I Live in Many Worlds

I'm not one to talk about myself. I will say that I love to read and study languages. I have strong opinions about the things I read. Stick around if you'd like to hear them. :)

Audition by Ryū Murakami; Translated by Ralph McCarthy

Audition - Ralph McCarthy, Ryū Murakami

I am not having good luck with Japanese literature this year. 

 

Let me back track. At the beginning of this year, I said that I was going to read more of Japanese literature. I love Japan, Its culture, language, history, and literature have fascinated me since I was five-years-old. But even though I've studied the culture, language, and history, I've fallen behind on its literature. So I wanted to rectify that this year. I want to read through all of Haruki Murakami's works, some classics, and even modern novels that come from Japan. If you recall, at the beginning of January, I picked up Haruki Murakami's first novel and was completely underwhelmed by it. Now with Audition by Ryu Murakami, my second Japanese literature book for this year, I am left disgusted and annoyed that, so far, my reading project has been a bit of a let down.

 

Warning: The review below goes into a bit of graphic detail in order to accurately portray my disgust so be careful if you choose to continue onward. 

 

The writing itself it not bad. I read an English edition so I can't comment on Murakami's own writing. But Ralph McCarthy did an excellent job in translating the novel. It never felt like he was trying to make it into a flowery writing style. It's raw and to the point. I was never confused as to what was going on within the story because of how fluid the writing is. I really enjoyed that aspect of the book.

 

Everything else I did not like. Throughout most of the book you have the main character, Aoyama, being a complete sexist asshole. He and his friend, Yoshikawa, talked horribly about women. That they're not good for much except sex. That if a woman wants to be an actress, she will mostly likely end up sleeping her way to the top. Ugh. They even talked about wanting to sleep with a lot of women but won't have it if a woman decided to have sex with more than one man. It's a double-standard that's been passed along in our misogynistic society forever now and it really pisses me off. The main character even goes as far to say that any man who doesn't want to be surrounded by a whole bunch of women is either a homosexual or mentally ill. I don't need to tell you how harmful and backwards thinking that statement is.

 

But, wait, it gets worse!

 

Yoshikawa, best friend of Aoyama, is just as horrendous as Aoyama is! Yoshikawa says that no woman would want to date anyone who uses the internet because only "geeks" use it, and that people who have jobs at radio stations are all idiots and would do anything to get their name out there. As if DJs and radio hosts are empty-minded individuals for working on the radio instead of TV. And that jab about people using the internet? Yeah, how's that going for ya, Yoshikawa? I'm aware that this book was written in the 90s but even then saying something like THAT about anyone who uses the internet is downright offensive.

 

And I wish the problems would just end there but there's still more I need to talk about. Like how Murakami decided to describe the sex scenes in his book. Not that I mind have descriptions of sex in the books I read. I'm okay with that. What I'm not okay with is how Murakami chose to describe it. The descriptions were solely focused on Asami's, the main female character, body. He described the "folds" and the "white liquid" without ever touching upon Aoyama whatsoever. After all, he was there... you know. Just writing those scenes the way Murakami did diminished the act all together. It resulted in only objectifying Asami into a sex doll. Not that it's that surprising seeing as how all the other women in the book are written to be shallow, money-hungry, "sluts" who only are looking out for themselves.

 

One more thing I want to add before wrapping up this review and it's the one of the biggest reasons why I HATE this book. At the beginning of the book, Aoyama mentions to Asami that he's surprised she is so normal and demure because usually people who suffer from abuse as a child end up with trauma that leave them mentally unstable. And then that statement is solidify by Asami later on trying to kill him. Because ALL rape/abuse victims are crazy and want to kill all the people they have a relationship with, right? Ugh... These types of comments that forces abuse victims into one group is harmful. It sends the wrong message out to people. With how bad the stigma is around mental illness and rape victims, just saying that anyone who is abused as a child will grow up to be mass murderers is wrong! We don't need anymore of that type of representation in books or in any form of media. Rape victims do suffer trauma, yes, but they do not decide to become killers later on in like to "get back" at their rapists. And I won't sit here, claiming to know everything a rape victim goes through. However, I will also not sit here and let this toxic perception of victims go unchallenged either. They've always been through enough. We don't need to add on to their grief by labeling them as "psychopaths" as well.

 

Also, making said abuse victim dismember animals in a book just to add more "shock" value does not make the book better. Just makes the writer seem desperate and unimaginative in the story. There was no point in dismembering the dog. It did not go with the narrative Murakami was trying to "sell." He said that Asami wanted to "saw off the feet" of the men she was with to resemble her abuser and to "get back" at the men who wronged her. So why go after the dog? It did not fit her "criteria." Clearly, Murakami only added that part in to "disturb" the reader. There was no point to it and it was sloppy.

 

I know I gave away some points to the story but I felt like I had to so I could properly discuss why I hate this book. It's sloppy, misogynistic, harmful, and disgusting. I do not recommend you read this book. I won't say DON'T read it. I am of the belief people can read whatever they want. However, if anything I said disturbs you in any way, then you might want to steer clear. It's a shame that Ryu Murakami wrote a story in this manner. He is clearly not a writer for me and I will not be picking up anymore of his books.

