Review: The Loveless Princess by Lilian Bodley

I received an ARC via netgalley but all thoughts are my own.

★★★★

The first thing you should know about this short book is that I kept reading it in the car (don’t worry I was only a passenger!) despite my motion sickness and despite the Pokémon GO event with the 4x candies for your Pokémon buddy, y’feel me?

So I guess what I’m saying is that I was hooked from the first sentence. It’s not that the story was particularly original but it was gripping and really well written and I really wanted to know how the whole aro/ace thing was going to be handled. As it turns out, I think it was done pretty well (I’m not aro/ace but I believe this book is #ownvoices so I have to trust the author on this. Also from previous reads and research I felt like everything was handled well).

The plot was pretty simple but effective and to the point: Princess Anette is forced to marry Prince Everett from another kingdom, her parents won’t hear her reasoning and they don’t believe and don’t understand her when she tries to explain that she’s never loved anyone that way and she truly doesn’t believe that she ever will, and her parents keep telling her that she’ll find happiness through marriage. She reluctantly accepts to be married off because she’s an actual rational person unlike many book MCs and realizes there’s not much she can do that wouldn’t put her and her fiance’s kingdom at risk.
After she’s been married for a couple of days she finds out that her husband actually only loves men (that’s what I was hoping would happen tbh) and has a lover. When she sees them together, she gets mad because she was still holding on to the hope that despite her feelings so far (or lack of romantic feeling) she could grow to love her husband the way people expected her to, but if he loves someone else she sees that tiny hope disappear (I thought that was a bit of a weak plot point, but I actually reread that passage and while it’s a bit sudden and she seems to act a bit OOC I think her reasons actually make some sort of sense). She says some things she doesn’t fully mean, and the prince disappears, so she decides to go on a quest to find him since it was her fault that he disappeared.
This quest is full of fairy tale elements (the whole book actually is. It mentions a lot of tales/myths -some of which I haven’t even been able to identify because I’m not the most knowledgeable person when it comes to those) and the book makes it a point to make you understand that this story is set in such a classic, traditional world.

Now, I think that is great because that means that even in a classic, fairy-tale-like world, where Prince Everett’s grandma is literally the Princess form the Princess and the Pea and his mom is the Princess from Sleeping Beauty, aro/asexual and gay people and all kinds of people can exist and find their own place and they can make this world theirs. I think that’s definitely empowering and important and one of the things that made me like this short story so freaking much.

Another thing that was stressed out almost too much (but I never found like it was repeated too often or in the same context twice) was the idea that love/marriage and happiness aren’t two things that go hand in hand. This is stated in the book because the heroine is aro/ace but I feel like it’s an universal message and too often in books (and in life) there’s this silent acceptance of the equation love=happiness but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Even if you’re not aro/ace, you should reflect on this message because it’s true, you don’t need to find love to be happy (and finding love is nice but it doesn’t automatically make you happy on all fronts).

I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone for all the reasons I stated above (plus if you feel like you don’t know much about aro/asexuality but would like to understand it I feel like this book is a good place to start researching).

TW: attempted rape (I kinda skimmed that part, it wasn’t very graphic I think but it’s still important to point it out)

Review + Discussion: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

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★★★✩

 

This is one of those weird times when I wish star-rating disappeared because I don’t think I’ll ever feel completely comfortable with any rating I might give this book.
I originally gave it 4 stars, as I’m writing this now I think I want to leave out the star-rating completely and just use words instead for once. By the time I finished this review I feel like I want to give it 2,5 stars or something?? So I’m going with 3 official stars because despite my rant I mostly enjoyed reading this.

A few notes before you head into this review: most of the things I write are aspects of this book that I didn’t like. It’s much easier to point those out and rant about them than talk about the things I did like. I don’t think it’s just me, I think it’s a human condition to focus a lot more on the negatives than the positives. So if you don’t want to read anything negative about this book, leave now for your own sake, but know that I did overall like this book. I’ll point out the things I subjectively didn’t like and the things I think are objectively kind of shitty. Also, my tastes have changed a lot in the past year, so if you see my ratings for SJM’s books (they were all five stars at the time I read them) keep in mind that they might not necessarily be true anymore if I re-read those books now.

