BR: Girl of Fire and Thorns

I have read Rae Carson’s Girl of Fire and Thorns early in February. The book centers on a character called Elisa, a princess, and her adventures to the throne. Spoilers ahead, but in short, she stands out on all account considered.

Curious? Read on!

Elisa the Clever Queen

One of the unique aspects of Elisa’s character is her cleverness. She is a main character, who happens to be a woman of color. While she is a princess, she is also steeped in her culture and its fighting strategy.

Elisa is quite young when she’s sent away. Thankfully, nothing gross happens. No one forces her into physical or romantic situations without her consent, which is nice to read.

The Godstone

So, Elisa is a “chosen one” in this book. She is not stupid about it. Nor is she reckless. In fact, she tends to weigh the pros and cons of her current situation. I found it quite nice to see a young girl in a book be wise and careful.

There is clearly a history and a background story to the godstones. I am curious to learn more about them, and the power they possess.

Boy Talk

Surprise! There’s a love triangle in this book. It’s somewhat different, though, because Elisa is honest with herself and with the boys/men. She doesn’t toy with them. Instead, she openly announces her affections while reserving them around the other person.

I am nervous to see what will happen in the next book in terms of relationships, because things drastically change.

AND romance is not the central storyline in this book. How neat is that!

But…

Let me preface this with a warning: I enjoyed this book, but I think being critical while reading matters. SO, this book had so many boring moments, which is fine. 

Until I noticed that Elisa has no agency of her own. She doesn’t know where she belongs and she is easily swayed politically.

I understand that she’s in a new place and that she is young. Perhaps this will change in the next book.

oh, and can we not assume that all chubby girls like food most in the world?

RATING: **** (4 stars)

 

 

Some of you may know that I lived in Egypt in the 90s. I was
In the most recent months of 2018, I have been aiming to read beyond my
The Love for V.E. Schwab I started reading V.E. Schwab's work about a year ago.

BR: Winner’s Curse

I picked up Winner’s Curse very doubtfully. Many of the books I have were gifts. In fact, most of them are gifts from my brother or mother. They were mostly chosen by me through lots of internet searches.

Race and Culture

Since many YA books are under criticism for not being diverse, I was worried about this book. While researching, I found out that there’s tension between two groups of people in these books. Panic.

You see, I am a brown person and I rarely encounter fellow brown people in books (or in general). And, yet, Arin was just complex. He was just some “cute boy.”

No, this is a guy who had a life before being sold into slavery. He has reasons to be mad and to hate his life.

I liked that the Herrani people had their own traditions, like how they bury the dead, while the Valorian people burned them. How they had their own ways of introducing honor and death to their young family members.

This book tried to grapple with race, culture, and politics in such a profound yet simple way.

Fighting and Strategy

From what I recall, many book folk were upset that the books have changed covers. I am one of the unfortunate souls who got the books (first two) in paperback. In other words, I got the crappy covers. However, I understand the idea behind the cover change.

What is really cool is that Kestrel is not helpless. She uses strategy and words to get things to work her way. While she was presented as someone very good at “reading people,” she was ultimately proven wrong because she was rather wrong about Arin.

She was wrong about all Herrani people, by extension.

It’s a stressful idea to realize that there’s two more books and Arin and Kestrel will have to face off again. Multiple times. Not in a cute way. At all.

You know why? Because they’re both sharp and clever. While they’re conflicted, they still think quick on their feet.

Lovin’

These books are about Kestrel and Arin fighting for their people, while battling their own emotions that are frowned upon. No spoilers, but you know, they both like someone they shouldn’t. Forbidden love is not sensationalized so much here; it’s more about finding a human connection.

I am frightened for these characters, because wow they’re both vicious. 

It is nice to see this because I like seeing characters who have values and ethics. You don’t just throw away what you hold most dear because you met someone cute.

Onto the next one, for sure!

OVERALL RATING ***** (FIVE STARS!)

