Little Pills is a novel written in verse, following a seventeen-year-old teen with her drug addiction. I found the novel to be creative in its delivery and I couldn’t put it down even though I wasn’t in love with the writing.
What’s surprisingly good is that in a small number of
pages, the author developed several characters and relationships; most
characters made me feel something. There’s a solid backstory to the characters,
and it highlights how drug addiction cannot be extracted from the environment.
Having said that, towards the ending, my emotional investment faded — something
was missing, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. It could easily be the
one-note direction of character development, that although interesting, was
As a novel in verse, I have to consider (even more
than usual) the style of writing. Overall, it was rushed and nowhere near fresh.
I’d consider this to be an early draft, with the layout put to structure, but
not yet embellished with writing. Many poems brushed the surface of
conversations and didn’t delve as deep into the character as I would’ve liked.
Moreover, formatting was somewhat basic, especially when it comes to several
ALL CAPS sentences to show anger. It doesn’t help convey the anger, it only
makes me want to skip to next page. At some points, it becomes the author
writing poems to tell us a story, and it rarely feels as if it’s the main
character talking to the paper, which is a huge loss in a first-person novel in
To sum up, I’m on the fence about this novel. Although I discussed several negative points, at the end of the day, I still enjoyed reading it. Rated as average, I consider that it was worth reading, but I wouldn’t quite recommend it to friends. I’ll leave it in your hands to decide with this one.
I received an Advanced Review Copy from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review
Damage is a collection of 16 fiction short stories that take place in Indian Societies, both in India and elsewhere. The overarching theme of this book is how those who cause harm to others have grown up damaged. Dark tones progress along the book, from extramarital affairs and gun violence to rape.
The book delivers what it promises. The reader is shown realistic and believable sections of Indian society as Manco writes parts of dialogues in native language[s] to make the characters as authentic as possible. While doing so, the author also embellishes the prose with rich vocabulary and fascinating images. However, stringing pretty words is not sufficient in storytelling.
I enjoyed most plots, yet they felt artificially construed. The characters did not go through sufficient development within the stores, and I felt that these characters were created to show us a story that Manco wants us to see. It was only until the last few stories that I truly enjoyed reading. My favourite was the 11th, “Palindrome”, which started, continued and ended poetically. I’d have loved the whole book to contain a similar structure in which the main premise doesn’t drown the flow of the story — especially in the cases when the story’s rushed with time jumps at every other paragraph.
Along with the previous
point, the characters lacked depth. The author provides us with a description
of physical appearances but fails to create personalities that would stick with
the readers. Moreover, the physical descriptions of each character were
freakishly objectified and sexualised. Arguably, most stories involved love
affairs and sexual intimacy; but this objectification at times is described by
those characters who would be children when they ‘observe’ such things.
One of my other issues with this book is its strong suit: the eloquent writing. Undoubtedly, Poornima Manco is skilful, using a varied repertoire of vocabulary. This is an unfortunate choice when this voice doesn’t suit the narrative. I found it off-putting, distancing me from the main character. Moreover, adverbs and adjectives weakened various paragraphs. In addition, I noticed a few breaks in point-of-view, but an average reader might turn a blind-eye to these.
Overall, Damage is a collection of okay stories and a few hidden gems. Although the themes are gruesome, the realism in each story comes across easily. If you can get past these few pet peeves of mine, I’m confident you’d enjoy the writing. I also think this collection would be particularly interesting to the Indian community as the subtle social criticism may be quite striking.
I received a free Review Copy from Reedsy in exchange for an honest review.
I am a huge fan of the film, and having watched it numerous times, I felt it was time I read the novel that it is based upon. To my surprise, there were quite a number of differences throughout, and not just the ending. The characters not only have much more depth, but they’re presented differently and more authentic to the experience they’re put in.
The premise of the story
is that Pat, who is put into a mental facility for an indeterminate amount, is
taken out to live with his parents. He’s doing his best to win back his estranged
wife, Nikki, who he hasn’t seen since the incident that he doesn’t remember. He
works out most of the day to get back into shape and spends a lot of time
reading English literature — specifically the books Nikki teaches to her students.
At the same time, he does his best to win back his father’s approval and gain
back a relationship with his brother Jake.
I love this book because
Pat’s point-of-view is written well; we are able to understand his reasoning as
much as he does, and much better than those around him. The main difference
between the film and the book, without giving much spoilers, is that the film is
much more based on romance, as to what I remember, where this is more personal
and about Pat’s recovery. It always has been — but the book shows is much more.
