Book Reviews

Review | Autoboyagraphy By Christina Lauren


Published: September 12th 2017 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Source: Local Library

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQ+, Romance

Synopsis: 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.

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Spoiler Free Review:

What I was expecting was a fluffy, LGBTQ+ contemporary with relatable woes about the writing process. And while I did get all of those, this book has so much more depth than what I was expecting. Mormonism is almost always viewed as a savage cult in the media and it was interesting to get a sense of what it really means to be Mormon and growing up in a religious and conservative family. Although I’m not Mormon myself, I did grow up in a religious and strictly conservative Muslim family so some aspects of Sebastian Brother’s story were painfully relatable. For that and so much more, Autoboyagraphy is a special novel to me.

Tanner is your typical white boy in high-school. He’s fairly good in school, set for college and has a “hermione granger-like” best friend. But he’s bisexual and his parents actually play a role in his life which is incredibly rare in YA. Absent parents is one of the most infuriating tropes in YA and it was refreshing to see parents actually know everything going on in their child’s life. It was also interesting seeing the religious dynamics in Tanner’s and Sebatian’s family. Tanner’s family is liberal, his father grew up in a Jewish family and his mother in a conservative and homophobic Mormon family. Personally, I would love a spin-off or short story on Tanner’s parents’ love story. Religion does often come between marriage and relationships so it was interesting to see being brought up in young adult fiction.

What also sets this story apart is that we actually follow a character who’s a college commuter and doesn’t dorm. Shocker, indeed. YA rarely has college-aged characters so it was nice to have Sebastian be a college student who’s not some creeper 6 years older than Tanner. I did want more of Tanner’s writing process and it wasn’t as apart of the story as I would have liked. Nonetheless, the entire premise and idea of two people meeting in a writing class still lived up to my expectations.

Overall, Autoboyagraphy ended up being a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t expecting to hate this book, but I did not expect to connect with it like I did. Religion is never brought up in young adult fiction and it’s always been something I’ve grown up around and to be able to see religion and sexual orientation challenged was a refreshing concept. This story is definitely underrated, so if you’re looking for a unique contemporary with equal amounts of fluff and an insight into Mormonism, I would recommend Autoboyagraphy. 

Rating: 4/5

Book Reviews

Review | The Immortalists By Chloe Benjamin


Publication: January 9th 2018 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Source: E-ARC via Netgalley

Format: Ebook

Genre: Adult, Historical Fiction, Magical Realism, Fantasy

Synopsis: If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life?

It’s 1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes.

The prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in ’80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.

A sweeping novel of remarkable ambition and depth, The Immortalists probes the line between destiny and choice, reality and illusion, this world and the next. It is a deeply moving testament to the power of story, the nature of belief, and the unrelenting pull of familial bonds.

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Spoiler Free Review: 

The Immortalists is marketed as a contemporary and fantasy novel, but I see it more as a mixture of historical fiction, magical realism and literary fiction. At its core, it tells the tale of four siblings and their lives intertwined in magic and family.

The story has an introspective quality to it and you really get to delve deep into each of the sibling’s minds and get to know them as individuals. Additionally, I felt like the magic aspect was subtle which is what made it seem more like magical realism. Was it really magic or was it all just a series of coincidences? The story also follows a Jewish family through the 1980s, there’s discussions on being gay and Jewish, being disconnected with your religion as you grow older so it was interesting to read about. The sibling’s Jewish heritage didn’t overtake the novel, but it was always present which I think fit the story very well.

The Immortalists is told in four perspectives and you get a taste of each of the sibling’s stories. Though some of the characters were less interesting than others, each of them were complex in their own right. Additionally, it was interesting to see real life events being woven into each of the character’s lives. Events such as the AIDs crisis during the 1980s, 9/11, etc. There’s interracial relationships, LGBTQ+ relationships and characters with no romantic relationships at all.

In general, The Immortalists focuses on themes of mortality. Would you be able to defy death itself or just accept it when it comes towards you? Though I think what makes the story so memorable is the familial bond between the siblings. Even when they were apart, it was like there were invisible strings pulling them together. Overall, The Immortalists was compelling, to say the least. I don’t think I’ve read a book that explores science, mortality, magic and family all at once. If you’re a fan of The Raven Cycle By Maggie Stiefvater or They Both Die At The End By Adam Silvera, I would definitely recommend it for you.

