did affect my enjoyment of the story. Again, this is more of a personal issue, but, I felt like their was a bit of generalization with the portrayal of teenagers in this book. I am aware that all teenagers are petty, make stupid decisions and are melodramatic. But in particular, I didn’t really  like how both of Janna’s friends were both boy crazy. It rubbed me the wrong way since so many girls who aren’t even interested in boys or in anyone. In my opinion, it would be nice to not see a conventional depictions of a teenager. Her friends felt recycled caricatures and people I’ve read about before. I also wish there was someone to there who told Janna she didn’t need a boyfriend.

Granted, I’ve never truly experienced a romantic crush before and I don’t necessarily understand the teenager emotions of “falling for someone.”  In fact, I have Muslim friends (girls) and they’ve had crushes on boys. But it was more or less admiration from a distance, they never actively sought out a relationship since it is haram. I felt like Janna’s crush was a little too childish and petty for me. I don’t know if it’s just me, but this consistently bothered me throughout the story. (Also, did it have to be a conventionally attractive, generic white boy?) In all honesty, I wish that the whole crush wasn’t included in the story, I think there’s enough books where a Muslim girl has a crush on a Non-Muslim white boy or really any boy.

On a more positive note, I loved the family dynamic, specifically the relationship Janna had with her brother. It was genuine and honest and felt like it was told from the author’s first hand experience. The Muslim dating experience was perfect. The awkwardness and third wheeling was spot on. I always like to compare Muslim dating to Pacific Rim, you meet someone and see if you’re drift compatible which is basically how it went.

Janna’s mom was really supportive and encouraging which is refreshing to me since there have always depictions of close minded, traditional Muslim parents. Additionally, Janna’s involvement in her masjid, her uncle being a supportive uncle and imam were showed a positive atmosphere at a masjid which is important. There’s so much more to it than people are aware of and I was really glad to see it.

Another thing I really appreciated was the “monster” who attempted to rape Janna was considered a saint at the masjid. I know from experience, a young hafiz is always put up on a pedestal and seen as the perfect Muslim, a person who can’t do any wrong and who is completely devoted to Islam. I’m not saying that they’re all terrible and deceiving, just that not all of them are perfect or the saints that appear to be. It’s a topic that’s pretty taboo in the Muslim community, that a potential rapist may exist inside the community itself. I really appreciated that S.K. Ali was able to bring the topic up in the book. However, I would have liked to see more of an insight into it instead of a rushed ending.

Overall, Saints and Misfits was definitely an important novel for me, I never see myself represented in media and reading this book was an experience. Although I couldn’t fully connect with the main character and some aspects this story, I still have an appreciation to this story and the author for finally writing about a Muslim character. The novel wasn’t perfect in my eyes, but it’s definitely a story I will remember.

Rating: 3.75/5

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Book Reviews

Review|How to Make a Wish By Ashley Herring Blake

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Published: May 2nd 2017 by HMH Books for Young Readers

Source: Local Library

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQ+, Romance, Addiction

Synopsis: All seventeen year-old Grace Glasser wants is her own life. A normal life in which she sleeps in the same bed for longer than three months and doesn’t have to scrounge for spare change to make sure the electric bill is paid. Emotionally trapped by her unreliable mother, Maggie, and the tiny cape on which she lives, she focuses on her best friend, her upcoming audition for a top music school in New York, and surviving Maggie’s latest boyfriend—who happens to be Grace’s own ex-boyfriend’s father.

Her attempts to lay low until she graduates are disrupted when she meets Eva, a girl with her own share of ghosts she’s trying to outrun. Grief-stricken and lonely, Eva pulls Grace into midnight adventures and feelings Grace never planned on. When Eva tells Grace she likes girls, both of their worlds open up. But, united by loss, Eva also shares a connection with Maggie. As Grace’s mother spirals downward, both girls must figure out how to love and how to move on.

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TRIGGER WARNINGS for alcohol abuse, emotional abuse, addiction and toxic parent/child relationships. If you are sensitive to either one of these, please be aware going into this novel. 

