My #Book #Review of Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of The Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

 

 

Hi. Welcome to Book Review Time.

Today I’m going to be giving you my opinion on Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of the Universe. Quite a mouthful! Was it worth reading? Of course, with a title like that it had to be worth it!

Goodreads Synopsis:

A lyrical novel about family and friendship from critically acclaimed author Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

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.  

My Review:

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of The Universe is a heart-warming coming of age story and much more. It’s a novel that tackles friendship, love, family relationships, and the pain, uncertainty and difficulty in “coming” out about your sexuality to your family in such a sweet, accessible way. More than this Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of The Universe exposes difficult relationships that sometimes exist within ordinary families, and the generation gap that continues to divide teenagers and adults. So would I recommend this author Benjamin Alire Saenz to you? Most definitely.

Secrets abound in this novel, and I love, love, love books about secrets!

Secrets about Ari’s prisoner brother, his father’s experience in the Vietnam War and even Ari’s friend Dante isn’t without his secrets, Dante likes to keep a private sketch book.

Ari likes this secretive aspect of Dante:

That was interesting – that he had secrets.

The characters just feel so real, particularly Ari, he’s just so choc a bloc full of angst that the reader can’t help but be drawn into his story. Not only does Ari have trouble relating to his family he also finds that he doesn’t relate to other guys either, he finds making friends very difficult, and in particular he can’t see the appeal of obsessively talking about girls, like the lifeguards at the pool.

”A girl is like a tree covered with leaves. You just want to climb up and tear all those leaves off.”

Ari feels that he is a mystery even to himself! He just can’t fathom himself out!

Ari’s older brother is eleven years older than him, yet it is not just the age gap that distances them, his older brother is in prison. He might as well be dead as no one in the family talks about him. There are no photographs of him anywhere. Even dead people get more attention that his brother does:

There were so many ghosts in our house – the ghost of my brother, the ghost of my father’s war, the ghosts of my sister’s voices. And I thought maybe there were ghosts inside of me that I hadn’t even met yet. They were there. Lying in wait.

Yet the shadow of Ari’s brother follows Ari wherever he goes and whatever he does. It’s almost as if his parents are waiting for the moment that he too will let them down. Ari tries hard to be a good person, but this responsibility weighs him down.

Ari’s twin elder sisters are so much older than him too, which just adds to his sense of isolation. Ari feels that he might as well be an only child, he feels like a family mascot, rather than a valued and loved member of the family.

For Ari the teenage years from eleven to fifteen are the worst. He’s a deep, thoughtful person who is finding it hard to live up to his philosopher’s name, growing up is so very hard. Ari even feels that love is a weight,

But love was always something heavy for me. Something I had to carry.

When he meets Dante there is a subtle change in Ari. Dante introduces him to poetry, and Ari finds that he appreciates poetry and he enjoys Dante’s company too.

Until Dante, being with other people was the hardest thing in the world for me.

 

As Dante was watching me search the sky through the lens of a telescope, he whispered, “Someday, I’m going to discover all the secrets of the universe.”

That made me smile. “What are you going to do with all those secrets, Dante?”

“I’ll know what to do with them,” he said, “Maybe change the world.”

 

Dante is freer, more sure of his place in the universe than Ari. Dante doesn’t like the encumbrance of wearing shoes. He prefers to walk barefoot. Dante understands his emotions, and is better at voicing them. He tells Ari he loves him. “I love swimming – and you.”

There is so much heart-warming humour in this novel too.

Here are a couple of lovely quotes about Ari’s dog Legs:

Maybe dogs were one of the secrets of the universe.

Dogs didn’t censor themselves.

Here’s another example of humour, this time it’s about Dante teaching Ari how to swim:

If a guy was offering to teach me how to swim, then for sure he didn’t have a life. Two guys without a life? How much fun could that be?

Ari is touched by the warmth and tenderness in Dante’s family. He wants to tell them so much about Dante but all he can say is, “Dante’s my friend.”

He holds back what he really wants to say, and this frustrates him so much. The reader can’t help but feel for him. This is one of my favourite quotes in the book, it eloquently demonstrates Ari’s difficulty at expressing his true emotions:

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.

