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 2018, Non-Fiction

My Own Devices by Dessa

Dessa is one of my favorite underground rappers. She was recommended to me by Spotify and I was not disappointed. Her verses are smart, raw and poetic….her book is no different. If you could add background music to this, I’m pretty sure we can have ourselves a musical.

The story begins with love: love of a person and love of an artform. It transitions to experience and it ends with acceptance. We are rewarded with sprinkles of complex moral and philosophical ideas.

We learn about the start of Doomtree and their touring routine. We learn about Dessa’s past work experience and we even get a front row seat on some family history. My favorite thing of all though is when Dessa lets us into her brain. This woman has experimented with science and spirituality (do not confuse it for religion) and has been molded into an observational thinker. She thinks about things that wouldn’t normally reach topics of conversations at dinner parties. It’s addictive, really.

She always ends each chapter with a statement, question or observation. It always feels profound and creative. She holds time and meaning between the pages. This is definitely one of my favorite non-fiction books this year. I would definitely recommend this.

Now, some of my favorite quotes:

“I wanted to be considered a success and I wanted to be on the right side of a hard fight. But I wasn’t sure what job or even what field to pursue.”

For any person who ever had unguided ambition, this quote is extremely relatable. We aren’t afraid of hard work, we’re just afraid of pointless tasks. We don’t want to waste our time. Time becomes a theme in this book.

Finding a place that aligns our spirits and our abilities is one of the hugest struggles we fight.

“Stage was a place for all of the outsized feelings that didn’t fit neatly into daily life. “

I mean, wow! This is so true. When I was in band (marching band…not a cool rap group like Dessa), I remember always feeling better after the performance was over. That first breath after knowing I survived yet another performance was always sweeter than the others. Playing music is therapeutic. You never realize how many troubles get released until you become deflated after giving it your all. The reason why muscle memory is so important for performers is because we need to rely on our instincts. We become our most vulnerable self when it comes to art.

“There’s no best-practice handbook for the pursuit of unlikely dreams.”

Bumper sticker idea! Or a shirt idea.

“This is the Tinker Bell model. She’s only real because she is clapped into existence. The children refuse to entertain any alternative, and the force of their desire and their determination has metaphysical consequences.”

Same as Santa Clause. He is real. I will fight you on this.

This model is also why the Wizarding World of Harry Potter became so big. People’s need for this type of reality to exist transcends any reason.

“When I first had that idea, it kicked back like a shotgun I hadn’t known I was holding.”

Thoughts can be deathly. Once aware, it’s hard to hide.

“Lonliness is the fare that you pay to be free.”

I remember this conversation would appear a lot in both my high school psychology classes and in all my English classes. What does freedom mean? Freedom means the right to feel. It’s why in every dystopian and utopian novel, emotions are always controlled. They instill fear, or they instill a promise of safety. But to be free to think can lead you into a rabbit hole of inner turmoil and self-doubt. Eve bit the apple and found that she was uncomfortable with her mere existence. We risk unhappiness and separation from our community when we pursue the path of knowledge. Alcoholics drink to forget. Book readers read to remember. Remember that in the end, this is all worth it. To remember that our loneliness only goes in vain if we stop trying.

“The sense of purpose squared my shoulders and liften my chin. Purposeful might be my favorite feeling–even better than happiness.”

Yes! I have a lot of coworkers who tell me that being charitable makes them happy. I wish I could say the same thing but, I’m a bit more selfish than they are. However, being charitable gives me purpose. I’ve felt happy and I’ve felt purpose…and I can tell you that it’s a lot easier to sleep when you know you belong and that you have a reason.

“It’s impossible to know which stories are crusual to your narrative until the story is over.”

I love this quote because I always think of this whenever I’m in the pursuit of new friendships. Some people are worth having in your life because they shape you (again, I’m not afraid of hard work). Some people are just there to help the time pass by. Some are just there. Each adds to the overall story, but some become mentors to a lesson you didn’t know you needed to learn. It’s amazing to be aware of each interaction and how it shapes you. It’s amazing to see how you, in return, contribute to their story.

“Even if you dodge all the landmines and retain the starring role, you might find yourself in a story that wouldn’t interest you. That’s why I don’t buy lottery tickets: I’d hate to win. A million-dollar jackpot would pivot my whole narrative on five random numbers–that would be the biggest story of me, the one I’d ask to tell at cocktail parties with my new rich friends and it’d be one that would strain all my phone calls with my old poor friends too. A story signifying nothing.

My concern isn’t about legacy, exactly. That’s an old man’s game. It’s more about agency, about trying to minimize the role of chance and maximize the role of will. If you can’t parse the merit from the luck, it’s hard to know what to think of yourself.”

“But I didn’t want to conceptualize myself as a quicksand pit of changing variables. I wanted something permanent, stolid–a cinder block of a self.

Maybe self works like the word here— the referent changes as you maneuver through the world. You just drag the word along, like PeterPan with his shadow sewn to his heel.”

This was just mental foreplay, really.

“If there are heaven, and it has walls, I doubt they’re hung with mirrors. Maybe we wouldn’t be able to pick ourselves out of a lineup. Maybe we wouldn’t recognize ourselves from any other red-lipped angel passing on the stairs.”

When I read this I imagined cars. Like dealership cars. Where they all look the same in the lot, and what makes it yours is when you get to decorate it the interior (i.e, we all have bodies but it’s our characteristics that define us). It’s also why, when it’s really dark, a lot of people just look for cars that look like theirs and can approach the wrong car.

I also don’t think our self-conscious isn’t really aware of our looks which is why our dream bodies are usually different. 

But then there is an argument to be made with trans people. They don’t relate to the body they have, so trying to personalize the car feels awkward and suffocating. So if there was a line-up, they probably wouldn’t want to choose their given bodies.

