All Boys Aren’t Blue | Book Review

Title: All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto
Author: George M. Johnson
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux
Publish Date: April 28, 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Memoir
Pages: 304
Format: eBook

Both a primer for teens eager to be allies as well as a reassuring testimony for young queer men of color, All Boys Aren’t Blue covers topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent, and Black joy.

In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia. From the memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to flea marketing with his loving grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys.

Johnson’s emotionally frank style of writing will appeal directly to young adults

I haven’t read a memoir in forever, and wow did I forget how much I enjoy them. I just wanted to preface this review by stating that I think there’s a lot to be learned from memoirs, a lot of lives and stories to be shared through these works. We all have our own experiences and journeys, and having the honor and privilege to read them is wonderful.

With that said, I highly enjoyed this memoir. Within the first two chapters I found myself reflecting on my own life, upbringing, past traumas, childhood, etc. to see what happened in my own life. Getting to read about Johnson’s was a journey, for sure.

One important aspect about this memoir is that (almost) every chapter is filled with love. He expressed that numerous times about how his family was so full of unconditional love for one another, which I think is a truly beautiful thing. I love seeing it in fiction, but love hearing about it more in real life. He expresses how even though his family knew his secret from the time he was young, they never forced him to be anything other than himself, and they accepted him regardless of anything. I loved seeing that dynamic, for sure.

Johnson talks a lot about being Black in this book, and it was another prime example for me as a white woman to understand another part of the Black experience, if I may call it that. I think that Johnson connecting so heavily to his heritage and culture was something that was inspiring to see, and once again allowed me to reflect on my own dynamics not just in my family, but of the environment around me. I will say that even though I don’t understand on a fundamental level what his experience of being Black was like, I still appreciate being able to have a glimpse into what it was like – and continues to be – for him.

He also talked about what being queer and his sexual identity was like as a young Black boy growing up in New Jersey, and he stated multiple times that he hoped other young, queer Black kids would also be able to see themselves in his words. I think seeing his journey of identity was eye opening. As an adult, I’ve been struggling with “labeling” my own sexuality, even though I hate labeling myself for that specific category. This book is giving me a lot to think about and to understand that it’s okay if you don’t get it right away.

I think it’s also important to note that he talks about some traumatic times, including sexual abuse, so please be aware of that going into this novel (it’s not until much later on in the manifesto). I definitely felt uncomfortable, but only in the sense that I knew he was opening up a dark portion of his past that I feel I was not meant to see or know. If it helped him, though, I’m glad it was in there, and if it helps others work through their own traumas, I’m glad it’s in their for them (and you), too.

From family, to friendships, to sexual identity, to Blackness, to much more, I found myself captivated by this memoir. I have been reflecting a lot on myself, and how I’m digesting the memoir to understand what it’s like for Black LGBTQIAP+ people out there.

The writing is very straightforward, and he gives a lot of stories into his background to give weight to the words he shares with you as the reader. I think that’s part of what drew me in so steadily is because I could definitely feel his voice through the pages.

Overall, I think it’s a great book for anyone to read, understand, listen, and reflect on themselves and their own identities and such.

I’m conflicted on rating a memoir, given it’s about a person’s life, but for the purposes of this review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reading Rush TBR

Hello everyone! Hope you’re all doing well. Today I’m going to talk about my TBR for the Reading Rush, which is hosted by Raeleen of padfootandprongs07 and Ariel of Ariel Bissett. They’ve been hosting this readathon for a couple of years now, I believe, and I decided that I wanted to give this readathon a go. I’ve been having…okay luck with readathons this year, and they made these challenges super easy to combine books for, so that’s what I’m doing.

If you’d like to hear a little more about the Reading Rush for this July 20th-26th stretch, then here’s their video:

They also have videos specially for the reading challenges and the vlog challenges:

So, with that, let’s jump into the reading challenges, which, by the way, you can combine or switch up as you see fit to fit your reading style/habit/mental health, so keep that in mind as we go! I’m going to list them all below, and then talk about the books and how I’m combining the challenges for the books.

  1. A book that is the same color as your birthstone.
  2. Read a book that starts with the word “The.”
  3. Read a book that inspired a movie you’ve already seen.
  4. Read the first book you touch.
  5. Read a book outside/a book that takes place outdoors/that has a cover of the outdoors/etc. (Be safe during quarantine, please.)
  6. A genre that you want to read more of.
  7. A book that is set on a different continent than where you live.

I think these challenges are pretty fun! So for this readathon, I’m only picking two books. I’m combining five of the challenges for one book, and then the last two for the second.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

A tale of true love and high adventure, pirates, princesses, giants, miracles, fencing, and a frightening assortment of wild beasts – The Princess Bride is a modern storytelling classic.

