Review: It Goes Like This by Miel Moreland

It Goes Like This by Miel Moreland

It Goes Like This by Miel Moreland is such a wonderful book. It features four queer characters: Eva, Celeste, Steph, and Gina. They started a band called Moonlight Overthrow in high school that became incredibly successful to the point of having world tours and Grammy wins as well as a large fandom. For various reasons the band breaks up and each of them go their own way. Eva goes off to college while still writing songs for other artists, Celeste is now a big pop star giving world tours, Gina is an actress working on movies for Netflix, and Steph is simply back in their hometown with their family. The four of them were best of friends but now they don’t talk and haven’t seen each other since their breakup. Not only that, Eva and Celeste’s relationship ran much deeper and now they are both heartbroken and trying to move on. When a storm ravages their hometown they all decide to come back together for one concert to raise money for the town and perhaps, in the process, repair their friendships.

In this book we go back and forth between the time when the band was together to the present time when they are organizing and rehearsing for their concert. We also get a look into the fandom via tumblr posts and chats between fans of Moonlight Overthrow. It was a very cool way of seeing the importance of the band to not just the band members but also the rest of the world.

For me my favorite character was Steph, they are non-binary, uses they/them pronouns and is pansexual. They had the hardest time while in the band because it was basically marketed as a “girl” band and Steph wasn’t out about being non-binary so that was very difficult for them to be themself while touring with the band. Seeing the whole situation from their perspective was interesting and I identified with them because of their sense of duty to their family. That feeling that we need to be there for our family first and foremost even if that means putting our own dreams aside sometimes. Additionally, this was the first book I’ve read with a non-binary main character and it really helped me practice using they/them pronouns more. I think for that reason alone I will remember this book for a long time and it will also push me to read more books with non-binary characters since it is important to me to be able to naturally change to/from they/them as I do from he to she and vice versa.

Another cool thing about this book that I loved was the love of music. Eva is a very talented songwriter, since the band’s breakup she has been writing songs for other artists and those songs have been at the top of the charts. The way she talks about music and truly loves creating melodies and writing songs is clearly felt through Moreland’s writing. That being said, I’m so so sad that I can’t listen to Moonlight Overthrow’s songs! I actually imagined a lot of their music like that of BTS + Taylor Swift + Demi Lovato. With catchy melodies, amazing lyrics, and out-of-this-world vocals, simply amazing! (OMG can you imagine that collaboration?!)

All in all, this book is about fandoms, chosen family, friendship, queer love, and the love and magic that music brings to people.

I recommend this book to anyone who is part of a fandom, anyone who loves their friends like family, and anyone interested in reading a book with LGBTQ+ representation.

What is your current favorite band/artist/song? Let me know in the comments!

Review: Disability Visibility Edited by Alice Wong

Disability Visibility Edited by Alice Wong

When I was in middle school in Mexico I went to a private all-girls school and one of my classmates was blind. She was one of the smartest people in the class and as far as I can remember, she participated in just about every activity we had with just some assistance from the teacher. I can’t quite remember how it happened but there was a news story about her and her achievements in school and she tried to make her case to the interviewer that what she really needed to further succeed was a computer for blind people. I remember that she was upset later because when the news came out there was no mention about the computer, just a lot of praise and amazement that she was blind and yet she was doing so well in school. Now I understand that the interviewer and the media only wanted that feel good story but didn’t care to further help her with what she truly needed. I also understand now that she was probably one of the more fortunate blind people in Mexico, able to get an education at a private school with teachers who seemed to be able to help her as best as they could. Otherwise, I would encounter blind people in the subway, singing, playing an accordion while someone led them through the crowded aisles. I now have more of a perspective on how it wasn’t a consequence of their lack of sight that led them to beg in the street but because of society’s lack of support.

In Disability Visibility I was able to learn about many other types of disabilities and the people who live with them. How they live, how they try and thrive in a world that doesn’t seem to care much about them. It’s a book about the realities and not about feel good stories, like the one told about my middle school friend. I loved the diversity of people that we hear from, we hear from men, women, non-binary people, queer, straight, trans people, and more! To try to summarize all of that here would be impossible but trust me that throughout this book you get to meet many amazing people and learn about what they’ve been through and what they hope to accomplish. Alice Wong put together a great array of stories and you can also see more of her work at the Disability Visibility Project website.

As I finished each story I went to see what the author was doing now or to learn more about them and their endeavors. I also stopped a lot to think about what I had just read, to process and let it sink in. These are not easy stories to read, in fact, quite a few of them have content warnings at the beginning of each story so it makes it easier to read carefully.

There were some stories in the book that really did blow my mind in the sense that if disabled people were given all the resources that they needed to thrive, they would be able to contribute so much to society! Specifically I think of the story by Wanda Díaz-Merced, which is actually a TED talk that was transcribed for the book. Wanda Díaz-Merced is an astrophysicist who lost her sight late in her career, but she managed to find a different way to study space and one that ended up giving more information to scientists than by just visual means. As non-disabled people we think that there are only so many ways to do things in our lives, but in fact, there are many ways to do things. If we can be more open minded, there really would be endless possibilities! These aren’t stories of people doing things despite their disability, these are stories of people using all of themselves to live their life as best as they can and fight for what they believe in.

I highly encourage non-disabled people to read this book. There are endless social aspects that affect people with disabilities, from public transportation, architecture, scientific research, legal rights, etc., but where they are not given a thought. I realized for example, my house is not accessible to people who use wheelchairs! My workplace does not have an elevator to the second floor! We can at least start noticing and asking for the people in charge to make things accessible to disabled people around us. And even more importantly, we can empathize with their stories and the obstacles that are put in their lives and help remove those obstacles as best as we can.

Review: Eternals by Neil Gaiman, Illustrated by John Romita Jr.

Eternals by Neil Gaiman,
Illustrated by John Romita Jr.

I finished Eternals by Neil Gaiman today! It was a very different kind of read for me because I don’t normally read comics. This was a compilation of the seven volumes that came out in 2006-2007. However, the original Eternals comics were written by Jack Kirby back in 1976. The reason I picked this particular comic is because the Marvel Cinematic Universe is coming out with an adaptation of the Eternals and since I am a big fan of Neil Gaiman’s works it seemed like the obvious place to start for me.

The Eternals are 100 beings that were created by the Celestials. The Celestials are another type of being that came from outer space and basically started out a kind of experiment on Earth where they examined an ape-like creature (precursor to humans), played around with its genetic material and created what would be the perfect being, one that wouldn’t age, would have special powers, and would live to protect the experiment that they were setting up. On the other hand they created the Deviants, who had an unstable genome, were prone to constant mutations, and which created deformed beings that were not ideal.

In this particular set of comics we find that the Eternals have forgotten that they are immortal and that they have superpowers. They are living like normal human beings as medical students, party organizers, scientists, and even gardeners. One of the Eternals, Ikaris, does remember and is trying to get others to do the same since there’s some trouble brewing. We also get a peek at how the superhero world is doing, there is now mandatory registration for superheroes and even a superhero reality competition!

Another thing that was very interesting to me was the philosophy and theories on the origin of life on Earth. Of course there are multiple theories on how intelligent life came about but the one saying that it came about from outer space is a very popular one. While we can have many theories regarding the origins of life, it is something that we might never really know for sure how it happened. These comics give a possible answer of these Celestials, scientists in their own way, setting up various experiments in what might be many different worlds (can’t imagine they’d only do it once on Earth), and seeing what happens. It was also cool to see the flashbacks to how the Eternals interacted with ancient civilizations, from Egypt to Greece to Mexico and how they were basically the gods in those ancient civilizations. That in itself made me curious to go and read the other installments of these comics.

The characters were interesting but I did feel like there was less character development than I expected and I’m not sure if it is because of the format of the story (comic vs novel) or if it has to do with the fact that I haven’t read all the other comics featuring these characters. That being said, there were some characters that I did like right away, like Thena and Zura. Thena is a scientist in her human life and actually is creating some weapons for the government while Zura is a homeless man who is lost in his mind. After they remember that they are Eternals they awake other characteristics, like confidence, leadership, and determination to figure out what they need to do next.

The artwork was wonderful, I loved all the colors and the intensity that Romita was able to bring to each scene and each character. I also loved the fonts that were used in different panels to show that some characters are probably talking in different languages or are speaking telepathically. It was very intuitive and just a great addition to the experience.

I mentioned previously that I’m changing my rating system and well, there isn’t one! Ha! I realized that rating systems aren’t particularly consistent unless I stick to a specific type of book or genre or even author. And so what I will be doing now is talking more about who I’d recommend read the book. Sort of a “if you like this you might like this” etc.

Overall I really enjoyed this comic, like I said, I’d like to check out the other installments involving the Eternals at some point as well. I would recommend this collection of comics to anyone who wants a background on who the Eternals are in preparation for the Marvel movie. I’d also recommend it to people interested in a very different kind of superhero story since the Eternals are not self-described superheroes. Their priorities are definitely different than the Avengers’ so it’s a really interesting perspective.

Do you read comics regularly? Are you a fan of the MCU?

May 2021 Book Bites

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  • Favorite Bite:

All her life, she had learned that passion, like fire, was a dangerous thing. It so easily went out of control. It scaled walls and jumped over trenches. Sparks leapt like fleas and spread as rapidly; a breeze could carry embers for miles. Better to control that spark and pass it carefully from one generation to the next, like an Olympic torch. Or, perhaps, to tend it carefully like an eternal flame: a reminder of light and goodness that would never — could never — set anything ablaze. Carefully controlled. Domesticated. Happy in captivity. the key, she thought, was to avoid conflagration.

Mrs. Richardson in Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  • Perspective Rating: 8/10 I really enjoyed how motherhood is viewed in so many different ways. I think few books that I’ve read have such diversity of points of view.
  • Emotional Rating: 8/10 A lot of moments resonated with me, there were moments when I really felt for the characters and where I could feel how hard the decisions they made truly were.
  • Bites Rating: 6/10 Not a lot of quotable moments in this book, it was easy to read and a lot of it I just read through because I wanted to know more.
  • Overall Rating: 7/10 This book is truly a great book and I think it’s valuable to read for everyone. The lower rating is perhaps indicative of the writing style, which was good but not one I’d consider memorable.
Obsidian Puma by Zoe Saadia
  • Favorite Bite: None here, pretty much everything I annotated was because I was confused.
  • Perspective Rating: 9/10 This is where the book shines because there are very few books that are set in Tenochtitlan or even pre-hispanic conquest. The information about this time period and the culture is really well researched.
  • Emotional Rating: 2/10 I didn’t get to connect to the characters or the story too much. Perhaps it was the writing style or the way that the characters were just not fully developed but nothing really connected for me.
  • Bites Rating: 1/10 I did not like the writing style and I was already confused enough with the story unfortunately.
  • Overall Rating: 4/10 What is best about this book is the perspective. I wish there were more books with this perspective that were better written.
Archenemies by Marissa Meyer
  • Favorite Bite:

Perhaps most troubling was that the Renegades had done little to counter the growing epidemic of drug abuse or the flourishing black market. If anything, they seemed at a loss as to how to fight an enemy that couldn’t be knocked out with punches and laser beams.