PLOT:

I think my strengths as a reader and reviewer don’t lie in judging (and summarizing lol) plots, so I’m going to leave it to other readers to do so. All I can say is that I think the plot made sense as a whole. There some slightly dull parts, and especially the beginning at the Spring Court was rather flat. I think we all expected a lot more drama there, and there wasn’t much of it. A lot of the plot was about preparing for war and discovering things/people/creatures that could come in handy once war started. I think some things could have been handled better.
I loved how some things were downright creepy, like Bryaxis, the Bone Carver and Weaver’s backstory, the Ouroboros, Amren’s story…until they weren’t. Come to think of it, her books (I’m extending this to ToG as well) are full of things that are creepy until they’re “humanized” or somehow made less scary. I do like this aspect most of the time but I feel like she might be overusing it a bit. I’d like some things to stay creepy for once.
As for the ending, it made me really emotional in a couple of points. A lot of how the war played out was very plot-device-y, but I’m not complaining about that. And as much as I’m overall happy with the ending, it didn’t seem very realistic.
There’s also a lot of minor loose ends, and I guess those will be addressed in the next books, but I appreciate that this series feels over and the next books will focus on different characters and not Feyre and Rhysand anymore. I think it’s really easy to drop this series now if you’ve been disappointed by it, and I appreciate that she didn’t end with a cliffhanger that would attract more readers to the next book.
As for me, I think I will continue reading this series, despite everything. I really care about the characters and I admit I’m curious about the world and how certain things will come into play (also I’m hoping at some point we’ll see some clear sign of how this and the ToG worlds connect, because afaik SJM said they are connected).

CHARACTERS:

I think SJM writes character really well…for a maximum of 2-3 books. She excels at secondary and side characters (though not in this book so much), but when it comes to MCs she can’t keep them up for more than a couple of installments. Their arcs and development are basically solved, in the case of this series, with ACOMAF.
I still really liked everyone, even when I don’t agree with things they do (see: Mor). If it wasn’t for the characters, I would have probably DNF’d this book pretty early. I only wanted to finish it because I needed to know how certain relationships would (or wouldn’t) develop, and that makes up for most of the disappointment I feel towards this book.

RELATIONSHIPS:

This was partially a mess.

Friendships are very well done in all her books. One thing I’ll always applaud is her way or portraying female friendships in all her books. There’s not enough of that in popular books and it’s such an important thing to have when so many books focus on girls and women being against each other.

However, the romantic relationships kind of sucked, and the problem lies in her writing (which I’ll address more in depth below).
SJM tries to build what she hopes is unresolved sexual tension while doing exactly the opposite. The constant (not) “sexy” comments, the innuendo…they worked the opposite of how SJM intended for them to work. She’s hoping to create chemistry between the characters, but I see none. Literally none. I haven’t re-read ACOMAF, so I don’t know anymore if this applies for that book as well, but here I only knew that Feyre and Rhys had to be a pair because they’re mates etc etc but I saw none of the chemistry and mutual understanding that makes me ship the characters hard. We’re told many times how awesome Rhys is, or maybe I should say that it’s always thrown in our faces. Well, I prefer discovering it for myself by being shown, thank you.
SJM can handle the “get together” part of a romantic relationship pretty well, but she fails at portraying established relationships in an entertaining way. She uses sex as the only way to “keep the ship alive” and entertain the reader when it’s clear that a couple is endgame, and she fails at that.

I don’t really know in what section of this review this should go, but…the sex scenes. The *inhales* sex scenes *exhales*. Just…no. They add nothing to the story. They’re gross. Literally every fanfiction smut I’ve read is better than this. Stop devouring or feasting on people. That’s cannibalism. In general, just stop with all the animalistic language, the purring and shit.
Also I think this is still being published as YA? Which is so wrong. I don’t have ANYTHING against sex in YA books, but it needs to be handled properly. By all means, have a semi-explicit sex scene. But write it delicately. Write it in a way teenagers can identify themselves with. This is not it. Imagine being 16 or 17 and reading this, being told that sex is always animalistic and dirty and can happen literally at any given moment, nevermind that you’ve just killed and seen people being killed in battle merely minutes ago. Seeing weird metaphors being used instead of calling genitals for what they are. How do you not get grossed out? How do you not get scared/disgusted by sex? Hell I’m in my twenties and even I got grossed out.