As Florin and Guilder teeter on the verge of war, the reluctant Princess Buttercup is devastated by the loss of her true love, kidnapped by a mercenary and his henchmen, rescued by a pirate, forced to marry Prince Humperdinck, and rescued once again by the very crew who absconded with her in the first place. In the course of this dazzling adventure, she’ll meet Vizzini – the criminal philosopher who’ll do anything for a bag of gold; Fezzik – the gentle giant; Inigo – the Spaniard whose steel thirsts for revenge; and Count Rugen – the evil mastermind behind it all. Foiling all their plans and jumping into their stories is Westley, Princess Buttercup’s one true love and a very good friend of a very dangerous pirate.

“Buttercup’s Baby” is at the end of this edition.

Here’s how The Princess Bride fits into the first five challenges:

  1. My birthstone is the peridot for August, which is a pale green gem, and there’s a lot of pale green in this cover (I have a peridot ring so I color matched the cover lol).
  2. “The” Princess Bride.
  3. I. Love. This. Movie. It’s so cheesy and so funny, and I’ve been meaning to read the book for a long time now, so I’m going to give it a go!
  4. When I was thinking of books for these challenges, The Princess Bride was quite literally the first book I touched because it was the first pale green cover/spine I saw on my shelf.
  5. I can read this outside if I want to because we have a porch and such, but I’m not about to read in 90+ degree Fahrenheit humid weather, so I’ll just read by the windows. There; sunlight.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” Thus memorably begins Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, one of the world’s most popular novels. Pride and Prejudice—Austen’s own “darling child”—tells the story of fiercely independent Elizabeth Bennet, one of five sisters who must marry rich, as she confounds the arrogant, wealthy Mr. Darcy. What ensues is one of the most delightful and engrossingly readable courtships known to literature, written by a precocious Austen when she was just twenty-one years old.

Humorous and profound, and filled with highly entertaining dialogue, this witty comedy of manners dips and turns through drawing-rooms and plots to reach an immensely satisfying finale. In the words of Eudora Welty, Pride and Prejudice is as “irresistible and as nearly flawless as any fiction could be.

Here’s how Pride and Prejudice fits into the last two challenges:

6. A genre you want to read more of: I want to read more classics, or at least the ones currently on my shelves for now. I just find them much harder to digest and read because the language is so different from how we use it now, even through translation.

7. This book is set in the United Kingdom in Derbyshire, England, so yeah. Since I live in the USA, it’s set on a different continent from where I live.


Now, do I think I can read both of these books in the span of a week? I’m not very confident I can lol But I’m going to try, and that’s all that matters. I’m really only participating in the Reading Rush to have fun, and I liked the challenges, so why not?

Are you participating? How many books are you reading? Are you going to try to read one book per challenge, or combine a few together like I did? What’s your most anticipated read for this readathon? Let me know in the comments!

Books That Make Me Smile | Top Ten Tuesday

I haven’t done a Top Ten Tuesday in a long while, so I figured, hey, why not jump into the bandwagon again?

What is Top Ten Tuesday?

“Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.”

Today’s topic: books that make you smile for any reason!

So I’m totally going to cheat and also include webtoons because they’re still reading material, so…. yeah. And these aren’t in any particular order, but here’s the countdown!

10. Nice to Meet You by Wishroomness

A super cute and funny rom-com that just constantly makes me laugh and smile in each episode. I love it a lot!

9. Castle Swimmer by Wendy Lian Martin

A fun story about two merboys falling in love, and how their destinies intertwine. I mean, how could I not smile at this?

8. Heartstopper by Alice Oseman

Need I even say anything? Wholesome. Adorable. The sweetest.

7. Freaking Romance by SnailLords

Not only does this series make me laugh out loud because it’s exactly my humor, but it’s made me smile numerous times from the amount of cheesy scenes.

6. Him by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

I really love all of these hockey player stories, and this one is no exception. It just makes me smile seeing the dynamic between two friends to lovers.

5. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The family dynamic in this book made me laugh and smile on more than one occasion! I love how tight knit the family is and how everyone interacts with one another.

4. Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan

This is my first time reading this series and I love it! It’s a great adventure story that has made me smile, for sure.

3. My Giant Nerd Boyfriend by fishball

This comic is about me and my husband. Not really, but a lot of the way they interact with one another is very similar to how me and my husband are, so I smile a lot reading this.

2. Plain Boy and Prince by amanduur

This has all of the tropes, which makes it hilarious and adorable. I mean, c’mon, look at the picture that’s used in the header. xD

1 . Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe

Of course I couldn’t forget one of my favorite series, Lore Olympus, in all of this. This series has made me feel quite a wide range of emotions, and smiling came along with feelings of giddiness and happiness.


