a bookish dream world

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a bookish dream world

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Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Rating : ⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎

Dear Ijeawele educates but never belittles. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is eloquent without ever being condescending. Her manifesto is smart, simple and brilliant.

“Everybody will have an opinion about what you should do, but what matters is what you want for yourself, and not what others want you to want.”

I especially loved the way she talks about marriage, likeability and sexuality. I have been very interested about how we internalize certain  ideas and concepts (such as marriage, virginity etc.). 

Women, each to a different degree have been forced to fit in these molds or else, they would be deemed inadequate. There’s always been the matter of what a woman should and should not be, how she should and shouldn’t dress, how she should want this but not that etc. and it was heart-warming to read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie put these thoughts into words.

“Female goodness is as normal as female evil.”

The way she addresses double standards and gender roles is brilliantly put. Navigating life is hard and debunking these social constructs doesn’t always come naturally which is why I think that this manifesto is necessary

Have you read Dear Ijeawele ? What do you think ? 

Hello Girls by Brittany Cavallaro and Emily Henry

Rating : ⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎

ARC provided by Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. 
Hello Girls comes out on August 6th ! 

TW : physical abuse and manipulation

“Why did people lie ? With their words, with their voices, with their bodies, with their beautiful houses and beautiful clothes and sometimes even their faces ? Why couldn’t everyone just be what they were ? Monsters should look like monsters.”

Between the ages of 12 and 15, I dreamt of running away in a Thelma and Louise way (not because my life was horrible, but because of my imagination and vicariously living through movies and books). Now that I think of it, if I had had to actually think a plan through… I would’ve been found dead somewhere (and not even in a ditch, probably just because I choked on a piece of broccoli. That didn’t make any sense, I don’t even like broccoli but it’s out there now).

The story follows Lucille and Winona, two seniors in high school, as they run away from their hometown.

☞ The characters 

Winona and Lucille do have very distinct backgrounds but are united by their profound friendship and their love for each other. Friendship Can Save Your Life and in that way, this book celebrates this type of friendship (which I love to read about) which is a pure-hearted, complete love for each other (and reminded me although the stories have nothing in common, about the way Blue describes her friendship with the Raven Boys).

While I enjoyed the premise of the story a lot, I thought that the two main characters weren’t distinguishable enough in the narrative. I liked the writing style despite that fact. Some parts I thought were predictable. This book talks about the male gaze and how crushing it is which I thought was very well put. The ending was okay but left me unsatisfied.

☞ Here’s what I disliked

The story felt like it was building towards a climactic point…  except there was none. The girls go through a lot of dark stuff (A LOT) but it felt like the stakes were completely overlooked ? They did all these things but there were no consequences ? And so all of this happens and then… nothing, it’s the end. Which left me disappointed. Obviously I didn’t want them to end up in prison nor die a very tragic Thelma and Louise’ death but I wanted at least, something to happen. 

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎

SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THE SHADOW AND BONE TRILOGY + THE SIX OF CROWS DUOLOGY, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

“The Monster is me and I am the Monster”

King of Scars takes place after the Ravkan Civil War (aka the Shadow and Bone trilogy). The book follows Nikolai Lantsov as he navigates being the King of Ravka along with having a monster living inside of him. Let’s get into it ! 

The characters

When it comes to characterization, Bardugo is nothing short of a pro. I love how she writes characters and I already felt emotionally attached to these characters since we’ve known them for a while now. The Softness of her characters being balanced with their strength just makes my heart flutter. The thing I like the most is how these two components are mixed together to give me Soft to be Strong realness. 

☞ Nikolai, King of Ravka, Absolute Cinnamon Roll  : Nikolai such a lovable character and exactly (for better or worse) the type of characters I fall for (using sarcasm and jokes as a defense mechanism ? um. heck yes). I enjoyed his character progression but boy was it slow. Despite this, I can’t help but fall head over heels in love with him. Nikolai is being crushed by the weight of his responsibilities and his will to make right by Ravka and its citizens and at the end, I couldn’t help but feel for him. 