I’m really sad that SJM chose the path of adding smut to every book she writes since ACOMAF. I’m all for sex-positivity but writing smut doesn’t necessarily mean that. If you do write it, it needs to be well written. This is by no means it. It’s self-indulgent, it’s pure fanservice and I worry about the view of sex it gives younger people.

WRITING:

I definitely grew a lot in the past year as a reader and as a reviewer, and there’s nothing that proves it better than reading an author you used to think was perfect and finding her writing mediocre at best. Wow. More than that, There’s a few things that she definitely used to not do before, and now she does. Like the “no question mark” policy she started to adopt in EoS.
Here’s the thing: stop writing questions without a question mark. You’re not on twitter or tumblr. If you want the question to have a certain feel to it, say, “X said in a flat tone” or something like that. Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t even need to do that. Readers are intelligent beings and can pick up a mood from the context without you constantly feeding them every.single.thing.

Another thing that she does the whole freaking time is this structure:

verbless sentence + … + sentence referring to the first sentence

Such a structure…that’s only okay once in a while, not every single page (<– see what I did there?)
She also trails off with a lot of her sentences, especially when explaining or pointing out things.

And that’s another problem. She explains and describes too much. She leaves almost nothing to the reader’s imagination, which is also wrong when using a first person PoV. If you pay attention, you’ll see that Feyre seems to describe the faces and expressions of everyone in a room, while also saying that she keeps her gaze upon one single character. Uhm, do you have eyes behind your head, Feyre? How does that work exactly? Well, it doesn’t.

Something that seems to annoy a lot of people are words like “mate” and “male/female”. I don’t find them particularly appealing, but I’ve just accepted that that’s what I’m going to get whenever I read a SJM book. You can find the whole concept of mates stupid or ridiculous I guess, or you can find it beautiful and romantic. I’m right in the middle, in that I don’t really care about it one way or another. I just accept it as part of the world building, like the fact that Fae and magic and other creatures exist, and move on with my life. But I do agree that the word “mate” was often used as a substitute for Rhys’s name when using it wouldn’t even have been a repetition, thus making it really unnecessary. As for male/female, it kind of makes sense because she seems to keep “man” and “woman” for humans, so she needed different words for Fae. I don’t know, it’s not my favorite thing either but I can see how it makes sense.

That’s it for my review, but I want to discuss the LGBT+ REPRESENTATION in this book. I won’t hide anything under spoilers in this section, so if you don’t want to find out about certain characters’ sexuality, stop reading right now.

It’s clear that SJM listened to readers when they wished for more lgbt+ representation. There are a few different points and I hope to touch them all in this review. I’ve been much slower than basically everyone else in reading this book so I guess I’m late to the party, and I didn’t read any discussions while I was reading the book because I wanted to go in the book completely blind. Still, I managed to gather what the main discussion points were:

Is this book acephobic?
I don’t think it inherently is, but if ace people have found this particular sentence

perhaps any sort of physical passion had long ago been drained away, alongside their souls.


harmful, I respect them and their feelings and I’m in no position to tell them they’re wrong. But, from a strictly rational and linguistic point of view, I do not think that that sentence implies a correlation between being soulless and being on the ace spectrum.

Is there LGBT+ representation in this book?
Yes, there is: one secondary character, three side characters and two “barely there” characters are on an LGBT+ spectrum.

Is the LGBT+ rep good?
For the most part, I think it is. I mostly liked how, except for a secondary character, there seemed to be no issue with the fact that someone is gay/lesbian/bi. In both this and the ToG world, same sex relationships are never frowned upon, nobody has anything against anyone for wanting to have sex with whichever gender they want to have sex with. The only problem, that only the secondary character faced, seems to arise when someone is expected to bear children because they need an heir for political/diplomatic reasons.

