All Things Bookish | Review | The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

“Fortune favours the flirtatious.”
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Title: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

Series: Guide (#1)

Author: Mackenzie Lee

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

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

Page number: 513

 

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

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.


[5/5]

I need to travel back in time to the eighteenth century and go on a similar Grand Tour because oh my God, after reading this book, who wouldn’t be tempted to?

This is, in all honesty, the best historical fiction novel I’ve read so far, and the reasons are too many to count on my fingers. I can’t believe I didn’t read this sooner – seriously, I’m heartless.

It’s impossible not to love the characters of this book. You better not come to me saying things like “oh, Monty is horrid—” because you’d be dead where you stand. Don’t insult my fugitive children, they’re pure and precious and brave beyond description. 💖

Henry Montague “Monty”: my bisexual child who must be protected at all costs

Cocky, overconfident, flirtatious, and also kind of (read: very) idiotic.

In other words, I adore him.

Now, of course, Monty is a lot more complicated than that – he feels happiness, regret, sadness, fear, and love. The only problem here would be that he really sucks at expressing himself if it’s not through kissing or – *cough* uh, more than kissing.

You know how people say “think twice before you act”? Yeah, well, Monty totally skips over the “think” part and just jumps straight into the “act”. Reckless? Definitely. Does that make me love him any less? Oh, hell no.

(Plus, bless Monty’s habit of not thinking because hey, it does do the trick sometimes. *pats him on the back*)

The incredible thing about Monty’s character is the way it slowly changes throughout the book. He still remains just as cheeky, just as mischievous, just as flirty – but he learns a lot from his mistakes and from the people he encounters on his Tour. Initially, Monty had been ignorant about his white privilege – how, because of his skin colour, things are easier for him than they are for someone like Percy, who is black. It’s not that Monty is racist, because he defends his friends when they are faced with it, but he doesn’t seem to understand the difference that one’s skin colour makes in their life. He doesn’t understand it when Percy insists that he can defend himself and doesn’t want Monty to do it for him. By the end of the book, however, he slowly starts to realise his ignorance and, hopefully, aims to overcome it.

Monty also goes through his own conflicts – trying to ignore the taunts of others if they find out that he’s attracted to girls and boys; people telling him that he’s a disgrace, that he’ll always be a disgrace. Of course, because this book takes place in the eighteenth century, there are no labels. Terms such as “bisexual” did not exist back then, even though queerness did. This book highlights the struggles that queer people went through during these times, back when being queer was considered a crime, and that is very important. This book isn’t just about white, straight people. This book is about those whose voices have been drowned out, those whose voices were ignored because they “failed to meet society’s standards”. Although Monty starts off as a massive jerk in the beginning (okay, a lovable jerk, but you get me!), he still goes through his own struggle of self-acceptance. His story still deserves to be told.

Not to mention (yeah, I’m still not done – I just love him too much, okay?) Monty’s trauma from the abuse he receives from his father is heartbreaking to read about. It follows him throughout his journey, throughout his life. If he’s attacked, he’ll imagine his father beating him. Even if someone is simply reaching out to touch his cheek, he’ll still imagine his father’s cruelty. Reading those parts made me want to cry for my poor child. He hides his pain behind a confident grin and comes off as egotistical (which, well, he is) but this “façade” that he has on does a very good job of hiding his true feelings. *sobs*

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Percy Newton: my pure & innocent child who has to struggle a ton because he’s black and gay in a world of white and straight people

Ah, Percy. Where do I start with my sweet, adorable Percy?

You can say that he’s the exact opposite of Monty: shy, respectful, keen, patient. He goes through a lot of hardship in this book but still battles his way through it and comes out a victor. *sniffles* Truly, a beautiful sight.

Now, although Percy grew up in Britain and was brought up like a noble, he still faces racism and is constantly looked down upon because he has a darker complexion. I love that this is highlighted, because a lot of times, historical fictions completely ignore that these things actually happened. Real people suffered because of their skin colour and sexuality. Nowadays, there’s a lot of support to go around, and that’s great! But imagine how things were back then, when almost everyone thought you were a monster, a freak, “possessed” – because of things beyond your control. For someone to survive and break through all that, they had to be especially strong. And although Percy isn’t fierce by nature, he’s determined to defend himself and turn his back on the ignorant, because, really, it’s much wiser to avoid wasting your time with people who won’t even understand.