Archenemies by Marissa Meyer
  • Perspective Rating: 6/10 There is some diversity in the characters, one of the main characters has two dads and there is also one character who is disabled. However, they are not the main characters and we don’t get much of what is happening from their point of view. They are mostly supportive and secondary characters that I wish got more of a spotlight. I also found that there were some social justice issues (like the drug abuse epidemic mentioned above) where it could have gone much further but it was almost like a passing thing. I wish Meyer would have gone further into these issues explaining how this world was managing (or failing) at doing so than just this. (Or just not include it at all!)
  • Emotional Rating: 8/10 Not going to lie, I am attached to a lot of the characters now, on both sides! I am worried about them and want all of them to succeed but I know that’s not going to happen and oh the feelings!
  • Bites Rating: 5/10 This is another book that was just super fast to read, not much was highlighted and I was honestly just devouring the book and didn’t stop to highlight things too much.
  • Overall Rating: 6.33/10 Super entertaining book that did leave me hanging and wanting to read the next one. I think these books are very entertaining but do lack in substance sometimes. (Or perhaps the attempt at substance is just not enough so it becomes distracting)
Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman
  • Favorite Bite:

“Trolls can smell rainbows, trolls can smell stars,” it whispered sadly. “Trolls can smell the dreams you dreamed before you were ever born. Come close to me and I’ll eat you life”

Troll Bridge in Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman
  • Perspective Rating: 7/10 I don’t think these characters were particularly unique in the sense of perspective. Most of them were white men/boys encountering various types of fantastical creatures and situations. There was a variety of ages, from young kids to elderly characters so that was one place where there was some variety in perspectives, which I enjoyed.
  • Emotional Rating: 7/10 At times it was difficult to connect to the main characters so some stories did flat for me. However, others were just excellent and I empathized with the character’s troubles and was able to dive deep into the story with them.
  • Bites Rating: 7/10 It really depended on the story, some of them did have great phrases that I highlighted and annotated, while others were quick reads that I wanted to just keep reading. Nothing remarkable really.
  • Overall Rating: 7/10 This book spans short works from the 80s and early 90s and were written for various types of magazines or books that were about a very specific type of story (fairy tale re-tellings or Lovecraft-inspired for example) so the stories can be hit or miss for pretty much anyone. I’d recommend it for people interested in a good variety of sci-fi, fantasy, and speculative fiction short stories.
Eric by Terry Pratchett
  • Favorite Bite:

The bees of Death are big and black, they buzz low and somber, they keep their honey in combs of wax as white as altar candles. The honey is black as night, thick as sin and sweet as treacle.

Eric by Terry Pratchett
  • Perspective Rating: 6/10 We are once again following Rincewind in this series and he ends up in some kind of time travel mess along with a young demonologist who thinks he has summoned a demon while he has in fact, gotten a wizard out of some parallel universe. We do get to visit an ancient culture that is a mix between the Inca and the Aztec but it has the Pratchett treatment so it’s a very different satirical take. The most interesting perspective is definitely Death, who we see at the very beginning as a beekeeper in his realm and well, his point of view is always one that gets to me.
  • Emotional Rating: 4/10 Rincewind is not exactly my favorite character of the Discworld, but I did enjoy the parts of the book with Death and the Librarian which, even though they were few, they were so so great.
  • Bites Rating: 8/10 Although this book was not one of my favorites of Discworld it still gave me a lot of laughs and had many great jokes and fun bits as well as parts that made me think about life and escape the current state of things.
  • Overall Rating: 6/10 Discworld is a really fun series to pick up throughout the year. It’s guaranteed laughs and interesting characters that you never know what they’ll be doing next. While this was not my favorite book in the series it does give more of a glimpse into the Discworld so I loved it for that.
Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik
  • Favorite Bite:

We were inexpressibly stupid; we thought it was only a cold, you see.

Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik
  • Perspective Rating: 7/10 While this book is mainly told from the white, colonizer perspective, the value that Temeraire (dragon) brings is one that makes Laurence, a white colonizer, think more about his morality. In previous books the rights of dragons as sentient beings are discussed but in this one the very reality that was the slave trade at that time is front and center. This is fantasy but it grapples with historical facts and events and puts them in a different lens. If dragons were real, would slavery have changed? If people thought that dragons deserved rights and to be treated with more respect, why couldn’t black people be given the same treatment? While Novik doesn’t fully expand on all of these ideas, it is something that does bring a lot of value to this installment of the series.
  • Emotional Rating: 8/10 To say that I am attached to the characters would be an understatement. I truly care about Temeraire, that stubborn dragon who only sees things in black and white and who is completely loyal to Laurence. Laurence is also one who has earned a place in my heart because of the growth he has achieved throughout the novels. He started out as a navy guy who didn’t have many attachments and now he’s not just loyal to his British empire but also to Temeraire and his chosen family with the aviation crew. The women in this series are also amazingly strong and I only wish that we had gotten this same story but with one of the women aviators! That would have been incredible.
  • Bites Rating: 6/10 These books don’t have too much to annotate for me. Novik still does an amazing job at describing the fights, all these new terrains both at sea and on land.
  • Overall Rating: 7/10 I am four books out of nine into this series and I’m just still so impressed at how the world building keeps on growing. We’ve now definitely diverged from the factual historical timeline so I can’t wait to see where Novik takes the series next. Also, what a cliffhanger!!! My heart can’t!