The Summer Palace (Captive Prince Short Stories #2) by C.S. Pacat

The Summer Palace: A Captive Prince Short Story (Captive Prince Short Stories Book 2) - C.S. Pacat

And, finally, the last short story that's currently out for fans to read and devour! The Summer Palace is an epilogue of sorts to Kings Rising and I am LIVING for it! It follows Damen and Laurent after the events that happened in Ios. They both travel to the Summer Palace to rest, talk, and discuss what the future may hold for them.

 

I'm going to say this: If you love the trilogy, then read this short story right now! In my Kings Rising review, I said I felt the book ended abruptly. I felt there should have been more story to wrap things up a bit more smoothly. Well, this short story did that! It gave Damen and Laurent a proper ending and I implore you to read this so you can see what became of them after the "final battle."

 

The writing in this short story is a lot better than it was in the first short story. Where the first story felt rushed and choppy, this one felt like Pacat took her time to flesh out what she wanted Damen and Laurent to feel, to act. There were a couple of typos here and there but nothing too noticeable. I enjoyed the slower pace to this story because I felt it suited the atmosphere of the setting. I love that we got to see a much more domestic side to both of these characters and I love that we got to see Laurent open up and "thank" Damen for everything he's done.

 

I really love this conclusion. A lot. This short story is an excellent addition to the Captive Prince universe and if you're a fan, then you will DEFINITELY enjoy this as well. Give it a read!

 

Now to wait for the other short stories to be released... I hate waiting! X3

Green but for a Season (Captive Prince #2.5) by C.S. Pacat

Green but for a Season: A Captive Prince Short Story (Captive Prince Short Stories Book 1) - C.S. Pacat

And we continue on with the short stories from the Captive Prince trilogy! This short story takes place during book two and follows Jord. It explains how he came to be a part of the Prince's Guard and what he did whilst being Captain. It also touches a tiny bit on his relationship with Aimeric.

 

In short (no pun intended), I liked this story. I liked getting to know Jord a bit more. I also liked seeing him develop further than he was in the books. I will say, however, that I feel that this short story was a bit rushed. I know it's a short story and it's not going to have as much depth as a full length novel. But it just felt choppy in some parts. There was a moment I had to check to make sure that I didn't skip a part because we went from one scene to the next without proper transition. I would have also liked to see Jord and Aimeric's relationship fleshed out more than was in this story, which is what I initially thought this short story was going to be about. I wanted to see their relationship be explored because in the novels, I felt their relationship was hinted to be complex and I just... didn't get that in this story.

 

Still, it's a pretty good read for anyone who is a fan of the trilogy. I think you'd enjoy it even if it's a bit on the short side.

Kings Rising (Captive Prince, #3) by C.S. Pacat

Kings Rising: Book Three of the Captive Prince Trilogy - C.S. Pacat

Last year, I read the first two books in C.S. Pacat's Captive Prince trilogy and absolutely loved them! I loved them so much, my partner and I bought them as soon as we finished reading them to add to our collections! And it's only now that I am getting around to the third and final book to the trilogy (I know there are short stories that come after the series so I will get to them soon). I have to say I LOVED this book!

 

If you're familiar with the series, then this continues off where the second book ended. It continues Damen and Laurent's struggles of fighting a war with the Regent of Vere. I won't say anything of the plot because this IS wrapping up the story. However, I will say if you loved the first two books then you will love this one immensely.

 

The writing is breathtaking! Pacat's depictions are lovely. I adore the way she described scenery the most. The characters are just as engaging as they were in the first two books. And, yes, Damen is still dumb. I can't believe he wasn't able to figure out Laurent was raped and abused by his uncle. And, no, I don't consider that a spoiler because the hints were HEAVILY implied throughout the ENTIRE trilogy. So anyone with a brain could figure out the abuse Laurent had to endure from his uncle when he was a child. And then there's Damen... man, is he dumb. He really didn't know this entire time... and then he does something ELSE stupid later on that I can't say because that IS a spoiler but... it was just as stupid as not figuring out Laurent's rape. Still, Damen is dumb in a harmless way. In what I mean that he has his heart in the right place... even if he can't use his brain to save his life... LITERALLY!

 

Laurent really made my heart ache in this book. Knowing what we know about his childhood and how much he misses his brother, it pains me to see him trying to protect himself by pushing those away. He's also protecting Damen because he knows what kind of man his uncle is and he doesn't want Damen to have to deal with that. So Laurent does the one thing he knows how to do: Keep him at a distance by being a total ass to him! I swear, I love Laurent. I do. But he can be such a jerk sometimes. Actually, I find it quite hilarious the way he acts and responds with snarky/sassy comments. Laurent and Damen's relationship is such an interesting, wild, sometimes bizarre, ride that I can't help but LOVE it!

 

In short, I love this book. It's fast-paced, fun, steamy, and incredible! My one complaint was how it seemed to just end. The ending, I felt, needed to be dragged out a bit more. BUT! The short story, The Summer Palace, is an epilogue of the trilogy which is why I'm not too upset by Kings Rising stopping almost abruptly. Just keep in mind that you might want to have The Summer Palace nearby if you want to have a full conclusion to the story. 

 

The same warnings apply as to the first two books. So if you've read the first two, you know what you'll be getting in this one. There's sex, violence, adult language, mentions of rape, and murder. If you're okay with reading that then I highly recommend you read this book. These are fun books that you can read in one sitting if you're looking for a steamy mlm politically-run romp.