In the first couple chapters, while attending a party, a lady claims that she’s against racism, and then insists that Percy is somewhere from Africa when he clearly states that he is actually from Britain. *sigh* My poor child. *hugs* It’s okay, I shall protect you.

It’s evident throughout the book that Percy cares for Monty a lot. No matter how stupid he can be sometimes (and, uh, believe me—Monty does have his fabulous moments) he’s always there for him, ready to protect him at the cost of his life. Their romance is very heartwarming to read, and that ending—! *sobs* MY BABIES!

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Felicity Montague: my badass sister who will take no crap from anybody, especially no misogynist who tells her she can’t study medicine because “*gasp* she’s a GIRL!”

Women did not have it easy in the eighteenth century. Heck, we still don’t have it easy today. But can you imagine someone crushing your dream every time you bring it up because it’s “not a job for a girl”?

Yep. It sucks.

Felicity is, in full honesty, one of the most intelligent characters I’ve ever read about. She’s sassy, she’s strong, she’s decisive, and she’s outstanding in the field of medicine.

She’s also probably asexual, because, when asked about kissing, this was how she responded: “I don’t think it’s for me. Even if it’s better someday.” She expressed very clearly that she didn’t like it and wasn’t interested, too.

Like I mentioned before, no labels existed back in the day, but I find it very difficult to un-convince myself (is that a word? No?) that Felicity is an aromantic ace. She shows no romantic interest in anyone, barely thinks about kissing and relationships, and believes she can remain a strong, independent and incredibly clever woman without a spouse by her side—and it’s true! We’re talking about someone who literally sews herself shut at one point and doesn’t even wince. Whoa.

She’s not immune to the eighteenth century “norms”, though. While she’s not spiteful about it, she does question Monty’s attraction to males and doesn’t seem to understand it completely, which is realistic—but she accepts him and his relationship with Percy nonetheless. Sometimes I even think she ships it. (And honestly, can we blame her?)

One last thing: allow me to show you one more time just how amazing Felicity is…

“Just thinking about all that blood.” I nearly shudder. “Doesn’t it make you a bit squeamish?”
“Ladies haven’t the luxury of being squeamish about blood,” she replies, and Percy and I go fantastically red in unison.

*claps* YOU TELL ‘EM, MY GIRL.

This book does not only deal with racism, sexism and queerphobia – it also deals with a disease. I won’t spoil anything, but it highlights how one doesn’t have to cure themselves to be happy. That they don’t have to be “normal” to live a content life, and that what’s truly important is to accept and love themselves. I personally think this is dealt with very well; there really should be more books pointing this out. And consider, once again, that this is in the eighteenth century, when those with diseases were treated as outcasts, as though they bewitched or something. Needless to say that it is especially sad, and makes you root for the characters even more.

One of Ms. Lee’s strong points is writing action scenes – mainly because they’re written in a way that not only makes them addicting to read, but also hilarious. A sly comment here, a comical fall there…I mean, I know I’m supposed to be fearing for the life of my precious characters, but I also can’t help but laugh. Wow, I’m a horrible person.

To summarise (yeah, I know this review is too long…whoops…): a diverse cast in a historical fiction novel; issues like racism, sexism, queerphobia and mistreatment towards the disabled are tackled, showcasing the struggle people have gone through; adorable and moving romance; hilarious action scenes.

What’s not to love? And more importantly, how long must I wait for the sequel??

Have you read The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue? Feel free to leave a comment!

Stay creative,

Angel

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All Things Bookish | Review | Allegedly

“Hard to celebrate the day you were born when everybody seems to wish you were never born at all.”

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Title: Allegedly

Author: Tiffany D. Jackson

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Genre: Mystery / Thriller / Young Adult / Realistic Fiction

Page number: 387

 

 

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Mary B. Addison killed a baby.

Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: A white baby had died while under the care of a churchgoing black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say.

Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. The house isn’t really “home”—no place where you fear for your life can be considered a home. Home is Ted, who she meets on assignment at a nursing home.

There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary must find the voice to fight her past. And her fate lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But who really knows the real Mary?


[4/5]

(Note: yeah, I did lower my rating on Goodreads because, after a lot of thinking, I realised the book did disappoint me in some parts – but it still remains a fabulous four stars, so it’s all good.)

Are you ever tempted to watch scary, murder-mystery YouTube videos late at night, even though you know it’s a bad idea? And yet you do it anyway?