Rating: 4/5

Book Reviews

Review | Milk and Honey By Rupi Kaur


Published: November 4th 2014 by Createspace

Source: Overdrive Ebook & Audiobook Library

Format: Ebook

Genre: Nonfiction, Poetry

Synopsis: milk and honey is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. It is about the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity. It is split into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose, deals with a different pain, heals a different heartache. milk and honey takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look.

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Spoiler Free Review:

So I did not plan on writing a review for this considering the number of reviews already out there and obviously the massive hype. It does make me happy to see people who generally aren’t readers find solace or relatablitity in this book. However, there are several who find this book to be a depiction of “modern poetry” which is normally used in negative context. However, I believe that the essence of poetry lies in the fact that we’re able to express our thoughts and feelings without the typical boundaries present in prose. I really don’t understand why poetry always has to be a complicated ensemble of metaphors and similes. It does not. Rupi Kaur was telling her own story through these poems which is what makes it difficult to review in the first place. Poetry is precious and personal and tied to a person so I didn’t see any fault in her particular style.

In general, I don’t find this collection to be exceptionally profound but I do understand why people connect to it. It contains messages of love, women, relationships and the like. However, I didn’t really connect to much of it. Some felt like the quintessential poems of (straight) romantic love. There were of course lines about her being in a toxic relationship which I can’t speak for but it’s always hard to find the courage to write about such a personal and traumatic experience.. By far, my favorite poem was the one about women of color. “our backs tell stories no books have the spine to carry.” This so perfectly describes the women in my family and their adversities and that particular line just hit my soul (as cheesy as it sounds).

Overall, Rupi Kaur is definitely a talented poet and I appreciate her free verse style since I write free verse poetry as well. The collection was enjoyable and not as bad as I was expecting. In general, each poet has the liberty to write whatever they choose to no matter what style. After all, isn’t poetry really just a bunch of fragmented sentences?

Here’s to poetry:

“To each their own.”

Rating: 3.5/5

Book Reviews

Review| Little Fires Everywhere By Celeste Ng


Published: September 12th 2017 by Penguin Press

Source: Local Library

Format: Adult, Literary Fiction, Contemporary

Synopsis: In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned — from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren — an enigmatic artist and single mother — who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

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Spoiler Free Review:

Celeste Ng’s does it again and proves how profound of a writer she is with her sophomore novel. There’s so much nuance and subtlety in her prose and that always seem to carry important messages. Little Fires Everywhere is very different from her debut in that it’s much more slower paced. With Everything I Never Told You, I consumed the book very quickly, but with this one, it took a while for me to enjoy it, but nonetheless another one of my favorite books of 2017 (no surprise there).

The story in the very late ’90s when Clinton is president so it’s not necessarily historical fiction, but it’s also interesting to read from a time period that’s rarely every written about. There’s the Richardsons family who are the epitome of a “functional”, well off white family. There’s Mia and Pearl who live from paycheck to paycheck, not necessarily poor but far from the Richardsons. There’s also the McCullough’s, the white family who have adopted May Ling Chow, (now Mirabelle McCullough) a Chinese American baby who comes later into the novel. As I mentioned, this book is much slower paced and a little more introspective. Celeste Ng first establishes the different characters  and relationships before diving into the plot. This frustrated me at first, because I felt that there was no substance to some of the events that were happening. However, when the story line does come into play, it’s much more clear that everything ends up connecting towards the end.

One of the themes in this novel does center around motherhood and family. There’s Mrs. Richardson’s “cookie cutter” method which is kind of a close minded view. She’s a very tactile and precarious person. Her way of raising children is kind of like checking boxes off a checklist while Mia’s method is much more fluid and carefree. I’m obviously not a mother, but it was interesting to see how these two concepts clashed and how it was in contrast to how my own mother raised me. It did make me grateful that I was raised by a bad-ass desi mom, that’s for sure.

