Book Review – More Happy Than Not

img_20170129_204048_119Reading More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera, I often felt like I was reading someone’s personal diary. More specifically, the diary of one Aaron Soto: a teenager from the Bronx who is just trying to live his life the best way he knows how. This book is very much a story of self-discovery as Aaron struggles through the minefield we call life: from confronting the reality of his father’s recent suicide to learning how to navigate his relationships with his family and friends. The reader is right there with Aaron as he learns that the easy way isn’t necessarily the best way to deal with the issues in your life. A lesson Aaron definitely learns the hard way.

I must commend the author for writing such a thought-provoking novel. This book is full of big issues (e.g., homophobia, depression, suicide), and each issue is dealt with in a very real way. I think Silvera did a great job capturing just how life-changing all of these issues can be, for better or worse.  More Happy Than Not is definitely a knock you down and kick you in the gut kind of book, but Silvera writes in a way that you can always find a small glimmer of hope lurking in the corner, if you’re really looking for it.

This book was on my TBR list for ages, and I’m glad I finally took the leap and read it! The only thing keeping this from being a five-star review is that I struggled with the pacing of the novel for the first hundred pages or so. It definitely picks up towards the middle, but I knocked off a half-star because it took so long to find the rhythm of the story.

4.5 out of 5 flowers (because I still don’t have any star props to use in the photo)!

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Books & Candles

If you catch me at home with a book in hand, you are likely to find a lit candle on the nearest flat surface. I love burning candles when I read, especially when I can find a scent that complements the mood or setting of the story. It really elevates the experience (and I find it quite relaxing!). For a long time, I bought traditional candles (you know, the ones with titles like Spring Garden, Love in Paris, Lavender Linens, etc.), but that all changed the day I found book-themed candles. Creative minds from all sorts of fandoms have created the perfect scent to match the plots and characters from so many beloved novels (and even some movies & tv shows). So no matter if your exploring Middle Earth, dancing the night away under a star-filled sky, searching through dusty tomes for the perfect spell, or gathering forces to overthrow an evil empire, there’s a candle out there that will help your imagination run wild!

In the picture below, you can see a sampling of the candles I am currently hoarding in my apartment. And, yes, I do actually burn them all…but not all at once)!

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Do you burn candles when you read? Any scent in particular or just whatever you have lying around???

Book Review – Asking For It

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Reading Asking For It by Louise O’Neill was like being slapped in the face and then kicked in the chest, repeatedly. From the start, it was not a pleasant read. I was literally so uncomfortable at certain points that I had to put the book down and walk away from it for a few minutes. And the worst part was, while the story is a piece of fiction, it’s terrifyingly realistic. It was easy to imagine that this had really happened. But that’s what makes this book so incredibly powerful. I was so consumed with this harrowing tale that I finished it in one night.

Asking for It follows Emma, a young 18-year-old girl who lives in a small Irish village. She’s beautiful, popular, does well in school, and has countless boys falling at her feet. And like many other “popular” girls, Emma likes to party. But one night, partying gets the best of her, and she wakes up the next afternoon with little recollection of the night before. It isn’t until pictures are plastered all over social media that Emma discovers what happened to her that night. And it isn’t a reality she wants to accept. But when the administration of her school alert the authorities (after discovering her peers viewing the photos on school grounds), Emma finally utters the unspeakable. She was raped.

What follows is a terrifyingly realistic narrative that left me equal parts angry and heart-broken. O’Neill brilliantly depicts the problematic way in which society tends to handle rape cases. Emma’s state of mind and lifestyle choices are called into question, and the boys who assaulted her are quickly given the benefit of the doubt (they’re such “good boys,” after all). Emma must face the scrutiny of her peers, the town, her country, and even the international community, as her entire life becomes a spectacle. Many are quick to blame Emma: she chose to drink that night; she took MDMA; she wore a provocative outfit; and she she’s had sex before. Many are quick to judge Emma and find she was “asking for it.”

And this is where O’Neill’s characterization of Emma truly shines. Because Emma was not written to be likable. She’s often vain and cruel to others á la “Mean Girls.” O’Neill pushes and pushes, testing the reader’s ethical and moral tenacity. It’s easier for society to accept that Emma somehow deserved what happened to her, that she was “asking for it.”  But what Emma went through shouldn’t be rationalized into something that can be excused. Rape should never be excused. Emma was the victim of a horrific assault, and O’Neill expertly weaves a narrative that shows the devastation that so often follows. Regardless of the choices Emma made that night, she was never asking for what happened to her. No victim of sexual assault is.

The end of the story, while not what one hopes for, is the unfortunate reality of many victims of sexual assault. Our society has a long way to go before we can expect a happy ending for the Emma’s of this world.

Overall, I commend Louise O’Neill for writing such a brutal, gut-wrenching piece of social commentary. This poignant tale is not one that should be ignored.  Definitely a must-read.

5 out of 5 flowers (because I didn’t have any star props to use in the photo)!

Just a Few Chapters More – Introduction

“Just a few chapters more” has probably been the one constant chorus in my life. I can remember saying it as early as the first grade. My mom would take me (and my siblings) to the library, and I would come home with as many books as the library would allow. And late into the night (or maybe until like 8 o’clock…I was little), I would huddle beneath the covers as I explored infinite universes created from just twenty-six letters. My parents would come into my room to tell me it was time for bed, and I would beg “please, just a few chapters more.” And as I got older (and no longer had a bedtime) it was a phrase I often repeated as the night wore on and I grew tired. “Just a few chapters more and then I’ll go to bed,” I’d tell myself.  More often than not, I’d either end up falling asleep with the book still in my hand, or I’d end up finishing the book before I went to bed.

Libraries have come and gone, my books and I have traveled across the country and back, and my taste in books has changed, but my need for “just a few chapters more” has never faded.