NetGalley Reads: Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me

NetGalley Reads: Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me

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Hello and happy Monday. Trust me, I am as surprised as you about the date of this post, but I guess we’ll have the past me to blame. I don’t know what has happened lately with the books I’ve been sent so that I read and review them as part of blog tours, but I’ve either been indifferent, not liked them, or DNF’ed them. I know that sucks, but I am always transparent with my feelings and I’m not going to lie to you in a review so that the publishers continue sending me stuff. The last book I read as part of a blog tour (thank you to NetGalley, Macmillan and the author)  was Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me by Gae Polisner, and I didn’t like it one bit, so here’s my rant.

I read this book between April 2nd and April 4th, 2020 and gave it two stars. I think the very first chapters were misleading, and that infuriated me. The book opens with a letter the main character is writing to Aubrey, who we find out is her estranged best friend. I say misleading because the tone of that opening is so dramatic that you’d think Aubrey died or that something really bad happened between her and the main character.

Jean-Louise, JL, is almost sixteen years old, and that age just didn’t sit well with me. We get flashbacks to when JL and Aubrey were younger and there’s this one line that says something like “we were more than in love” which made me think this was a queer romance. We were going to see how Aubrey and JL grow together to realize they love each other as something other than friends, but that’s not what happens because it was just a dumb line.

If you’re thinking “oh, okay, this is a story about friends who have drifted apart,” think again, because that’s simply one of the many plotlines in this novel. Let me tell you: it was all over the place. You get JL, who’s no longer really friends with Aubrey but that’s kind of her fault because she’s dating this 19-year-old guy and spending all the time with him. We have the boyfriend who is openly pushing her to have sex with him or at least engage in sexual acts that don’t involve penetration. We have JL’s mom who suffers from depression and has dissociative episodes because her dad has been in California for months and doesn’t seem to come back. And finally, we have the butterflies that JL has raised.

I know that you’re probably wondering where the title of the book comes from. Naturally, the depressed dissociative mom writes love letters to Jack Kerouac. Everything makes sense now, right? Seriously, I don’t know what the point of this book was. I thought that if it had followed the friendship plotline I could’ve given it a solid three stars, but no. This is the kind of story that has so many subplots that in the end nothing gets resolved and I just don’t like that.

JL and her boyfriend Max made a horrible couple, but I will be talking more about their relationship in a NOTP’s post. I’m only going to touch on two points about it here. On one hand, I thought that making him nineteen years old was done only to make something in the plot make sense. I’m not telling you what because it would be a spoiler, but it was gross to read about him with this fifteen-year-old. The other thing that bothered me and that would make me not recommend this book to anyone was the fact that he was always pushing JL to have sex with him, or to touch him. He suggested touching her as well and looking at her naked and there was no conversation about consent. Again, that is gross, and that should not be portrayed in books that are being released in 2020 and that are intended for young readers.

Don’t read this book. It is totally not worth it. But also, recommend me something that features a wholesome friendship.

Happy reading!
Love, Miss Camila

NetGalley Reads: All the Wrong Chords

NetGalley Reads: All the Wrong Chords

Hello and happy Friday. How are you? Are you taking care of yourselves? My routine hasn’t changed much, really. I mean, I am used to staying at home for whole days reading, so it’s not like I miss going outside. I miss seeing my students in person, but we can do videocalls. To keep myself entertained since the way I do my job has changed, I read, and I wanted to tell you about a nice, wholesome book I finished recently. I’m talking about All the Wrong Chords by Christine Hurley Deriso. I got this book via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, so I’d like to thank them, the author and the publisher for the opportunity. 

I read this book between March 22nd and March 25th, 2020 and gave it four stars. I know I already used this adjective to describe this book, but I think it sums it up perfectly: wholesome. Scarlett, the main character, is spending the summer at her grandfather’s house before leaving to university. Her relationship with her grandfather is beautiful and stays that way throughout the book. 

