Carry On

enhanced-19465-1429806575-15
Rating: ★★★★★

Rainbow Rowell is one of my all-time favorite authors and I do not know how she comes up with these magnificent books and I love investing myself into these unique stories. My favorite Rainbow Rowell book of all time (so far) is still Eleanor & Park and this beautiful novel comes super close. I have seen plenty of people approaching this novel with apprehension because Carry On is based on characters that were featured in Fangirl. I can prove to you now once and for all that Carry On is not canon to Fangirl meaning you can read this book as a standalone. Rainbow Rowell loved writing about Simon Snow throughout Fangirl and wanted to invest in the character and created an original book that differs from the fan fiction version in Fangirl.

The sole purpose of reading this book is to see gay magicians getting their freak on. I have no shame about that and I believe once you enter into the story for this superficial reason it will change your world and see a beautiful romance blossom through the course of the narrative. Everyone says that this is Rowell’s fan-fiction interpretation of Harry Potterand I can definitely see how certain characters mirrors those who are in Harry Potter but in the end I found the book to be original while using the classic archetypes of “The Chosen One” and British children literature. We are introduced to Simon Snow, an orphan who is considered to be the greatest magician of all time and it has been prophesied that he will be the chosen one who will defeat the greatest villain called the Humdrum. This creature apparently loves to create holes throughout Great Britain destroying what is left of magic. This war has been waged for years and no one has seem to come up with the brilliant plan to destroy the Humdrum and now Simon is entering his 8th and final year of Watford.

While everything is going according to plan except for the fact that his roommate/nemesis Baz Pitch has been missing. Simon believes Baz to be a vampire (which no one has been able to prove) and since Baz comes from a famous line of magicians it can be considered that something bad is brewing within the magic community and tries to gather up intel as to what is going on and why Baz hasn’t returned to Watford. On top of everything else that is going on, every twenty years or so, the veil that separates the living from the dead is temporarily open letting ghosts come to our dimension and speak to their loved ones again. Unfortunately for Simon, Baz’s mother (who was killed while protecting her son) comes into the mix looking for Baz and instead delivers the message to Simon about finding Nicodemus who will lead them to his killer. When Baz finally shows up after weeks of absence, Simon relays the message and makes a vow to Baz that he will help find his mother’s killer.

Throughout the novel we get the point of view of several of the characters which I found to be a neat feature in the story. I can recall vividly that throughout my reading marathon of Harry Potter, I’ve always been curious as to what Dumbledore was thinking, Professor Snape, Hermione and countless other characters during the vital moments of the series. I worship J.K. Rowling and will treasure the Harry Potter series for the rest of my life but it would have been fascinating to read other characters point of view and their dynamic relationship with Harry. In the case of Carry On, my favorite chapters were the ones that we got insight into Baz’s world and his feelings toward Simon. It was extremely predictable on my end but if I were a teenager reading this book I would be head over heals about Baz and make my heart beat a hundred times faster to discover a gay teenager falling in love with his nemesis/roommate.

Overall this novel caught me by total surprise and I loved every minute of it. Whenever I wasn’t reading the book I kept resorting my mind towards what is happening with Simon right now and how is he going to save the world. In the end I need more books because I need to know more about what will happen next to these characters and hope Rainbow Rowell considers writing a sequel or a trilogy because I need all the Simon and Baz action I can get. I love how all these Young Adult novels dealing with gay romance are coming to light now in this day and age because if I had these books as a child/teenager it would have helped me cope with my sexual identity and having hope that someday it will be possible for me to fall in love with a boy. Thank you Rainbow Rowell for writing this epic and phenomenal story. I will miss you Simon Snow and Baz Pitch.

BookTubeAThon 2017 Challenge #2: Read a hyped book.

Advertisements

History Is All You Left Me

100000x100000-999
Rating: ★★★★★

No matter what I write it could never match up to how Adam Silvera was able to write this beautiful novel. The cover for this book is absolutely stunning and knowing that it deals with a gay love story gives me the reason to purchase and read this story. I am fortunate enough to have finished IT right before this marathon because this book has been calling me to read for months and with good reason.

