Book Review: The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

Title: The Art of Being Normal
Series: Standalone
Author: Lisa Williamson
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, LBGTQA
How I got it: I bought it

SYNOPSIS:
Two boys. Two secrets.

David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth – David wants to be a girl.

On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal – to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in year eleven is definitely not part of that plan.

When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long…


REVIEW:
I didn’t really know what this book was about when I bought it because I didn’t pay attention to the book jacket? And then I read the blurb and I was like OH MY GOD, this is the first ever trans-centered book that I’ve acquired! At first I was hesitant to read it because I wasn’t sure if I’m ready. I don’t actually read LGBTQA-centered books unless they’re highly recommended by my friends and favorite book bloggers, because I don’t want to be disappointed if it turns out to be not so good. I’ve had terrible experiences with books tackling controversial and sensitive topics before, and I don’t want any repeat of that.

However, I decided to take a risk with The Art of Being Normal. My first impression was that it’s very British. The author is clearly from the U.K. and is familiar with U.K. high school politics, which I don’t see enough of in YA. The language and humor is very English as well, which I’ve enjoyed a lot! It’s interesting to read the dialogue because I’ve been so used to American authors, so I found the change refreshing.

The book opens by introducing us David, a boy who feels like he’s not quite in the right body. He wants to be a girl, and he believes that he already is in all respects aside from his physicality. Then we meet Leo, a boy who just moved to a new school and is quite eager to stay under the radar. Only he can’t, because new kids tend to get noticed as per always, and the fact that wild rumors of why he transferred are escalating around school made it harder for him to be invisible.

I really, really enjoyed The Art of Being Normal. The story is so cute and David in particular is such a precious character. He’s like a puppy, all sweet and adorable and loyal. Leo was a bit of a mystery to me until slowly, the author unveiled his story, and then his moodiness and anger-issues became a bit understandable. The supporting characters were very vividly painted as well, which is always important to me when it comes to books. I liked Alicia even though she annoyed me after a while, but most importantly I commend the parents in this book. I may have teared up once or twice because of them, and I think how parenting is portrayed in this novel is so, so important.

The best thing about this book is how it’s not pretentious. Being transgender is terribly tough especially with how society is today, and we can only hope for it to get easier though the truth is, it probably won’t. This book says as much. You may have friends, family who accept you, but when you go out there in the world, you will still encounter a lot of resistance and criticism. I like how this book didn’t sugarcoat any of that. I also like that there wasn’t any forced romances in this book at all, even though I feared at some point that there would be. The author stuck to what’s important in the story, and though the dialogue is cheesy sometimes, it’s a flaw that I could easily overlook.

Overall, I really liked reading novel. It has some very strong moments which really moved me to feel certain ways. This is a very strong debut for Lisa Williamson and a really perfect introduction to trans-centered literature for me. It’s kind of a feel-good read, to be honest, which makes me think it would be a really good Disney movie because it discusses a relevant issue in a way that’s gentle and relatable, and not at all preachy or condescending.

RECOMMENDATION:
I think that everyone looking to read LGBTQA-centered books can do well to start with this one. It should be included in the starter pack, if there’s any. Sure, there are more books out there which are probably more politically inclined or what not, but Lisa Williamson’s approach in The Art of Being Normal is not to be dismissed. For those who don’t understand or who has vague interpretations at best of what it’s like to be transgendered, I highly recommend you read this one. I learned a lot in a level that’s probably more intimate than just doing plain old research.

RATING:

4andhalf-coconut

The Sunday Post #1: The Crazy Bookworm joins the fun!

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Hi! Eena here. I’m so excited for this post because this is my first time participating in The Sunday Post hosted by Kimba @ Caffeinated Book Reviews. You can view the launch page for more information, but basically this weekly book meme lets you share newsworthy bits about your blog/life/readadventures, and about stuff that will be up and coming in your blog. This week, I have quite a few to share.

After two months of inactivity, I decided to pop back into blogging again and shared some of the important stuff going on with my life. I also managed to review two of the books I’ve read and finished in the past week!

BOOKS REVIEWED THIS WEEK:

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (The Raven Cycle #1)
The Truth Commission by Susan Juby

Not only that, I’ve also managed to complete the 3 Days, 3 Quotes challenge for which I was nominated for by Bea @ Curiosity Killed the Cat, and bought some pretty lipsticks that I’ve reviewed and shared with you all. It’s actually been a pretty fun week for me, but I can’t wait until tomorrow rolls around to usher in a fresh new week!

UP AND COMING BOOKS TO REVIEW:

Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelly
The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

I’m also excited to announce that I have a bi-weekly blog feature to launch next week that has something to do with Mondays! I’m not going to spill all the beans, but I’m really, really glad to have all my ideas finalized and ready to go. That’s something to keep an eye out for, yes?