The story has some hard-hitting elements that we read about early on. Scarlett’s older brother has recently passed away due to drug overdose, and our main character is dealing with the guilt of thinking she could have done something to help him or prevent his death. Liam and Scarlett were very close, and he’s the one who taught her how to play guitar, which, judging by the title of the book, we know is going to be a recurring theme. 

There is romance and it is super cute but realistic in my opinion. I don’t want to give away too much about it because anything I say could be a spoiler. The only thing I’ll say is that there is a meet-cute to end all meet-cutes. Also, there’s again the love for grandparents and family in general. I don’t know about you, but if a potential romantic interest does not openly show love for his grandparents, he’s not worth it. 

I smiled a lot reading this book but I also cried a couple of times. I think it was perfect to keep me entertained and I would love it if it became a series and focused on the other members of the band. 

 What are you currently reading? Let me know in the comments below. 

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila 

NetGalley Reads: Clara Humble: Quiz Whiz

NetGalley Reads: Clara Humble: Quiz Whiz

NETFLIX TALK_.pngHello and happy Friday. It is no secret that I’ve been trying to consciously read more middle-grade books and I usually enjoy them quite a lot. What I’ve come to realize is that making the voice of a kid believable is not that easy, and that can either make or break a book. Today I’ll be reviewing Clara Humble: Quiz Whiz by Anna Humphrey, which I got via NetGalley, so I would like to thank them, the author and the publisher.

I read this book between March 9th and March 14th, 2020 and gave it two stars. Sadly, it didn’t do it for me. I had high hopes for it since it features a female main character who writes her own comic book, so I thought it would be empowering, challenging the so-called gender roles. Besides that, Clara is going to compete in a game show, and though I don’t read a lot about games or competitions in books, that can certainly make a plot exciting. It had all the elements to make it a solid read for me, but it didn’t deliver.

One of the first signs to me that probably I wasn’t going to enjoy this book was the fact that the main character, who is also the narrator, uses words that are “too big” for a kid. She uses words and phrases her ideas in ways that an adult could, and that’s a pet peeve of mine: when you can tell that the author is an older person trying to sound younger.

The other big issue I had was related to Clara’s character, again, especially when we consider that this book will be mainly read by children. She came across as petty to me, and I didn’t find her likable or appealing for young readers. Clara criticizes everybody who surrounds her or she thinks mean things about them, even her friends. For example, she compares one of her friends to a mouse because she’s small and quiet. That didn’t sit well with me, especially since Clara thinks that she’s perfect and she doesn’t grow as a character or realize that the way she thinks is wrong.

Clara has a best friend called Bradley and she constantly says that he’s quiet and shy. The first time this was said and the first time the gameshow was mentioned, I thought we would have them both fight because they were both competing. It went sort of like that since at first Bradley’s mom’s boyfriend is the person who makes him compete, but then once they’re both in the gameshow, the contestants (Clara included) start pulling pranks on each other and basically cheating to make the other one lose. This, again, is never addressed and there are no repercussions against anyone.

Do you know of any middle-grade novels that feature a female main character and/or a gameshow or contest of any sort? Let me know in the comments.

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila

 

 

NetGalley Reads: The Mountains Sing (DNF)

NetGalley Reads: The Mountains Sing (DNF)

NETFLIX TALK_.pngHello and happy Friday. I know I’ve never done this, but today I’ll be talking about a book I DNF’ed, or did not finish. This book was sent to me via NetGalley because I was invited to a blog tour by Algonquin, the publishing house. Like I’ve mentioned earlier, I’ve been invited to several bog tours lately, and that’s actually the only way in which I am getting books from NetGalley now, as I am not requesting anything. Now that we got that out of the way, let’s review this.

I started reading The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai on February 1st, 2020 and did not finish it, which is why I am not going to rate it. I was excited to read and review this book because the author is Vietnamese and it made me happy that NetGalley, and especially Algonquin, was helping promote diversity in the bookish industry.