Some of you may know that I lived in Egypt in the 90s. I was
In the most recent months of 2018, I have been aiming to read beyond my
The Love for V.E. Schwab I started reading V.E. Schwab's work about a year ago.

BR: When The Moon Was Ours

I read When the Moon was Ours for a readathon today and yesterday. This is a huge deal for me, because I rarely ever manage to read so quickly. It is a good book, a wonderful story. Sam and Miel are precious to me. The writing feels like home, because, like the main characters, I grew up with cultural influences that make me gravitate towards lush stories.

 

Characters

One of the neatest features of this novel is the characters. They all have various facets that make them complicated. Yet, somehow, it was never overwhelming or bothersome.

For instance, the Bonner girls were shrouded in mystery, but they were still human. Not villains. Granted, their intentions were upsetting sometimes, however, my dislike for them stemmed from my love towards Miel and Sam.

Speaking of which, Miel and Sam’s relationship was not simple or reduced to feverish making out sessions. It was love. The honest kind. And, like everything honest, it wavered as both parties dealt with their insecurities.

Tone

My favorite aspect of this novel, aside from characterization, was the tone. It reminded me of fairy tales I grew up with: A thousand and one nights, Aladdin, Sinbad; stories of brown people doing more than just breathing.

I liked the fantastical nature of the tone. There was no hints of sarcasm or cynicism. This is raw, honest, and pure writing. It’s the kind of writing I aim for, really. And, in some way, it felt like seeing a future vision of who I wish I could be as a writer and narrator.

The story is beautiful and eerie at times. It’s dream-like and breathtaking. If you’re struggling with its beginnings, keep on reading. It gets way, way better than you would ever expect.

Importance:

The point of telling stories is sharing. It is all about connections and finding meaningful relationships between audience and writer. Anna-Marie McLemore is super sweet on Twitter, and she was very kind to me when I came out as aro ace. She’d just come out as demi and I felt a strong wave of belonging and acceptance from her.

This certainly echoes in her book. I felt like Sam was very close to me in terms of culture and identity. I am not Pakistani, but I am Arab American, and I get scared of talking about myself much. Through this novel, she suggests that courage and knowing yourself are the same thing. For me, that is life-changing. I rarely am faced with this idea in regards to my identity.

Sam announces that he is a boy, and his mother just says, “Good. It’s important for people to know what they want.” My heart just swelled with affection and belonging, and love. From the image of Miel’s father tearing at the roses that grow from her wrists to make her normal, to Sam being called a girl when he is in fact a boy, through and through, these stories could help those who are marginalized. This is for the kids who are told to conform. This is for us, and from one of us. I love it so much.

Because for some reason, people of color are either hypersexualized or made into sterile clean statues. We’re neither. We are people. And, we have stories that deal with complex things. I definitely feel that this book is important to literature right now. Highly recommend it.

And finally: My rating, I suppose, FIVE STARS! So good.

 

Some of you may know that I lived in Egypt in the 90s. I was
In the most recent months of 2018, I have been aiming to read beyond my
The Love for V.E. Schwab I started reading V.E. Schwab's work about a year ago.

BR: Colin Fischer

Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz wrote Colin Fischer, a book I found lonesome at the library. In it, they tell the story of a boy called, surprise, Colin Fischer. The story is supposed to be a mystery where Collin tries to unfold who dropped a gun in the middle of some room in the school.

Wait a Minute:

The story made me feel very uncomfortable, because Colin’s mental illness (autism) was alienating for him. I didn’t know much about autism, but there’s a part of me that is unsure of how the book presents the illness.

Spock and Data as role models for Colin. This is the second time I see this so-called “connection” in a book about a disabled character. Is this the only bit of representation out there, though? Why can’t characters relate to other people? Other heroes?

Colin is presented as a detective, but, I feel like this is an escape route rather than showing a life with disability. He is not shown to have any interests, or any friends, or any relationships that extend beyond care-giving. Supposedly, he “thinks a lot,” but the authors do not present any examples of what these thoughts may be. No motivations are associated with him either. All he is focused on is solving this so-called mystery, and it feels disrespectful.