☞ I loved seeing Nina again especially because she has such a great potential and I definitely think this “potential” will be explored even more in the sequel. She’s an intriguing character, that balances between being very assertive and authentic with being witty and honest. I adore Nina because she makes me want to be unapologetically myself. In KoS, she deals with the aftermath of Matthias’ death and her grief made my heart ache. That being said, I liked how Bardugo emphasized on Nina being a soldier and it just reminded me of Her Strength and wow, I love her. Needless to say, Nina made my dead heart beat and I am grateful.  I also CANNOT wait to see where her relationship with Hanne goes (I loved their dynamic because I strongly believe that Nina needs to be challenged but that she also needs someone who’s gonna call her out and Hanne. might be that person ? fingers crossed

☞ Zoya Nazyalenski. I would let her straight-up PUNCH me in the face. That’s all. In all seriousness though, I love how Zoya’s arc is moving. Back in the Shadow and Bone trilogy, I didn’t feel any type of ways about her ? I was intrigued and  found her clever and cunning but lacking any sort of depth that could make me empathize with her as to why she was the way she was. But here, we actually get to see the face behind the mask, the feelings behind the very carefully curated version she puts out there. Zoya refuses to be vulnerable as she sees this as pure and utter weakness. Seeing her withdraw herself from situations where any type of emotional vulnerability was involved felt refreshing and a novelty because you get to see how Zoya thinks (also the fact that she had a POV was so COOL). 

Tamar and Tolya. i’d die for you BOTH. just letting u know. Isaak, my dude, they did u DIRTY and i’m sorry. 

The plot

My main problem with KoS is the pace. After reading both SoC and S&B, I understand that it’s part of Leigh’s writing style. The beginning felt very slow and I didn’t mind it until it felt like we weren’t getting an actual plot.  I understood the stakes but the story unfolded too slowly for me to be truly invested. 

I loved learning about the Saints and I love how Leigh Bardugo describes her world. It’s very atmospheric and it truly feels like you’re there. I was a bit confused by the Fold and everything happening there ? (alternate dimension?) 

Finally let’s talk about the ENDING. Oof. Okay, I had Thoughts™️ when I read the ending. It felt like a “Ah Shit, Here We Go Again” type of moment but one that I was truly SHOCKED with.  Bringing the Darkling back is a BOLD CHOICE. In the words of Kat @ PaperbackDreams “He’s already crusty and musty, and now that he’s been in the ground, he’s certainly dusty”.I’m excited to see what the sequel brings and where his character goes because although I disliked him I thought he was a super well-written villain and I do love to hate villains sooo. yeah. 

Those are my thoughts on King of Scars !
Have you read it ? What did you think ? I’d love to know ! 

I Hope You Get This Message by Farah Naz Rishi

It reminded Adeem of one of the poems his sister had shared with him once, one by Rumi. In the poem, Rumi banters with God over life’s usual philosophical questions: what to do with that pesky thing called a heart, where to focus one’s eyes, etcetera, etcetera. But when Rumi asks God what to do with his pain and sorrow, God tells him, “Stay with it. The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”

tw : suicide attempt (in the past, not depicted), mental health issues, 

Some books just stick with you for reasons beyond your immediate comprehension. This is what happened with I Hope You Get This Message and I. Ever since I’ve finished it, it quietly sat in the back of my head. Lately, I’ve been thinking about the end of the world a little (dark, much ? a little but it’s not that bad) and thinking about how We as Humans hurt the Earth and how it’s eventually going to fight back and We (and the future generations) will (are) suffer(ing) from it greatly.

I Hope You Get This Message follows three characters, Adeem, Jesse and Cate as they experience essentially the end of the world. An entity known as Alma warns humans that they will terminate our existence in the next seven days. All hell breaks loose and our main characters try to navigate this announcement however they can.

Rishi’s writing is beautiful and fluid. It’s also full of little gems of wisdom (“Be kind, Adi. Life’s too exhausting as it is to hold on to anger so tightly.” OOF)

✨The characters 

💜Adeem

“It’s convenient to sit back and do nothing when everything goes to hell,” continued Adeem, only a little quieter. “People like him blame the problems we face on the natural order. Or God. Or a lack thereof. But the moment we sit back and do nothing while everything falls apart—that’s why we have problems in the first place. That’s why this is happening.” 

Adeem is Pakistani-American and so is the author ! Adeem goes after his sister who, after coming out to her religious Muslim family, ran from home (without saying goodbye to Adeem). I really felt Adeem’s struggle : while he is angry at his sister for running away and abandoning him, there’s also this part of him that wishes she had trusted him enough to know he wouldn’t have rejected her. I appreciated the way Rishi described sibling relationships because most of the time, they’re far from simple and I always love to read about it. 

💜Jesse

“The thing about wanting to die was that people always assume it’s the constant pain that gets to you, the pain that convinces you to do something, anything, to make it stop, and Jesse’s depression was painful at first, all sporadic tugs and pulls beneath his skull, like a stubborn specter that clung to his mind with sharp teeth.”

Jesse was my favorite character. His reaction to Alma is to pretend he built this machine that’s able to communicate with the “aliens” and this attracts a bunch of people desperate for just a little bit of hope. This opened my eyes about how much emotional baggage we carry as human beings and how easy, almost natural, it is for us to assume that everything is okay when really, everything is Really Not. Jesse’s relationship with his mom was beautiful and heartbreaking and I’ll talk more about him in the “themes” section. I really did love Jesse’s evolution/thought process throughout the book and I thought he was well-written and complex. 

