Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Sáenz

15801353Dante can swim. Ari can’t. Dante is articulate and self-assured. Ari has a hard time with words and suffers from self-doubt. Dante gets lost in poetry and art. Ari gets lost in thoughts of his older brother who is in prison. Dante is fair skinned. Ari’s features are much darker. It seems that a boy like Dante, with his open and unique perspective on life, would be the last person to break down the walls that Ari has built around himself.

But against all odds, when Ari and Dante meet, they develop a special bond that will teach them the most important truths of their lives, and help define the people they want to be. But there are big hurdles in their way, and only by believing in each other―and the power of their friendship―can Ari and Dante emerge stronger on the other side.

I’ve been meaning to read this book for ages and I finally picked up a copy a couple of weeks ago. First of all, this cover is gorgeous – I almost don’t like all the awards plastered on it because it takes away from the lovely border. Still, those awards were well deserved – this book was beautiful.

Words were different when they lived inside of you.

One summer, Aristotle meets Dante at a swimming pool and they become inseparable. They spend nearly every day together and, despite their differences, form a deep bond. At one point, Ari even saves his new friend’s life; while he’s embarrassed at being seen as a hero, he can’t escape Dante’s gratitude…until Dante and his family move to Chicago.

I had learned to hide what I felt. No, that’s not true. There was no learning involved. I had been born knowing how to hide what I felt

While the story revolves around the two boys, there are a lot of other strong relationships represented throughout the book: Ari’s mom who worries that he will end up in prison like his older brother; his father who lived through the Vietnam War and came back emotionally scarred; and Dante’s parents who are just wonderful in general (especially his dad who Ari thinks of as being genuinely kind).

I don’t really know what else to say about this book without spoiling anything. It was beautifully written – Ari’s narration has a poetic edge to it and he gives us a lot of information and insight into the characters just by their actions. Of course, I love how diverse it is – the boys are Mexican-American but Dante feels less connected to his culture than Ari because, I think, of his more privileged upbringing (his parents are a professor and a therapist whereas Ari’s mother is a teacher and his veteran father is a postman). And the coming-out plotline is handled well; my only complaint would be that the gay characters are quickly accepted by other important characters without any friction – I’m not saying that’s impossible, but I’d imagined it would have been a bigger deal.

I bet you could sometimes find all the mysteries of the universe in someone’s hand.

I think it’s up to each reader to discover the secrets of Ari and Dante’s mini universe for themselves. It’s worth a read…even if it will probably make you cry (at least a single tear).


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George – Alex Gino

George – Alex Gino

24612624BE WHO YOU ARE.

When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl.

George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part . . . because she’s a boy.

With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte — but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.

I’ve heard amazing things about George, so when I saw it on sale at a library (I’m the only person I know who can go to a library and buy a book), I picked it up right away.

I don’t know a lot about transgender and transitioning or how terrible it must be to feel like a stranger in your own body. I don’t even know if I have all the right vocabulary to be able to talk about it because I don’t have the personal experience to relate to. But I think everyone can understand the loneliness George feels, and it’s easy to empathize with such a sweet character.

It takes a special person to cry over a book. It shows compassion as well as imagination.

It’s hard for George to “come out” to people, and the adults in her life don’t make it any easier by constantly reinforcing the idea that she is a boy. Those are the most heartbreaking moments, which are especially sad because I know there are children out there who actually have to deal with this kind of attitude. I do think it’s lovely that George’s older brother is ultimately so accepting of her, even if her mother takes a while to come around.

I’ve read reviews that complain about the simplicity of the language and the stereotypes (girls like skirts and makeup, etc). 1) I don’t think the language is that simple, given the target audience. And 2) maybe George is the type of girl who DOES like skirts and make up (such creatures do exist).

It’s a short read, but it’s an important one. For all the simplicity of the language, the topic is fairly complex, and I think it was a good step in the right direction.


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ARC Review: Hawthorn – Jamie Cassidy

Hawthorn – Jamie Cassidy

25627476A house on a hill.
A house filled with mirrors.
A house with eyes that watch their every move.

Learmonth village has a history, a past that they hold dear, superstitions that they cling fast to. Learmonth House, however, is governed by its own set of rules, its own past and Gemma and her family are about to discover just what those rules are. 

Learmonth has a pact with the darkness and the darkness is hungry.

Release Date: May 28th, 2015

Thank you to NetGalley for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review!