Society may have a
generalised view on mental health, and I think this book portrays it so
realistically. A lot of the suffering may come from not from mental illness
itself, but rather how others, especially close family and friends, treat others
differently. One of my favourite aspects is not that Pat is mentally ill and
everyone else is stable; but really, everyone has their flaws and issues. It
becomes evident in Pat’s friendship with Tiffany, in which they bond in unusual
activities (running all day without talking) and how they’re both treated similarly
by their family. Pat’s household doesn’t come short on this aspect — his
father avoids speaking with him and has had experience of angry outburst; his mother
is constantly crying and upset. These elements are what makes living with
mental health so real; they don’t necessarily need labels or stereotypical
symptoms, but they interweave themselves in the intricacies of daily life and
The story follows a similar outline to the film and is quite pleasant to follow. Reading the book, I was expecting to know the story, and I was still enjoying it on a new level. However, I discovered so many differences, especially with how the last quarter of the book progresses, that it’s almost a novel experience; I had no idea what would happen. This elevated my experience and I recommend this book to be read. There’s not much lost if you’ve previously watched the film. I’m sure I’ll keep on remembering this novel as one of my favourite stories that I’ve ever read or watched.
I’m a huge fan of the Don Tillman series, having read and loved the previous books (The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect). Unsurprisingly, this book lived up to my high expectations. The story continues around eleven years later, with Don and Rosie’s child, Hudson, no longer a newborn.
The Rosie Result brings a
fresh angle to the series, with Don Tillman now being a father facing career trouble
due to public outrage. Don is seen through a lens of autism due to the
particular way he does things and he’s pressured by others to identify himself
as autistic. Moreover, his son is facing issues at school, with the threat of
being rejecting from high school due to the frequent meltdowns.
What’s great about this
book is that it provides an authentic, autistic perspective. In this case, the
narrator (i.e. Don, the father) can identify with the son and understand the
issues that he encounters at school. They both experience the pressure from the
neurotypical majority to fit in and change their behaviour. This shifts the
focus from the neurotypical perspective that autistic people are abnormal to
the genuine experience of how autistic minds work, and how the neurotypical
majority create a hostile environment, requiring others to fit in.
In the book, Don says
something that struck me:
“Neurotypicals criticised autistic people for lacking empathy — towards them — but seldom made any effort to improve their empathy towards autistic people.”
This book celebrates
neurodiversity and is a great learning tool for parents, educators, psychologists
and the likes. It brings awareness that what neurotypicals is best might be
counterproductive. As an autistic person, it gave me a lot to think about, to
process about how frequently I feel like I don’t belong, and that after all, I
am not the problem — society’s lack of flexibility is.
Apart from the autistic
aspect, the story is extremely engaging, and has Don’s charm written all over
it. I enjoyed it even more than the previous two books — which I had rated as
five-stars each. The writing is well-researched and there are multitudes of
personalities and characters that grow and change so well across time. They are
quite representational and include am impeccable variety of characters, such as
Gary the homeopath who refuses to immunise his children. There’s a warm sensation
in how Don looks at the world and how he assumes honesty from others and adds
to the narrational charm he possesses.
There are several reasons why I’d recommend this book. It’s a great fictional and literary work. The representation is genuine. Characters are well-developed. And, I believe, one doesn’t need to have read the previous two books to follow this story, although I would obviously suggest reading at least The Rosie Project as it helps us fall deeper in love with Don’s charisma.
I have received an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for an honest review. The book will be published in the UK on 4th April 2019, and can be preordered here: The Rosie Result
The Poet X is an
incredible book. It’s a novel told through the poems of the main character,
Xiomara, a Latin-American teen living in a Harlem neighbourhood. We’re taken on
a journey of coming of age. Xiomara is questioning her Catholic faith, which is
very dear to her mother. She’s starting to catch feelings for a guy. Even
though she’s tough on the outside, she’s mellow inside and her beautiful poetry
is a testament to this, even though she doesn’t let anyone read or listen.
I have only good things
to say about this book. First of all, the format is quite fresh. It’s not the
first time we’re told a story through diary or journal entries, but this book
takes it on a new level. The poems are given attention, they’re polished, they
have form and they vary appropriately to show story and character.
Reading the poems, I’ve
cried several times. The poems that touched me the most were her relationship
with her mother, and how the change of faith in her religion has affected the
relationship drastically. It’s as if Xiomara is actually the author and I’m
reading a non-fiction poetry collection about her life. Too real, too touching.
