Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard | Audiobook Review

Pages: 400

Time audiobook: 9 hours

Genre: young adult, lgbt


All Pen wants is to be the kind of girl she’s always been. So why does everyone have a problem with it? They think the way she looks and acts means she’s trying to be a boy—that she should quit trying to be something she’s not. If she dresses like a girl, and does what her folks want, it will show respect. If she takes orders and does what her friend Colby wants, it will show her loyalty. But respect and loyalty, Pen discovers, are empty words. Old-world parents, disintegrating friendships, and strong feelings for other girls drive Pen to see the truth–that in order to be who she truly wants to be, she’ll have to man up.

Audiobook review

The narrator is really good, during the dramatic scenes especially. Personally I would’ve chosen the physical book because I thought the writing of the plot dragged on and 30% in I was already listening on 1.5x speed to get through it. But I can recommend the audiobook to anyone who prefers that.

My thoughts

Rating out of five: three

The concept and plot is really important and good, it’s about the main character Penn’s struggle about gender and having to respond to a lot of unwelcome questions and harassment about it. Among friends, classmates, teachers and parents who insists that she should act and look more like a girl. Penn is a butch lesbian and the parts where she’s figuring out her attraction to girls and going into her first relationship are so cute. It very well balanced.

My problem with the book is the writing. This book doesn’t need to be 9 hours or 400 pages long. So many details are included, in the style of me walking into a room and describing what I see, instead of focusing on a couple things that give characteristics and letting the picture paint itself for the reader. The book is marketed as young adult, but it feels like it’s for a younger audience. The main character feels younger than 16 as well, the age isn’t mentioned before much later in the book. The conflicts show themselves to be much darker than first thought, but that disconnect between how Penn talks about her challenges in the beginning and the end was really confusing. She goes from talking about conflicts more suited among 13 year olds, to serious harassment. I get that it’s young adult for the darker parts and family conflicts, but then I think the author should’ve made Penn and the friend-group feel more grown up. It still has a lot of good examples and talks about loyalty, friendship, gender and the struggles of not being accepted by family.

I’ve seen readers complain on the “girl mans up” theme and actually complain about how horrific people are acting and bullying each other. That’s the only wrong opinion you can have about this book, as the book brings up bad to horrifying examples of friendships and manipulation and how the characters try to keep each other down. The conversations around that are the excellent parts of this book!

What I felt reading this book: really felt for Penn even though she continued to make wrong choices (she’s got heart though) and anger at everyone who has to deal with this bullying and constant harassment if they don’t clearly fit into “acceptable” gender or sexuality. and how bad unaccepting families make everything.

2019 TBR!

I don’t usually follow TBR’s anyway, but I looked around and saw I already owned a lot of the books I want to read this year, which makes it much more likely I’ll stick to it. My biggest genre is fantasy, but I’m excited to also read more science books in preparation to hopefully go to university, along with poetry, about writing, new ya releases and some classics.

One of my big goals this year is also to read about physical pain, which needs some explanations. As someone who is chronically ill I’ve avoided books about pain or disability like the plague (or the flu, because that can really fuck me up also). Mental illnesses are fine for me to read about, because I can learn a lot (as long as I check it’s true to real people’s experience). But when it comes to physical illnesses, it’s been very difficult when authors get it wrong or if the character feels hopeless, because there’s no distance between me and the character all of a sudden. Still I love when for example there’s a character with a disability in fantasy books, if done right. I do also really want to find a good discription or a book I can show someone who asks about chronic illness or pain, which is what I’m trying to do this year, starting with “the body in pain”. I can’t find the right words to describe it, so I’m searching for people who are. Last year I found “when breath becomes air” which is one of my favourite all time books, and inspired me to do this.

January is nearly over already, but I’ve read like 9 other books. There’s around 46 books on this list, and I read 60-80 books a year, so I have good chances I think! We’ll see at the end of the year.

