Recently Read Books | the highest highs and the lowest lows

I’m so behind on reviews right now it’s not even funny, but here’s me trying to catch up at least a little! Most of these are books that I read over a month ago. Oops.

We’re all over the place here in terms of ratings! Some books I loved, some I strongly disliked. Let’s just dive in, shall we?

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Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

“The thing is, I never had a friend like Sohrab before. One who understood me without even trying. Who knew what it was like to be stuck on the outside because of one little thing that set you apart.”

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When Darius and his family find out that his grandfather is sick, they travel to Iran for the first time in Darius’ life. Though he feels out of place within his family and the culture that’s supposed to be his, a friendship with the neighbor boy, Sohrab, changes Darius for good.

This book deals with mental health (particularly Darius’ depression), family relationships, and heritage with so much heart. I absolutely adored the storyline of Darius’ relationship with Sohrab, since it perfectly captures that special and beautiful feeling of finding someone who understands you without even trying.

Darius struggles a lot with figuring out where he fits into his family and culture, since he doesn’t speak Farsi and often feels separate from the rest of them. The story is very focused on characters and relationships, which is something I always love. Even though they weren’t necessarily the focus of the story, I especially enjoyed Darius’ relationship with his mother and grandmother, which were so lovely and sweet.

I guess I kind of expected, going into this book, to be hit harder in the emotions. I got a little teary at the ending, but it was more of a “this is so beautiful and sad” kind of teary, not a “this book is putting into words something I’ve never been able to express before” kind of teary, if that makes sense. I really enjoyed it, even if it’s not a new favorite, and I’m excited to read the sequel!

Content warnings: depression, bullying, fatshaming, discussions of suicide

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4

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The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell

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A 21st-century time traveling thief goes back to 1902 to join a group of magical criminals in a heist to steal a book that will save magic in her timeline. At least, I think that’s what happens.

I wanted so badly to like this book. I wanted it so much that I predicted I would rate it 5 stars. Sadly, I did not.

From the beginning, I was dropped into this story and never felt like the author did much to make me care about the story or the characters. And that didn’t really change, since I never cared much about any of the characters — in fact, I disliked most of them. Not to mention that the book moved incredibly slowly. I kept waiting for something to happen that would grab my attention but it never came.

I also spent the entire book not really understanding the magic, which I guess is partly on me. But what rubbed me the wrong way was the sense that the author was trying way too hard to make a parallel between magic users in this world and other oppressed groups, essentially lumping them all together and not acknowledging any nuance. It’s one of those classic instances of “prejudice against magic people” as a metaphor for racism or xenophobia, without properly examining how those real life prejudices operate and exist. I didn’t enjoy it and I don’t plan to continue the series.

Content warnings: nonconsensual kiss, sexual assault, drug addiction, racism

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2

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Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert (Brown Sisters #2)

“Because the world wasn’t split into unhappy endings and happily ever afters. There were blessings everywhere and a thousand shades of joy all around him. Every shade should be savored.”

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Dani Brown doesn’t want romance. Zafir Ansari does. When a video of Zafir rescuing Dani during a fire drill goes viral, they decide to capitalize on their popularity (for the sake of Zaf’s nonprofit, of course) by faking a relationship.

We as a society need to go ahead and crown Talia Hibbert the queen of contemporary romance, because this book is an absolute delight. I loved Get a Life, Chloe Brown and I loved this one just as much (maybe even a tiny bit more??). The writing is sharp and hilarious, the characters are beautifully well-rounded and full of banter, and of course the relationship between Dani and Zaf is *chef’s kiss*.

Their dynamic was so much fun — Dani as the cynical workaholic who is terrified of commitment, and Zaf as the hopeless romantic who goes along with their fake relationship even though he knows it’s probably going to end horribly. I could not get enough of them. And, by the way, I’m ready at any time to drop everything and commit my life to appreciating Zafir Ansari. Because he deserves it.

Anyway, read the Brown sisters books for clear skin and a reminder that there is joy in the world.

Content warnings: depression, panic attack

goodreads | bookshop

4.5

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Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

“Not everyone wants love. I get that, you know? But me—I want to fall in love and be broken up with and get pissed and grieve and fall in love all over again.”