Authentic in a way I could relate to. And the way she finds a voice in her
poems—it teaches us the true power of poetry and its necessity to our psyche.
There’s not enough high-praise I can do for this book. It just might be the best book I’ve read yet. I strongly recommend this; it’s quite empowering and can only imagine the strength of the impact it will have on younger people. Writers, especially poets, should not skip on reading this either. It’s the kind of book I’d reread and want to have permanently (as I do) on my shelf.
Hazel is a sixteen-year-old with a terminal cancer, undergoing treatment that prolongs her life. She’s tired of going to support group whose leader is all about “living our best life, today”. In one of the sessions Augustus Waters, a teenage boy who had lost a leg but was free from cancer, joins the group. As Augustus comes closer to Hazel, she pushes him away, not wanting to scar him when she inevitably passes away.
The overall plot is decent. The author did show me well enough everyone’s conditions, their limitations in every day activities, like Augustus not being the best driver because of his leg. However, something felt quite artificial while reading. The dialogues were unusual. In a way, the dialogues converged into nihilism so often, it felt like it was a monotone author rather than the characters having their own voice.
Hazel and Augustus are sixteen-years-old, but it feels as if their minds are decades older. Their way-of-speaking and articulation is a barrier to me immersing myself in the story. And that’s a shame—I’m unable to empathise with them or their love because they are simply puzzle pieces that the author plays around to fit inside the book.
Not wanting to sound too harsh, I should be clearer. It’s not a bad novel. I managed to read through it with mild curiosity. It’s enjoyable, but at the same time, there is a lot of untapped potential. In fact, I’ve rated this 3/5 stars on Goodreads. Since this book is a best-selling novel, I’m really eager to hear feedback/opinions from my own readers, and whether you guys think differently about this.
Nina Aquilina travels back to her homeland, Malta, to visit her ageing parents who had previously disowned her. The stay turns out to be somewhat unexpected, as she finds out that Malta is where diseased spirits go to heal and move on to another stage in life. She talks with the spirits and drinks beer with Jesus while trying to find her identity and culture that she has left behind in her youth.
The story embodies Maltese culture beautifully. Caroline Smailes immersed herself into the character and allowed the reader to experience something unique. Although Nina is Maltese, her establishing a family in England and being disowned by her parents had led to her loss in faith and culture. The re-exploration of her identity allows readers who are not familiar with Malta to be introduced to the rich culture. Dialogues include a few Maltese words, and the story occurs in historically rich locations and includes local cuisine. These are all aptly described in a way that connects you the story better.
Something I particularly liked was the rhythm of the story. It had hints of monotone and repetition, especially when describing sounds. The presentation of the book was also quite different. Although some reviewers disliked this style, I found it effective in aiding the concept of not being encapsulated by time. There’s a lack of urgency and it adds to the effect of identity diffusion. This monotony also helped me relate to Nina easier. I could focus on Nina’s depressive ambience, rather than complicated and bombastic writing.
It’s a two-edged sword almost. A technique that contributes to the magical story-telling can be interpreted as alienating writing, depending on the reader. Especially in the case of Nina, a person wouldn’t be so attentive and selfless to observe all around her, but rather focus on who is speaking, and it is a rare occasion I forgive the abundant use of dialogue tags. I am convinced that the writer did this intentionally (just a hunch).
The novel included a few chapters from the point-of-view of two spirits (or ghosts, whatever you want to call them). In the paperback version, their pages have a black border. This is a subtle difference (it is not distracting) to distinguish between Nina and the particular ghost’s point-of-view. However, their chapters did break the pace.
Personally, I really liked Tilly’s character and chapters, but, this almost had a drawback when I went back to Nina’s point-of-view. Although it was interesting, and I’d love to read a whole book from Tilly’s personality, I feel the author went too much into her life and away from Nina’s story. I didn’t particularly enjoy that dissociation.
Flavia Bellini’s part—not sure what to say about it. As a reader who was brought up in the Maltese-Catholic background, I was already quite familiar with the cultural and religious context. Thus, Flavia’s part was personally too long and somewhat boring. It’s a historic, religious story, repeated within this novel. I didn’t particularly find it useful within the story, at least not for the length that it took. That section did distract me from the main story, but perhaps it was pivotal considering Nina’s religious background and her attempt at rediscovering her identity and tracing religion along that line.