💜Cate was probably the character I felt the “less” about. She didn’t strike me with her personality or her arc. Cate decides to leave her mom to go find her dad, whom she’s never met (which is a brave thing to do). Her resilience truly was something to admire but I can’t lie to you and say she will stick with me (unlike the book in its entirety for example). 

✨ Themes ✨

1) We are not our parents and other complex family intricacies. The reason why I loved Jesse so much is because of his relationship with his family but also his thought process when it came to his relationship with his dad. 

Sure, crows manipulated. Crows deceived. But crows also survived—it was their trickery that kept them alive.”

I felt Jesse’s anger and personal conflict. It reminded me that We Are Not Our Parents and that trauma needs to be dealt with because unfortunately, it doesn’t just go away

“But I don’t want you to keep pretending you’re okay. I don’t want you to keep downplaying the hurt you feel like you’re not even human. You keep it up—all these lies to yourself, to other people, and soon you’re not going to know who you are.”

Jesse is definitely a character that will stay with me for some time. 

2) Companionship is Important and it’s something fundamental that we gravitate towards. Finding friendship, and I mean Real, Unapologetic, True Friendship is rare. It’s not something that happens on a daily basis. This book reminded me why I love to read about friendships (and if you need to know anything about me, it’s that it’s my favorite thing and I literally cannot shut up about it). 

3) Hope is not Dumb, it’s Necessary. At some point in the book, Jesse is confronted with his utter rejection of Hope as a driving factor of humanity. 

“You wanna know why people believe in you? It’s because hope gives people something to hold on to. It makes them feel better. It gives them a reason to keep fighting. People need hope right now, Jesse. Desperately. And there’s nothing wrong with that.”

While on the one hand, I deeply understand Jesse’s point of view, I also truly believe that Hope Is Necessary. And to be completely honest with you, it’s with that type of dialogue that Rishi made me fall in love with her writing. Her way of putting things into perspective and moving me to the point of tears needs more recognition. 

“But isn’t that the point of hope? And faith, even? That you have it and you hold on to it and you protect it, even when it’s impossible? Isn’t that when you need hope the most? You can’t blame people for wanting to feel better.”“You know, the worst part of it all,” said Corbin, “isn’t that you were profiting off people’s hope. It’s that you look down on people for having any hope at all.” 

I feel like this book was emotionally violent for me on two different levels : 

✨ one is that it is really brutal : the reality of the matter IS that some kids have to grow up way too fast and that it’s so fucking unfair but it is what it is. While the three MCs are teenagers, this book is also a testimony that sometimes kids have to grow up too fast, and they have to face things they’re no ready to face that are yet inevitable. 

✨ two is that there’s an inherent softness to what Rishi is saying. There’s this quote in the book “remind the ones you love there’s something still worth fighting for” and it reminded me of Keanu Reeves (9:51) on Stephen Colbert. I don’t know how to put it into words eloquently so I’ll just shut up and ask you to read the book. 

My Only “Criticism”

I wish there had been more light-heartedness. Okay hear me out, yes it’s the end of the world (or at least the end of A World aka as we know it) BUT there was some serious potential to (for lack of better words) “lighten” the story a bit (maybe that’s just a personal preference and honestly the author did this very well at some point : “Man,” he choked. “Your body doesn’t give a shit about timing, does it? That’s why we’re in jail? Seriously? Did it not get the memo about the impending alien attack?” “Are you . . .” Cate blinked back her disbelief. “Adeem, are you asking me if my uterus knows about Alma?” )

ALSO I WANT TO FRAME THIS QUOTE :“What do you think we should do, just snooze our way through the freaking apocalypse?” (probably because it’s what I would do)

In Conclusion

I loved this comment about the end of the world and the inherently brief nature of humanity. The ending did not fully satisfy me (actually it didn’t satisfy me AT ALL) but I think it’s the reason I liked it (paradoxical, I know). I’m a sucker for looking at a book in its entirety and not just focusing on One Thing I Disliked. And with I Hope You Get This Message, I enjoyed it in its entirety, and its message. 

Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer

⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎ 

“Maybe there isn’t such a thing as fate. Maybe it’s just the opportunities we’re given, and what we do with them. I’m beginning to think that maybe great, epic romances don’t just happen. We have to make them ourselves.”
 
Can you hear that ? That’s the sound of me being relieved because this book is All That. Finally, my expectations were met and it feels… so good. 
 
Cress is the third installment in the Lunar Chronicles, which is essentially a retelling of some iconic tales such as Cinderella or the Little Red Riding Hood. Cress is based off of Rapunzel. That being said, that’s where it stops being a retelling.
 