So there you have it, I read 6 books in the month of May! I have also been working on three other books throughout the month: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, Disability Visibility by Alice Wong, and The Stand by Stephen King.

I’ve been thinking a bit more about how to work with this blog. I’m slowly but surely realizing that this is my own space to work with however I want so I don’t necessarily have to follow any real “rules.” Perhaps you’ll see a bit of a change in the month of June, the ratings I feel are not exactly working for me anymore so those will definitely change. Also the types of posts will likely be different, a bit more of book reviews than I’ve had so far. Apart from the books that I’m already working on, I hope to go through my unread books and see which ones I want to prioritize more during the summer (graphic novels/comics, nonfiction, continuing series, etc).

I hope your reading month went well! Let me know in the comments if you’ve read any of the books mentioned above or the ones I’m still reading.

Book Review — The Library of the Unwritten by A. J. Hackwith

Back in February of 2020 I had my last trip before [insert all.the.things]. I went to Portland and got to visit one of my favorite bookstores: Powell’s. At that time I had no idea it would be the last time in a while that I’d visit such an awesome bookstore so I didn’t buy too many books (if only I had known….). Still, I got one book purely because of the cover and a couple of key words on the back:

Image of a book on a shelf. Other books of various sizes are in the background. The book cover is in sepia, black, and white colors and has written at the top in black "The Good Place meets Law & Order: Bibliophile Crime Unit. This book is so much fun. -- Seanan McGuire. The image on the cover is of an arm coming out of the left side of a dark opening of ripped pages from what seems to be a book. The words on the ripped pages are in french. The title "The Library of the Unwritten" is in the dark opening where the arm is coming out of in white letters. Underneath the title it says "Join the Library. Raise Hell. Underneath the opening it says "A novel from Hell's Library" and under that "A. J. Hackwith"
“head librarian” “Hell” “hero escapes” “author” were the words that jumped at me from the synopsis of the book.

I don’t normally buy books that I’m not looking for but this book just yelled to be picked up! Hell’s library, what’s in Hell’s library?! Is it evil books? Is it books by evil people? What?! I also don’t normally read synopses because I enjoy going into books not knowing much about the plot but this one claimed that this library housed unwritten works, now that’s intriguing! The main character would be the librarian in charge of these unwritten books and that a hero escapes so they have to get him back. With only a tiny bit of unease at stepping out of my comfort zone I bought the book. That was February 2020.

Jump to July 2020 and I figured it was about time to get back into reading since I was stuck at home with not much else to do… Boy it took me a while to get into the book. I don’t blame the book too much though! Middle of a you-know-what and my mental health wasn’t great so my attention span was lacking. I was reading about 20 pages here and there and then I left it for a couple of months until I finally finished it in January of 2021.

Although this book took a while to read I really truly enjoyed it! The story centers Claire, the head librarian of the Unwritten Library. This library is home to all the unfinished works by people on earth. You know, you write half a story and leave it there? Yeah, that story now lives in that library. All the main characters live in those shelves but sometimes they get out of their pages and become “real.” These characters are then put back into their unfinished books by the librarian. But, in one case, a hero escapes his book and manages to get out of the library altogether. Now Claire and Brevity (a retired muse) have to get him back into his book before he meets his author and havoc ensues.

But of course that’s not all! The other big big issue is that someone somewhere has discovered that the Devil’s Bible, written by Lucifer (you know, king of the underworld, head of all things evil, fallen archangel) is somewhere it shouldn’t be. Books are huge sources of power, demons are always going to the Unwritten library to read and borrow some of that power so it is imperative that this particular book doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. So, heaven is making sure they find the book to put it in the proper place and also demons are now after the book! Well, of course Claire and Beverly get mixed into this mystery of where the book is and …well… you’ll have to read the book to find out!

An aspect of this book I really enjoyed also was that we got to visit multiple other afterlife places: Heaven, Valhalla, a random pagan afterlife, etc. The way that one gets there isn’t easy for these characters since one is supposed to be a human soul (I kept forgetting that they were not entirely human throughout the whole book, also a side effect of stopping after a few pages and picking it up again weeks later I bet). There are many challenges and puzzles that they must solve at each turn so that was really interesting.

I highly recommend this first installment of Hell’s Library because not only is it for all book lovers and aspiring writers, it also includes LGBTQ characters. Multiple characters are sexually diverse and the issues that they face through the book (and in their backstories) are treated really well. I did not know this when I read the book but A. J. Hackwith is a queer fantasy and science fiction writer so it makes so much sense now that she was able to write about the identities of the characters so well.

I would like to continue reading this series and perhaps re-read this book now that my mind is more at ease. What do you think? Have you read this book? Do you have an unwritten book that you’ve yet to finish?

An unwritten book is nothing but pure potential, a soul’s potential is power [in Hell]. Power naturally, is all the creatures of Hell care about. They’d descend on the shelves like a swarm of locusts if we let them

The Library of the Unwritten by A. J. Hackwith

March & April Book Bites

Gosh it’s been a month since I’ve written here, so, sorry about that! I simply didn’t get around to writing so now I’ll be combining March and April into one big update! Let’s go!