The story deals with Griffin who has to deal with the death of his best friend/ex-boyfriend Theo who died from a drowning accident. It is heartbreaking to read about the death of a friend but what is different about this tale is Griffin believed that Theo and him would be soul mates till the end of time. Theo was Griffin’s first love and they shared everything together from losing their virginity together to creating alternative universes in their imagination. Griffin called it quits when Theo got admitted to college in California because he believed it was the right choice to make and ever since he has tortured himself for the choices he has made especially with Theo got involved with another guy named Jackson in College.

The novel shifts every chapter from the present to the past and through the course of the narrative we get insight into their relationship leading up to Theo’s death and what I treasured the most about this story was its honesty when it comes to grief. We all cope with grief differently and we see those aspects with these characters. Griffin throughout the story can seem unlikeable and no doubt selfish and its completely understandable because you are dealing with a group of teenagers strung into this chaos and feeling like no one could relate to their pain. Especially for Griffin, he suffers from OCD and the secrets that he keeps makes it harder for him to accept that he needs help and needs to let go.

Originally I thought this book was going to be too predictable especially for the ending but I was surprised how things turned out for Griffin and that is what made the story enjoyable. There was never a moment where I felt bored and some of the topics that are discussed such as death, heartbreak, low self-esteem, and our personal securities were brought to the surface and it was crazy how it felt like Adam was reading my mind. I don’t consider myself to have OCD (which I believe is a serious mental illness) but I definitely have major quirks that sometimes feels like roadblocks when it comes to my interaction with others.

If I could turn back time to when I was 17 years old and dating someone like Theo I can guarantee you that I would be a mixer of Griffin and Jackson. My self-esteem was nonexistent, never been in a relationship, didn’t have friends I could truly trust, constantly rejected by guys, and not having the proper outlets to express my pain and frustrations that lead down a spiral that I thought I could never get out. Repeating the same mistakes expecting different results was my life throughout high school and I am glad that this chapter of my life happened when I was younger than now as a young adult.

Adam Silvera created characters that are not supposed to be likable which I believe he did a great job on and it was refreshing to discover a story that made me recognize that I am not alone in my struggles. One of my major complaints about displaying gay teenagers in books, films, or even on television for that matter is how they follow this basic plot that once you come out of the closet everything magically solves itself and you are guaranteed a boyfriend which is not always the case. I remember as a teen I would get furious and bitter about this because I would do everything correct and yet I had no knight in shining armor to rescue me instead I had to rescue myself. History Is All You Left Me is one of the first few books where I get to meet flawed characters and see an accurate portrayal that not everyone has the right answer to everything in life.

BookTubeAThon 2017 Challenge #1 : Read a book with a person on the cover.

The Audience

The_Audience_(poster)
Rating:★★★★★

When I heard the news that Helen Mirren would be replaying the role of Queen Elizabeth II for this magnificent play called The Audience, I about lost my sh@%t when I realized that I would never get to see this magnificent performance on the big stage because I do not live in London or NYC. Luckily I was able to procure this fascinating play into my life and for months it remained untouched on my bookshelf until now. Every summer I get excited for the infamous BookTubeAThon which is a week-long marathon where you try to accomplish several reading challenges while basking in the fun of reading. I figured for this challenge I needed a book that was short and sweet and this fit the challenge. It helps that I’ve been marathoning the BBC version of House of Cards which surprisingly taught me how Parliament works and the role of Prime Minister.

Queen Elizabeth has been the longest reigning monarch in UK history and holds the record for having the most Prime Ministers during her reign (13 PMs as of 2017) which is shocking considering she has experienced all the ups and downs of the last half of the 20th century. So much has changed since she ascended the throne in 1952 and yet one tradition that remains the same is her weekly meetings with the Prime Minister. There is no written law in the constitution that enforces these two separate heads of government to meet and yet this tradition is hold sacred in British culture. These meetings all started during World War II under the reign of her father, King George VI with Winston Churchill and after the war was over it became a weekly routine that neither party wanted to stop.

Once her father passed away, Churchill became Elizabeth’s first Prime Minister who essentially taught her the rules of what these meetings dictate and as time passes we see how it has adapted and taken form under each new Prime Minister. These meetings are held privately without any written record of what has taken place which is understandable but imagine if we the public had the opportunity to know what exactly went behind closed doors between these two individuals and that is where the magic of Peter Morgan comes in.