Towards the end of the novel Ari has a really touching family conference with his mother and father. This part of the book is so moving, such a wonderful ending, and this quote just sums it up so well:

I (Ari) came to understand that my father was a careful man. To be careful with people and with words was a rare and beautiful thing.

Highly recommended for readers of Realistic Fiction, GLBT, Young Adult.

My rating: 5 brilliant stars! 

***Spoiler alert *** – Look Away

His father finally talks to him, in a really meaningful way. Ari learns that the Secrets of The Universe are simple, that he has been searching far beyond where the answers lay, because they have been within him all this time, in his heart. Ari doesn’t have to run from or hide from his emotions anymore, but embrace love and accept who he is to be truly happy.

 

Have you read Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of The Universe? I’d love to hear your opinion.

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4841310.Benjamin_Alire_S_enz

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M J Mallon _ YA Author

 

Buy Paperback Book link: http://mybook.to/TheCurseofTime
Unique Selling Point: Unique, Imaginative, ‘Charming, enchanting and richly layered this is purely delightful.’

“This delightful book will appeal to teens and young adults who love stories filled with magical crystals, dark family curses, and mysteries waiting to be solved around every corner. Each chapter leads you on a journey of discovery where Amelina earns the right to use three wizard stones to reset the balance of time and finally break the curse that holds her family hostage. A captivating tale!” – Colleen M. Chesebro (Editor)

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My Review of Thirteen Reasons Why

20170722_193102 (2)Goodreads Synopsis:

You can’t stop the future.
You can’t rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.

Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.

My review: 

This is a difficult book to review not because of the writing brilliance or lack of, more because suicide is such an emotive and difficult subject to deal with sensitively. It’s one of those books that definitely fits in the unputdownable category. Curiosity carries you forward, and keeps you turning the pages… but, for me the tapes were a device, a method that the author used to convey the suicide’s victims feelings beyond the grave to the people who had hurt her. Wait a minute, I have an issue with this. Suicides don’t do this. This involves planning, and people considering ending their lives are unlikely to write a note, family and friends are left wondering  – Why? But, I reckon Jay Asher meant well. I believe her intention was to explain that even the smallest hurt can attach to a larger hurt to grow into a huge hurt ball of pain. I get that, and it sounds plausible, but the upshot of this is the main protagonist starts of sounding whiny, and distances the reader somewhat. I didn’t find the main protagonist Hannah a likeable character, but perhaps that’s the point? The act of suicide means that you don’t dwell on who you might  hurt by your actions – you are too immersed in your own pain – hence the significance of the rape scene. I’m not going into details in this review, no spoilers, read this yourself and make up your own mind.

Ultimately, suicide is the most terribly sad act of self destruction committed by a person who has mental health issues, or is suffering with unbearable pain. Mental health, bullying and depression are major reasons why people commit suicide and these issues should be discussed openly and with a caring attitude, particularly as they are a rising problem in our young people.

Thirteen Reasons Why isn’t a perfect book, but it does provokes discussion. It makes you consider what damage people do to each other and acknowledges that we don’t really know what is going on in other people’s lives.

Of course this debut has been an enormous success with a TV series on Netflix. Both of my daughters have watched the series.)

Rating: A very difficult one to rate, I spent a lot of time deliberating about this one. I’d say it is sitting on a 4 star read.

Resources: 

If you are experiencing mental health problems I’ve discovered this wonderful online resource that I would recommend:  https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/general/i-need-someone-to-talk-to-about-my-problems-but-where-do-i-turn/

 

Disclaimer and buying links: 

DISCLAIMER: “As of 13th September 2017 we are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.”  

My opinions are my own and any reviews on this site have not been swayed or altered in any way by monetary compensation, or by the offer of a free book in exchange for a review. 