 

Screen Shot 2018-04-08 at 23.27.10

March was a very interesting reading month. The first book I finished in March was The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. This book is incredibly popular since it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2014. Sadly for me it was a huge letdown. The book is about Theo, a boy who loses his mother in a horrible explosion in a museum. It is a coming of age story in some ways, since we see the man he becomes, but also the way he developed (or not) after that tragic moment in his life. The best part for me was the role of the painting for which the novel is named: The Goldfinch. It is a small painting that Theo ends up connected to for the rest of his life. It is the thread that connects every part of the book, and also a beautiful metaphor for Theo’s life. Unfortunately, I felt like I didn’t gain much from this book, instead it made me feel hopeless and anguished, but with no actual lesson on how to make life better. I love books that give me perspective, but this one was a perspective that did not give me anything that I would want to hang on to. Simply disappointing…

  • Favorite Bite:

“Only occasionally did I notice the chain on the finch’s ankle, or think what a cruel life for a little living creature — fluttering briefly, forced always to land in the same hopeless place.”

  • Perspective Rating: 2/10 Yeah, didn’t gain much from the main perspectives provided…
  • Emotional Rating: 4/10 There were certainly very strong emotional moments that occurred mostly in the beginning of the book where Theo loses his mom and is completely lost that really got to me. But after that there was little connection to him or most of the characters.
  • Bites Rating: 6/10 Sure, I did highlight many phrases in the book because yes, the book is filled with beautiful imagery or interesting metaphors and symbols (mostly relating to the painting). But few of them were powerful (one of the few examples is mentioned above).
  • Overall Rating: 4/10. Yeah, not super impressed… It’s also a shame because the book is waaaaay too long! I feel like a few good editing sessions would have served that book well.

The Spark

Next I read The Spark by David Drake, which I reviewed here, and I really enjoyed it! It is about Pal, a young man who has lived his whole life in Beune and only dreams of going to Dun, the big city, to become a champion for the king. It is a take on an Arthurian legend, but with a very sci-fi world. I really enjoyed that the characters were complex, their intentions more than just power or love. The lack of cliches and stereotypes really took this book to another level for me as well! I will certainly look for more of Drake’s writing.

  • Favorite Bite:

“Since I’d come away from Beune, everything I’d seen was people in pyramids, somebody at the top and everybody else scrambling to get on top instead. Or at least to get off the bottom.”

  • Perspective Rating: 7/10 This book doesn’t give a very original perspective but it didn’t give me enough to warrant a higher rating.
  • Emotional Rating: 7/10 There were definitely some emotional moments, I was able to connect to the characters and care about them but not much more than that.
  • Bites Rating: 5/10 There weren’t many passages to highlight, but it was fast-paced and
  • Overall Rating: 6.33/10 I really enjoyed this book! It was entertaining and it was filled with really interesting characters!

March 22, 2018 at 10:08AM.jpgThe next book I finished was a re-read of Ready Player one in preparation for watching the movie that came out. I knew that it wouldn’t be anywhere near the same as the book but I still wanted to go back to that world before watching the film.

So this novel is about Wade, a high school student who is obsessed with the OASIS, a virtual reality world. There’s no surprise there seeing how the real world is completely messed up, most people living in poverty and only a few in riches. All he wants is to be wealthy enough to get away from the planet that is rotting away. Thankfully there’s a game inside the OASIS, and if he wins the game and finds the easter egg within it, he’ll own the OASIS and he’ll be able to do whatever he wants with his life from then on. Definitely a great novel with much insight into the world of people who choose to live in virtual worlds more than in this real one.

  • Favorite Bite:

“I quickly lost track of time. I forgot that my avatar was sitting in Halliday’s bedroom and that, in reality, I was sitting in my hideout, huddled near the electric heater, tapping at the empty air in front of me, entering commands on an imaginary keyboard. All of the intervening layers slipped away, and I lost myself in the game within the game.”

  • Perspective Rating: 8/10 Definitely great to see the perspective of someone who is nerdy, a gamer, a loner, someone who isn’t super confident in real life but has a different persona in the virtual world.
  • Emotional Rating: 7/10 I connected with Wade in many levels, from his loneliness in the real life to his bravery in the OASIS ❤
  • Bites Rating: 6/10 I didn’t annotate this book very much, it was another one of those books that you just want to keep reading and there’s no time to pick up the pen to underline things XD (Not necessarily a bad thing!)
  • Overall Rating: 7/10 I really enjoyed this book, I can imagine myself rereading it multiple times in the years to come.

IMG_20180204_104827657.jpg
Next I read one of the most amazing books I’ve read this year so far, “Equiano, the African: Biography of a Self-Made Man” by Vincent Carretta. This is a non-fiction book for which I wrote the review here. Briefly, this book is about Equiano, a man who was a slave and was able to buy his own freedom and ultimately fought for the abolition of slavery in Britain. He was a man with incredible perspective, that of being a slave, a sailor in the British Navy, and a writer during a time when it was difficult to lead a life in any of these situations. It’s a beautifully researched book and one that gives one further appreciation of our lives today, and how far we still have to go.

  • Favorite Bite:

“The traditional definition of race as bloodline was increasingly replaced by the notion of race as species that became dominant in the nineteenth century. This “modern” concept of race, which was secondary during the early colonial American period, became primary.”

