This How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

My Rating: #####/5

GoodReads Rating: 4.26

Published by Flatiron Books

Tags: Fiction, Contemporary, LGBT, Adult

This is how a family keeps a secret…and how that secret ends up keeping them. This is how a family lives happily ever after…until happily ever after becomes complicated.

This is how children change…and then change the world.

This is Claude. He’s five years old, the youngest of five brothers, and loves peanut butter sandwiches. He also loves wearing a dress and dreams of being a princess. When he grows up, Claude says, he wants to be a girl.

Rosie and Penn want Claude to be whoever Claude wants to be. They’re just not sure they’re ready to share that with the world. Soon the entire family is keeping Claude’s secret.

Until one day it explodes. – Goodreads

It took me a long time to sit down and write this review, or rather, this review for this book. The whole year I have been going on and on about Crawdads and The Great Alone… Delia Owens this and Kristin Hannah that; and then I picked up This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel.  I cannot even remember how or where I found it, and no one recommended it or anything like. I can only believe that I was meant to read this book and the universe dropped it, and Claude and Poppy, into my lap. On that note, this book should be on the GoodReads Choice Awards for Fiction every year since it’s release date – it deserves, no, it demands a spot.

Rosie is a surgeon and Penn is a stay-at-home-dad-author of TDN (that damn novel). It’s the typical, but not boring, boy-meets-girl-falls-in-love-girl-says-she-is-a-surgeon-doesn’t-have-time-to-date-boy-persists-woos-her-with-romance-they-get-married-story. 2 boys, a couple of years of residency and still no published TDN (that damn novel) later, Penn and Rosie decide; “let’s try for one more, maybe this time it will be a girl?”   A set of twins (also boys) later and Rosie and Penn are ready to give up. But Rosie desperately wants a little girl and maybe fifth-times’ a charm… maybe. So why not? Rosie falls pregnant again and 9 months later, another healthy, bouncy, baby BOY is born. Enter Claude.

But here’s the thing about Claude. Claude is a boy, raised in a household with 4 brothers. But Claude wants to wear dresses, hair barrettes, and rainbow tights and play with dolls. Claude wants to be a girl. Claude wants to be Poppy… and Claude is only 5-years old.

“How did you teach your small human that it’s what’s inside that counts when the truth was everyone was pretty preoccupied with what you put on over the outside too?” – Lauria Frankel

So how do you teach your child, that they can grow up to be anything they want to be, but they cannot (yet) wear dresses to kindergarten? How do you explain to them, that even though it doesn’t hurt anyone, they cannot be a princess, because they were not born a girl? Do you keep the secret, move away, hide it from your neighbors and friends or do you let your precious child wear a dress with fairy wings to school and “let life sort itself out”?

The story is interesting, fun, funny, relatable and heart-wrenching… all of these on one page! The characters are vivid and realistic. You feel the frustration as a parent, the concern and protectiveness as a sibling and your heart breaks with and for Claude as he realizes the truth of the world.

The writing is beautiful and clean. The story flows without lagging or hiccups. And yes, you are going to need tissues.

Frankel addresses several controversial issues and hypocrisies. We would like to believe we have come a long way with some of these issues, but have we truly? Frankel lays it all bare; from gender identity, gender equality and sexual orientation and what it must be like for a parent, who just wants their child to believe they can become anyone or anything they want to be and that all their dreams can come true.  Even if they dream of becoming a night-fairy.

Circe by Madeline Miller

Published April 10th 2018 by Bloomsbury
##/5

Contains Spoiler

So this was a typical #bookstagram made me do it 😊 and while writing my review I kept changing my hashtags to 2, then 3, then back to 2 #undecisive . Everywhere I looked there was so much fuss over #circe, so I thought “ok, let’s see what this is about…”. Sorry guys, I am cannot jump on the 5-star band wagon here. The story is empty, confusing and all over the place.

Circe is a fantasy/mythology novel about the daughter of Helios, the sun god. She is born not as a god, but as a witch and seen as an outsider. Events lead up to her meddling with fate and as a result, is banished to an island in the mortal world to live out her days in isolation. 