…Yep. That’s what reading Allegedly was like.

I don’t remember the last time a book kept me up until two a.m., but this one did, and…I’m not sure if that’s a good thing because this book is wicked. It doesn’t shy away from the dark and treacherous world of crime, showing us just what it means to be a killer—and on top of that a baby killer.

Allegedly.

Mary’s life is anything but normal, and that’s evident right off the bat. Her perspective on things, no matter how mundane, are somehow twisted to show us just how disturbing the world she lives in is. All her life she’s been rejected, shunned, and ridiculed, for a crime she’s supposedly committed at the tender age of nine.

This book delves deeply into the psychological aspect of crime—what drives people to commit the unspeakable? Are criminals worthy of a second chance if they show signs of turning over a new leaf, or should they remain outcasts for the rest of their lives? These questions are ever the controversy, and the book deals with them as such. You’d probably find yourself questioning your own morals while reading, wondering whether you really would sympathise with someone who presumably killed a baby.

This is not a novel for the faint of heart, that’s for sure. The abuse and torment Mary goes through is horrific. Barely anyone wants to show her any mercy, give her another chance, no matter how desperate she is to save her child from the cold clutches of the unfair law system. A system that’s labelled her as guilty ever since she was a child.

What I loved while reading this is that you can’t really trust anyone in this book, not even the adults who are supposed to help. It paints a very grim picture of the world we live in: people only care about themselves. They’ll be more than willing to use others for their own interests. Mary can barely trust anyone because she’s been betrayed all her life, even by her own family. Everything about her story is heartbreaking, yet it keeps you on her toes, because although you can’t bear reading anymore of her torture, you still absolutely have to know what happens next.

Mary doesn’t bother sugarcoating anything throughout her narration, no matter how appalling it is, and although she’s on the receiving end of endless injustice, she isn’t afraid to take back what’s hers, even at the cost of her own life. I found her love for her unborn child – whom she refers to as “Bean” – something pure and true, which contrasts with pretty much everything else in this book. It’s something that readers can hold on to amidst all the lies and disturbing atmosphere. As I read on, my worries started to shift from just Mary to Mary and Bean, because damn, I wanted both of these poor souls to survive and for Mary to throw away this horrendous past behind her so she can start anew.

This book was one hell of a ride, and I was enjoying it thoroughly—up until the last chapter. I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. I almost gave this book a rating even lower than four because of it, but the other chapters were just so brilliantly written and expressed that I didn’t have the heart to. I won’t spoil anything, but I will say that I hoped this book would have a better conclusion than what actually transpires.

However, I do highly recommend this novel to all crime and thriller lovers. This tale is gripping and addicting with a new surprise awaiting in every chapter; and they’re rarely ever pleasant. You really do want to know what happens to the girl who killed a baby at the age of nine.

Allegedly.

Have you read Allegedly? Feel free to tell me your thoughts!

Stay creative,

Angel

All Things Bookish | Review | Tyler Johnson Was Here

“People don’t fucking know that black folks were never included in the All. All-American means white. All-inclusive means white. All lives means white lives.”
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Title: Tyler Johnson Was Here

Author: Jay Coles

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Genre: Young Adult / Contemporary / Fiction / Race / Social Movement / #OwnVoices

Page number: 304

 

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

When Marvin Johnson’s twin, Tyler, goes to a party, Marvin decides to tag along to keep an eye on his brother. But what starts as harmless fun turns into a shooting, followed by a police raid.

The next day, Tyler has gone missing, and it’s up to Marvin to find him. But when Tyler is found dead, a video leaked online tells an even more chilling story: Tyler has been shot and killed by a police officer. Terrified as his mother unravels and mourning a brother who is now a hashtag, Marvin must learn what justice and freedom really mean.


[4.5/5]

I’m in awe. I don’t remember the last time I read a book that had this much power, this much passion behind its words.

Tyler Johnson Was Here blew me away from the very first chapter. It doesn’t sugarcoat or tone down any of the struggles, the unfairness, the racism that African-Americans are subjected to because of the colour of their skin. It tells the problem like it is. While reading it, I didn’t feel like I was just reading a story; I was in the story. I was part of it and part of the world that Marvin lives in, because that’s exactly how our world is. Sure, the exact events in this might not be 100% real, but can any of us deny that this has happened multiple times in real life? That police brutality is a menace that constantly looms over the lives of African-Americans?

