Book Reviews

Pet Sematary by Stephen King – Book Review

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Maybe she’ll learn something about what death really is, which is where the pain stops and the good memories begin. Not the end of life but the end of pain.

This book is so twisted.

I don’t know what it was, but while listening to the audiobook, this book made me feel ill. Granted, I have anxiety, so that might have been the reason why I had heart palpitations, headaches, bright red cheeks, and nausea while listening to this book. No book has ever made me feel this sick to my stomach. That should tell you how disturbing and upsetting it was. I’m actually convinced that this book somehow contains bad juju, or some curse that courses through your veins while you’re reading it. But I really can’t complain because it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read.

I think it’s better to go into it not knowing much about it. Here’s what I’ll tell you: it’s set in Maine, it’s very much centered around death, grief, and loss, there are excellent characters that steal your heart, there are terrifying scenes that I will likely never forget, and it’s one of the most terrifying Stephen King books I’ve read to date.

Cats were the gangsters of the animal world, living outside the law and often dying there.

I have to say, I watched the movie a few years ago and figured I didn’t need to read the book. However, the new adaptation is coming out soon, so I decided to read the book before watching it. I thought I was prepared for what was coming because I knew to watch out for it, but I was wrong. I wasn’t prepared for anything. It was all shocking and gruesome and horrible. But I couldn’t put it down. I had to keep going.

Sometimes dead is better.

I’m not sure how I feel about death anymore. I’ve always feared it, but not for the reasons I fear it now.

4 stars

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Book Recommendations, Book Reviews

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang – Book Review

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I am not exaggerating when I say that this is the most beautiful book I have ever read.

This is a graphic novel set in the late 19th century France. It follows the lives of Prince Sebastian and a seamstress named Frances. The two of them strike up a friendship when Sebastian hires Frances to make him beautiful dresses that he wears when he becomes Lady Crystallia.

The story is fantastic. Sebastian and Frances come from two very different backgrounds, but they work so well together. They can be who they are with each other without any fear of judgement. And as their friendship grows, my love bloomed. I loved every single moment of this story, even the sad ones.

Sebastian stole my heart just as much as Lady Crystallia did. I was rooting for Frances every step of the way as well. I had the biggest smile of my face throughout the entirety of this. I laughed a few times, and I hugged my book at others.

The artwork was phenomenal. It was so bright and colorful and it accurately portrayed the giddiness I felt because of the story.

This story is described as a fairy tale, and I think that describes it perfectly. And I’ve never loved a fairy tale this much. This is a story I want to remember forever. A story I want to share with everyone. A story I didn’t know I needed this much, but now that I know it, I feel so grateful for it.

And that ending? Couldn’t have been better.

I realize I’m just gushing over how great this book is, but I don’t know how to talk about it in any other way. Just read it.

5 stars

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

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 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!

Book Reviews

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed – Book Review

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The death of my mother was the thing that made me believe the most deeply in my safety. Nothing bad could happen to me, I thought. The worst thing already had.


For years, I feared this book. I was first introduced to Cheryl Strayed in my college Creative Nonfiction class a few years back. I read her essay The Love of My Life and it gutted me. You see, I had that class one month after my mom passed away. Just like Cheryl Strayed, I was 22 when terminal cancer viciously stole my mom away from my life. Reading her essay brought me to tears, but it also opened a gateway for me to express my mixed emotions about losing my mom, who had also been the love of my life, as well as someone who had deeply wounded me at the age of 5 by leaving me with my grandparents while she moved thousands of miles away. Her essay was magnificent. It was raw and it was beautiful and it was exactly what I needed to read.

I feared that if I read this book, in which Cheryl Strayed goes on an incredible journey to try to face her demons after her mother’s death, I would feel lost. I thought that I would feel tremendously inferior to her because I haven’t done anything significant since my mom died. I graduated college, sure, but I’ve mostly just been battling my mental illnesses ever since that fateful day I saw her die. Reading Wild was difficult. It was impossible to read it without comparing her experience to mine. I kept asking myself: Did I do enough for my mom while she was alive? Because I avoided her during her last few months alive. I lived in denial. And Cheryl Strayed stuck around through the most difficult times. I knew deep down that this wasn’t the book’s intention. I shouldn’t be doing this. But it was practically impossible.

So I read, and I cried, and I wanted nothing more than to turn back time so I could be a better daughter for my dying mom. I know I should really talk about the book. This book isn’t just about Cheryl’s mom dying. It’s about Cheryl’s outstanding strength as she hiked over a thousand miles across the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s about her determination through the hardest of times. It’s about the wonderful and terrible people she encountered along the way. It’s about letting go and moving on. That is the beauty of this book. Certain aspects will touch people in different ways. I think there’s something here for everyone. If not a lesson, at least you’ll be entertained by the adventure.

 

What if I forgave myself?


I loved the way it was written, with the small flashbacks to her life before the PCT. I loved how it was all woven so creatively together. I felt like I was right there with her, every step of the way. I’m glad I was able to pick this up, even though it made me relive things I didn’t want to dig up. But I think it was good in the end. It was worth it.

4 stars