The book starts with the main character telling us about their recently deceased grandmother and the stories she would tell. That alone sounds fascinating, right? Well, every time I sat down and read, I would feel like I was not retaining anything. There are some books that require the readers to reach a certain point to get truly hooked, and I felt that I never got to that point. I mostly read at night, after long days of teaching, and for some reason, I could not focus on this story.

There are alternating perspectives and timelines, which is something I usually love, but the way it was done in this book, it went over my head. I got very confused because I wasn’t sure about who was talking or what they were talking about, and I know that I had no clue about Vietnam, but it was deeper than that, it was about the author’s narrative style that was too advanced for me.

Had I read this on vacation or during a time when I could be 100% dedicated to the story, I think I would have been able to finish it and truly value it for what it was, but this experience with it was leading me towards a three or even a two-star rating. I recognize the importance of this book, but it wasn’t for me.

I am not going to attempt to read it later, but if you are able to finish it, let me know what you thought about it.

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila

NetGalley Reads: Radical Self-Love

NetGalley Reads: Radical Self-Love

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Hello and happy Friday. I’m not one for reading a lot of nonfiction but I have been acquiring some books and the time has come for me to read them. Because I’m not an avid nonfiction reader, I don’t really have a stance on those books. I’ve read a couple memoirs I’ve loved, but I also want to read more self-improvement books and see if, you know, I can improve. This is why I recently read Radical Self-Love by Gala Darling, and trust me when I say I was super excited to get to it because the title sounded just like the thing I needed. I got this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, so I’d like to thank them, the author and the publisher.

I read this book between February 10th and February 16th, 2020 and gave it two stars. I was very excited at first because I felt like it would be a treat to myself, learning how to love myself and all that. I thought it would live up to its title, but it was more superficial than anything else. There was nothing truly radical about the advice given.

Within the self-improvement books, this would be the kind in which the author addresses the reader, so it’s like having a conversation with a friend. This book has illustrations, so I thought that would make it a quick read. It wasn’t really, but considering the fact that I only read it after work, it didn’t take me that long to finish either. Although it doesn’t explicitly say that this book is targeted for women only, it is, and I found that unnecessary. This could have been easily a book for everyone, had the author actually succeeded at making it gender-neutral, but more on that later.

At first, I think I was being way too nice because I wrote that although it was full of clichés and commonplaces, it was a well-intended and light read. Now as I have time to digest this book I keep feeling that I was lied to; I was promised a book about RADICAL self-love, and I got a list of fashion advice. There is also conversation about eating disorders and how to “get rid” of them, which I found problematic. I understand that the author was talking about her own experience and how she dealt with her eating disorders, but this is not a memoir, it is an advice book. There wasn’t a real talk about mental health or going to therapy, which I think would be crucial if as a reader you are at a point in which you’re seeking advice from a book titled Radical Self-Love.

The author has a blog and she constantly includes plugs for readers to visit and download resources, which I thought made the book even less serious. Like I said, the advice provided was very superficial and not a lot of research (besides quotes from other self-improvement books) seems to have been made. Another issue that bothered me was the fact that the author tried to be inclusive in her language when she discussed relationships, but she failed to do so and let her heteronormativity show. It would have been much better had she stuck to gender-neutral language.

Have you read a self-improvement book that changed your life? I’m still in search of mine, so do leave me your recommendations in the comments.

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila

NetGalley Review: And We Call It Love

NetGalley Review: And We Call It Love

Hello and happy Friday. I think last year I became stricter with my ratings and 2020 won’t be an exception. Today’s book is perhaps my second or third two-starred book of the year, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. I’m talking about And We Call it Love by Amanda Vink, a book that was sent to me for reading and reviewing purposes, so I’d like to thank NetGalley, the publisher, and the author.

I read this book between January 27th and 28th, 2020 and like I said I gave it two stars. The entire story is written in verse and that’s not my thing. I was only happy about the fact that I’d fly through it, and I did considering that I only had a few minutes every night. Judging by the title and the cover I knew it wasn’t going to be a lovey-dovey story, but it went in a completely different direction than what I’d anticipated.