Marvin and Tyler Johnson are two boys who never meant to harm any one – they’re just going about their lives like everyone else, fighting through their struggles in a world full of hate. There’s more than one incident involving racist cops, and believe me when I say that they’re heart-breaking.

What lesson did I have to be taught? Not to be a concerned individual? Not to care about someone else’s innocent life, the boy lying unconscious across from me? Not to care about my own life? Not to be a member of my own race?”

“—because I’ve been black for too long, because I’ve been such a menace to society because of this skin, because of the words that come to mind when some people see me.”

Of course, before anyone pulls the ‘but not all cops are bad!’ card—yes, I know. Marvin even mentions this on multiple occasions. Not all cops are bad, but if police brutality is still happening, then what does that mean? There are cops who judge people by the colour of their skin, by the clothes they wear. There are cops who stop certain people on the street—certain people who aren’t white—solely because of their racist ideologies. And there are a lot of those cops.

The grief Marvin and his mother go through after losing Tyler is described so elaborately, so tragically, that it almost left me in tears. How does one cope with losing a twin, their other half? How does one cope with losing their child? The mere thought is terrifying, and the way it’s described throughout the book is even more heart-rending.

“The man who looked at my brother, a living person, a working body, an actual soul, and decided to take him out of this world because of his own hatred, his own darkness.”

“I try to sleep, but I can’t even get my eyes to close. I’m lying on a soft mattress, eyes wide, and Tyler’s somewhere in the morgue.”

This has quickly become one of my favourite books of 2018, and deservingly so. I cannot stress enough on how real the characters feel, how important the message behind this story is, how much power every thought conveys. And have you seen that cover? Absolutely beautiful. I love this book so, so much.

Have you read Tyler Johnson Was Here? Let me know!

Stay creative,

Angel

All Things Bookish | Review | Heir of Ashes + The Curse [ARCs]

“Time was so precious, and it just kept ticking away.”

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Title: Heir of Ashes

Series: Roxanne Fosch (#1)

Author: Jina S. Bazzar

Publisher: smashwords

Genre: Fantasy

Synposis (from Goodreads)

Roxanne Fosch had a perfectly normal life at the age of twelve. Cool, popular, pretty, smart. Her dreams of a perfect, successful and prosperous future seemed well within her grasp.
By the time she was twenty-two she had become a commodity. A fugitive. She was being hunted.
As Roxanne embarks on the dangerous quest to search for half-truths about her past, she discovers she’s not just an abnormal human, but a rarity even among her Fee peers.
She is hunted by scientists, keen to exploit her extraordinary abilities, as well as other beings far more dangerous whose plans for her she cannot fathom.


(Note: Thanks to the author, Jina, for sending me an e-arc in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by this factor.)

[3/5]

Heir of Ashes is a book with an interesting magic system – one that, in my opinion, is well-developed. I always appreciate fantasy books with proper world-building, and Heir of Ashes is definitely one of them.

Roxanne is a well-thought-out character, too. I love her independence, her fierce fighting technique, and her ability to stand up for herself and for others. For everything that she goes through in the book, it’s clear she’d rather just give in and lose her mind already, but she keeps it together, and I admire that kind of courage.

One of the best things about this book are the action scenes. We’re thrown into one right from the get-go, and while every reader might not agree with me, I often like that if it’s done right. It grabs my attention immediately, and in this novel, showed me just how dangerous Roxanne’s life is. If you think things can’t get worse from there, then trust me, they do. Poor girl.

I think Roxanne is the only character I actually really like—her, and Kincaid, even if he only makes small appearances. But Logan? I can’t get myself to even like him. Not at all, and here’s why:

At one point in the book, Roxanne and Logan get into a fight. Throughout the fight, Roxanne compares Logan to a predator, and his anger scares her. She’s wary of him, is prepared to strike him down if he oversteps his boundaries, and tells him to stay away from her.

“My talons were at the ready, in case he decided to get more physical.”

And then Logan actually kisses her during the fight. And I’m not talking about the ‘I’m-sorry-I-was-wrong’ kiss either. I’m talking about the aggressive, forceful kind of kiss, one that Roxanne really doesn’t want, and yet he still does it even though she’s clearly against it. Just look at these quotes:

“Before I could react, his lips crushed mine with bruising force.”

“Terror choked me, keeping my struggles feeble. I tried to knee him but he blocked expertly.”

