Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram ☆

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5starsplus

“You’re okay,” he murmured.
“No, I’m not.”
“I know.” He rubbed my back up and down. “It’s okay not to be okay.”

Title: Darius the Great Is Not Okay
Author: Adib Khorram
Number of pages: 320 (hardcover edition)
Good things about this book: I loved how calm and sweet this was, so very real!
Bad things about this book: Nothing.
Do I recommend it? Yes, I can’t recommend it enough.
Rate: 5+++/5 (it’s a favourite!)

Read the summary and add this book on Goodreads: here

I have never read a more relatable character than Darius. I loved this book with all my little heart. Feelings are overflowing. This is not an excessively sad book, it has sad parts but it’s a hopeful journey, and we get to see it through a very sweet boy’s eyes.

This story filled my heart with a bittersweet joy. I’m so glad I’ve read it. I’m happy, a sort of calm and quiet happiness.

I loved the quiet. Even if it sometimes made me think of sad things. Like whether anyone would miss me if I was dead.

Darius is bullied at school and it made me furious, not only because of the bullies but because of his dad telling him that if he was just more normal he wouldn’t have these kinds of problems. What kind of father tells that to a son? To a bullied son? To a bullied son who has also depression? He has a lot on his plate and he’s trying his best, he doesn’t need a father not being on his side.

Normally, I was thrilled to get pizza – it was pretty much the best dietary indiscretion ever – but I could feel Dad watching me at every bite, flaring his nostrils.

His dad infuriated me because he is exactly like my mother. Ever since I remember my mom has been obsessed with weight. I’m overweight, I have been this way, more or less, since I got my period at 9 years old. Pretty early, I know. Ever since that day I started getting curves and everything I ate stayed there with me. I have been thinner in the past, but it didn’t last, surely because I’m not supposed to be that way. I’m happy with how I am. I do care about my health and take care of myself, but this is my shape and people shouldn’t see that as bad or wrong.

Darius gained weight because of his medication, he really doesn’t have a problem with it. He has a problem with his father having a problem with it. Take that and add that he is going to Iran, her mother’s birth place, for the first time to meet his grandparents and relatives. Everything is overwhelming and different. Luckily, he meets Sohrab, a friend of his grandparents and they immediately click. They are destined to be friends. Great friends!

I liked that I could be silent with Sohrab.
That’s how I knew we really were going to be friends.

I love Darius and Sohrab together; they don’t get along all the time, they had a rough first outing together, but the nice thing about friends is that they can forgive you. Darius really needed someone like Sohrab, and I’m happy he got to meet him and bond with him. It helped him a lot. The subtlety of the LGBT theme was just right; I wasn’t disappointed it wasn’t more present, more told on page, because that’s just another way Darius was dealing with everything that’s been going on in his life. I liked how he just wasn’t ready to tell anyone, not even us, the readers.

Darius’ story was one of growth, family, friendship and understanding that is okay not be okay, but trying their best every single day. I loved this book, the way it built slowly, telling different stories that came together in the end. I loved it. I hope there are more books like this one out there, because as I needed this one, other people might need them in the future. I recommend it with all my heart.

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The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James

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3stars

But the past is much less scary than the future, I know what’s already happened; I know how bad it was. I don’t know what’s coming, though.

Title: The Loneliest Girl in the Universe
Author: Lauren James
Good things about this book: It’s set in space, there’s fanfic, fangirling and, I repeat, SPACE.
Bad things about this book: The last chapters felt a little bit random.
Do I recommend it? Yes.
Rate: 3/5

Read the summary and add this book on Goodreads: here

When I stumbled upon this title, I was intrigued by the blurb and by the gorgeous cover. It was a sci-fi story set in space. Mysteries and space just make a great combo. I don’t exactly know nor remember what I was expecting to find, I just feel like I didn’t. It was enjoyable, and I read it fast and easily. Some stories aren’t for you, I guess.

