BOOK REVIEW: History Is All You Left Me – by Adam Silvera

Title: History Is All You Left Me
Author: Adam Silvera

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
First published: January 17th 2017
Publisher: Soho Teen
Finished reading: March 31st 2017
Pages: 320

“People are complicated puzzles, always trying to piece together a complete picture, but sometimes we get it wrong and sometimes we’re left unfinished. Sometimes that’s for the best. Some pieces can’t be forced into a puzzle, or at least they shouldn’t be, because they won’t make sense.”

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This title has been on my list of most anticipated releases ever since I first heard about it and is also a case of insta-coverlove (I’m sure I’m not the only one on both counts). It took me longer than I hoped to be able to finally pick up my copy of History Is All You Left Me, but I’m definitely glad I finally did. I can completely understand why so many people seem to love this book now! It’s true my own expectations were set just a tiny bit too high, but there is no doubt that this newest novel by Adam Silvera is a great read. The writing style is excellent as well as the character development, and it definitely would be wise to keep a box of tissues ready. Because History Is All You Left Me is filled raw, realistic emotions and talks about both grief and how to deal with the death of someone close. It might not have been the 5 star read I was expecting, but that doesn’t take away I was thoroughly absorbed by the story and I couldn’t stop reading until I knew how the story ended. The characters are realistic and have their own little quirks… And while some things about certain characters annoyed me a little, they were able to win me over anyway. Kuddos to the author for the inclusion of OCD in the plot and I loved the different relationships. True, I felt the whole story was a bit messy, but mostly a good messy. If you are a fan of the genre, realistic and quirky characters and don’t mind a healthy dose of sad, you will probably love History Is All You Left Me.

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Theo was Griffin’s first love, and also the first time he ‘came out’. He had to let him go as Theo left for California to study last year, and now Griffin lost him all over again in a drowning accident. In an attempt to hold onto every piece of the past, he wants to talk to Theo’s last boyfriend Jackson as well. When Jackson starts to show signs of guilt, Griffin starts to suspect he is hiding something… And he is determined to find out the whole truth about Theo’s death.

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There is no doubt that History Is All You Left Me is both a well written and emotional read with excellent characters. It shows a wide variety of emotions and I loved learning more about how the different relationships started and developed. Reality is added to those emotions by the fact that the author doesn’t leave out the ‘ugly’ parts. If you like the genre, I can definitely suggest giving this one a try!


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BOOK REVIEW: The Song Of Achilles – by Madeline Miller

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Title: The Song Of Achilles
Author: Madeline Miller

Genre: Fantasy, Mythology, Fiction
First published: September 20th 2011
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Finished reading: February 28th 2017
Pages: 352
Rating 4,5qqq

“He is a weapon, a killer. Do not forget it. You can use a spear as a walking stick, but that will not change its nature.”

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To take a little break from my ARC mountain, I decided to pick up one of my Beat The Backlist titles. Basically, I have been wanting to read The Song Of Achilles for YEARS. I still don’t know why I haven’t picked up this modern mythology adaptation of the Achilles and Troyan War story written by Madeline Miller before… Especially since so many fellow booklovers seemed to have enjoyed it and I also I read (part of) Homer‘s Iliad during my Ancient Greek classes back in high school and wanted to revisit the story. The Song Of Achilles surely didn’t disappoint; I can understand the love for this book now! Not only is this a very well written story and a lot more pleasant to read than the Iliad translations I’ve seen around, but the character development is very well done as well and I especially loved Patroclus’ character. The pace is quite slow at points, but I personally didn’t mind and I practically devoured this book. If you like mythology, good stories and want to refresh your memory on the Achilles and Troyan War facts, The Song Of Achilles is an excellent choice!

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Patroclus isn’t exactly the perfect young prince and his awkwardness makes his father very frustrated with him. When he accidently kills another boy, his father exiles him to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Against odds the two princes become friends and as they grow up together their bond grows stronger and stronger, despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother and sea goddess Thetis. One day word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, and Achilles must go to war and fulfull his destiny. Patroclus isn’t exactly a skilled fighter, but he would follow Achilles everywhere including to the distant Troy. What will happen to the two during their journey?

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I think most people are at least vaguely familiar with the details around the Troyan War and Achilles. It’s quite a popular Greek mythology story and popular movies have helped to promote it, but it is important to realize those movies have been (heavily) adapted to please the masses. If you want to have a better idea of the ‘real’ story, this mythology adaptation by Madeline Miller is an excellent choice. It reads a lot easier than the Homer translations without changing too much of the plot, and while the pace is a bit slow I had a great time reading this story.


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BOOK REVIEW: The Five Stages Of Andrew Brawley – by Shaun David Hutchinson

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Title: The Five Stages Of Andrew Brawley
Author: Shaun David Hutchinson

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: January 20th 2015
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Finished reading: February 14th 2017
Pages: 297
Rating 3,5qqq

“I realize that adults are just as fucked as the rest of us. No one really grows up. No one unravels all of life’s many mysteries. They just grow up older and become better liars.”

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The Five Stages Of Andrew Brawley has been on my TBR pile for a while now, and recently my TBR jar thought it would be about time to finally pick it up. I still posponed it for way too long, but I’m glad I finally gave it a go in the end. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first picked up this novel by Shaun David Hutchinson, but I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. True, some of the story was a bit too weird to my taste, but in general I enjoyed reading it. The Five Stages Of Andrew Brawley is part graphic novel, part GLBT contemporary romance and part magical realism (which includes all the weird parts). I don’t mind a touch of surrealism, but the whole Death thing and even the main character Andrew himself made me raise my eyebrows more than once. I also had some difficulties with the credibility of part of the plot. I mean, how on earth is Andrew to be able spend so much time at the hospital without raising suspicions? And what about the total disregard of protocol and protection of the seriously ill characters/friends when Andrew banters into their rooms and even takes some out of the ward? Health risk much? That said, I can’t deny it’s an entertaining and original read and I really liked the graphic novel bits with patient F.

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Andrew Brawley was supposed to die that night his parents and sister passed away. But he survived, and he now lives in the hospital. He serves food in the cafeteria, is friends with the nurses and sleeps in a forgotten supply closet. Nobody knows who he really is and I tries to hide his past from everyone. Because if Death finds him, she will take him too. Then one night Rusty is wheeled into the ER, a teenager with half of his body burned by hateful classmates. Andrew feels a strange connection to Rusty, and decides he needs to protect him from Death. Because Death is always looking for her next victim, and Andrew refuses to lose Rusty too.

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I like that The Five Stages Of Andrew Brawley is actually a mix of different genres that work quite well together. The surreal elements were a bit too weird to my taste, but there is no denying they were original. The contemporary romance bit can be a bit cheesy at points, but I liked the dynamics between the main characters in general. I’m still wondering about the title though, because the supposedly ‘five stages’ weren’t mentioned anywhere… The graphic novel bits were definitely a highlight though and I liked how the pages were incorporated into the rest of the story. All in all a very interesting read!


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BOOK REVIEW: Rubyfruit Jungle – by Rita Mae Brown

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Title: Rubyfruit Jungle
Author: Rita Mae Brown

Genre: Classics, Fiction, Glbt
First published: 1973
Publisher: Bantam
Finished reading: December 28th 2016
Pages: 240
Rating 4qqq

“Oh great, you too. So now I wear this label ‘Queer’ emblazoned across my chest. Or I could always carve a scarlet ‘L’ on my forehead. Why does everyone have to put you in a box and nail the lid on it? I don’t know what I am—polymorphous and perverse. Shit. I don’t even know if I’m white. I’m me. That’s all I am and all I want to be. Do I have to be something?”

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I confess I came across this book by accident, but I was immediately intrigued by both the cover and the blurb. The fact that Rubyfruit Jungle is a coming of age story written back in 1973 and talks about the glbt theme so openly is both impressive and inspiring. I can see why so many people seem to find Rita Mae Brown‘s book that powerful… Because as we follow the main character Molly Bolt, basically every cliche involving the glbt community is included and talked about.  It’s so interesting to read about how the situation was back then and compare them to our current one! The prose is both refreshing and entertaining to read, and I was able to finish this modern classic in no time at all. Molly Bolt isn’t exactly the most ‘perfect’ character out there, but it is so easy to like her with all her flaws. She says and does exactly how she thinks and I can really appreciate that. There is some swearing involved in Rubyfruit Jungle, but in this case it is basically part of the character building. All in all a very interesting read!

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Molly Bolt is the adoptive daughter of a dirt-poor Southern couple who stubbornly decided to find a way to improve her current life. She has been determined not to have other people stop her from reaching her goals and dreams, even if she wants things other people might find odd. That includes Molly finding women more attractive than men, and she refuses to apologize for loving them. But will she be able to succeed in life?

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If you enjoy reading a good glbt coming of age story where the main character doesn’t shy away from saying the painful truth and you don’t mind a bit of colorful prose, I can strongly suggest reading Rubyfruit Jungle. I personally loved the unorthodox prose and I had so much fun reading this story. Molly Bolt is such an intriguing and well developed character and it was really interesting to follow her difficult journey to adulthood. It’s a very original and powerful story and even more impressive if you think about the time when Rubyfruit Jungle was first published.

BOOK REVIEW: The Art Of Being Normal – by Lisa Williamson

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Title: The Art Of Being Normal
Author: Lisa Williamson
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
First published: January 1st 2015
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Finished reading: August 24th 2016
Pages: 357
Rating 4,5qqq

“It’s like I know the real me is in there somewhere, but for the moment I’m trapped in this weird body that I recognise less and less every day.”

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I’ve had countless bloggers recommending this book to me ever since it was published, and somehow I have managed to ignore it until now. I kind of want to kick myself, because this is without doubt one of the best glbt/transgender YA contemporary books I’ve read to this date. The Art Of Being Normal is simply brilliant. The prose is excellent, packed with quotable lines and I literally flew through the pages. I loved the two main characters and the whole glbt/transgender angle made the story into something special. In fact, I don’t think I have read many books with a transgender main character… The character development is really well done and it all felt realistic and not too cheesy. I also loved the ending and the abandoned pool scenes… Basically a whole lot of love! If you enjoy reading YA contemporary/realistic fiction books and haven’t tried reading this little gem by Lisa Williamson yet, I highly suggest keeping this one in mind. You won’t regret it.

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Being a teenager and attending high school is never easy, but for David and Leo it somehow is all extra challenging. Both are outsiders and both have their own secrets… David longs to be a girl, and the people at his high school bully him for his feminine behavior. He never actually told anyone he wants to be a girl though, but things are tough. Leo had problems at his previous school and had to switch to David’s high school instead. Nobody actually knows why and there are a lot of rumors going around, but none of them are close to the truth… When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. Things are about to get a whole lot more complicated…

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It’s hard to talk about The Art Of Being Normal without turning into a blabbering, fangirling mess. I can definitely understand why so many people seem to love this book and keep recommending it everywhere, because it deserves that praise. This book is well written, has an interesting plot and characters and feels real. On top of that, it talks about the issues transgender teenagers might face without pushing that important subject into the background. If you like the genre, make sure to add The Art Of Being Normal to your wishlist if you haven’t already.

BOOK REVIEW: Seven Ways We Lie – by Riley Redgate

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Title: Seven Ways We Lie
Author: Riley Redgate
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: March 8th 2016
Publisher: Amulet Books
Finished reading: June 30th 2016
Pages: 352
Rating 3qqq

“I stand there looking after him with the feeling that – just like that, in one careless moment – I might’ve ruined somebody’s life.”

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I have heard mixed things about this book in the past, and now I’ve read Seven Ways We Lie myself I’m not sure what to make of it. Sure, this novel by Riley Redgate is a fast read, the prose mostly reads easy and is quite entertaining in general. Sure, I liked the idea of the seven deadly sins incorporated into the story and reading about the different characters and their problems and lies. But those seven different POVs did make it harder to focus on the story, get a proper feel for the characters and the plot and properly enjoy this book in general. I was quite confused by the all the different names in the beginning and it took me a while to really tell them apart… And the deadly sin references weren’t as obvious as I thought they would be. Seven Ways We Lie was without doubt a good enough and fast read, but the whole ‘lying teenagers with secrets’ theme was not that original. Also, I liked some characters better than others and especially Juniper’s chapters felt a bit forced ‘artsy’ and started to annoy me. My favorite characters would probably be Olive and Matt, although I liked Valentine and Lucas as well with his whole pansexual angle. In short, it’s a nice enough YA contemporary novel if you enjoy the genre, but not as good as I thought it would be.

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Seven students at Paloma High School are each resisting the allure of one of the seven deadly sins, and all have their own secrets. Each of the students tells their story from their own point of view, and slowly their lives are starting to intertwine more and more… What do a thespian, closeted pansexual, neurotic genious, the perfect girl and a few others have in common? Nothing obvious, until the rumors of a student-teacher affair hit the fan and suddenly the whole school wants to find out the identity of the guilty couple. But aren’t all students guilty of something in the first place? The perfect girl might not be so perfect after all after her secrets comes out, and it’s up to the other six sinners to keep her secret safe. But can they resist their temptations?

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To be honest, I’m having a hard time rating Seven Ways To Lie. In a way, I quite enjoyed reading this story and it was a really fast read, but I also had some minor problems with it that made me enjoy the story less. The biggest issue would probably be the fact that there are many different characters and POVs, which makes it hard to properly connect to the story. I also would have liked seeing more of the seven deadly sins incorporated in the book… But all in all it is still an entertaining enough read if you normally enjoy reading the genre.

BOOK REVIEW: More Happy Than Not – by Adam Silvera

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Title: More Happy Than Not
Author: Adam Silvera
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
First published: June 2nd 2015
Finished reading: June 4th 2016
Pages: 336
Rating 3qqq

“Memories: some can be sucker punching, others carry you forward; some stay with you forever, others you forget on your own. You can’t really know which ones you’ll survive if you don’t stay on the battlefield, bad times shooting at you like bullets. But if you’re lucky, you’ll have plenty of good times to shield you.”

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More Happy Than Not was on my list of most anticipated 2015 releases and I added it to my list months before it was even published, but somehow I never actually picked up my copy until now. It’s easy to say I had really high expectations for this book, and that may or may not have influenced my opinion in a negative way. Because it’s a fact that it took me ages to read this novel by Adam Silvera and I can’t say I enjoyed the first part. The prose and dialogues felt a bit forced and I felt like the story dragged to much in the beginning. To be honest, I actually thought about DNFing it at one point just because it took me so long to get a proper feel for the story… That said, I’m glad I continued reading because the last part of the book was brilliant. I’m not saying it completely made up for the slow start, but it did explain more about what the main character was going through. More Happy Than Not mixes the average contemporary romance story with science fiction elements, which definitely transforms it into an interesting read. The message behind this story is also inspiring, and especially the last part had a lot of really interesting quotes. I have debated whether to give this novel a higher rating, but I can’t ignore the fact that the beginning just didn’t do it for me. Would I recommend it? Probably, with the advice to keep reading even if you don’t really like the beginning.

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 Aaron Soto has been struggling to find happiness again in the months after his father committed suicide. Things have been tough, but his girlfriend Genevieve and his mom have been trying to get him back on the right track. After he tried to end his own life not long after his father died, they seem to be more worried than ever… Because it seems like Aaron is slowly drowning in his own grief. When Genevieve has to leave town for a couple of weeks, Aaron starts hanging out more and more with a new guy, Thomas, instead of with his friends. Thomas seems to understand him a lot better than his old friends and Aaron can’t deny Thomas makes him feel happier than he has been in a long time. But are these feelings just about friendship, or something deeper? And how does Thomas feel about all this? Aaron feels he is making a mess of his life, and is starting to think the revolutionary memory-alteration procedure at the Leteo Institute might be his only way out for a happy and normal life…

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Like I said before, I had really high expectations of More Happy Than Not and the first part actually disappointed me a lot. It took me a long time to get a proper feel for the story; the first part was both slow, the prose felt forced and the story dragged a lot. Still, there is no doubt that the last part of the story is really good and probably would have gotten one of the highest ratings on its own. It’s an interesting topic that manages to raise important questions about glbt acceptance, suicide, happiness and life in general… In short: after a slow start, the second half of the book is definitely a reward and makes this novel worth reading in the end.