There is, however, one side character whose sexuality is handled really poorly. Helion, High Lord of the Day Court, is pan/bisexual, and apparently the only way that SJM thought of to show that he likes both (or all) genders, is to have him hit on every single character present at that moment, with very NOT subtle innuendos and straight-up invitations to a threesome/orgy. Right, because bisexuals don’t face enough stereotypes from both straight and homo people, let’s portray them as people who are always horny and always want to have sex with both genders, PREFERABLY at the same time! *rolls eyes* (To be honest, the always-horny seems to be a flaw in SJM’s character description, no matter if straight or bi).
This was honestly really disappointing and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read that part. It’s truly the only harmful part of this book that I could detect and I freaking hate it. How did nobody tell SJM she needed to edit that whole thing? It wouldn’t have taken much and she could have spared bisexual people yet another disappointment and awful representation.

However, I quite liked how the “coming out” of Mor was handled. As I said before, she seems the only character whose coming out was tough, but it made sense if you’ve read it. I’m not sure if it continued to make sense for five hundred years, and I’m really sad because she treats poor Azriel like shit because she can’t bring herself to being honest with him. The thing is, I don’t have to like everything she does, because I accept it as a (pretty big) character flaw. But flawed characters are my favorite kind of characters, so I still really like her. I think it’s pretty clear that SJM changed Mor’s sexuality between ACOMAF and ACOWAR to adapt to her readers’ demand, so I applaud her for that. I also like that it’s Mor, who is always portrayed as very feminine, to be the one who likes girls more than guys. A lot of people complained that it should have been Amren “because of her physical features”. People, do you even think before you speak/write? Geez.
(Also, I’ve seen someone confused about Mor’s exact labels… I think the terms that would best apply to her would be “bisexual homoromantic”, in case anyone was wondering and/or identifies with Mor’s sexuality but didn’t know the exact words for it. Of course, this is what I got from reading it, but I think it should be pretty accurate.)

“I’m so pissed!!!1! My ship sunk because one character is on the LGBT+ spectrum!!!1!1!!!”
🙂 deal 🙂 with 🙂 it 🙂
Do you know how many ships sink daily because a character is (or usually both characters are) straight? Yeah. So just be sad but don’t take it out on the LGBT+ representation or on the bi character.

 

Well that was long. It seems that I can either post no reviews at all or one really long-ass one with no in-between.

Anyway, I’d love to hear everyone’s opinion on this book, especially regarding the discussion part!

ARC review: Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

I was provided an early copy of this by Netgalley but all opinions are my own.

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★★✩✩

I really liked some parts but other ones either didn’t make any sense or they were just boring. The only reason I hurried to finish this was so I could be free to read something else and because being in a BR I felt motivated to keep up with my BR partner, but most of the time all I wanted to do was…basically anything that wasn’t reading this.

It was a story with so much potential that I can’t help but feel really sad and disappointed because some things were very poorly executed in my opinion.

Let’s start with Mariko’s character. We’re told she is really smart and clever, and within the book she “invents” shuriken, grenades (?) and possibly other things that I was too confused to really get, but we actually aren’t shown how intelligent she is. Ahdieh deliberately decides to have Mariko invent those things but as a reader that didn’t affect my perception of her as a rather bland character, and not a particularly smart at that.

From her reasons to stay with the Black Clan (so that she could…somehow save her name from “shame” in her family’s eyes…by camping with a group of men…mmh okaaay?) to her acceptance of things that she should probably have questioned (the animal in the forest?), she did not read like a very smart character.

She only shines with a couple of important quotes, but those aren’t enough to make me love the book (or her character as a whole). Still, it’s important for younger readers to see these messages in a book.

I will not be bandied about by men any longer. I am not a prize to be bought or sold.

Was is always necessary for boys to prove they knew more than anyone else around them?

She remembered Chiyo telling her that finding one’s match was like finding one’s other half. Mariko had never understood the notion. She was not a half. She was wholly her own.

Something else I liked was how the other few female characters were portrayed.

Mariko nudged the handle of her spoon with a bound fingertip. “Are you ever angry you were born a woman?”
Yumi sat back on her heels and studied Mariko for a spell. “I’ve never been angry to have been born a woman. There have been times I’ve been angry at how the world treats us, but I see being a woman as a challenge I must fight. Like being born under a stormy sky. Some people are lucky enough to be born on a bright summer’s day. Maybe we were born under clouds. No wind. No rain. Just a mountain of clouds we must climb each morning so that we may see the sun.”