What I liked:
Although the characters are not likable (as in they are evil and nasty), they are real and interesting. Circe herself has a bit of a dark side which makes some chapters enjoyable. 
I enjoyed the chapters where Circe meets Daedalus and gets summoned by Pasiphaë to Crete. The whole minotaur business was captivating. There is strong chemistry between Daedalus and Circe and Miller does a great job in drawing you into the story in these chapters.

What I didn’t like:
Miller’s writing style is extremely slow, even though the story jumps years and years into the future as events unfold. Events are told from Circe’s point of view and are not always told in forward motion.
The twists and turns were illogical, and all the different threads didn’t tie up.

The story left me deflated, disappointed and a little overwhelmed in trying to keep up with all the names.

The Magic Misfits (Magic Misfits #1) by Neil Patrick Harris

Published November 30th 2017 by Egmont (first published November 21st 2017)
###/5

I had such a magical time with Neil Patrick Harris and the Magic Misfits! 

Carter has special skills, but he has never believed in magic, only in “tricks”. When he meets a group of friends just like him and is welcomed into the fold, he starts wondering if magic just might exist.

I love that Carter’s character is down to earth, with a little self-doubt to teach a young reader about self-confidence and has very strong beliefs about right and wrong. Each misfit has his or her own special skill and quirky personality to keep young readers interested and entertained. The book contains illustrations, puzzles, activities, magic-trick tutorials and is packed with humorous “misdirection”. Is it just me or does one of the Mr. Vernons’ bear a striking resemblance to NPH? 

I found it refreshing that there is no reference made to modern technology i.e. cellphones, laptops, tablets, but the story does talk about and to modern society topics that are important for young readers to read about i.e. adoption, having two moms or two dads instead a traditional household of a mom and dad and children with disabilities. The story is funny and heart-warming and made me remember how much fun it was to watch ‘good-guys-beat-bad-guys’ cartoons on a Saturday morning.

I recommend a paperback copy of the book instead of eBook or Audiobook, as the puzzles are quite tricky to solve on an electronic version. The book is also listed as “middle grade”, but my recommendation is that it is more suited to 7- to 9-year-old young bookworms.

Favorite Quote:

“Carter wondered if he was beginning to believe in magic. Not the kind where you can actually make things disappear or cast a spell, but the kind where you can’t sleep because you’re so full of joy that you stay awake and watch the sun come up.”

The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross

Published May 3rd 2018 by Hodder & Stoughton
##/5

Contains Spoilers

I loved the Beast (which is probably something to be expected as it’s his side of the story), but I didn’t like Isabeau at all. I found her aloof, a bit snobbish and **gringe mentally unstable.

Claude and Marie were also unrelateable. Shallcross alluded to them at the start of the book as being somewhat lazy, selfish and self-involved and overnight they turned into ‘what-was-supposed-to-be’ likeable characters. That is just bad character development in the writing.

I missed the magical and mystical objects.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Published August 14th 2018 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons
#####/5

Fighting off some weird infection today, not sure of it’s a head cold or tick bite fever (as I pulled one off me about a week ago). Between the napping and medicine I did manage to finish The Marsh Girl’s heart-tilting story. I was captured from “Marsh is not a swamp…”
The writing is beautiful and the story is so interesting, you are tempted to scan-read ahead. It also had me guessing right until the very end. One of those that will stay with me for a while and definitely worth the GoodReads Choice Awards🏆hype.

“There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot. “

“I wadn’t aware that words could hold so much. I didn’t know a sentence could be so full.”

“Autumn leaves don’t fall; they fly. They take their time and wander on this, their only chance to soar. Reflecting sunlight, they swirled and sailed and fluttered on the wind drafts. “

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Published May 6th 2014 by Fourth Estate
###/5

When I started this book, I was convinced I would be giving it 4 stars and that it would be a favorite. Unfortunately the middle just dragged and dragged…. and dragged along that I almost didn’t finish. I am glad I read it, as the writing is absolutely beautiful, but I would’ve loved for Werner and Marie-Laure to meet earlier and spend more time together. I would definitely still recommend it.