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MOOD RIGHT NOW

So hopefully, I see you here next week for my announcement! Thanks for dropping by and I hope you enjoyed this post! Feel free to leave me comments and such!

Happy reading!

 

Lipstick Adventures of The Crazy Bookworm

Hi.

You probably wonder what I do when I’m not drowning in feels while reading books, and honestly the answer to that is not much. My social life is still a bit sparse and wanting, but work is cool because I get to watch Jessica Jones when I’m not answering email inquiries.

But another thing that I obsess over aside from books would be… lipsticks.

I am a big fan of bold shades, which thankfully work for my yellow-tinged Asian skin. I’m in no way a make-up expert but I love being adventurous when it comes to lip colour.

Today, I’ll show you two of my recent purchases which I’m really happy about! I’ve been wearing these two shades alternatingly (is there such a word? I’m not sure) since I bought them, and I couldn’t be happier with the results.

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NYX Butter Lipstick in Moonlit Night shade

I’ve never bought any NYX products before this one, mostly because I bought exclusively local brands before deciding to try out this particular shade (which was not available in my local brand, Ever Bilena, at that time). Needless to say, it’s quite surprising how it worked with my skin tone. I never thought it would match that well!

Photo on 26-11-15 at 4.26 am

PROOF.

Know what I mean? Okay.

Not only is it a good match with my skin tone, it’s also very creamy and has a velvety matte finish. The colour stayed put until the end of my shift, and though I had to re-apply after eating, all it took was two swipes to get the colour back to the intensity I wanted (which was very intense). It also didn’t dry my lips at all, which is a pretty great bonus!

Moving on, my next happy purchase was actually just inspired by the last one, but also by this BuzzFeed article that I’ve read which mentioned this product and swore by it. It’s allegedly long-lasting and comes in pretty colours. At first, I didn’t know how to get ahold of it since I’ve no idea if they sell it here in the PH, but then I found that they have an official distributor here! So I bought it for the reasonable price of PHP320.oo.

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Tada! Wet N Wild Megaslicks balm stain in Lady and The Vamp.

Surprisingly enough, it worked well with my skin tone too:

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Such pout. Very lips.

Not only that. It’s very easy to apply and the colour spreads evenly without me having to put on an obscene amount. It also feels a little tingly on the first application. Almost like minty? And then it wears out eventually and I get this really creamy finish. It’s a little shiny at first, but not like gloss. I’ve been drinking apple juice since I’ve put it on but it hasn’t faded at all, which I think is a good sign.

Overall, I’m very happy with these purchases and I’m so glad I’ve made them! Lipstick has always been a key ingredient in my confidence with going out and talking to people so good ones are worthy investments to me, not to mention that these particular brands aren’t even that expensive, so all the more reason to be happy!

I think I’ll buy more shades from these two brands in the future, and maybe try out other brands as well. I personally like matte and long-lasting tints, and varying shades of RED (because it makes me feel powerful and ready to take on the world).

How about you? What colours do you love? I would love, love, love to hear about your make-up adventures, or any kind of adventure for that matter! Adventures of any kind are generally great, in my opinion.

Thank you so much for dropping by this post about me and my love for lipstick! Leave me a comment, if you wish, and happy reading loves!

Book Review: The Truth Commission by Susan Juby

22522076Title: The Truth Commission
Series: Standalone
Author: Susan Juby
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
How I got it: I bought it

SYNOPSIS:

This was going to be the year Normandy Pale came into her own. The year she emerged from her older sister’s shadow—and Kiera, who became a best-selling graphic novelist before she even graduated from high school, casts a long one. But it hasn’t worked out that way, not quite. So Normandy turns to her art and writing, and the “truth commission” she and her friends have started to find out the secrets at their school. It’s a great idea, as far as it goes—until it leads straight back to Kiera, who has been hiding some pretty serious truths of her own.

Susan Juby’s The Truth Commission: A story about easy truths, hard truths, and those things best left unsaid.


REVIEW:

I read this book right after I finished Blue Lily, Lily Blue, which is the third book in The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater. I was in that period in reading where I was less than impressed by a book which I thought would be mind-blowing and I wanted something different to get me back on track, and after picking up several titles, I settled with this one.

It was a good choice. It was an excellent choice, and I’m happy I stuck with this book because it made me feel things. Most notable of such emotions was a significant amount of ANGER.

