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All Things Bookish | Review | I Was Born For This

“I think the truth is that everyone in the entire world is confused and nobody understands much of anything at all.”

"I Was Born for This" book cover

 

Title: I Was Born for This

Author: Alice Oseman

Publisher: HarperCollins

Genre: Contemporary / Young Adult / LGBTQIAP+

Page number: 395

 

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

For Angel Rahimi, life is only about one thing: The Ark – a pop-rock trio of teenage boys who are currently taking the world by storm. Being part of The Ark’s fandom has given her everything – her friendships, her dreams, her place in the world.

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci owes everything to The Ark too. He’s their frontman – and playing in a band is all he’s ever dreamed of doing. It’s just a shame that recently everything in his life seems to have turned into a bit of a nightmare.

Because that’s the problem with dreaming – eventually, inevitably, real life arrives with a wake-up call. And when Angel and Jimmy are unexpectedly thrust together, they will discover just how strange and surprising facing up to reality can be.


🧕 – Muslim & Arab Reading Month #2 (this book features a Muslima hijabi MC!)

[4.5/5]

Trigger warning: panic attacks.

Alice Oseman is a gift to this world that we don’t deserve. I’m so glad I decided to start over after the disaster that was Solitaire, because honestly, it was so worth it. First there was Radio Silence, which is too amazing for words (but you can check out my attempt in my review!) and now I Was Born for This. Needless to say, if there’s another book she’s planning to write (*slides Alice ten dollars* please OuO) you bet I’m running to the bookstore to get it.

I feel like this book is meant for especially a certain group of people, and that’s fans. It doesn’t matter what you like: books, music, movies, shows, etc.— this book is for you because it explores the ups and downs of being in a fandom.

Fereshteh “Angel” Rahimi, an Iranian Muslima hijabi, is obsessed with a band called The Ark. She knows how adults would look down on her for that; they think she’s a lifeless, lonely teenager with nothing to do, so she chooses to spend time on some “teen boy band” instead. But to Angel, The Ark isn’t just a band—they’re like guardian angels who’ve descended from the sky to spread love and happiness in the world. She takes one look at them and instantly believes that love is possible, that hope is a thing worth holding on to. It’s why she ships two members of the band together; the ship name is called ‘Jowan’. And she’s not the only one. Almost the entire fandom wants them to be together, and the sad part is that they don’t even realise how much this pressure and obsession is impacting the band members themselves.

Before moving on to the band members, I’d like to say that the rep is really well-done. I love how the book isn’t about Angel being Muslim, but it’s simply part of her. It’s who she is and it’s not made to be a big deal every two pages. Also, running and fearing that your hijab might fly off any second? Most relatable Muslima thing ever. Been there, done that.

(Also, brownie points because Fereshteh and I have the same alias, what!)

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci, an Italian-Indian gay trans guy with an anxiety disorder, is one of the members of The Ark. There’s also Rowan Omondi who is Nigerian (hence “Jowan”—Jimmy+Rowan), and Allister “Lister” Bird, one of the two bisexual characters in this book.

Jimmy loves Rowan, but not in the way the fandom wants him to. He just likes their friendship and is reassured by the fact that he has a shoulder to cry on when things get tough. His anxiety really tires him. The paranoia he goes through at seemingly ‘random’ moments in this book was actually very relatable; I’ve had similar fears and worries, sometimes out of literally nowhere. Anxiety does that—it makes you scared all of a sudden, makes you get irrational thoughts and obsessively worry about the littlest things. I related to Jimmy a lot in this book and I’m so happy that he’s treated so well.

While the fans only see the happy, talented boys in public, they don’t realise what really goes on behind the scenes because Jimmy, Rowan and Lister are very good actors. They paint a smile on their faces every time they’re on stage because they know they can’t be anything but what the fans want them to be, and that’s a really upsetting thing to think about. This book really explores the price of fame and what it means to have people be obsessed with you to the point that they would willingly violate your personal space just to get closer to you. All of this pressure from the fans and the tension between them has The Ark members really jumpy. Their relationship starts to become more fragile, the trust between them easily breakable because of misunderstandings and stress. I love the way this impacts their dynamic because it’s so realistic.

The way Angel’s and Jimmy’s stories clash pleasantly surprised me. I was terrified it would be something cheesy or predictable, but in reality, it fits well with the plot and characters. I loved the relationship between them; it’s an unlikely friendship but you know that it’s one that will stick, no matter the distance between them, no matter the days that go by where they don’t talk.

We also have Bliss Lai, a Chinese-white bisexual, who kicks so much ass by just being herself. I loved her character. She becomes a very important person in Angel’s life and someone she learns a lot from. She’s also hilarious and a queen among queens, so, really, how could anyone hate her?