Just a quick Google search shows many accomplished people exist, and they happen to have autism. They do more than float or obsess over the stories of others. And, the fact that this is a young adult or middle grade book makes this portrayal even more damaging.

 

 

Ill-Prepared Schools

 

One of the aspects of the story that rang a disturbing note for me was the school Colin attended. He is bullied and mistreated by teachers, who somehow do not foster a comfortable environment. I am not sure what school allows students to let their phones ring. And, I am also not so sure any teen would drop hundreds of dollars to make a disabled student uncomfortable.

Even more strange was the head-mistress who just…tells Colin he won’t get special treatment for his disability, which is bizarre. I recall having papers telling teachers what I’d need to cope in the classroom as a disabled student (and this was college, I can’t even imagine it being any different in high school).

Furthermore, from what I know, educators are exposed to various information regarding students and how to help them integrate into high school. When I was a tutor, we had day-long seminars and training sessions to, you know, be aware.

Family Dynamics

Sure, maybe his school was not well prepared for disabled students, but it baffles me that his little brother calls him the r word repeatedly. This intense hatred is never further developed or resolved.  Reading this kind of relationships feels isolating to me as a disabled woman. Should my family see me as a burden because my brain is wired differently? Would I not be able to have satisfying relationships with others? While I think it is fine to show that some characters feel this way, I wish the authors somehow challenged the notion through Colin, through his insight and intelligence.

 

Overall

Kind of a cringe worthy experience with this book. I think this is an example of representation not being fulfilling at all. While it is okay to show the problems a disabled person faces, I think its still crucial to show that they are problems. Rather than just facts.

Your Turn:

What is an inaccurate portrayal of a disability that you have encountered? Why and how was it inaccurate? Share your thoughts in comments.

 

Some of you may know that I lived in Egypt in the 90s. I was
In the most recent months of 2018, I have been aiming to read beyond my
The Love for V.E. Schwab I started reading V.E. Schwab's work about a year ago.

BR: Every Last Word

The book Every Last Word gets recommended often as a story about obsessive compulsive disorder. I struggled to get into it at first, because Every Last Word is not focused just on OCD. It does more. It made me uncomfortable as I identified with the character, Sam, deeply as the story continued.

Mental Illness as Fluid

One of the enjoyable aspects of the novel is its complex portrayal of mental illness. I have had OCD all my life, and, unlike Sam, I hadn’t been diagnosed as a young teen. In fact, it was not until I was in my mid to late twenties that my therapist diagnosed it.

The author shows some typical OCD habits in Sam’s behavior. From the counting of threes and the obsessive researching, it seems like a classic case of OCD, but then, another disorder is introduced by the final quarter of the book, and it made me so ecstatic.

You see, the book presents Sam as a person, not an illness. When presented with difficult realities, coping mechanisms kick in. On a personal level, I relate to this very much as someone who experiences various psychotic episodes frequently. Not only that, but the book also suggests that disability is not just clear cut boxes to check. There’s more to it than what people normally expect. It’s frustrating and oddly comforting.

Identity

Another fantastic aspect of the novel is its exploration of identity’s relationship with disability. Sam focuses her energy on being “normal,” which speaks volumes about the role society plays into a disabled person’s life. There is a lot of pressure and suppression of feelings because Sam wants to appear “normal.” By extension, being “normal” implies that she is worthy of having friends, having hobbies, having interests, having relationships.

It is very powerful to see this struggle in a book because I thought no one else feels this way. Most disabled people I have met are rather accepting of their life. Not me. I always longed to fit into the mold of normalcy.

As the novel unfolds, Sam learns that her identity is beyond her illnesses. While they are a part of her life, they don’t necessarily hinder her ability to live a fulfilling life.

