Posted in 2019, Fiction, LGBTQ, Romance, young adult

The Summer of Jordi Perez by Amy Spalding

This book was a fun read. It’s refreshing to read a Young Adult book where everything doesn’t feel so life and death. It’s a good book to read when you want to escape for a while. I read it in two days because I didn’t want to put it down. I’m not saying that it’s addictive, I just meant that it was a good escape. It’s like hearing good gossip. It takes you out of your mind for a while but not enough to obsess or spend too much thinking about. Simple.

The background: Abby, our main character, is a fashionista who sees herself as the sidekick rather than the main character. Maliah, her best friend, is currently dating a boy named Trevor so she’s been a little too preoccupied to hang out and her sister, Brooke, went away to college leaving Abby alone with her parents. Her mom started a blog called Eat Healthy with Norah! which eventually became a show and will eventually become a book (as the story progresses) and it drives Abby insane! Her dad helps in the company so Abbys is pretty much not allowed to openly hate it.

Luckily, this summer she won a summer internship position working in one of her favorite (yet expensive) clothing stores near her house called Lemonberry. The internship is given to one person a year and that person gets the opportunity to work in the store once the internship program is done (and there’s a rumor that the intern gets free clothes). It’s perfect, right!

One of the reasons she got the internships is because of her blog Style+ where she writes about her fashion opinions. This made her great for a possible role in the social media department. Abby, for the most part, is a bubbly confident girl. She is overweight but has no problem dressing up. She thrives with peppy outfits and colorful dresses. Meliah insists that she should post pictures of herself in her blog but Abby refuses. Although Abby doesn’t hate her body, she doesn’t understand why anyone would want to look at her. Therefore she pretty much doesn’t think she stands a chance with dating or falling in love.

The conflict: Maggie, the owner of Lemonberry, decided to hire two interns this year because she couldn’t decide between the two of them. This is when Jordi Perez comes into the picture.

Jordi got the position because of her photography skills. Jordi is the opposite of Abby. She likes to wear jeans, T-Shirts, and boots. She doesn’t like to dress up much. She keeps to dark tones and comfortable wear. Suddenly Abby feels very threatened. Now she has to compete for the possible job opening once the internship is over. But Jordi is so nice to her that she feels really guilty wanting to win. I mean how can she hurt Jordi? Especially since Abby is realizing how much she loves it when Jordi smiles?

Cute, right?! Nothing too intense. 1st world drama.

In order to bring more depth to the story, the author introduced Jax to the picture. Jax is the best friend of Trevor and he decided that he and Abby should be friends since they are practically best friends-in-law. They venture the summer by trying out different burgers in the Los Angeles area to help his father with a restaurant app he is going to launch. It sounds boring but these are the times when we get to see Abby take down her wall and talk about the things that she can’t talk about with Maliah anymore.

The character development did feel a bit fast towards the end but overall it was a good pace. Abby was dealing with so much change in such a short time that I guess it could make sense. Evolve or get left behind, so to speak.

Overall I’d recommend it if you just want an easy read.

 

 

Posted in 2019, Fiction, LGBTQ, Romance, young adult

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour was one of the E-books available at the library for Pride month.

I’d rate this book 2 out of 5. I would have given it a 3 but it was missing something. I enjoyed it while I was reading it but it’s nothing memorable.

The premise is that Emi, our narrator, and Charlotte, her best friend, discover a letter in a record they bought at an estate sale from a famous movie cowboy, Clyde (forgot his last name. I was so over it by the end). Clyde wrote this letter to her daughter whom no one knew he had. He died a single, fatherless man according to the news. Emi and her brother were obsessed with Clyde so this became an immediate obsession. Emi and Charlotte spend the beginning of the book trying to locate the daughter. They eventually find his granddaughter, Ava, and become friends.

I’m going to split this review into two parts: what worked, what didn’t.

What Worked
From the very beginning, we discover that Emi, is an openly out lesbian who is in the middle of a break-up from an on-again-off-again relationship. Therefore, we can conclude that this won’t be your typical coming out of the closet story (those get old after a while).

The setting was set in Los Angeles, therefore making the Hollywood fantasy seem romantic and possible. Emi’s passion for the sets and the details really added to it. Her very accepting parents were also a nice touch.