Spoiler Free Review:

How to Make a Wish was pitched to me as a summery contemporary, something I would probably never read if it didn’t include a f/f relationship and a bisexual main character. But this book went beyond and brought up issues of addiction and alcohol abuse, toxic parent/child relationships. It sunk into the deeper corners of reality and was so much more raw than I was expecting.

The story takes place around one summer in Grace’s life where her mother obtains a new boyfriend and another home. She meets Eva who is grief stricken from the recent loss of her mother. How to Make a Wish still includes the quintessential aspects to a YA contemporary, the petty drama and jealousy and awkwardness. But I also really appreciated her inclusions of realistic friendships.

The relationship with her mother was definitely the most intriguing. A few reviewers have mentioned that How to Make a Wish does have a realistic portrayal of addiction and the relationship with a parent who is struggling with addiction. Grace simultaneously played the role of the elder, cleaning up her mother’s messes but also the role of obedient child which is where the emotional abuse comes into play. It started as very subtle and innocent but gradually grew into something uncontrollable. Despite how much I enjoyed the realness of their toxic relationship, I didn’t like how it ended. I would have preferred more closure with their relationship. Highlight for spoiler: Grace just left her mother in a hotel room, helpless with no money in a terrible state. I completely understand that her mother is not healthy for her well-being, but, I still would thought she should have called someone to help her mom. Additionally, at the end of the novel, Maggie has enrolled in a behavioral health center and I wish there was more on it. How did she get herself to reach out for help when she was so completely against it? 

Obviously, there is a f/f relationship in this book and Grace herself is bisexual. F/f relationships tend to be rare in the YA literature which is really saddening. As important books with m/m relationships are, I feel like they are so much more popular than the ones with f/f/ relationships. If you look at popular bookish fandoms, the LGBTQ+ relationships always end up being m/m relationships. I think it would be important to boost the popularity of healthy f/f relationships. Eva and Grace were adorable and it was refreshing to see that it wasn’t a doomed relationship. (I mean, I would love to have deep conversations with my best friend on top of a lighthouse). Their relationship promotes girls supporting each other and communicating which is something that is so important. There was also own voices bisexual representation which I thought was done very well and so did many bisexual readers who reviewed this book.

Overall, How to Make a Wish did surprise me in a number of ways. It wasn’t a perfect novel, the ending wasn’t particularly my favorite. But it’s definitely important for children of abuse survivors to be able to have a story to relate to as well as have a positive f/f relationship and bisexual representation.

Rating: 3.75/5

 

 

Book Reviews

Review|Not Otherwise Specified By Hannah Moskowitz

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Published: March 3rd 2015 by Simon Pulse

Source: Local Library

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mental Health, LGBTQ+

Synopsis: Etta is tired of dealing with all of the labels and categories that seem so important to everyone else in her small Nebraska hometown.

Everywhere she turns, someone feels she’s too fringe for the fringe. Not gay enough for the Dykes, her ex-clique, thanks to a recent relationship with a boy; not tiny and white enough for ballet, her first passion; and not sick enough to look anorexic (partially thanks to recovery). Etta doesn’t fit anywhere— until she meets Bianca, the straight, white, Christian, and seriously sick girl in Etta’s therapy group. Both girls are auditioning for Brentwood, a prestigious New York theater academy that is so not Nebraska. Bianca seems like Etta’s salvation, but how can Etta be saved by a girl who needs saving herself?

The latest powerful, original novel from Hannah Moskowitz is the story about living in and outside communities and stereotypes, and defining your own identity.

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Spoiler Free Review:

In general, I haven’t read many books focusing on eating disorders, but this book on its own is a unique mental health story. It’s always important to have stories with people seeking out therapy and to shine a positive light on therapy, but also ones where they are in recovery but it doesn’t erase the existence of their mental illness. Not Otherwise Specified was able to cover this theme along with many more.

The story mostly revolves around Etta and her newly found friends, specifically Bianca an anorexic girl at her group therapy. If you read the synopsis, you would know Bianca is 14 and Etta is 17 and it did seem like their was going to be a romance between the two. From the start, it was blatantly obvious the maturity level between the two and the idea of the two being together made me really uncomfortable. If you’re worried, just know they don’t have any romantic or sexual feelings for each other. The dynamic between them was very interesting though. It felt sisterly but at times something a lot more intense. I’m not going to spoil anything but just know Bianca and Etta definitely had the sweetest and most intriguing dynamic.