Disability as Different, but Not Inferior

Her therapist Shrinky Sue tells her of another patient who could see sounds. She talks of how full his life is rather than unpleasant. Sure, it is isolating to be different, but it can also help empower a person.

Sam doesn’t have a full-circle of accepting her disability completely and I found that rather satisfying, because I don’t know if anyone should be “cured” to have growth.

That’s the thing about disability, there’s no end result for recovery. It’s an ongoing process. Sometimes, you’ll fall back into the pit.

Some of you may know that I lived in Egypt in the 90s. I was
In the most recent months of 2018, I have been aiming to read beyond my
The Love for V.E. Schwab I started reading V.E. Schwab's work about a year ago.

BR: Courage and Character in Since You’ve Been Gone

When I approached Since You’ve Been Gone, I slacked and hesitated. Then, one night, I was shaking and sweating profusely. I couldn’t sleep and the world felt unbearably dark, so, I pulled out the cheery cover of Emily and Sloane’s story. I begin and I don’t stop till I am done with the book.

In Since You’ve Been Gone, Emily is part of a dynamic duo. It reminds me of my friendship with a person much louder than I am, more confident, more charming, just like Sloane. I identified with Emily on many levels, because I have never been self-assured and my anxiety prevents me from doing anything uncomfortable. I live in my own shell, like her, and I tend to be overshadowed by others. So, I had a keen interest in seeing how she grows and flourishes as a young woman, friend, partner.

Character Relationships


My favorite thing about this story is the characters. I adore all of them, especially Emily and Sloane. Speaking of which, Sloane falls under the manic pixie type of character, at least at first, but as Emily has more distance, she starts to see the cracks in the facade, and encourages Emily to open up about her insecurities regarding her family, relationships, friendships, and courage.

Courageous Characters:

The most beautiful aspect of this novel is the courage all the characters have. It takes a lot of effort to be strong and happy, to be adventurous, to be open to new people and experiences. I like that the lists they two friends make for each other are not over the top crazy. There is beauty in doing the smallest courageous acts. Ride a horse. Hug a Jamie. Apply for a job. Be part of nature and have a sense of wonder. Collins bravely faces his fear of rejection and asks out Dawn. Frank confronts his failing relationship with Lissa. It’s not just Emily and Sloane changing; it’s all of the characters moving through life and learning, which is absolutely lovely to see. It’s refreshing to see female characters focused on more than romantic relationships. I like that Dawn, Sloane, and Emily aren’t competitive or jealous, either.

Overall: 

 

Morgan Matson is becoming one of my favorite authors because she comes across as a thought-provoking person. I like that she echoes the themes of expanding horizons, and imagining people complexly. Yes it’s a book disguised as summer sweetness, but I think it’s got more going on with memorable relationships, gorgeous moments, and awesome music.

I have been thinking a lot about how much things have changed for me over
Part of having an online presence is this weird isolation from real life, whatever that
  ★QUESTIONS:Question #1: The Opening Ceremony: What book did you think had an incredible opening? I'll

BR: Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here

Part of having an online presence is this weird isolation from real life, whatever that is. I remember growing up with the Harry Potter fandom, reading fanfiction, and not really being in tune with who was popular in school, or crushes, or friendships. I was kind of in my own bubble hovering maddeningly in a corner with occasional bursts of contact with the outside world. Reading Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here reminded me of these days. It was an accurate representation of coming of age under the Internet’s influence and the shock of the real life.

Unlike the fiction in Fangirl, here, the story takes on a dark commentary on Scarlett’s real life. The story reflects her difficulties in imagining Ashley and Gideon complexly. She simplifies them into these stereotypes, particularly Ashley, who is literally a robot in her story. The fact that her story garners quite a few fans is also telling because it is a testament to her ability as a writer, just like her father and his new wife. The parallels between her work and her father’s is also interesting, because, in both, they misjudge and misrepresent others.