“—and my eyes were huge with terror – a response predators pounced upon.”

And then he expresses that he’s been meant ‘to protect her’ and that he won’t hurt her, and won’t touch her if she doesn’t want him to, even though he did just that.

I will say that one good thing about this situation is that Roxanne calls him out on it. I was so happy when I saw that because for once, for once, the female protagonist in a fantasy novel calls out the male protagonist about his violent ways of showing “affection.”

The bad part?

They become a couple after that.

I mean, what?? How?? Why??

I found the romance to be completely sudden and abrupt, with barely any build-up—and the scenario I just described only angered me further. It feels as though Logan keeps forcing it to happen until Roxanne gives in. Comparing a male to a ‘predator’ or a ‘wolf’ or some other ferocious animal is not ‘romantic’. It’s disgusting. This is one trope that is especially found in fantasy that I really hope stops soon. It’s not okay, and young girls reading books like these should know that consent is a must and that it’s a basic human right.

Another male in this story who, in my opinion, is quite problematic is Rafael. Whenever Roxanne wears anything revealing, he gives her weird looks. I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean, but I didn’t appreciate it.

Other than that, this book is fairly intriguing – there’s more than what meets the eye in this world that Roxanne has to live in, and as you read on you discover that you can’t really trust anybody. I think that makes the book more surprising and thrilling, having us trying to guess who’s friend and who’s foe. Roxanne is a character you want to root for, and every time she kills someone badass-style, I imagine some heavy metal music playing in the background. She’s just that cool.

So, I’d say if you’re a fantasy-lover, you can give this one a go, but please be aware of the problematic themes in it. This book isn’t perfect, but it’s got potential – I’m hoping Logan at least recognises his mistakes in the sequel, and Rafael stops giving Roxanne those judgemental looks of his.


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Title: The Curse 

Series: Roxanne Fosch (#0.5)

Author: Jina S. Bazzar

Publisher: smashwords

Genre: Fantasy

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Yoncey Fosch, the leader of the Unseelie Dhiultadh clan would give anything to save his brother from a mysterious plague. Anything, including his leadership mantle and a favor to his deadliest enemy, Queen Titania’s consort.
But his actions will have far reaching consequences, and Fosch realizes he is not only unwilling to pay the price, but will defy anyone who calls him on it.


[3.25/5] 

The Curse tells the backstory of Roxanne’s father, and describes the events leading to Roxanne’s birth. I recommend reading this novella after reading Heir of Ashes, as you’ll need to be more familiar with the world, first.

This book contains more world-building and further explains the magic system, which I appreciate, because I’m the type of person to get easily lost in fantasy books. Although, it can be quite confusing at times.

I love how the characters aren’t all ‘good-or-evil’ in this. Each of them has their own reasons for doing what they do, and even though it may seem ‘evil’, you’ll start to realise that there’s more to their story than what we can see.

It’s an interesting plot with quite the tragic ending, marking the start of a unique life that our main character never asked for but has to live through, fighting for herself and her beliefs.

Have you read this series? Would you like to? Let me know!

Stay creative,

Angel

All Things Bookish | Review | They Both Die at the End

“Some risks are worth it.”

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Title: They Both Die at the End

Author: Adam Silvera

Publisher: HarperTeen

Genre: Young Adult / Contemporary / LGBTQ+

Page number: 368

 

 

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today.

Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure—to live a lifetime in a single day.


[5/5]

This book is, uh, how do I put this…

IT’S A STAB IN THE BACK.

A STAB IN THE BACK I TELL YOU.

So, naive me thought that, “Hey, I mean, at least I know they both die eventually…so I can prepare myself, right?”

Hahaha.

Haha.

…Ha.

Do yourself a favour and don’t lie to yourself. This book will crush you, and here’s why:

First off, I was pretty intrigued by the idea of this book. Getting a call on the day you die? There’s a lot of reasons why we would and wouldn’t want that. I kept on debating just that throughout the course of this book.

The story kicks off by introducing you to one of our adorable protagonists, Mateo, who is going to die that day. The worst part is that you start loving him despite knowing that his inevitable fate will destroy you.

I don’t know whether to thank Silvera or to just sit and cry my eyes out.

And then we have Rufus – rough around the edges but still has a heart of gold. Bless that boy. His inevitable fate will also destroy you.