The Earl and The Fairy, Volume 01 by Mizue Tani

The Earl and The Fairy, Vol. 01 - Ayuko, Mizue Tani

When I was younger, I used to read manga all the time. In fact, it was the only thing I read for many years of my youth. However, getting older, I have fallen out of the habit of reading manga on a regular basis. It has been a very long time since I've read manga and I've been trying to get back into it. So when my partner came home with the first volume of The Earl and the Fairy she borrowed from work, I decided to give it a read. I have to say it's not a bad read.

 

I liked the simplistic feel to the story. You can literally just pick it up and fall into the story quite easily. The story is not convoluted to the point you don't understand what the fairies's roles are or how the myths of these fairies are interwoven into the actual plot of the story. And even though not everything is revealed from the get-go, it's not difficult to follow along with the characters.

 

Speaking of characters, I do feel like they were on the weaker side. The main character, Lydia, falls under a lot of tropes you tend to find in shoujo manga. She's supposed to be "tough" and takes "no nonsense" from the male lead, but she ultimately ends up doing whatever he tells her to do because she's "sweet and naive." The male lead, Edgar, tries to come off as charming and caring but he still manipulates Lydia every chance he gets. Mind you, he DOES acknowledge that what he's doing is wrong, but that still doesn't excuse the behavior. And even though I feel like the characters were not this manga's strongest point, it did leave me feeling that there's room for growth and I do think we shall see that growth in later volumes. I do have hope for that.

 

Lastly, the art wasn't anything special. It's very typical "cutesy" style with Lydia having pretty flowing hair and big eyes, whilst Edgar is all "broody" and "mysterious" and has darker tones to his outfits. I will say the outfits to the characters are very beautiful. It's not a bad art style, it's just a style I've seen before.

 

All-in-all, it was a pretty good read. It's harmless fun with interesting lore that, I'm sure will get explored more along with the characters' growth. I really did like what I read and I'm not opposed to reading the next volume. However, I won't go out of my way to read it right away either. If this sounds like your sort of manga, then go right ahead and pick it up. It's a pretty fast, simple read.

Bitch Planet, Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine by Kelly Sue DeConnick

Bitch Planet Volume 1 - Kelly Sue DeConnick, Robert Wilson IV, Valentine De Landro

Bitch Planet is one of those graphic novels everyone seems to recommend. And I can see why! It's about a group of women who are deemed "disobedient" from the male-dominated government and are sent to a distant prison planet called "Bitch Planet" to be "straightened out." There they have to do what they're told if they hope to survive. But the main group of women we follow are definitely not keen on such a notion. Then, obviously, rebellion ensues.

 

I first heard of Bitch Planet through BookTube. When I heard so many people talking about how feminist and inclusive it was, I had to give it a read. And I'm so glad I did! The entire first volume is incredible! The art is gorgeous! It's very colorful when it wants to be and gritty when it has to be. I love the character designs the most! All the women have different body shapes, skin color, and sexual orientations. I love the diversity within these pages and the women portrayed therein.

 

The plot itself is so intriguing. I want to know what our characters are going to do now that they are within this prison. We got to see some background stories for a couple of characters. I love Penny's background story the most. It's tragic, yes, but it helps the reader understand who she is as a person. It helps the reader understand some of the actions she chooses to make. I love her so much. I love ALL the characters so much! Well... except the ones we're supposed to hate... I don't like them as much.

 

And that's all I'm going to say about it! Read this graphic novel! It's fun, engaging, intersectional feminism, daring, and intriguing! However, this is for a very mature audience. There's violence, nudity, sexual content, and gore. But if you're okay with that sort of content, then I highly recommend you pick up this graphic novel. It's filled with a diverse cast of women trying to make it in a world that refuses to allow women to be themselves. It's a fantastic read.

Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings

Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen - Jazz Jennings

I don't often read nonfiction. Not because I don't like reading it. It's just something I don't naturally gravitate towards. I tend to reach for more fantastical worlds as a way to relax from the ever polluting realities of our own world. However, this year I want to do something a little bit different. This year I want to read more nonfiction. I want to educate myself about different cultures and experiences. I've always been a very diverse reader, but I want to do that with my nonfiction reading as well. So when my partner and I saw Jazz Jennings memoir at the library, we both decided we HAD to read it.

 

I really enjoyed reading Jazz Jennings's memoir. She writes in a very conversational tone. Almost as if she is in the room with you, just chatting about her day. It was a very relaxing way of conveying her story and message. I enjoyed reading about all the advocacy work she does and I especially loved learning about how loving and supportive her family was. I am fully aware that for some transgender teens and adults, that's not always the case, but I am so happy that Jazz Jennings has a family that loves, supports, and protects her so she can be herself. To be happy. I thought that was beautiful.

 

That's not to say that her life wasn't without struggle. Being transgender, she encountered difficulties when it came to using the girls' restroom in school or being prohibited from being on any female teams when playing sports. Her family fought long and hard so that Jazz could be treated fairly and equally just like other girls. And in the end, it paid off! What makes this an amazing accomplishment is that they paved the way for other transgender kids to have these same rights without having to go to court and fight for them. (Although, I know that no matter what, there will always be struggles for anyone who is transgender or who is considered "different" in our society. But this is why I believe educating yourself and having an open mind could help us better understand one another, so that there's less hatred and violence. Please treat each other kindly.)