To really touch something, she is learning—the bark of a sycamore tree in the gardens; a pinned stag beetle in the Department of Entomology; the exquisitely polished interior of a scallop shell in Dr. Geffard’s workshop—is to love it.


Color—that’s another thing people don’t expect. In her imagination, in her dreams, everything has color. The museum buildings are beige, chestnut, hazel. Its scientists are lilac and lemon yellow and fox brown. Piano chords loll in the speaker of the wireless in the guard station, projecting rich blacks and complicated blues down the hall toward the key pound. Church bells send arcs of bronze careening off the windows. Bees are silver; pigeons are ginger and auburn and occasionally golden. The huge cypress trees she and her father pass on their morning walk are shimmering kaleidoscopes…

Unpopular Opinion Alert!

Wuthering Heights

#bookreview #wutheringheights
By Emily Brontë #emilybronte
Published in December 1847
#/5

This review contains spoilers.


Wuthering Heights has been called many many things. Most notable “a literary masterpiece” and “a tragic love story“.
Literary Masterpiece? maybe (maybe is a relative term)
Tragic Love story? Most definitely not!


Literary Masterpiece:

As the entire world likes to point out, from a literary point of view, Wuthering Heights is full of symbolism.
(I didn’t google these, they are quite clear in the book):
Doubles and opposites (to the point of the characters being so pathetic, you just want to slap them! – this book is very violent… it is making me violent…), the surrounding landscape with personalities, the weather with personalities, dogs (only the strong will survive), locked doors as a form of revenge and is it a coincidence that doors are made of wood and his name is Mr. Lockwood?

Yay!!! A+ for symbolism.

Ok…. but who really reads a book looking for symbolism? We read books to relate to characters, to escape into someone else’s world for a short period of time and see something different.

I could only relate to:
The Scarlet Thread runs strong in Brontë’s tale. Children making the same bad, irresponsible, selfish decisions as their parents, not considering the consequences and history repeats itself. Almost to the letter (pun intended).


Tragic Love Story

There is no love in this book – you cannot even call it infatuation or lust. Catherine and Heathcliff are mean-spirited (evil, so evil), self-involved, abusive and narcissistic. Their relationship … or whatever, is completely toxic. Not even mentioning the fact that Catherine married another man and still wants to entertain the notion that she can spend time with Heathcliff and expect her husband to feel empathy for her. Then, when she needs to deal with the consequences, true to her narcissistic personality disorder, she blames everyone else.

If you want to read this book to write a book report or research it to learn about symbolism, yes; by all means, go for it. If you want to read a love story, this book is NOT FOR YOU!


A Very Important Note to Conclude:

The literary career of the Brontë sisters is interesting and inspirational. Charlotte was the first to attempt to get her poems published. She was rejected several times and told in no uncertain terms that literature was a man’s business and holds no occupation for a woman. Charlotte was not dismayed and kept trying until she found a publisher willing to publish her poems, as well as Jane Eyre, Emily’s Wuthering Heights and Anne’s Agnes Grey in 1847. And so, began the Brontë sisters’ literary careers.


Favorite Quotes:

“You could not open a book in this library that I have not looked into, and got something out of also…”
“How did you contrive to preserve the common sympathies of human nature when you resided here? I cannot recognize any sentiment which those around share with me.”
“ ‘She abandoned them under a delusion,’ he answered; ‘picturing in me a hero of romance, and expecting unlimited indulgences from my chivalrous devotion.’ ” — like this book.


More Books by the Brontë Sisters:

Charlotte Brontë

Anne Brontë

Funny and Brilliant

Crazy Rich Asians (Crazy Rich Asians, #1)

#bookreview #crazyrichasians
By Kevin Kwan #kevinkwan
Narrated by Lynn Chen #lynnchen
Published June 11th 2013 by Doubleday #doubleday
####/5

This book is fabulous … as in Fabulous Darling!!! and so much fun! I was quite skeptical when I started reading, as I expected Asian-Kardashian, but it’s nothing like the Kardashians. Crazy Rich Asians is clever, funny, intelligent and very well written. It’s like reading PEOPLE magazine, in your bed, eating ice-cream straight out of the tub on a Saturday morning – a complete guilty pleasure.