I think what appealed to me the most in this book was the unlikely friendship between cautious, quiet Mateo and bold, fierce Rufus. Two boys who have less than twenty-four hours to live, desperate to spend it with someone who’ll be worth their while. It takes time, but their trust in each other slowly builds up, even as they wonder if they’ve made the right choice.

I love how they help each other overcome their fears – especially if you think about Mateo. At the beginning of the book, he’s very shy, anxious, afraid to take risks – he really wants to, but something keeps holding him back. Rufus sees that, and encourages him to try new things, and be more courageous, without pressurising him or making him feel like he’s worthless if he doesn’t! You’re doing it right, my friend.

It’s evident how much time and effort was spent on this novel. Throughout the book, we get little tidbits here and there from other characters. Small chapters that show us things from their points of view, and all their stories somehow connect to Mateo’s and Rufus’. They all have their own beliefs and morals and flaws, and each of them has an important role to play, right until the very end. This is one of the best aspects of this book, because it really shows you how Death-Cast has affected everyone’s life, not just our protagonists’.

This novel makes you stop to seriously think about the big things – taking risks, the people in your life who really matter, whether we’re happy in our current state or not. And even if we aren’t, it’s always possible that one person could pop into your life to turn all that around. Mateo, who thinks things are really over for good when he receives the call, has the best time of his life with someone he meets that very day; it just shows you that anything is possible. I think Silvera handles this topic very well. This is the first book by him that I’ve read, but I’m already eager to pick up more!

And I know I’ve warned you before, but I’ll do it once more for good measure:

BRING LOTS OF TISSUES. YOU WILL NEED THEM.

Have you read They Both Die at the End? Thoughts?

Stay creative,

Angel

All Things Bookish | Review | Solitaire

“I think you should know that I make up a lot of stuff up in my head and then get sad about it. I like to sleep and I like to blog. I am going to die someday.” 

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Title: Solitaire

Author: Alice Oseman

Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books UK

Genre: Contemporary / Romance/ Young Adult

Page number: 392

 

 

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

In case you’re wondering, this is not a love story.

My name is Tori Spring. I like to sleep and I like to blog. Last year – before all that stuff with Charlie and before I had to face the harsh realities of A-Levels and university applications and the fact that one day I really will have to start talking to people – I had friends. Things were very different, I guess, but that’s all over now.

Now there’s Solitaire. And Michael Holden.

I don’t know what Solitaire are trying to do, and I don’t care about Michael Holden.

I really don’t.


[2/5]

You know that feeling when you really want to like a book, but you just…don’t?

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I should start off by saying that one of the worst things that could exist in a book is an annoying main character – and that, sadly, is exactly what Tori is. She’s selfish, unnecessarily rude, and trying way too hard to get pity from the reader. She has a mental illness which is never directly mentioned throughout the whole novel, and I don’t know how the reader is supposed to magically know what it is. Sure, some may recognise the symptoms (although other reviewers have pointed out that they are hardly that) but authors need to understand that readers aren’t walking encyclopedias. We can’t always guess if a character has a mental illness, or what it is, especially if our experience with it is minimal. I once read a book where the main character was supposed to be bipolar, but that was hardly ever mentioned and I didn’t find out he was until I read others’ reviews about it. That hardly counts as representation.

Speaking of representation…there is a disorder that is mentioned, except it’s made fun of.

Tori actually makes fun of an anorexic girl because she sees her reading The Hunger Games. I can’t tell you how disgusted I was. We’re supposed to feel ‘sorry’ for Tori because, “Oh, poor girl, she’s so broken she can’t even smile anymore,” but excuse her when she makes these judgmental comments? She goes around criticising everyone for the most ridiculous reasons like going to parties or wearing a certain type of clothing. She’s supposed to be suffering from low self-esteem, but she acts like a self-absorbed queen bee.

As if that weren’t enough self-contradiction, a few chapters into the novel we are introduced to Lucas, Tori’s childhood best friend whom she hadn’t seen in years. She expresses happiness upon seeing him, and the will to catch up and become good ol’ buddies again.

And then she proceeds to ignore him and snap at him for the rest of the book.

And poor Lucas is never anything but nice! He never insults her, and in fact always seems especially shy around her, and Tori can see this – but she decides to be spiteful towards him and put him down just because! Wow, why is Tori not my favourite character again?

