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 

It Was Okay

It Was Okay

 

Hello and happy Wednesday. I remember listening to a review of All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven in which the person said that they hadn’t loved it as much as everyone else did, or really at all. This was actually the first time I’d heard something concrete about the book, considering that I got it a few years ago because of all the hype it’d gotten. We all know, however, that people don’t always tell us much about the hyped book other than we should read it and that’s it. As you can probably tell by my recent reads, I am going through the books I own that won the Goodreads Awards or whatever, starting in 2015. This is one of those books, and though I can see why it was one of the winners, it didn’t do it for me.

I read this book between July 30th and August 3rd, 2019 and gave it three stars. Some might say this is a low rating but lately, I’ve been giving more and more books three stars because I think it represents my feelings towards stories that were just “okay” or “fine,” like this one. Of course, there are elements I’m into, like the multiple perspectives, because I think they always add a lot to a story that would otherwise seem incomplete, in my opinion.

Right off the bat, let me tell you that this book deals with suicide and this is a constant throughout the plot, so if you are sensitive to this topic, or to topics related to suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts, steer clear. We have two main characters who are very different to each other, but who meet in a tower at school and who, as far as we can gather, go there with the intention of jumping off. Again, suicide is a recurring topic and I personally think that it could’ve been handled way better than it was, but we’ll get to that later.

It bothers me that authors make dumb decisions just because that’s how they think their characters think. For instance, I thought the comments the guy main character made about the female students’ bodies were completely unnecessary. That stuff adds absolutely nothing to the plot and just makes readers not connect as much with the characters. On the flip side, I really liked how each of the characters was portrayed. They were so unique, and I know that’s no easy feat for an author to accomplish.

Finch, the male main character, is very unique, and you need to read the book to understand why. I don’t know if his representation is accurate or not, but I had never read a book about a character who’s been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I don’t know if this is a spoiler, but I think it’s better to say it before you read it because I think that if the rep is not accurate, it might be harmful to some readers. Finch is sometimes very pushy and he doesn’t understand when someone is saying “no.” Here’s where I’d like to know if this behavior could be considered representative for a person with bipolar disorder, or it’s just a stereotype or a trait that is not accurate. We all know that the conversation on consent must go beyond sex because one person should never force another one to do anything, especially after being told “no.”

There’s some conversation regarding the stigma around mental illness, which I appreciate, but considering that this is a predominant issue in this novel, I think it fell short. I mean, Violet’s (the main character’s) sister died in a car accident and nobody seems to notice how much she’s hurting because of that. There is also a mention of an eating disorder, but from what I gathered, it is only present once. If you are sensitive to this issue, you might want someone you know and trust to read this book before you and either tell you which part you should skip or maybe advice you on reading it or not.

I’m starting to increasingly see the class-assignment trope. I think, again, that the author of this book did a good job with it and the way the story was built around the assignment the main characters had to do together. I also liked that she included flashbacks and flash-forwards as well as inserts of text messages because by this point we all know that I’m a sucker for that.

Now, remember when I said we’d go back to talking about how suicide was handled? Okay, we’re back. I think suicide is one of those issues that I’d rather not see than see being poorly handled because of the dangers it entails. For example, describing ways in which a person has attempted or thought about suicide is extremely dangerous and it is present in this book.

The picture of this book is one of my most-liked pictures on Instagram, and I even got comments of people saying I’d cry reading this. I get why some readers might be affected by this, but I wasn’t. I just don’t see the purpose of this book, if I’m being honest, especially not the ending. The ending was what ruined the story for me, and because of it, this book didn’t get four stars but three. If you read it, you’ll know why.

What is a topic that’s trending right now on books that you don’t like reading about? Let me know in the comments.

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila

 

 

I’d Like to Stay Here

I’d Like to Stay Here

Hello and happy Wednesday. You know that I’m not really a fantasy/dystopian/anything-that-is-not-contemporary reader, but there comes a book or a series every once in a while that sweeps me of my feet and converts me, even if it is for a short time. That’s what happened when I was reading Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. 

I read this book between March 14th and March 19th and gave it four stars. I’m sure you know that these are uncertain times in the world and saying that I read this book for escapist purposes was an understatement. I watched the movie a few months ago, but I knew that it condensed the first three books in the series or something like that, so I was expecting something different. Adaptation-wise, I think it did a good job, although I can only speak for the parts pertaining to the first book. I would like, however, to have a movie series, each focusing on one installment because some elements were lost, which is understandable but sad nonetheless. 

You know that if you add grandparents to a story, you basically got me hooked. This gave me similar vibes than My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman, although the fantastic elements are heavier and we don’t get to see a lot of the relationship between Jacob and his grandfather. It’s more like the main character is discovering what his grandfather’s life had been like. 

