NOW I RISE: Book Review

This book…… may have destroyed me a little bit.

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So I absolutely loved And I Darken when I read it a few months back. One of the biggest critiques that I have seen about it is that it can be rather slow paced. And yeah, it is pretty slow, but I never found that to be a problem because the story was so solid. If you found And I Darken slow…. well, you might want to stop reading now.

Because Now I Rise is slooooooooooow. 

At least at the beginning.

I found the first 100 pages or so extremely difficult to get through. I read it, but I wasn’t absorbing it. Once the plot picked up, I even found myself having to flip back to remember who certain characters were and how they were introduced into the novel. I mean, ask me what happened at the beginning, and I’m going to be able to tell you nothing. It was bad.

But then it picks up. I love And I Darken, but now I love Now I Rise even more.

What makes these novels excellent is the characterization. There are characters here that I have never seen before. The relationships are fleshed out and complicated, and I love how different yet similar they all are.

Lada is relentless and completely savage. I love her burning desire, and as much as I love her, I can’t wait until it consumes her entirely. She is such a strong female character, and one who does not renounce her identity as female but proves that she can be woman and strong. In fact, all the women in this novel are strong and ambitious and so much more than the world tries to tell them they are. I admire every one of them.

And Radu… oh, Radu. I hope for only happiness for you. Radu is extremely important to this series, for he is the heart of these novels. He is everything Lada is not, but a lot more similar to her than I believe anyone is willing to admit. Without Radu, the novel would be too harsh, with Lada making hard decisions fearlessly. Radu, on the other hand, struggles with every decision he makes, and is entirely morally grey. His choices and allegiance vary based on the situation as he tries to be “good” but comes to realize there is no such thing. Radu deserves love and happiness, even if he doesn’t believe so himself.

I eagerly anticipate the next book because, honestly, I don’t know how much better it can get, but I know it’s going to. The ending is wonderful, and leaves you craving so much more. I can’t wait to get my heart torn apart. Again.

5 stars out of 5

RELEASE: A Book Review

If you like slice of life stories with a bit of a twist, then you gotta read Patrick Ness’s Release.

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People will tell you that not much happens in this book (untrue). I almost want to say that too much happens– because a lot happens within less than 24 hours– but that’s the point of the story: it’s about the extraordinary in the ordinary. Our protagonist, Adam, begins thinking that today is going to be just another day. Instead, Adam is torn apart, bit by bit, as every piece of his life is unraveled until he finally reaches– you guessed it– release.

It’s kind of great.

What makes this greater is that there are actually two narrative storylines going on in this text. Ness played with the idea of the phenomenal story being told in the background in The Rest of Us Just Live here, and he plays with it again in Release. While Adam is living a “normal” day (it’s not normal) something extraordinary is happening in his sleepy little town, but he’s entirely unaware. It makes Adam’s story seem a lot more special in some way, and when the stories eventually link up (because you know they do), it makes everything feel…. magical. Fulfilling. Like this was how it was always meant to be.

This book is a character study. Through it, we learn all about Adam Thorn, and we don’t learn much else. I love that. I love the focus on the singular, and I love how it’s not told through a very personal, diary-esque first person narrative. Instead, we read the story of Adam, or at least, as much of it that can happen within a day.

The best chapter is the first chapter, but it’s also the worst chapter. I say this because I am a fan of Mrs. Dalloway, and the first chapter is very Virgina Woolf. It’s superb, and anyone who has read Mrs. Dalloway is clued into it right away (parallel opening lines, anyone?). However, it is also the worst chapter because I feel like the text hasn’t found its voice yet. If you’re reading the first bit, and not getting into it, I strongly suggest you keep reading. It gets easier, and better, once both Ness and Adam find their narrative voice, and the text stops being a homage and becomes something unique and special.

Because all Ness novels are unique and special.

Now, I guarantee someone, somewhere, is going to try to ban this book. There are sex scenes and they are somewhat explicit. It’s something that probably would have made me uncomfortable as a young teen, but it’s something that by sixteen or seventeen, I would have loved to read, just to have it represented. Especially gay youth. SUPER important representation for them.

Overall, I thought this book had the trademark Ness quirky-ness but in a much more sophisticated voice than a lot of his other works. I definitely recommend it to fans of the every day and to people who don’t have it quite figured out just yet, but are working hard towards that moment of release.

3 stars out of 5.

THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE: A Book Review

Historical LGBT+ is the best genre, sorry, I don’t make the rules.

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Ah, what can I say about The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue? I could say that it’s an important book, not because the protagonist is a bisexual male, but because it bothers to show this side of history at all. LGBT people have always existed, hidden within the pages of history, and this book lets them thrive even while showing how, yes, it was a very dangerous and scary life to live at times.

(Don’t worry, there’s a happy ending).

I could say it’s a fun book, filled with adventure and sticky situations. Maybe it’s not as crazy adventurous as I expected it to be; instead, it’s a bit more realistic in its insanity, and the situations they find themselves in seem rather plausible. It’s a great roadtrip-style narrative, one that you feel like you could love. And with just a touch of magic, the story flies off the page. I found myself easily flipping through chapter after chapter to get to the end to figure out how they get through the mess they’ve created for themselves.

That mess includes one of the best romances I’ve read in awhile. Is there anything better than double unrequited love? Monty, the protagonist, moons over his best friend, Percy, and is very open to the reader about his affections– which he considers unrequited. HOWEVER it’s very clear to the reader — and any character with eyes– that this love might not be as unrequited as Monty thinks…. It’s frustrating to watch these boys stumble and hurt over a love they think could never be returned, but deliciously so. Their love story is one for the ages.

Monty, I should mention, is a conceited asshole, but of the type you can’t help but love. Percy is soft with rough edges. And Felicity is a beautiful genius who deserves the world. The only thing better than these characters is watching them grow into their skin and develop to become even better people. It’s beautiful, frankly.

So in case you haven’t noticed, I really loved this book. I’d like to personally thank Mackenzi Lee for writing historical lgbt+ YA fiction– the world needs, needs!, more books like this.

I have no bad words for this book.

5 grand tours out of 5

PETER DARLING: A Book Review

When I first heard about this book, I laughed. I’m not laughing now.

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Okay, so, when I first found Peter Darling, I kind of laughed out loud when I read the premise. It sounded kind of ridiculous: a love story between Peter Pan and Captain Hook? What kind of book is that? Then I read the summary again and… wait. Peter is Wendy? I shook my head and closed the tab.

But then I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

I had to read it.

The brilliance of Peter Darling is the idea that Peter Pan is the true identity of the boy the world insists on calling Wendy.  Trans Peter is absolutely beautiful, and makes complete sense in the world created within the pages, where Neverland is a refuge for the rejects and outcasts of the world. It’s the only place Peter felt like he could be Peter, and not Wendy everyone insisted he was. It’s beautiful. 

There’s so much that goes on within this short book. There’s this soft trans narrative, the pain of growing up and becoming who you really are, and, of course, the love story. Now. I was surprised with how delicately and naturally the love between Peter and Hook emerges. It feels genuine and sweet and honestly? I kind of love it. A lot.

Yes, this book is short, and that feels like its biggest flaw. While I would have loved more, at the same time, I’m glad it ends where it does. The pacing can be fast, but it still feels real. Nothing felt “sudden” or unexpected to me and I felt that what needed to be said was said, and said beautifully, within these short pages.

I shouldn’t be surprised that I loved Peter Darling, but I am. This book accomplished what every rewrite wishes to: it makes me few it as equivalent to the original, and potentially canon, too. Trans Peter is definitely a ship I’m hoping on; just call me captain.

4 fairies out of 5.

NOWHERE NEAR YOU: A Book Review

Rendered speechless from this work of perfection.

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How do you review a book you consider absolutely perfect? Nowhere Near You is the sequel to Because You’ll Never Meet Me, one of my favourite novels. Now, BYNMM did not require a sequel: it ended in a way that felt satisfying and yet open, so the characters could live on in your mind. In fact, I loved the ending and praised it, even when those on Goodreads didn’t. Yet, when I saw Nowhere Near You in the store, I jumped around and clutched it to my chest, over-eager to read it.

Because You’ll Never Meet Me didn’t need a sequel, but I’m so glad it has one.

Nowhere Near You picks up right where the first left off and doesn’t miss a beat. It feels less like a sequel and more like a continuation. Everything I loved about the first carries on, and most of it is elevated. There’s so much more in this one: more love, more friendship, more mistakes, more mystery. More confusion. More hope. More heart.