I cant speak on the bisexual representation but it is own voices so the author is clearly speaking from experience. The biphobia was spot on though. The ones being biphobic weren’t all straight, but the bullying and prejudice was just as worse. Bisexuality in general is always stigmatized and misunderstood and there was quite a bit of slut shaming, a harmful bisexual stereotype. The story isn’t romance heavy and focuses more on the friendships Etta has. I really appreciate the inclusion of the toxic friendship and friend group Etta was in. I feel like unhealthy relationships always pertain to romantic or sexual relationships when it is possible in a friendship.

Etta as a character did differ from most YA protagonists in a few ways. I saw her as more of an ambivert which is pretty rare to find in literature. As an extreme introvert, I love relating to introverts in books but it was nice to see someone who wasn’t overtly extroverted but didn’t have a hard time approaching people (one of my biggest struggles). Etta easily befriended Bianca and her friends and she fit so easily with them. I feel that especially in mental health novels, the main character is always shy and introverted which can definitely be the case but it was nice to see a more sociable protagonist.

As far as I’ve seen and read, most protagonists with eating disorders are confined to skinny white girls with anorexia. I’m not trying to undermine a persons’ experience with mental illness, but I loved that Etta wasn’t skinny and had to quit ballet because of her weight. There was discussion on the dance institutions being discriminatory towards different body types which is always important. Etta is already in recovery from her eating disorder. Her eating disorder never seems to overtake her character but was still a constant. It was nice to perspective to see there’s always the days where you relapse, where your mental illness hits you right back in the face which is what is shown in this book.

Overall, Not Otherwise Specified was able to give broader perspective on mental health, eating disorder recovery but also on bisexuality and friendship. I did feel that the ending was little rushed and abrupt but it still remained a unique story. Stories with characters like Etta are just as important and necessary in mental health novels and hopefully there will be more like Not Otherwise Specified. 

Rating: 4/5

Book Reviews

Review: Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity #2) By Victoria Schwab

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Published: June 13th 2017 by Greenwillow Books

Series: Monsters of Verity #1

Source: Local Library

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Dystopia

Synopsis: THE WORLD IS BREAKING. AND SO ARE THEY.

KATE HARKER isn’t afraid of monsters. She hunts them. And she’s good at it.

AUGUST FLYNN once yearned to be human. He has a part to play. And he will play it, no matter the cost.

THE WAR HAS BEGUN.

THE MONSTERS ARE WINNING.

Kate will have to return to Verity. August will have to let her back in. And a new monster is waiting—one that feeds on chaos and brings out its victims’ inner demons.

Which will be harder to conquer: the monsters they face, or the monsters within?

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Read review for This Savage Song here. 

Spoiler Free Review:

Our Dark Duet took a turn from the first book as the story became even more darker. Schwab dove into the morale of the characters and yet again focused on the fine line between good and evil. This wasn’t my favorite Victoria Schwab book, but it was definitely one of her best written novels yet. If you look back on all of Schwab’s previous works, you can see a massive improvement in her writing. Our Dark Duet really embodied the tone of the story through the addition of poems. The poems were weaved into the story and surprisingly, they weren’t cryptic. As much as I love poetry, when they’re added into a book written in prose, it’s usually obscure. Not only did the poems make sense, but it added to the story.

I didn’t actually remember much from This Savage Song since I read it exactly a year ago. I actually had to read a recap which goes to show how little I remembered. As for the story line, it revolves around a new monster that is neither a Malchai, Corsai or Sunai. It was especially interesting because the monster didn’t take a specific form. I’ll leave it at that and have you figure it out for yourself. 😉

Schwab definitely delves deeper into the psyche of each of the characters. What makes this story so intriguing that it appears that the monsters are the villains. In reality, the monsters are a reflection of human actions, a concept I rarely ever see in YA. August and Kate are both morally grey characters and I really don’t find any of them to be lovable. In dystopia/paranormal, there’s always the  comical relief or a romantic subplot -_-, there to keep the story more engaging and make light of a conflict. What liked about Our Dark Duet was that it was a realistic portrayal, things are bleak until the very end. Did August and Kate feel very bland to me? Absolutely. But when you’re in the midst of a broken city and monsters parading around killing everyone, there isn’t much room for light and funny moments.