The Lunar Chronicles are set in the future where the Earth is in conflict with Luna (the Moon) ruled by Queen Levana. While book 1 and 2 weren’t my favorite, book 3 is in my opinion completely different. The main problem I had with the past two was that the story wasn’t fleshed-out enough. The side characters ended up being less developed than the main and it made for a very unbalanced cast of characters. This installment is the first where I can confidently say I’m invested in the characters and the plot. They’re all much more fleshed-out and they were given proper agency where it felt like for example in Scarlet, we were kind of lost, searching around for meaning around this whole mission aka How To Deal With Levana (who btw, makes for a great villain but I wish she’d step up even more). I can honestly say that Meyer’s writing has improved a lot with this one. 
 
The characters
 
Cress is the main focus of this book. She’s a girl who’s been raised on a ship (a satellite maybe?) and is in charge of doing Levana’s dirty work (aka surrounding the Earth with Lunar ships while remaining undetected). Cress undergoes a lot of abuse at the hands of her “mistress” Sybil, the Queen’s right hand woman. She’s verbally and physically abused to make sure she doesn’t disobey her orders. While Cress started out as a very naive almost sheepish character, she grows into her own character with her own personality by the end of the book. She was a bit overshadowed by the main plot and the other characters but it didn’t feel disproportionate. Like I said, the story becomes much more fleshed-out so Cress’ personal struggles were implemented nicely with the rest of the plot. 
 
One thing I particularly enjoyed was the depiction of Cress’ anxiety and the way she deals with it, by imagining she is someone else.
 
Cinder : While I sometimes struggle with the Chosen One trope (i.e Cinder), it didn’t bother me that much in this book. I loved Cinder’s progression and how she finally starts to claim her title. “She didn’t think she’d ever felt so invested in her identity, and determined to claim her place. It was a strange feeling, bordering on pride.”
 
Thorne, YOU HAVE MY HEART BREAK IT IF YOU WANT. Cinder and Thorne’s relationship : A+, I Stan Friendship. Thorne truly is one of the Softest character in the Lunar Chronicles (ironic) and I love him so so much. His relationship with Cress, although somewhat very predictable, ended up being one of my favorite things about this book. Their relationship is 100% my favorite from the series. 
 
Iko : I Love Her. “In another life, we could have been sisters, and I feel it’s important to acknowledge that.” A blank stare. A blink, every six seconds. “But as it stands, I’m a part of an important mission right now, and I cannot be swayed from my goal by my sympathy for androids who are less advanced than myself.”
 
Winter is introduced as the niece (?) of Levana and I’m so excited to learn more about her (she gives off Nelly Crain vibes and it’s an understatement to say that I’m here for it). Her potential is infinite. 
 
“But you are crazy.” “I know.” She lifted a small box from the basket. “Do you know how I know?” Scarlet didn’t answer. “Because the palace walls have been bleeding for years, and no one else sees it.”
 
In Conclusion
 
What I admire the most about Marissa Meyer’s writing is the fact that she mastered this transition between book 2 and book 3 and lit back my interest in the story. Her ability to build up a plot is quite impressive : while it felt empty during book 1 and 2 (which does serve a purpose but I personally prefer to be literally thrown in and I’m too impatient for a slow build-up), book 3 reminds me of that little something that still made me enjoy book 1 and 2 but it’s also giving me So Much More. 
 
Have you read Cress ? What did you think ?
I’d love to hear your thoughts, tell me below ! 

The Exact Opposite Of Okay by Laura Steven

“If only the entire world did not equate harmless fun with whoredom of the highest order.”

​Women don’t owe you anything. The Exact Opposite of Okay tells the story of high schooler Izzy O’Neill whose nudes “accidentally” leak. Its recipient being the son of a political figure, Izzy quickly gets thrown under a toxic and very public spotlight. The Exact Opposite of Okay has a diverse cast of characters which is always nice to read about (Indian rep, LGBT+ rep, disability rep, “non-traditional” family structure rep as Izzy is an orphan, raised by her grandmother)

First off, the writing was really good and so was the comedic timing. However, the constant use of brackets became redundant and quickly annoying. Although they did serve a purpose since the book is basically the sum of Izzy’s old blog posts, the brackets serve as “present day” Izzy’s commentary. They simply didn’t feel necessary in my opinion, even though they added a touch of “fantasy”. I also didn’t like the pace, either too slow or too fast.

The Characters

“Honestly, I swear I’m the only person in the universe who realizes how pointless life is. People act like mere existence is some beautiful gift, completely overlooking the fact that said existence is nothing but the result of a freak accident that occurred a cool 13.7 billion years ago.”