Among the many things I would have liked to see, was Mariko and Kenshin’s relationship. Siblings’ relationships are one of the things I most enjoy reading about since I’m an only child, and since Mariko and Kenshin are twins I was hoping to get a lot of their relationship. Even though they don’t really interact in the book since they are separated, we get a few hints of how their relationship and their differences might be, but not enough to make me feel whether or not they have a strong bond or not. So this is another reason why I’m disappointed in this book. I’m sure it will be explored more in the second book, but I wish it had been built earlier on.

Another thing that completely failed in my eyes (and it was probably the worst aspect of this book for me) is the romance. At first, I didn’t see who the romance was going to be about. I had some ideas and I was wrong about my first thoughts (don’t worry though, there’s no love triangle). I was actually hoping that for once there would be no romance (even though I’m a sucker for it), because I didn’t really ship anyone. Well,that’s not entirely true, since I did ship a couple that ended up being just a brotp.

(I haven’t seen anyone complain about Ahdieh’s lack of LGBT+ portrayal even though there was none in this or, as far as I remember, in TWATD. I’d be interested to know why we only “attack” certain authors but not others for this, but that’s a discussion that I don’t feel like having in a review)

Anyway, there was no romance for most part of this book, and then it just…was there. And I didn’t feel it. Not only was I not given time to ship it, it also felt boring and I didn’t like how it suddenly happened.

The romance and the discovery of Mariko’s gender are two things that go hand in hand in the book, and it’s something that bothered me endlessly. The way Mariko was finally found out was so over-used and unimaginative that I just couldn’t believe my eyes. There was a lot of potential there and it just vanished within half a scene. I’m so disappointed and pissed. I’d say more but without the option to hide spoilers I don’t want to, though you can read this review on goodreads if you want to open that spoiler tag.

Reading the rest of the romantic plot I felt like I had to turn a blind eye to the fact that I hated the way it developed. Again, there were a couple more nice quotes,

“You are first and foremost a person. A reckless, foolish person, but a person nonetheless. If I ever say you are not permitted to do something, rest assured that the last reason I would ever say so would be because you are a girl.”

but I never loved it.

The world building felt quite genuine (although many Japanese terms were used without an explanation – at least not in the ARC version. I think the published book will have some sort of summary at the end like TWATD) but I didn’t get the use of the magic. It was very similar in this to TWATD but it bothered me more. We’re shown a glimpse of magic that is never explained and just confused me. I’m sure it will be explored more in the next book but I don’t like this approach.

I think it’s still worth to give this book a try if you loved TWATD. I might request the ARC of the next book whenever it’s on Netgalley but I don’t think I’ll be purchasing it with my money.

Review: The Search for Aveline by Stephanie Rabig and Angie Bee

I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

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★★★★✩

This book is really hard for me to rate. I’ve settled on the rating I feel represents my feelings the most, but I’m going to try and rate things separately because I feel like it’s necessary:

Enjoyment: 10/10
Characters: 8/10
Plot what plot?: 4/10
Technical stuff: 3/10
Writing: 7/10
Romance: 7/10
Diversity: FIVE BILLIONS/10

(Note that not all points have the same weight in my eyes)
As you see, I was able to completely enjoy this book even though I was aware that some things could have been done better.

Let’s get the bad/average stuff out of the way first:
What I called “technical stuff” basically comes down to one major thing: the PoVs in this book were all over the place. The thing is, they’re so many (I’ll talk about this in the characters section of this review), but that’s not the problem at all, at least for me. The problem is that while each chapter focuses on one/two or a handful of characters at most, it’s never really clear whose PoV it is. Very rarely I got a sense that the narrative was third person omniscient, it seemed more of a case of third person limited where the PoVs switch a lot within the chapter, without a clear separation, and, what’s worse, sometimes that even happened within the same sentence.
Look, not everybody will care about this, but the way my brain works, once I learn about these things (I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t even know about this stuff not too long ago) I just can’t unsee them, you know? There’s just something reassuring in knowing that the whole chapter will be from X’s PoV.

Despite this, I managed not to get too distracted by it and I was able to focus on the characters. I say characters because the plot was pretty much non-existent, but if you know me, you’ll know that I usually love character-driven stories, and this was certainly one of those.

The thing is, the characters in this book were so many and sometimes so random that in theory, this book shouldn’t work. But in reality? It works. At least for me. I wasn’t bored once, I was never confused despite the endless amounts of point of views, even when it wasn’t entirely clear at first how some new characters fit into the story. It was also not always plainly clear whether something was a flashback or not, but it was overall understandable given the context.
This is also a rather short book, and because of that I felt like there was no time to make each character more well-rounded and layered, but what was shown on-page was still a decent exploration of each character’s background, experience and feelings.

This bring me to my next and favorite point, and where I personally think this books shines, and another reason why in theory it shouldn’t work but incredibly it does: the diversity was a.m.a.z.i.n.g., and as I was reading I tried to write down a list of diverse rep within it because it was all too much to keep in mind:

Sexuality/gender:
✓Asexuality
✓Aromanticism (?)*
✓Demisexuality
✓Bisexuality
✓Homosexuality (male and female)
✓Heterosexuality (very little tbh)
✓Pansexuality (?)*
✓Polyamory (?)*
✓Gender fluid character

Faith/beliefs:
✓in God (Catholic)
✓in science and evolution
✓no faith (atheism) [and let me just add that the number of times I, as an atheist, have felt represented in a book were very, very few, and I was so happy to see an atheist character here]
✓not sure (agnosticism)

Mental illness:
✓Bipolar disorder (?)*
✓Depression

As well as various types of disability and all kinds of skin color/ethnicity.

(You should keep in mind though, no sexuality label was actually used within the book, since it takes place in the late 1800s -I’m not exactly sure when, and I might have caught at least one historical inaccuracy, but what can you do-. Still, the various sexualities and genders were pretty much understandable and I tried to narrow them down to labels because I think it’s useful if someone reads this review and wants to know whether they’ll feel represented.)

*(The (?) are because I’m not exactly sure about those.)

As you can see, that’s really a lot. If someone had told me that all those things, especially all the different sexualities, would have fit in a short book like this one, I would have thought it couldn’t possibly work. While you won’t find an extensive study on all of those (though I think quite decent explanations were given about asexuality, demisexuality, gender fluidity and depression), it’s still amazing how the authors managed to squeeze all of that in this tiny book. Sure, there wasn’t space for much else, like an actual plot, but it was refreshing to read about such different point of views, and at the same time I never felt like this book was used as a dump to “show off” how diverse you could make it. The different stories and backgrounds fit together quite well and to me this should be the selling point of this book.

All in all, this was pretty much a whole lot of romance (there’s so many pairings I can’t even count them all off the top of my head to be honest), but they all felt different from each other and I was never bored or felt like things got repetitive.

To wrap this up, here’s another brief list of things that I loved:
• predominantly-female pirate crew;
• Healthy! Communication! Between! The characters!
• everybody respected each other’s boundaries;
• the women were such role models;
• the men/males too;
• basically everyone was amazing for different reasons tbh;
• the different fantastical creatures were interesting and fit well within this otherwise-historical world.

All in all I would say that if you usually love character-driven plots there’s a high chance that you’ll be able to love this book as much as I did!

Review: How to Be Happy: A Memoir of Love, Sex and Teenage Confusion by David Burton

I was sent this book as an ARC by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

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★★★★★ 

(maybe more like 4,5 stars)

Goodreads synopsis:

A funny, sad and serious memoir, ‘How to Be Happy’ is David Burton’s story of his turbulent life at high school and beyond. Feeling out of place and convinced that he is not normal, David has a rocky start. He longs to have a girlfriend, but his first ‘date’ is a disaster. There’s the catastrophe of the school swimming carnival – David is not sporty – and friendships that take devastating turns. Then he finds some solace in drama classes with the creation of ‘Crazy Dave’, and he builds a life where everything is fine. But everything is not fine.

And, at the centre of it all, trying desperately to work it all out, is the real David.

‘How to Be Happy’ tackles depression, friendship, sexual identity, suicide, academic pressure, love and adolescent confusion. It’s a brave and honest account of one young man’s search for a happy, true and meaningful life that will resonate with readers young and old.

First off, let me start by saying that if this had been fiction instead of a memoir, probably my rating and my feelings towards this would be slightly different. But because the events in this are real, I don’t feel like it’s my place to judge or even comment on the author’s actions and thoughts, especially when he was a teen.