Ruth and Dawn have this really interesting connection with Scarlett, because she assumes a lot about them, only to realize later on that she was way, way off. For instance, the story Ruth shares of her youth and her family shocks young Scarlett into seeing that perhaps her judgment of others is not entirely accurate or fair. Through Dawn, a strong feminist message is sent in a painful way as Scarlett realizes that she has been overlooking her mother’s value as a person because they value different things. Like her father, she assumes that Dawn isn’t worth much as she doesn’t function the same way. Books and imagination are hard to consider when you are trying to earn a practical living. To Scarlett, her mother is a source of embarrassment due to her profession, her lifestyle, her inability to find someone to appreciate her as a companion.

The losses Scarlett endures offer as a wake up call for her life. Avery and Scarlett lose touch with each other as Ave develops a relationship with her boyfriend. Her struggles to find a balance between her friendship with Scarlett and Ashley isolates her. It’s hard not to feel affection towards Avery, even though she’s not in the narrative for long periods of time.

This brings me to the negatives of the book: it’s very episodic and not much of a plot-driven story. It’s not very character driven, either. I wish we would have spent enough time with Dawn, or Ruth, or even Scarlett’s dad. Gideon is featured in snippets. I didn’t really like the story Scarlett creates, because it took over the narrative way too much. I feel as though the story was hijacked by this fanfiction.

Still, the story is very different due to its humor, its tone, its balancing of feminism, commentary on pop culture and Internet culture, and the exploration of growing up in a time where the Internet can skew one’s perception a lot. It’s a refreshing tale and a realistic one, too. Do check it out, if you’re ready to see a girl take on the world and be bold.

I have been thinking a lot about how much things have changed for me over
When I approached Since You've Been Gone, I slacked and hesitated. Then, one night, I
  ★QUESTIONS:Question #1: The Opening Ceremony: What book did you think had an incredible opening? I'll

BR: The Disenchantments

 

So, I bought The Disenchantments used and picked up my battered copy scared, because it’s like a first date. I would imagine, all nerves and pensiveness because I seriously don’t know what to expect. At first, I was nothing but old and angry, because I have known people like the ones in the story, especially Bev– the girl who has been haunted by something in her past. 

Bev and Complexity

She is so perfect and broken, that the boys and girls idolize her so much. It is different, though, because Bev doesn’t just serve a purpose for Colby. Instead, she goes through her own journey and learns to stop running from the past. I liked that she sang the song to her mom, and that she wrote the letter to friends. I wanted to hate her, because I identified with her so much, but I ended up just…understanding, and knowing what it is like to go through an incredible amount of pain. I am hopeful for Beverly. A lot. I didn’t expect to feel that she would lead a happy life someday, but, you know, it seems like it may happen.

 

Other Characters

Colby and Meg are fantastic, and I just adored them completely. Such beautiful imperfect people. I like their conversations and connection. This guy is just a pensive, artistic, brilliant person, and I’m happy that college isn’t presented as the “best” option out there after high school, because people are different. They have choices to make, their own routes to draw up, and so on. If I had been a bit younger, I would have been all over the tattoo theme in this book, but, I appreciate it now (just not with the same enthusiasm, I suppose).

Shipping and Pairings

Shipping is kind of difficult in this book. I was pairing everyone together, and it didn’t go the way I expected. It’s a bit of a serious book, I guess, but it has its light moments. I’ll say this much: Jasper is wonderful and I want him and Colby to be together (friends, partners, lovers, whatever. It’s up to them).

In short, it is a pretty good book. Do check it out, if you’re up to an emotional read.

I have been thinking a lot about how much things have changed for me over
When I approached Since You've Been Gone, I slacked and hesitated. Then, one night, I
Part of having an online presence is this weird isolation from real life, whatever that

BR: Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens’ Agenda

Being stuck and sad makes reading, sleeping, eating, drinking, praying difficult. Everything is hard then. BUT, every once in a while, you get a ray of light out of nowhere. This ray for me was in Simon and Blue’s relationship. I have to admit that it took me a while to buckle down and read because things get to so dark that I can’t see my way out. I still don’t know how to find these silver linings. hilarious. He is also not dumb, impulsive, or silly. I was actually cheering him on.