>> Izzy and Betty (her grandmother) : Izzy is being raised by her grandmother, who is a very upfront old woman and an absolute treat to read about. Izzy is absolutely hilarious (she writes skits) and well-spoken. Reading her character progression as she has to deal with the backlash of the sex scandals was insightful and a learning experience, to be honest. Izzy has strong opinions and she’s very smart. The discussions about abstinence, sex positivity, Teenagers Having Sex (the shock, right ?) and the lack of balance between male and female backlash in sex scandals were all very eloquent. I overall really loved reading Izzy’s inner monologues. “So, to summarize: two guys, one night, both highly enjoyable. Is there a TripAdvisor for one-night stands? If there was, I would definitely recommend both gentlemen to a friend.” I’m glad this book exists because it depicts realistic teenage behavior and I’m all for that. Yes, ladies and gents, teens have sex. Don’t gasp.

>> Ajita : “It’s like when I talk about racism, I’m not asking for one single white person to wave their magic privilege wand and fix one single symptom. What I’m saying is that I want the systemic racism to not exist in the first place. I want a cure, not a Band-Aid.” She shrugs. “But a lot of rich white guys will never get that. They’ll always make it about them. And why wouldn’t they? Historically, it always has been about them.” Oof. Ajita is a Good Friend. No, scratch that, she’s a Great Friend. She’s supportive of Izzy, she’s not judgmental and open-minded. She’s so well-spoken and witty and intelligent and I loved her with all my heart. At some point, she’s accidentally outed by Izzy and I don’t know how I feel about that. I did enjoy that Izzy gave Ajita the space she needs to figure herself out and isn’t out to force her to make these realizations. The public outing was NOT necessary.

>> Danny AKA DIE IN A DUMPSTER : oof, okay let me try not to get too annoyed. Nah, never mind. Danny aka the personnification of “White Male Privilege And Entitlement” was insufferable and I will dive more into his character later on in this review. Danny was disrespectful, insistant, he didn’t care about Izzy’s feelings, only his own. Izzy says this at some point and I thought it was very relevant and well-said : “You really think being ‘Friend-Zoned’ is worse than finding out someone you thought valued you as a whole person just wanted to fuck you?” At the end of the day, Danny is NOT a good friend, and NOT a good person in general it’s revealed he’s the one who leaked the nudes

>> Token Love Interest and why they held no appeal to me
: So okay, this might be harsher than need be but it’s how I personally felt. There’s a potential love story between Izzy and a male character whose name I forgot and I didn’t like it. I feel like there’s a tendancy in YA to randomly throw in a love interest in the path of the main character. I felt like the love interest here served no purpose whatsoever.

The Themes

“A month ago, if you’d asked me what three things I wanted to be, I’d have said: funny, cool, well-liked. What do I want to be now? Bold. Fierce. Honest. A fighter. A revolutionary. A bitch. Because the way the world treats teenage girls—as sluts, as objects, as bitches—is not okay. It’s the exact opposite of okay.”

>> women’s claims on their own bodies : When are our bodies really our own ? When do they not belong to the world through an unfortunate revealing picture ? When does it not belong to a friend who deems his place in the so-called “friendzone” is unfair and consequently that he has a right to claim it ? At what precise moment do we go from prude to slut ? What’s the determining factor ? Where’s the line, the limit a woman shouldn’t cross? The Exact Opposite of Okay was a good reminder on two different levels : 1° the fact that as women we can and should claim back our bodies, 2° the male gaze can go fuck itself.

>> women’s bodies are NOT a political playground : Vaughan (i.e the recipient of the nude picture) is the son of a political figure. Said political figure uses Izzy’s nudes as a way to further his political agenda by promoting abstinence and inherently oppressing women by shaming them.

>> Slut-shaming and women’s sexuality : “Because here’s the thing: slut-shaming is not really about women’s sexuality. It is grounded in the belief that men have the right to assert themselves, and women do not.” SAY IT LOUDER. Her Mind ! Her Eloquency ! Her Brain And Brilliance !

“Our sexuality is a commodity, and thus the principles of supply and demand can be applied. If we’re sexy but untouchable, we’re in short supply. Demand goes up. And because demand goes up, the aforementioned old white man can charge more money for it. But if we give it away freely? If we actually have sex—and have the audacity to enjoy it? Supply is booming. Profit margins die. Old white men can’t make as much money, so they get out their sticks and beat us into slut-shamed remission. And the rest of the society buys into it. When you’re a young girl, your developing sexuality is a loaded weapon. You should polish it to a shine for the sake of the male gaze, but you shouldn’t seek any enjoyment from it yourself. Play with power, as long as you never claim it. Enact desire, as long as you don’t follow through. I call bullshit. “

>> constant objectification : The male entitlement and the male gaze are omnipresent and this book was a good reminder that it’s okay to tell dudes to fuck off. Izzy has an uncomfortable conversation with one of her teachers. It’s revealed in the course of that discussion that he has indeed seen the nudes. His reaction was disgusting but not far-fetched from what actually does constantly happens to women and girls.