Let me know if you are going to read any of these books, at any point this year and if you want to read them around the same time and discuss them! Like a buddy-read with not strict times to finish it hahha

Books I already own:

2019 or recent releases:

Older releases:

Authors I’ve read and liked:

Other books:

20th Birthday, Mary Oliver and New Posts: Bi-Weekly Update

New book posts:

Other books I’ve been reading:

  • The waste land and other poems by T. S. Eliot
  • Six easy pieces by Richard Feynman (currently)
  • At blackwater pond by Mary Oliver audiobook (currently)

Added to my TBR:

  • Artificial generation by A. H. Haga
  • City of thieves by David Benioff
  • Solitaire by Alice Oseman – great author
  • The past and other things that should stay buried by Shaun David Hutchinson – great author
  • We are displaced by Malala Yousafzai – so anticipating reading this
  • Wilder girls by Rory Power
  • soft magic by Upile Chisala
  • Wicked saints by Emily A. Duncan
  • Skin deep (Legion #2) by Brandon Sanderson – great author and first book
  • All the lonely people by David Owen – recommended by one of my fav authors Alice Oseman
  • Army of none by Paul Scharre – recommended by Bill Gates

Recent book buys:

Trying to save money ! But I did buy City of thieves by David Benioff, because the kindle version was on sale.

Three things on my mind:

  • RIP Mary Oliver. I cried a few tears when I realized she had passed, after seeing so many of her poems resurfacing on social media at once. She became 83 years old and really was my favourite poet, so talented and a goal in life, living in a small sea-town in Massachusetts with her wife Molly until she died fourteen years ago. I tried to describe her poetry to a few friends a couple days before her death as: criticizing humans through wonderful pictures of nature. I’ve always admired her perspective, but also how she put her thoughts out in the world.
  • I’ve been doing so much better the past three weeks health and mood-wise. I’m amazed at how good I’ve been feeling and the change it makes, like problems is still thrown at me daily, but I have the energy to deal with it. Then I started losing my voice and coughing today, so we’ll see how long that lasts. (I’m going to be mad if it doesn’t last longer, honestly, and I think that’s quite okay of a feeling this time).
  • With this input of energy (sidenote: I’m studying electric currents for physics test in a couple days and I can’t stop sliding in terminology in the most casual conversations, then catching myself doing it and groan. This is a light example, honestly). With this input of energy I’m also doing a lot more things. Lots of studying and actually being close to on top of things. Seeing friends! Enjoying myself! Celebrating my birthday for the first time in three years! I’m pretty proud and greatful for that, seeing as I’ve been too ill to want to the past years. It was my 20th and I chose to do things my introverted ass wouldn’t normally, like drinking the whole day and evening. I have a weirdly high tolerance for someone who doesn’t drink, but inevitably blacked out for the first time. Three hours gone. I mean – wouldn’t necessarily recommend, but it was great with good friends around me and lots of dancing.

Short reviews: sci-fi & poetry

Legion #1 by Brandon Sanderson:

This short sci-fi mystery novella is about a guy who has multiple sidekicks in form of hallucinations, who give him specialization in skills like language, fighting or computers. With Sanderson’s funny dialogues, and an imaginative plot with a camera that can take pictures of the past, it comes together into one perfectly entertaining story.

5/5 stars and I’m excited to read the rest of the trilogy. I received a copy through NetGallet in exchange for an honest review.

The Year of the Femme by Cassie Donish:

I appreciated the themes of femininity and body, but the writing style was messy and disconnected in a way that worked against understanding the message. Also as Donish talks about gender she admits to using “a lot of generalizations”, which she says is not wholly untrue, but come from resentment and socialization. I feel if you want to write a book dissecting gender, do it completely and tear down why and how it hurts people. This feels more like snarky parody with a girl needing a dog because now she’s single and has no one to protect her. Maybe I didn’t get what this storytellers view of women are miserable and happy was supposed to be, but it was boring to read about and added little new. I received a copy through NetGalley in exchange for a honest reivew.

If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio

Pages: 370

Genre: contemporary mystery, set in a college


On the day Oliver Marks is released from jail, the man who put him there is waiting at the door. Detective Colborne wants to know the truth, and after ten years, Oliver is finally ready to tell it.

Ten years ago: Oliver is one of seven young Shakespearean actors at Dellecher Classical Conservatory, a place of keen ambition and fierce competition. In this secluded world of firelight and leather-bound books, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingénue, extra. But in their fourth and final year, the balance of power begins to shift, good-natured rivalries turn ugly, and on opening night real violence invades the students’ world of make believe. In the morning, the fourth-years find themselves facing their very own tragedy, and their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, each other, and themselves that they are innocent. 

Audiobook review

The narrator is good, except for how he’s trying to do the female voices. Every heard one narrator dub tv series? It’s hilariously bad. Also there’s a lot of characters in the friend-group to meet all at once at the beginning, so I actually picked up the text version the second chapter and went back to really understand who each of them is, because there’s no good separator in the audiobook (except for bad female voices). I would recommend physically reading this one, I was packing for a trip and wanted to get throught it.

My thoughts

Rating out of five: three

I picked this book up because of its college/university setting and saw it recommended for those who liked “The secret history” by Donna Tartt. That book is much better than this one, in a lot of ways. They both do have a “dark academia” vibe – which I recently learned was a thing and I love it. I wanted to give it an extra star for that alone, but then I saw that ending and thought hell no, I was bored through too many parts of this book.

I’m happy I read the book, because it had its entertaining points as the characters uncover dark things about the others and themselves. It’s very centered on the characters and who’s friends and enemies as they all attend the same class. So it’s dark and dramatic, which also comes through in the greek plays they perform. The theater parts were very nice details, going through the whole book and giving it more texture and depth. You can see how the characters are pushed to excell and that they know that themselves, before they start to unravel from guilt. Still, I didn’t feel the characters was given enough space to show how supposedly three-dimensional they was. Instead the author seemed to make them do things out of character, playing on “well, you don’t know when they’re acting or not” which sure is an explanation, but doesn’t help on feeling that connection for the reader.

I both loved and hated the writing at points. On one hand it has some really pretty lines, like “Dense forest surrounded it on all sides except one, the north shore, where the trees were thinner and a strip of sandy white beach shimmered like diamond dust in the moonlight.” On the other hand, so much annoyed me. Mostly the author’s choices, like the ending or having Richard be described as a person everyone hated, which then made us miss out on later feeling sorry for him. The characters in this book doesn’t feel like villains because there were no sense of feeling sorry for Richard, because his character was so violent. The bolder choice would’ve been to make him sympathic. I just felt like a lot of depth was missing, there were hilariously little moral dilemmas for the reader watching this play out. I get that it’s part thriller and part mystery, but as I didn’t think who killed him was such a big mystery, a more cohesive and focused history or plot would’ve been better.

What I felt reading this book: mostly entertained and intrigued, annoyed at writing choices. And I was laughing at myself for chosing to read this hours before a weekend of partying with classmates. It was a nice weeked, but I did think of this book as we were driving into the snow-filled forest.

It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh

An easy plan for living a richer life with less stuff

Pages: 230

Genre: organizing


When you think of what it will take to clean your house, are you so overwhelmed you throw up your hands and cry “It’s all too much”? Do you dream of having a closet where your clothes aren’t crammed in so tightly that you can actually get to them? Is your basement filled with boxes of precious family mementos you haven’t opened in ten years but are too afraid to toss? Are your kitchen counters overrun with appliances you’ve never used? Do your kids play in the living room because there’s no room left in their playroom? If somewhere along the way you’ve simply lost the ability to keep your home organized and clutter-free, then It’s All Too Much has the solution you’ve been searching for.

My thoughts

Rating out of five: three

I heard somewhere that this book was the more practical over “spiritual” approach to organizing in comparison to the popular tidying and organizing book by Marie Kondo. That sounded like what I needed, but I think I’ll pick up her book too, to see if there is more advice.

Because this book had some good tips, the problem is that it’s not 230 PAGES of it. It got quite boring, saying the same thing over and over. Also personally, considering I don’t have a family to take care of, what I needed from this book could’ve been summed up in an article.

So if you’re a single young person, without a household and family to consider, here’s probably all you need from this book:

  • Imagine the life you want, physically and emotionally, and consider if the items you own contribute to that future?
  • How do you feel and compare it to how you want to feel when entering your home. What function do you want each room to have? Organize from that perspective
  • “Ask yourself these questions as you encounter each piece of clutter: Do I use this? How long has it been since I’ve used it? Will I use it again? Is it worth the space it takes up in my house?
  • If you’re tempted to keep something because it’s expensive, remind yourself of the difference of value and cost – how much space and energy does it take up and is it worth it?
  • When trying to encourage another person to organize, change the questions to about their feeling attached to the object. Like “Why is this important to you? What does this item remind you of? What do you feel after spending time in this room?”

Short reviews: poetry

Monument by Natasha Trethewey: a poetry collection consisting of serious stories of a mixed-race prostitute, historical struggles of people of colour, about hurricane Katrina, the poet’s own family stories of loss. Still, the writing doesn’t pull me in as a reader, there’s not a lot of emotion here. It doesn’t seem like a purposefully lack of emotion either, and it got better towards the end. She describes scenes, but doesn’t add much to most of them, the way I see it. 2/5 stars. I received this copy through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Bright Dead Things by Ada Limon: now, this one is harder to give a review of because it’s really well-written the way I see it, but it didn’t grab my interest. There were a couple poems that I really liked, but overall it didn’t work for me. Won’t give it a rating because it’s confusing. It might be worth a try, if you’re looking for poetry collections.

The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking | Review

Pages: 200

Genre: science – physics


A beautifully written book about our universe and how and why it was designed. It’s written for people of many different levels of knowledge of physics already, from short and clear explanations of atoms to mentioning a few things I personally need and want to look more into like string theory, bosons, where plancks constant comes from and Feynmans sum over histories. This is a book trying to give philisophical answers based on scientific history and theories. As the book says itself:

Why is there something rather than nothing?

Why do we exist?

Why this particular set of laws and not some other?”

My thoughts

Rating out of five: five

I’ve honestly never read a full Stephen Hawking book, even though I take physics classes and am very interested in it. I was personally really surprised at how much I understood, that I’ve gone through in classes before and this book looked more at the “why” behind it, the connection that I so much love. This is the book you need to read if you’re interested in the how and why’s of the universe, no matter what level of understanding you’re at now! 

This book absolutely made me reflect on the nature of the universe, even though I already have some experience there. It also made me so very excited about learning more, and what we could find out in the future, with newer technology. Multi-verse and possibly no objective reality existing are examples of rabbit-holes of information and theories I love to fall into, so this book was ideal.

Favourite quotes

“While concending that human behaviour is indeed determined by the laws of nature, it also seems reasonable to conclude that the outcome is determined in such a complicated way and with so many variables as to make impossible in practice to predict.”

“[…] philosopher David Hume who wrote that although we have no rational grounds for believing in an objective reality, we also have no choice but to act as if it is true.”

“Such calculations show that a change of as little as 0.5 percent in the strength of the strong nuclear force, or 4 percent in the electric force, would destroy either nearly all carbon or all oxygen in every star, and hence the possibility of life as we know it. Change those rules of our universe just a bit, and the conditions for our existence disappear!”

“If the [M-] theory is confirmed by observation, it will be the successful conclusion of a search going back more than 3.000 years. We will have found the grand design.”

Lord of the Butterflies by Andrea Gibson | Review

Pages: 96

Genre: poetry, lgbt


In Andrea Gibson’s latest collection, they continue their artful and nuanced looks at gender, romance, loss, and family. Each emotion here is deft and delicate, resting inside of imagery heavy enough to sink the heart, while giving the body wings to soar.

My thoughts

Rating out of five: five

Be prepared to cry, I was definitely not and it took reading three poems for my eyes to start leaking, until I was a sobbing mess. This is what I want poetry to be, I was thinking over and over. I’d just put down another poetry collection that had important themes, but nothing new to convey, even through tough circumstances. Andrea Gibson is the opposite of that, they write poetry so filled with emotion that you can touch it, feel it around yourself.

It’s just such a strange mix of sweet, with stories of queer love, of incredibly traumatic events, with stories of being suicidal or loss, of hoplessness and hope as well. All the stories they had to tell got to me, especially of physical illness as it’s the one I’m most familiar with. One of personal goals this year is to find a better way to describe physical pain, which this did so incredibly well, along with emotional one. The stories are told in such a detailed and personal way, but at the same time putting words to more common emotions and situations brilliantly.

All my love to this poetry collection, I’ve definitely found a poet that will become one of my favourite. I’ll make sure to see it performed as spoken word pieces when I’m having a stable, good day because it took me thirty seconds out of five minutes to completely break down sobbing.

I received a copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Favourite quotes

“You’re in the 7th grade. You don’t even know you want a girlfriend. You still believe in the people who believe in Jesus, can’t even feel that desire through it’s hell threat.”

– YOUR LIFE by Andrea Gibson

[…] but secretly my favourite season is flu season. The season of proof that I’m tough as Christ forgiving the nails. The season everyone I love becomes a raging customer at the complaint counter of life, like their birth certificate were warranties, their bodies promised technology guaranteeing protection from all viruses. They break down, Nyquil drunk and say, I haven’t been able to exercise in three days. The last time I got the flu it took me three days to notice. I thought the pain was just the pain. […] Good god, there isn’t a healthy body in the world that is stronger than a sick person’s spirit. Thirty times last month I thought, I can’t do this another day. Thirty times last month I did it another day.”


“During the visit, my niece only broke once, and only when the guard rattled his keys and rushed her to finish hugging her mother, the nightstick of his voice cracking over their bleeding goodbye. I restrained my fist in my pocket but wanted to knock him back to his own mother’s arms, where he might grow into a man without a uniform over his chest.”

– BLACK AND WHITE ANGEL by Andrea Gibson


1. Loading the past into a cannon and murder this year.


Let’s Start the New Year with an Update

These are usually bi-weekly, but the last one was end october.

Here’s my TBR of physical books that I probably should get through in 2019, so I’ve halfways committed to it:

New book posts:

Other books I’ve been reading:

  • La belle sauvage by Philip Pullman, 4/5 stars
  • Six easy pieces by Richard Feynman (currently)
  • At blackwater pond by Mary Oliver (currently)
  • The grand design by Stephen Hawking (currently)


What if it’s us by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli – I like fluffy, but this felt like a romance just describing everyday things. I wanted to like it so much, but it wasn’t for me and after the karaoke bar I was out

Added to my TBR:

  • The five stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson (queer ya)
  • The apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by
    Shaun David Hutchinson (queer ya)
  • Skyward by Brandon Sanderson (sci-fi)
  • Ender’s game by Orson Scott Card (sci-fi)
  • Emergency contact by Mary Choi (ya)
  • Circe by Madeline Miller (fantasy)
  • How the immune system works by Lauren M Sompayrac (science)
  • Immuno-biology by Charles Janeway (science)
  • By grand central station I sat down and wept by Elizabeth Smart (poetry)
  • The falconer by Elizabeth May (ya fantasy)
  • The armored saint by Myke Cole (fantasy)
  • No matter by Jana Prikryl (poetry)
  • The year of femme by Cassie Donish (poetry)

Recent book buys:

  • Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
  • These shallow graves by Jennifer Donnelly
  • The grand design by Stephen Hawkings
  • Netgalley: Monument by Natasha Trethewey
  • Netgalley: Lord of the butterflies by Andrea Gibson

Three things on my mind:

  • 2019 is the year of Change for me, where change will come whether I like it or not and I don’t yet know if it’s going to be net-positive or net-negative. Last year had it extreme bad times and also very-good times. So I’ve decided to embrace it, to throw myself into the ocean of change and see what happens.
  • Coffee is my new love. I got a moka pot and it’s been my savior for the end of december and the beginning of january so far.
  • Nearly every toilet visit ended with blood for the last week, and I’m not on my period. TMI I know, but that’s life with crohn’s. I need that change – whatever it is – to come soon, I think. I feel like in a good space right now, but also like I’m watching a house burn around me and not feeling the heat of the flames yet. In other words – hell is surely coming. I’ll read in the meantime. Cheers.