Buying Links:

UK Kindle:  http://amzn.to/2f5UABK

UK Paperback: http://amzn.to/2f61iaR

 

Bye for now,

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Continue reading My Review of Thirteen Reasons Why

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My Kyrosmagica Review of I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith

 

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Through six turbulent months of 1934, 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain keeps a journal, filling three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries about her home, a ruined Suffolk castle, and her eccentric and penniless family. By the time the last diary shuts, there have been great changes in the Mortmain household, not the least of which is that Cassandra is deeply, hopelessly, in love.

My review:

This is a very charming coming of age story,  expressed via the journal entries of the young would be writer Cassandra Mortmain. The opening sentences introduce the reader to the eccentric and quirky tone of the novel beautifully:

I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. That is, my feet are in it; the rest of me is on the draining board, which I have padded with our dog’s blanket and the tea-cosy. 

Cassandra’s family is about as bohemian as it gets. After an unfortunate incident her father, an author, has spent time in prison. Now  released he wishes to distance himself from any further alterations with neighbours by living in relative solitude in a castle.  He is now experiencing what appears to be a protracted case of writer’s block. Even his wife Topaz,  (the children’s step mother) can’t inspire him with her ministrations, and naked jaunts communing with nature. With no income to sustain them, the family has no choice but to welcome any help they can get. At first, this comes in the form of the late housekeeper’s son Stephen,  who happily hands over his wages, poor lad, as he is hopelessly in love with Cassandra. The arrival of two young eligible American bachelors, Simon and Neil offers hope to the family if only Cassandra’s elder sister Rose could perhaps convince the eldest brother Simon to marry her. Rose is desperate to escape poverty so is almost willing to do anything to change their material fortunes.

The close of I Capture The Castle doesn’t promise a happier ever after, or a neat and tidy ending which may disappoint some readers who expected this to be  a romantic novel with the lovers walking off into the sunset hand in hand. This is perhaps partly due to the fact that this is a coming of age story and the romance contained within is experienced through the eyes of a very young girl. Young girls do get their hearts broken and suffer disappointments. Love can and does get complicated, and this is particularly true when we are still at an age when we are vulnerable and inexperienced. I Capture The Castle explores the resulting entanglements and jealousy beautifully. So, in my opinion, the ending is all the more poignant as it does suggest a more realistic and believable outcome.

Highly recommended for readers that appreciate character driven novels, and those who enjoy Young Adult Fiction, (with the young adult taking centre stage,) Historical Romance, and Classics.

My rating: A very enjoyable 4 stars.

Have you read I Capture The Castle?  Do let me know in the comments below if you have.

Bye for now,

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My Kyrosmagica Review of A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

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Hi. Welcome to Kyrosmagica.

Time to do a review, what’s on the cards today? A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, that’s what.

Goodreads Synopsis:

Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London—but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her ‘proper adventure’.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive—trickier than they hoped.

My review:

I’m a huge Victoria Schwab fan so I was expecting to love A Darker Shade of Magic and I was not disappointed.

There are so many appealing elements in this novel:

Magic, of course!

Kell’s fabulous coat.

Different Londons.

Pirate theme.

Kick ass heroine.

Well crafted villians.

Fantasy.

A magical stone.

Cross dressing girl dressed as a sea Captain.

Soul seals! You need to read the book to find out what these are!

TIP: Be aware that this is one of those books that you have to allow time to develop as you read. It  starts off with a fair amount of  detail about the magical world, introducing the reader to the contrasting world of the different Londons.

Sense of smell is used in a very interesting way to convey the different qualities of the Londons.

Black London is “the lost city,” that had to be sealed off from the other worlds.

After Black London fell  the doors connecting the Londons were closed: “Now only the Antari possessed enough power to make new doors, and even then only they could pass through them.”

Grey London is the magic-less city. When Kell, our fabulous protagonist with his very peculiar coat. “It had neither one side, which would be conventional, nor two which would be expected, but several, which was, of course, impossible. When Kell inhales the scent of Grey London he smells smoke.

Red London is where everybody learns to understand magic, it’s the healthy empire, Kell’s home. Red London smells to Kell  of home, but to others it smells of flowers.

White London’s magic is savage It is the starving world, which smells of blood. In Grey, read and white London there is,
“A fixed point,” The Stone’s Throw tavern, though In White London this establishment is called The Scorched Bone.