>> Sorry to tell you but The Friendzone Is A Myth aka Izzy Did That aka Danny Can Die In A Dumpster Part 2.

Friendzone (noun) “a convenient social construct designed to comfort men who cannot cope with rejection.” Izzy’s best friend, Danny, has a crush on her and rather than understanding that NO means NO, he’d rather spend his time and money buying Izzy gifts in the hopes to buy her love and get the love he thinks he “deserves”. It says a lot about male behavior and about this unspoken dictatorship from the patriarchy projected onto women who are just supposed to accept men making the choices for them. “This wasn’t a display of romance and affection. It was a categoric ultimate rejection of his place in the Friend Zone. A thinly veiled assertion of male dominance. A statement: that his feelings and desires are more important than mine. It’s like he’s saying: “I don’t respect your decision not to want to fuck me, and I will manipulate the hell out of your emotions until you change your mind.” Argh. I’ve told him I don’t want a romantic relationship. Why isn’t that enough?”

>> How sex is dealt with in school : cue That Mean Girls Scene. “For some reason, our Bible-thumping English teacher and all-around abstinence champion Miss Castillo is the one delivering the talk. Because obviously in America the only thing we should be teaching our teens about sex is that they shouldn’t do it. Don’t have sex because you will get pregnant and die. That sort of thing. It’s working out soooo well for us.”

Laura Steven dealt with these various themes in such an eloquent way that it was impossible for me not to enjoy this book. Although I didn’t enjoy everything, I found it refreshing to read and I’m glad this book exists because it’s a necessary one.

The Wall Of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata

Aiden Graves : 60% muscles, 20% shrugs, 20% being An Absolute Softie

Vanessa Mazur : 20% repressing her anger by counting, 20% planning ways to murder Aiden, 20% starring at Aiden’s ass, 30% getting out of toxic familial relationships and Becoming, 10% A Secret Softie.

TW : domestic abuse, unhealthy and abusive familial relationships

The Wall of Winnipeg and Me is about Vanessa Mazur, the assistant to football player, Aiden Graves. Due to an expiring visa, Aiden asks Vanessa to marry him, so he can become an American citizen. One thing leading to another, they get married and progressively develop feelings for each other.

I loved The Wall of Winnipeg and Me and it was much better than what I expected. First of all, I absolutely loved Vanessa’s personality and inner monologues. The writing was good and fluid, and I think Mariana Zapata did an amazing job at portraying Vanessa’s evolution and her inner struggles. I also wanna add, this could’ve been smuttier and we were denied something we deserved but I’m not mad because I really enjoyed the story. Even though this story was around 600 pages, it absolutely did not felt like it.

“Life was all about choices. You chose what to make out of what you had. And I wasn’t going to let it make me its bitch.”

The characters

✔︎Vanessa is a strong lead and a great main character.  She’s had quite a traumatic childhood, living with an absent mother and abusive sisters. She’s managed to make a life for herself and get out of toxic relationships. At the beginning, she plans to quit her job to pursue her dreams and I overall really enjoyed reading about her. Vanessa was funny, angry (in her own words) and knows a scary amount about committing crimes which I adored.

✔︎Aiden Graves could, to put it simply, “get it” and I’ll repeat it LOUD and CLEAR. That being said, for the first half of the book, this dude had the emotional range of a wooden spoon. I liked his evolution and how he lets himself be emotionally vulnerable with Vanessa.

✔︎I wish we had seen way more of Diana or Zac because these two characters seemed beautiful and had so much potential, had we gotten the opportunity to get to know them more.

Usually, I like to downplay my reviews of contemporary romances by adding that I have a dead cold heart that nothing will melt but that logic becomes inherently flawed with this book. I also apparently am an Absolute Sucker for fake marriage leading to real love. That trope will end me. But I think that more than that, it’s the Healthy Relationship portrayed that ended up winning me over.

“Because fuck it, what was life if you didn’t live it and make the most out of it? What was life without loving someone who cared about you a lot more than he cared about anyone else? That was my truth.”

Themes

Books dealing with complex familial relationships are sooo important. The hypothesis that because family is blood it should be put on a pedestal is imo flawed and I loved that this book showed that you can choose your family, which is what Vanessa did.

Healthy relationship and communication : the reason why I stan Vanessa and Aiden is because they allowed each other to be vulnerable with each other, and actually communicate about what they were feelings. I really liked Aiden for this.