Have you read I Was Born for This? Would you like to? Let me know!

Stay creative,

Angel

 

"The Ship of the Dead" book review banner

All Things Bookish | Review | The Ship of the Dead (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #3)

“Heroes never get to be ready, do we?”

Title: The Ship of the Dead

Series: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard (#3)

Author: Rick Riordan

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Genre: Fantasy > Mythology / Young Adult / Middle Grade

Page number: 423

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Magnus Chase, a once-homeless teen, is a resident of the Hotel Valhalla and one of Odin’s chosen warriors. As the son of Frey, the god of summer, fertility, and health, Magnus isn’t naturally inclined to fighting. But he has strong and steadfast friends, including Hearthstone the elf, Blitzen the dwarf, and Samirah the Valkyrie, and together they have achieved brave deeds, such as defeating Fenris Wolf and battling giants for Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir. Now Magnus and his crew must sail to the farthest borders of Jotunheim and Niflheim in pursuit of Asgard’s greatest threat. Will they succeed in their perilous journey, or is Ragnarok lurking on the horizon?


🌙 🧕– Muslim & Arab Reading Month #3 (this book features an Arab-American Muslima hijabi!)

[5/5]

Rick Riordan’s books hold a special place in my heart because they’re what got me into reading. I don’t think it’s possible for me to hate anything he writes, like, at all.

I think this series is, hands-down, one of the best he’s written. I know people classify his mythology books as Middle Grade, but honestly, they work great for YA too. Or, you know what, this book is suited for ALL AGES. *slides it into the nearest old age home*

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard is one of my favourite series of all time, right next to Percy Jackson and the Olympians. It’s packed with diversity, hilarious action, lovable characters, and even has a talking. Sword.

A TALKING SWORD.

I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW I NEEDED THAT UNTIL THIS SERIES.

In this final installment of the series (*SOB*), Magnus and his friends are faced with yet another challenge: stop Loki’s Naglfar – The Ship of the Dead – from setting sail and starting Ragnarök before its time.

This review may contain spoilers from the previous two books, so read at your own risk!

Magnus Chase

“I was a healer. I didn’t cut people. I put them back together.”

I love my soft sunshine boy to death. After everything he’s been through in his life: the lies he lived about who he actually was, homelessness, having to go on two separate quests that almost cost him his life (er, his afterlife), he comes out believing that he’s not going to stoop down to his enemies’ levels. He’s a healer, not a fighter.

This is one book that makes use of words rather than weapons when fighting your enemy. It shows that you don’t always have to bust out your guns and battle axes to win a fight. (I mean, yeah, they do do that, but hey, if another option’s available, all the better.)

I think Magnus learns more about himself and the world around him when he’s dead rather than when he was alive. As a homeless kid, you couldn’t blame him for being bitter and cynical about everything. He had nothing besides his two friends, Hearthstone and Blitzen, with him. But after becoming an einherji and accustoming himself to afterlife in Valhalla, he soon realises that a completely new world has opened up to him, and we’re not just talking about Norse mythology here. He meets all sorts of different people, of different skin colour and religion and gender orientations. He becomes more open-minded and learns to let more people into his life. And once he does, that’s it —you’ve got yourself a friend for life. Magnus is fiercely loyal.

I know that some people think he sounds a lot like Percy’s narrative voice, but actually, I can tell them apart better now. I feel like Magnus gains his own voice throughout the series.

Samirah al-Abbas

“I think the hardest thing we can ever do is see someone for who they really are. Our parents. Our friends. Ourselves.”

SAMIRAH IS A QUEEN.

A BADASS HIJABI VALKYRIE QUEEN.

WHAT HAS THE BOOK COMMUNITY DONE TO DESERVE SUCH A HEROINE??

The representation starts here, folks. An Arab-American Muslima protagonist in a fantasy novel. See, it’s not so hard.

Sam is honestly too pure for the bookish world. Despite being bullied at her school, called a terrorist because of her hijab, told to “go home” (she was born in the U.S. by the way), and dismissed as a Valkyrie because of her parentage at one point, she still sees the best in people. She doesn’t let her past nor her mistake define her. She holds on to her faith strongly and fights with bravery that could rival that of hundreds of Vikings.

There’s something so empowering about this, to finally see a Muslim girl of colour being represented so well. It’s so clear that Uncle Rick has done his research properly. And the fact that the events of this book take place during Ramadan! Samirah’s not only slaying giants and riding water horses and training to fight her father, but she’s doing it while fasting. (I was fasting while reading the book too, so that was cool.)

Also, as a Muslim myself, I can confirm that neither dwarf nor elf meat is halal. Just sayin’.