I don’t know if I liked the way this book went down. I don’t dislike twists, surprises and sudden changes, but here something just felt off. I liked the pace of the book until I didn’t, not as I used to at the beginning. It was a calm book, with Romy being all by herself on The Infinity being its commander years after the death of her parents. There were things unsaid about the circumstances or their deaths; I liked waiting for the reveal, but the reveal? Wasn’t worth all the trepidation.

The mysterious J, commander of The Eternity, a ship sent to join her in the mission to inhabit Earth II, seemed like an alright guy but the fact that you didn’t know who he was, automatically made him sketchy. Sketchy until proven otherwise. Sometimes too much info is not good, but other times not enough info is also not good. I feel like knowing more about Romy, about the years she spent by herself, would’ve helped me connecting more with her. She did seem like a lonely girl, I just needed to empathize with her situation; I didn’t, I found her sometimes annoying. And her situation didn’t excuse her for how she sometimes behaved.

It was a solid 3.5 stars read (3 here because there are still no half stars). I don’t regret picking up this book and I will recommend it. I want to hear someone else’s pov and see if I missed something. I won’t give up on this author because the writing was very nice. I didn’t hate it, I just didn’t love it either. And I thought I was going to love it.

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Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro

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5stars

“Anger is a gift. Remember that” She stood. “You gotta grasp on to it, hold it tight and use it as ammunition. You use that anger to get things done instead of just stewing in it.”

Title: Anger is a Gift
Author: Mark Oshiro
Number of pages: 463 (hardcover edition)
Good things about this book: This is such a powerful book exquisitely written.
Bad things about this book: Nothing. It has a side effect, though. It makes you furious.
Do I recommend it? Yes, to the world!
Rate: 5/5

Read the summary and add this book on Goodreads: here

“We are angry. We are mourning. We are tired.”

I’m crushed, overwhelmed, filled with rage. This book is powerful, so true, and infuriating. It makes you feel powerless, a standby in a world you are told you should just accept, never fight, because it doesn’t have your back. To feel afraid to just go out to buy an apple, to run free on the street, to love, to just live, because there’s always going to be someone who will accuse you of being suspicious, thug looking, not a good person, and the world is not going to believe your innocence. Your skin is not light enough for you to be a good guy, it’s your fault you looked armed, the way you dress is gangster looking = YOU ARE WRONG, YOU ARE GUILTY, YOU ARE INFERIOR THAN ME. It’s tiring, this needs to stop!

I can’t begin to explain the rage I feel. I can’t begin to understand the rage the victims of police assaults might feel. The nerve of some people. Why are we living in a world that allows this? When is it going to stop? I can’t help shaking my head in disbelief, this reality sucks and the world is absurdly unreasonable. Stupid and ignorant people should become extinct and soon. This world needs a reset and a virus cleanse.

“It’s like they can’t avoid it,” said Kaisha. “We were literally there to protest against them using deadly force, so they responded with…deadly force. Incredible.”

I can’t give a personal opinion, because I am a Latina living in Italy and my skin is light enough to pass as white. The little town we moved to when I was 12 gave us a home, support, and friends. I don’t know the hate and intolerance Moss and his peers have to face every day of their lives. I don’t know how it is to feel unwanted in your own community because of the color of your skin, to be categorized as a bad seed with just a glance. The amount of racism I have faced in my life is merely a drop compare to the ocean Moss and his community faced in this powerful book.

The queer touch of the narration gave the book more power. Moss is a gay black boy, and his friends are all part of the lgbtqia+ community. It’s natural and calm the sensation you feel when he deals with his sexuality; he is out to everyone and, as much as it feels weird because he hasn’t done it before, he isn’t afraid to kiss another boy or hold hands with him in public. It’s refreshing because it’s part of their everyday lives. It’s part of who they all are and, yes, they all have different family situations, but they are all accepted and supported. The love they all have from their families, the love Moss has from his mother, is heartwarming. That’s the truest of loves, pure and simple. The love Wanda has for Moss transcends everything, IS everything.

“Moss wears his heart on his sleeve,” she said. “It’s one of his best features.”

Moss is one of the most adorable characters I have encounter in the few years I’ve been reading books. He suffers from panic attacks, sees a therapist, is trying to get better, to cope, to be happy. He has faced too many obstacles in his short life. He has seen too much death in such a short amount of time. Tragedy shouldn’t have to be his bread and butter. This boy deserves all the happiness he was deprived of. I just want him to be happy.

There’s no more left to be said. A lot of things happen in this book. A lot that will make you think, some more that will make angry, and quite a few that will make you cry. I cried a lot, from rage, frustration, and sadness. I still feel like crying. I was expecting this book to impact me, but I didn’t expect it to wreck me, break me to pieces. I think everyone should read this book, it’s written beautifully and it’s as brutal as it should be. Life is brutal, and we should stop being blind about it!

“You might be surprised at how unwilling people are to turn a critical eye on themselves.”

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A Tiny Piece of Something Greater by Jude Sierra

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5stars

“You are a normal person. We all are. We all have brains that work differently, that’s all. You guys have been handed challenges. But you are worthy of happiness and health and help.”

Title: A Tiny Piece of Something Greater
Author: Jude Sierra
Number of pages: 258 (paperback edition)
Good things about this book: It’s a very sweet book with a good portrayal of mental illness.
Bad things about this book: It’s hard to read. Read the trigger warnings first.
Do I recommend it? Yes, of course. It’s a story to be read by everyone.
Rate: 5/5

Read the summary and add this book on Goodreads: here

Pretty intense. Read with an aching but hopeful heart. I cared for these characters and, even if I won’t know what choices they decide to make, I will know in my heart that they’ll be okay and living day after day. Together.

Books about mental illnesses are always very hard for me to read. Books like this are somewhat triggering but I can’t help but read them; I feel the need to know other point of views, to learn more, to be able to help myself and others with new information. It won’t ever be easy for me reading about someone struggling to keep themselves afloat. It won’t ever be easy for me reading about someone using unhealthy behavior.

He tries to give his body over to the sounds of a great big earth around him, understanding that he is very small, a tiny piece of something greater, a small glimmer of either light or darkness, depending on his choices and will.

Reid suffers from an illness called cyclothymia that I have never heard of before. It was hard to read how he struggled in the past, is struggling with recovery in the present, and will struggle with it for the rest of his life. Reid is a magnificent boy who has a brain that works in a very peculiar way and it makes his life very difficult. He really tries his best. Reid touched my heart with his personality and the way he wants to be seen by the world, and by the amazing and handsome boy he starts crushing on, Joaquim.

Joaquim finds himself in it too deep and too soon with Reid. Reid is not an easy person to be with, but it won’t be a mental illness the cause for him to walk away from someone he can see himself building something concrete with. Why would he run away when things get difficult? He asks a lot of questions and is destined to make mistakes, but he is a very patient boy and his feelings are deep and real. He can’t run from them.

Reid doesn’t pray, but sometimes he likes to think that the energy he and the others put out into the world might make a small difference.

The portrayal of mental illness is done in detail, wonderfully, and painfully. Nothing graphic, nothing just to give us some drama. Things aren’t okay, and they’re explained in a way that you understand both how Reid is feeling and how Joaquim is elaborating the info he’s getting. It’s a painful process, but it’s liberating. Joaquim is seeing Reid for who he is; he is not his mental illness, he is a boy fighting to get better, who wants an adventurous life and to love and be loved. Reid and Joaquim were sweet and cheesy and adorable. All the kisses, the hugs, the little touches, they were all elements that made their love story, one to desire. I will never be loved like that and it makes me sad.

When I finished the book last night, I closed it and realized I wasn’t in the mood for anything else; I was left empty yet full, no space for anything more. I went to bed and waited to fall asleep recalling one of my many happy made-up scenarios, because I knew that if I started thinking about the book, I’ll stayed awake analyzing every single aspect of my life. I hope I’m not the only one that uses made-up fantasies to fall asleep in order to avoid falling into the endless stream of anxious thoughts about life.

I keep sighing thinking about Reid and Joaquim. Those boys stole my heart. I’m so glad I somehow found this little book and impulsively bought it. I knew my impulsiveness had more pros than cons!

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Inside Darkness by Hudson Lin

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4stars

Title: Inside Darkness
Author: Hudson Lin
Number of pages: 269 (kindle edition)
Good things about this book: A lot of emotions in just a few pages. Intense.
Bad things about this book: Too many emotions to handle, at least for me.
Do I recommend it? Yes.
Rate: 4/5

Read the summary and add this book on Goodreads: here

Arc from NetGalley

I know I’m late! I’ve had this arc for quite some time but I read the summary very fast and only after been approved I realized it was about mental health. I wasn’t in the mood because my mental health is conditioned by what I watch/read so I wanted only bubbly, fluffy, easy books about good feelings, sunshine and rainbows. So days went by and I didn’t start it.

The day it was published I ordered me to read it, and I did, and I liked it. It was hard and it triggered me a little, but all in all it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. I actually enjoyed it, even if I read it as fast as I could just to get it over with.

I struggled a lot because the feelings in it were so strong, so deep, and they were like a giant boulder crushing my chest. It was a wild ride, very important and insightful. I learned things I don’t think I’ve ever questioned about. The world is a harsh place and, as much as we like to face it head up, it comes and leaves scars so deep it’s hard to cope.

I’m a bit shaken because this is not entirely a happy story, but it has happy moments and so much hope. When the world seems to be dragging you into the deepest abyss, there can be a ray of sunshine that’ll help us keep the darkness at bay. Whatever it may be, there’s hope about finding it and that’s worth being in this world a little longer. Just to see the light at the end of the darkest of tunnels.

The characters were well written and relatable, old enough to have day by day issues similar to mine. Once in a while it’s refreshing reading about adults not having a precise clue about what to do with their lives and being as human and fragile as I feel most of the time.

Long story short, this book was hopeful and core-shaking, it gave me anxiety, palpitations and a mild panic attack. But in the end, the little smile on my face was reward enough to deem this book worth the time it took me to read it.

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I Was Born For This by Alice Oseman

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5stars

“Everyone’s normal, everyone’s weird, everyone’s just trying to deal with their own life and keep calm and carry on. And hold on to something what’ll keep them going.”

Title: I Was Born For This
Author: Alice Oseman
Number of pages: 395 (paperback edition)
Good things about this book: Well portrayed mental health problems and tons of diversity and queer representation!
Bad things about this book: It gave me anxiety but that’s normal so it’s okay.
Do I recommend it? Yes, I do.
Rate: 5/5

Read the summary and add this book on Goodreads: here

I think the truth is that everyone in the entire world is confused and nobody understands much of anything at all.

It was almost 2 am when I finished this book, and I had work the next day. I read for HOURS, non-stop. I couldn’t put it down. I wanted to know how it was going to end. I couldn’t leave these characters mid-journey. How could I? Each of them had something of me in them and they got me feeling shaken yet seen. Here. Understood. Overwhelmed. This was not an easy book to read, and I loved it for it. For its hard and true themes.

Angel is a super fan of a boy band called The Ark. She is spending a week with one of her best internet friends, Juliet, and they’re going to go to The Ark’s meet and greet and concert. This is going to be an amazing week for both girls. Wrong, of course, since nothing really is as easy as it’s supposed to be. Jimmy is one of the three members of The Ark and he has mental health problems he can’t deal with and keep at bay because he doesn’t have time for therapy sessions. The band is gaining a lot of fame and they are always on tour, or doing interviews, or in music shows. They don’t have a normal like anymore and it’s taking a toll in Jimmy’s brain. It’s bad. I really can’t imagine how it is to be someone so famous you can’t go outside, you get mobbed by crazy fans, you can’t trust anyone. It’s horrible.

I felt more for Jimmy than for Angel because a lot of his problems also were mine. They’re not as bad and I can deal with them by myself, for now, but I could relate to his anxiety and paranoia like I haven’t been able to do with any other character in the past. I, too, am afraid of being killed or dying and in my mind I have imagined every single scenario, trying to see unsuccessfully a way out. They always end badly. I’m on edge when I walk, when I’m in a car, when I take the train, the plane, etc. Everything triggers me a death vision. I have to live with it and because of that I think I know a little how hard it was for Jimmy. He needed professional help and he needed it as soon as possible.

I went into this book thinking it was going to be a romance novel. I was wrong and I was glad I was wrong because it was really perfect the way it was. The themes it touched were both important and difficult, and I liked how they were portrayed. I recognized myself in his struggles, and, as I do when I can’t deal with what I’m facing, I focused real hard to give him the strength he needed to get through an attack. I cared deeply about his wellbeing and I couldn’t put down the book until I saw a little light at the end of the tunnel. I knew things weren’t going to just disappear, he was not going to be suddenly okay, cured, but I wanted to see if he was going to find his balance and face the challenges the world was throwing at him.

Loved the diversity. A Muslim girl who was probably queer, a half Indian half Italian gay trans boy, a bisexual guy, a black guy, and a half Chinese girl. I’m a Latina woman living in Italy; I never see myself represented, my situation is not usually at the base of any book, but I settle with as much diversity as I can get. In my little town I look around and see 98% of the same kind of people and my eyes glow when I see someone different. Imagine if I lived in London and see around me so many different faces each one of them with a different and probably interesting story to tell. My story is boring as hell, but I like to imagine all the other not Italian people around me, has an incredible story worth listening to.

I keep thinking about the last chapter of the book and I keep smiling. It’s the perfect ending for this kind of story. I couldn’t have asked for a better closing chapter. Full of hope. And hope is exactly what we all needed.

I’m taking a break from books for a couple of days because I have read so much in just two days and my brain feels like it’s collapsing. But I’m extremely happy that my last book before this much needed break was this one. I recommend it to everyone.

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Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

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3stars

Title: Lincoln in the Bardo
Author: George Saunders
Number of pages: 353 (paperback edition)
Good things about this book: It’s a very interesting and peculiar written book.
Bad things about this book: The peculiarity of the narration is a bit confusing at times.
Do I recommend it? Yes.
Rate: 3/5

Read the summary and add this book on Goodreads: here

Trap. Horrible trap. At one’s birth it is sprung. Some last day must arrive. When you will need to get out of this body.

I chose this book because I liked the title. There was something in it that made me interested in seeing what this book was about. The two different covers I saw were just as interesting and, after some thoughts, I decided to give it a try. This decision was mainly made because it was going to be a book I could get for free so if I didn’t like it I was not going to feel bad about having spent money on it. Luckily it didn’t happen.

It was weird and a little confusing at times but I liked the idea and enjoyed this crazy night with these crazy and conflicted characters. It sure makes you think. And, even if I don’t think I’ll be reading more about Lincoln, maybe I’ll watch the movie to understand him better. I don’t remember studying anything about him because I went to school in Italy and there’s so much history here and in Europe that they mainly teach you what happened here and in neighboring countries. I only knew what I’ve seen in movies or heard in American TV shows; so only the usual, that he was shot and that he was a vampire slayer. That movie was weird.

He was not perfect; he was, remember, a little boy. Could be wild, naughty, overwrought. He was a boy. However – it must be said – he was quite a good boy.

The chapters about Willie’s death were tremendously sad. They were written in this form I have never seen before, yet it didn’t take anything from the deepness of the situation. The emotions it made me feel were real and the sadness and tears were so profound, they brought me back to the many events in my life that, just like Lincoln, have brought me to the verge of losing myself to grief.

How sad it is life that gives you love to give but then can take it away without notice. Sad, yet full of happy little moments.

As much as I enjoyed the whole graveyard events, there were some parts that were more confusing than others. Some chapters I thought were about Lincoln, I found out much later that instead were about someone in the graveyard. At first I didn’t realize and after so many chapters it was a realization I thought had to be clearer from the beginning. Maybe it was just me getting used to this type of narration. Maybe I wasn’t really into it at first and it took me a little to see things as they were.

I don’t regret having read Lincoln in the Bardo, on the contrary I was glad I satisfied my curiosity and gave this book a chance. It was a peculiar read and I will recommend it to someone looking just for that.

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