Here’s one thing that didn’t change throughout the book and afterwards: I HATE MARTIN! A lot, okay? I just can’t sympathize because I can relate too much with Simon. Very much like him, I keep things to myself. I talk a lot, but I don’t ever share the private things. It’s too frightening to open up to anyone, really. So I related to a 17 year old. A lot. I still dislike Martin after his confessions. I don’t think they are justified at all. You can’t just ruin things for someone. I used to think this process was scary enough as it is, but there are so many more pressures presented in this book that just bewildered me even more. It’s good to be aware of consequences.

Oh, Blue, how I adore you. So sweet. I also adore, adore, adore Simon’s friends. They’re awesome people and I wish I had friends who connect with me on such a deep level. And, of course, the humor is just spot on. I can’t get over drunk cute Simon (or should we all call him ALEX!).

As it progressed, the story unfurled lots of great jokes and funny moments. I think there was a true balance between humor and seriousness. So many serious business times in the book, too, obviously.

Your Turn: Have you read any fun LGBT+ characters in YA Literature? Were they portrayed in a fair way? Share in the comments!

  ★QUESTIONS:Question #1: The Opening Ceremony: What book did you think had an incredible opening? I'll
  So, I bought The Disenchantments used and picked up my battered copy scared, because
While Snape is a fascinating character, he's by no means my favorite out of the

BR: Fangirl

It is kind of nice when the depression recedes enough for hope to peak through, like wild weeds in a poisonous garden festering. I don’t know how it happens, but at some point, things start looking up again. Perhaps, that is the power of fiction for me. Reading about someone else makes me forget what it’s like to be me (usually). And, yet, when I read Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, something very different happened: I read what it is like to be me. 

Cath is an eighteen year old college freshman and she has anxiety. Like, really bad anxiety. She can’t go to the cafeteria kind of anxiety. I have anxiety. She writes, and I try to write. Often, she spends her life in her head. I do that, maybe even more than she does. But, you get it, right? I found myself in her story. It is kind of weird that I experienced this deja vu with a much younger character. I’m almost thirty. I have been out of college for so long. Yet I was relating to Cath’s struggle to write, to express herself, to make friends, to get in relationships that are complex and scary. In fact, she goes on journeys I have never had the courage to experience.

As a fellow fangirl, I enjoyed her writing of Simon and Baz’s story. I fangirled at her work and her spirit.

Moreover, her relationship with her sister is powerful and moving. Wren is outgoing and often hard to reach. I have a sister like that. Like Cath, I find myself grasping and comparing and losing very regularly. It is a tough battle, because I am much older than said sibling. People tell me to get over it, to move on, but the OCD kicks in and I get stuck in destructive loops.

Oh my goodness, Nick, and how he used her, it hit so close to home. I have had this experience too many times in my life. There were moments when I had stood in the shadows to let someone take the credit for my my voice. It is practically like Ariel in Little Mermaid giving up her voice to get something else.

It’s a wonderfully written book. Funny, moving, charming, and honest: it sheds light on family, relationships, expression, art, fiction, reality, education, drinking…so many things in one work that it is sometimes overwhelming to read. I am so glad that I did read it, though, because it is one of my favorite things I have ever read. It has made me feel less strange. Yes, I am pretty weird, but maybe that is not such a bad thing. Feeling this way is a new experience and I think it’s for the better.

Please, do pick it up and check it out. Such a great book. OH, and read Carry On *afterwards.* Don’t be a dork like me and read them in the wrong order.

When I first heard of Me Before You, I was drawn to the cast. Emilia
While it is endearing,  My Big Fat Greek Wedding relies on stereotypes to communicate the difference
When I approached Since You've Been Gone, I slacked and hesitated. Then, one night, I