Audiobook Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

I wanted to tell them that I’d never had a friend, not ever, not a real one. Until Dante. I wanted to tell them that I never knew that people like Dante existed in the world, people who looked at the stars, and knew the mysteries of water, and knew enough to know that birds belonged to the heavens and weren’t meant to be shot down from their graceful flights by mean and stupid boys. I wanted to tell them that he had changed my life and that I would never be the same, not ever.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz has been on my radar since it first came out–not only because it has won so many awards and is lauded by many, but also because my summer book club picked it a few years ago. I didn’t read it then because I had required reading fatigue (it’s a thing I tend to get every summer), but I knew I would get back to it eventually. Well, eventually came this year once I found out Lin-Manuel Miranda (of Hamilton fame) did the narration for the audiobook.



The plot of the book is pretty straight-forward: Aristotle (who goes by Ari) is a lonely 15-year-old who befriends Dante one day at the swimming pool. Then, you know, life and stuff happens. Big life and big stuff. I am avoiding spoilers here, obviously.

What I Liked

– First and foremost, this is a friendship novel. I LOVE FRIENDSHIP STORIES. They make me happy. Friendships can be easy and challenging and hard and beautiful, and that’s exactly what happens here.

– Dante is pretty fantastic. He’s such a great character: open, honest, frustrating, angry, challenging. He’s just so earnest! Ah, it’s adorable.

– Ari is pretty great, too. He’s the narrator, so the reader is more privy to his thoughts, and he is struggling to find his place in the world. I liked that he is pretty much just doing what comes next like a checklist for life, even if he isn’t sure what he wants yet. I think that’s pretty accurate for how many teens do things.

– This is a kissing book. Lots of talk of kissing here. Lots of kissing happening, too. I approve.

– THE PARENTS. Both boys’ parents are excellent. They are supremely flawed human beings who are doing the best they can, which means they screw up sometimes but that they love their kids so, so much–and the narrative acknowledges it. Also, Dante’s father is an English professor, so that automatically raises his level of awesome for me.

– Gina Navarro and Sophie (I can’t remember her last name). These are girls Ari grew up with who drive him insane but also love him a super lot and force him to participate in life stuff. At first, I was jarred by their presence, but I really like how they challenged him and how he came to see their place in his life.

– So basically all of the characters were great is what I’m saying.

– THE ENDING. I 100% love the ending to this book, and that’s what took me from liking it to really liking it. And when I say the ending, I don’t mean the last chapter. I mean pretty much the whole last act, starting from the moment Ari’s parents sit him down for a heart-to-heart until the very, very end. It was pretty much perfection.

– The dialogue is super realistic and I loved, loved, loved any time the characters were talking to and interacting with each other. I could pretty much see every single one of those scenes playing out in front of me. They were so great.

– One of the running threads through the book is this idea of being a “real” Mexican. I loved that exploration of the boys’ identities and how the idea is tied into not only cultural expectations but also outside stereotypes. It’s really well handled and Saenz is subtle in how he completely and most emphatically states that the only thing that makes someone a real Mexican is being Mexican. Love.

– Lin-Manuel Miranda is A+ as a narrator. I would listen to another book he reads. Also, he can definitely roll his r’s. I tried over and over to say Bernardo the way he does, and it just wasn’t happening. I also don’t speak Spanish, so you know.

What I Didn’t Like

– I thought this was a summer book. It’s not. When Ari went back to school, I was so confused and a little upset. This is all about my expectations as a reader, but it is what it is.

– I am pretty sure Ari is depressed throughout most of the novel (thought it’s never explicitly stated), and that’s fine. He’s also a pretty interior character, which is also fine. However, what that meant for huge chunks of the novel is that Ari is completely in his head and most of what he thinks is expressed in negatives. There is a lot of “I don’t know why I did this” and “I don’t know why this” and “I didn’t say anything, but” or “I didn’t ask him this.” Those moments (and there are A LOT of them) made the narration and the story drag.

Also, one thing I was taught when I studied creative writing was not to describe what a character doesn’t do and so I am hyper aware of when an author does it.

Those moments may have played out better in the text than in the audio, but just imagine listening to someone tell you for five minutes straight all the things they didn’t do in a given situation. It would get real old real fast.

