Posted in Book Reviews, Contemporary, Fantasy, General Books, Graphic Novel, LGBTQ+, Romance, Young Adult

Mini-Reviews: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Field Notes on Love, and I Hate Fairyland – #BookReview

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (Creekwood #1) by Becky Albertalli
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, LGBTQ+, Romance

Simon was a heartwarming, LGBT romance and I feel like the whole book was the epitome of the high school experience. This story was full of great friendships, hilarious and very quirky family relationships, as well as awkward and sometimes cruel high school experiences. I think Albertalli did a really great job of capturing the mind of a closeted gay teen and his struggles with coming out. Simonโ€™s character was so endearing. He was sweet, caring, a bit of an oddball and actually pretty wholesome. I loved that everyone was so supportive of him! His exchanges with Blue were adorable and I really enjoyed how their relationship transformed from flirty friends to love as they opened up to each other. They were so pure and I wanted to give them all the hugs! That said, parts of this story really bothered me, and it specifically related to the friendship between Simon and Leah, who was his supposed ‘best friend’, but was almost wholly absent in his story. Having already read Leah’s book, I have my issues with her character as well, but for claiming that they’re so close, they’re not really? For some reason this really bothered me a lot ๐Ÿ™‚ In the end, everything (obviously) sorted itself out and it was an uplifting story that left me feeling happy and content.

“I try not to change, but I keep changing, in all these tiny ways… And every freaking time, I have to reintroduce myself to the universe all over again.”

Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, Romance

Field Notes on Loveย is everything I thought it would be and then some. I loved the idea of a book being set on a train, two strangers coming together, and with ‘love’ in the title of the book, you know romance plays a big part of this story. Surprisingly, this was more than just a fluffy love story; it was about family, friendship, vulnerability and ultimately finding out who you are, what you want and what you’re willing to do to get it. The story was told in alternating perspectives. I liked that both Hugo and Mae were such down-to-earth characters, who were enjoyable as individuals as much as together. The almost instant connection between Hugo and Mae, which I would normally find cheesy and annoying, didn’t feel at all contrived. The family relationships were proper #familygoals. All their interactions were full of kindness, understanding, support and encouragement, plus I found Hugo being one of sextuplets very interesting. The siblings only make minor appearances throughout, but you can feel the love and connection between them, and their individual personalities shone. The banter within both families made me laugh out loud multiple times! Although the plot was fairly predictable, sometimes you just need a happy and fluffy read that leaves you feeling good after you finish the last page. The characters really won this book for me. If you’re looking for a good quick summer read, I’d highly recommend it!

โ€œThey could be anywhere and nowhere, but theyโ€™ve somehow found themselves here, and sheโ€™s suddenly grateful for it, all of it, for the extra ticket and the way it brought them together despite everything, the bigness of the world and the unlikeliness of a moment like this.โ€

I Hate Fairyland, Vol. 1: Madly Ever After (I Hate Fairyland #1) by Skottie Young
Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Humor

The thing that drew me to this graphic novel was the artwork. The level of detail, the vibrant rainbow colors, and the cute characters that inhabit fairyland all made me want to pick up this comic! I loved how the bright colorful artwork juxtaposed with the very gore-filled story as we followed Gertrudeโ€™s bitter journey through fairyland to find the key to take her home. I guess I’d be bitter too after so long. Her tirades and deft โ€œdispatchingโ€ of basically every character she crosses in fairyland, while admirable if you like that sort of thing, does get old after a while though. The storyline didnโ€™t reveal anything new about why sheโ€™s still there after all these years, and I kind of wish we got to see more of the start to her journey, before she completely lost her mind, and became a bitter young woman trapped in a childโ€™s body. I also wished we learned more about how and why children get abducted to fairyland in the first place! But maybe thatโ€™s too logical and serious for a graphic novel such as this? While I did enjoy it, Gertrudeโ€™s trajectory was basically the same through all scenes, so Iโ€™m not sure if Iโ€™d continue on with the series. I will say Iโ€™m curious to see what happens next, although considering itโ€™s Gertrude fairyland may end up looking like a killing field sooner rather than later!, I just donโ€™t know if Iโ€™m curious enough. The art work is definitely amazing thoughโ€”Iโ€™m always attracted to bright splashy colors and the various inhabitants of fairyland!

Have you read any of these? Would love to know your thoughts on them if you have! Leave a comment below and let’s chat books ๐Ÿ™‚

Posted in Book Reviews, Contemporary, General Books, LGBTQ+, Romance, Young Adult

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren – #BookReview

Goodreads: Autoboyography
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, LGBTQ+, Contemporary, Romance

Three years ago, Tanner Scottโ€™s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah. But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo Highโ€™s prestigious Seminarโ€”where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semesterโ€”Tanner canโ€™t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity. It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him.