  • Perspective Rating: 10/10 Yes! So much perspective from this book, not just historical, also cultural, psychological, and social. The depth and breadth of this novel is extensive and it’s one you can definitely go back and dive deeper in various parts.
  • Emotional Rating: 8/10 Gosh so much of this book was hard to read, the difficulties of living as a slave, the hardships endured while trying to buy his freedom, and the discrimination he encountered in places, or that he saw others endure while he was free, it all was definitely an emotional journey that was hard but worthwhile.
  • Bites Rating: 9/10 I was annotating left and right here! There were just a few chapters where I didn’t annotate, but there were so many facts and stories that blew me away and that I made sure to mark and tell people about those passages (too long to quote here).
  • Overall Rating: 9/10 This book is just so good, I recommend it to everyone because it teaches not only the story of a man, not only about history, it teaches about life and the prices some people have to pay to live it.

On to April!

April 03, 2018 at 01:58PM.jpgIn April I read the first installment of The Dark Tower series by Stephen King and I really enjoyed it! I wasn’t sure if I’d love it and I don’t think I do but it certainly got me thinking.  The Gunslinger is about a man who is hunting another for some unknown reason. The trip is really strange and creepy (as all King things are), but it was also interesting and wondrous. As we follow the Gunslinger we meet a variety of people who are super interesting, but we only get a snapshot of their lives, nothing more.

  • Favorite Bite:

“The eyes were damned, the staring, glaring eyes of one who sees but does not see, eyes ever turned inward to the sterile hell of dreams beyond control, dreams unleashed, risen out of the stinking swamps of the unconscious”

  • Perspective Rating: 5/10 There are some very interesting ideas here, but there’s no clear picture yet we shall see what happens with the rest of the series. I might add another Rating section to account for this.
  • Emotional Rating: 7/10 Given how disjointed and confusing it was at some points, it’s impressive how connected I was to the Gunslinger, the boy, and their fate.
  • Bites Rating: 8/10 There were plenty of moments where I had to underline or comment on the margins in this book. Moments of beautiful writing but also very interesting ideas.
  • Overall rating: 6.66/10 There’s definitely room for growth here for me, perhaps the rest of the series will make it all make better sense for me.

img_20180506_192005115_ll.jpgIn April I was looking for a lighter read and I found it in Neil Patrick Harris’ “Choose Your Own Autobiography”, which is modeled after the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. I never really read this books but I am a big fan of NPH’s work and I did need a lighter read so I picked this up from my bookcase. The book really is his autobiography, told with humor and filled with fun anecdotes about his life. As with other books of this style, it can be finished multiple times in different ways. I ended up finishing this book about 6 times but I think I haven’t read the whole book per se. I won’t try to do so now, instead I’ll be picking it up whenever I need a light and fun read, this book really is many in one.

  • Favorite Bite: Okay too hard to pick! Basically the chapter starting on page 107, where NPH describes meeting his future husband, David, and which was annotated by David. Simply romantic and hilarious! ❤
  • Perspective Rating: 6/10 Not much perspective here but it’s awesome to see NPH’s perspective as a child actor and see what his life has been like so far (magical!)
  • Emotional Rating: 8/10 There were some happy tears shed with NPH’s magical romantic relationship with David, so beautiful! ❤ ❤ ❤
  • Bites Rating: 6/10 Not lots of annotating here, but that’s because I was busy just flipping pages to the next part of the story XD
  • Overall Rating: 6.66 So it’s not a mind-blowing book, but it sure is one that gave my mind some rest after the complex and difficult reads I had previously gone through. 😉

April 24, 2018 at 07:23PM.jpgFinally, the book that I read both in March and April was Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood! It’s a fiction book based on the real life of Grace Marks, a woman convicted of murder in the 1800s in Canada. She was not given the death penalty because people thought that she was manipulated by a man (who was hung for the same murder). People thought she was innocent or crazy so she was treated differently. It’s an amazing work that shows much research and thought behind how the story is composed. If you like mysteries based on real life stories then you’ll definitely enjoy this, if you also like stories that tell a perspective not usually told, then you’ll find something worthwhile here as well.

  • Favorite Bite:

“Lying… A severe term, surely. Has she been lying to you, you ask? Let me put it this way– did Scheherazade lie? Not in her own eyes, indeed, the stories she told ought never to be subjected to the harsh categories of Truth and Falsehood. They belong in another realm altogether. Perhaps Grace Marks has merely been telling you what she needs to tell, in order to accomplish the desired end.”

  • Perspective Rating: 9/10 The perspective of multiple people of different ages in the 1800s in Canada is one I’ve not encountered before. It’s surprising to see how much of it still holds true today and how things were back then that could be unthinkable now!
  • Emotional Rating: 7/10 There were aspects of Grace’s life that I could connect with and others I couldn’t, I did not empathize with her too much because it’s hard to tell if she’s being truthful, but I guess that’s the point 😉
  • Bites Rating: 10/10 I started annotating from the first page! The imagery and also the mood evoked throughout the book is tangible. I simply love Atwood’s writing.
  • Overall Rating: 8.66 It really was just the emotional attachment that I missed from this book. But it is powerful and definitely worth re-reading in the future. I shall watch the Netflix adaptation next and report back 🙂

So there you have it! 7 books read in the past two months! I need to figure out better how to keep up with a posting schedule so that time doesn’t just pass by for me XD

Have you read any of these books?