There is a new character introduced, Soro who is a Sunai and gender-less, they go by they/them pronouns. They were a really interesting character and I wished there was more about them. Soro was actually pretty similar to Leo, their views on sinners and thier belief  in how all of them deserved to die. The only difference to Soro was that their was more of a open mindedness to their character that wasn’t present in Leo. I would love to read a spinoff or short story from Soro’s perspective, since they were such an intriguing Sunai.

The pacing definitely varied and I did find myself bored with a lot of what was happening. The book was a little too long and a lot of parts dragged which is why it took me so long to finish. Additionally, the nature of Kate and August’s relationship was strange, to say the least. It didn’t exactly stay a solid friendship is all I’ll say. Highlight for spoiler: The scene where they kissed was really weird. Did they have any romantic feelings towards each other or was it just an intense feeling of friendship? I really don’t know but it wasn’t really addressed and I wanted some closure. I would have preferred for them to stay friends. Obviously, Kate died which I actually thought was very fitting. Reminded me of the ending of Allegiant, but Schwab executed it far better than V. Roth. 

Overall, Our Dark Duet had a very fitting conclusion to the series. Out of all of the dystopian I’ve read, the Monsters of Verity duology definitely stands out from the rest. Victoria Schwab is an exceptional and progressive author so if you haven’t read her books yet, I would highly recommend you do. 🙂

Rating: 3.75/5

Book Reviews

Review: The Upside of Unrequited By Becky Albertalli

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Published: April 11th 2017 by Balzer + Bray

Source: Local Library

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mental Illness, Romance

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love—she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

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Spoiler Free Review:

I’ve read Becky Albertalli’s debut, Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda the year it was released and I remember finding it utterly adorable when I first read it. I’m really excited for the movie and I’m hoping they do it justice (since Keiynan Lonsdale will play a certain favorite character 😉 ). The Upside of Unrequited is a loose companion and follows Abby’s (one of Simon’s friendsbest friend Molly who has suffered from unrequited love far too many times. I was pleasantly surprised with how much I liked this story, it’s equally as adorable and fluffy as Simon. 

With contemporary books, it’s hard to pinpoint an exact plot. It isn’t like a thriller novel where there’s a conflict that needs to be solved. There were several conflicts within the whole self discovery concept which seems to be present in every contemporary story. Molly tries to sort out her unrequited love life while dealing with trying to keep a close relationship with her sister and dealing with her conflicting feelings. But it’s more than just a love story, in fact I wouldn’t even consider it a love story. Family is a huge part of the book and the parents are actually very much present in the story for once.

The representation in this book is golden. Molly may be white but there is still positive own voices fat representation and Molly also has anxiety. She has two moms, one of whom is a person of color along with her baby brother. Molly and her twin sister are also sperm donor babies which is something I’ve never read about. Molly’s twin Cassie is lesbian and her girlfriend, Mina is Korean and pansexual. A small thing I can appreciate is that Mina’s parents are second generation Korean American. Her parents were raised in America. I always find with books on Asian parents, they always end up being immigrants so it was nice to see a change. Also, Molly’s crushes are not constricted to only straight white guys. Some of which included a transman and Lin Manuel Miranda (which I totally get ;))

Molly as a character was incredibly sweet, shy and awkward. But definitely someone I would be friends with. As far as unrequited love, it’s not something I can relate to since I’m never actively seeking a relationship. The anxiety was definitely relatable though and I was glad to see that even if it was in the background, it still played a role in Molly’s character. At first, Molly’s issue with unrequited love seemed really petty and stupid. She made some really idiotic decisions that had me face palming. Some people might say that she was being a teenager, but I can tell you, as a teenager, a lot of her decisions were incredibly stupid. I guess I should cut her some slack since clearly not all teenagers are the same. I really enjoyed the other characters as well, Cassie is a total bad-ass and Mina is adorable. Also, Reid totally reminded me of Spencer Reid from Criminal Minds and no one can tell me otherwise. Simon and Abby from Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda also had a cameo which was hilarious.