Sam’s crush on Amir is so cute?? And fluffy?? And heart-warming?? It was so refreshing to see a sweet romance that relied more on feelings rather than physical contact. I will probably never get over this halal romance because, uh, how can I? Amir is my son and he deserves all the love in the world. He cares for Samirah so much and that clearly shows. (Also, he makes falafel. This is a man of dreams, fellas.)

Alex Fierro

“And you have to flaunt the weird, my friends.”

I know, like, fifty Alex’s, all from different books, but honestly? Very few can share the top spot with my queer latinx queen Alex Fierro.

Alex Fierro is a force to be reckoned with, an unstoppable storm. She’s transgender and genderfluid, and she’s not afraid to announce it to the world. He’s proud of who he is, no matter who dares look down on him for that (they’d be asking for death by decapitation, really) and, yes, she ‘flaunts the weird’ indeed.

I still can’t get over how absolutely cheeky and adorable Alex is. We also find out that she still holds on to her Mexican heritage and remembers her abuelo, much to the disapproval of her “butt-hat” father (Magnus’ words, not mind, but hey I totally agree). There’s a lot of depth behind her character, and her development is truly one of the best I’ve read. I especially liked her approach to the romance sub-plot. FierroChase is one of the purest ships ever for the sole reason that it’s not rushed, nor is it forced. In fact, Alex actually asks for space to think about it, which I loved. I don’t see many characters doing that. His maturity really shows.

Also, this:

“Alex perused the titles on the bookshelves.

‘Anything good?’ I asked.

He shrugged. ‘The Lord of the Rings. Not bad. Sylvia Plath. Nice. Oh, The Left Hand of Darkness. I love that book. The rest…meh. His collection is a little heavy on dead white males for my taste.’”

“HIS COLLECTION IS A LITTLE HEAVY ON DEAD WHITE MALES.”

CAN I—

HUG??

(No, never mind. I’d rather not have a garrote wire be the last thing I see.)

Moving on to the plot—I really love Uncle Rick’s pacing. You never find any of his books to be ‘slow’ (at least, from what I remember), because there’s always stuff happening that keeps you on your toes. We have the quiet, emotional moments where we can see character developments, and those are always placed at the exact right time. Usually just before the action. Maybe some people thought the ending was ‘anti-climactic’, but not me. This was a creative twist on Uncle Rick’s part, and Magnus was so sweet and pure omg!!

As much as I’d love to write essays about the rest of the characters, I don’t wanna make this too long, so I’ll leave little tidbits instead!

Hearthstone “Hearth”

“Sometimes you lie to deceive people. Sometimes you lie because you need the lie to become the truth. I guessed Hearth was doing the latter.”

*screams* HEARTH MY CHILD!! MY ADORABLE ELF BABY WHO MUST BE PROTECTED ALL COSTS!! *wraps him in a fluffy blanket*

Is there a rune that makes you sob uncontrollably? Because yo, Hearth must have cast that on me or something.

Also, Hearth is a deaf elf, and I think the rep was wonderful! I really wanna learn ASL now.

Blitzen “Blitz”

“I am not dying in this outfit!”

Our fashionable mama hen dwarf. (WHAT IF HE AND ALEX TEAMED UP TO MAKE A FASHION LINE THOUGH??) I love him to death, and his friendship with Hearth is one of the best things about this book.

Thomas Jefferson Jr. “T.J.”

“You can’t hold on to hate forever. It won’t do a thing to the person you hate, but it’ll poison you, sure enough.”

DID I MENTION THAT THIS BOOK ALSO HIGHLIGHTS RACISM AND THE STRUGGLES THAT BLACK PEOPLE GO THROUGH?? AND DESPITE THAT T.J. REMAINS THE LITERAL EPITOME OF SUNSHINE AND RAINBOWS?? MY CHILD!

Oh, and let’s not forget the writing style. Anything written by Uncle Rick is the opposite of boring, guys. This book is filled with hilarious commentary and it had me laughing out loud multiple times. He does an excellent job of drawing you into the plot with simple wit and humour.

“I always say, Eat chocolate first, destroy the world later.”

That’s my life motto now guys.

What are your thoughts about this series? Let me know!

Stay creative,

Angel

All Things Bookish | Review | I’ll Give You the Sun

“A broken heart is an open heart.”

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Title: I’ll Give You the Sun

Author: Jandy Nelson

Publisher: Dial Books

Genre: Romance / Contemporary / Young Adult / LGBTQIAP+

Page number: 371

 

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

At first, Jude and her twin brother Noah, are inseparable. Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude wears red-red lipstick, cliff-dives, and does all the talking for both of them. 