I’ve seen a lot aboutย Autoboyographyย everywhere; it’s been mentioned as a favorite on many lists and has received a lot of praise. I’ve loved much of whatย Christina Lauren has written and this was no exception. Although I have to admit that I didn’t initially love it as much as I thought I would; perhaps because I didn’t connect to the characters as much at the start and I sometimes found their attitudes/actions frustrating (hello, Autumn!). But the more I think about the book now, the more I really appreciate Tanner’s and Sebastian’s story and realize just how much I enjoyed it.

โ€œOh, man,โ€ Autumn mumbles from beside me. โ€œHis smile makes me stupid.โ€ Her words are a dim echo of my own thoughts: His smile ruins me.

This is a coming-of-age love story, but it wasn’t all the butterflies, rainbows and good/easy things that normally feature in CLo’s novels, and that really made it more authentic and believable. Tanner is a bi-sexual high school senior who was out of the closet when his family lived in California, but had to “go back in” when they relocated to heavily Mormon Utah during his sophomore year. No one in town knows he’s queer, not even his best and closest friend Autumn, and it’s been easy to hide until Sebastian walks into his life. Tanner was easily my favorite character. He was immature at times and made some questionable (and typically high school) decisions, but he was also a cinnamon roll who has so much love to give. The support of his parents lent him an air of maturity and he understood consequences. By far my favorite part of the book was his parents and their support for him. Their completely transparent relationship with each other was so enviable and absolute #familygoals. It brought so much comfort and happiness to the story and clearly played a very big role in making Tanner who he is.

โ€œI donโ€™t actually care if you break my heart, Sebastian. I went into this knowing it could happen and I gave it to you anyway. But I donโ€™t want you to break your own. You have so much space in your heart for your church, but does it have space for you?โ€

On the other hand we have Sebastian, who comes from and was raised in a hardcore LDS home. He struggles with his identity and thinks that by denying who he is, it’ll make him acceptable and different from other queer people. He loves and continues to turn to the faith that he was raised in, but he’s confused with how to reconcile that with what he feels for Tanner; especially when to him it feels completely right, even when everyone and everything he loves and knows tells him otherwise. As I was reading Sebastian’s struggles and vehement denials of being queer, my heart really broke for him. I want to say so much more, but I also don’t want to give any more away. I will say: read it!

I know there are probably many young teenagers/young adults and maybe even adults who struggle with reconciling their faith with how they identify, and it made me sad to think that we still live in a world where you can expect to be ostracized or abandoned if you choose to be yourself, no matter who that is. Although I can’t speak to the experiences in this book, I believe that CLo did a great job in researching and writing about such a sensitive and complex topic. I think a lot of people will really be able to connect with their stories, especially (maybe) Sebastians’ struggles of coming out, and they’ll find comfort in knowing they’re not alone; that others are struggling, scared and don’t know what to do because they don’t want to lose everything and everyone they love just because of who they are.

“But missing him every day for the rest of my life was still easier than the fight Sebastian had: to stuff himself inside a box every morning and tuck that box inside his heart and pray that his heart kept beating around the obstacle. Every day I could go to class as exactly the person I am, and meet new people, and come outside later for some fresh air and Frisbee. Every day I would be grateful that no one who matters to me questions whether I am too masculine, too feminine, too open, too closed. Every day I would be grateful for what I have, and that I can be who I am without judgment. So every day I would fight for Sebastian, and people in the same boat, who donโ€™t have what I do, who struggle to find themselves in a world that tells them white and straight and narrow gets first pick in the schoolyard game of life.”

Christina Lauren does it again! They really know how to write stories that are not only enjoyable, but cover important issues and make you think and feel all the feels. I’m really glad that I finally read this.

Have you read Autoboyography? What did you think about it?
Let me know in the comments and let’s have a little chat ๐Ÿ™‚

Posted in ARC, Book Reviews, Chick Lit, Contemporary, General Books, Historical Fiction, LGBTQ+, Romance, Women's Fiction

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner – #ARC #BookReview

Goodreads: Mrs. Everything
Publish date: 11 June 2019
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary, Historical, LGBTQ+

Do we change or does the world change us? Jo and Bethie Kaufman were born into a world full of promise. Growing up in 1950s Detroit, they live in a perfect โ€œDick and Janeโ€ house, where their roles in the family are clearly defined. Jo is the tomboy, the bookish rebel with a passion to make the world more fair; Bethie is the pretty, feminine good girl, a would-be star who enjoys the power her beauty confers and dreams of a traditional life. But the truth ends up looking different from what the girls imagined. Jo and Bethie survive traumas and tragedies. As their lives unfold against the background of free love and Vietnam, Woodstock and womenโ€™s lib, Bethie becomes an adventure-loving wild child who dives headlong into the counterculture and is up for anything (except settling down). Meanwhile, Jo becomes a proper young mother in Connecticut, a witness to the changing world instead of a participant. Neither woman inhabits the world she dreams of, nor has a life that feels authentic or brings her joy. Is it too late for the women to finally stake a claim on happily ever after?