When the plot actually does come into play, the story immediately becomes so much more intense and addicting, in typical Celeste Ng fashion There’s the question on if a child should be raised comfortably with her adopted parents without any exposure to her Chinese culture or be raised by her biological mother who may or may not offer a comfortable spot in her home. To me, the answer was always obvious, but Celeste Ng always has this way of messing with your head and I felt conflicted at one point on which side I should be on. At the end of the day, there’s more gray areas than not which is what set this court case apart.

The story is told in third person omniscient, so there’s many perspectives from both the adults and teenagers. To be completely honest, I was uninterested in the teenagers’ story. It was predictably bland even if Celeste Ng does seem to write teenagers quite accurately. After finishing this book, I knew this would be a story that would stick with me. A reviewer mentioned that Little Fires Everywhere has more momentum than her debut and I can definitely see it. I think as more times passes from when I’ve finished, I love the story even more. Celeste Ng is truly a talented storyteller and a master at writing meaningful so it’s no surprise that this won a Goodreads Chioice Award. I really hope she releases another book soon because I really can’t get enough of her work.

Rating: 4.75/5

Book Reviews

Review | The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo By Taylor Jenkins Reid


PublishedJune 13th 2017 by Atria Books

Source: Local Library

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Historical Fiction, LGBTQ+

Synopsis: Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

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Spoiler Free Review: 

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo recounts the story of Evelyn Hugo, renowned actress and celebrity known for excessive husbands and her glamorous life. This book is marketed as “chick lit” but I think it could easily be literary fiction. Once I started the story of Evelyn Hugo, I was immediately hooked on her life story. This book wasn’t just addictive, it was heartbreaking and intense and unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It’s rare to find books that focus morally grey individuals and Evelyn Hugo is as complicated as any other human being. To me, she isn’t just a character in a fictional story, she jumps off the page and often times I tricked myself into thinking that Evelyn Hugo is actually a real human being which to me is proof of a well written story.

The main story line revolves around the entirety of Evelyn Hugo’s life, but in particular, it focuses on her relationships. The title says “seven husbands” which is ironic in a sense considering the story behind it. It was interesting to see how a whole line of people led up to a single person and the way the media perceived it. People often point out how perceptive reporters are, but this story explored how the media was ignorant to what was right in front of them.

The story was expectantly glamorous and included all of the decadence of the wealthy but also included the struggle of reaching to the top while being a POC. Evelyn Hugo is Cuban and early on in her career, she dyes her hair blonde. We see her abandoning her heritage for an exclusively white career. Evelyn Hugo is also bisexual which I feel is important to mention as well (I think sexuality spoilers are bullshit). In general, what sets Evelyn Hugo’s story apart is how she was able to get there, being Cuban and a survivor.

Monique doesn’t play as important of a role in the story, but her’s is intertwined with Evelyn’s story and the way in which it happens just might catch you by surprise. Overall, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is absolutely one of my favorites of this year. Evelyn Hugo is such a morally ambiguous and intriguing character. I was nearly in tears by the end which is always a clear sign that this was an exceptional novel.

Rating: 5/5

Book Reviews

Review | Radio Silence By Alice Oseman


Published: February 25th 2016 by Harper Collins

Source: Local Library

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQ+

Synopsis: You probably think that Aled Last and I are going to fall in love or something. Since he is a boy and I am a girl.

I just wanted to say—we don’t.

Frances Janvier spends most of her time studying. When she’s not studying, she’s up in her room making fan art for her favorite podcast, Universe City.

Everyone knows Aled Last as that quiet boy who gets straight As. But no one knows he’s the creator of Universe City, who goes by the name Radio Silence.

When Frances gets a message from Radio Silence asking if she’ll collaborate with him, everything changes. Frances and Aled spend an entire summer working together and becoming best friends. They get each other when no one else does.

But when Aled’s identity as Radio Silence is revealed, Frances fears that the future of Universe City—and their friendship—is at risk. Aled helped her find her voice. Without him, will she have the courage to show the world who she really is? Or will she be met with radio silence?