Years later, they are barely speaking. Something has happened to change the twins in different yet equally devastating ways . . . but then Jude meets an intriguing, irresistible boy and a mysterious new mentor. 

The early years are Noah’s to tell; the later years are Jude’s. But they each have only half the story, and if they can only find their way back to one another, they’ll have a chance to remake their world.


🏳️‍🌈 – Pride Month Read #5

[5/5]

Trigger warning: Suicide attempt.

*screams* THIS BOOK IS EVERYTHING I COULD HAVE EVER WANTED AND MORE!! It’s a quirky novel bursting with rainbows and confetti but also ANGST. (*dramatic music*)

(SELF-PORTRAIT: Angel crying tears of stardust)

I’ll Give You the Sun is a magical book. The writing is musical and artsy and nothing less than pure creativity. I like how it takes you by surprise, just springing up all this prose out of nowhere, but its suits the characters’ thought processes so much that I adored it.

This book revolves around a pair of twins: Noah and Jude, who love each other deeply, but are not immune to ugly, green jealousy that bubbles under the surface, threatening to explode. They wreck each other, but they also strive to fix their mistakes—especially Jude.

“She scoots over so we’re shoulder to shoulder. This is us. Our pose. The smush. It’s even how we are in the ultrasound photo they took of us inside Mom and how I had us in the picture Fry ripped up yesterday. […] When I don’t draw us like this, I draw us as half-people.”

The sibling dynamic is so freaking realistic. It’s so sad how Jude and Noah each feel as though their parents have favourites. Noah is convinced that their father prefers Jude, and Jude realises that her mother possibly loves Noah more than her. This causes a lot of stress and envy between them that it eventually explodes and causes them to do terrible things to each other. Thus begins our conflict.

☀️ Noah Sweetwine

“You’re remaking the world, Noah. Drawing by drawing.”

Oh. My. God.

I’ve met very few characters that can match Noah’s unique and artistic narrative voice. He’s got these little quirks that are simply adorable! He compares his mother’s soul to a sunflower, turns people into animals to showcase their characteristics…he basically speaks in art. That’s how much it means to him.

Noah also deeply cares about his family, even if he doesn’t show it. He cares so much that he goes to great lengths to keep it together after it almost falls apart; he doesn’t want to lose more people than he already has. He’s just a kid who wants his own happy ending even when things around him are crumbling.

“Because I can see people’s souls sometimes when I draw them, I know the following: Mom has a massive sunflower for a soul so big there’s hardly any room in her for organs. Jude and me have one soul between us that we have to share a tree with its leaves on fire. And Dad has a plate of maggots for his.”

…Okay, well, maybe he doesn’t like his dad a whole lot, but hey, that’s perfectly understandable considering how he acts towards him. *shrug*

Noah knows he likes guys. Can he tell anyone? Not really, considering he gets constantly bullied anyway. But everything just seems to fade when he falls in love with Brian; my adorable son who loves space and meteors and stars and that’s just so cute??

“He carries pieces of the galaxy around in a bag.”

Brian and Noah hit it off real good. They both understand each other, they look out for each other. Two boys in a wide, scary world; but they are unafraid. (Or, at least, they don’t show it.)

The romance is so delightful?? And endearing?? They click together so well and although their story is full of bumps, their character arcs are cleverly-portrayed and well-written. You can see how much they’ve changed over the years and how they learn from their mistakes. There’s a lot of pain and misunderstanding, but there’s also unfathomable love deep inside them that they can’t contain and IT’S. FREAKIN’. CUTE.

“I love you,” I say to him, only it comes out, “Hey.”

“So damn much,” he says back, only it comes out, “Dude.”

I know I’m including too many quotes but this book is so quotable, okay? I CAN’T GET OVER NOAH OR BRIAN OR THEIR ROMANCE AND I HONESTLY NEED MORE OF IT!!

☀️ Jude “CJ/Calamity Jude” Sweetwine

“It’s time for second chances. It’s time to remake the world.”

Ah, Jude. Jude, who has a very complex childhood, filled with emotions and peer pressure and the desire to prove her mother wrong, that she can be as good as she wants her to be, instead of just the kid she accidentally leaves at a museum once. (Er, was it a museum or…?)

Jude makes a lot of mistakes in her early teen years, there’s no denying that at all. But she tells the second half of the story, so we learn how regretful and upset she is about what she’s done, about how she struggles to make it right. Seeing the consequences of her actions breaks her every time, and, in search of a solution, she goes to an eccentric Colombian artist and asks him to tutor her. (Their relationship was so touching and so hilarious at the same time, I loved it.)