I really liked the way this was written. It was very straightforward and easy to read, even when the themes it featured were all but light and easy.
I’m not the best person to write a complete list of trigger warnings for this, but I feel like if one’s going to read this, it should be clear that self harm and suicidal thoughts/attempts are mentioned in this book.

The reason why this is not a full 5 stars for me is that the title might be a bit misleading. I never expected this to be a guide on how to be happy, but I feel like, given the title, the part that actually talked about happiness (or not) should have been slightly longer. Instead, it felt a little bit rushed, but it was certainly informative and it made for a good epilogue and offered valid pieces of advice.

Something that could bother someone is the lack of a definite label on the author’s sexuality. I don’t know if he now has found a label he can identify with, but all attempts of labelling himself in the book resulted in actually mislabelling. By the end of the book, he didn’t mention any sexuality-related terms anymore, and I feel like this could be confusing for someone reading this and expecting to find a set definition of the author/character’s sexuality. I understand if that’s how others feel, but as someone who believes that sexuality is (or can be, for some people) fluid, it actually felt refreshing to me to see how one can decide not to stick to any set rule or label if they feel like those don’t apply for them.

Keeping everything I said in mind, I’d certain recommend reading this book. It might surprise you just as much as it surprised me.

 

 

Webcomic review: Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu

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★★★★

Some of my favorite stories feature a good amount of angst, moral greyness and Bad Things, and I honestly don’t think I could ever give that up.
But sometimes you need to immerse yourself in a world that’s positive and that shows you that good things can exist, and not everything has to be complicated (irl and in literature) to be good.

Check, Please! is the book comic that has reminded me of this.

There is only one key word here: healthy.
This is by no means set in a fictional world where Bad Things don’t happen, but they (have) happen(ed) off-screen and the relationships portrayed are actual goals.

The story follows Bittle, ex figure skater (can you hear my heartbeat?) turned hockey player, as he joins his new university team. Everyone on the team is all kinds of ‘swawsome (that’s a word) and they make him feel welcome.
Later on, love blooms between the protagonist and one of his teammates and the way their relationship is shown could be renamed “Healthy relationship 101”. It shows all kinds of different situation that normally (in most media) would be the origin of some drama, and instead turns them into a teaching moment (without being patronizing). Because, guess what, most situations are easily dealt with through communication!

That’s basically what this whole story is, it’s obviously very character driven (I live for those) and it can fill your whole day with positivity, which is only a good thing until you’re forced to face reality again.

Other things I loved were both the art (it’s just so adorable and colorful and every drawing has a ton of tiny details – I’m sure it takes a lot of time to draw each one!) and the humor (even though sometimes it references something of American culture -I suppose?- that I’m not familiar with, so I don’t get every single joke, but it didn’t bother me).

Oh, have I mentioned the story is completely free on Tumblr?? It’s also not over yet (this review is written after the episode “Dinner at Marty’s?”) and I absolutely can’t wait to read the next update!
If this ever goes into printing I’m also definitely buying it because this artist deserves to be supported.

(Also I first found out about this comic thanks to Jess @ beaucoupbooks so I want to publicly thank her for bringing it to my attention ♥)

Review: Peter Darling by Austin Chant

I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

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★★★★

Release date: today! (Feb. 15th, 2017)

Goodreads synopsis:

Ten years ago, Peter Pan left Neverland to grow up, leaving behind his adolescent dreams of boyhood and resigning himself to life as Wendy Darling. Growing up, however, has only made him realize how inescapable his identity as a man is.

But when he returns to Neverland, everything has changed: the Lost Boys have become men, and the war games they once played are now real and deadly. Even more shocking is the attraction Peter never knew he could feel for his old rival, Captain Hook—and the realization that he no longer knows which of them is the real villain.

TW: suicide attempt, improper use of personal pronouns (I don’t know if the latter counts as triggering but better safe than sorry?).

Let me get something out of my system first of all:
W
O
W
Okay, now that that’s out of the way: wow. I was completely blown away by this short book, which was a couple of firsts for me: mainly first trans story and first Peter Pan retelling.

