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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Anatomy of a Murderer by Tim Floreen

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4stars

“We humans like to think of ourselves as more rational than we are. We imagine we navigate through life using pure logic, but far more than we realize, we do things for illogical reasons and then bend our perception of reality to make our actions seem logical, at least to ourselves. It’s a trick of the brain, something we all do.”

Title: Anatomy of a Murderer
Author: Tim Floreen
Number of pages: 370 (paperback edition)
Good things about this book: It has pretty dark themes but I liked how they were portrayed.
Bad things about this book: Read the trigger warnings before starting it.
Do I recommend it? Yes, I do.
Rate: 4/5

Read the summary and add this book on Goodreads: here

Oh, how I wish I could just spoil the entire book and write every little thing that’s in my mind right now. I have a lot of thoughts, really a lot! When I picked it up, intrigued by the darkness it promised, I truly didn’t expect to read what I read. I found myself following Rem’s mind, influenced by his feelings and thoughts. Our brain is really powerful; it tricked me into believing things that should have been obvious from the start. Maybe I didn’t want to believe, maybe I just wanted to imagine how the story would turn out if things went my way.

This is not an easy book; it has many triggering moments and it surely isn’t for everyone. I got palpitations during a few scenes, nothing that made me close the book but, in those moments, I imagined how these scenes would look like to someone who has experienced school shootings and bullying. I can’t begin to imagine how traumatic it could be and how frightening it is to live in a country where everyone can brandish a gun and kill whoever they want.

In the past, I have always thought of American high schools as some sort of great experience I wish I could have done: proms, sports, science labs, the canteen, the friendships. I don’t remember at what point my eyes opened to the awful reality that that high school dream hides. The bullying, the way if you do sports you are deemed a king and you can do what you want with no consequences, the shootings, the suicides, the popular kids feeling like royalty. I started to fear it, to start seeing high school in the US as a place you went but you never knew if you’d come out unscathed or alive.

This book made me think of myself back when the idea I had of high school broke into a million pieces. I felt for Franklin, being an odd kid, targeted by bullies for how he looked, what he liked, and how he was in general. I tried to understand Rem and the way he thought he was protecting himself by not being the nice guy everyone thought he was. I really tried to see the reason Rem’s mother had for starting her brain experimentations in Franklin in the first place. I tried to give everything logic, my logic, and failed.

Everything that happened couldn’t have been avoided by Franklin not being a sociopath, by Rem being always nice, by Tor and Pete not being bullies, by Callie making less jokes, by Lydia stopping herself from saying a bad thing. If it wasn’t Franklin shooting Pete, that day a year in the past from when this book takes place, it could have been another kid, another day, with a gun they could have gotten easily. And that’s the problem. Not only we should try to treat people they way they deserve, the way we want to be treated, we should also understand that without the means to violence, with guns purchased online with few to zero background checks, maybe things wouldn’t go as awry as the do today. Violence wouldn’t end but maybe it would be easier to control, and people with ill intent would be easier to stop if instead of a gun or a rifle, they were armed with a knife.

I’m rambling because I’m scared. This isn’t fiction, this isn’t fantasy, this is real. These things happen all the time. They are happening so often that, even though I’m all the way here in Italy, I’m scared every morning when kids the other side of the ocean go to school, hoping they all make their way back home safe and sound.

This book was hard to read but I’m glad I did. I think it will make a very nice tv show or movie. It has all the elements needed to be great. I started reading this book expecting something entirely different from what I got, and, as rarely as it happens to me, I liked how things ended here more than how I wanted them to end in my head.

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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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Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

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5stars

The only person I can be at this school is Eliza Mirk, and Eliza Mirk is barely a footnote in anyone’s life. Including mine.

Title: Eliza and Her Monsters
Author: Francesca Zappia
Number of pages: 385 (hardcover edition)
Good things about this book: Real themes well written.
Bad things about this book: Nothing, I enjoyed it.
Do I recommend it? Yes, to everyone.
Rate: 5/5

Read the summary and add this book on Goodreads: here

 

I started this book thinking it was going to be a happy story about a girl who created a popular webcomic and whose life wasn’t easy but it all turned out fine with little to no drama. Oh girl was I wrong! I was so wrong and I got my heart crushed; my eyes were burning with anger, pain, hope, and I found so much of myself in Eliza it was somehow scary.

I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be the person whose color comes through even when standing still. To be someone so vibrant, others can’t help but notice you.

Sometimes the true of your inner self isn’t very obvious; you can’t see it unless someone points it out or you read something and then it comes to you that maybe you’re not the person you think you were. It’s scary but maybe it can also be what makes you seek help and be better for yourself and your wellbeing. This book confirmed some things and revealed some other things. It was a very interesting and different book. You may not think it different because of what it’s about but it’s important; it gets you and, if you feel or have ever felt like Eliza, it makes you feel less alone in this scary world.

I like to tell myself I might do a lot of things – but I and my brain and everyone else know that I’m going to chicken out in the end and barricade myself in my bedroom with a plate of pizza rolls and my Netflix subscription.

Eliza is the creator of a super popular webcomic, Monstrous Sea, but besides her family and a couple of online friends, nobody knows her real identity. She goes by LadyConstellation and her comic is so famous she is in seventh heaven, economically speaking. She loves her story and the characters, she has put all of herself in them: she also loves the fans but they intimidate her. Being on the spotlight is a double-edged sword: the internet is a scary thing. Eliza is introvert and lacks the social skills to make friends in real life; she is better at communicating through texts. Eliza is just like me.

Then along came Wallace, the new kid in school, quiet and football player big. He is interested in talking to her and, guess what, he is the number one fan fiction writer of Monstrous Sea. Eliza is at the same time fascinated to know a fan in real life and terrified he is going to find out who she is and treat her differently, being yet another person to isolate her.

MirkerLurker: He’s not exactly the kind of guy that’s usually interested in me.
Apocalypse_Cow: what kind of guy is usually interested in you?
MirkerLurker: The kind I make up in my head.

The story of Eliza and Wallace’s friendship is simple yet complicated. Wallace comes with issues of his own and a personality that has many layers, some of them I didn’t like very much. Let’s be honest, he made me do the face, “The Face” capitalized, the one I do when I’m judging and cursing you very hard. Eliza is already struggling to keep herself on the surface of her life and we see how everything new (like having Wallace in her life) and not affects her fragile mental stability.

Eliza is a very relatable character for me. She is 15 years younger than me but we have much in common. I think some things never change no matter how old you are; I’m still fighting demons of my own and it’s hard to keep my guard up but that’s what we must do, right? We fight and we keep afloat.

We ascribe value to the things we care most about, but sometimes we don’t stop long enough to take a look at the bigger picture.

Hidden almost on plain sight is the theme of mental illness. Some chapters are harder than others. Some make you hopeful, some hopeless. A few pages threaten to bring you down, and then others lift you to the Moon. These swings are real and they hurt but the light at the end of the tunnel is there even if you at first fail to see it. Eliza goes through a lot when her identity is revealed; she crumbles and she is lost. Her journey is not an easy one but it was nice to read it and feel it so close to home, with a hint of hope.

Monstrous Sea is mine.
I made it, not the other way around.
It’s not a parasite, or an obligation, or a destiny.
It’s a monster.
It’s mine.
And I have a battle axe waiting for it.

Eliza and Her Monsters gave me comics, life struggle, the fear of the outdoors, the problem with communication between different generations, problems within oneself, friendships that transcend the standard concept, young scary love, but above all it gave me a young girl I could relate and I could cheer on and accompany on her rocky road that’d leave her scarred but also stronger. That’s who we are, right? Scarred but stronger every single day.

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History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

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5stars

History remains with the people who will appreciate it most.