I read the book in a short span of time, which is a great sign. I’ve rated the novel 4/5 stars (I really liked it) on Goodreads. Most of my good ratings are influenced by impeccable character depth and/or outstanding writing. Like Bees to Honey is a unique work, and I judged it on a different scale, almost. Its storytelling sets it off from anything I have read previously, and that gets bonus stars on itself. I transported myself into the story quickly, empathising with Nina early on.
I even shed tears by the third chapter, and a book had never done that before. It’s a combination of great storytelling and similarities between Nina and I. The shame that Nina brought to her Catholic family for getting pregnant outside marriage is similar to what I felt when I came out as gay. Consequently, both Nina and I had lost our identities, and perhaps, this was one of the reasons I could immediately understand some of Nina’s experiences.
Overall, it was quite a pleasant read, significantly unique and deserves a place on your bookshelf (do read it with an open mind).
A few months into their marriage, Rosie announces her pregnancy. Don Tillman does not feel prepared for this unplanned event, and has serious doubts about his ability to be father. He embarks on a project on learning how to be a father, while simultaneously managing a social world bigger than he’s ever had. Can their marriage survive with the addition of a third person to the family?
This book was another easy read after The Rosie Project. I had high praise for the first novel, and I can only give better praise to the second. I’ve read several reviews which consider this to be a disappointing sequel. I suspect that they fell in love with the ‘romantic-comedy’ feel of the first book, which is less present here. I’m a reader who fell in love with the characterisation and genuine portrayals, as you will soon read.
The best thing about the first novel was Don’s character. For those who haven’t read my previous review or The Rosie Project, Don is a geneticist professor with undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome. His friends have become accustomed to his lack of social skills, but this often leads him into trouble with strangers, including the police and airport officials. His unique way-of-thinking is marvellous and charming (to me), and I find a home in his portrayal. Consequently, I feel the pain of his social failures and the lack of understanding the world has.
As I’ve also said in the previous review, this series is based upon character arcs and great writing. The events that happen in this book are more interesting than the first, and once again, quite unique and pertaining to Don Tillman. The author makes us believe that some of these unusual events that wouldn’t happen to most of us, do indeed take place, because Don’s life is a predicament of unpredictability emerging from his heavily-structured life.
This time around, the novel has juggled my emotions as if they were a clown’s toy. The Rosie and Don relationship is constantly a central relationship to the series, and it progresses to a new level with the expectation of their baby. Their family would now have to include two more relationships: Rosie-baby and Don-baby relationship, which would alter theirs. Furthermore, Gene and Claudia, friends of Don, had split and Don tries to fix their problem. Dave and Sonia, who are Don’s friends and also pregnant, struggle with their relationship and business as well. The interplay of all these relationships is done beautifully, with each person contributing different advice and experiences to the story.
An easy 5/5 stars rating. I loved this book even more than the first in the series. The portrayal of Don is believable and exquisitely exciting. There is no predictability with what will happen in the lives of Don and those around him. And to those who negatively reviewed the book and said that the novel is problematic for not clearly stating that Don is autistic, I have one thing to say. Many adults (and children) are undiagnosed, and Don is a great depiction of this, as he is not controlled by any therapy or institution to behave like neurotypical individuals.
The following review contains some spoilers, especially relevant to the first book of the series, Freedom’s Fate. This review has been previously published on Steemit around two months ago, and have recently realised that I have not published it here.
Beyond Freedom is the second book in a series, a sequel to the sci-fi novel Freedom’s Fate (click to read my review). The remaining crew of the ship Freedom have landed onto a moon, and they have to try and make it habitable for them. This includes finding edible food and drinks, as they have finite supplies that they brought with them. Upon exploring for resources, they meet indigenous creatures, without any knowledge of these species. An interesting adventure lies ahead.
I gave this book a rating of 4/5 stars. I loved reading it, and was a great follow-up to Freedom’s Fate, but it had a very few shortcomings.
The sci-fi setting is interesting, although there is a huge change between the first and second book. Whereas I was used to a structured interstellar ship, now, we find ourselves into an unknown, habitable moon, with almost no knowledge of it and its inhabitants. From a writing perspective, the writer is not limited to anything; flora, fauna, completely new ecosystem. At first I thought it was going to be a predictable story line, but it soon picked up and went into something unexpected. I really enjoyed the story, and although I felt the author was risking going into cliché plots, she did not. Yes, there are certain events that occur that seem to be “too perfect”, but sometimes these are just illusions.
We are already accustomed to most characters by the end of the first book, although some characters become more prominent in this one. I think there was a good variety of characters. I had loved the depth of personalities in the first book, and one of my favourite relationships was that between Bao and Callie. Their relationship was authentic and it was lovely to have that depth of character relationship that was not tied within the plot itself. On the other hand, I did find Callie’s constant worries about herself and Anna to be a little frustrating. This was quite a relevant theme in the first book, although it seems to be a little out of place at times.
Back to the array of personalities, Shauna’s hot-headed and impulsiveness counterbalanced Callie’s personality well. These are small things which I enjoy; diversity done well and feels authentic. Especially as the context had changed drastically, each person depends on one another more. A community always depends on teamwork, but when it becomes to a smaller community, teamwork is that much more essential to the function of the community. Thus, the mix of personalities makes the tasks of teamwork interesting, especially for a leader who needs everyone to be on board.
This was a point I had done in my review for the first book as well. I find that the book can be interpreted in a critical way to modern society. This, more than anything, might be attributed to me and the way I read things, so it might not be the same for other readers, and might have not been the author’s scope.
So, apart from the main group, in the story (without giving too much), we encounter societies of other species. In a way, they can be paralleled to types of communities or societies, and I find fictional settings to relate in such way. For instance, religion has been predominant throughout human history. Having said that, it appears in many shapes and forms, and although the word ‘religion’ may signify a meaning, you will have no idea on how these species act or behave. In a way, the rituals were somewhat parallel to human forms of ritual. It worked well to give an identity and volume to the particular species, but at the same time failed my expectations of unlimited imagination and possibilities. We often say that history repeats itself; and this made me wonder whether there is a pattern that is repeatable across species, planets, universes, or whatever.
I hope to have reviewed the book well, although my tired mental activity might have impaired me in writing coherently while capturing the essence of the book. I am in love with this series, and this book was a great sequel. Two weeks ago, I let the author know some of my opinions about the book, and I am positive that some of the minor stuff might have been edited and improved by now or soon. That kind of author only makes me love their work more; because they are open to feedback and care about us readers. I would suggest that you go read the first book, and if you love that, it’s a no-brainer to read Beyond Freedom as well.
Trigger Warning: This review contains elements of sexual assault, depression, suicide attempt and PTSD.
Malachi is the son of a celebrity Baptist pastor. He’s a genius and a well-behaved Christian boy; all that his parents could ever hope for. However, he no longer believes in god and starts to realise he’s gay. When his father starts suspecting the latter, he sends Malachi to a conversion camp. Although the boy knows his sexuality cannot be changed by reason, he fears that indoctrination might change the person he is. He’d have to find out after the camp was complete.
As the story is something a reader must experience on his own, I avoid using spoilers and will focus on other aspects. Malachi is brought to life immediately, with a well-forged character identity. The first few chapters set a clear picture of who Malachi is at home and at school. It also builds the world in which Malachi lives: school, family, religion. Apart from the characters being extremely real, the whole story almost feels like if it were non-fiction; that’s how much the author Damian Jay Clay has succeeded in making me believe this story.
Graphic and Heavy Language
The realness aspect of the story is aided heavily by graphic and emotionally-heavy language. This is especially present in episode of PTSD or sexual assault, which one may feel uncomfortable or distressed while reading. Having said that, I managed to read through the novel (an average of a chapter or two a day) without feeling distressed. I assume that this is partly due to Malachi’s perspective and his strength and resilience. Hence, the author equips the reader with the same resilient and strong mindset of the protagonist.
The book appropriately addresses the dangers that LGBTQ+ youth experience. Many kids experience physical and/or sexual abuse from relatives or religious figures because of their sexual orientation or gender expression. Moreover, this often leads to issues in mental health, such as depression, anxiety, PTSD and higher rates of self-harm and suicidal attempts. As harrowing as this sounds, the book grounds these issues in an extremely real story and humane characters.
There are two things this novel could be useful for:
Teens and young adults who are going through similar issues may find a way to cope and fight back during their struggles.
LGBTQ+ or ally individuals will be able to understand a reality beyond their experience. Hence, when we think of what needs to be done in the community, we can empathise and acknowledge suffering that we could currently be blind to.
This novel deserves the full five-star rating. The author has clearly researched and dove into this novel with his heart and mind and delivered an exceptional novel. The development of the story was consistently intriguing, and the characters were believable. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in this story or topic, but caution to put first your mental health and don’t rush through if it may seem distressing.