Accepting/Embracing your anger and Getting Out : this is linked to the first theme but I’d like to dive deeper. I’m really passionate about family relationships and I want to promote nothing but Healthy Ones. Unfortunately, most families aren’t perfect and I’d go as far as say they are Fucked Up (obviously not all of them). I admired Vanessa for getting out of this toxic relationship she had with her mother and her sister, Susie. I was truly surprised to see this theme be implemented in the story and I think it goes to show I have been a terrible judge of character when it comes to Contemporary Romances and I’m Sorry. I loved reading about Vanessa’s relationship with Diana and I truly wished we had seen more of the latter because she seemed amazing.

That’s it for today ! 
Have you read The Wall of Winnipeg and Me ?
What did you think ? 

Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin

“Wicked are the ways of women — and especially a witch”

Serpent & Dove is set in a 17th Century French-inspired landscape. It deals with a war between witches and the Church. The story focuses on a witch, Lou and a witch hunter, Reid, who are forced into marriage. Serpent & Dove was a surprising read and the evolution throughout the book was insane. This is not AT ALL where I thought the story was going but, DID I ENJOY IT ? YES MA’AM. Shelby Mahurin created a very compelling world with a great magic system (and I would love to learn more about it). I liked her writing style, clear and eloquent. I felt completely immersed in the story (you know that feeling when you read and it’s basically like a movie is playing in your head and you forget you’re reading ? Yeah, that’s how good it was.) I loved the use of French vocabulary (and insults. Lots of them.  French is my native language and I can attest that the insults were on point.)

The characters :

Lou : she’s provocative and sarcasm is her second language. Lou was An Absolute Icon during the entire book. She’s cunning and witty while having a heart of gold. Lou is also a survivor and most of her choices are rooted in her past trauma and childhood (which we get to learn about, I’m not spoiling but it’s gOOd). I really enjoyed seeing her arc and progression.

Reid : he was such an interesting character because even though he’s a religious “by-the-book” witch hunter, he also gave off a bit of a bad boyish vibe which I think was accentuated when he became more comfortable around Lou. I liked his moral compass and how he came to question his beliefs.

Coco : I enjoyed Coco’s storyline very much and the lengths she was willing to go to help Lou. Girls supporting girls. It’s all I need.

Ansel : you know what, I’m gonna say something I never say because it makes me internally cringe but I’ll make an exception. Ansel is A True Cinnamon Roll and I don’t take any form of criticism. His silent acceptance of Lou and his affection for her was so heartwarming and beautiful.

The Relationships :

The Hate-To-Love Trope aka Reid and Lou : I’m sold, what else can I say ? There’s just something about two characters from opposite sides, with different beliefs, developing feelings for each other and become willing to question the system they were raised in and become mentally independent from what was essentially drilled into their brains. I just love it. Lou and Reid are the dynamic duo I deserved.

The Themes :

“Your god hates women. We were an afterthought.” “That isn’t true.” I finally turned to face him. “Isn’t it ? I read your Bible. As your wife, am I not considered your property ? Do you not have the legal right to do whatever you please with me ?”

The place of the Church in defining women’s role in society : witches are rejected in this society but more than witches, women are looked at as the ultimate sinners and temptress. Most of the choices made by the witches are…. somewhat questionable. However, I was still rooting for them, which leads me to my second point and major theme.

“Maiden, Mother, and Crone,” I murmured. He nodded approvingly, and warm satisfaction spread through me. “An embodiment of femininity in the cycle of birth, life, and death… among other things. ’Tis blasphemous, of course.” He scoffed and shook his head. “As if God could be a woman.”

Claiming back the power : this war is mainly between the witches and the royal family but with that comes the power of the Church and its influences. The witches want revenge but they also want their land back, which were taken away from them. I liked the fact that there was history there and Lou wasn’t the cause of this war. She unfortunately was a catalyst, inadvertently. She was forced to play a part in a war that wasn’t hers. So in a way, I think it’s also about Lou claiming back her power and her identity.

These are my thoughts regarding Serpent and Dove . I really enjoyed it, more than I thought I would and it was a true pleasure to discover Shelby Mahurin’s writing. I strongly suggest you listen to God Is A Woman by Ariana Grande and Take Me To Church by Hozier while reading this book because I did and for some reason, it was PERFECTION.