Book Review — Equiano, The African: Biography of a Self-Made Man

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Equiano, The African is one of the best nonfiction books I have ever read. Hands down. To even tell you everything that I learned would take much more space and time than we have time to talk about here, but let’s go over the highlights, shall we?

First, let’s talk about the author a bit. Vincent Carretta is a professor of English at the University of Maryland, and he specializes in 18th century history and literature. He’s published books about other important voices of black history, such as Phillis Wheatley, the first African American poet, and Philip Quaque, the first African Missionary.

In this book, Carretta takes us on a voyage through Equiano’s life by going through Equiano’s autobiography, and gives us the context surrounding specific moments of his life, some of which are incredibly original.

“Equiano’s autobiography is the most extended and detailed account of naval experience left by any eighteenth-century writer of African descent”

The book is divided into fourteen chapters, each cataloguing specific parts of Equiano’s life, such as the descriptions he gives of his birth in Africa, which is still under debate. Carretta argues that Equiano was not actually born in Africa and might have been born in the Carolinas in the United States. This hypothesis is very clearly laid out and Carretta also explains how, if this is true, Equiano was very clever in writing his autobiography and marketing it so that people wouldn’t suspect otherwise.

Equiano started as a slave, became a sailor, and after buying his own freedom, he even managed the transportation of slaves. Equiano didn’t view slavery as a bad thing at first, but through his experience and his spiritual and religious discovery, he became certain that slavery was a thing of evil. But the most interesting part of this book for me was how Carretta was able to put more than one perspective of the abolitionists of the eighteenth century as the framework for how Equiano himself came to that conclusion.

“Opposition to the African slave trade was politically nonpartisan and religiously nonsectarian. Conservative Christians opposed it because it was sinful, political reformers because it denied the natural rights of humanity, social reformers because it was oppressive, and economic theorists because it was inefficient”

We get to explore the timeframe of the eighteenth century, when horrible things were done to many human beings who were seen as “others” or who simply had to pay some debt and went into the vortex of slavery to never get out. Equiano is our point of reference through which we can see how the world was back then, how far we have come, but also how some things remain the same. It taught me the origins and transformations of our biases based on skin color for example:

“The traditional definition of race as bloodline was increasingly replaced by the notion of race as species that became dominant in the nineteenth century. This “modern” concept of race, which was secondary during the early colonial American period, became primary.”

But it also taught me some really interesting facts, about naval ships at the time, how the politics worked under a monarchy previous to a parliament, and things like this:

“…Birmingham’s Lunar society, so-called because it met on the Monday nearest each full moon, when its amateur scientists and experimenters had enough natural light to find their way home following an evening of conviviality, conversation, and consultation… Mostly from humble origins, many of the self-described “Lunatics” were self-made men like Equiano himself.”

Carretta’s writing is enjoyable and flows really well. Even when talking about battles and dates and names of politicians I found myself immersed in the writing and invested in the people, so much so that I am definitely looking forward to reading more of his works (at least the two mentioned at the beginning of this post).

Equiano was a fascinating man, no matter where he was born, he left a legacy that will not be forgotten. He was part of many activists of the eighteenth century who fought to abolish slavery, and even if he didn’t get to see it all come true, he lived a life true to his values and to his beliefs.

This was but a taste of what’s in this wonderful book, I definitely recommend it if you like history, original perspectives, and, especially if you think that history has nothing left to teach you (because it does!). Also, if you think history is boring, read this, this was far from boring and I just wanted to know more about many of the people introduced in this book (like Phillis Wheatley!).

Do you like nonfiction books? What’s your favorite? I need recommendations! 😀

Book Review — The Spark by David Drake

The Spark
The Spark and Ulysses were this month’s TBR jar picks!

So I received The Spark in a Page Habit box a few months ago and it was an unexpected but pleasant surprise.

David Drake was born in 1945, he’s a Vietnam War veteran and he’s known for being a major author in the military science fiction genre. The Spark is the first book that I read by Drake and I really enjoyed it!

The Spark is a take on an Arthurian legend, if you are familiar with the tale, you’ll see plenty of parallels, but the differences are what really caught my attention. First is the world where this story takes place. It is a world that has many towns and cities connected by a Road. The world is divided into Here and Not Here, two sort of parallel universes that connect or overlap in certain places, one of them being this Road that connects everything. There are artifacts from the Ancients (which seem to be today’s world since there are references to umbrellas, projectors, and weapons) that only certain people are able to fix and make work again, these people are called Makers.

“Since I’d come away from Beune, everything I’d seen was people in pyramids, somebody at the top and everybody else scrambling to get on top instead. Or at least to get off the bottom” — Pal

So, Pal is our main character, he’s a young man from a small town that’s not exactly governed by the Commonwealth but Pal’s dream is to become a Champion of Humanity (Pal’s also a Maker!). The Champions are selected at Dun Add, a city where King Jon rules the Commonwealth. The story begins as Pal arrives at Dun Add after traveling through the Road with the help of his dog Buck (people can’t see well in the Road and must see through the eyes of their animal companions in order to travel safely).

Truthfully, the part that I was dreading the most was that of the romance. Of course there must be a maiden in distress that needs saving! However, even though there was a woman who needed help finding her sister, there was no romantic love there! Even the one who might be Pal’s main love interest is not even considered so by him until perhaps the end of the novel. I liked this because it wasn’t the usual “Oh, they saw each other for the first time and now they are in love and will get married tomorrow after they slay the dragon” deal. Women are portrayed as individuals with purpose and their own dreams and desires. They aren’t always nice and pretty and princess-like, they are raw and real and troublesome too.