I had conflicting feelings about this book – the first half was meh, but the second half was much better.

What I liked:

-the creepy factor was on point. I admit to feeling a little freaked out a couple of times and vowed not to read it at night because I have enough imagination issues without being scared of my full-length mirror. I love the idea of reading horror, even though I know it messes with my brain, so, while this wasn’t full on scare-your-pants-off, it was satisfying.

-I liked the multiple POVs for the most part, though I did sometimes find it hard to differentiate between who was talking, particularly in part one where I mixed up Gemma and Jules at least twice.

-I enjoyed that the family wasn’t “traditional” – Gemma’s parents were divorced, but her mother found love with a woman. Yay for LGBTQ representation! And I thought it was cute that there was such a big age gap between Gemma and her younger twin siblings (mostly because I come from a family with big age gaps too!).

-the faery-world reminded me of Holly Black’s faerie books which are excellent and among the first urban fantasy YA books I read (definitely some of the first faerie books I read).

-the second half of the book was written in a more disjointed way as Gemma struggled with her experiences and with the appearance of Night Mary, but I honestly would have preferred if the entire book was written that way – I thought it was much more compelling, even if it was confusing.

What I didn’t like:

-Gemma seemed younger than 16-17. There was something about her personality that made her seem more like a thirteen year old, especially when it came to her first “boyfriend”, Liam.

-I also didn’t agree with the way she griped about Liam tutoring the “slutty” girl at their old school. First of all, slut shaming isn’t cool. Second of all, double-standards aren’t cool either. It wasn’t okay for Liam to be helping another girl (even before they were “together”), but there was no problem with Gemma literally throwing herself at Sam and/or the other guy whose name I can’t remember. Uncool, Gemma, uncool.

Apart from laughing my face off when Gemma described Sam as “the love interest in a paranormal young adult novel” (in those exact words!! How does that help me imagine him??), the writing was decent – a good amount of description and great at creating a creepy atmosphere.

I’d be interested in reading some other books by these authors (Jamie/Amos Cassidy is the pseudonym for two people!).


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Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Celebrate Diversity/Diverse Characters


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This week’s prompt is Ten Books That Celebrate Diversity/Diverse Characters. I went with five because I honestly couldn’t think of ten! Obviously I need to expand my reading pool. Of course, there have also been books with diverse characters that I didn’t like, so I didn’t include those (I don’t care if Zoey’s part Cherokee or whatever, I think the House of Night books are awful and they do not deserve a place on this list).

1) Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertali

One of my favourite books of 2015, Simon is not-yet-out-of-the-closet but someone may be trying to blackmail him. I adored Simon – add this to your list right now if you haven’t already!

2) Nimona – Noelle Stevenson

Not only is Nimona herself not your typical heroine, but the hint of a relationship between Blackheart and Goldenloin is precious.

3) When Everything Feels Like the Movies – Raziel Reid

While this book may not be to everyone’s taste, I think it’s an important read and I love that it was part of Canada Reads because it brought LGBTQ issues (and YA novels!) into mainstream media for at least a little while.

4) Every Breath – Ellie Marney

Am I just obsessed with Every Breath? Maybe. But the secondary characters are diverse and fleshed out, not just stereotypes thrown in to mix things up (Mai is Vietnamese, Gus is Sudanese).

5) The Rearranged Life – Annika Sharma

I wasn’t in the right mood for this book when I originally read it, but I like that the protagonist was from a traditional Indian family. A interesting look at a culture that’s so very different from your typical “North American” household.

Fiction Friday Round-Up – June 5th, 2015

This was a pretty busy week; among other things, Jane and I launched our new pop culture website, Mind the Gap (which you should totally check out because we have a lot of great content!). But I also managed to completely catch up on the Flavia de Luce series, and finished a couple of ARCs. As always, please click the titles for the full review!

  • As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust – Alan Bradley: “The series is no longer simply a collection of unrelated mysteries; it started to hint at the bigger picture and Flavia’s role within that larger narrative.”
  • Devil’s Daughter – Hope Schenk de-Michele and Paul Marquez: “It had a great plot and some interesting moments but, while it had an open ending, I’m not tearing down the house in anticipating for the sequel. Definitely a good change from most of the other angel-based YA out there, though.”
  • Grunge Gods and Graveyards – Kimberly G. Giarratano: “If I was trying to pitch this book, I’d say it was a combination of Melissa Marr’s Made for You and Elizabeth Chandler’s Kissed by an Angel but with more ghosts and, well, grunge (those are all good things, by the way).”