What books have made you smile? Do you have any fond memories with those books? Let me know!

Spring 2020 Reading Wrap-Up

I’m a little late on this post, but that’s okay~ I actually quite like doing these quarterly/seasonal wrap-ups much more than monthly because it’s so much easier to reflect on all of the things over a season, especially when reading webcomics.

These are all of the things (I hope) I read from April-June 2020!

Webtoons

New

A ditsy university student Mew finds a lost student card. Instead of doing the sensible thing, Mew decides to let fate take the wheel and try something silly. Little did she know, she would be confronting the owner of the card, Daze who has some things to say about what she did. Did Mew make the biggest mistake of her life? or the best decision of her life? Follow these two adorable goofballs to find out!

This is such an adorable and hilarious webtoon so far! I really love the art style, and the story is just like reading a k-drama. It kind of reminds me of when I was a teen and reading shoujo romance manga for the first time and being all giddy while reading it because it’s just so dang CUTE! Check out Nice to Meet You if you’re looking for a rom-com to bring up your happiness meter!

★★★★★

Charlie, a highly-strung, openly gay over-thinker, and Nick, a cheerful, soft-hearted rugby player, meet at a British all-boys grammar school. Friendship blooms quickly, but could there be something more…?

By now many of you have probably heard of this comic, Heartstopper by Alice Oseman, and since being able to read it on Webtoon I finally understand all the hype around it! It’s such a cute, wholesome story dealing with love, identity, family, and more. I love the way Oseman handles the topics and presents them in many ways, from super supportive to issues with bullying. A great comic that I highly recommend, especially if you want to squeal with the cuteness of it!

★★★★★

‘The Witch and The Beast’ is an epic-fantasy tale. Marius Bellemore, lord and protector of the vampire race, chooses to ally himself with the last surviving witch of the Redwood circle. That, in itself, is a strange fact for vampires and witches have been enemies for centuries… Join these characters on a journey full of adventures, drama and…romance!

First of all, the art style in The Witch and the Beast is gorgeous. I think it really enhances the overall story because it is a bit darker than the usual webtoons I read, and it really gives a bit of atmosphere to the dark fantasy story at hand. Second, the story itself is really good so far! I mean, we got vampires, we got witches, we got hot demon boys… what more can you want? But seriously, I really am enjoying the story so far and how there’s still a lot of mystery shrouding why the witches are being hunted and who stands with who, etc. Definitely check it out if you want a diverse gothic fantasy read!

★★★★★

Continued

Season two of Freaking Romance started back up and the sci-fi elements just keep on coming! There’s not too many episodes for season two out yet, but it really upped the ante after the cliffhanger from last season, so I can’t wait to see how it continues to unfold.

I Love Yoo is currently on a short hiatus, but I’ve caught up to the current episode and man, the drama just never stops lol But in a good way. We’re learning about more of the backstories of some of the major characters, and seeing new characters be introduced, so I’m excited to see how this unfolds.

Season two of Castle Swimmer started and now the two boys are trying to navigate their own destinies away from one another – and try to change their destinies as well. I’m a few episodes behind as of writing this, but I still am very much enjoying this second season so far.

Currently on pause as of the season two wrap up, The Four of Them really introduced a lot of new struggles between all of the characters, including identity, family, relationship problems (both romantic and platonic), and more. I think that the second season was really well done and I can’t wait for the third.

Season one of Lore Olympus finished in June and man, is there a lot to think about! Kore’s trying to stand up more for herself, Hades is admitting his feelings to himself, and we’re just learning so much more backstory behind who they are and the different sides of Kore/Persephone that I can’t wait to see what season two will bring!

Soleil is still as cute in style as ever, but the story introduced some new mechanics to the plot and how the characters interact with one another, and I think that it just really enhanced the story. There’s a lot of mystery shrouding it right now, but I’m excited to continue!

Books

I’ve done a full review of this book, but Sorcery of Thorns was an okay read for me. I felt myself lose interest very early on because I was heavily annoyed by the main protagonist, and I really only felt drawn to it in parts where the main love interest was introduced and the magic elements itself. It wasn’t a bad read, but I found myself disappointed.

★★★☆☆

I’ve done a full review of this book, and man, let me just say it again that this was a fantastic read. I can see why it was so hyped up – and is still hyped up – and I’m really glad I read it. I felt a huge range of emotions reading this, and it really showed me just how important community can be. The story touched on issues of race, identity, police brutality, and more. Such an impactful, great read.

★★★★★


That’s it! I was sucked into the world of Animal Crossing New Horizons in late April, so my reading went way down lol But what I did read was enjoyable and really made an impact on me, and I think that that’s more valuable than the amount I read. Quality > quantity.

Here’s what I’m currently reading, what I want to read, and what I hope to share my thoughts on in the (hopefully near) future:

Currently Reading

I need to get in the habit of reading only one book at a time. Seriously lol The ones I’m actually actively reading at this moment are Pachinko and A Song Below Water; the other three are currently put down for now.

TBR

Rereads

I never read the last two books in the Throne of Glass series or the last book in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series due to life several years ago being really rough for me, so I want to reread them from the beginning and actually finish them before I read Crescent City. As for Air Awakens, I never finished reading the last book, and when I tried to late last year I was so lost because it had been years since I read the fourth book and I couldn’t really remember what was going on.

Pretty much these rereads are just me not being able to finish series.

I plan on reading these over summer (though I don’t know how long the reread will take me as I have other books I also want to read), but I’m just going to go at my own pace and enjoy myself. No need to feel pressure to read some great books, right?


How was your reading habits over spring what with quarantine and other happenings in the world? What was your favorite read? Your most impactful? Did any make you feel a certain emotion strongly over others? Let me know all the things!

The Hate U Give | Book Review

Title: The Hate U Give
Author: Angie Thomas
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publish Date: February 28, 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Contemporary
Pages: 444
Format: Hardcover

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice.

I bought this book when it first came out and I didn’t read it until now. There was an incredible amount of hype behind it – and rightly so – but I just couldn’t bring myself to read it. A lot was going on in my personal life, but I knew I wanted to read it eventually.

And boy, am I finally glad I did. I started to read it at the height of the protests this past June, and I wanted to take it slow, so it wasn’t until almost a full month later that I started reading and couldn’t put it down. It’s such a fast, impactful read.

I’m just going to say it now: I really loved this book. It filled me with anger, sadness, relief, happiness, love, hope, disgust; pretty much a whole range of emotions. Let’s talk about my thoughts on the story itself:

First of all, the family aspect in this book is AMAZING! I never get to read a lot about family dynamics in any books I read, regardless if they’re YA, adult, middle grade, whatever. So being able to see such a strongly rooted family was so refreshing. I loved not just the relationship Starr has with her parents and siblings, but also her uncle and how he’s very much like a second father to her.

Of course, with this greatly tight-knit family comes the opposite for many of the other characters in Starr’s world, like her half-brother Seven’s mom and stepfather, or Khalil’s mom. There’s many sides to the dice, and I appreciated getting even just a glimpse into some of the other relationships some of the other characters had.

I felt sadness for Starr, not just because of what happened to Khalil right in front of her eyes (which is obviously tragic and horrible and no one should ever have to witness that), but also that she felt such a need to separate who she was depending on where she was: if she was in Garden Heights, she was one person; if she was at her school at Williamson, she was a completely different person, a held back version of herself. As the book goes through many ups and downs, Starr has many realizations about herself and the world and people around her, including one of her “friends.” I’m glad that she figures it out, to some degree, by the end as to who she is and where she fits in with all of it.

Reading about the gangs in the book kind of put in to perspective just how much gangs can be like a family to people, as well as how hard it can be to leave if you no longer want to be part of them. It can be scary, for sure, but it was also cool to see rival gangs come together for a similar purpose.

I felt that the whole journey that Starr took to reevaluate her stance on everything – her friend groups, her family, her race, everything – was handled really well and felt very real. I could see her struggle with it, especially when it came to opening up and being more vulnerable with her white boyfriend, Chris. I could see her struggle and how she really handled it with a lot of consideration and care for herself.

Of course, some of the hardest parts to read were her recounting the murder of her best friend. I almost cried at the very end of a chapter where she was recounting it in front of people and just her last sentence felt so impactful, so raw, so real, that I almost started to ball my eyes out because… wow. I’ll most likely never have to experience or think something like that ever in my life, and how she had to think that at 16? It hurts.

And how she had to call out one of her friends for having said several racist things over the years, and the white girl never admitted to it and would always play the victim. It was frustrating and I wanted to slap her, but I was also glad to see that there was also Chris, Starr’s boyfriend, who wanted to prove that he loves her for her, nothing else. It was nice to see.

Overall, this whole story is incredible. I’m not doing it justice by talking about it here (other than the fact that I’m rusty at these book reviews lol), but I can understand the hype, and I highly recommend you read this book – especially if you’re white – just to get a glimpse into the world Black people experience every day.

Also remember: Black Lives Matter, all day, every day.

★★★★★