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Spoiler Free Review:

My main incentive in reading this book is I heard there’s a character who identifies in the asexual spectrum as well as a friendship (nothing more) between a boy and girl. I did expect something remotely different from what I actually read but nonetheless, Radio Silence ending up being a very enjoyable read.

This book does take place in the U.K. and includes British lingo which is different than what this dumb American normally reads. The main character Frances Janvier is also half Ethiopian and half white as well as bisexual so A+ on representation, though I don’t believe all of it is own voices. The story line revolves around a famous podcast and the relationship between Aled and Frances. Despite the unique synopsis, it’s definitely far too long for what actually occurs in the novel. Many of the scenes were filler and could have easily been taken out or replaced.

However, I love how the podcast has an agender character and there are discussions on gender neutrality. It was refreshing to see two characters talk about clothes without placing gender stereotypes. Additionally, there’s an inclusion on the toxicity of fandom culture. Frances is a fan artist (which is also really cool) and there’s experiences of backlash and hate from the Universe City fandom. I’ve never read a book that depicts the bullying and invasions of privacy that take place in fandoms so it was refreshing to read about. There’s also characters who attend university which is rare in YA and much appreciated since I hate high school students (says the highschooler).

There is asexual representation, however it’s not a main focus of the story which normally I would love how ace rep. is weaved into the story. But I was expecting a little more from the asexual representation, not just a small mention of it. Overall, Radio Silence ended up being an entertaining and addicting story, though it did leave more to be desired. But if you’re looking for a diverse YA contemporary, I would definitely recommend reading Radio Silence. 

Rating: 3/5



Book Reviews

Review | Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body By Roxane Gay


Published: June 13th 2017 by HarperAudio

Source: Local Library & Libby/Overdrive Ebook & Audiobook App

Format: Audiobook Narrated By Roxane Gay

Genre: Adult, Nonfiction, Memoir

Synopsis: From the bestselling author of Bad Feminist: a searingly honest memoir of food, weight, self-image, and learning how to feed your hunger while taking care of yourself

I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe. I buried the girl I was because she ran into all kinds of trouble. I tried to erase every memory of her, but she is still there, somewhere. . . . I was trapped in my body, one that I barely recognized or understood, but at least I was safe.

In her phenomenally popular essays and long-running Tumblr blog, Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and body, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as “wildly undisciplined,” Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she explores her own past—including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life—and brings readers along on her journey to understand and ultimately save herself.

With the bracing candor, vulnerability, and power that have made her one of the most admired writers of her generation, Roxane explores what it means to learn to take care of yourself: how to feed your hungers for delicious and satisfying food, a smaller and safer body, and a body that can love and be loved—in a time when the bigger you are, the smaller your world becomes.

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Spoiler Free Review: 

Reviewing this book to me is similar to how some feel about reviewing poetry, how some prose is so deeply personal I wouldn’t even know what to say. That’s how I feel about this story. It’s hard for me to review this book because I really don’t think I can write any comprehensive thoughts that will do this book justice.

Roxane Gay begins by discussing her childhood, how she began as a fairly thin child and her traumatic experience of being gang raped at age twelve changed her eating habits forever. Most people don’t connect a person’s need to consume food to any kind of trauma. People are just seen as fat because they just eat too much. Roxane Gay described how she had this never ending hunger, a need to consume food in order to protect herself from the dangers of the world, so no one could ever violate her body again. She went on to write about stigmas surrounding weight loss, the various reality t.v. shows, camps and exercises all striving to mold a person’s body into the norm. The rest of this book follows Gay into adulthood. From boarding school and college to being a college professor to becoming a writer.

Reading about her life and how her body was viewed and how her intelligence was demeaned went on to show how ignorant the world is to the lives of people who aren’t thin, white and straight. Her experience was harsh, there was no sugarcoating around it and that just made it all the more human. One of the best aspects to this story is how uncomfortable it made me feel. I would be listening to the audiobook and reading along and there would be times where I felt suffocated. I would have to pause for a while before I could continue. To me the best novels are one that evoke the most emotion out of me.

In general, Hunger is one of the best books I’ve read this year. It’s compelling and emotional and I personally think Roxane Gay’s best work. It’s not easy to open up about your body and self image and this book is proof of Roxane Gay’s strength. She is absolutely one of my favorite authors. No words I say will really do this book justice, so please try it out for yourself. What is written in this book is the painful truth, but what one that needed to be heard.

Rating: 5/5

Book Reviews

Review|Bad Feminist By Roxane Gay


Published: August 5th 2014 by Harper Perennial

Source: Local Library

Format: Adult, Nonfiction, Essays, Feminism

Synopsis: Pink is my favorite color. I used to say my favorite color was black to be cool, but it is pink—all shades of pink. If I have an accessory, it is probably pink. I read Vogue, and I’m not doing it ironically, though it might seem that way. I once live-tweeted the September issue.

In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman of color while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years and commenting on the state of feminism today. The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.

Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny, and spot-on look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better.

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Spoiler Free Review:

I feel like when most people look at the cover of this book, they might expect a misandrist piece of work about how men are trash and how women need to be put up on a pedestal and be recognized of their greatness and how they’ll soon takeover the planet, leaving men in the dust. How I wish that could be a reality. But I don’t think they actually took the time to really look at the title, Bad Feminist. What does Roxane Gay mean when she says bad? What Bad Feminist offers is a nuanced image of gender and what feminism means to her. Feminism means something different to each individual and it’s both a controversial and divided topic among people, feminist or otherwise. But what I think makes this piece of feminist lit different from the rest is in the title itself. It shows the many imperfections behind feminism and its true meaning.

Through a series of essays, Gay brings up a variety  of issues while bringing her personal story in to it as well. She talks about her as a college professor, at a weight loss camp, her own experience with sexual assault. There’s analyses on other works of feminist literature and literal book reviews. Some essays were sardonic, while others were painful to read. In particular, there was mentions of trigger warnings and how it represents people wanting to hide underneath a safety blanket and not face whatever fear they’re hiding from. While I don’t necessarily agree with everything Gay was discussing, it was interesting to get a perspective on trigger warnings I hadn’t realized before. Trigger warnings are meant to protect those who may have traumatic experience(s) attached to the topic until they feel ready to confront it if they want to. While I do understand the importance of trigger warnings and I do condone them, it was intriguing to get another point of view.

While reading these essays, some may seem completely unrelated to the main topic of feminism. However, feminism at it’s core is about equality and all of these deal with some form of inequality. In particular, I loved when Roxane Gay discussed how she was a bad feminist, her flaws and others flaws in feminism. How she doesn’t hate men and finds them quite interesting. How gender is much more gray than society realizes, just as gray as feminism itself. I think these are the kind of things I would love to see more of in feminism, the gray areas that no one seems to talk about.

To me, Bad Feminist is a staple in feminist literature because it represents what I love about feminist and what I’d love to see in feminism. Though I didn’t necessarily love every essay, it still definitely serves as learning material in exploring feminism, and even if you aren’t a feminist, I would still try reading it. Feminism isn’t the only thing explore in this book so I would recommend, feminist or otherwise. Trust me when I say Roxane Gay’s honest truth will not disappoint.

Rating: 4/5

Book Reviews

Review|Exit West By Mohsin Hamid


Published: March 7th 2017 by Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group

Source: Overdrive Library

Format: Audiobook Narrated By Mohsin Hamid

Genre: Adult, Literary Fiction, Magical Realism

Synopsis: In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair, and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through. . . .

Exit West follows these remarkable characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.

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Spoiler Free Review:

The most accurate emotion I associate with this book is melancholy. It’s a story about two people ultimately trying to escape the brink of war and enter a safe refuge. There was something so beautifully sad about the arc of this story, the writing and characters as well as the narration of the audiobook.

The writing is strangely vibrant even with the ever-present gloomy tone of the story. Hamid’s narration isn’t overflowing withe emotion, but it fits the story. (of course, him being the author as well does make the narration that much better). The setting first takes place in an unnamed city which is inspired off of refugee cities in the Middle East. The story mainly revolves around Nadia and Saeed, the impending war in the city, the mysterious doors that transport to different places and their love story.

Throughout the story, there’s always this air of mystery about nearly every aspect of the plot. It seemed like the author was withholding a part of the plot from the reader and while it was fitting, it was a little too much mystery, in my opinion. There really isn’t any context behind this war, just that there’s a civil war and a military threat. The magical door was unexplained as well. How exactly did it come into view? It did remind me of the doorways in Every Heart A Doorway By Seanan McGuire. However, this is a character driven story so I can see why the plot wasn’t as prevalent in the story and some things are left unexplained.

I found Nadia and Saeed to both be very interesting characters. Nadia, in particular, represented the “modern, independent woman.” One thing I found interesting was how she wore a “black robe” which is clearly a jilbāb that Muslim women wear. When Saeed asked her why she wore it, she replied, “So men don’t fuck with me.” Although, it was amusing and I immediately liked her afterward, I’m pretty skeptical about it as well. Wearing a “black robe” doesn’t necessarily protect you from men which is proven in the amount of Muslim women who wear a jilbāb and are assaulted, sexually or otherwise. I did understand the sentiment behind it and the statement is later proven to be wrong. It also made me curious as to what religion was followed in the city they lived in. There were of course implications it was Islam, but then there were mentions of a priest as well. It was still intriguing to read about because it’s easy to tell the author drew inspirations from different practices.

The book ends somewhat tragically, though not the way you might be expecting. For an alternate universe, it felt quite realistic which I felt added a lot more to the scope of the story. Highlight for spoiler: In many books, there’s always the happy ending with a couple, they end up being together until the end of time which may be the case for some but not all. It was interesting to see two people fall in love and eventually fall out love which is far more realistic. Overall, a much more thought provoking story than what I was expecting. You might come out of it feeling quite pensive, but I would say the high praise for this book is well deserved.

Rating: 3.5/5

Book Reviews

Review |The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue By Mackenzi Lee


Published: June 27th 2017 by Katherine Tegen Books

Source: Overdrive Library

Format: Audiobook Narrated By (young Voldemort himself) Chris Coulson

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, LGBTQ+, Romance

Synopsis: An unforgettable tale of two friends on their Grand Tour of 18th-century Europe who stumble upon a magical artifact that leads them from Paris to Venice in a dangerous manhunt, fighting pirates, highwaymen, and their feelings for each other along the way.

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

Witty, romantic, and intriguing at every turn, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a sumptuous romp that explores the undeniably fine lines between friendship and love.

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Spoiler Free Review: 

It’s rare to find historical fiction novels as charmingly hilarious as The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. While the plot may be quite conventional and the main character Monty is painfully privileged and ridiculous, the audiobook was incredibly done and it also brought up issues that I don’t normally see in historical fiction. It’s rare to find historical fiction that discusses LGBTQ+ and sexuality and the struggle of not being straight and white so ultimately this book was a success.

Young Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA Voldemort AKA Chris Coulsen perfectly captured all of the voices in the audiobook. The whiny, dramatic tone of Monty, soft, brave Percy and intelligent, demanding Felicity. The audio performance is definitely the best way to read this story, it makes it a 100 times better. As for the story, it mainly revolves around these three traveling Europe, initially for a grand tour which eventually turns into a chase. The plot is predictable and pretty convenient and the it isn’t the winning point of the story. However, what I loved was how Lee weaved discussions about mental health, sexuality and race in a YA historical fiction. There were several points where Monty’s privilege was brought up in the best ways possible. There’s a character who has epilepsy and the stigma around it was handled very well.

Monty kind of reminded me of the “whiter and younger version” of Magnus Bane from The Shadowhunter Chronicles By Cassandra Clare. He’s flamboyant and flirtatious, and like younger Magnus did, he always ends up in big trouble. Felicity was the equivalent of myself, we’re both the same age, a raging feminist with an older brother (though mine is a different type of annoying) and if I’m correct, we’re both asexual. I don’t know if I can say she’s my favorite because we’re so similar and it may seem narcissistic but I still love her.

Overall, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice & Virtue was really fun and enjoyable and definitely worth the hype for me. The companion sounds even better, it follows Felicity and her nerdy, science girl group which I am all here for.

Rating: 3.5/5