First Quarterly Book Review 2021: Coming of Age Edition

First Quarterly Book Review

Are you wondering what has been MaJhane’s favorite reads as of late? MaJhane shares the 3 books she enjoyed reading in 2021 thus far to debut the first official Quarterly Book Review. If you are interested in the transcribed version of this episode, click here. If you want to stay updated, be sure to check out this page!

Check out this week’s Guided Meditation

What is the Quarterly Book Review?

We are officially 3 months into 2021, which means it’s time for a Quarterly Book Review! Yes, this is a new thing that I’m trying. Just go with it. At the end of 2020, I made a podcast episode about the top 5 books I read throughout the year. Above all, the episode had great feedback, and I’m sure I helped people add some books to their TBR list. The only problem? I read over 50 books in 2020 and had the hard task of choosing only 5 to showcase. I’m not too fond of the math on that one, so things have to change. In other words, every 3 months, I will choose books that I read to share with you on the blog. In doing so, I can highlight all of the outstanding books I read.

Click the picture above to visit my book suggestions!
quarterly book review of cemetery boys, aristotle and dante discover the secrets of the universe, and the midnight library.

Quarterly Book Review

The three books that I chose for the first-ever Quarterly Book Review are Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz, and The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. I have to admit, I read these books thanks to “Book Tok,” that is, the book readers on Tik Tok. When I got my hands on the audiobooks, I didn’t have expectations since I couldn’t remember why people recommended them. After all, I don’t really care what the book is about if enough people recommend it! Let’s take a moment to dive deeper into what these books are about and why I enjoyed them so much.

*Disclaimer* I am terrible at summarizing things without completely spoiling the plot so I will put the summary that is provided by the author. Click the authors name and book title for a direct link to the author’s works!

Aiden Thomas – Cemetery Boys

A trans boy determined to prove his gender to his traditional Latinx family summons a ghost who refuses to leave in Aiden Thomas’s paranormal YA debut Cemetery Boys.

Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.

When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his true gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.

However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie off some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.

quarterly book review of cemetery boys with hero image by Mars Lauderbaugh.
Hero image by Mars Lauderbaugh taken from Aiden Thomas Website

What I loved

  • The author himself, Aiden Thomas, is a queer and trans-Latinx person, so who better to tell a story about another queer and trans-Latinx than him? For a long while, storytelling has been told by people who don’t have firsthand experiences of the characters they are writing about. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it shows a huge need for representation in the books we read and the authors who write them!
  • As an ally, it was really refreshing to see the representation and background on holiday Dia de Los Muertos. El Dia de Los Muertos, or The Day of the Dead, is a Mexican holiday where families welcome back and celebrate their deceased relatives with a celebration that lasts from October 31st to November 2nd. The first time I was introduced to that holiday was from a Halloween Lizzie McGuire episode, and it always stuck with me, but the main thing I remember was the decorating of sugar skulls. I’m not sure if there have always been books on this holiday, but I’m glad this book now lives among those!

Lessons

  • At the end of the day, you really don’t have to prove yourself to anyone. Of course, we have our moments where we want to show or prove that we are worthy but once you get past those “imposter syndrome” feelings, you’re golden.
  • Real recognize real! You don’t have to prove yourself to people who already see you for who you are so keep doing you and the real will see that.

Benjamin Alire Saenz – Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

“I got to thinking that poems were like people. Some people you got right off the bat. Some people you just didn’t get–and never would get.”

A quote from the book Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

What I loved

  • The complexities of the characters really sold me on this book. I had moments where I really loved Dante and then couldn’t stand Ari (and vice versa), but I feel like that’s a pretty good representation of the ebbs and flows of relationships.
  • I felt like I was inside the book, experiencing everything firsthand. I think the author did a great job of making the characters have a real dialogue with each other. There were no watered-down conversations, shortcuts to the drama, or unrealistic expectations, which gave the book great depth.
  • I also enjoyed the dichotomy of the family Dynamics between Ari and Dante. Ari’s dad is closed off, and he changed ever since he came back from serving in the Vietnam War. His mom does the best she can to connect with her son, but there’s a disconnect between them since they never talk about his older brother, who is in jail. Dante has a close relationship with both of his parents, and he tells them everything. It’s fascinating to see that the stark contrast between both families and how they intertwine.

Lessons

  • Never judge a book by its cover; no pun intended. Ari and Dante are two seemingly different people who come together, and beautiful things come out of it.
  • We can’t run away from who we are, even if it might scare us at first. The initial feeling of being afraid of the power that we possess is normal and happens to the best of us. A lot of times, others might be afraid of our power because they don’t understand it. In either of these cases, it’s always best to embrace it.

Matt Haig – The Midnight Library

TRIGGER WARNING: SUICIDE

Between life and death there is a library.

When Nora Seed finds herself in the Midnight Library, she has a chance to make things right. Up until now, her life has been full of misery and regret. She feels she has let everyone down, including herself. But things are about to change.

The books in the Midnight Library enable Nora to live as if she had done things differently. With the help of an old friend, she can now undo every one of her regrets as she tries to work out her perfect life. But things aren’t always what she imagined they’d be, and soon her choices place the library and herself in extreme danger.

Before time runs out, she must answer the ultimate question: what is the best way to live?

quarterly book review of the midnight library with a photo by Janko Ferlic from Pexels
Photo by Janko Ferlic from Pexels

What I loved

  • I know I can’t be the only one who wonders if it’s possible to live out different versions of my life. If you’re familiar with the multiverse theory, you’re probably already down a rabbit hole trying to figure out how to reach that other versions of yourself cause same. This book let my imagination run wild with what-if scenarios based on Nora Seed, the main character’s experience.
  • Also, I liked how this book highlights how drastically our lives could change based on our decisions. In hindsight, I think we’re all aware of this thought, but sometimes it escapes us.

Lessons

  • It’s never too late to change the course of your life. We spend so much time living life that we forget that we have complete control to change the parts of life that we don’t enjoy. Let this serve as a reminder to you that it’s never too late. Don’t be discourage by the time you “lost” because honestly no time was lost. You used that time to learn that wasn’t the path for you and now you can spend your time figuring out what is.
  • This book gave me permission to reinvent myself. The more life expereicnes you go through the more your peronsality shines through. If you like what you see in the mirror you are all set but if you don’t, you have the power to reinvent yourself.
  • There is no such thing as a perfect life. In the words of poety Hannah Montana, “Life’s what you make it, so lets make it rock!” You have inside of you, all of the things that you can and want to do in your life. It’s up to you to figure out how you’re going to incorporate that and make it happen.

To Summarize

Even though it wasn’t intentional, these three books shared themes of life and (near) death, emotion, and adventure. I wanted to highlight these books because each one forced me to reflect on my own life. First, Cemetery Boys taught me [FINISH THIS]. Then, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe showed me [FINISH THIS]. And lastly, The Midnight Library gave me the permission to reinvent myself if I don’t like the path I’m on. I don’t always pick up a book with the intention to learn something about myself. However, if you look hard enough, you can find a lesson in most things.

Challenge

This week’s challenge is to take the lessons from each book and see if you can apply them to your life. I don’t know where you are in your journey, and only you know the answer to that. Above all, I’m here to provide you with tools you can hopefully benefit from. I was only expecting entertainment from these books, and I ended up coming out with free game. If I’m eating, we all eating so, please take advantage of this free game!

If you find this information helpful, be sure to check out my other posts! Until we meet again, please be kind to one another, and from the bottom of my heart, I love you.

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