If you’ve heard anything about this book, it’s probably that there are old pictures throughout it. I didn’t know there would be so many pictures; I thought we would have a few of the children at the beginning and that would be it, but no: if I’m not mistaken there are fifty pictures in just the first book. I wonder if the others have them as well. I think the author did a great job of creating a story using those old photographs. 

Something else you might have heard is that this is an analogy of World War 2 and how Jews and people who were considered different were persecuted. Well, part of the story takes place during WW2, so I don’t know if it would be considered an analogy or a juxtaposition of the true events that happened in the world, that Jacob’s grandpa, Abraham had to witness and suffer because he was a Jew, and the war against “peculiars,” that also involved him because he had a special ability of seeing monsters nobody else could see. I think if anything, it brings great commentary on how “peculiars” are still being systematically oppressed, be it for their race, religion, ability or disability, gender, sexual orientation, or pretty much whatever the heteropatriarchy deems different. 

The whole mood of this story is dark, and I felt like when reading this I was picturing an old movie in my mind that always has this opaque tone. There are a couple of violent scenes, and even when they are not, this novel is never happy. It took me a little bit longer than I had anticipated going through it, but I was satisfied with the ending. To me, the ending gives you the option to consider this a stand-alone if you don’t want to continue with the series, but if you do, it is open enough that you know something else is going to happen. That’s great for me because I detest cliffhangers. 

If you know anything about my reading tastes, then you probably know that part of the reason why I enjoyed this book was that Jacob, the main character, was introduced to the whole peculiar thing at the same time as the readers were. That is, we learn what he learns when he learns it. That is the kind of fantasy novel I am into. What I wasn’t into was the whole romantic element in this story. Seriously, I’m not even going to explain it to you because I think it is kind of yucky and totally unnecessary and that is coming from someone who basically eats romance books. 

Have you started reading any new series this year? Tell me about them in the comments below. 

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila 

 

A New Favorite

A New Favorite

Hello and happy Wednesday. It’s tough for me to feel represented in the books in English I read because the authors don’t really cater to my demographic, which sucks. I think the only author that I could somewhat relate to is Patricia Engel because she is Colombian and her characters are, too. That being said, there are different layers to my identity and I can feel represented in other ways. To me, YA lacks a lot of representation when it comes to neurodiversity, which is why I was so excited to find a book with a main character who shares a very similar diagnosis with me.

I read Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella between July 5th and 6th, 2019 and gave it five stars. I knew from the start that I was going to enjoy the writing style because I’ve read and loved other Sophie Kinsella books. This one was just brilliant. It keeps the humor of novels like Confessions of a Shopaholic, but the themes are clearly deeper and are dealt with in a very smart, respectful way. I also loved how the reader is hooked from the very first page and they’re just forced to continue reading. That totally happened to me, which is why I devoured this book in two days.

The chapters are really short, which we all know I love, and I also think that makes the book even more addictive. Like I said, I related to Audrey because of her diagnosis, but her parents reminded me a lot of my parents: the neurotic mom and the overeager dad are literally my mom and dad. The type of narration was really nice for me because Audrey, the main character, is talking to the reader. I get that some of you might not like this, but I do, and I think it added more to this particular story.

I would say that this book is a must both for neurotypicals and neurodiverse people. If you have anxiety and/or depressive episodes like Audrey or me, you’ll feel accurately represented, and if you don’t but you want to learn more about this, you might be educated on the subject. To me, at least, the way Audrey approaches and refers to her anxiety was very spot-on, and even her own thoughts about how the way her brain worked made her a freak were some I had when I started going to therapy. It was hard to open up about what I was going through, especially when people wouldn’t get what I was feeling or why because that itself was even more anxiety-inducing. I do not have social anxiety, so I don’t know whether this was well represented in the book.

The format of the book was amazing. I loved that we got different formats, like transcripts of a documentary Audrey was filming as an assignment for her treatment and little notes and texts that she’d exchange with Linus, her love interest. I think that all those additions made the story really come to life because we weren’t just being told of what was going on: we were shown that.

Yes, there is a love interest but no, this is not a romance novel. The plot does not center around a relationship, or at least not your neurotypical kind of thing. I heard someone reviewing this book and saying they didn’t understand how two people could have a relationship if Audrey wouldn’t make eye contact or even look in the direction of another person while talking. While this concern is totally valid, it shows just how we have normalized certain neurotypical behaviors and attitudes. We assume that a romantic relationship involves physical contact and face-to-face conversations, but that is not the case for many people, for many different reasons, and I think part of the educational value of Finding Audrey is showing the readers other ways in which people can interact.