Making this into a mystery novel instead of a typical romance novel really helped grab the attention in the beginning. I liked that towards the end, it became more about Ava solving the mystery of her past instead of it being about Emi finding Ava. It felt very Gatsby-esque (where the narrator is not really the protagonist).

What Didn’t
Let’s talk about Morgan. Morgan is Emi’s ex-girlfriend. Including her in the picture was fun in the beginning but had a boring follow through. Morgan has a history of dumping Emi constantly because she wants a little more freedom and doesn’t want to feel tied down. The story starts with it being their 6th break-up. Although I’m not into toxic relationships, it does cause some tension in the story. The first few chapters are about Emi trying to forget about Morgan but still missing her. Wishing that Morgan would just beg for her back. Wanting to talk to her but knowing it’s a bad idea. That’s all great for drama.

However, for someone who speaks beautifully about detail, Emi doesn’t spend to much time really painting the picture of why she loved Morgan. Morgan is just a fact. There were a few attempts to show why they were so good together, but Emi was so stuck in her head that I don’t think the relationship was ever really serious. I feel like Emi was so wrapped up in her fantasy world that it’s no wonder Morgan was able to keep dumping her and getting her back. More on that later.

Charlotte acted as a perfect best friend. She hated Morgan, as she should. And warned Emi about falling in love with Ava (which, given Emi’s obsession with fantasy, is smart!). I wish we got to know more about her. She was more of a prop than a person. Charlotte is a confident, well-organized, intelligent, determined girl and yet, the most interesting characteristic LaCour gave her was that she was in love with Emi’s brother. They barely touched on it though, and given that Emi was totally fine with it, it didn’t add to the story at all. It just gave Charlotte something to do. Something to feel since she was sounding rather robotic on how perfect she was. Then again, we are living in Emi’s mind. The bad thing about 1st person point of view is that we don’t get the best of everyone.

Let’s come back to Emi’s fantasy world. I did not like the love interest at all! I liked Ava as a love interest, don’t get me wrong, but I feel like Emi was more obsessed over the detail that Ava happened to be her favorite’s celebrity’s granddaughter. If you remove that, Emi wouldn’t have cared so much. Yes, Ava was beautiful. Yes, Ava was gay. Yes, they had chemistry. Still, so many comments were made about the fascination Emi had about Ava’s past…not Ava herself.

The pacing of the romance was too fast. Emi’s quick to obsession process really eliminated the possibility of us falling in love with them falling in love. As I mentioned before, Emi is really good at describing a set but really bad at describing love.

Conclusion
Not sure if I’d recommend it. On the one hand, it’s refreshing to treat a lesbian love story as normal as any heterosexual love story. Yes, there was a moment where the characters had to come out to each other but it wasn’t a big deal. There wasn’t this secrecy. The issue was that they weren’t sure if the other person felt the same way. Or that neither felt good enough for the other. There wasn’t this whole “what if she finds out I’m gay and she hates me?” monologue. Or the “I can’t like women” denial story.

On the other hand, it’s a pretty pointless story. Come to think of it, most mystery novels are pointless.

Bitmoji Image

Okay, I guess if you’re into YA, it wouldn’t be a terrible read. There are some fun parts and I don’t have any regrets reading it.

 

Posted in 2019, Non-Fiction, Self-help

Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

Last year, I volunteered to walk in the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention 5k Out Of The Darkness Walk. There was a booth there where a man was giving this book away. He said most people commit suicide because they can’t find their meaning. My friend, who volunteered with me, said David Foster Wallace (her favorite author) recommended this book as a must-read.

I believe the message was good: meaning will keep you going. Having him talk about his time in the concentration camps and what he experienced witnessing others fight and/or give up was very dramatic and well exemplified his theory. However, I felt the writing was very dry so it took a while to finish.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

Suffering in and of itself is meaningless; we give our suffering meaning by the way in which we respond to it. At one point, Frankl writes that a person “may remain brave, dignified and unselfish, or in the bitter fight for self-preservation he may forget his human dignity and become no more than an animal.”

 

And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity to become molded into the form of the typical inmate.

I remember reading a book where the author said his mom told him that as a human, your purpose was to overcome your instincts. To be better. Therefore, if your instict is survival, you were to strive to be more than just that.

I always wonder how I will behave if I were imprisoned. It is such a good excuse to ignore all morals and just go with it. It’s easier than enduring the pain without lashing out. However, I know that if I make it out alive, I wouldn’t be proud of myself or my behavior. It’s why the Stanford Prison Experiment was such an eye opener.

When I watched the first season of Orange Is The New Black, I remember thinking “how freeing must it be to let your filters down. To just go full mental.” I, of course, realized that this was only a show and that real prisons aren’t as lenient or fun as the show makes it seem, but the idea of not needing to care about your personality felt like a burden has been removed.

But a personality is very different than that of an identity. I think this whole book was focusing on remembering your identity throughout the situations. To never falter who you are for what is convenient in that moment. Frankl was spared from being treated badly because of who he was and how she expressed himself. He wasn’t preferred for any other reason.

The salvation of man is through love and in love.

As someone who has struggled defining what love is, this seems extremely discouraging. However, I do understand that love has some mystical powers that no other emotion has. It drives people insane. It gives them courage. It warms. It pains. It is the most difficult thing to explain.

A prisoner who had lost his faith in the future–his future–was doomed. With his loss of belief in the future, he also lost his spiritual hold; he let himself decline and became subject to mental and physical decay.

Depression, basically.

We have to consider that a man who has been under such enormous mental pressure for such a long time is naturally in some danger after his liberation, especially since the pressure was released quite suddenly.

This is a good definition of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Surviving is only the first part of the battle. Finding how to move on is the war.

What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task.

 

The existential vacuum manifest itself mainly in a state of boredom. Now we can understand Schopenhauer when he said that mankind was apparently doomed to vacillate eternally between the two extremes of distress and boredom.

 

Self-actualization is possible only as a side-effect of self-transcendence.

In other words, find a passion.

What can never be ruled out is the unavoidability of suffering. In accepting this challenge to suffer bravely, life has a meaning up to the last moment, and it retains this meaning literally to the end.

 

Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness.

(Frankl believes that the answer to the meaning of life is being responsible.”Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”)

 

Featured image from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4069.Man_s_Search_for_Meaning

Posted in 2018, 2019, Children's Stories, Fiction

Maleficent by Elizabeth Rudnick

I must confess, I started reading this book during Thanksgiving 2018, in order to get away from my family. I was reading out loud in order to tune out the conversation being had in the living room. My niece overheard me and came to the room. Then my other niece came and they just became my audience, equally engrossed in the story.

Eventually, the day ended and I was only 50 pages in. Afterward, every time I visited, my niece wanted me to read to her.  This became her new bedtime story. My niece is 10 years old and loved the story.

I am not 10 years old but I too enjoyed the story. I did see the movie so I knew how it ended but it’s still fun reading about it. I love books where the villains are really good people (Wicked changed my perspective on the world).

I was never a fan of Sleeping Beauty when I was younger. I thought it was a joke that she fainted from pricking her finger in a spinning wheel. I didn’t understand the story very much and to be honest, the dragon, in the end, scared me (now I love dragons).

However, Maleficent is far from boring. The love story between her and Stephan is gag-worthy but the betrayal is juicy. Now, I do see how incompatible it is to have a good faery named Maleficent. They should have given her a name, then changed it to a Maleficent after she placed the curse in Aurora. A good example would be how Elphaba (in Wicked) was Elphaba before she became the “Wicked Witch of the West” (The Wizard of Oz). Let Maleficent be the name of her legacy, not her real name.

Spoilers ahead:

This book, unfortunately, did not have enough character development. I would have loved to see more chapters with Diaval and Maleficient alone just to gauge their dynamic without interruption. I would have liked to read more chapters with Aurora in the Moors to know exactly when Maleficent fell in love with her (as a daughter of course). I would have liked to read more about her childhood just to contrast how much she has changed. I wanted to get to know Maleficient more as a character and not just a victim of circumstances.

This book was released a month before the movie came out. I understand it was a marketing technique from Disney to get fans excited. I understand that the book is based on the movie and not the other way around. I still enjoyed the story so I could let it pass, but I do feel they have a great character and should do much more with her. With that said, there is a sequel to the movie coming out October 18, 2019, so, fingers crossed that they do her justice.

Featured Image taken from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21949771-maleficent