Jude deeply believes in everything her superstitious grandmother left her before she died; instructions for good luck and solutions to heart-break and how to tell if someone loves you in a “Bible” that she wrote. Jude will readily put onions in her pocket and slip strange rocks under her pillow if her grandmother instructs her to. (By the way, she talks to her grandmother’s ghost throughout the book and I find that so upsetting. She misses her so much that she can’t let go. *sobs*)

How to get over heart-breaking character scenes:

you don’t.

But her grandma’s hilarious, seriously. Just look at this:

“She continues. ‘You look like that fella, you know, whomsamacallit, Reece’s Pieces.’

‘Eminem?’”

Then Jude meets Oscar, and everything is a spiral of confusion and tears and unconditional love from there. This boy is one hot mess but you can’t not love him. He’s witty and flirty and incredibly daring, yet so lost. He messes around and does stupid stuff to take out his grief,  but after meeting Jude, he realises that he really does need to mend his ways for good. It shows that even the most broken people can turn over a new leaf.

“A little bit of this. A little bit of that. Brown eye. Green eye. Crooked nose, crooked mouth. Lunatic smile. Chipped tooth. Scar here, scar there. It’s a puzzle.”

Their romance is such a wild ride but it also has these sweet and slow moments where they open up to each other. They both have regrets and wish to turn for the better, and they’re both so important in the other’s character development. I loved the take on the concept of soulmates too! I know it’s sorta cheesy but I find it to be such an intriguing concept when done well, and Jandy Nelson has definitely done it well!

Basically, I’m trash for this book, and I’m so happy Hana and Ellie told me to read it (no, no, they were actually like “*gasp* YOU HAVEN’T READ THIS??” so I did the light-reflecting-off-glasses-anime-thing and said “WATCH ME” but, you know, same thing) because this has so quickly climbed its way to the top of my “beauties-of-2018” list!! It’s so good it shines like glittery…confetti…or something. (Oof, that sounded better in my head. Better leave the fluttery descriptions to Noah and Jude.)

Have you read I’ll Give You the Sun? How did you feel about it?

Stay creative,

Angel

All Things Bookish | Review | Anger is a Gift

“It’s like people want me to be this version of a person that isn’t me. Like, always ready to fight and march and rally, and I don’t even get to be myself.”
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Title: Anger is a Gift

Author: Mark Oshiro

Publisher: Tor Teen

Genre: Contemporary / Young Adult / LGBTQIAP+

Page number: 463

 

 

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Six years ago, Moss Jefferies’ father was murdered by an Oakland police officer. Along with losing a parent, the media’s vilification of his father and lack of accountability has left Moss with near crippling panic attacks.

Now, in his sophomore year of high school, Moss and his fellow classmates find themselves increasingly treated like criminals by their own school. New rules. Random locker searches. Constant intimidation and Oakland Police Department stationed in their halls. Despite their youth, the students decide to organize and push back against the administration.

When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or realize that anger can actually be a gift.


🏳️‍🌈 – Pride Month Read #4

[5/5]

Trigger warning: racism, police brutality, violence, murder.

You know how schools make it obligatory to read books like Pride and Prejudice and Julius Caesar?

Well, if this book isn’t on every school’s reading list soon enough, I think I might flip a table.

Anger is a Gift is the story of Morris Jeffries Jr., often called “Moss”: a black, gay kid who wants to live a normal life. His anxiety disorder worries him enough (and I honestly loved that rep, especially because I could relate to it so much) so he definitely doesn’t want to go looking for trouble. Unsurprisingly, though, that’s precisely what he gets: trouble on top of more trouble on top of more trouble.

Seriously, the world is a messed-up place.

This novel has the widest range of diverse characters I’ve ever seen! Besides Moss, we have a whole list of characters that are part of a minority community:

✨ Esperanza – lesbian

✨ Javier Perez – Guatemalan; gay

✨ Njemile – Nigerian; lesbian

✨ Shawna – bisexual

✨ Reginald “Reg” Phillips – disabled

✨ Kaisha – asexual

✨ Rawiya – Muslima

✨ Bits – non-binary

I was absolutely thrilled. While there are a lot of characters to catch up with, each of them has something unique about them that make them memorable to the readers. Not a lot of authors can pull that off, that’s for certain.

The events that go down in this book are downright terrifying, there’s no other way to put it. Moss and his friends are harshly discriminated against. Their very lives are put in danger. Some would say that this book borders on dystopian, but really, I wouldn’t put these atrocities past corrupt law enforcers. We live in a world where children of darker skin colour are labelled as “thugs”, where women who choose to wear the hijab are told to take it off, where disabled people’s needs are hardly ever catered too. This is practically an everyday reality, so I would say that nothing that happens in this book is far-fetched at all.