Don’t ask me about Michael, because I seriously have no clue what I’m supposed to think of him. He was interesting at first, until he became annoying too, especially when I couldn’t even make out what type of person he’s supposed to be.

And then there’s Solitaire.

In the book, Solitaire is supposed to be this top-secret group that brings ‘justice’ to teenagers (or something like that.) They’re oh-so-feared because they can play music on speakers without the school’s permission and hack the computers in the computer lab to have them type out a message in MS Word. (Also, uh…don’t schools networks have, like, firewalls or something?)

Am I the only one who found them extremely childish? And when the perpetrators were finally revealed, it just felt like an even bigger joke. And don’t even get me started on their final act. It just made all teenagers seem like immature delinquents who want to “get revenge” on society because of the “faulty education system”. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of education systems are messed up, and I’d love to see some change going on, but please tell me how Solitaire’s act was supposed to fix that.

I don’t think these characters realise how privileged they are. They seem to complain about everything (*cough* Tori and Michael *cough*). The teenagers in this book think they’re above all, that they’re doing everything right, that they’re so deep and real we should be idolising them. It’s sickening.

I think the main reason I stuck with this book was for Nick and Charlie. Now if the book was about them, that would’ve been awesome, because I felt like they really had a story to tell. (I know there’s a comic and a novella about them, but that’s besides the point.)

So, in a nutshell: haughty main character, ridiculous love interest, poor representation. Oh, and the fact that every teenager absolutely loathes school and wants to tear it down brick by brick.

That sounds accurate.

Have you read Solitaire? What are your thoughts?

Stay creative,

Angel

All Things Bookish | Review | Dear Martin

“You ever consider that maybe you not supposed to ‘fit’? People who make history rarely do.”

9781101939499

 

 

Title: Dear Martin

Author: Nic Stone

Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers

Genre: Contemporary / Young Adult / Race / Social Movements

Page number: 210

 

 

Synposis (from Goodreads)

Raw, captivating, and undeniably real, Nic Stone joins industry giants Jason Reynolds and Walter Dean Myers as she boldly tackles American race relations in this stunning debut.

Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates. Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up—way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack.


[3.5/5]

Dear Martin is a much-needed novel in everyone’s lives.

I’m actually in awe at how a mere 210 pages could have such a huge impact on me – this book is definitely a must-read because it keeps things real, and highlights the problem like it is.

Yeah, the writing isn’t the best; I wasn’t a fan of the dialogue-style writing that randomly pops up. And it does feel fast-paced.

But guys, this book is important. It will show you how easily police officers can abuse their power, how distorted the mindset of American teens can be, and how corrupted the justice system actually is. I’m glad that we follow this story from Justyce’s point of view, and not anyone else’s – he’s a smart kid with a lot to fear solely because of the colour of his skin. He’s conscious of all the discrimination that goes on around him, no matter how subtle or well-hidden it may be. Honestly? I applaud him for being able to stand in the same room with people like Jared. I had to refrain myself from punching the book every time a racist comment was thrown across the room.

I personally feel like the characters in this book are what really makes it shine. Sure, they all seem to be either righteous or evil at the start, but there is some phenomenal development that goes on later during the book – especially when you think about Manny and Sarah-Jane and Jared. Every character contributes into the story, every character has their own say in what happens. Watching Justyce battle through all that is incredibly emotional – you just wanna throw yourself into the story and help him. It’s not fair what he has to go through, and the relentless manner in which the court treats him is infuriating – highlighting exactly what goes on in our society today.

One under-appreciated character that I absolutely have to mention is Doc – Justyce’s teacher. The whole time, I felt like he doesn’t actually speak to the characters – he speaks to the readerAll those thought-provoking dilemmas and words of gold definitely help Justyce, but I also feel like they’re meant for the person holding the book. Doc raises such crucial points to keep in mind, and he tells it like it is – stating that yeah, the system is rigged against black people, and it’s extremely difficult to drastically change that, so the next step would be in deciding who Justyce chooses to be in a world plagued with hatred and discrimination.

The world is infuriatingly unfair; Justyce knows that. Stone knows that. Everyone who’s ever lived should know that (and it upsets me when I see that there seem to be a lot of ignorant white people out there.) It’s true that it’ll take a long time for change to happen, but it’s the little things that matter. We have to choose who we are in a world as unforgiving as this one. Dear Martin portrays that excellently.

Have you read Dear Martin? Do you plan to? Let me know!

Stay creative,

Angel