I loved everything. I loved the plot. I love the adventure, and the secrets that creep in the corners of the pages. I love the mistakes Mo and Ollie make, and I love how their friendship evolves into something beyond. I love the new characters: every single one of them shines bright and is lovable in their own unique way.

I love the ending.

If I thought Because You’ll Never Meet Me ended perfectly, I was wrong. This is the ending Mo and Ollie deserve. I’m crying thinking about it.

Perfection, perfection, perfection.

This might be my favourite book of 2017.

Sorry this review was so lame. My heart is full of too much love and adoration to see any flaws this book might have.

There is nothing better than a satisfying ending to a beautiful story.

5 letters out of 5. 

WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS: A Book Review

This may be the most dreamy book I have ever read.

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Reading When The Moon Was Ours feels exactly like falling into a dream. It took my what felt like ages to read this book (it didn’t. It took me 3 days.) but that was only because it was a story I wanted to fall asleep into it. It reads like a lullaby, gently taking you off into a far away, but familiar, world.

Reasons to read this book:

  1. You like magical realism
  2. You like trans love stories that aren’t all about being trans

I really don’t know what to say about this book. I really liked the atmosphere; I found that to be the strongest part of the novel. It really did feel like falling into another world, one where dreams and magic are possible (but who says they aren’t in this world?). I love the way McLemore incorporates legend into the story of Miel (side note, but I love her name). I love her prose, and how full of nature it is without feeling overwhelming. It just feels… magical. But most of all, I love her delicate treatment of Samir.

Samir is a boy who was born under the name Samira, but soon decided to live as a boy in order to be the man of the house to support his mother. Samir, or Sam, believes he is expected to resume living as female once he is an adult, which he is fast approaching at age 17. This is Sam’s main plot, but Sam is also deeply involved in Miel’s plot: this is a love story.

And oh, what a beautiful love story it is. McLemore is very honest and open about her own life, and that of her trans husband, and this makes the entire story feel very personal and intimate and beautiful. The love between Samir and Miel is so soft and is treated so gently. I love that Sam is allowed to unapologetically be the male romantic lead, and I love that the fact that Sam is trans does not hinder their love in the least. The love between them is love, pure and complicated and beautiful. Nothing more and nothing less.

There are so many love stories in this book: the love between family members, the love for one’s self, the love shared between souls. Each one is so gently told, it’s hard not to fall in love yourself.

What a beautiful, soft story this is.

3 roses out of 5.

MORE HAPPY THAN NOT: A Book Review

My heart hurts.

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More Happy Than Not is Adam Silvera’s first novel, but I read his latest, History Is All You Left Me first. I’m kind of disappointed I did, because History is a masterpiece and I don’t know if it’s a story Silvera can ever surpass. Happy is not History, but it’s still a story that surprised me and hurt me in the best way possible.

More Happy Than Not is clearly inspired by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (my favourite movie) but it isn’t a replica, and because of that, the twists and turns still left me breathless. Without revealing anything, I will say that I should have seen the plot twists coming, but I didn’t, and that is what ended up leaving me with tears in my eyes at the end. The seeds of History are planted deep into this novel, and there are a lot of similarities not in plot, but in tone and format. The biggest similarity is the feeling of deep sadness is that drips off of every page of the text, and stabs you in the chest right when you least expect it to.

I really don’t know what to say. I finished reading about an hour ago, and the wound is still raw for me. The thing is, I knew I would be sad, and I knew it would make me cry, but that didn’t stop it from hurting. What’s even worst is that despite how much everything hurts right now, I wouldn’t change a thing about this story. There was no other possible outcome, and nothing else would have been satisfying. It is masterfully told.

The thing about this sadness is that it’s a needed sadness. It isn’t a book that is sad to be sad, or that gives you a sugar-sweet happy ending just to satisfy that desire in all of us for happiness. It’s a book about finding happiness within yourself, and how sometimes, we have to hurt to find out what happiness is.

And boy, oh boy, do I hurt.

It’s clearly a novel that leaves a message to the reader, and I do hope that all those who read it understand what is being said. I don’t mean to scare you away by talking about how sad I am: my intention is to show you the affect Silvera is able to evoke in me. It hurts because it feels real, and it feels real because it’s a story we can all relate to.

The pursuit of happiness is difficult, and it’s a journey we all take. And sometimes, just sometimes, we achieve it, but it takes a lot of pain. I just hope that we can all find ourselves more happy than not.

5 memories out of 5.