I’m really happy this book exists because it puts you on the spot. Expect no sugar-coating and no beating around the bush here. You will see racism, queerphobia, sexism, Islamophobia—the whole ugly deal. And you know what? I’m glad this book is long because it takes the time to address these issues.

This book talks about how crucial it is for us to make a stand, to take action; and more importantly, for privileged people to recognise the advantages they have and use it to help others. It’s a sad truth, but their voices will be heard more than others. That’s just how sick the world is.

Moss’s school is a messed-up place. It feels like the whole world is against them. It can’t even bother to provide proper equipment and new textbooks. Kids have to resort to sharing tattered books, or illegally downloading them on their devices. The situation is so bad that even the teachers are complaining. And the sad truth is that many schools are like that. Moss and his friends have to go through so much just to earn a basic education.

“So, the big question is,” said Moss, “do we go to a prison or a school?”

At one point, their school announces “random” locker searches. If you’re like me, then you rolled your eyes at that. We all know how “random” this is going to get. In a nutshell, if you’re not white—tough luck, buddy. You’re suddenly – *gasp* — a suspect. Heck, a student gets assaulted over meds. The next day, metal detectors are installed, and another student gets injured. The next thing you know, the police are involved, and the whole thing is just one big mess that endangers student lives. Some of them actually die. How terrifying  is it, going to school to study but returning with blood all over you? With bruises and cuts because the law that’s supposed to protect you is actually what’s hurting you?

This book is a masterpiece among masterpieces. It portrays the struggles of marginalised people so well. Although the characters will never be the same after the events in this book, they come out stronger than ever and it’s so heart-warming to see them take a stand for themselves and their loved ones. Friend for friend, mother for son, partner for partner. 2018 is looking so good with books like these.

Have you read Anger is a Gift? Would you like to? Feel free to let me know what you think!

Stay creative,

Angel

All Things Bookish | Review | Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit

“Some minds can’t be changed, no matter how much reason and humanity you throw their way.”

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Title: Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit

Author: Jaye Robin Brown

Publisher: HarperTeen

Genre: Contemporary / Young Adult / Romance / LGBTQIAP+

Page number: 419

 

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

It’s going to take a miracle for Joanna Gordon to get through senior year.

Despite being the daughter of a well-known radio evangelist, Jo has never hidden the fact that she’s gay, and her dad has always supported her. But that was back in Atlanta. Now her dad the reverend has married wife number three, and they’ve all moved to small-town Rome, Georgia. When Jo’s dad asks her to lie low for the rest of the year in the hopes that it will help him and his new wife settle in, Jo reluctantly agrees.

Although when God closes a closet door, he opens a window. Everything becomes so easy for Jo once she rebrands herself as a straight girl. No one gives her odd looks. Her new stepfamily likes her. She even gets in with the popular crowd.

And that’s how she meets Mary Carlson, the ultimate temptation. Even though Jo knows this girl is completely off-limits, she just can’t get her out of her mind. But Jo couldn’t possibly think of breaking her promise to her dad. Even if Jo’s starting to fall for Mary Carlson. Even if there’s a chance Mary Carlson might be interested in her, too. Right?

Lord, have mercy.

Jo’s in for one hell of a year.


🏳️‍🌈 – Pride Month Read #3

[2.5/5]

Trigger warning: homophobia, ableism.

This is one of the books that I’m kinda…meh about. It was on my TBR for a while, and then I decided to pick it up for Pride Month because why not?

Now, the lesbian rep was great. I found the relationship between Jo and Mary cute—it wasn’t too fast, they had their meaningful moments, and they generally supported each other.

The one thing I didn’t like about their romance was the conflict itself. It seemed to spring up from nowhere. The reason Jo and Mary even have these difficulties between them is because Mary keeps trying to force Jo out of the closet (which Jo can’t do because her father told her not to for the sake of his new wife’s homophobic family apparently; also, don’t force someone to out themselves!), which causes Jo to keep unnecessarily lying to her, while fully aware of the fact that Mary hates being lied to.

I was just confused throughout this because a lot of tension and drama could have been avoided had Jo simply sat Mary down and told her everything. Simple communication could have solved her problem, or at least avoided the consequences of her lying.

This book, however, does tackle homophobia, so that gives it plus points. Joanna faces her fears and stands up to her homophobic family—including other jerks—which I found empowering.

Other than those little good tidbits here and there, everything else was average. The plot was predictable: girl meets girl, girl likes girl, girl and girl get in relationship, conflict, self-reflection, resolution, happily ever after. It’s like every other YA contemporary out there.

But my main problem is with the way B.T.B., Mary’s intellectually-disabled twin, was treated. This book does not rep intellectually-disabled people well. There are a bunch of reviews that can explain this better than I do, like Natasha’s. (I do recommend you check it out, it’s very eye-opening feedback.)