Kwan did a wonderful job in creating a family of siblings that are well educated, brought up on good old-fashioned Chinese family-values, struggling with real-life dilemmas (ok some of their problems are not so every-day-life, but some are…) and they are rich; I mean CRAZY rich!


As they try to make, what they believe, the best decisions for their families, they shine in their confidence and naivety. The characters might be rich and privileged, but they are relatable. They experience happiness and heartache amidst all the private-jetting, island-hopping, wedding planning and haute couture shopping. I didn’t recognize half the names being dropped (specifically fashion houses), but I appreciated the sheer opulence of it all.


Rachel is clearly very self-aware and possess the qualities to hold her own amongst these spoiled elitists but underestimates their belief in ‘old-money’ vs ‘new-money’ vs ‘NO-money’ (GASP!). Astrid is by far my favorite, she is a classic beauty, with a golden heart, her feet firmly planted on the ground.


I thoroughly enjoyed the 3rd person narration; this booked would’ve lacked spunk if told in 1st person. I still have some questions I am hoping would be answered in the 2nd or 3rd book. This book left me wanting more!


Narration:

####/5 for narration. Chen amazed me with her articulation, expressions and even singing! Alamak lady!!


Favorite quotes:

“Just because some people actually work for their money doesn’t mean they are beneath you.”
“God is in the details.”
“Soon the Tan Huas began to wilt just as swiftly and mysteriously as they had bloomed, filling the night air with an intoxicating scent as they shriveled into spent lifeless petals”
“Aiyoooooh, finish everything on your plate, girls! Don’t you know there are children starving in America?”

More Books by Kevin Kwan

China Rich Girlfriend (Crazy Rich Asians, #2)Rich People Problems (Crazy Rich Asians, #3)

a Torn Red Queen

Red Queen (Red Queen 1)

#bookreview#redqueen
by Victoria Aveyard #victoriaaveyard
Published February 10th, 2015 by HarperTeen
###/5

Red Queen is a Young Adult Dystopian Fantasy, told from the point of view of Mare, a young girl trying to survive everyday life; providing for-; and protecting her family against the Silvers – god-like humans with powers and abilities. Silvers (silver-blooded humans) rule Reds (red-blooded humans) in a Hunger Games meets Game of Thrones kingdom. Life is hard, and it’s about to get so much harder.

I give Red Queen a very respectable ### out of 5 octothorps (I don’t give half octothorps; I rather decide if I like it less or more and adjust my rating accordingly). My review contains spoilers, as this book is very difficult to review without giving away some character profiles and a plot overview.

What didn’t I like:

1. Dystopian novels like Hunger Games, Game of Thrones and YA fantasy sagas like Twilight and Harry Potter have dramatic and suspenseful moments. Events that keep you on the edge of your seat, wondering: “what is going to happen next? How are they going to get out of this?”
Unfortunately, in Red Queen, I was not sitting on the edge of my seat. Aveyard’s writing style is very bland when building up the suspense to key events and life-or-death moments – there was no drumming in my head. All events unfold in the same slow-paced, run-of-the-mill, everyday-life narration.
I found myself turning back a page and rereading sections thinking: “did I scan-read, did I miss something?????No, I didn’t, it’s just the writing style


2. Throughout the story, I was very aware of Kilorn, Cal and Maven’s feelings towards Mare. Their feelings are not described in obvious words but in a well-written undertone. I could not say the same for Mare’s feelings towards Kilorn, Cal nor Maven. Aveyard did an unsatisfying job of describing or hinting at Mare’s feelings. In the end, big proclamations are made, and again, with no real build-up.


3. I prefer 3rd person narration and I would have loved to hear the events from one of the other characters’ point of view. Specifically, Cal and Kilorn; it would’ve added so much depth to this book.


4. I made 4 predictions as the story unfolded. All 4 came to pass. I am not proud of the fact that I predicted so accurately, I am disappointed in such a predictable ending.

What I liked:

1. The first chapter had my attention with First Friday, as it provided a very good introduction to the fantasy part of the book and gives you a crash course in the Silvers’ abilities and powers.


