Carry On

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.


History Is All You Left Me

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.

Troll Bridge

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.

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

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.

March: Book Two

Rating: ★★★★★

In the previous volume we got a small glimpse of America in the 1950s through early 1960s. We get major insight into John Lewis upbringing and his journey towards working with Dr. King and the Civil Rights movement. For the most part the first volume was an introduction and setting up the groundwork for this graphic novel. We as the readers get to see the sad reality of how our country was reacting towards these nonviolent protests. African-Americans were brilliant during these protests as they learned how to accept the reactions of others and yet not back down in the face of adversity. These nonviolence protest were effective in the sense of bringing attention to the millions of Americans who were in denial that segregation exist or rather choose to be in denial that racism exist in modern society. When people start to act like animals it becomes easier in our choices to fight back without reason.

Now that African-Americans around the south began this movement, it became a struggle for white supremacist to deal with this outbreak of resilience. Protestors are not fighting with their hands instead with their brains and it allowed the dialogue to change and showcase that the white supremacists are the true ruthless animals that are causing havoc. Segregation and racism was buried deep in our society and now thanks to Dr. King efforts it was bringing the darkness towards the light.

Change is a difficult process to accept and imagining that its possible for black people to be accepted as equals in their society makes it confusing, chaotic, and frightening for those who are not ready for change or has the misconception that segregation is the true way for our society to strive and survive.

John Lewis does not hold back to the atrocities that were committed by the police and civilians towards black people during the movement and it breaks my heart to witness how countless people were either murdered, and beaten to the point where their face was unrecognizable. The intention was to break peoples souls because if they feel pain then they will realize what are people capable of in terms of remaining segregated.

The courageous part that I noticed throughout this volume that we as Americans are lacking is not giving up in your beliefs and principals. There are moments that keep surfacing for John Lewis and Dr. King in the sense of quitting and yet they realized if they surrendered towards bigotry then that means they will never be free. I don’t know how long this has been happening in the 21st century but lately whenever people get outraged about something they use Facebook and other social media outlets to explain their outrage and then 5 mins later they move on towards something else and believe that will cause effective change.

People don’t know how to protest anymore or rather too afraid to stand up towards their belief and be willing to sacrifice themselves in order to tackle the awful dilemmas at hand. Just looking at the results of this election and the outrage reaction is a huge indicator that people need to learn how to effectively protest and not let anyone in power manipulate and abused us. The Civil Rights movement happen over 50 years ago and yet it struck a cord that is still relevant today and it has shown me that while we as Americans have overcome a lot we still have room for improvement and having our new President isn’t a big enough sign then I don’t know what is…

There are not enough words to describe the brilliance of this graphic novel series and I hope everyone grabs a copy and reads it. Educate yourself and know about your country’s history or we are doomed to repeat it. John Lewis graphic novel is my beacon of hope right now in January 2017.

March: Book One

Rating: ★★★★★

I remember randomly scrolling through the available graphic novel section of the Library online catalogue and randomly picked up this book. I knew from the cover that it was going to deal with the Civil Rights movement but I didn’t know at the time who was John Lewis and why he is an important figure for the African American community and politics in the 21st century. The story begins with John Lewis getting ready to attend the 2009 inauguration of Barack Obama. He decides to visit his congressional office before heading out and while he was catching up with fellow friends, a mother with her two sons have traveled far to not only witness history in the making but to meet Senator John Lewis.

With all the drama that has happen for the last few years and what’s going to come January 20th, it saddens me to read this graphic novel especially when talking about our President. I remember vividly back in 2009 how the air breathe with optimism. I knew the struggles that Obama would face would not be easy but at the end of the day with all the celebrations, the amount of people who went out and vote changed the course of history. I haven’t seen that sense of hope in years prior to the 2008 election and sadly I haven’t seen that since January 20th, 2009.

I have no idea where this country is heading because while its been clearly illustrated that the world is going to end for the most part I want to believe in the American people and how they will stand up and fight back when situations presents itself that could potential unravel all the basic principles that are the leading foundation of this country. I never want any of our President to fail because then we all fail as a nation. Leading back to the story…

This graphic novel is meant for all ages especially those who are clueless about the Civil Rights movement, why Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was crucial towards overcoming segregation, and illustrate the obstacles African-American had to go through in order to live a brighter tomorrow. John Lewis gives you insight into his childhood living on the farm, how education was important to him and the idea of becoming a preacher opened the doors of opportunity for him to attend college.

While he attended college in Nashville, the Civil Rights movement were in the early phases waiting for the sparks to illuminate. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. discovered Gandhi who used the forces of nonviolence to help revolt his people from an oppressive regime and decided to incorporate that philosophy towards dismantling segregation in the Deep South. It was frightening to stand up and fight because you were treated as the scum of the earth and the punishments that were waited to be rewarded are too gruesome to capture in words.

I believe the Civil Rights movement is one of the best examples to teach unto the American people how to protest effectively and not giving up when all hope seems to have vanished. The protest, boycotts, and the marches were not accomplished in a day in fact it took years before our government listened and made the appropriate measures to make sure the violence would finally end.

I am hooked on this series and I cannot wait to read the next two volumes. I always believe a book finds you not vice versa and this book found me again in a time where my hope for this nation is shrinking on a daily basis. I look forward towards reading more about John Lewis and getting insight into his relationship with Dr. King!

If I Was Your Girl

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

A spellbinding novel. I heard this book mentioned in a YouTube video and was intrigued to read it and I doubted my library would have a copy for it being recently new and sure enough they had it available in the catalogue and I placed a request immediately and it arrived at my local library shortly thereafter. I picked up the book and was absorbed into Amanda’s world and a thousand questions ran through my mind through the course of the story and luckily Meredith Russo answered them or provided enough for me to connect the dots. Transgender issues are currently a major heated discussion in the United States and to be quite honest it is a subject that mostly everyone is ignorant or misinformed about. This is definitely an important book to read, learn, and discuss but I will admit and including the author that this novel is mostly fluff.

If I Was Your Girl begins with Amanda Hardy traveling on a greyhound bus to Lambertville, Tennessee to live her senior year of high school with her father. Her parents are divorced and for years she has been living in Atlanta, Georgia with her mother but now she is forced to live with her father because she got into a physical altercation with a stranger that left her with a black eye. The reasoning behind this attack is because Amanda used to be Andrew Hardy. Before Amanda transitioned, life was miserable as a boy for being bullied constantly by the other students because they knew or suspected that she wanted to become a girl which they clearly did not accept and that level of stress and depression could lead any child towards committing suicide. Luckily she survived and has the neccesary support system to help her accept her true identity and make the important medical procedures so now when she is out in public she is undeniable a teenage girl.

Amanda accepted the conditions of living with her father who has been absent for the last few years and makes a promise that she will focus on graduating high school and getting accepted to College. The concept seems simple to follow but now that Amanda is entering new territory she is forced to come out of her comfort shell. Before she never had any friends and now the popular girls want to hang out with her. She had feelings for boys in the past but it always ended up in heart ache as they discover her true identity and now she meets a boy called Grant Everett and everything appears to her as if she is in a dream waiting for the nightmare to kick in. As she gets closer to Grant and falls in love with him the question that keeps popping up is does she tell Grant that she used to be boy or keep the fantasy going until the magic wears off?

Overall I throughly enjoyed this novel and became obsessed to the point that whenever I was unable to read the book my mind kept drifting out to Amanda and Grant and what would I do if I was in her predicament. Anyone who is part of the LGBTQIA community can understand the danger and fear of coming out of the closet or revealing your true identity to someone. I am fortunate enough to live in a city where it is perfectly fine to be your true self and not face the daily struggles of what would happen if word got out that I am not straight. Unfortunately there are millions of individuals around the world who do not have that luxury and if they choose to reveal their true nature to the public then they could easily face physical abuse, murder, jail time, or have your own government sentenced you to death because it is a crime to be different.

Even though we are living in the 21st century, being transgender is a topic that has not been widely discussed leaving others to be scared and confused towards trans people and a death sentence for many who are unable to get the proper procedures and are brave enough to be themselves. What I loved about this book was it teaches me what are the right questions to ask and how do you approach the subject and sexual desire. I guarantee you if I was interested in a guy in high school and the feelings were reciprocated but later I discovered that they used to be a girl I would not know how to handle the subject and I could possibly leave some emotional scars on that person and I would feel awful. In the last 2 years I have learned more about transgender than in my entire lifetime and within this book I have had questions that felt to embarrassed to ask and yet I was fortunate enough to have them answered without humiliating anyone.

While this novel is extremely important for everyone to read I have to admit that it does not give an accurate portrayal towards what a transgender teenager is going through in high school. I understand the author’s intention with the narrative and I do not have an issue with that because her main goal was to introduce the topic to readers and hopefully open up their mind and lead them to further material that can accurately assess the struggles trans people suffer on the daily basis both on a personal level and in public.

How Andrew transformed into Amanda effortlessly is a bit unlikely in the real world and getting the proper funds both for the surgeries and the medication is a bit preposterous but I hope in the future it will become easier for those who want to transition to get the proper medical care they need and not have to go through the awful backwater channels that could put risk on their health and their physical bodies. Another issue I have that I despise in novels is when the author leaves the ending wide open. I do not know if there will be a sequel but I dislike how she left a few loose ends in the story and now my mind will be brewing a million different what if scenarios that are frustrating because I could not get a proper ending even if the outcome did not come in my favor. I just want the book to end and leave nothing behind once I close the book.