Actually, I have to admit I didn’t know the first thing about Peter Pan, that is, if you don’t count the Disney cartoon, which I’m going to assume is not a very accurate representation (and even though I loved that cartoon as a kid, I kind of grew to hate it and its story over time).
Despite this, the premise of this book sounded like something right up my alley, and I’m glad to confirm that it was indeed a perfect book for me.

I just love retellings that turn the stories upside down and make them new with refreshing ideas, and the fact that in this book Peter’s assigned identity was Wendy made me click that request button on Netgalley so freaking fast.

As always when I’m feeling so hyped about a book, I’m also really scared once I do get to sit down and read it. What were my particular fears for this one?

– since it’s such a short book, I was really afraid that the romance (or the whole story) would have felt rushed (I was really dreading the much-hated insta-love);
– I thought that not knowing the original story would make me like this book less.

Well, I’m glad to say that both fears had no ground to exist.

First of all I want to address the pacing of this book: it’s only 140 pages short, so I really thought there would no room for things like subtlety and introspection, but it managed to give me both of those, together with everything I look for in both a fantasy and a romantic book.

The fantasy: while the essence of Neverland’s magic itself wasn’t explained, there was a very satisfying explanation for at least part of the things that happened there (it’s kind of a plot twist so I won’t go into detail)
I also loved how the fairies were described as having different shapes and colors and the role they played in the story (they mainly served to move the plot forward but they were also interesting enough that I was genuinely curious to find out more about them), and the other mythical creatures like the merpeople and the kraken were such good additions to this story.

Peter’s backstory: having read the blurb, one already knows who Peter used to be, but it’s something that gets gradually revealed in the first part of the book, and in a very delicate way, at least in my opinion. I know the author is trans himself so I trust him to have done a good job in this particular aspect. Not having experienced the struggle of a trans person, I still found myself crying in certain parts of the book and I felt real pain whenever Peter’s brothers or parents called him with his birth name and used the female pronouns to talk to/about him.
As per author’s decision, there is no big reveal/coming out between Peter and Hook, and I think that worked out amazingly.

Peter realized he was waiting for some kind of probing curiosity in return-some remark on what Peter sounded like, or worse on his body-but James’s only encroachment on the subject was to say, “Your shirt has seen better days. Would you like one of mine? Assuming all my clothes haven’t been eaten by moths.”
All at once it became easier to breathe. “Yes,” Peter said. “Please.”

The romance: let me demonstrate in .gif form my feelings about the romance:
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You can’t expect me to be rational about my absolute favorite romantic trope (enemies to lovers). Plus we all know I have a thing for pirates, right? Right.

“I win,” he panted, grinning. He slowely lowered his sword to aim at Hook’s heart. One thrust, and it would be over. Peter wet his lips with his tongue. “This is it. You’re mine.”
“Am I?” Hook asked, as Peter drew back his sword. “Or are you mine?”

This romance was perfect and healthy. It wasn’t too sudden or rushed, I genuinely felt like it had reason to exist and I loved everything about it.
For example, I love how Hook seems to understand Peter in that way that sometimes only your enemies tend to do.

“I find that enemies are the most satisfying people to share secrets with,” Hook said. “If you must tell someone, tell someone who’s sensitive to all your vulnerabilities, on account of trying to exploit them.”
“That doesn’t make sense.”
“I’m making excuses for you,” Hook said impatiently. “You seem like the type to bottle up without an excuse.”

Both my BR partner and I were squealing so hard and honestly I’m glad I wasn’t reading this alone because I was in serious need to vent my feels™ about these two.

“Obsession?”
“Is that not what they call it,” Hook said, “when two men can think of nothing but each other?”

Other things I enjoyed:

The pacing: it was mostly consistent throughout the book and, while I noticed that things were kept as brief and as necessary as possible, it didn’t impact my reading experience (I’m one who usually prefers a slower pace). There was even some room for exploring a little bit of a secondary character (Ernest) and I quite enjoyed that.

The (eventual) dual PoV: if we don’t count the prologue, we get some chapters from Hook’s PoV only after The Twist happens, and I think that decision was spot-on. I really think his PoV allowed us to enjoy the romance a lot more and to see Peter under a different light.

The last thing I want to say is that this was a perfect story to read on Valentine’s Day ♥

As you can see I loved loved  l o v e d  this book and I’ll make sure to keep an eye on the author’s next works.