I first thought it would feature a romance between the two main characters, who were both females, and I was excited about the LGBTQ* themes, but that wasn’t the case. I don’t even know what made me think that one of the main characters was in love with the other, but that’s what I thought. Besides that, I was very confused at the beginning because the narration, which is all in verse, alternates between the two main characters, Clare and Zari, but there’s nothing that explicitly tells you whose perspective you’re reading from.

Part of why I say that verse is not my thing is the fact that I feel like I’m always getting the general picture of the story, not the whole thing. I get the main idea but no details, if you will, and I am a sucker for details. Had the story been written in prose, I would’ve gotten the alternating perspectives way quicker, without needing any titles or any explicit indication of who was talking. All in all, I felt like I was reading the SparkNotes version of an actual story.

For such a short book, I thought there wasn’t a clear focus of the plot. We already know that there isn’t a romance between the two best friends, but the story doesn’t focus on their friendship either. It’s more of a coming of age story, in my opinion. Both Clare and Zari start dating different boys, and on top of that, Zari’s family doesn’t want her hanging out with Clare, so they drift apart. The synopsis makes it seem like it was Zari’s boyfriend who didn’t let her be with her friend, but the mom was also a huge influence on that friendship drifting apart. Zari’s boyfriend, Dion, is a dickhead, though, and he physically and psychologically abuses her, so trigger warning for that. Because this was such a short book, the ending wrapped up pretty quickly and in my opinion, it was way too happy considering the topics the story was dealing with.

Do you like stories written in verse? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila

 

NetGalley Reads: Postcards for a Songbird

NetGalley Reads: Postcards for a Songbird

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Hello and happy Friday. This will be my last NetGalley review of January because I have to start focusing on February and trying to plan how everything’s going to go considering my vacation is over. Today I want to talk to you about a book I fell in love with almost immediately and an author that I certainly want to read more of in the future. I’m talking about Postcards for a Songbird by Rebekah Crane. This book was sent to me via NetGalley for reading and reviewing purposes, so as always, I’d like to thank them, the publisher and the author for the opportunity.

I read this book between December 23rd and December 25th, 2019 and gave it four stars. I’ll spoil this review a bit and say I’d totally planned on giving it five stars, but there was one detail towards the end that made me change my rating. It was silly, but not silly enough for me to let go of.

This is the story of Wren, whose mom left when she was a baby and whose sister and best friend Lizzie, just recently left as well. At the beginning of the book, we see that Wren is clearly overcome by absence, and her dad is so worried about her that he thinks it would be best for her to go live with her aunt in another city. The whole deal about the sibling who left gave me Where Things Come Back vibes at first, but as I keep thinking about it, it’s more like Paper Hearts by Ali Novak, since Lizzie left the house voluntarily and, as we discover, starts sending Wren postcards, hence the title of the story.

Wren’s dad is a police officer who works nights, so we don’t see those characters interacting much. We can see the effort he makes to have her kid live a “normal” life despite everything that’s happened to them. I really liked him as a character and I thought that we could witness a bit of development in his relationship with Wren. The plot twist I didn’t appreciate has to do with him and I honestly think his whole character was ruined by it.

The story takes place during the summer, and what we read about is Wren inadvertently taking her life back and in a way moving on from the burden of her mom and her sister. She starts realizing that there is a world outside of the bubble she and Lizzie used to live in, and that leads her to meet an amazing group of people. Besides that, she starts texting her next-door neighbor, a boy who cannot leave the house because he’s super sick and afraid of everything. Don’t worry, they don’t fall in love, although there is some romance.

One of the characters is physically abused by her father, so trigger warning for that. Overall, this is an emotionally charged story, and though we see growth and there are happy moments, it might not be the best choice for someone suffering from depression. To me, this book did what Jandy Nelson failed to do with I’ll Give You the Sun, which I didn’t really like.

Do you like books about siblings? Let me know in the comments.

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila