Book Reviews

The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried by Shaun David Hutchinson – Book Review

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Death is as normal as digestion. People move through life the way food moves through our bodies. Their natural usefulness is extracted along the way to help enrich the world, and when they have nothing left to give, they’re eliminated. Much like our bodies would clog up with excrement if we didn’t defecate, the world would do the same if we didn’t die.

Well, that was really good.

Shaun David Hutchinson is one of my favorite authors, but this book came as a surprise to me. I didn’t know about it until its release date. The premise had me hooked. I’m obsessed with all things death, including the living dead, or zombies as I like to call them. And sure, maybe this isn’t really a zombie book, but it was fun nonetheless.

Dino has just lost his ex-best friend before he had the chance to patch things up between them, and he’s in a relationship that feels a little one-sided. Then his ex-best friend, July, rises from the dead, and drama ensues. I had no trouble liking Dino. I loved his wit, compassion, and way of thinking. I liked his relationship with his sister who was about to be married. I also liked that his parents owned a funeral home. That’s awesome.

I was very sad to discover that July was so problematic. Of course, all of that was acknowledged and corrected, but it made me not like her…at all. This made it difficult for me to root for Dino and July to fix their friendship. The way I saw it, Dino was better off without her. I know July had some character growth, but I just didn’t feel much sympathy for her. Which is a lot to say about a dead person.

I absolutely adored Dino’s boyfriend, Rafi. A gorgeous trans boy with a cute accent, who gives back to his community, has a cool gaggle, and has so much love to give. I could never understand why Dino wasn’t completely head over heels for him. The root of the problem there was July, and that was yet another reason why I didn’t like her.

The story was great. I had a lot of fun reading it. But there were parts that had me annoyed, mostly at the constant bickering between Dino and July. They had the same arguments over and over, and it just got repetitive. I still enjoyed the adventures they had. The ending was satisfying. In the past, I’ve discovered that Shaun David Hutchinson’s books don’t have a concrete ending where things get solved and you’re left thinking over what happened. I’ve enjoyed those type of ending, but I’m glad this one was straight-forward. It fit the style of the book.

I really liked this book. It was perfectly gory. It’s not my favorite Shaun David Hutchinson book, but it was definitely worth the read. If you like books about death and friendship, give this one a try!

4 stars

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Book Reviews

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi – Book Review

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I didn’t believe it was possible to hide a woman’s beauty. I thought women were gorgeous no matter what they wore, and I didn’t think they owed anyone an explanation for their sartorial choices. Different women felt comfortable in different outfits. They were all beautiful.


I had a feeling this book would be special. The premise alone had me intrigued. I know this story is very personal to Tahereh Mafi, and I understand why. This is the story of Shirin, a young Muslim girl in high school in 2002. Being a Muslim in 2019 can be difficult, but a year after 9/11? That girl’s life could not have been harder. I loved Shirin from the start. My girl was fierce and badass and she could handle herself. I also liked her brother, Navid. He was such a good big brother. Protective, but not overdoing it. I loved his group of friends and how they were all sort of big brothers to Shirin as well.

When Shirin met Ocean, I knew there would be trouble. They had an attraction that I didn’t really understand, but I knew existed because Shirin would not stop thinking about Ocean. I’m not sure what it says about me, but I never rooted for the two of them. That’s not to say that I thought the romance wasn’t good, but I was never truly invested in it. However, I quickly realized that since this was a Tahereh Mafi novel, the romance would lead the entire story. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But part of me wanted to focus on the more present issues.

I wanted to know more about Shirin and Navid’s breakdancing club. The scenes were so few, and I didn’t really learn much about the subject. Also, I wanted desperately to know more about Shirin and Navid’s parents. In the one scene they appeared, I ate up their wonderful interactions with Ocean. I wanted more. So much more from them. But for some reason, Shirin described them as completely careless and indifferent towards her. I didn’t understand why this was, but there was no explanation given. I think this was a failed opportunity to learn more about Persian culture and get a deeper insight into this family that I cared about so much.

Regardless, I think this book is important. Muslim stories are so scarce, but so needed. We need more OwnVoices novels. I hope to read more books like this one!

3,5 stars

Book Recommendations, Book Reviews, Uncategorized

My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren

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“Is it weird that this roomful of straight men is fighting over Reid and not me?”

My Favorite-Half Night Stand by Christina Lauren is a funny romance book that follows Millie and Reid as they navigate their new friends with benefits relationship while trying online dating for the first time.

Isis has read and reviewed a couple Cristina Lauren books before, but I never had a real interest before. Romance is typically not a genre I reach for. But for the month of February my book club wanted a romance and My Favorite-Half Night Stand was the winner of the poll we always hold. And I have to say, it was a lot of fun.

I think my favorite aspect of the book wasn’t even the romance, which I have to admit, was very cute. But the whole friend group Millie and Reid had was so funny and supportive. I even was wishing Christina Lauren would write companion novels of Alex, Chris, and Ed (my fav) each receiving their own romance. Not gonna happen, but it would have been great I tell you.

All the characters were really fleshed out and I personally loved Millie’s character arc. There’s family involvement too which I always love. There might be a bit of a stretch since they are five  good looking, successful, single teachers who get tenure (at least that’s what the women at my book club commented on),  but for me that was easy to ignore. I have seen other reviews complain about how the characters who dumb to online dating as well, but since I’ve never online dated, that also never bothered me.

Overall, it was a fun, fast read. I think in the future when I get into a slump or simply want a lighter read, I would pick up another book by Christina Lauren. 

4 stars

Book Reviews, Uncategorized

No Exit by Taylor Adams

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Inhale. Count to five. Exhale. Forward motion.

No Exit by Taylor Adams is a thriller that has been re-released this year. I’m not sure why it was repackaged. I know they took out one email that was in the book which I think was a smart move because it gave too much away. Other than that, not sure what reasoning was behind it. I just know it caused a lot of confusion with readers.

But onto what the book is actually about. Darby, an over caffeinated college student, is trying to race against a blizzard to see her dying mother. But when she gets stuck at a rest stop overnight, her entire world changes. Because she sees a child locked in a cage in the back of a stranger’s van.

Trigger Warnings: Child Kidnapping, Violence, Racist Comments, Sex Trafficking

The story is fast paced and full of twists. I won’t lie, the first fifty or so pages I was iffy about this novel. But the second that first twist was revealed, I was hooked, and I could not stop reading that night until I finished.

I was riveted the whole time trying to figure out what Darby was going to do, and what the outcome would end up being. She was such a great, smart character. And the villains were equally unpredictable and smart.  It was like watching a game of chess unfold when you don’t know the rules of chess.

There was a lot of incidences that kept me from being into the story completely. A lot of inconsistencies and situations that were stretched on a little too long. I can’t say exactly what because it would ruin some the story lines, but they are the  reasons why this isn’t a full five stars (or flowers).

4 stars

 

Book Recommendations, Book Reviews, Uncategorized

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

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People are motivated to break their moral compasses for a variety of primal reasons: survival, hate, love, envy, passion. And money.

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen is an adult thriller revolving around a study about ethics that then proceeds to change the life of one subject in particular forever. Not everything is as it seems, and the story truly starts to fuck with your head as it continues to unfold. 

One perspective is Jess, a poor makeup artist that wants to help her family. The other perspective is Dr. Shields, the mysterious psychologist providing the study that Jess signs up for.  Both are interesting, complex characters that I always wondered what their next move would be. 

Trigger Warnings: Sexual Assault, Suicide

I loved how unsettling this was. It kept me up late in the night guessing about what would happen next. Some of the twists were unexpected, and I love how everything was wrapped up.

This is apparently this duos second thriller, and I know I must get my hands on the first, The Wife Between Us, as soon as possible. 

5 stars

 

Book Reviews

Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren – Book Review

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“I learned a very important thing that day: my mom would never try to change for a man, and I wouldn’t, either.”


Hazel is an eccentric woman who has no filter, and usually gets into pretty interesting and messy situations. Hazel was a lot of fun. I learned to love her right away, and I was always rooting for her happiness. Years after college, Hazel runs into Josh, a guy she used to like but knew would never date. They quickly strike up a quirky friendship and set each other up on terrible dates. It’s pretty obvious where this is going, but I didn’t find it predictable. It was a really enjoyable read.

I loved Hazel’s relationship with her mom. She was such a cool person, and it was clear how much she had influenced Hazel’s confidence. I loved Hazel’s relationship with Emily and David as well. There was so much love in this book. I liked how Emily and Josh jokingly fought to be Hazel’s best friend. It was adorable, especially because of how much Hazel enjoyed it. I thought Josh was great, too. He was so sweet, and I wanted nothing but good things for him.

The romance was nice, but it didn’t sweep me off my feet. There were never any moments where I felt giddy or thrilled. I was just content throughout the whole thing. The book was great, but it wasn’t anything special. I love Christina Lauren’s writing style. These women are incredibly talented, and they work well together. I still hold Autoboyography to sort of a gold standard. However, Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating was really lovely. Pick it up if you’re into friends to lovers romances!

3,5 stars

Personal

I’m In Love…with Fanfiction

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I stumbled into fanfiction when I was around 15. It was kind of an accident. Twilight was the most popular thing at the time, and of course I was obsessed with it. One thing led to another, and I started writing a fifth Twilight novel — starring me and all of my friends. I thought I was so clever. I thought I was the only person who could ever have come up with something so ingenious. For a while, I was convinced that my book would be published and the world would get even more Twilight goodness from me.

Of course, it didn’t take long for me to find the wonderful site fanfiction.net. There, I discovered hundreds, if not thousands, of stories continuing with the Twilight story that I loved so much. I started a few of them, and I was shocked by how good they were. Immediately, I was bummed out about how insignificant my story was compared to them. But I kept writing. I finished my Twilight fanfiction, entitled Sunlight (see how clever I was?) and it ended up being over 500 pages of pure nonsense.

It didn’t take long for me to grow out of that. Twilight was old news, and I had just discovered what was to become my brand new obsession: Supernatural. Now, I know this show isn’t very popular. Sure, it has a big fandom, but odds are, you’ve probably never seen a single episode of the show. It’s perfectly understandable. The show is on it’s 14th season, with plans for a 15th. No one has time for that. I actually gave up on the show around its 8th season. However, my love for Dean and Castiel knows no bounds.

Supernatural came into my life at a very crucial time. I was fresh out of high school, starting college with a very open-mind. I had just stumbled into many LGBT+ books that had me obsessed with learning about the topic. I thought of myself as the biggest ally. And when I read my first Dean and Castiel fic, I knew I had found something amazing. I was hooked on the spot, and I never looked back. Dean and Castiel encompassed all that I loved. Dean was often a closeted bi boy, while Castiel often struggled with his religion and sexuality. I connected with those things so much, and I didn’t even know why. (It took me a while to realize how gay I was, but don’t worry, I got there eventually).

It’s been over a decade since I’ve discovered fanfiction. Now, at 25, I wonder if I’ll ever give it up. Chances are I’ll read fanfiction for the rest of my life. Maybe it won’t always be about Dean and Castiel. Maybe it’ll be about some other crappy show with a couple that isn’t queer-baited. Maybe it’ll be about characters from a book. Who knows? For now, though, Dean and Castiel is all I care about. I have written many fics about them. And through them, I have improved my writing skills. There’s still a lot for me to learn, but I owe so much to my fics.

I am currently in the middle of reading a +400k fic. It is all I can think about. In fact, it’s what inspired this post. I had a brief moment today when it all came back to me. And I thought about all the things I love now because of fanfiction. I found the show The Office thanks to an angsty fic, and it is now my favorite show in the world. I found Bob Dylan thanks to another one, and Elvis Presley, and Alt-J, and Dead Man’s Bones. I learned about The Mothman, who is by far my favorite cryptid ever. I learned so much about angels, too. I found countless favorite songs through thoughtful playlists made by the many authors who write fics. So much of who I am as a person was shaped by fanfiction.

The best part is, I know fanfiction will be there for me when I need a pick-me-up. Every time I struggle getting back into reading, I know fanfiction is a good place to start. The stories are there, written so carefully for anyone to read. And they’re all free and easily accessible. Fanfiction is such a positive thing in my life, even when the fics tear my heart apart, like the one I’m currently reading. I love reading them. I love finding a new favorite, and then re-reading it so many times that I can almost memorize it. I love writing them, and getting those lovely comments from readers who are just as excited about the story as I am. I love knowing that my fanfiction has made others just as happy as it has made me.

For someone who struggles with feelings and dating and all things romance, nothing makes me happier than seeing my favorite couple get together. Again, and again, and again. In every scenario imaginable. In every alternate universe. In a coffee shop, or a pet store, or a concert, or a wedding. It doesn’t matter where you put them, they will fall in love, and they will get a happily ever after. And it never gets old.

This is sort of my love letter to fanfiction. I love it. I love getting lost in it. I love the community around it. It’s my happy place.

If you love fanfiction, let me know what kind you like to read!