If you do not know who is Peter Morgan, he is the creator of Netflix’s The Crown and wrote the screenplay for The Queen so it comes as no surprise that Peter Morgan has the gifted insight of tapping into the minds of the Royal Family. I believe he is perfect for writing this play because he pays major respect to both the Queen and the Prime Minister yet shedding light to the reality of what was taking place during each Prime Minister time in office. What I enjoyed the most about this play was Peter Morgan didn’t follow the dialogue in a linear format so there is a bit of suspense as to what particular Prime Minister is going to show up on stage.

At the end of the day the Queen will always guarantee her support for the Prime Minister and that is a difficult task to uphold because naturally we tend to have preferences when it comes to our leaders and over the course of decades there has been leaks about who were her favorites and which one she despised so Peter Morgan used that information to his advantage and while the conversations held in this play is fictional, Morgan has the natural gift of making it sound believable and it feels as though you the audience are these private meetings with the Queen.

I love anything that has deals with Royalty so naturally I am biased and I need to warn anyone who wants to read this play, if you have no clue about British history, Parliament, and the Prime Minister then I suggest you either pick something else to read or crack open a book and learn the gist of British culture because otherwise it will leave you completely confused. Remember this is a play not a novel so the author does not have time to supply enough information about the importance of each and every meeting that takes place in this story and the controversy that naturally surrounds the Prime Minister. If you have no qualms about it then I believe you will encounter a refreshing and beautiful take on Queen Elizabeth II and her relationship to the Prime Minister.

BookTubeAThon 2017 Challenge #3 : Finish a book in one day.

IT

11c18fbb50b3abe089e5f519cc1988cb
Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

If you had told me at the beginning of the year that I would read a novel thats over 1,000 pages long I would have laugh at your face and say when pigs can fly. Apparently pigs can do that because I came, I saw, and I conquered this monstrosity of a novel. I tried reading IT a year ago and failed epically because I couldn’t give 100% of my attention to the novel and its definitely a book that you have to be reading constantly or you will give up after 200 pages. I didn’t have a physically copy of the book which does not help at all and luckily this time around I got a used paperback edition along with my hardcover edition to keep me company.

What propelled me to finish this novel was the film adaptation. I remember when I was about 8 or 9 years old, my friend had a VHS copy (did I just dated myself?) of the IT miniseries with Tim Curry as Pennywise the Clown and I was fortunate enough to watch it and it was not scary. That means a lot considering as a kid I hated clowns, I didn’t have an issue of seeing them far away like in a circus setting but if one got near me I would go into panic mood. When it comes to film and television, if you want to scare the living daylights out of me you have to visually present the acts of horror and violence on screen and I felt that the miniseries didn’t live up to the book especially the amount of crazy sh@#t that happens in Derry. I know the film will be nothing compare to the book and I curious what the writers and director will do to scare a whole new generation (plus its rated R so thats a bit more hopeful).

I entered this novel thinking it was pure horror and in all earnestness its a beautiful coming-of-age story. The novel deals with a group of kids (7 to be exact) who are trying to find a way to destroy a terrorizing clown who is wreaking havoc and murdering children across the map. At first you believe they have succeeded in that mission and made a sacred vow that if the clown every shows up, they will reunite and fight it once and for all. Guess what? 27 years later the clown surfaces again and starts killing everyone left and right so we get to meet our beloved characters again as adults. Stephen King with his masterful skills as a writer was able to simultaneously blend the narrative between the past and present without interrupting the flow of the story. It feels at times that we are experiencing these characters memories as if it were our own.

What I love about this novel is King makes major investments on these characters, providing background information and letting these friendships blossom naturally which is difficult if you think about it. Derry itself is a character and theres hundreds of pages that provide enough information about what is Derry and how these tragedies keep happening in every century. Overall I am relieved to finish this novel but theres a tinge of sadness that is lurking underneath the surface as I say goodbye to these lovable characters.

I wanted this novel to be 5 stars and for the most part it was going through that route until I reached the half-way mark. My biggest complaint about this novel is that it is TOO long. I understand King wants to create this whole universe and I have no quarrels about it but he could have eliminated easily 200 pages that weren’t needed. The other issue is there is too many children. I can see how each one was useful in the end but there could have been 5 instead of 7 children and the audience wouldn’t tell the difference.