 

All in all, I really liked this book. I think if you know a teen who is transitioning or is thinking about transitioning, this is a great book to introduce them to the idea. Or if you know any adults who has a child or teen that is transitioning, they should read this book so that way they can learn to be understanding of their child and their needs. To support their child in any way they can. Parents, more than anybody else, need to try and understand that their child is their child. No matter what. And parents should love their child unconditionally. Whether their child is male, female, trans, intersex, non-binary, etc., remember to always love your child. The world is cruel enough as it is. Do not add to the hatred by discriminating against your own child. 

 

So I do recommend this book for people to learn from. The only downside to this book is that Jazz Jennings writes from a very privileged perspective and she knows that. She points out throughout the book multiple times that she is fully aware she's lucky to have been blessed with understanding parents and the financial needs to transition. So, a lot of the treatments and experiences she talks about in her book are not something everyone will be able to afford or experience themselves. Nevertheless, I still think there are things in this book everyone can benefit from by reading it. Please give this book a read if you come by it. A little bit of education goes a long way.

The Mirror Empire (Worldbreaker Saga, #1) by Kameron Hurley

The Mirror Empire: Worldbreaker Saga 1 - Kameron Hurley

Where do I even start with this book? I first heard of this book on BookTube. I became intrigued by it because of the gender aspects so when I went to the library, I thought I'd give it a go. Well, the gender aspects are about all I enjoyed from this book.

 

That's not true. I also enjoyed the writing. The writing is actually quite beautiful. It's very easy to envision the world, its inhabitants, the magic system, everything. I quite like what Hurley does with language and how she uses it to fit this unique world.

 

Another thing I liked about this book was how gender was portrayed, You have gender-fluid characters and non-binary characters and characters who were pansexual and all of that was fantastic! I also liked the talk of using the correct pronouns for whatever the person identifies themselves as and to no do so was seen as extremely offensive because, guess what, it IS offensive to do that to anyone. I adore that Hurley made that very clear within her writing. 

 

Continuing with the gender themes, Hurley also reversed the roles between men and women within this society. It is a matriarchal society where the women are seen as superior to men. Now, I personally don't like matriarchies or patriarchies. I think all should be seen as equals regardless of gender. However, I realize Hurley did this as a commentary to our own society where women are seen as weak. I understand the commentary and I do appreciate what she has done here in her book.

 

However, I don't like seeing rape. At all. And the women do, in fact, rape the men. One character in particular, Zezili, is raping her husband constantly. She beats him, carves her initials into his skin to show ownership, and her husband, Anavha, is of the mentality that she does this because she loves him... something abuse victims tend to say of their abusers. And I get it. This happens a lot in our society. So I understand what and why Hurley decided to include this in her novel, but I'm not okay with any type of abuse. So reading that left me very angry, which is the point, I suppose.

 

Oh, but there's still more about this book that left me feeling rather empty. Let's talk about Lilia. She's one of the main characters in this book and she annoyed the hell out of me. She does stupid things for no reason. Basically, her reasoning is along the lines of "because I can." She is selfish and cruel to the point of callous. But the thing is there's no reason for it! She is not supposed to be a horrible character. She just is. And I can't say much more but because of her stupidity, she gets so many innocent characters, who are trying to help her out, killed. She gets them killed because of her selfishness. And what makes it worse, she shows no remorse! As long as she gets her way, she doesn't care who she screws over in the end. But we, as the reader, are supposed to sympathize with her? We're supposed to believe she's a good person? No. I don't think so.

 

The motivations of some of the characters make no sense to me. Going back to Zezili, she is someone that's ruthless. She kills anyone her Empress tells her to. But then she decides she wants to be a hero and save others... what? Where did that come from? Why are you being kind now? I don't get it. I felt like the development for a lot of the characters were not fleshed out enough, which is sad to say since this book is over 500 pages. 

 

But one of my biggest problems this book has is not telling the reader anything. Like, I get it. As an author, you don't want the reader to know everything. But you also need to give the reader enough to go on so that the reader in intrigued enough to keep reading. After 250 pages, I saw so many forced moments the author put their for the "shock value" that I was disappointed. She inserted what she wanted so much without giving reason to it. Most of those moments left me feeling "Why? What was the point to that?" And that's what most of this book is. What was the point? And it's never fully explained. At all.

 

I could go on but I'll stop here. This book had so much potential. Hurley had a lot of great ideas but, ultimately, could not pull off in a cohesive manner. All of it felt too messy and all over the place. I love what she did with gender and sexuality and the world is such a cool concept! But everything else just fell flat for me.

 

If this book intrigues you, go ahead and give it a shot. You might like it more than I did. Just remember there's a lot of gratuitous violence, gore, and rape. Don't read it is any of those themes are harmful towards you. But if you're okay with those themes, then try it out. Hopefully, you like it even if I had a few problems with it.

The Mothers by Brit Bennett

The Mothers: A Novel - Brit Bennett

This book has been going around quite a bit and I became very curious about what The Mothers had to say. So I went to the library, my second home, and picked up a copy. And I must say, it's a pretty good read.

 

The book starts off with Nadia, a seventeen-year-old girl, who just lost her mother to suicide. Grieving, she later becomes involved with the pastor's son, Luke, and they have a secret relationship that results in Nadia becoming pregnant. She goes through many ups and downs whilst trying to figure out what she wants in life. Aubrey, a friend Nadia meets at the town's local church, becomes heavily involves in both Nadia and Luke's lives and all three are shown throughout the novel growing into adulthood whilst trying to discover who they are as people.

 

I really liked this story. The writing was quite beautiful and I enjoyed the way Bennett told the story. Part of the story is told by this elderly group called The Mothers. They are an older generation of women who are at the community church and tell the story from an outsider's perspective, reminiscent to the Greek chorus. I love that writing style and Bennett did an excellent job in using it to engage the reader into her story about these character.

 

Speaking of characters, they are extremely flawed. I don't really think there's any redeemable qualities in any of them. Nadia becomes so grief stricken after losing her mother that she becomes reckless. Reckless to the point she is willing to hurt her father, who is going through his own grieving process, and her best friend. Luke... I don't like Luke. I didn't understand why Nadia was so hung up over him. After he treats he horribly throughout the entire book. He mostly wanted to have sex with her and that's it. Aubrey is the character I like most in this book. She goes through her own problems and have a strained relationship with her mother. The only solace she found being the church. I'm not religious myself so it was interesting seeing how this character was able to embrace her faith enough to comfort her but not obsess over it (as I've seen other characters do in other books). I enjoyed seeing her grow and transform into the woman she became.

 

There's a certain incident that happens later in the book that I cannot talk about in great detail because it's quite a huge spoiler. However, I will say that incident really didn't sit well with me. I know things like that happen all the time in real life and it's not that I have a problem with. I will say the incident is cheating. I don't like when anyone cheats. If you are in a committed relationship with someone, you do NOT cheat. It's wrong. If there's consent between both parties to involve someone else, then that's fine, Polyamorous relationships deserve as much respect as monoamorous ones. However, this was cheating through and through. And THAT is wrong.

 

But don't get me wrong. The cheating itself is not what bugs me. Like I said, it happens all the time. It's how it's dealt with that doesn't sit right with me. It wrapped up too nicely. Everything was just handle too simply. Too cleanly. I know people shouldn't hold grudges and that you should learn to forgive and let go. But for everything to be completely forgiven in the end? There really wasn't any consequences to be had. For something like that to be forgiven and forgotten seemed too unrealistic to me.

 

This is in no way to say that I didn't like the book. I did. Personally, I just felt the ending was wrapped up too quickly for me to fully immerse myself in the narrative. 

 

If you like stories about friendship, community, loss, and faith then you should definitely give this book a try. A bit of a warning though, there's talk of suicide, sexual assault, and rape so keep that in mind if those are things you rather stay clear of. Otherwise, this is a pretty good book about what it's like to live in a small Christian community and how that can influence people therein.

Wind/Pinball: Two Novels by Haruki Murakami; Translated by Ted Goossen

Wind/Pinball: Two novels - Ted Goossen, Haruki Murakami

Being a lover of Japanese literature, and books in general, I've always wanted to give Haruki Murakami's books a try. I've heard nothing but praise for his works so I thought I should give all his works a read. This is a bit of a personal project I've bestowed upon myself: To read at least one Murakami book a month. And, I thought, what better way to start than from the two first novels he's ever written! Well, I have to say that we are not off to a good start.

 

Hear the Wind Sing is his very first novel and it shows. Nothing much happens in this book. It's about an unnamed narrator and his best friend, the Rat, and what they do during a summer the narrator has off from college. But really, all they do is spend it drinking at a bar, talking about women, and that's pretty much it. The narrator has a relationship with a woman who only has nine fingers and their dynamic was... bizarre. I didn't see how that woman found the narrator interesting or how she developed feelings for him. I say this because at the beginning of the book, she detested him. Then, almost over night, she starts to fancy him... what? Why? What did he do in order for her to toss her disdain for him out the window? It made no sense to me. On top of the unbelievable relationship, I was just bored reading it. Nothing really happens in the book. Just a bunch of guys drinking in a bar. I was waiting for something else to happen. Something more interesting. I thought it would happen with the relationship aspect of the book. But no. Nothing. The writing in this first book was also dull. There was no life to it. Basically, Murakami's first novel just wasn't for me.

 

The second novel, Pinball, 1973, was a bit better but not by much. This book takes place several years after the first. The unnamed narrator works for a translation business whilst his friend, the Rat, goes through his own problems with trying to find himself and understand what he wants to do with his life. I'll admit, I liked that aspect of the book quite a bit. At some point in our lives, we all start questioning what we want to do. Who we are. What shall become of us if we don't do something worthwhile. And being able to read and see that side of the Rat was pretty interesting. Also, the writing was a lot more lyrical. There were still plenty of dull patches here and there, but I can tell that Murakami was finding his style a lot more here. So his writing improved a bit! And the translator, Ted Goossen, did a fantastic job in portraying Murakami's meaning well! But that's where my praises end, sadly. The narrator was still so bland that I was still bored when reading about him and his obsession with pinball. Also, there were these twins that intrigued me. I wanted to learn more about them. Like where they came from and what was their purpose for moving in with the main character. But I got none of that. Their sole purpose was to make coffee and have sex with the narrator. That's it. In fact, that's all the women of this book did! The secretary at the translation office only cooked food and cleaned. That's it. The twins made food and had sex. That's it. I knew going in that Murakami tends to be a bit sexist in his novels, but it's so apparent in these two books! So even though I enjoyed this book more... it still wasn't enough to make me fall in love with Murakami as a writer.

 

Now, these are just his first two novels. You can tell they are early works and I know it's his later works that are highly praised so I'm not judging him too harshly. These two weren't for me but I shall continue reading his works to see if he's an author that I will enjoy. I still have hope so in February, I will be reading A Wild Sheep Chase and see how I get on with that one. Hopefully I enjoy it a lot more than his first two novels.

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

Another Brooklyn: A Novel - Jacqueline Woodson

I love Jacqueline Woodson's books. I've read quite a few of them now and I absolutely love them. Another Brooklyn is no exception. What pulled me in to this book the most was it's setting and writing.

 

I grew up near Brooklyn and I always love reading books that take place in New York because it brings me back to a time where I went to these places often. The way Woodson described the tall, red brick buildings brought back so many memories... and that's the main theme of this book: Memories. What we go through in life and how we react, how we remember those events and the impact it makes. Just... so many experiences that make us who we are. I love this book.

 

The writing was especially gorgeous! It's lyrical, almost as if you're reading spoken word poetry. I was transported to Brooklyn, my home. I could envision the streets, the people, the bodegas, everything. How I miss home.

 

The characters were interesting. Each living their own lives and storing their own memories. I loved reading about what they went through and felt for them whenever they had to deal with hardships because of discrimination. How people never wanted to give them a chance at life because these girls were black. It's a heartbreaking tale that racism once again plays a hand in. But the message where we must keep going even if everything seems hopeless, is what makes this book beautiful to me.

 

It's not a happy read. But it's an important one. It's a book I think everyone should read if only to understand what it means to live and to hope and to strive... even if memories remind us of how cruel the world can be.

None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio

None of the Above - Andrea Di Gregorio

One of the more informative books I've read all year. This book follows a character who is intersex and tells of her story and experiences once she is diagnosed as such. I really enjoyed getting to learn more about Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS) since it's a topic that is rarely ever talked about, I can tell the author did a massive amount of research to get the correct information about what it is like to have AIS. 

 

The writing is nothing out of the ordinary. It's quite "matter-of-fact" which I think is a good thing. She is trying to spread awareness about AIS, educating those who may not know what it is to become more well-informed, to bring an end to the stigma those what have AIS have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. So it's good that Gregorio's writing is to the point.

 

Now that characters are, in my opinion, on the weaker side. None of them are extremely memorable except for the main character, Kristin. Not that any of the side characters are bad... they just didn't leave a lasting impression on me. But that didn't deter me from reading. We, as the reader, are here to learn about Kristin and what she feels after finding out about her AIS. And as a main character, she was fascinating to read about. I, myself, don't know much about intersex people. I wanted to learn more. I still want to learn more because I know there are many different types of being intersex and I want to increase my knowledge so that I, too, can spread awareness and end the stigma. And from reading None of the Above I felt I did learn more. And I am grateful to this book for educating not only me but anyone else who reads this book. So the characters might not be the strongest aspect of this book, but the information and the awareness it brings is.

 

To sum up, read this book! It's incredible in what it sets out to do and I think it does it well. Be warn though, there is discrimination towards the main character that happens and an attempted sexual assault. So if that might be triggering, then you might want to hold off on this book until you're ready to read it. Oh, and one more thing about this book that I did not like. Kristin and one of her friends, Darren, make a rape joke at one point in the book that I found distasteful. I didn't think that was necessary and I wanted to point out the "joke" in case anyone might find that triggering as well. 

 

But other than that, the book is important in trying to end hatred towards intersex people. And I do think it's an important read for anyone willing to educate, learn, and grow as a person. Give it a read.

Hot Milk by Deborah Levy

Hot Milk - Deborah Levy

I'm going to start off by saying I did not like this book and that I did not finish reading it. If you are looking for a review for the whole book, this is not it. This is just me talking about why I decided to stop reading this book.

 

The writing didn't pull me in and I felt the characters were flat. And towards the beginning of the book, I just couldn't stomach how the main character was flat out racist, sexist, and judgmental. There's a part where she is commenting how the owner of a diving-school kept yelling at his Mexican workers that they were doing a horrible job and they couldn't say anything about it because they're "illegal." ...but of course they had to be Mexican and illegal. Mexicans in Spain are obviously there illegally... I'm just getting really sick and tired of seeing Mexicans being treated as filth because of that "illegal citizens" mentality.

 

Another thing that upset me was when Sofia, main character, showed how bloody sexist and judgmental she is. Shortly after the racist portion, she goes into a bathroom and notices the person in the next stall has men shoes. To which she overreacts to the highest degree! She runs to the owner of the pub, tells him there's a man in the next stall trying to see up her skirt, and that she thinks he has a knife. Mind you, all she saw was a person wearing men's shoes! She had no idea whether it really was a man in the women's bathroom nor did she know if he really had a knife or not. Turns out she was completely wrong! It was a woman and she did not have a knife. It just made me upset to see her react in such a manner. Trying to get someone in trouble without knowing the full details. And I know she might just be really stressed out with how her mother has been treating her, but I don't think that gives her the right to be so outright judgmental without knowing the full details.

 

After that, I had to put the book down. I just couldn't bring myself to read the rest of it. I am sick and tired of reading books that treat people like trash without reason. Just done with it. It's just not something I want to read. If you think that this book is something you want to try out then give it a shot. Just because I didn't like it doesn't mean you won't. Personally, I can't read things like this anymore. It makes me upset and I want to be able to enjoy what I read.

What They Always Tell Us by Martin Wilson

What They Always Tell Us - Martin  Wilson

I saw this book at the library the other day and became curious about it. When I saw it tackled a romance between two boys, I really wanted to see how the representation was handled. In short, it was okay.

 

I enjoyed the writing. It's straight and to the point and I always enjoy when an author decides to be blunt about the topic they are writing about. One of the things I wasn't particularly fond about was how the characters referred to themselves. There's talk of homophobia and a lot of hateful slurs thrown throughout the book but that's the point, I suppose. It's showing the reality of what people in the Queer community must face daily just because of who they fall in love with; and that discriminatory behavior is wrong and people need to educate themselves and learn to accept that there are many different people out there who are amazing and incredible and shouldn't be treated any less for being who they are.

 

It's important to remember that we are all human, trying to live life the best we know how. And, yes, there are bad people out there. But there are also good people who want to live in peace and in happiness. We should let people be who they are and live life the way they want. As long as they are not hurting anyone, why should they be condemned for being themselves? I never understood the blatant hatred people who weren't straight, white, Christian, able-bodied men always have to endure. In the end, we're all human. Why hate someone for what they look like or who they fall in love in or what their beliefs are? It makes no sense to me.

 

Anyway, back to the review.

 

The book follows two perspectives. One is of Alex and the other is of his brother, James. Alex was always a delight to read about. I adore him. He's so sweet and caring. He has his own struggles that he had to face and overcome. In the beginning of the book, he suffers from depression and he does try to take his own life so be cautious about that going in. But his journey takes him from his low points to his highs and it's such a lovely journey to read about! I loved whenever the book took his perspective. However, I did not enjoy reading from James's perspective. He was, put plainly, a bully. I thought he was downright a disgusting character. He's a selfish, misogynistic, and even racist character. He only got better towards the end of the book... with only 40 pages left of the book... It's a shame that I hated reading from his POV so much because if the book only focused on Alex, I would have enjoyed it so much more.

 

All in all, it was a pretty good. I liked the writing and Alex was such a delight to read about. It's not without its flaws. James really makes this book slightly unbearable with his negativity. There's also homophobia and attempted suicide so if any of these may be triggering for you, please do not read this. I want everyone to be safe so please keep what I said in mind. If none of those things bother you, these I do think it's a solid read. It may even be eye opening to how some people are treated just because they are gay. Remember, education is key to understanding other people who live different lives from you.

Beautiful by Stacy McAnulty

Beautiful - Stacy McAnulty, Joanne Lew-Vriethoff

I love this book. It's simple and to the point. It's about how all girls, despite the color of their skin or how able their bodies are or how feminine they choose to be, are beautiful. It shows girls through the stunning illustrations created by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff that being a girl is wonderful. Stacy McAnulty wanted to portray that girls can do anything! They can be into sports or the sciences or the arts! They can be feminine or masculine. They can do whatever they want and that, in and of itself, is a beautiful thing.

 

I love this book. It has become one of my favorite picture books. And I highly encourage you read this book! This is good for everyone to read! I do mean everyone! It will encourage little girls to become who they want to be and it will educate little boys that girls are their equal. So please share this book with someone in your life. It's truly a beautiful one.

All the Feels by Danika Stone

All the Feels - Danika Stone

I am so disappointed in this book. I'm not going to lie, I had high hopes. Mostly because I had never seen a book that was all about fandom before. I like fandom a lot. I love finding a video game/anime/manga/book series to nerd out over. I love reading fanfics, seeing fanart, and watching multiple AMVs over and over again. And I wanted to see this book portray fandom as something fun and exciting! And, at first, this book did that. 

 

Let's start off with the positives. This book praised the creative side of fandom. When people get involved and create their own stories and art and images promoting their passion for a particular show/game/book etc. And I loved that! I loved that this book was saying so many positive things about fandom and how fans love something so much they want to share it with others because that IS what happens when you get involved in something you love. You create things, you share things, you talk to other fans about that thing that you love. It's so much fun and this book portrayed that accurately.

 

Another thing I think this book did great on was its portrayal of sexuality. I love how it talked about how sexuality can be fluid. How it's normal to be bisexual or gay or straight or anything in between. I love that. Because a lot of time, for many of us, sexuality is fluid. Perhaps you thought you were gay but it turns out you're pansexual. All of that is normal and for many of us, it takes time to discover who you are and that's okay, too. I liked that about the book.

 

Now... the things I didn't like about the book... EVERYTHING ELSE! I praised this book for representing fandom correctly, yes? Well, that only pertains to ONLINE fandom. Because the moment everything was taken into reality, the book does a 180 and starts shitting on fandom. I kid you not. There's a part where the two main characters Liv and Xander, who also get on my nerves but I will talk more about that later, go to Dragon Con and they are both so bloody rude! Liv never met any of her online friends so they all begged her to come to Dragon Con, to which she kept saying, "I don't know if I'm going." (Another thing that annoys me about her is she is such a downer to everything!) But the moment her love interest, Xander (not a spoiler; we all know he's end game), tells her to come, she jumps right in! Anyway, so she's finally there, meeting her online friends and the entire time she and Xander are rude to them all!

 

There's one character there named Joe and she is a very popular fic writer in the fandom of Starveil to the point where everyone knows who she is and loves all of her work! Anyway, when they finally meet her, all they did was comment on the fact that she was way too old to be in the fandom and poke fun at her weight. The compared her fingers to sausages! They said it must be embarrassing to write fics in her spare time! What, just because she is older and a bit heavy doesn't give her the right to have fun? What the hell?

 

When it came to another girl in the group, Sarah, she had extreme anxiety, to the point she couldn't talk in person, only text. And we know what that's like. Most of the time, we readers know exactly what it's like to have anxiety to the point it's almost crippling. But do you think Liv cares? No. Xander gave Liv a "sympathetic look" because Liv had to deal with Sarah being awkward. I don't know where they are coming off. Liv couldn't go on a bloody see-through elevator without having to cower into Xander's chest. Hypocrite.

 

One more character I want to talk about before moving on to the main characters. Brain, he's known for making manips for the fandom, was completely awesome and supporting and badass online but the moment they met him in real life, he's a completely asshole. Like getting drunk and cursing at waiters kind of asshole. Now, I know not everyone you meet online is going to be a nice person, but Liv has known these people for years online. They each formed a friendship. Why is it that even when you've known each other for so long, you're treating each other like strangers? It's like the author wanted to give the message that fandom is only good if you keep it online and "online friendships aren't real friendships." No! We've all heard that crap before from close-minded people. Online friendships are just as legit as "real life" friendships. Don't give me none of that crap that fandom only belongs online. That is NOT true! You can have fun with whatever fandom you're in online as well as real life! If you've ever been to a convention, you know this to be true!

 

Now for the main characters. Liv is so annoying. I already mentioned how she is a downer. Well, she also overreacts. TO EVERYTHING. At the beginning of the book, she meets a guy, asks him out, finds out he has a girlfriend, and makes the biggest scene out of nothing. All she had to do was say, "Oh. Okay. Cool. I didn't know." And move on! Not run away crying like a dolt. Then, later on, she does the same thing when this guy and his girlfriend invites her to be in the relationship with them. Polygamous relationships are not for everyone and I understand that, but don't judge those who are comfortable in that relationship. As long as there is consent on all parties then what's the big deal? Liv had to CALMLY and COHERENTLY tell him that she was not into that sort of thing. The guy is actually understanding. He would probably have dropped it and continued to have a friendship with her. But no. Liv had to freak out and continue to judge him and his girlfriend. By the way, inviting Liv into the relationship was his girlfriend's idea. See, Liv? Judgmental. 

 

And she's also a horrible friend! Remember, she has never met any of her online friends before. They all begged her to come to Dragon Con so they can all hang out. And I already said how horribly she treated them. But not only that, the moment Xander said let's go, she ditches her friends! Saying that she was relieved he did that. What kind of a person does that!? Her attitude about it was no better. She just laughs at every single thing Xander does as if he's the funniest dude to walk on this planet and she's completely fine with doing whatever as long as she's with Xander!

 

And speaking of Xander... I hate his guts. I do. He's possessive to the point of concerning. He didn't want Liv to talk to other guys even though he had his own girlfriend. He kept flirting with Liv even though he had his own girlfriend (and this is not the same thing as with the polygamous relationship. In that relationship, the girlfriend was aware of what her boyfriend was doing with another girl. In Xander's case, his girlfriend wasn't aware of his flirting with Liv. WHICH IS WRONG! That's close to cheating, Xan.) And he also kept commenting on Liv's body as if she were a piece of meat! Nothing but lewd and crude comments about how she has all the right curves and how he wanted to ravish her. Just horrible comments like that, and Liv fell for it every time. As if that was romantic. No! That is NOT romantic! That's bloody creepy and disgusting! How could anyone fall for someone talking nonstop about their body? Making obscene comments about their breasts? It was revolting to read.

 

Okay. That's it. I think I ranted long enough about this book. It's been a while I felt the need to rant about how much I disliked a book so much but I had to. I was insulted, being someone who is very much active in fandom myself, that someone would write something like this to try and paint a negative picture about something that is fun and good. Fandom is not perfect, no. But it's not as bad as this book makes it out to be, It can be fun and can be good. There are so many talented people who pour their hearts into the medium they love AND it's not just something they do only online. They carry that passion with them into the real world and that's what makes going to conventions fun! Because you get to see other people like yourself out there doing the same thing you're doing and it's amazing!

 

I can't recommend this book. It is a horrible representation of what fandom is truly like. The characters are terrible, The story is not even resolved properly with one of the characters and... ugh... this book is just a mess. I probably could go on and on about all the things wrong with this book... but I'll stop here. I'm just so disappointed in this book. I wanted to like it. I really did. But I didn't.

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