Finally, I loved that Linus wasn’t portrayed as the savior or as the reason why Audrey “got better.” He doesn’t understand why Audrey behaves in certain ways and he thinks she might be able to control them, which, again, is a very neurotypical idea. You’re depressed? Cheer up! You’re feeling anxious? Face your fears! It makes sense that someone would think like that, right? Especially when they haven’t experienced any of those thoughts. It also makes sense because they assume that one can control their brain and “tune it down,” but reality is different. Linus tried to help and tried to understand, but we could see that sometimes he didn’t and that it was fine.

Do you have any recommendations of books that deal with mental health issues and that you feel are accurate in their representation? Tell me about them in the comments below.

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

Not Really

Not Really

Hello and happy Wednesday. Excuse the lack of creativity in my titles recently, but I want to be less poetic and more direct in all aspects of my life. I think I’m becoming increasingly cynical, and the book I’m reviewing today fed that cynicism. I’m talking about Love Virtually by Daniel Glattauer. 

I read this book between February 13th and February 15th, 2020 and I gave it five stars. Saying I loved it is an understatement. I started it because I felt that I was on the verge of a reading slump, so in order to avoid it, I picked up a book that I thought was about two people who fell in love via the internet. Well, it was and it wasn’t’, and that’s what I loved about this book: it was raw and real and it took the turns that life usually does, not the ones that readers expect or hope to see. 

This book was originally written in German and it won international awards, which made it more interesting and the stakes higher. I don’t read many translated books, but oddly enough, this is my third of the year. The premise of this book, as the title and the cover might suggest is that two strangers, Emmi and Leo develop a romance through email exchanges. This means that the entire novel is comprised of emails. You don’t get a narrator that sets the scene or provides context for you, and that’s the kind of story I have discovered I love because it is like real life, in which you don’t always get the whole story right away. It also makes it a quick and addictive read because you simply need to know what happens next. 

The way that Emmi and Leo start communicating is through a message sent to the wrong person, and I know what you’re thinking, what a cute setup, right? Add to that the banter between the two characters and you get the perfect Valentine’s Day read, right? Oh, also, Emmi and Leo are adorable and while reading this book I was reminded of the movie Definitely Maybe, so you know it’s a fluffy read, right? I don’t want to burst your bubble (I’m kidding, I definitely do), but this isn’t a fluffy book. Like I said, it’s real and it’s raw and it’s complicated. It is also an adult read, so if you’re not into that, don’t pick it up. 

The plot is full of tension and will have you wondering what’s going to happen all the way till the end, and then the end will come and you’ll feel some kind of way. I know that the ending would have infuriated me six years ago. Now I understand that it couldn’t have happened any other way, although the author probably changed his mind about that because this novel has a sequel. I’m not going to read it, in case you were wondering because I’m content with how the original book concluded. 

Which books do you think should have been standalones? Let me know in the comments below. 

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila 

Spoiler Alert: It’s Not

Spoiler Alert: It’s Not

Hello and happy Wednesday. The title of this post seems a bit aggressive, but I want to let you know that if you plan to pick up It’s About Love by Steven Camden because you think it is a romance book, then don’t because it’s not. This book is about love alright, and it does feature romantic love, but at the center it is a story about love between brothers, about family and being proud of who you are and where you come from. It is definitely a refreshing take on what we usually think when we hear the word “love,” especially related to young adult literature. 

I read this book between February 2nd and February 8th, 2020 and gave it four stars. I did fall into the “trap” of thinking that this would be a cutesy, quick read, and I was honestly in need of that. It is a quick read because you simply can’t stop, you want to know what happens next, and I think the author does a great job at building up suspense and anticipation throughout the plot. It is not, however, cute, and I picked up on that right from the first scene. 

Luke, the main character, is really into films and filmmaking, so we get some movie script inserts throughout the story. The first scene reminded me of The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson, so I knew that this book would have me hooked. Violence is present and it is a common theme, so if you are not into that, I don’t think this book is for you. 

Luke is attending college in the fancy part of town and he feels like he doesn’t belong with the rest of his classmates, but he is still very excited to be taking a film class. His life at home is complicated because his brother Marc will soon be released from jail after having been sentenced for physically assaulting the neighborhood bully. At times the sense of doom made me feel like I was reading an Adam Silvera book and I knew that there wouldn’t really be a happy ending. I did, however, appreciate how Luke’s and Marc’s relationship was explored because I don’t think that’s seen often. 

What type of relationship would you like to see more in the books you read? Let me know in the comments. 

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila