Ronit & Jamil by Pamela L. Laskin – spoiler free review

Hi!

I recently read the book ‘Ronit & Jamil’ by Pamela L. Laskin and I really wanted to talk about it. I think this is mostly because I do have a lot of mixed opinions on this book.

This is a spoiler-free review, so if you haven’t read the book you don’t have to worry about getting spoiled while reading this post.

note: I did not enjoy the original Shakespeare play ‘Romeo and Juliet’ so that may have affected the way that I viewed this novel.


30317423Ronit & Jamil

author: Pamela L. Laskin

number of pages: 192

published: February 21st, 2017

genre: poetry, romance, retelling

my rating: 2.5/5 stars

synopsis:

“Pamela L. Laskin‚Äôs beautiful and lyrical novel in verse delivers a fresh and captivating retelling of Shakespeare‚Äôs¬†Romeo and Juliet that transports the star-crossed lovers to the modern-day Israel-Palestine conflict.

Ronit, an Israeli girl, lives on one side of the fence. Jamil, a Palestinian boy, lives on the other side. Only miles apart but separated by generations of conflict‚ÄĒmuch more than just the concrete blockade between them. Their fathers, however, work in a distrusting but mutually beneficial business arrangement, a relationship that brings Ronit and Jamil together. And lightning strikes. The kind of lightning that transcends barrier fences, war, and hatred.

The teenage lovers fall desperately into the throes of forbidden love, one that would create an irreparable rift between their families if it were discovered. But a love this big can only be kept secret for so long. Ronit and Jamil must face the fateful choice to save their lives or their loves, as it may not be possible to save both.”


The fact that this book is written in verse shocked me at first but I got used to it quickly. I thought this was a nice way to connect the novel to the play ‘Romeo and Juliet’, Shakespeare’s original work (which this novel is based on).
There were times when I enjoyed the writing and times when I didn’t. Towards the end, it sounded wrong (I listened to the audiobook). There were times when Pamela L. Laskin used really nice metaphors and imagery, and there were also times when it sounded dull and horrible. For example:

” They may have named me
“Jordan”
a pet name
since I am a river
my feelings are liquid
even before Ronit
I was the boy without armor,
because I love to read and write,
but I also listen to Coldplay,
so why say
I melt? “

I feel like this should’ve been written “normally” because having this written in verse didn’t help me, the reader, visualise the characters, settings etc.

The constant (unlabeled) changes in point of view was frustrating. Due to the different narrators, I was able to tell the difference between the two. However, it felt all over the place and somewhat unorganised. If the author had focused on each character for a little bit longer, allowing the reader to fully understand and allowing for further character development, I probably would’ve enjoyed this book more.


The relationship between Ronit and Jamil, to me, felt rushed and that it was based on sexual attraction alone. There was no development of an emotional, romantic connection between the two of them. The novel was filled with lines such as:

“so I know
she thinks of me
as a man
who would lift her skirt
and love her,
not the foolish boy
my Abi
thinks I am.‚Ä̬†

The lack of a development of an emotional, romantic connection between Romeo and Juliet is something that I felt was left out of the original play and could’ve been added to this retelling in order to make it better. This could’ve been done by making the story longer in order to further develop these characters and their relationships with their families and each other. By doing this, the novel could’ve been so much better.


I did not appreciate the use of ableism in this novel (through the use of the word “l*me” – I cannot remember what was being described in that moment, but it was definitely not describing ‘[of a person or animal] unable to walk without difficulty as the result of an injury or illness affecting the leg or foot.’) This was only done once which is better than having ableism throughout the novel, however, it was one too many.

There were a few phrases that, to me, felt a bit American and felt out of place in this novel. I felt that these odd lines didn’t help with the development of the setting, especially because this book is written in verse.


This novel somewhat addresses the Israel/Palestine conflict. I was expecting it to really go into the Israel/Palestine conflict, and help not just myself, but other teens and readers to better understand this. However, I was disappointed, I felt that I just read a load of “fluff” (for lack of a better word). There was very little political context, I personally do not know a lot about the Israel/Palestine conflict, which made it a little bit harder to understand the betrayal caused by their relationship. I do understand that this is a story, not something that is used to educate people, but I just expected a bit more information than what was given.
The author attempts to give the reader some context in the brief “Reader’s Note” at the beginning which says:

“There are several references to a “fence” throughout the book. This is actually a separation barrier–being built by Israel–that runs near the “Green Line” between Israel and the West Bank. The premise behind it is that it would prevent terrorists from entering Israel proper; however, there is much controversy surrounding this structure.”

I jumped onto Google because I wanted to know more about this ‘fence’ because I felt that the information that was provided was inadequate.

The ‘fence’, which is described in the quote above, in my head looked like this: Related imageAfter some simple Googling, I found out that it actually looks like this:Image result for the fence between israel and palestine
Basically, this ‘fence’ is really a ‘separation barrier’. I do not understand why the author has called it a fence throughout the novel as she states that it’s a ‘separation barrier’ in the Authors Note, logically they should’ve called it a separation barrier throughout the novel so that they¬†do¬†not¬†confuse the reader.

Also, it is a¬†twenty-five foot high concrete wall¬†(7.62 metres)¬†that is¬†430 miles long¬†(692.018 kilometres) This is something¬†Pamela L. Laskin failed to mention, something which she could’ve easily done in the Authors Note. If she had done this it would’ve made the image of the ‘fence’ a lot bigger, causing the reader to understand what a big deal it is.

In order to fully explain the size of the wall, I found a graphical representation comparing the Berlin Wall to Israel’s Apartheid Wall.

On this same website, I found this:

“The semantic problems posed by the use of the word ‚Äúfence‚ÄĚ, in either language, are enormous:

fence (n.)

1. A structure serving as an enclosure, a barrier, or a boundary, usually made of posts or stakes joined together by boards, wire, or rails.

wall (n.)

1. An upright structure of masonry, wood, plaster, or other building material serving to enclose, divide, or protect an area, especially a vertical construction forming an inner partition or exterior siding of a building.

2. A continuous structure of masonry or other material forming a rampart and built for defensive purposes. Often used in the plural.

4. (a) Something resembling a wall in appearance, function, or construction.

To characterise the structure as a ‚Äúfence‚ÄĚ without referencing its other features is highly¬†misleading.”

I also found out, through the same website, that the wall does not run along the ‘Green Line’¬† as I believed it did, due to the authors’ description of the ‘fence’.

There was some explanation of the¬†Israel/Palestine Conflict, however, I felt that it was briefly explained and was rushed. As I did with Israel’s Apartheid Wall, I went onto Google to find out more about the Israel/Palestine Conflict. To oversimplify this, this conflict is because of land. Becuase the British Government (from roughly around about 1913 to 1915) made too many promises and then attempted to ‘fix’ this but unfortunately made this so much worse.

As this is a book review, not a history lesson, I’m not going to go into all the finer details about the Israel/Palestine Conflict. However, for those of you who want to know more about it, I watched the “Conflict in Israel and Palestine: Crash Course World History 223” YouTube video, and John Green did a very good job of explaining it in a way that made sense. I think it’s also important to know a bit about the Jewish Diaspora, I watched another Crash Course video, “Christianity from Judaism to Constantine: Crash Course World History #11” and another YouTube video called “The Jewish Diaspora”.

All of the information that I found on the Israel/Palestine Conflict was found from the 2003 article “Is it a Fence? Is it a Wall? No, it’s a Separation Barrier” on The Electronic Intifada, the video “The Wall Between Israel and Palestine” on Youtube as well as the¬†Youtube videos “The Israel-Palestine conflict: a brief, simple history” created by Vox and “The Illegal Israeli Wall – What You Need to Know in 90 seconds” which is also a YouTube video.

Please leave a comment if any of the information I have shared on this is incorrect or if any of these sources, which I have listed, are unreliable. I have tried my best to make sure that these sources are reliable and are sharing correct information.


Overall, I thought this novel was well written, it just required more development of the main and side characters as well as more political context.

Let me know if you’ve read this book and what you thought about it in the comments

 

Yasmin xx

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As I Descended by Robin Talley – spoiler free review

Hey!

I recently read As I Descended by Robin Talley, and absolutely loved it. I thought I’d share my thoughts on this book with you.

This is a spoiler-free review, so if you haven’t read the book it’s okay. I have read Macbeth, so please keep that in mind when reading this review, as my knowledge of the original story has impacted the way I read and view this novel.

please note. there is a very unhealthy and abusive relationship in this book


28218948

As I Descended

author: Robin Talley

number of pages: 370

published: September 6th, 2016

genre: fantasy, retelling

my rating: 4/5 stars

synopsis:

“From the acclaimed author of Lies We Tell Ourselves, Robin Talley, comes a Shakespeare-inspired story of revenge and redemption, where fair is foul, and foul is fair.

Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school‚Äôs ultimate power couple‚ÄĒbut one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey. Golden child Delilah is a legend at exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. But Delilah doesn‚Äôt know that Lily and Maria are willing to do anything‚ÄĒabsolutely anything‚ÄĒto unseat Delilah for the scholarship. After all, it would lock in Maria‚Äôs attendance at Stanford‚ÄĒand assure her and Lily four more years in a shared dorm room.

Together, Maria and Lily harness the dark power long rumored to be present on the former plantation that houses their school. But when feuds turn to fatalities, and madness begins to blur the distinction between what‚Äôs real and what‚Äôs imagined, the girls must attempt to put a stop to the chilling series of events they‚Äôve accidentally set in motion”


I would recommend reading Macbeth or watching a film adaptation of the play before you read the novel. Just because, I think, it makes the reading experience a lot more enjoyable.

I went into this book knowing that it was a Macbeth retelling, with an f/f relationship. Little did I know, this book was literally flooded with diversity. There is; LGBT representation, a character that is living with a disability/chronic pain and Hispanic characters. I love retellings, and I love retellings with characters I can relate to.

there were problems that other people had with the book, things that I did pick up on while listening to the audio book. Leah (from the blog Small Queer Big Opinions) has a goodreads review about some of the problems, not only they had but also I had, with this novel.


The book is split into five acts, and each chapter was named after an important quote. I also liked how each chapter title was an important quote from the original play. There were so many little things which were from the original play which was added in.

I appreciated how there were aspects of the original play scattered throughout the novel. Things such as; the dagger, toil and trouble (which was a video game), Lily/Lady Macbeth trying to wash the blood of her hands, as well as the football field being named Dunsinane. There were other things, such as the scholarship being called the¬†Cawdor Kingsley Prize. I didn’t pick up on this until I finished the book, mostly because for the majority of the novel it was just called the Kingsley Prize.

Other than physical things in the novel. The characters names somewhat echo the original Shakespeare characters names. Macbeth is Maria, Lady Macbeth is Lily, Macduff is Mateo, Banquo is Brandon, and Duncan is Deliah. I loved the fact that there is that small connection between the names of the original characters. Something I really appreciated was that all of the characters, even though you could see aspects of the original Shakespeare characters in them, they were still their own character.

Robin Talley was able to change iconic scenes from the play without changing the essence of the scenes. Throughout the entire novel, even though it was a modern retelling, you could still sense that it was Macbeth, or at least inspired by Macbeth.


something I really would’ve liked to see was the students actually going to classes and doing homework or actually interacting with teacher/adults. We didn’t see a lot of this, and at times it was easy to forget that they were actually high school students at a boarding school. There was quite a lot of conversation about college scholarships, campus security, and homecoming. But the lack of classes, teachers, and assignments made it feel more like they were just a group of people who lived in the same block of apartments.

Something that didn’t make a lot of sense to me was, why Maria needed the scholarship. It is made very clear that Maria is a very intelligent and appears to be a well-rounded student. It seems ridiculous to think that she wouldn’t have gotten accepted into Stanford University.


I have recently been tweeting my thoughts on the books I’m currently reading. I thought I’d include a link to that thread in here, just in case anyone wanted to read them or find out more of my¬†in the moment thoughts


overall I really enjoyed this book. it was a fun entertaining read. If you loved Macbeth then you’ll love this book, I guarantee it!

let me know if you’ve read this book and what you thought of it in the comments.

Yasmin xx

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#DAReadathon wrap up

Hi!

if you didn’t know, I from the 1st to the 15th of January I participated in the ¬†Dumbledore‚Äôs Army Read-A-Thon (#DAReadAThon)¬†which was hosted by Aentee from Read at Midnight.

After I explain what books I read for each reading prompts I’ll add the tweets I made for each book and how many points I earned from that book.

I read five out of the seven books I was planning to read and ended up earning quite a few points for Slytherin house!

15749186To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han was the first book I read for this read-a-thon. This book completed the reading challenge, Stupefy Рread a diverse book that has stunned the internet with all its well-deserved hype. I gave this book 4/5 stars, I really enjoyed this book, I thought it was a nice read. I wrote a mini review on Goodreads if you want to know a bit more about how I felt about this book.

I earned¬†42.9 points for Slytherin! I don’t know if you are supposed to include decimals or not but I’m going to include them just in case.

18699403The second book I read was¬†Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling by Lucy Frank,¬†this book completed the challenge¬†Expelliarmus – disarm your own prejudices. read a diverse book featuring a marginalised group you don’t often read about.¬†

At the beginning, I was confused as the copy of this book I was reading was an ebook. I ended up enjoying this book, I just wanted it to be longer as I wanted to see more from these characters. I gave this book 3/5 stars

I earned 34.2 points for Slytherin!

12000020the third book I read was Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe to complete the challenge Protego Рprotect those narratives & keep them true. read an #OwnVoices book for this prompt

I really enjoyed this book as well! I feel like I’m saying that for every single book but they’re all really good books! I gave this book 5/5 stars

I posted a spoiler free review¬†on my blog if you’d like to know my thoughts and feelings on this book in more detail.

I earned 47.9 points for Slytherin!

 

t25944787he fourth book I read for this read-a-thon is Goldfish by Nat Luurtsema, this book completed the challenge Expecto Patronum Рread a diverse book featuring an issue of a personal significance to you or a loved one

sadly I was somewhat disappointed by this book, I was expecting a lot more from this book. To me, this book felt very immature and I couldn’t really relate to any of the characters. I ended up giving this book 1.5/5 stars. I do (sort of) have a review on my goodreads if you’re interested in seeing more of my thoughts on this book.

I earned 30 points for Slytherin!

23573418I‚Äôll Give You The Sun by Jandy¬†Nelson¬†was the fifth and final book I read for this read-a-thon. It completed the reading challenge¬†Impedimenta – read a diverse book that’s been left unread on your TBR for far too long!

I did enjoy reading this book, but there was a reason (which I can’t put my finger on) as to why I gave this book 3.5/5 stars instead of 4 or 5. I really enjoyed the way the story was told, I thought it was interesting and it added a nice element to this book.

I earned 49.9 points for Slytherin!

some bonus tweets from the read-a-thon

these two earned me an extra 2 points for Slytherin!

the total number of points I earned for Slytherin house was 206.9 points!

I am very proud of the number of books I read during this read-a-thon and I’m glad that I enjoyed the majority of them

Let me know how you did in the #DAReadathon in the comments

Yasmin xx

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The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr – Spoiler Free Review

Hi,

I got sent The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr via Netgalley for an honest review.

This book was such a beautiful and emotional book. It has changed the way I feel about my own memories and how lucky I am to be able to form successful memories. Reading a novel from the perspective of someone who has anterograde amnesia was eye opening and so upsetting at times. Through this book, I have begun to appreciate the idea of living in the moment and focusing more on the present rather than the past or future.

please note. trigger warning for self harm.


30849412The One Memory of Flora Banks

author: Emily Barr

number of pages: 303

published: January 12th, 2016

genre: contemporary/mystery

my rating: 5/5 stars

synopsis:

“Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora’s brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora’s fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the world, Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life.

With little more than the words “be brave” inked into her skin, and written reminders of who she is and why her memory is so limited, Flora sets off on an impossible journey to Svalbard, Norway, the land of the midnight sun, determined to find Drake. But from the moment she arrives in the arctic, nothing is quite as it seems, and Flora must “be brave” if she is ever to learn the truth about herself, and to make it safely home.


The first chapter in the book was so attention grabbing and literally sucks you in,

“I am at the top of a hill, and although I know I have done something terrible I have no idea what it is.”

after reading this line I knew I was hooked. The first few lines in a book, for me, loose either make me want to continue reading or make lose interest in a book, and from this line, I knew I was going to love this book.

When I read the synopsis of this book and after I started reading the novel it bugged me that her kiss with Drake was the only memory she has been able to¬†successfully create, however, once I’d finished the book I understood why this was so important. I was really glad to see that this didn’t follow the ‘boy meet girl and suddenly everything is okay’ trope.

As the story is told through Flora’s perspective we don’t get to see a lot from the other characters as what they say and do is often forgotten,¬†even though Flora doesn’t remember, their actions still have a huge impact on the story.¬† During the novel we get to see Flora’s character develop and become herself, which was really nice to read.

throughout the book we see Flora make write down everything she wants to remember, I thought this was a really nice thing to see throughout the novel and it really made me appreciate the fact that I am able to remember most things throughout the day, week etcetera.

“If¬†I had a pen in my hand I would write that on my arm to emphasize it: ‚ÄėI am older than I think I am‚Äô. I should not wear party dresses any more. I should wear jeans”

Emily Barr wrote this book beautifully. She really thought out each and every word, so that in the end everything pieces together so nicely and so that it felt complete. Little things, that appear to be unimportant, that are mentioned in the novel then turn out to be important, and I think this added to the mystery of the novel.

I seriously recommend that you check out this book as soon as you can because it will literally change your life.

let me know if you have or haven’t read this book and what you thought/think of it in the comments

Yasmin xx

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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire S√°enz – spoiler free review

Hi!

this book was one of the first books I read this year and I really enjoyed it. it did come out a few years ago (five years to be exact) and I thought it’d be a good idea to let you all know how I felt about it to encourage you all to read this book, just in case you haven’t yet.