I was not expecting the emotional punch that I would get while reading Mrs. Everything. I always enjoy family sagas and the relationship between two sisters/siblings, and this book was no exception. I loved the glimpse of modern American history that we got while journeying with the Kaufman sisters from the 1950s to 2022. This was a beautiful story about coming-of-age, getting lost and discovering and accepting yourself, finding and losing love, building a life, motherhood, and a poignant look at the role of women in society throughout the decades.

Told in alternating chapters between Jo and Bethie, Weiner’s prose and style was simple and easy to read but immersive. I often found myself transported to the different periods of history, standing beside Jo or Bethie, while they were picketing or getting high at a party or standing on the porch of a commune. I also enjoyed how Weiner incorporated key events in America’s history into the story. As the story covers an extended period of time, the plot does jump locations fairly often, especially at the beginning, but it mainly centers around: Detroit, Avondale, and Atlanta.

You’re thrown into the center of the narrative from the start. Jo was the tomboy who doesn’t conform to her mother’s or society’s idea of how a lady should look/act. She was more comfortable in trousers playing sports. Bethie was the sweet darling, the natural beauty with a charming voice. She was the good girl and it seemed almost certain that their lives would follow the paths they’d been on as children, with Jo living as a free spirit, making a difference, and Bethie settling down and becoming a mum. But tragic things start happening to both sisters, and we see how one loses herself, only to learn how to embrace her past and “come out new”, while the other struggled to hide her sexual orientation, found and lost love, and decided to settle for normal. I honestly loved both sisters and my heart broke when tragedies would befall them, and soar whenever either one triumphed. Being a character driven story, you get a chance to see how they grow over the years. The Kaufman sisters are strong in their own ways, but they’re also very flawed and simply human.

“We lose ourselves,” she repeated, forming each word with care, “but we find our way back” Wasn’t that the story of her life? Wasn’t that the story of Bethie’s? You make the wrong choices, you make mistakes, you disappear for a decade, you marry the wrong man. You get hurt. You lose sight of who you are, or of who you want to be, and then you remember, and if you’re lucky you have sisters or friends who remind you when you forget your best intentions. You come back to yourself, again and again. you try, and fail, and try again, and fail again.

Within the first 30% of the novel, Jo and Bethie already go through so much hardship that was so heartbreaking, but everything that happened to them throughout their lifetime was also completely believable. It was nothing spectacular in the sense that it’s a story that women have experienced and can relate to. Although it explores important issues about the role of women in society, it doesn’t feel preachy or like Weiner is trying to push a message down your throat. It’s very well-woven into the storyline and comes to play an important role in the latter part of the sisters’ lives. Even for an Asian woman such as myself, I found I could relate to some of their experiences, and a lot of what is discussed in this book. This story is so relevant to the social climate of today with the #metoo movement and rising feminism (not only in America but slowly worldwide too) and I think it’ll resonate with a lot of women who read it.

I’m giving this 4 stars because while I didn’t feel that any part of the story was unnecessary, I thought the middle lagged just a little, and the end felt a bit rushed. I thought we missed a key part of one of the main characters’ life in her later years of life, as it related to her sexuality and her family. I was surprised that Weiner didn’t write about it, as I think it was a pretty big deal for her character, and it just felt glossed over and made everything feel too neatly wrapped up. Still, this had a satisfying ending and although I’m a crier in general, I didn’t think I would be with this book. I was obviously proven wrong because I was crying hard at the end. ๐Ÿ˜…

Overall, I really enjoyed Mrs. Everything and I’m so glad that one of the ladies in my group read chats mentioned that this was available to “Read Now” on NetGalley because otherwise I probably would’ve missed it. I think it will stick with me long after I finish. This was my first book by Jennifer Weiner and I really enjoyed her writing, so I’m looking forward to reading more of what she has written. Fabulous book!

Thanks to NetGalley and Atria Books for the free copy in exchange for an honest review.

Have you read Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner? What did you think of it? This book is now out everywhere if you’re interested in picking up a copy!