This book upset me so much. The level of my upset would be comparable to what I feel when I read Courtney Summers’ books, ala All The Rage or Some Girls Are. Only, where the reason of my upset in those two aforementioned books would be glaringly obvious, in The Truth Commission, it’s more subtle. It’s the little injustices that hint on deep-rooted issues, issues the main character herself dismissed as ‘kind of bothersome, but I can live with’ (not the actual words, but you get my point). The thing is, you don’t want her to keep living with it, but it’s how things are in her world and you just have to sigh sadly and go on reading, wondering how all of the bothersome little injustices would end up playing out.

Not well, I can tell you. The story, which is told in first person perspective by our main character, Normandy Pale, begins as a light and humorous conversational type of prose. Personally speaking, Normandy is very relatable to me. Her humanity and individualism is very palpable throughout the novel, and despite the dark undercurrents of the story, rarely is it whiny or self-pitying. It’s just matter-of-fact, like Normandy has already accepted the aspects of her life which are a little unconventional and peppered with varying degrees of injustices.

Aside from the excellently downplayed writing, there is also the matter of characterization. Susan Juby managed to paint quirky characters that come alive on the page and are not overdone. Even though the narrative centers around Normandy, all the supporting characters are vibrant and believable. There is good chemistry between the friendships, both the longstanding ones and the newly-forming bonds we witness in the book. All of them are unified by The Truth Commission, which is the brainchild of Normandy and her best pals Dusk and Neil.

This story is ultimately about the truth in all it’s form; how it sets you free or makes you wish you never knew. It enforces the idea that every one of us have different truths which motivates us to do what we do and act how we act. Rarely are these truths simple, and most of the time it’s tangled and/or interconnected, or buried within a web of lies. But nevertheless, all of these truths are important, even the ones that are hard.

This book is like many things in one. It’s about family, it’s about friendship, it’s about consequences and coping and learning to stand up for yourself. It’s about how there are no easy solutions because everything is so much more than what meets the eye. The upsetting thing about this novel mostly is the fact that the truth often renders us powerless in all it’s glory, and even when we tell it like it is, not everyone would believe us. They would prefer the lie, just because it’s easier to digest. We’ve always been told that the truth will set us free, but this novel shows us that telling the truth isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, after all.

I’m so glad I’ve picked up this book because it’s definitely surpassed my expectations. Looking at the cover, you’d think it’s about something way lighter than what it’s really about. But instead of a cliched high-school story (which was what I was expecting) I got something very insightful, very different, and rather thought-provoking.

I recommend this book to everyone who enjoys YA, authentic characters, healthy friendships in literature, and who’s looking for something different and refreshing (if a bit upsetting) to read.

5coconuts

3 Days, 3 Quotes Challenge (Day 3)

Finally over! Thank you again, Bea @ When Curiosity Killed The Cat for nominating me. It’s been so much fun to do this!

The rules are simple:

  1. Post 3 quotes for 3 consecutive days.
  2. Thank the blogger who tagged you.
  3. Nominate three new bloggers for the challenge.

This is a quote from one of my favorite books of all time, written by such a lovely, talented writer who I adore. Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson:

“Every kind of love, it seems, is the only one. It doesn't happen twice. And I never expected that you could have a broken heart and love with it too, so much that it doesn't seem broken at all.

I nominate the following bloggers to do the 3 Days, 3 Quotes Challenge:

  1. Meg and Maddi @ MegaMad4Books
  2. Lynn @ LynnsBooks
  3. The Lovely Folks over @ BookGossips

That’s all! Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to share my most beloved quotes with you all! Happy reading and see you in my next post! x

3 Days, 3 Quotes Challenge (Day 2)

Thanks once again to Bea @ Curiosity Killed The Cat for nominating me for this challenge!

The rules are simple:

  1. Post 3 quotes for 3 consecutive days.
  2. Thank the blogger who tagged you.
  3. Nominate three new bloggers for the challenge.

This is a quote from one of my favorite authors of all time, Warsan Shire:

“Perhaps, the problem is not the intensity of your love, but the quality of the people you are loving.”

I nominate the following bloggers to do the 3 Days, 3 Quotes Challenge:

  1. Charlotte @ Firefly Reads
  2. Yasmine @ The Yasmine Public Library
  3. Chrissi @ Chrissi Reads

See you for my next quote! Happy reading. x

Book Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

17675462Title: The Raven Boys
Series: The Raven Cycle #1
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Supernatural
How I got it: I bought an eBook.

SYNOPSIS:

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love… or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

From Maggie Stiefvater, the bestselling and acclaimed author of the Shiver trilogy and The Scorpio Races, comes a spellbinding new series where the inevitability of death and the nature of love lead us to a place we’ve never been before.

 

REVIEW:
How to even begin?

This book has been around for a long time before I decided to pick it up. Mostly, it’s because of Tumblr and all the quirky edits about the series that I’ve encountered while reblogging photos of cats. I mean, a book series getting that much traction in a website full of picky, easily offended people must be really something for a whole community to collectively love. So I decided, why not? I jumped right into that bandwagon and read the book.