2.Mare is likable and relatable – she is a young girl with hopes, dreams, self-doubt, annoyances, and disappointments. She cares deeply for her family and her people and wishes she could provide a better life for them. I have to admit; later on, I had to change my perception of Mare, as I had a picture in my mind of a scruffy little thief and found it hard to imagine her as a princess – it had nothing to do with her looks, but again, something to with the Aveyard’s writing style. Mare‘s decisions though, are selfless and based on her want to do better for her people.


3. Each character has their own place in this hierarchy within a hierarchy world and they know what their duties and roles are (maybe slightly stereotypical, but not enough to take away from the interlinking relationships). There is a healthy mix of romance, intimacy, protectiveness and family loyalty. This kept me wanting to read more as I felt connected to them personally. I could feel what they feel, I could think, what they think. This part the Aveyard nailed!


In conclusion:

Even though the writing is not brilliant, I am hoping Aveyard grew in her writing throughout the remainder of the series. I found the story enjoyable enough to continue with the series until such time that it goes on the #dnf pile (hence the 3x ###/5).


Favorite quotes:

It makes me afraid for the boy who taught me how to dance.” – such a tender moment and beautiful description.
“A hierarchy within the hierarchy.”

More books by #victoriaaveyard

Glass Sword (Red Queen, #2)
King’s Cage (Red Queen, #3)
War Storm (Red Queen, #4)
Queen Song (Red Queen, #0.1)
Cruel Crown (Red Queen, #0.1-0.2)
Steel Scars (Red Queen, #0.2)

a Gripping tale in Time

A Murder in Time (Kendra Donovan, #1)
#bookreview#amurderintime
by Julie McElwain #juliemcelwain
Narrated by Lucy Rayner
Published April 11th, 2016 Pegasus Books

####/5

How do you know when you have read a brilliant book? When days later, you still miss the setting and the characters. #homesick

Kendra is a brilliant FBI agent. Whilst recovering physically and emotionally from a raid gone wrong, decisions and events lead her plummeting down a wormhole and she travels back in time to the year 1815.
So how do you explain to people in the 19th century that you are a time traveler from the 21st century, when you can hardly believe it yourself?


Characters:

McElwain gives each character ‘life’ and an identity that makes you feel something for them. She illustrates shock, awe, drama and suspense so well, your mouth becomes dry, your heart starts beating and you hear the rush of blood in your ears, leaving you slightly dizzy as you get drawn deeper and deeper into Kendra, The Duke and Alec’s world … and their time period.


Story:

The story-line is well thought out, creative and full of plot twists. There are comical moments, emotional moments, moments of frustration and even one or two magical moments.McElwain sets the scene so well, you feel as though you are in 1815 wearing a ‘poofy’ dress, your hair pinned up in curls, laughing over tea and scones and fanning yourself.


Narration Audiobook:

The bad: Unfortunately, the narration is not great. I listened at a speed setting of 1.15x, as normal speed was just too slow. From the middle of the book towards the end, I heard more and more mistakes, incorrect pronunciation of words and name switches; at one point Rebecca becomes Rachel and I thought: “Who the hell is Rachel?” The good: Rayner does well with voice changes. This was my first Audiobook experience and I was very worried that I would not know which character is speaking, but Rayner changes her voice and maintains that same voice for each character throughout the story. It’s recognizable and the accents are accurate and even original.


In the end…

I loved it and I cannot wait to get into the 2nd book in the series; A Twist in Time (Kendra Donovan, #2) in September as part of the science-themed reading on GoodReads.


My favorite quotes (contains ***spoilers***):

“She shook off her sense of amazement, and tried to pretend she was watching a period play. There was a lot of flirting going on, plenty of fluttering of ivory fans and eyelashes. It was weird to think that in another two hundred years people would flirt by pole dancing, twerking, and sexting.”

“Whoever had said that appearances were deceiving was only partially right; they could also be deadly.”

“To quote Voltaire, ‘Our wretched species is so made that those who walk on the well-trodden path always throw stones at those who are showing a new road.”

… something as innocuous as Jane Austin that would be the thing to trip her up.”

More books by #juliemcelwain:
A Twist in Time (Kendra Donovan, #2)
Caught in Time (Kendra Donovan, #3)