Overall, The Upside of Unrequited was equally adorable and addicting. Becky Albertalli really represents what I’d like to see more of in YA contemporary. This book is proof that you can be inclusive in representation and still follow a white protagonist. Becky Albertalli was able to include POC and LGBTQ+ characters and it all flowed so well together. It was never a big ordeal and was normalized. To the authors who would like to include diversity in their novels, this is how it should be done. You can be a white and a privileged author and include diversity without harmful stereotypes and discrimination. Thank you to Becky Albertalli for an incredibly sweet and inclusive novel.

Rating: 4/5

 

Book Reviews

Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses By Sarah J. Maas

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Published: May 5th 2015 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #1

Source: Local Library

Format: Hardcover

Genre: New Adult, Fantasy, Retellings, Romance

Synopsis: Feyre’s survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price …

Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre’s presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.

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Quick sidenote: I would reccomend watching Marines at mynameismarines review on ACOTAR, it’s very well said and far more eloquent than I could ever be. Link is here.

Review:

This review had vague spoilers, proceed with caution. 

So if you couldn’t tell, I did not like this book. What a surprise. Going into this book, I knew that I wasn’t going to like it, it really isn’t the type of story I’m interested in. But since there is so much hype surrounding this book, I went into it as somewhat of a joke, seeing how long I could last. I finished the entirety of this book and it took forever by the way. I know Sarah J. Maas’ books are not for me but I can still see why so many people like it. But the result is that this has to be one of the worst books I’ve ever read. And I don’t usually say that about books. In the end, I thought this book was so bad and cringe worthy, it’s honestly pretty laughable.

The writing style of a book normally doesn’t bother me, but this one drove me crazy. I have read the first two books in her Throne of Glass series and didn’t have any issues with the writing, but at the time I wasn’t as critical of a reader as I am now. The ellipses was what drove the nail into the coffin. Why are there so many? How does it add to the story? “So much food– such salvation.” “You aren’t what I expected– for a human.” “The drums turned faster– louder.” I could literally turn to any page and point out a useless ellipse on the page. I mean, how does the audio book narrator even narrate this book? Do they just pause at an ellipse? That would sound like the slowest audio book ever. I’m actually tempted to listen to parts of the audio book just to see if it’s true. This book is filled with useless pauses and most of them don’t even make any sense at all.

Besides the ellipses, Sarah J. Maas writes the most conventional, cheesiest and cringe worthy lines ever. Her books are filled with the classic YA tropes, describing every single person’s skin color as tan or pale (no other skin color exists, apparently), having stupidly long descriptions of eyes (he can’t just have green eyes, he must have smoldering green eyes) and apparently every single character has flawless skin and is a Greek god/goddess.

The plot of this book was flimsy and predictable. In fact, nothing substantial happens for over half of the book. Majority of the action and climax all occur at the very end. Not to mention, I found the challenge or riddle given to Feyre to be a cheap cop-out. It was so blatantly obvious and cliche. The Beauty and the Beast elements was just meh and I honestly didn’t care much for it. I don’t have much else to say except that the book is not worth reading for the plot or much of anything for that matter.

Feyre is a huntress and while reading the first half of the book, all I could think is Katniss Everdeen. The only difference is Katniss has far more common sense. A successful huntress should be clever, while Feyre was a bumbling mess. Even with her immediate distrust of Tamlin and Lucian, it didn’t take much to trust them and fall in love. But that is how most YA/NA fantasy work sadly.  Of course, I can’t go without mentioning her sheer stupidity at not listening to what anyone tells her and going straight into danger. She reminds me of stupid white people in horror movies. Besides Feyre, there’s Lucian who at first I thought was an utter asshole, but considering he has the most common sense, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Tamlin is your quintessential, tortured soul–scratch that every character in here has a tragic backstory. (Oh look, I used an ellipse) He’s brooding, territorial and utterly boring. SPOILERS: Not to mention, his abusive tendencies sprouted from the very first book. When ACOTAR first came out, not many people noticed Tamlin’s abuse. The scene where he assaulted Feyre and she immediately forgave him was disgusting. In fact, when Tamlin apologizes, the actual apology isn’t even shown in context. It was just brushed aside. Bottom line is that Tamlin was abusive, controlling and territorial towards Feyre from the very beginning.