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When he starts receiving anonymous transphobic messages, Felix comes up with a plan for revenge, which involves catfishing the person he believes is attacking him. Nothing could possibly go wrong.

Usually with YA contemporaries, I’m not really in it for the plot — what I really care about is the characters and relationships. But this book also managed to achieve something that few contemporaries have: actually get me invested in the plot. I was gasping aloud at plot twists and trying to guess what would happen next, which rarely happens — and it felt good!

But of course, what I loved most about this book was, as usual, the characters and relationships. You know that quote from The Perks of Being a Wallflower, “We accept the love we think we deserve,” which I think about all the time? This entire book is essentially an examination of that concept, and it is brilliant.

Felix is one of those characters that you can’t help but root for, through his journey of realizing that he is worthy of love and respect. We follow him as he explores his identity, challenges himself, makes the wrong choices and hurts his loved ones and hurts himself and grows so much, and I couldn’t be more proud.

This book also has so much to say about intersectionality, inclusivity within queer spaces, why terfs suck, and more. I loved the little friend group that forms with Felix’s classmates, and his best friend Ezra is a sweetheart. Also, Leah is a queen were deserves so much appreciation.

Content warnings: transphobia, misgendering, bullying, drug use

goodreads | bookshop

4.5

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The Year Shakespeare Ruined My Life by Dani Jansen

In her quest to become valedictorian, Alison agrees to produce the school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, along with the many disasters that come with it.

Not gonna lie, this was rough. The experience of reading this book was endlessly frustrating, with so many tiny annoyances that I started getting angry about every little thing. The characters didn’t act or talk like real people, let alone real teenagers, and the main character had a serious case of not-like-the-other-girls syndrome.

The most frustrating part of reading this, though, was that there was no life to it. There was no depth, nothing happening underneath the surface, no reason for me to care what was going on. Things just happened, like they were plot points to check off a list, and I could not bring myself to care about any of it.

Not to mention there were a lot of weird messages about coming out, with characters guilt tripping each other, saying that you can’t really be in a relationship if you’re not out, which was uncomfortable. Also, Shakespeare had nothing to do with anything. The play could have been replaced with literally anything else and nothing would have changed.

Frankly, I would have DNF’ed this if it wouldn’t further wreck my NetGalley ratio. (Sequel idea: The Year The Year Shakespeare Ruined My Life Ruined My NetGalley Ratio. 🤔)

*ARC PROVIDED BY NETGALLEY IN EXCHANGE FOR AN HONEST REVIEW. QUOTES ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE.*

goodreads | bookshop

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Hahaha I spent an entire afternoon trying to write these reviews and I’m still not happy with them, why have all my braincells abandoned me 🙃 Anyway, thanks for reading.

Have you read any of these books? What books have you read recently?

x Margaret

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20 thoughts on “Recently Read Books | the highest highs and the lowest lows

  1. Don’t worry, Margaret. We all get times when writing doesn’t come as easily. I get frustrated with myself when that happens 💙
    Anyway, it’s still a great post, and I’m looking forward to reading Felix Ever After!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. i’m glad you enjoyed darius the great – it was one of my favorite reads of last year and i really liked how the author dealt with so many different topics, while still feeling very genuine and well written. i related a lot with the relationship between darius and his father, so it definitely hit closer to home.

    i recently finished take a hint dani brown too and i have to say the humor was just… i think i’m not familiarized with british humor, hahah. it was quite weird how they’d constantly say: “i hate you and i hope you die” but like make it humorous, lol. i feel like without context you wouldn’t really now when they were joking around or fighting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, absolutely — the way the difficult topics were dealt with in Darius the Great was so well done.
      Ahaha I can certainly understand not enjoying the humor of Dani Brown when you put it like that. Like you said, it is very British! I personally enjoyed it, but I can easily see how you wouldn’t.

      Like

  3. Lovely reviews, Margaret ❤ I really loved Darius, I thought it was such a lovely read and ahh, I just want to protect Darius with all I have ❤ and I 'm so eager to read Felix Ever After, it sounds SO good!

    Liked by 1 person

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