B.T.B.’s disability, first of all, is never directly named. All we know is that, while in the womb, his sister’s umbilical cord wrapped around his throat and caused brain damage. I really, really don’t like how the characters treated him. B.T.B. is degraded, seen as simply a “child”, and sometimes even as a burden. Jo herself makes a comment upon meeting him, saying that she doesn’t think he might be in her honours classes. How cruel can you get?

The rep itself, as I mentioned, isn’t proper to begin with, which angered me because anyone unaware about intellectual disabilities will get the wrong idea while reading this! He’s portrayed as a child in a teenage body. This is not how intellectual people are and Natasha explains this very well—they can learn to drive, they have friends, they have their own lives to live. It really bothers me when a disability is badly portrayed in a book, because this only further spreads misconceptions about it. If you’re going to rep a disability, do it right. Research, and most importantly, talk to people with these experiences. B.T.B. could have been portrayed in a much better way, but he sadly isn’t.

Have you read Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit? Let me know what you think!

Stay creative,

Angel

All Things Bookish | Review | Radio Silence

“We are going to bring beautiful things into the universe.”
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Title: Radio Silence

Author: Alice Oseman

Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books

Genre: Contemporary / Young Adult / LGBTQ+

Page number: 403

 

 

 

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

What if everything you set yourself up to be was wrong?

Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside.

But when Frances meets Aled, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom. He unlocks the door to Real Frances and for the first time she experiences true friendship, unafraid to be herself. Then the podcast goes viral and the fragile trust between them is broken.

Caught between who she was and who she longs to be, Frances’ dreams come crashing down. Suffocating with guilt, she knows that she has to confront her past…

She has to confess why Carys disappeared…

Meanwhile at uni, Aled is alone, fighting even darker secrets.

It’s only by facing up to your fears that you can overcome them. And it’s only by being your true self that you can find happiness.

Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has.


🏳️‍🌈 – Pride Month Read #2

[4.5/5]

I’ll admit that I was kinda nervous when I first started this book – I didn’t want a repeat of Solitaire. But when my adorable buddy Romie practically spammed me to read it (possibly the only spam I shall forever be thankful for 👀) I figured I’d give it a shot.

And give it a shot I did.

No, actually, I could not stop reading it and somehow finished it in under 24 hours and was even surprised that it was over.

“It’s finished? It’s done? What?? I DEMAND A MEMORY ERASURE SO I CAN EXPERIENCE ANOTHER ROLLERCOASTER OF EMOTIONS PLEASE.”

This is a very important book to read during Pride Month (okay, maybe too late to say this since it’s almost over, but STILL) because not only does it feature various members of the LGBTQ+ community, but it also features LGBTQ+ POC and that’s such a rare thing to find for some reason?? Or am I just reading the wrong books??

Anyway, the characters in this book almost had me in tears, okay. This isn’t just a “casual” read. NO. YOU ARE GOING TO SOB AND LAUGH AND PROBABLY GO MAD WHILE READING THIS BUT IT’S JUST THAT GOOD.

Okay I’m gonna move on to the characters before I make even less sense. 🙈

Frances Javier: biracial (British-Ethiopian); bisexual

Frances is one of our main protagonists and the character who narrates the story. She’s smart, she’s quiet, she’s diligent.

There’s something about Frances that many students – especially the ones afraid of anything less than perfection – can relate to. Considering the academic standards we have to live up to, I was practically bursting with joy at the fact that it’s finally in words, but also lamenting the enormous burden on our shoulders and thinking about the unbelievable amount of pressure we have to endure.

Frances doesn’t seem to care for much – she eats, she studies, she sleeps. Repeat. And the studying part is what her life mostly revolves around. When in school, she puts on a separate persona, “School Frances”, because education systems basically dictate how your life is supposed to be: study hard, graduate high school, attend university, graduate, get a job, start a family maybe. Frances is the picture-perfect student that schools would probably beg to have, so she believes she’s got all that in the bag. All her friends keep telling her how she would easily get into Cambridge, or any other prestigious university.

What they don’t know, however, is that Frances has two things she secretly loves to do: listening to her favourite podcast, “Radio Silence”, and drawing fanart for “Radio Silence”. It’s a hobby she can’t share with anyone, mainly because no one’s ever heard of the show, and because she’s embarrassed about what they’d think of her. This may be weird to say, but I related to that a ton; if your fandom isn’t one of the mega-famous ones that everyone knows and loves, somehow you’re made fun of for it. It’s really annoying. As long as it’s harmless, why shame people for liking what they do?

I love Frances’ character development. Her whole perspective on life changes when she meets Aled. Her thoughts on university, studies, family, friendship…you’d think it would be difficult for someone who has a seemingly planned-out life ahead of them to think of any alternate path, but Frances will surprise you for sure.

Also, Frances’ mom. Her mom, guys. I mean, what a queen. I love that lady.

Aled Last: demisexual

I don’t know where to start with my soft demi boy Aled. If I had to summarise his character for you in one line (which is like impossible but I’ll give it a try okay??) I’d say he’s like that one nerd friend everyone mocks but is actually secretly extremely talented, and WHOEVER YOU ARE, YOU’RE MISSING OUT ON HIS CREATIVE GENIUS.

Are there even enough words in the English language to properly express my love for this precious child?

Aled is the person behind “Radio Silence” – Frances’ favourite podcast. He’s shy, he’s insecure, and it’s clear that he suffers from depression. It’s written in such a heart-breaking way that you can’t help but want to reach in and hug him tight and never let go. Aled has a hard time making friends, and in between releasing episodes for his podcast, discovering his sexuality, coping with his sister’s disappearance and trying to survive his mother’s abuse, he almost loses himself. He goes through a lot throughout this book, lashing out at multiple points because of all the pressure build-up and the fact that he’ll inevitably have to attend university at some point, despite really not wanting to.

He has to also struggle with people telling him that he’s “ungrateful” because he doesn’t want to go to uni. They say that there are some people out there who can’t even afford basic education, and he’s complaining about not wanting to go to uni?

I somewhat agree with this – we should be grateful for the fact that we can attend school and go to university and receive proper education while lots of children cannot. We should strive to help them learn and get educated.

But at the same time, there’s a breaking point—not everyone can settle for a life of lectures and studying. Sometimes, someone’s creativity can run so wild that a mere education system can’t contain it. Aled is happiest when he’s making episodes for “Radio Silence”. He’s incredible with the voices, clever with the plot, astounding with the editing. He’s not just good at it; he’s excellent to the point that he gains millions of fans around the globe. You can’t help but root for him, and I was more than satisfied with the ending. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, but most things in life aren’t. We can only move on to do better things and cope with our struggles with the help of our family and friends.

Frances’ and Aled’s friendship is pure gold, guys. I love how they so easily break down the “if-a-girl-and-a-guy-are-friends-they-must-fall-in-love” stereotype. They complete each other in every way; they’re each other’s emotional support. They both know how weird the other is and they love it. They’d gladly show up at the other’s house at the ghastly hour of two a.m. to give them math lessons (no, seriously, where can I find myself a real life Aled??) and ugh they’re just so precious okay? MORE PLATONIC BOY-GIRL FRIENDSHIPS PLEASE.

Daniel Jun: South Korean; gay

My smart, studious child. He might have possibly broken my heart more than Aled did (I know, “*gasp* how??” but I’m telling you.) He’ll make you sob like a baby and that’s mainly because of that one scene.

For those who’ve read the book, you’ll know what I’m talking about. *wails* MY POOR CHILD DOES NOT DESERVE THIS PAIN.

Daniel is, in a lot of ways, very similar to Frances. He knows he has to work hard to get into the university he wants, and although his parents don’t seem to care much for Cambridge, he refuses to let that put him down and takes it very seriously, almost to the point that it’s actually kinda funny. His relationship with Frances goes from competitive to hilarious, especially when they’ve got the whole “he was my friend but now he’s your friend too and he’s not talking to both of us, WHO’S FAULT IS IT??” going on for them. For real, though, they would both die for Aled and they know it. It’s interesting to see that he’s the main reason they start talk and get to know each other, which eventually blossoms into an unlikely but welcome friendship.

Daniel is a character who has a “mask”, you could say, that he uses to hide how he truly feels. It seems to slowly weather away as the story progresses, and he strives to help and understand Aled better so he can keep him happy. And if that’s not true love, then hey, I don’t know what is.

Daniel is basically my Grumpy ChildTM and I wouldn’t trade him for the world. FIGHT ME ON THIS ONE.

There’s even more rep to go around, fellas: Carys, Aled’s twin sister, is a lesbian, and Raine Sengupta, Frances’ friend, is Indian. The whole group’s friendship dynamic is complicated and realistic, and I love how the ending is just perfect. Not too ‘happily-ever-after’ (I mean, is there even such a thing?) and not too ‘AND-THEY-ALL-DIED’ either. (Does that make sense? No? Dammit. This book whacked all the sense out of me, okay?)

So, yep, you should definitely give this book ago. Plus the chapters are so short and I find that adorable??

Have you read Radio Silence? Would you like to? Let me know!

Stay creative,

Angel

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.


🏳️‍🌈 – Pride Month Read #1

[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