Now comes Rhysand (Rhys), the character everyone seems to love but I hate. I kind of understand why, he’s the more charming one and seems to care about Feyre. There were even instances where I though that Rhys did seem like the better one for Feyre. However, forcing Feyre to do sexual dances, forcibly kissing her and making misogynistic comments about having sex with Feyre made me hate him. How exactly is he better than Tamlin? He might have been doing this all for show, but the least he could have done was apologize. Part of Feyre’s trauma and PTSD could come from how Rhysand treated her and that is not the foundation of a healthy relationship. I cannot condone his behavior nor the start of a relationship with Feyre.

Overall, A Court of Thorns and Roses has a horrible writing style, a flimsy plot, idiotic controlling characters and it was an all around bad reading experience. I did have fun writing this review, so I guess that counts for something. I would say I’m absolutely not interested in reading the next book, but I kind of am? Many people say it’s a huge improvement and the series gets better. But I really just want to read it to analyze Tamlin’s abuse, Feyre’s PTSD and Rhys’ behavior. If you couldn’t tell, I’m somewhat of a masochistic reader. I hope you found some enjoyment out of reading this review. Please don’t come at me for not liking this book, it is simply my opinion. 🙂

Rating: 1.25/5

Book Reviews

Review: The Night Circus By Erin Morgenstern

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Published: September 13th 2011 by Random House Audio

Source: Overdrive Audiobook Library

Format: Audiobook

Audiobook Length: 13:40:10

Genre: Adult, Historical Fantasy, Magical Realism, Romance

Synopsis: The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love – a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.

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Spoiler Free Review:

The amount of hype this book has is insane. I finally caved and decided to listen to the audiobook of The Night Circus which was very fitting at the time. It was the perfect story to escape and get lost in. Though I didn’t outright love this story, like many others, I still really enjoyed the ride this story took me on.

The audiobook experience was really what made me continue this story. I actually tried to read the physical book, but I couldn’t seem to get into it. Jim Dale’s voice is entrancing, dream like and has a similar vibe as The Raven Cycle audiobooks which are narrated by Will Patton. Erin Morgenstern’s writing style is very atmospheric and flowery and she spends a lot of the time describing the scenery and the lush environment of the circus. It’s definitely not for everyone and if it wasn’t for the audiobook, I probably would give up on this book. In this case, I loved the descriptions because it was easy to imagine the circus and each of the scenes. It was like listening to a movie, playing out in my mind.

On top of the descriptive writing style, the plot is very slow paced. I usually like slower paced stories better, but it was bothering me towards the middle. On top of the pacing, there are huge amounts of time skips and it becomes extremely confusing. There was a point where I had no idea what was going on in terms of the plot. It all connects and makes sense towards the end, but the time skips were so irregular and confusing that it took away from my enjoyment.

The actual duel was completely different than what I was expecting. I waited the entirety of the book for an intense, magical duel, similar to ones in Avatar or Legend of Korra. What I got was pretty disappointing, but it does make sense for a slow burn story. Celia and Marco are the star crossed lovers who must compete with each other in a magical duel. To be honest, I didn’t care much for their story lines. Individually, Celia was devoted and observant, Marco was charming and scholarly. I could feel the chemistry between the two characters, but I didn’t feel it., if that makes any sense. Their love story didn’t entrance me, they were very much the average star crossed lovers. I don’t know if it’s my inability to ship heterosexual relationships easily, or relationships in general. (Probably) That being said, the romance was definitely there, but the story didn’t just revolve around their love story which I appreciated.

The side characters were far more interesting to me. Poppet and Widget were adorable and hilarious with their cute kittens. I had a lot more fun reading about Bailey’s adventures with the twins than Celia and Marco’s chapters. Also, Jim Dale does an amazing Scottish accent. By the end of the book, I realized I would have liked the story a lot more  if it revolved around Tsukiko who was the most interesting character. I would love to read a spinoff about her story.

Overall, The Night Circus was the perfect entrancing story to get me out of the reading slump I was in. I found the best parts to be the audiobook experience and the side characters. This book is not for everyone but if you’re looking for a story to get lost in, if you like The Raven Cycle By Maggie Stiefvater, if you like slow paced stories and magical realism, I would recommend The Night Circus. 