Another reason why I am avoiding telling you much about the plot is because I highly recommend going into this novel without a clue because the littlest details you find out about the Loser’s club or Pennywise could cost you a few hundred pages of boredom. As I was reading the novel I started remembering certain revelations from the miniseries which made me want to slit my wrists (is it too soon?) later on waiting for about 150 pages before I learn new information. My favorite characters were Bill, Ben, and Mike whereas I could not stand Beverly for the life of me. Every time I came across her story I could careless what happens to her and even when she was an adult I was ready for her to get killed by Pennywise. That infamous scene that happens towards the end, I understand why people are grossed out by it and trust me its a bit uncomfortable but I can see Stephen King’s perspective that he needed to find a connection that closes the bridge between child and adult.

Even though the kids are 11 years old, I pictured them to be about 13-14 years old and I believe I am not alone it this struggle. If IT was written in 2017, I honestly believe King would have made them older and he would have the necessary template to write these characters in middle school setting. Plus the passage between children to adults would be more accepting and realistic than how it is written. Besides Henry Bowers, I got a major vibe that Eddie is gay. I believe without his mother haunting him and the AIDS epidemic, he would have realized that he’s into men especially how he always makes these references about Bill and how he “admires” him. So I wasn’t shocked the way his storyline played out and I would have loved to see a leading gay character in a Stephen King novel.

This was a solid 4 star novel by the time I reached the end but after the 1,000 page mark I was shocked how the plot line kept getting better and Stephen King was able to wrap up this story perfectly. Every time I wanted to put down the novel Stephen King found something new and interesting to bring to the table and it left me wondering how is this epic fantasy story was going to end. I was thoroughly amused and it is a bit heartbreaking to say goodbye to these characters. After reading this book I was expecting a sequel in the works and see King revisit these characters after all these years and its sad to say that you only get to meet a few of them again in 11/22/63 . I love Stephen King and in the short amount of time I’ve been a fan of his work I can properly say that this could be my top 5 favorite King novel. For now I say goodbye to Bill, Ben, Mike, Beverly, Eddie, and even Stan and the day that I forget about you and your story I will revisit Derry again so until then I will hold you all deeply in my heart and memory. Don’t forget…

“We all float down here, you’ll float, too.

Troll Bridge

100000x100000-999
Rating: ★★★★

When it comes to Neil Gaiman, I believe the author is fantastic at tapping into the supernatural realm of literature and creating his own universe. One of my all-time favorite novels is The Graveyard Book written by this genius and yet I felt meh about this story. The illustrations were okay, the tone of the story was melancholy with a mix of fatigue and in the end I felt indifferent about the graphic novel when it was all over. I do believe if I am not mistaken that Gaiman adapted a classic typical troll story and gave the Gaiman makeover.

The story deals with a boy named Jack as he wonders through the countryside of England until one day he stumbles into a bridge and meets a troll. The troll tells him that he wants to kill him and Jack makes a compromise that because he is a child, he has not experience the world and all the other stuff that one must experience in their life. The troll agrees to wait and be patient and we see how time progresses and how Jack’s life turns out. Overall the whole scenario was a bit too predictable for me except for the ending which I was not expecting.

I believe part of the issue with this story is Jack is not a likable character and even the troll knows that Jack is not completely innocent. As we watch Jack grow up from a child to a middle-age man we see that Jack carries the burden of the world on his shoulders yet at the same time could careless about his wife and kids. The sense of indifference permeates the pages and by the end of it I was praying that the Troll take him away. Its quite possible that Jack’s life would have been better off if he had given in to the troll from the beginning.

One theme that Neil Gaiman touched upon in this story that was extremely relatable is how our environment is constantly changing and yet we are stuck between who we were, who we are, and who we want to be. I live in a city where there is no history in our architecture compare to Europe and its because we do not like to see old relics. We tear them down expecting that the replacement will be better and that is not always the case. Living in the countryside for Jack was beautiful and over a period of several decades we see how this beautiful world full of nature gets teared down by humans and soon enough all the land is ripped apart to create this dull suburban life.

The atmosphere of this story is extremely dark and gloomy and in many ways Gaiman wants you to feel sympathetic to Jack and Colleen Doran is creative at using colors to match those undertones through the narrative. Overall this graphic novel leans towards 3.5 but I love Gaiman so I’ll give him that extra half point to sum up everything.

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors

31215005
Rating: ★★★★

I discover this picture book through an article about this particular Librarian and her recommendations for those who want to read a book. She recommended that every one of all ages should read this book and I believe her! This book is truly meant for children and if you are able to tap into your inner child then you can learn to appreciate this short and sweet story. The title of the book is self-explanatory and I won’t reveal much but lets just say it could be the potential origin story as to how this whole game started.