On the plus side, it did make the moments of dialogue and character interaction that much more enjoyable, so.

In conclusion: A really powerful look at friendship, family, and love with great characters and an excellent ending.

Source: Library




It’s Monday & Tropical Storm Colin is ruining my plans

I should be at the gym is what I’m saying. But no. Bands of rain with squall lines are coming through. RUDE.

This past week, I read:

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the UniverseAristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars, rounding up

Great characters, EXCELLENT ending. Also, Lin-Manuel Miranda is an A+ narrator. Will review on the blog.


Royal Day Out: A From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess e-shortRoyal Day Out: A From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess e-short by Meg Cabot
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I. Love. Grandmère.

That is all.


Kill the Boy BandKill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I made it about 1/3 of the way through this book and just could not bring myself to pick it back up again.

I find all of the characters grossly offensive and problematic on pretty much every level. If the author was aiming for satire, she missed. By a lot.

View all my reviews


As of today, I’m reading:

Dear Bill, Remember Me? by Norma Fox Mazer

I am still making my way through my library book sale finds, so I started Dear Bill, Remember Me? and Other Stories by Norma Fox Mazer last night. It’s a definite palate cleanser after Kill the Boy Band.

I’m currently listening to some podcasts so my audiobook adventures are on hold for now. However, I’m going to have to start packing soon (as in, I should have started yesterday), so I should really get on finding my next read.

Hosted by Kathryn @ The Book Date. Children's lit version hosted by Jen Vincent @ Teach Mentor Texts & Kellee Moye @ Unleashing Readers.
Hosted by Kathryn @ The Book Date. Children’s lit version hosted by Jen Vincent @ Teach Mentor Texts & Kellee Moye @ Unleashing Readers.

Happy reading, everyone!

Book Review: The Blood of Olympus

The Blood of Olympus by Rick RiordanWell, that was just delightful.

The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan is the last book in the Heroes of Olympus/Percy Jackson series, and while I will miss the characters, I did enjoy this last installment.

There was much to like here! BUT. I will concede that the final battle was a smidge rushed, and I do wish we had seen a little bit more from all of the narrators. However, I know the latter would have been pretty impossible, and I do feel as though all of the characters’ journeys/narrative arcs were sufficiently wrapped up and satisfactory.

So, here is what I did like a lot:

– Reyna. I love her. She is proud and strong but also a little lonely.

– Leo. Of course. I love him. This is well-documented.

– Piper. GUYS. THIS IS HUGE. I spent most of the books in this series totally annoyed by Piper, and I actually really liked her in this book. I LIKE PIPER NOW. I am confused but also happy.

– Annabeth and Piper’s relationship. There’s a whole scene about how sometimes logic is best and other times going with your gut/feelings is best, and so the two girls learn to work together and trust one another and then they’re FRIENDS and COMRADES, and it gives me a happy.

– Oh, and also Reyna, Annabeth, and Piper get to pow wow and be amazing together as well. YAY FOR FEMALE FRIENDSHIPS! Yay for varied levels of badassery and acknowledgement of the different ways one can be a total badass.

Continue reading “Book Review: The Blood of Olympus”

Book Review: The Selection

The Selection by Kiera CassWhen I picked up The Selection by Kiera Cass (336 pages), it was exactly what I needed at the time: something fluffy and light. Plus, look at that cover with the pretty, pretty dresses. Yep. Just what I needed.

Basic plot: the prince is having a contest (run reality TV style) to find his next bride. Sort of like Cinderella crossed with The Bachelor. The POV character, America, is chosen, but she has a boyfriend back home so she is none too happy about it–except being one of the selected means her family gets compensated and it changes their lives.

What I Liked

– I loved the romance between America and Maxon. I loved how they get to know each other and find ways to break rules within the game to spend more and more time together. Mostly, I liked that they build a friendship (especially because America insists she could never, ever love Maxon what with her true love Aspen back home) and create an alliance to keep her in the game.

– America’s sister is pretty great.

– America’s relationship with her maids.

– Maxon. What a great dude. Swoonworthy BECAUSE he is so kind and thoughtful and open to learning what his subjects experience.

– I loved the set up of how/why America was chosen. Totally believable.

What I Didn’t Like

–  I don’t get why this has to be a dystopian thing. Just…why? I think the conceit of the novel (a contest to pick the prince’s next bride) works on its own without the other extraneous rebels and blah blah stuff I care nothing about. I mean, sure, okay, the caste system sets up the whole dumb Aspen pride thing and that Maxon cares about the people. Fine. The backdrop of the war shows why diplomacy in picking the next bride counts. Fine, but not really necessary. Politics are politics, yes? But there was a whole lot of other stuff that just made me roll my eyes and took me out of enjoying the fact that THE PRINCE USES A REALITY TV CONTEST TO PICK HIS BRIDE. Doesn’t that already have high enough stakes? Isn’t that enough?

I would’ve liked the book more without the other stuff is what I’m saying. Because it’s about a prince that uses a reality TV contest to pick his bride.

– Aspen is THE WORST. Ugh. The fact that he’s even a viable love interest makes me want to set things on fire. Am I supposed to be torn between Aspen and Maxon? Because no. No contest. None whatsoever.

– Her name is America Singer. Is her middle name Liberty or did I just make that up? Because, wow, cheesy. And I love a good corny name, but still. (Did I mention her family are all performers? I like that it’s a callback to when people’s last names and professions matched, though. So maybe file that under Goofy Things about the Novel.)

– Seriously, though, Aspen sucks so hard.


– Like, I am genuinely concerned that teen girls out there may think he’s awesome and that depresses me. Because he is the worst. In case that wasn’t clear.

In conclusion: A fun romance with an interesting premise. Too bad about the distracting dystopian elements, though.


Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I Would Crush On

This week’s topic is characters I would crush on if I were also a fictional character. I decided to keep it fair and do half literary boyfriends and half literary girlfriends. Links go to my reviews or author pages.

I. Book Boyfriends: Keeping in mind that this list is probably a lie because most of these are YA characters, and, when I was a teen, I usually had crushes on the wrong guys.

What Peeta looks like in my head

1. Matt Miller (Angry Management by Chris Crutcher): He is such a great kid. He does the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. Period. I find that an incredibly important quality. Which is why I love him.

2. Peeta (The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins): Peeeeeta. He bakes bread! He sounds like he gives great hugs. He’s clever and smart, and he’s tall and blond and strong. (I always picture him as looking like Bright from Everwood, btw.) I know people don’t like Peeta, and I really don’t understand it. I mean, I kind of get it after the third book, but I don’t understand how people don’t love first book Peeta. He is adorable.

3. Michael Moscovitz (The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot): Ahhh, Michael Moscovitz is my number one book boyfriend. He is freaking brilliant, he likes the awkward girl, and he smells great. And he leaves to prototype a robot arm to prove himself worthy of her. I mean, COME ON. ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

4. Neville Longbottom (Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling): Neville is just the best. He is brave and smart. He works hard to overcome his fears, and then he explodes into a self-actualized man of badassery. Neville!

5. Leo Valdez (Heroes of Olympus by Rick Riordan): My love of Leo has been welldocumented here. Basically, he needs a hug. Also, he is funny and clever and loyal.

So, hmm. Clever and loyal and smart seem to be the repeating terms here. Also, not one sporty guy among them. Like I said, not true to my teenage self. However, as a grown woman, these are the ones I love. Though, to be fair to me, I probably would have had a crush on Leo or Peeta as a teen if they were real, so. Also props to Michael for being the kind of guy who would probably kind of dig me. Maybe.

II. Book Girlfriends: I have a definite type when it comes to book girlfriends. I like ‘em kind of, well, ditzy. With the exception of Tina, most of these girls are completely guileless and unaffected. They are also super sweet and just…awesome. I don’t know how to explain it. I love them. Also, it probably doesn’t hurt that they’re gorgeous. Just saying.

6. Tina Hakim Baba (The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot): I love Tina Hakim Baba so much. SO MUCH. I wish there were words that could express the love I have for her, but, basically, she is the best. She’s super sweet, she’s not ashamed of the things she enjoys, she’s brilliant, and all she ever wanted was a friend. Tina! I love you! (Okay, and honestly, I want her to be my best friend, but I feel any list would be incomplete without her.)

7. Meghan (Ruby Oliver series by E. Lockhart): She’s so sweet. A little clueless, yes, But super sweet. She loves with her whole heart, and, again, just wants a friend.

8. Lulu (Airhead series by Meg Cabot): I loved her the most in the first book when she told Em how vulnerable boys and their feelings are. Again, loyal, sweet, and smarter than she looks.

9. Chrissy Everstar (My Fair Godmother series by Janette Rallison): Okay, I don’t even know why Chrissy is on this list because she’s a mess, and she would ruin my life. But I guess I would have fun on the ride, yes? All girlfriends can’t be wife material.

10. Vivica the Supermodel (The Boy Series by Meg Cabot): Vivica was my first book girlfriend. She speaks in all caps, which would be annoying in anyone else but is oddly endearing in her. She is super sweet, though! And she loves her friends!

So, yes. It seems my criteria for book girlfriends = super sweet and in need of a friend. Also, I think all of them (except for Lulu and Tina) are blond. Make of that what you will.

I find it kind of ironic that all of my literary girlfriends are the exact type of girl I get mad at the guy for picking on TV because of my own issues with being the not-as-cute-friend of the girl all the boys like. Apparently, if I were a boy (or a lesbian), those are the girls I would pick. Come on, self. Where are the brash, sarcastic, slightly closed off girls on my list? Sigh.

Who’s on your list?

Book Review: The Mark of Athena

Seriously, these monsters and gods were thousands of years old. Couldn’t they take a few decades off and let Percy live his life?

Mark of Athena by Rick RiordanI’m saying, though. Poor Percy. Finally reunited with Annabeth and, of course, the stupid gods and monsters are ruining everything. Typical.

So, Mark of Athena! Third book in The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan! In list form!

  1. The title is an obvious tip-off that this book would heavily feature Annabeth and feature her it did. It was so, so nice to get a glimpse inside of her head. I love Annabeth. She’s so great.
  2. LEO! Leo is one of the point of view characters. As has been well-established, I love Leo. A lot. He’s underage, but since he’s fictional, I am upgrading him from cute adorable kid whose cheeks I want to pinch to literary boyfriend. Because if I were a 15/16-year-old girl, I would be so in love with Leo. Therefore, he is now a literary boyfriend.
  3. Leo’s interactions with Annabeth are A+. First, he thinks of her as the scary blond girl, which is just fantastic. Because we all know you don’t want to mess with Annabeth. Second, they get along well with their love of gadgetry and figuring things out. So even though Annabeth is the scary blond girl, they are actually friends.
  4. I liked the focus on the gifts the kids have that aren’t superpowers. I mean, yes, Jason can fly, Percy can manipulate water, Leo, Frank, Hazel, etc. But Annabeth’s mother is the goddess of wisdom and military victory. Sooooo, no superpowers there. Same with Piper. Her mom is the goddess of love and beauty. Sure, she can charmspeak, but she can’t talk her way out of everything. So Riordan shows how Annabeth and Piper can use their gifts (wisdom and love, respectively) to their advantage in battle. A nice touch and a way to remind kids that you don’t have to have superpowers to win or be effective.
  5. Okay I had a whole bunch written up about how annoying Piper is but WordPress ATE IT, and I don’t have it in me to recreate all that awesome commentary. So suffice it to say that Piper is still annoying, and my daughter and her friend agree with me.

In conclusion, this book is a solid entry in the series. I’m interested to see what happens next.

Book Review: Why We Broke Up

I love like a fool, like a Z-grade off-brand romantic comedy…

Why We Broke Up by Daniel HandlerI really wanted to love Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler and illustrated by Maira Kalman. Really. For one thing, the book itself is gorgeous. The artwork is amazing, and the pages are nice and weighted. For another, I love the idea of stories told through mementos (see Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall) because the significance of each object or the chosen objects tend to be so, well, random. Finally, a story of relationship headed to a break-up and having that fact acknowledged up front works for me–especially because the finality of the title means no third act turnaround.