Rating: 3.25/5

Book Reviews

Review: The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

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Published: March 7th 2017 by Clarion Books

Source: Local Library

Format: Hardcover

Page Count: 452

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQ+, Family Dynamics

Synopsis: The first day of senior year:

Everything is about to change. Until this moment, Sal has always been certain of his place with his adoptive gay father and their loving Mexican-American family. But now his own history unexpectedly haunts him, and life-altering events force him and his best friend, Samantha, to confront issues of faith, loss, and grief.

Suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and discovering that he no longer knows who he really is—but if Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he?

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Spoiler Free Review: 

If you’ve read Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets the Universe, you may know how beautiful Benjamin Alire Sáenz stories are. This story is no exception. I don’t consider myself as someone who cries over books. I can fangirl and my heart can fell heavy and feels like it’s being torn out, but I don’t ever cry. I can only think of two other books that have made me cry, Black Beauty and The Honest Truth By Dan Gemeinhart. I think that if a book can have that much emotion out of me, it is definitely a good one.

Sáenz’s writing is very similar to some free verse poetry I’ve read. It’s very simplistic but has the same nostalgic, out of this world tone to it. It’s a little difficult to explain, but his writing is one of my favorite types of styles I’ve read from. Here is a line from the book:

“Life had its seasons, and the season of letting go would always come, but there was something very beautiful in that, in the letting go. Leaves were always graceful as they floated away from the tree.”

So like Ari & Dante, there isn’t an actual substantial plot to this story. Really it’s Salvador going through the trials and tribulations of life, along with his friends and family. The story is also very slow paced and there are chapters where nothing important happens. Normally, this would bother me but when it comes to Sáenz, I love his slow burning, character driven stories. There was also quite a bit of character deaths in this book, more than I expected. One of the most significant elements is the grief and moving past a loved ones death.

As always, the character truly made the story great. Sal was a mixture of both Ari and Dante. He had some of the anger that Ari had and a lot of the sweetness Dante has. His behavior was very naive and childlike, but it was actually more endearing than annoying. I mean the dude refused to say the f and b word. Which is relatable since I feel the same way. I didn’t like Sam at first because she talked down to Sal and it seemed like she was manipulating him. Her character development was done really well so she did make up for her earlier behavior. Fito was a total complete Adam Parrish from The Raven Cycle. His backstory and personality was so similar to Adam’s that I immediately loved him. I wonder if Benjamin Alire Sáenz read The Raven Cycle.

Hands down, my favorite character was Sal’s dad, Vicente. Out of all the parental figures I’ve read about in books, he is by far my favorite. This is not an understatement, trust me. Vicente truly teaches Sal what it’s like to be a man. There isn’t any stereotypes on how hunting will “make you become a man.” It’s shown through compassion and kindness for your lived ones. He values Sal’s opinion and actually holds meaningful conversations with him. He isn’t just a father figure to Sal but to Sam and Fito as well. He’s really a too pure for this world kind of guy and I can see why so many people were all over him. He truly is an amazing father and character.

My one issue with this book was the sexism and gender stereotypes that seemed to be pokes between the characters. There was a joke on how Sam didn’t throw like a girl as well as others. There were also some homophobic statements and stereotypes on gay people. Those were added for character development and showing Sal’s own ignorance. However, the sexism still rubbed me the wrong way and I really wish it wasn’t included.

Overall, The Inexplicable Logic of My Life is another beautiful story written by an amazing author. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more by Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

Rating: 4/5

Book Reviews

Review: The You I’ve Never Known By Ellen Hopkins

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Published: January 24th 2017 by Margaret K. McElderry Books


Source: Local Library


Format: Hardcover


Page Count: 608


Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQ+


Synopsis: For as long as she can remember, it’s been just Ariel and Dad. Ariel’s mom disappeared when she was a baby. Dad says home is wherever the two of them are, but Ariel is now seventeen and after years of new apartments, new schools, and new faces, all she wants is to put down some roots. Complicating things are Monica and Gabe, both of whom have stirred a different kind of desire.