Then there was the violence. There are certainly deaths and some gory parts that stand out in my mind even days after reading them. Drake is really good at describing the battles and the fighting, he gives us enough detail to know what’s happening but not too much that we are overwhelmed.

“You can’t spend all the time thinking about how to stay safe and still live what I’d call a life” — Pal

So all in all, this book had a variety of interesting characters, three different adventures all rolled into one, and it was entertaining!

I don’t know if I’ll like other books by David Drake, but I now know that he can tell a story without going for the usual tropes and cliches that one tends to find in this genre. If I come across another of his books, I’ll likely give it a try.

Have you read any of Drake’s books? Which one should I read next?

Book Review — An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon was a book that challenged me for the better. I got to see through the eyes of a woman who lives in a society that treats people like objects and who is missing the knowledge of her family history. She feels like she is missing something but she doesn’t dwell on it since there are no clear and quantifiable answers.

“A part of each person lay in their past, in their parentage and grandparentage, and if that history was missing, were said people incomplete?
–Aster

As part of the lack of history that she feels, she seeks knowledge of her surroundings, she immerses herself in studying the world around her, from growing plants to synthesizing chemicals to aid her in her work as a healer. She’s a crucial part of her community, going around and healing those who don’t have access to doctors, but soon all that will change when she gets some clear information on what led to her mother’s death.

“Chemicals plus chemicals makes magic”
— Aster

Although this book is a science fiction novel, it was not what I expected, it’s not just a voyage in space. It is a novel that gives an immensely important voice to social and cultural issues that are not represented in many forms of media, from film to books and everything in between. Among these issues is gender. In Matilda, the ship that carries what’s left of humanity through space, people live in different levels depending on their social status, skin color, and gender. It is explained that humanity has developed a third gender “they”, which was a result of a hormonal condition that made it so that people of this gender didn’t fit biologically into male or female.

“…said Flick as she–he–no, they–shook the starjar. Aster regretted her error.”

The third gender uses the “they” pronoun and it’s the first time that I even read a book where this pronoun is implemented. Such a book can be very powerful for people who use this pronoun and for those who don’t know or don’t understand why or how to use it.

The world that Solomon creates in this book is slowly built up through Aster’s eyes. At first this was frustrating to me because I wanted a clear picture right away, but I learned to be patient and see things as Aster did. Aster only sees specific details that are important to her. It was frustrating to have a very meaningful and emotional encounter happening and have Aster focus on a seemingly trivial thing that leads to the sudden end of that encounter. This is actually very important because not everyone sees the world in the same way, some may only pay attention to the details and others may focus on the bigger picture. This book taught me to be open to the way that others see the world, even if at times it can be hard and frustrating to stop and see a situation from the other person’s point of view to realize that we might both want the same thing and that it will just take a bit of understanding from both parties to reach the objective.

This book really did leave me thinking, it was really well written and it gave me something that no other book has given me: a perspective that was very difficult to connect to, but which taught me how to be understanding of those who don’t express themselves the same way that I do.

What’s a book that you’ve read that had a difficult perspective but which was valuable and worth reading?

Book Review — Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik

“It was a house that turned from the world and cast its gaze inward, a house whose women believed the very walls listened for sin, a house where we whispered the truth or didn’t speak at all” — Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik.

Jasmin Darznik is an author who tells us the story of Forugh Farrokhzad, a woman who lived from 1934 to 1967 in Iran, a place where women didn’t have the freedom to pursue a life outside of marriage and who had to comply to what their culture and society deemed right. Forugh’s life was hard from the beginning as she grew up in a very strict household and which only got harder as she began to discover her love of writing. Forugh was a poet who expressed feelings that women had about their sexuality, their feelings, and their way of life. She broke barriers and eventually became a filmmaker who mixed her poetry with film and created a powerful message about people who had been cast aside without a second thought.

Darznik manages to tell us Forugh’s story through this novel that, although it is not 100% faithful to truth, it does tell us what it would have been like to feel what Forugh went through. This story then lets the reader into the world of women in Iran, from Forugh’s youth, to her untimely death.

The writing is beautiful:

“We were driven by forces we didn’t understand, moving toward a destination we couldn’t see”

There are so many messages to inspire, to make one think about our own society, about our own beliefs:

“The Golshiri men were learned aristocrats who spent their days in leisurely contemplation, but it was his mother, a woman unable to write even her name, who’d shaped his education”

Then there’s also the importance of telling our own stories, because our own stories can inspire others to break barriers and inspiring others in turn:

“And yet I’d never heard of a woman surviving away from her family, without a father or husband to protect her. It wasn’t just beyond hoping; it was beyond imagining.”

How important is it to view yourself in the stories you read? Do you identify with the main characters in your favorite books? Is your story told within the pages of books?

Forugh’s story inspires me to tell my story, to inspire others, and to become at least a bit like Forugh by standing up for what I believe in, and not allowing people’s expectations to keep me from doing what I love.

Needless to say, Jasmin Darznik touched me in ways I couldn’t have imagined through Forugh’s life story. I hope to read more of Darznik’s writing and also to read Forugh’s own poetry and watch her film to see what she saw, if only for a few minutes.