… And I was not disappointed.

At least, not that much. I like the story as a whole, and the characters are colorful and lively. A houseful of psychic women, a gang of rich, good-looking boys, a quirky female character… what’s not to like, right?

The plot basically goes like this: Blue is a non-psychic in a house of psychics. She’s basically an anomaly, but she’s like a conductor, so to speak, in the sense that she can amplify psychic powers for some unknown reason. Growing up, she’s always been told that if she kisses her true love, he’ll die.

Gansey is a rich guy with a clueless kind of demeanor, especially towards the less fortunate. He’s very interested (obsessed) with ley lines, and quite obviously she’s Blue’s true love. He’s a nice guy overall, really determined, a great friend, but he’s doomed to die because he will be inevitably attracted to Blue which will bring on his tragic demise. It sounds a little shallow, put like that. But before the whole tragic demise thing, a lot of other stuff happens which add substance to the story.

As I’ve said previously, what I like best about this book is the characters. Mainly, the Raven Boys. In my opinion, they really make the story with their contrasting characters adding some serious weight and texture to the plot. I like that they’re easily distinguishable from each other not only due to physical attributes, but due to expert characterization. Stiefvater managed to breathe life into these four boys and make them unforgettable, almost tangible characters that you can’t help but love.

It’s really hard not to play favorites so I will. I have to admit now that I’m Noah Czerny trash. This poor boy with his big heart, who was the first one to love Blue when she became part of the gang just because he’s the sort of guy who would automatically be attached to a person who’s nice. He didn’t have any agenda for welcoming Blue with open arms, unlike Adam. He did it because he’s just genuinely warm. Noah Czerny is precious and important and in my mind, I’ve pictured him looking like Niall Horan. I’m so sorry, but it can’t be erased.

Ronan is another one. You know those people you know you’re supposed to stay away from but for some reason you can’t? Yeah. That’s him. You’ll rationalize with yourself that it’s wrong, wrong, wrong. But you will be inexplicably drawn to him like a moth to a flame, and you’d rather burn than be far apart. To explain better, here’s my favorite quote pertaining to Ronan Lynch:

“Gansey had once told Adam that he was afraid most people didn’t know how to handle Ronan. What he meant by this was that he was worried that one day someone would fall on Ronan and cut themselves.”

Do you know what I mean? Do you get it now? Ugh. I don’t know any better way to explain, but if Ronan Lynch was an actual person that I know, I’d be in big trouble.

Adam and Gansey are alright. They each have their moments. Sometimes Gansey manages to shine and set my heart a-flutter, but they’re both not as remarkable to me as the other two.

It’s Blue that I have a problem with, though.

I don’t know but she seems like a frail copy of Frankie Landau Banks. Actually, if you think about it, The Raven Boys is a bit like E. Lockhart’s book in a sense that it’s about a girl who dreamed to belong in a man’s world. Only that Blue succeeded where Frankie failed, which I can’t really credit to Blue since it’s more for the fact that The Raven Boys are a much nicer bunch than the Basset Hounds of Frankie’s boarding school.

Blue is like a faded photocopy of Frankie, a much less intelligent ghost. She lacks Frankie’s ingenuity and is sometimes rather annoying even when she’s trying to come across as the epitome of girl power. This is the reason why I can’t give this book a 5-coconut rating. It feels so much like a tapestry of stories that other authors succeeded in telling (The Gemma Doyle trilogy comes to mind. A group of girls in a boarding school playing at magic and managing to transport themselves in an otherworldly realm, just like The Raven Boys with the ley lines and Cabbeswater.) and Stiefvater is trying to piece together to form a literary masterpiece, only that it didn’t quite work all that well.

Don’t get me wrong, The Raven Boys is still all kinds of amazing, and fantasy-wise, it’s quite remarkable considering the plethora of others we currently have in YA. The Supernatural element is fantastically executed, but it feels familiar, and not in a good way. It feels like stories I’ve heard before, disguised as something else by wearing a new jacket.

Still, I’m giving this book 3 coconuts. 3 for Stiefvater’s undeniable talent in writing a beautiful prose, 3 for Noah and Ronan and Blue’s mom, Maura, for all the feelings they evoked in me, and 3 for the fact that I finished this book in one sitting. But I’m withholding the other two stars because of a somewhat questionable claim at originality.

Finally, I recommend this book to all lovers of YA Fantasy, doomed love stories, sharp-as-knife characters, and supernatural aficionados. I personally think that I get what the hype is all about, and maybe the comparisons I’ve drawn and the similarities are all coincidental. But if Gansey didn’t believe in coincidences, why should I?

3-cocnut