Maya’s a teenager who’s run from an abusive mother right into the arms of an older man she thinks she can trust. But now she’s isolated with a baby on the way, and life’s getting more complicated than Maya ever could have imagined.

Ariel and Maya’s lives collide unexpectedly when Ariel’s mother shows up out of the blue with wild accusations.

 

Spoiler Free Review:

I thought it was about time I read some Ellen Hopkins since my sister really enjoyed her books, The You I’ve Never Known sounded the most interesting to me since it included LGBTQ+ aspect to it. I actually took out a part of the synopsis, due to it spoiling a huge part of the novel. If you do plan on reading this book and don’t want to be spoiled, I would recommend skipping over the synopsis.


Nearly all of Hopkins’ books are written in verse and this one was no different. Parts of the book were written in prose or journal format, but it was mostly in verse. I always enjoyed stories in verse anyway and it flowed really well together. But I also found the story to be very slow which was disappointing since I expected it to go pretty fast, due to the format. As for the plot, I felt like it didn’t really start until more than half way through. A lot of the story felt like filler and unnecessary drama. I also thought that the ending was very unfulfilling, there was no closure to a huge aspect of the plot and it ended up just disappearing. 


As my sister had warned, I really didn’t like any of the characters. Ariel was your average teenager and I really couldn’t stand her homophobia and biphobia, but obviously it was how she had grown up and apart of her development. In general, Ariel was kind of irritating and a stupid teenager. Then again, I really shouldn’t have expected anything different. I really liked her friend Monica, but I did feel like she was heavily stereotyped, having being Mexican. However, I myself am not Mexican so that depends on what people who are actually Mexican think. It is true that some stereotypes are true. Besides Monica, I really enjoyed Maya’s character, though I wish there was more from her perspective.


Overall, The You I’ve Never Known was an enjoyable read, I had some issues with the plot but it was entertaining as a whole. 

Rating: 3/5

Book Reviews

Review: The Book Thief By Markus Zusak

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Published: September 18th 2007 by Alfred A. Knopf (first published 2005)

 
Source: School Book

 
Genre: Historical Fiction, World War II, Classic

 
Synopsis: It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will be busier still.

By her brother’s graveside, Liesel’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, left behind there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordian-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found.

But these are dangerous times. When Liesel’s foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel’s world is both opened up, and closed down.

In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.
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Spoiler Free Review:
Reading The Book Thief can be deemed as difficult to start, mostly on account of the raves and tears that so many have expressed. I was pretty apprehensive going into this book, the ending had been spoiled for me, but I decided to give it a try anyway. The Book Thief surprised me, inspired me, and opened my eyes to a part of a history that isn’t discussed nearly enough and is just as important. You will be introduced to a thought provoking and impactful story that will leave you reflecting for days on end.

The most interesting aspect of this book, I would have to say is the writing style. The narrator is Death. Some would think of it as a spirit, but Death truly felt like a human, almost. It was surprisingly witty and it was interesting to read from a perspective who saw everything.

The setting takes place on Himmel Street in Germany. Initially, I thought that since it was a World War II novel, there would be a focus on the Holocaust. The Jewish who were killed and tortured was a significant and terrible time in history. But what isn’t discussed is the Germans who lived in the midst of World War II. They were regular civilians, but were oppressed as well. This book focuses on the German civilians who weren’t Jewish, but were in poverty and them trying to survive as well.

The main character is Liesel Meminger who is adopted by Rosa and Hans Hubermann. I really loved her character and her personality. Despite her being very naive, she was mature for her age and very headstrong. The relationships she formed with each of the characters were very exceptional. Rosa seemed like a grumpy and mean woman, but behind the curse words and glares, she has a big heart. The relationship Liesel had with Hans was incredibly sweet and powerful. Hans became my favorite character, his kindness and compassion outshined every other character. As for the other characters, I think it is for the reader to discover by themselves.

The ending of this book was what I most terrified of. I knew what was coming and I didn’t want it to end. Despite the tragic ending, I found to be bittersweet. There was just enough hope to balance out the sadness.
All in all, I would highly recommend giving it a try. It may sound boring to you at first, but it’s a classic that can possible change your perspective on life. 

Rating: 5/5