But do we get to choose? Or is like, our bodies are created for our souls? What about people that have out of bodies experiences, but then get to return to their bodies? Or people who’ve actually temporarily died and then were resuscitated, could there have been an instance where the spirit returned to the wrong body. But then that implies that reincarnation is real. And the whole theory that when one person dies, another one is born, the soul could transfer over.

What are your thoughts on it? I am for sure overanalyzing this.

“But the art that really blows my mind usually violates the assumption I didn’t even realize I’d made, eliciting some variation of Holy Shit, I didn’t know you could do that.

Basically, anything that alters my reality and rewrites “impossibility” is what I define as art. I can go to a museum and stare at the sculptures and portraits and think “this is talent, but not memorable.” Then there are those that scratch that itch of curiosity.

“Nobody gets to save up their health and beauty for redemption at a more convenient date. Living more or less celibate and alone, I feel like I’m squandering a resource, like part of me is being wasted.”

It’s really sad how much pressure there is on looks. I know the pressure was always there but now that online dating is mostly based on looks rather than compatibility, it becomes more intense.

“Freewill is just the ghost we strap into the machine when the manual gets confusing.”

Speechless

“Charisma is an excellent attractant, but lousy glue.”

I should tell that to my friends…

“Maybe loyalty is just love fossilized.”

I believe this. People that I have loved, still hold a piece of my heart even if the feeling isn’t there anymore.

 

Cover copied from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38526745-my-own-devices?from_search=true

Posted in 2018, Fiction, young adult

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

I read this book because Entertainment Weekly said the author was just as good as J.K Rowling. In my opinion, that was untrue. J.K Rowling spends her time writing in great detail to set the scene. It’s one of the advantages of writing in 3rd person.

Since this story is in 1st person point of view, it’s harder to set the scene. I like the idea behind the story, but I am not a fan of the execution. For one, it felt rushed. I was okay with the timeline being rushed since it had a purpose. I was not okay with the love being rushed.

Prince Inan fell too hard for Zélie. There was no obsession turned into feelings that the hunter usually gains for his prey. They also had no chemistry other than the mutual fear for and of each other. Adeyemi tried to portray this prince as a complicated character but in reality, the princess should have had the crown. She was best friends with a maji and she saw her getting killed by her own father. Prince Inan just had to compete for his father’s approval. Yes, giving him powers (which the King strongly loathed) was a great detail to his character, but not enough to value him as a narrator.

Princess Amari was a great compliment to Zélie. Amari was genuinely nice and naive, yet fierce. Zélie was distrustful, selfish and paranoid. This isn’t a slight at Zélie’s character. She saw her mom being killed for having magic powers. Her father kept getting threatened and taxed by the people of the palace. She grew up in a tough world. Having Amari and Zélie become friends would make for a dramatic story of how friendships can overcome differences. However, that’s not what’s happening. Zélie has only tolerated Amari because it was in a prophecy. Amari tries her best to be nice but it goes unrewarded until Amari became of use to Zélie. Again, not a slight, just an observation. I look forward to what see what the sequel has in store for these two.

I will hand it to Ademeyi. Creating a world in which the magical are oppressed and feared is indeed thrilling. Having them slowly regain their power is heartwarming. I am excited to read more of this world.

Now here are some of my favorite quotes:

“On earth, Sky Mother created humans, her children of blood and bone. in the heavens she gave birth to the gods and goddesses. Each would come to embody a different fragment of her soul.”

Poetic.

“Showing the princess what it looks like when her life is actually in danger!”

Back story, Amari (the princess) was telling Tzain (the brother) that her life was in danger. Zelie became angry because she has this stereotype that this princess is a weak spoiled brat who doesn’t know any hardships. This is a good attribute to show in the book. How it’s easy for people to jump to conclusions based on very limited information.

The sears on my skin are nothing compared to the guilt that scalds my heart.

Whoa! Deep.

“But he wasn’t wrong to take magic away. He was wrong for the oppression that followed.”

I feel like this is a suitable argument for gun control (given that this book is already political enough). Funnily enough, when I read this passage, I didn’t know this book was meant to be a statement about Black Lives Matter.

“Your people, your guards–they’re nothing more than killers, rapists, and thieves. The only difference between them and criminals is the uniforms they wear.”….
“Fool yourself all you want, little prince, but don’t feign innocence with me. I won’t let your father get away with what he’s done. I won’t let your ignorance silence my pain.”

Another political statement.

 

Featured Image taken from Goodreads

Posted in 2018, Fiction, LGBTQ, Romance, young adult

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

This is the second book of Sara Farizan that I’ve read. I wasn’t too impressed with the first one, but I gave this one a shot anyway. I’m glad I did because I thought it was great (at least in comparison with Tell Me How A Crush Should Feel).

In this book, we have Nasrin and Sahar keeping their love a secret because, in Iran, homosexuality is punishable by death.  But since they are best friends, no ones thinks any differently that these girls love hanging around each other.

Conflict: Sahar’s parents have arranged her to marry a man.

Solution: Nasrin attempts to try to change her gender (because being a transexual is legal in Iran, did not know that) so she could marry Sahar instead.

This books is funny, emotional, entertaining, slightly annoying (it’s not uncommon to be annoyed of a character when you are binge reading first person point of view.) but overall educational on the experiences of a teenage Iranian coming to terms with the injustice.

One thing I did like about this book is that both characters loved each other equally, although they showed it in different ways. There was no pity love. There was no “I’m better than you, and I can have anyone I want so you better be good to me (which is how I first thought Sahar’s character would be like).” Both character were committed to each other, but circumstances got in the way.