In this world there are only two magical Antari left: “Now, Kell and Holland seemed to be the last of a rapidly dying breed.”

“And Antari  could speak to blood. To life, to magic itself.”

But the characters of Kell and Holland couldn’t be more different.  Holland is under the control of the King and Queen of White London, Astrid and Athos Dane whose palace is a fortress with a stone forest of people, that they are rumoured to have killed. Don’t doubt it –  these two rulers are EVIL, EVIL, EVIL!!

Holland may be living and breathing but he is under the control of Astrid and Athos : “It was a voice (Holland’s voice) like a shadow in the woods at night. Quiet and dark and cold.”

When Barron and Holland have a confrontation, Victoria Schwab enriches the story by using the sense of smell once again:  “Holland smelled of ash and blood and metal.”

Kell shouldn’t be moving between the London’s collecting trinkets but it seems he can’t help himself. He is an adventurer and his princely brother Rhy warns him, “Transference is treason.”

Kell is such an engaging character, poor Kell, he doesn’t really belong, in fact he seems to think of himself as an object: “I feel more like a possession than a prince.”

Though he is fiercely fond and protective of his princely brother Rhy.” Kell has lived in the palace of red London since he was a young boy but he has been marked by a spell that makes him forget, “he suspected that the king and queen themselves had sanctioned it.”

Even in red London Kell’s one black eye, “Marked him always as other. ” Kell’s blood, when paired with the token (given to him by King George), allowed him to move between the worlds.

The story really cranks up a huge notch when we met Lila Bard, she is most definitely my favourite character in A Darker Shade of Magic: “Lila Bard lived by a simple rule: if a thing was worth having, it was worth taking.”

When we first meet Lila she dresses as a man, and nicks a watch off a gentleman.  She loves the thrill of living dangerously. Delilah Bard wants to sail away on a pirate ship. She has a wise side to her brought about by her daily life in the school of hard knocks, she sees that “you (Kell) may want for things but you need for nothing.”

The owner of the Stone’s Throw,  Barron,  appreciates her qualities and seems to have a soft spot for her. Kell takes a while to truly understand Lila:  “And for the first time, Kell saw Lila. Not as she wanted to be, but as she was. A frightened, albeit clever, girl trying desperately to stay alive.”

Kell is in possession of the Black London Stone, this Talisman transfers hands many times but Kell  is initially divested of it by none other than Lila Bard herself ! She has a moral code of sorts so she doesn’t steal from him and leave him empty handed she leaves behind a token, her kerchief.

This stone in the wrong hands could have disastrous results.  The adventure really livens up when Kell and Lila attempt to take  the stone back to Black London.

“I’m not going to die, ” she said. “Not till I’ve seen it.”

“seen what?”

Her smile widened. ” Everything.”

There are so many wonderful quotes that I have incorporated into this review but this one is my favourite of all:

“Delilah bard had finally escaped, sailed away. Not with a ship, but with a stone.”

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**** Spoilers Below ****

BEWARE!!!!!!

Though I loved this book I did find some difficulties with some of the events towards the end of the book. Holland wanted to die? “It was relief,” that crossed his face. Ok, I sort of got this, he wasn’t his own man he was under Athos and Astrid’s thumb but the way he just kind of gave in at the very last showdown just didn’t seem quite right to me. Also, I was quite surprised by the way in which Lila kills the young guard who is guarding Astrid. The guard asks to die quickly, Lila kills him without hesitating. I realise that she had no choice but I would have liked to see a moment of sadness following his death but somehow she just moves on too quickly and seems a little too brutal for my liking at this juncture in the book. I realise she’s tough, and will kill if necessary but the moral code that she obviously has seems momentarily to have been forgotten. Though I really did enjoy how Kell knew that Astrid wasn’t Lila right at the end “Because she said please.”

Highly recommended for readers of Fantasy, YA, and Magic.

My rating:

4.5 stars.

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Have you read A Darker Shade of Magic? Do comment I’d love to hear from you.

Bye for now,

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Marje @ Kyrosmagica xx

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