Also, I really, really love Ed. I know part of the point of the book is his charm and his adorableness, so that we see why Min fell for him. But that same charm and cuteness made me really upset at how predictable and cliché their break up was. I mean, I was super disappointed in why they broke up. And, yes, the reason was forecast way, way back in the beginning. But I kept holding out hope that maybe–just maybe–they broke up for another reason. Alas.

That said, I did like that the objects were so random and their significance wasn’t quite so predictable. I loved Ed (obviously). I enjoyed watching Min and Ed’s relationship develop. One of the conflicts in their relationship is that their friend groups are entirely different. Ed is co-captain of the basketball team, and Min hangs out on the fringes with her decidedly not as popular friends. So I liked seeing how they navigated both groups.

As I said, though, the reason for the break up was disappointing. The fact that Ed was not, in fact, Nathan Scott, but a typical boneheaded jock hurt my heart.

I would also put the book down and forget to pick it back up, so even though I enjoyed it fine while reading, I never felt that compelled to go back to it.

And, OH MY GOD, I hated the ending so so so so much. Just…it was the worst. Okay, maybe not the worst. I mean, nobody DIED. But it was pretty terrible.

And that is why I could not love this book.

Source: Library

April Mini-Reviews

Since I am so behind on book reviews, it’s time for mini-reviews! Here are some books I’ve read but have yet to review:

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie: Along with The Count of Monte Cristo, this book is a Revenge inspired read. The EW recapper floated an Agatha Christie theory [full of spoilers for Revenge and Orient Express] that–even though the show is based on CoMC–maybe the writers are layering in an Orient Express element of revenge as well. I won’t spoil the book, but I liked the idea, so, of course, I had to read Murder on the Orient Express after reading the article.

I think I read this book when I went through an Agatha Christie spell in high school/college because I was not at all surprised by who did it and how. Plus, everything about the book felt really familiar. So it was good, but unsurprising. If you want to read it, I recommend going in cold and trying to figure it out with Hercule Poirot. It’ll be more fun that way.

Also! This book counts for the TV Challenge because there totally used to be a Poirot TV series! I’d call that a win.

TV Addict: 2; Classic Double: .25

Source: Library

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi: A quick read about a girl who boards a ship whose crew members attempt a mutiny. Charlotte is smart and clever. If you think about it too hard, her transformation, as a review on Goodreads says, isn’t well foreshadowed in her character’s background. But I didn’t think about it until after I read that review, so I bought her transformation. Love Charlotte.

Off the Shelf: 3

Source: personal collection

In the end, my hope is that you’ll learn that Angry Management ain’t really where it’s at. When the rage has got ya, it’s got ya. But if you learn to tell your story, an’ tell it loud, your angry won’t get you so often.

Angry Management by Chris Crutcher: You know what’s sad? I totally started a review for this book, but never finished. That is SAD.

Anyway, it’s a collection of three short stories–excuse me, novellas–all based on some of Crutcher’s other works. Really, what Crutcher does is write fanfic of his own novels. Can you do that? Sure, if you cross, say, the world of Sarah Byrnes with that of Angus Bethune, especially when they live nowhere near each other or exist in different times. I mean, Crutcher doesn’t even have to come up with a plausible scenario for these two to meet/live near each other (oh, right, except the frame for all of the stories is that the kids are all in group therapy together, but, except for Sarah/Angus, the stories seem to exist outside of that framing device. I just went with it. Because, really, what else can you do?) but they do! So they become friends. AU fanfic right there. And, let’s face it, we all know that Crutcher is a big fan of his own books. As well he should be.

The three novellas are:

  1. “Kyle Maynard and the Craggy Face of the Moon”: Sarah Byrnes and Angus Bethune (from Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes & Athletic Shorts, respectively)
  2. “Montana Wild”: Montana West and Trey Chase (from a book/books I never read)
  3. “Meet Me at the Gates, Marcus James”: Marcus James, Mr. Simet, Matt Miller (set in the same town as Whale Talk with Mr. Simet from Whale Talk and a kid mentioned briefly in Deadline)

I liked all of the stories, but the third was probably my favorite. Matt Miller is totally literary boyfriend material. I LOVE HIM.

Man, what do you do when you know the truth, when it’s stretched out in front of you, silent?

If you’re Matt Miller, you totally do the right thing. So much love.

POC Reading Challenge: 3

Source: Library