BR: More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

 

 

Hello! If you follow me on Goodreads, you may have noticed that I finished reading More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera. I loved the story, but I was overwhelmed with feelings. Here are some of my thoughts.

Premise

The story is about a young man called Aaron, who lives in a Bronx neighborhood. At first glance, it seems like he has everything he wants. He has a lovely girlfriend and friends. One problem: he is grieving a loss. And, from there, the story unfolds when he meets a new boy in the neighborhood.

Oh, and before I end this section, let me just say this: it’s probably not what you think. It certainly wasn’t for me when I was reading this book.

Themes

While I would recommend this book to anyone, I would say that you have to be in a good place (emotionally and mentally) to approach it. It’s not triggering, really, but it is heavy. 

Throughout the story, there is an exploration of loss and grief. I found that Silvera handled these topics with sensitivity. Furthermore, there is a discussion on relationships and sexuality, as well as memory and choice. Agency, when it comes to who we are as people, certainly bubbles sometimes to the surface of this novel. But, for the first half, it is an undercurrent, subtly there yet hard to fully pinpoint.

Friendship and toxic masculinity are also portrayed in this book, in a rather powerful way. Also, this phrase, which is one that I dislike with a passion, “No homo.”

Characters

The Bronx is practically a character in this book. I haven’t felt this sense of setting personified since Gatsby. While in Gatsby’s story, it had a distant feel to it. However, here, the Bronx feels like I’d been there. Not only that, but I’d also lived there. It reminded me of Egypt, a bit, with the relationships between the boys, and the very toxic masculine code embedded into their interactions.

Also: the games they play? Wow. I was so into them. Manhunt, in particular, hit a nerve for me.

Aside from that, I have to say Me-Crazy was terrifying, and yet so real. I knew of people like him in our neighborhood in Egypt. No one ever questioned young men similar to him. I’m not sure if this was a point of pride for this person or if it never even registered into their awareness.

Genevieve and Thomas were complicated, and I liked that we didn’t get to see their points of view all that much. The journey is not theirs. It’s Aaron’s.

The complicated relationship between Aaron and his family was also a highlight of this novel. As someone who had attempted suicide before, I was sucker-punched by the devastation that Aaron and his family deal with in the aftermath of this loss.

Eric was a bucket of ice. That’s the only way I can explain his presence in this story.

And, I guess, the most allusive character of all is the Leteo organization and the procedure itself.

Review

I loved every single heartbreak I got from this book. And, boy am I glad to have my own copy of this author’s books, because he has quickly become a favorite of mine. If you have read this book, please share your thoughts in comments!

 

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Book Review: Thoughts and Feels on The Final Kingdom

Guess who finally finished The Final Kingdom by Elizabeth May? This book is the conclusion to the Falconer trilogy. Listen, I have many thoughts and feels to share. No spoilers. Let’s go

Premise

A war is brewing and the Seelie and Unseelie peeps have to face each other. An unlikely alliance pushes main characters to new stressful times. Also: Aileana has to come to terms with her rage. There’s a new villain, kind of like the boss level of villainy, and there is a search for a certain book that can help give Aileana a chance to get some closure.

Unexpected Love

If you’d ever told me that I’d like Sorcha, I would have laughed at you. Sorcha, the fae who killed Aileana’s mother, does not sound sympathetic at all in the first two books of this trilogy. Elizabeth May does such a a wonderful job in complicating the good/evil dichotomy. In fact, the series got me thinking a lot about choice, agency, and good/evil.

A very complicated relationship between Sorcha and her brother Lonarch, whose name is hard to remember, adds dimension to this installment of the trilogy. The same sibling tangled relationship is also present with Aithinne and Kiaran. Like, really complicated.

Cruelty and War

The most consistent examination throughout this trilogy is that of cruelty and war. Aileana fights with viciousness and often cruelty plays a role in her attitude toward fae. For the most part, as the story progresses, this cruelty worsens. The author reflects this harshness in Kiaran as well. He’s ruthless. Like, really ruthless.

Ultimately, the characters make difficult choices and sacrifices in light of their rather grim position.

And, I think of how Aileana is eventually faced with a choice. Does she continue to be cruel? Or does she start to show mercy, even to the people she once judged and hated?

Only one way for you to find out what happens: READ THIS!

Romance

So, let me just say this once: I don’t really normally like romance that much. And, like, there’s vague mentions of sexy times in this book. To be quite honest, I don’t understand why these scenes were hinted at. No judgment to those who like sexy scenes, I just think there was enough going on. I really didn’t need to read about dark!Kiaran and how he is fighting, poor boy, and how Aileana brings out the humanity in him or whatever.

No, bro. Let him be dark. Let him grapple with the way he was born.  Let’s not slip into Twilight-esque (Breaking Dawn style) love scenes. Urgh.

I do like the ending, to be fair.

Full Circle

I also like the theme of parents and the life they present to their children. It really was a moving read, and the themes that May included enriched the experience of seeing Aileana and her friends go through loss, love, and hope once more.

Five stars!

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Book Review: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

I’m sure  you have been seeing Mackenzie Lee’s The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue around the internet. For a while there, I was hesitant to read it. But, as soon as I started reading it, I realized that this is one of the coolest books I had read in a long time.

Let’s begin.

Revisiting historical contexts

Essentially, the story is about a trio (two siblings, and their friend who is a person of color) in the 1800s. Monty and his sister Felicity along with Percy are on a grand tour. Basically, it’s a last hurrah before moving to “adulthood.”

The really cool part of the story is the combination of the setting in contrast with the perspectives offered in the story. Monty is an able bodied bisexual man who is wealthy. Throughout the story, Felicity and Percy seem to slap him with the reality of their existence within the society he once assumed was tough on him.

I just love how Mackenzie Lee addresses privilege and perspective. Part of me is kind of afraid that this book will be dismissed as fluff. It is not that at all (to me, anyway).

Because, yes, the story is fun and loose in terms of its following of a grand plot, but the point is the way it is highlighting differences between Monty’s experience and that of Felicity and Percy.

subverting social expectations

I don’t want to spoil the book (I won’t), but all I can say is that the trio definitely subverts the expectations of their time. For once, Felicity is interested in things frowned upon for women. She is certainly more in charge of her two companions than one would assume.

Percy, a person of color with a health condition very close to something I experience, is faced with a destiny secluded from everyone else. He is also addressed in such awful ways. I was afraid for him, definitely. I think you would, too.

Through it all, these three people go on an adventure that no one really expects for them to have. I mean, the tour was scheduled in such an air-tight way. There was a mentor figure with them, and there was a route planned.

But, no. they drift. And, I know this may frustrate some people. But, what drove me most was how relevant this story set in the 1800s even now in 2017.

morality and growth

Obviously, the story is frank in its addresses of sexuality (Monty is bisexual in a time of strong queer-phobia). In many ways, the story is about an arc of growth for the three main characters. It is about deciding on conforming or not. And, if not, figuring out how they’ll exist as people.

What I truly love is that what the society presents as “morally sound” is strongly critiqued and questioned. There is a lot of exploration of familial physical abuse, and, to a lesser extent, emotional abuse. It certainly colors the way Monty behaves, as well as acts as incentive for him to think he is “ruined.” Certainly, it is a notion that echoes with me as someone who experienced abuse from within family.

and i guess

I suppose, if we were to go on a superficial note here, the book is just funny, and witty. It has charming characters who are worth the investment of your time and energy. I have not met someone quite like Felicity. Some people say that she’s like Hermione, but I think she’s a bit more of a pioneer.

Read this book. It’s definitely up there on my list of favorites. So good.

 

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Book Review: The Falconer

I have practically devoured The Falconer by Elizabeth May. Here’s a book review, let’s quit stalling. If you want a brief note on the book: It was awesome.

Plot

It’s a pretty straight-forward plot: girl’s mother killed by fairy. Girl goes after fairies and kills lots of them.

There’s more to it, obviously. Aileana is training to face off with the idiot who killed her mom. Um, she does that by killing many fairies and by punching her teacher (Kiaran). It’s great. So much punching.

There’s also a twist: the story is set in the 1800’s. Aileana is bound by the restrictions of her time. She needs chaperones, and has to entertain people at home. Social gatherings are a thing. No pressure, Aileana.

Oh, and steampunk!

Characters

Aileana is such a fantastically dark character. Traumatized by the loss of her mother, she is driven to the point of aching to kill. She’s not in denial about it, either. Aware of her desire to murder fairies, this eighteen year old is isolated often.

Still, the characters around her are incredible, too. Derrick, my little pixie dude, is pure sweetness and sass. He’s just adorable, okay? I have a lot of feelings about him. My hope is that he makes it through this trilogy.

Kiaran (whose name is very hard for me to spell) is dark and brooding. He does have a tragic back-story and so on. Part of me is unsure of this dude. I like Gavin a lot more.

Ah, Gavin, her best friend’s brother, is sympathetic when it comes to the whole fairy-murdering-hobby thing. In fact, he has a connection to all of this. And, his friendship with Aileana makes me so happy. They’re perfect.

And, finally Catherine (and her grumpy mom) are frequently in the story to provide context and grounding to this very supernatural tale. I’d wish for us all to have friends like Catherine. People like her are bright lights in this world, and should be guarded.

Ships…

Look, I don’t know how the shipping thing will work out in this novel. I understand that Kiaran is meant to be the “attractive” dark side type dude.

Gavin though!

I’m literally gesturing at the book right now.

Um. Things are kind of serious in this book, and there’s an apocalypse, so I mean, worrying about ships is kind not the point.

Let’s just hope they all make it through this next book. Thankfully, I have my copy ready to go!

 

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BR: Lumberjanes

I have heard the names of the Lumberjanes creators around the Internet for years. But, I am not really familiar with graphic novels, so I hesitated to read it. Guess who read the first volume from the library? That’s right. ME! And, man oh man, do I have things to say.

Plot

So, the story is about a group of girls in a camp for badassery. It’s a bunch of very different people. Some are tall, short, blonde, red hair, brunette. Their personalities are different as well.

It took me a while to honestly figure out who the heck is who. I’m still not entirely sure I got all their names down, to be quite honest.

Anyway, so they’re at the camp, and they go on adventures in the forest because there are monsters and such.

Characters

The whole time I was read this graphic novel, all I could think of is how much the characters reminded me (in spirit) of the Powerpuff Girls. Like a lot. They were all just great people to read about. One of them used a scrunchie to hit a monster in the face.

That’s brilliant, dear reader.

think I was shipping Mal and Molly. But, there was no time to really fully ship much. It was mostly all about the adventure and the absurdity of their bravery.

Like, maybe I’m too much of a Slytherin to fully comprehend why anyone would put themselves in danger just…to get badges?

Art

I like the art style of this graphic novel. It kind of reminds me of these drawings I used to work on in therapy. My style is way messier and less cute. But, it was lovely to be exposed to such a sweet art style that went with the tone of the story.

Noelle Stevenson apparently didn’t draw this? Or, like, she’s not the main person drawing the stuff. I don’t know why this is a bad thing. Haven’t read Nimona yet, but, the humor is there and the style is cute. I say go for it, if you are interested.

Okay, but really…

Ultimately, I feel like the story is charming. Some of it is amusing. I give it three stars. Liked it, but not too crazy about it. Bonus points for diversity, though. That’s for sure.

Your Turn:

Have you read Lumberjanes? What did you think of it? Do you have any favorite characters or ships? Share them in the comments. I’d love to hear more of your perspectives on this story!

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BR: The Selection

I finished The Selection by Keira Cass earlier this past week. There are some thoughts I’d like to share with you in this book review. Spoilers ahead.

Plot

The story is basically about a girl called America Singer, who joins a competition called The Selection. In this competition, there is a group of girls trying to connect with the prince of their country. His name is Prince Maxon.

Genre

My assumption was that this is going to be a fluffy story, because of the premise. But, it is actually got a touch of dystopia to it. Apparently, there are rebels in this country, and they keep attacking the castle. But, there is not much development in terms of the world-building.

Like, yes, there is a caste system for some reason. It’s not explained why this is the case. What is the logic behind having this system in place? There are mentions of starvation, but I never actually saw any of it in the story.

There are also references to rules regarding premarital sex, but, again, they don’t really have much of an explanation and/or justification.

Characters

America Singer is a musician. She fights with her mom all the time. And, she has a secret. She likes a boy called Aspen, this dude who is frustrating because he wants her to put her name in the Selection.

What he doesn’t tell her is what he expects her to do once she gets there. I do not like Aspen. At all.

Maxon, on the other hand, is sweet to her. He calls everyone “dear” and he gets yelled at by America.

I like America enough to read through her journey. She and Maxon have a sweet connection.

 

Why I am Continuing

No matter how flimsy the writing was, it was also a calming experience. I enjoyed the courting experience that America has. I enjoyed Maxon and his family. I also enjoyed seeing the worldview of the prince get challenged by America. It’s charming enough for me to carry on.

 

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BR: Crooked Kingdom

I admit it. I hesitated to read Crooked Kingdom for a long time out of fear. The character are so precious to me, and I was scared they’d die. But, I finished the book today (two days reading in total). Here are some of my thoughts.

Trauma and Coping

The world Bardugo creates is mean, to put it gently. These characters have endured trauma and loss so much, and it affects their behaviors. They have coping mechanisms that may make them seem “bad.”

When I had read the first book, I distanced myself from Kaz quite a bit. As someone who had gone through abuse, I see a lot of my struggle in him and Inej.

This book just brought him to life for me. I understand him better. Jordie, his shock after what happened to him and Jordie, feels so painful and real, valid, and honestly I don’t know how Pekka Rollins lived for long. Revenge is such a driving force for Kaz, but a lot of it is based on the fear he inflicts on people. It’s not so much that he is a monster.

In fact, he often emphasizes this to Inej and the rest of the group. It’s almost a defense mechanism. The world is cruel, so Kaz has to be equally terrifying to survive it.

I think of him, gloved hands because touch is too overwhelming, his cane, his shock of losing Jordie, and I think that he is a good example of how one copes to survive in a given environment.

Romances

I could write a whole blog just about how Inej and Kaz’s relationship is complex, given they are both abuse survivors. It is such a beautifully intricate romance to watch unfold.

There is a death in this book, and I am trying not to cry. Wylan and Jesper’s relationship, gorgeously wobbly as they admit their insecurities, their wounds, and their fears, it is truly astounding.

Nina and Matthias have also come along way. I mean, there is MAKE OUT SCENES IN THIS! And, that was great, especially when Matthias notices his old beliefs in contrast with how he sees Nina.

I wish there were more books about these characters. But also, not? It leaves space for us fans to explore and imagine.

 

Symmetry

Oh, how there are so many shadows in this book. Dunyasha, for one, being Inej’s shadow is just amazing. What happens when one ponders their disposable nature? Truly, the idea a person is replaceable is a haunting one, but it’s not really that much of a stretch.

So, Inej has someone to fight in this book. Kaz is against Rollins. Wylan and his father are locked in a fight, and then, it is mirrored with Jesper’s relationship with his father. Matthias and his fellow Fjordians face one another. And, Nina is again put in the place of a pupil when she meets up with Genya and Zoya.

This mirroring allows Bardugo to delve into the cruxes of these characters’ insecurities and fears.

Overall

It’s definitely a five star read for me. So good, and kind of a shock in some ways, because, I did not expect a death in this. In fact, I keep checking my book to see if it’s real. It hurts.

But, I would recommend this duology, way more than the Grisha trilogy.

Hope you give it a read! If you have read it, please, let’s talk in the comments!

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BR: Lord of Shadows

So, I spent the past few days reading Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare. Lord of Shadows is the second book in the Dark Artifices trilogy. I loved it. While I was too scared to read it, the more I read, the more intense the ride got.

Plot

The story picks up where it left off in the previous books. In these books, I feel like Cassandra Clare tests the world that she built. She includes LGBT+ characters, neurodivergent characters, and characters of color. Then, she shows the inefficiency of the Shadowhunter community to cope with diverse groups. While, thankfully, racism is not directly common in this world there is species-ism (if that’s the correct term).

The tensions between Downworlders and Shadowhunters certainly reflect problems in our world that are similar. In some ways, this book in particular had a political undertone to it.

Because of this, sometimes reading this book felt uncomfortable. It’s the middle of the trilogy, so resolution is not really a thing. Things seem grim right now for my Shadowhunter babies.

Relationships

Okay. So the story’s premise was forbidden love between parabati. This is Julian and Emma trying to cope with their attraction to each other. But, it is also more than that.

It is about Mark finding his identity and place as a Shadowhunter and Fae. He grapples with his attraction to Cristina and Kieran. I am hoping for a polyamorous relationship. But, you know. I love them all and I want them happy.

I am happy to see Magnus and Alec, and their little family growing. Jace and Clary warmed up my heart too.

Yet, nothing is safe, and Cassandra Clare definitely proved that the stakes are higher now.

Look, dude, she killed characters just when I thought everyone was safe. She was like, “*Devilish laugh* You thought so an so was going to live? Okay. *Kills them*”

Um. I am not angry or anything. Okay, I am just shocked.

Characters

I fell in love with Kit Herondale and his struggle to accept his Shadowhunter status. And, like, I am here shipping Ty and Kit. I hope they get their own series, and Cassandra Clare can explore more of Ty’s coping with Shadowhunter’s oblivious attitude towards neurodivergent people. I love how respectful Kit is. It spoke volumes to me about supporting others who are simply wired differently.

Another person I truly adored was Julian, my Slytherin buddy. My goodness, he is so…driven? Sometimes, he was kind of cruel. But, it comes from a good place?

Cristina and Perfect Diego were fascinating and complicated. Cristina is QUEEN of my heart. Diana is another FANTASTIC person, and I just love her backstory.

Mark is obviously the best. But, truly, Emma and the ants was brilliant. Finally: ARTHUR, ANNABELLE.

So many feelings right now.

 

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BR: Six of Crows

It took me a while to read Six of Crows,  I admit it. However, throughout my time with these characters, I adored every second of it. Now, I know that many people have read this book, and that it is rather hyped. Still, I feel like perhaps sharing my perspective could help convince others to read it.

The Plot

Ultimately, the story is about a heist and a mysterious edible thing that gives Grisha even more power. It is about addictions (gambling, danger, or even power). The book involves love and complex relationships, too. It is about trust, confidence, and so much more.

The Characters

What I love about these characters is just how morally grey they are. Kaz had a painful backstory, that acted as his motivation to fight Pekka Rollins (whose name reminded me of Pikachu) “brick by brick.” Jesper and his addiction to gambling was another really powerful and moving character to meet.

Look, Wylan is pure sunshine and love. His dad doesn’t deserve such a sweet boy. Nina, the love of my life, and her passionate mission to save her Grisha sisters and brothers is another dear character.

But, listen, though, Inej just feels so close to my heart. Her experience with Tante Helene was haunting. I loved seeing her step into her own identity, not the Wraith, or a little lynx. Just Inej Ghafa.

Relationships

From Nina and Matthias’ struggle to understand each other’s perspectives, to Kaz trying to come up with reasons to talk to Inej, all the way Wylan and Jesper’s bickering flirtations: the book is full of relationships to obsess over.

But, I think the relationships between the Dregs in general were powerful to observe. Kaz’s ways of keeping his secrets to himself, not sharing the full plans with the crew, and his “scheming face” (“definitely”) were so, so frustrating and yet kind of cool. I understand how these characters came to be who they are. And, more importantly, I love them for it.

The trust they had to develop and the sacrifices they made for each other, and for this mission to work, all of this was incredible to read. Diversity can be cool, see?

Next, Lord of Shadows and Crooked Kingdom. Sorry, Well of Ascension, I’ll get back to you soon.

 

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BR: The Mixed Bag of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Today, I will be discussing Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. This book makes me feel things, good and bad. Mostly bad, I’ll be honest, but I’ll try not to let this affect my review too much.

Challenging Traditional Stoic Masculinity

At the heart of this story is the relationship between Aristotle and his father. Aristotle’s father is very stoic. He doesn’t talk about his feelings or his past. And, Aristotle mimics this sometimes (or maybe he is just like this, too, as it is a very traditional approach to masculinity).

That connection between father and son challenges the traditional assumptions people tend to make about masculinity. Mainly, it is about a lack of communication, suppressing emotions, and so on.

Mexican American/ LatinX Identity

Another interesting exploration in the novel is the navigation of the Mexican American identity. Throughout the story, Aristotle and Dante struggle to find their place in the world as Mexicans and Americans.

The author questions stereotypes in the novel as well. So, Aristotle gets a truck, and Dante doesn’t. Aristotle’s mother is a teacher, and Dante’s father is a professor. It’s nice. I genuinely mean this.

Positive Portrayals of Parents

While the parents are very different in the story, they are all positive individuals in their kids’ lives. It is a rare feature in young adult literature to see something so lovely. Parents who are active and invested in their offspring’s lives.

Homosexuality and Homophobia

And ultimately, yes, I know the story is also about Aristotle and Dante coming to terms with their sexuality and their feelings toward each other. But, I think the book has lots of other things going on and wanted to address those first.

But…

So, I hope I explained why the book may be a good fit for other people. For me, though, Aristotle was very annoying. He was upsetting for me, because he was rather impulsive, aggressive (thoughtless on what he says and how he acts), and frustrating. He does not grow up or develop over the course of years. It’s baffling.

Ultimately, this is my key point of annoyance with the story: Aristotle and how he treats Dante poorly. Following Aristotle’s perspective made the book even more unpleasant.

Furthermore, the plot (or lack thereof) made it hard for me to stay invested in the characters. Maybe if there was some sort of driving force for the characters to grow, some tension, some conflict that they’re up against, then maybe the book would have been more interesting.

Overall:

I understand why there’s hype for the book, but I also don’t have any interest in keeping this book on my shelves. It’s not for me. But, maybe you’ll like it.

 

 

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