Last week, I read a truly disappointing ARC:

  • Beyond Clueless – Linas Alsenas: “I’m sure there’s an audience for it, but this is one of those rare cases where I feel too old to read this and I think it would be better received by readers aged 12-14”.

But I also read a great female-centric comic book, so it sort of evened out!

  • Rat Queens Vol 1: Sass & Sorcery – Kurtis J. Wiebe: “There are also light, funny moments in between all the fighting; whether it’s Betty packing candy and drugs for dinner again or Dee being anti-social i.e. reading a book at a party, you get a good glimpse at the queens’ personalities.”

ARC Reviews – May 2015

This month, I’ve read four ARCs – one of which was for a blog tour – and just started a fifth. Here’s a round-up of what I read! (please click the titles for a full review)

  • Sing for Me – Gracie Madison: “I have complicated feelings about this book. It wasn’t bad per se, I just didn’t really enjoy it. I read the whole thing, though admittedly I started skimming at about 30%.” (2 interrobangs)
  • The Rearranged Life – Annika Sharma: “This book read like a cross between Bend it Like Beckham and My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and it was definitely interesting to read the descriptions and think about the differences between cultures…a cute summer read.” (3.5 interrobangs)
  • The Blooming Goddess Trilogy – Tellulah Darling: “I really enjoyed this series: it was fluffy at times but still had a strong plot. The writing was funny and compelling, and if you like contemporary takes on Greek mythology, you’ll love Sophie’s world.” (4.5 interrobangs)
  • Beyond Clueless – Linas Alsenas: “I’m sure there’s an audience for it, but this is one of those rare cases where I feel too old to read this and I think it would be better received by readers aged 12-14.” (2 interobangs)

I just started reading Devil’s Daughter and it’s interesting so far – hopefully I’ll have a review for it up next week!

What ARCs have you read this month? Anything I should look forward to?

ARC Review: Beyond Clueless – Linas Alsenas

Beyond Clueless – Linas Alsenas

24795908Marty Sullivan’s life ends, basically, when her parents enroll her in a private high school. A private, Catholic, girls-only high school. Meanwhile, at their local public school, her best friend, Jimmy, comes out of the closet and finds himself a boyfriend and a new group of friends. Marty feels left out and alone, until she gets a part in the school musical, Into the Woods, and Jimmy and his new crew are in it, too! Things start looking even better when Marty falls for foxy fellow cast member Felix Peroni. And Felix seems to like her back. But the drama is just beginning. Can Marty and Jimmy keep up their friendship? And is Marty’s new beau everything he appears to be? Or is Marty too clueless to figure it all out before it’s too late?

Release Date: August 18th, 2015

Thank you to NetGalley for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review!

I genuinely don’t remember why I decided to request this from NetGalley, but apparently I did and now I feel silly because I didn’t enjoy this book very much.

On the plus side, it only took a couple of hours to read because I skimmed most of it, so I didn’t waste too much time.

Some mild spoilers ahead, but I blacked out the really spoiler-y bit.

What I liked:

-Oliver was a nice guy. In another book, I’d have probably adored him, but I was pretty “meh” about all the characters, so poor Oliver didn’t really stand a chance of sticking in my head.

-cute cover! Although now that I look at it again, I can’t figure out if this book is supposed to be MG or YA (I personally think it makes more sense as middle grade; more on that in a minute).

-props for diversity, I guess. Jimmy’s boyfriend is Sri Lankan, Marty’s best girl friend is…Asian? I can’t remember where in particular she is from, but yay diverse best friends! And of course, you have a handful of gay characters, so yay, even more diversity!

What I didn’t like:

-pretty much all the characters (except for Oliver). Marty was strongly channeling Mia in the first two Princess Diaries books except more annoying (and Mia was occasionally irritating) and, as the title suggests, was beyond clueless. But not in an endearing “oh, how sweet”, sort of way. More in a “why is she such an idiot??” way. I also couldn’t understand how one minute she was using words like “counterintuitive” and the next, she was whining about being the only one of her friends who didn’t have a boyfriend. Marty is 14. Marty needs to calm her hormones.

Her friends aren’t the greatest either, and seemed very one-dimensional. I think I was intrigued by this title because Jimmy, Marty’s best friend, comes out and I thought it would provide some sort of character development (like Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda), but Jimmy is boring. So is his boyfriend. And all their other friends.

-I could not for the life of me understand the Felix-Marty relationship. Was he just after her because he thought she was hot? What was the whole deal with Jill? Just how “hot” was Marty that it warranted this allegedly attractive guy cheating on his girlfriend? SOME ONE EXPLAIN IT TO ME.

-the Oliver thing. HIGHLIGHT FOR SPOILER

I figured out he had a crush on Marty, but it would have been SO MUCH BETTER if he came out as bisexual because that’s a great way to start the discussion, especially if it’s middle grade, or even in YA, and it would have made most of the book so much better. As it is, it felt like it was tacked on there, and honestly, why didn’t Marty question him about his parents after she found out his mother left?? He clearly mentioned “parentS”, you’d think she’d ask if his dad remarried or something.

-the other thing that confuses me is whether this is middle grade or young adult. On the one hand, this makes sense as one of those “transition-y” books in between middle grade and YA (like on the really young side of YA), but there was swearing and I honestly don’t know what the rules are for cussing in MG.

Basically, this was a disappointment. I’m not even sure why I’m giving it two stars. I’m sure there’s an audience for it, but this is one of those rare cases where I feel too old to read this (and I flippin’ LIVE for YA) and I think it would be better received by readers aged 12-14.


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Fiction Friday Round-Up – May 22nd, 2015

Here are some books I’ve been reading/finishing over the past week or so. Please click the links for full reviews!

  • The Blooming Goddess Trilogy – Tellulah Darling: “I really enjoyed this series: it was fluffy at times but still had a strong plot. The writing was funny and compelling, and if you like contemporary takes on Greek mythology, you’ll love Sophie’s world.”
  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertali: “I loved this book. It’s a character-driven novel, so the plot is relatively simple, but in this case, it worked because I enjoyed getting to know Simon and the world around him.”
  • The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches – Alan Bradley: “Flavia’s personal journey is what makes this book my favourite, and I can’t wait to get started on her next adventure.”

This week, I attended the book launch for Sarah Henstra’s fabulous debut, Mad Miss Mimic. Read my recap here!

Because it was #IreadYA week, you can see some of the YA books that I’m excited about here!

What have you read recently?

Until next week, happy reading!

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertali

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertali

19547856Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

I’ve heard nothing but glowing reviews for this book leading up to its release in April, so I was pretty excited when I finally picked it up.

I loved it.

It’s cute and laugh-out-loud funny, and I loved all the characters. Simon, of course – I knew I would love him from his first-of-many Harry Potter references – but also the colourful cast of secondary characters: his reality show loving parents, his politically correct older sister Alice, and quiet but talented younger sister Nora; even his rounded group of friends: Leah, Nick, and Abby. Heck, I sort of liked Martin for a while until he screwed Simon over.

And the mystery surrounding Blue!! I started to suspect about halfway through who Blue would be, but by that point, I was so invested in their pseudo-relationship that I had to keep reading to find out if I was right (I was. AND THEY’RE SO CUTE).

One of the things that I think makes this book so good is the voice: Simon is sweet but stubborn, funny but sometimes introspective. He swears a lot (I think it’s funny when people are offended by YA characters who swear – like, have you ever stood in a high school? F-bombs EVERYWHERE!) but has decent grammar, even if he loves sentence fragments. I love that Blue is a total grammar nerd too, and uses “nauseated” instead of “nauseous”.

I also thought the other characters were fairly realistic. For someone who doesn’t have a lot of screen time, Leah was really well formed in my head with all her jealousies and insecurities, so there were a couple of times when I cringed and went, “Leah is going to be so mad”.

Another thing I thought was great was the way Simon kept checking out the other guys in his school. Yes, he was technically in love with Blue, but that didn’t stop him from noticing the other cuties wandering the halls. That, to me, is so realistic – he’s not completely bent on finding THE ONE, like in your typical YA book, and he’s not immune to other good-looking dudes.

I could keep going, but suffice it to say I loved this book. It’s a character-driven novel, so the plot is relatively simple, but in this case, it worked because I enjoyed getting to know Simon and the world around him.

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Fiction Friday Round-Up – April 24th, 2015

This week, I finished the third book in a series, a whimsical fairy-tale ARC, and a controversial award-winner. Click the titles for a full review!

What have you read recently? Let me know in the comments!

And until next week – happy reading!