Title: History Is All You Left Me
Author: Adam Silvera
Good things about this book: NYC, relatable and diverse characters.
Bad things about this book: I really don’t know, I found it balanced and perfect.
Do I recommend it? Yes, yes and yes.
Rate: 5/5

Read the summary and add this book on Goodreads: here

“One day, Batman is going to take off his mask and, boom, it’ll be me.”

This book left me with so many emotions but above all it left me with reminders of how strong human beings can be when they have to face something hard like losing your first love. The story takes place mainly in New York City and, even with all the descriptions of the freezing weather, it makes the story feels magical. Fun fact: at some point in the book they tell how cold was the weather at the beginning of 2015 and I was in New York at that time with my sister and it was unbelievably cold!! It was fun sharing that unpleasant feeling with the characters.

People are complicated puzzles, always trying to piece together a complete picture, but sometimes we get it wrong and sometimes we’re left unfinished.

I really don’t want to tell you much about the story because I think what the summary says is the only thing you should know to experience every single chapter. There are History chapters in which Griffin tells the story of his relationship with Theo, his first boyfriend, from the beginning. The history chapters at the beginning are fun and adorable since they also have their best friend Wade that I liked a lot, then they became hard to read without crying a little bit because of so many things.

“Come on, be a bro that helps his other bros buy condoms.”

The Today chapters were hard as hell to read. I have cried and cried, smiled a bit, then cried a little bit more. Theo accidentally drowned while at the beach in Santa Monica with his new boyfriend Jackson. It broke everyone. Griffin is in pieces and doesn’t think he will ever be okay. He “speaks” to Theo telling their History together and trying to understand his history from when they weren’t together anymore. He is trying to get to know the new Theo even if it’s going to break him even more than he is already.

I have all this history with you, Theo, but he has pieces of your puzzle that would destroy me if I ever had to put them together, and yet I still want them.

I loved how the chapters went by smoothly and everything was in the right place. I was a little afraid of the pace at first because going back and forth seemed confusing but it worked really well. I have to say that every time I read the words “Today” at the beginning of the chapter my heart felt heavy because I knew how sad it was going to be and indeed it was. Suffering was beginning to look normal so that anything a little nice was a win. How much I suffered. It isn’t really the saddest story I have read but you start to get to know the characters and you follow them on their everyday lives so their sadness becomes your sadness, their happiness becomes your happiness.

I did criticize Griffin for a few of his poor choices. I knew he was going to learn from his mistakes but seeing how he was underestimating his issues I was really afraid of things going out of control. If he kept doing that it was going to be really hard to go back and get a grip of his life. I loved Griffin, flaws and everything. He is a lovely boy and when he loves he gives his all.

I should really stop blaming everyone and certain events for what’s happening to me. I’m the worst thing that’s ever happened to myself.

I am glad because Griffin was surrounded by very nice parents and a friend, Wade, who was more than the third wheel of their weird trio. I am also glad because he got to know Jackson, Theo’s boyfriend at the time of his death, and could share his grief with the only other boy who truly loved Theo. Jackson is a character you may want to hate but then you don’t because you understand how much he loved Theo and how he was only afraid of losing him to Griffin and their strong first love.

There’s nothing wrong with someone’s saving my life, I’ve realized, especially when I can’t trust myself to get the job done right. People need people. That’s that.

I knew this book was going to be great and painful to read because of the author, the magnificent and really adorable, Adam Silvera. I read his book More Happy than Not without even knowing what was it about and it broke my heart. I knew it had lgbtqi characters and representation is very important so that was the main reason I read it in the first place. Books about characters not really defined by their sexualities that narrate their everyday lives and adventures are books I love to find and read.

Long story short, this book is a book that has to be read. It has various elements that can and will get to you, that you understand, that in some way you have come around some time during your life.
I will keep this story in my heart for a very long time, that’s for sure.

I feel like a rock being skipped through the ocean— pain, relief, pain again, relief again, eventually destined to sink.

I’m ready for your next book, Mr. Silvera!!

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