12000020Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz

number of pages: 359

published: February 21st, 2012

genre: contemporary

my rating: 5/5 stars

synopsis:

“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‚ÄĒthe 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.”

the book follows our main characters, Aristotle and Dante, for two years, we get to see them mature as the book progresses. One of the things I really liked about this is that Benjamin Alire Sáenz writing matured as the boys got older, I think this was a nice little touch that the author added which made the book so much better.

in a lot of books, we either see very little parents or not at all. However, this book we get to see both Aristotle, who prefers to be called Ari, and Dante’s parents throughout the novel, both of their parents play important roles in the boy’s lives and help them understand themselves better as they get older.

something I really liked about this book is that the who main characters, even though they’re both Mexican-American, they both feel¬†differently about their culture. Aristotle is very proud of his ethnicity while Dante as comfortable with it. I think this is something really interesting that the author added in.

this book had so many beautiful lines, some of my favourite lines in this book are

‚ÄúI 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.‚ÄĚ

I thought this line was such a beautiful line and something that I could honestly relate to. I thought this was a really nice way to explain people and trying to understand people.

‚ÄúSometimes, you do things and you do them not because you’re thinking but because you’re feeling. Because you’re feeling too much. And you can’t always control the things you do when you’re feeling too much.‚ÄĚ

this novel is filled with so many beautiful and emotional quotes, which is one of the main reasons why I love this novel.

overall this book is such a heartwarming, lovely read, and it included quite a few relatable things.

let me know if you’ve read this book and what you thought of it in the comments!

Yasmin xx

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#DiversityDecBingo wrap up

Hi!

this December I participating in the #DiversityDecBingo readathon, a readathon that promotes diverse and own voices novels.

I posted my¬†tbr,¬†week one, week two, week three and week four updates if you’d like to see what I was originally planning to read, and my progress throughout the month

non-western cultural fantasy –¬†Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida C√≥rdova
non-binary main character
refugee main character –¬†The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon
poc superheroes –¬†Zodiac Starforce by Kevin Panetta
chronic pain sufferers –¬†Far From You by Tess Sharpe
demisexual main character
Muslim main character
trans main character –¬†The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson
diverse non-fiction
poc or interracial M/M
mental health awareness
Asian main character
free choice –¬†Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz
own voices
non-western (real world) setting
poc

on book covers
poc with curly hair
disabled main character –¬†Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier
SFF with LGBTQIA+ main character
pansexual main character
indigenous main character
F/F romance
biracial main character –¬†Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton
neurodiversity
asexual or aromantic main character

all of the ones in¬†blue¬†are the ones I completed! I ended up getting a bingo which is something I’m pretty proud of

I ended up getting a bingo which is something I’m pretty proud of. I’m also really proud that I read eight books for this read a thon,¬†which is two books a week.

I really enjoyed all the books I read, they’ve helped me realise how much I love and appreciate diversity

let me know what you read for #DiversityDecBingo in the comments!

Yasmin xx

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#diversitybingo2017 – 2017 reading challenge

Hey!

during December 2016 I participated in the #DiversityDecBingo, a read-a-thon encouraging us all to read more books with diverse characters.

I had a lot of fun participating in this read-a-thon so I was really excited to see that they decided to make year round reading challenges to continue promoting diverse books and authors.

romance with a trans main character non-binary main character (own voices) sci-fi/fantasy with disabled main character practicing Jewish main character Indian main character (own voices) displaced main character
main character with an under-represented body neuro-diverse main character (own voices) retelling with main character belonging to LGBTQIA+ bisexual main character
(own voices)
main character with an invisible disability main character with anaphylactic allergy
main character of colour in
sci-fi/fantasy
own voices
Latinx main character
free choice non-western (real world) setting own voices main character with chronic pain
West Asian setting Arab main character
(own voices)
main character with wheelchair book by an author of colour biracial main character (own voices) pansexual
main character (own voices)
black main character
(own voices)
main character on the ace spectrum (own voices) LGBTQIA+ main character of colour visually impaired main character book set in central america contempor-ary world arranged marriage
indigenous main character
(own voices)
diverse non-fiction person of colour of the cover d/deaf/hard of hearing main character immigrant or refugee main character Hijabi main character (own voices)

right now I kind of (not really) know what I’m going to be reading for at least some of the squares

  • Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy – main character with an under-represented body
  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – sci-fi/fantasy with disabled main character
  • Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate – Pansexual main character

I will have updates on my Twitter as well as an update every three months on my blog!

let me know if you’re also participating in the #DiversityBingo2017 and any reccomendations in the comments!

Yasmin xx

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