The illustrations of this book is on fire and it captivated my attention and I could just imagine how fascinated little kids who feel reading this story and if I had to rate this book solely on the illustrations it would receive the highest marks possible. Normally this would be a guaranteed 5 stars for me but I felt this story could have developed into greater storyline instead of the actual outcome. I believe since I am an adult reading this book the predictability ruined the whole experience but in the end I have no quarrels about this cute story.

I highly recommend this book for parents who want a new book to read to their children and since the story takes place during the summer its easier for children to relate to the story and explore some fun outside of the house with Rock, Paper, Scissors! Drew Daywalt was brilliant at bringing this concept that naturally gets passed from generation to generation and added a new flare to an iconic game.

Queer, There, and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World

100000x100000-999
Rating: ★★★★

The only reason why I read this book was by the recommendation of Shane Bitney Cone. If you do not know who this man is then I highly recommend you to checkout his epic documentary called Bridegroom. I’ve been in a reading slump for the last few months and having the mega monstrosity of IT by my nightstand makes it difficult for me to invest in another novel. When I saw the list of his recommendations, I doubted that the library had these books available lo and behold not only did were it available, no one has checked them out so I placed a request and it arrived in less than 3 days!!

I figured this book would be my best bet to read first considering that it deals with biographies. I was shocked not only that I read this book in less than 24 hours, what impressive me was this book was written for middle school and the context of having short and concise biographies made the whole reading experience memorable. Queer, There, and Everywhere tells 23 unique stories of historical figures that have left an impact in the world and yet for countless reasons have had their life story revised to cater an agenda. What I mean by that is we hold famous icons such as Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, and others on a pedestal that we forget to think they are human beings. Human beings with complex lives living in an era where they would be ostracized from society if they were not heterosexual. With this general sense of fear, their private life is difficult to research in the 21st century and we the general public assumed that they are straight and that homosexuality and other members of the LGBT was created in the last 200 years.

Was I shocked by any of these revelations Not really. I would say 40% of the individuals that were selected for this book I had no clue who they were to begin with, 60% I knew who they are and I have heard countless stories to suggest that they are not straight. Overall I was extremely impress about this book and I would highly recommend this book to be read for middle schoolers because when I came out to myself at the age of 11, I had no gay icons laying around on display ready to tell me everything is going to be alright. I had to research on my own, iPhones didn’t exist, the only social media site was MySpace, there was no It Gets Better Campaign, and half of the celebrities that have come out of the closet now in 2017 were definitely still in the closet in 2007. Luckily for me I was able to do this in the comfort of my own home where my mother could careless what I searched for on the Internet. I can guarantee you for millions of teenagers that luxury is rare and I believe by having this book available can provide comfort for kids who are trying to discover who they are and that they are not alone.

This book is informative and provides plenty of definitions for concepts such as what is asexual, bisexual, transgender, and others that it can help kids identify these feelings that is surging inside of themselves. Plus what I loved about Sarah Prager is giving the proper pronoun to these famous figures. The term heterosexual and homosexual was not invented until the 19th century so for a good chunk of this book, these icons either did not recognize themselves as gay instead dealt with how they felt as a human being and Sarah does her best to portray that and give credit where credit is due. If I was a teenager again I would rate this book 5 stars without blinking an eye but this time around this was a solid 4 stars. I wanted to give it 5 but my main argument is this is written for children. Some of the biographies were short and I understand that the author was trying to highlight the aspects of queer life in each biography but there was huge gaps in some of these stories that it followed a generic formula. In the end I believe the author could have gotten the extra mile and include more background info to illustrate that all these 23 individuals were complex but being a member of the LGBTQIAA did not stopped them for achieving greatness even when society has treated them as outcasts.

In the end this book pays homage to the countless sacrifices our ancestors have made in order to achieve a brighter future and even though so much has accomplished in the last century, there is still plenty of room for us to fight for. Especially with who is running this country and his VP choice (*Cough Cough Might Be President Cough Cough*) we will definitely be out in the streets fighting for our equal rights. I hope everyone who reads this book realize that you are special, there is nothing wrong with you, you are loved, and there is plenty of communities who welcomes you with open arms.