Unpregnant by Jenni Hendriks and Ted Caplan

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

ARC provided by Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review

Hilarious, poignant and beautiful, Unpregnant tells the story of Veronica, a seemingly perfect high school student. She’s in the run to be valedictorian, has the “perfect” boyfriend, “perfect” friends and everything that goes with it… Until her “perfect” boyfriend pokes holes in his condom to get Veronica pregnant and stop her from moving away (I KNOW RIGHT ? WHO DOES THAT ?). With the help of Bailey Butler, her ex-best friend, Veronica goes on the road to get to an abortion… in a clinic 994 miles away in Albuquerque, NM. If I had to describe this book in three words, it would be be those three (give or take) : 

🌺 #1 Unique

Unpregnant is unique. It manages to tackle serious topics (teenage pregnancy, abortion, abandonment) while being absolutely hilarious and delightful. This book’s main theme is abortion. Although it’s far from being a light-hearted topic, Unpregnant does not shy away from that (I mean, look at ALL THE TROUBLE Veronica has to go through). The moral judgment, the misogyny and control over women’s bodies is very real and the authors made sure to portray that. This is a beautiful commentary on women’s rights and how far we have to go to claim what’s rightfully ours.

🌺 #2 Friendship

Bailey Butler gave off some serious Janis Ian vibes and I was here for it. Not only did I adore the two MCs, the story also centers around friendship and appearances. It’s about trying to have this “perfect” image and losing yourself in the process. Can you really call your “friends” friends if they only care about you when you’re happy and bubbly but MIA when you really need them ? If not, I would reconsider what I call “friends”. Bailey Butler is a fierce lioness and gave true meaning to what a real friend is. I think she’s probably made it to one of my favorite characters of all time.

🌺 #3 Relevant (and soooo damn important)

It’s with sadness and bitterness that I call this book relevant today. I don’t live in the United States but the fight over women’s control on their own bodies doesn’t know any borders in my eyes. Georgia Governor signed the “Fetal Heartbeat” Abortion Law, banning abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, when doctors can usually start detecting a fetal heartbeat (if you wanna know more, read this article) Most women aren’t even aware they’re pregnant until the sixth week and it’s disgusting that men like Brian Kemp still feel entitled to the opinion that THEY KNOW BETTER WHAT IS GOOD FOR A WOMAN THAN A WOMAN HERSELF. However, the debate over abortion is worldwide and again, incredibly relevant. I think this book is a perfect way to tackle these issues and I applaud Ted Kaplan and Jenni Hendriks for the way they handled it.

Heroine by Mindy McGinnis

Rating : 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

(ARC provided by Edelweiss in exchange for a honest review)

Heroine was a hard book to read for me. It’s raw and brutal. It made me uncomfortable and itchy, almost claustrophobic. It just didn’t sit right with me.

Heroine tells the story of Mickey, a softball player, who gets into a car accident. An “innocent” prescription of Oxycontin makes Mickey want to “chase the dragon” meaning she wants to feel again the bliss of taking that first pill. But it’s never enough.

  •  First of all, Heroine doesn’t romanticize substance abuse. There’s not one hint of it and I really appreciated that. While being inside Mickey’s head, you realize the length she’s willing to go to to hide her addiction and to keep using. You keep being hopeful and nervous she’s going to get caught and it’s all going to stop. It doesn’t.
  • Even though it was heartbreaking to see her do this to herself, it was also really insightful and made me gain a new point of view when it comes to addiction. To be honest, I think that for most of my life, I had a very specific image of what being an addict meant. And I’m not trying to pretend that I have gained clear understanding about addiction from just reading one book about it. To me, it meant living in a filthy house, and being a bad, spiteful person. It gave me a new understanding of why Mickey choses to use and how quickly she gets caught up in that vicious circle, that famous “chasing the dragon” feeling. This could happen to anyone.
  • I really “liked” Mickey as a character because I think she’s not what we usually read about in YA, at least I didn’t. I think I’m so used to reading about “likable” characters and Mickey isn’t that. Not even talking about her addiction, I think Mickey is a really goal-driven, ambitious and passionate girl. She’s a bit rude (and it only gets worse) but I liked reading about a character who wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies.
  • The writing style was beautiful. (That first line had me shaken up). I like how McGinnis tackled each theme (academic pressure (it’s real, folks)). The story is hopeful but there’s no sugarcoating it. Recovery is hard (I liked Mickey’s relationship with Devra) and Mickey misses out on so much. Mickey’s addiction spirals out of her control, she loses her friends, she removes herself from the groups she loves so much, she steals from her mom while lying to her. She tries to justify it, make sense of it. 

I’m not used to reading heavy-themed books, so this was kind of a first for me. Diving into Mickey’s universe was, like I said, uncomfortable and felt wrong but I strongly believe that this is one of the reasons why this book is good.

It’s as much a cautionary tale as a realistic depiction of what can happen (what has happened and what is happening) with Oxy and how dangerous it can be. For me, one of the most heartbreaking scene in this entire book was when Carolina confronts Mickey and asks her why Mickey and not her and hopelessly, Mickey answers she doesn’t know. This left me speechless and made me understand things I didn’t before. So thank you for that Mindy McGinnis.

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