Monday, September 11, 2017

Things I've Read Recently (56): School Part 2

If you're new around here, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or just didn't want to do a full post about for whatever reason. I had so many books for my last school-themed post that I decided to go ahead and do another!

And then I forgot about it for two years. Whoops.

Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary

Published: Originally published in 1968, this edition was released on March 19th, 2013
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 211 plus an excerpt from Ramona the Brave
Part of a series? Yes, there are eight Ramona books, and the Ramona series itself follows the 6-book Henry Huggins series.
Got via: This exact copy I borrowed from the library, but I own two others because I wanted to check out the new edition/new illustrations.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Ramona Quimby is excited to start kindergarten. No longer does she have to watch her older sister, Beezus, ride the bus to school with all the big kids. She's finally old enough to do it too!

Then she gets into trouble for pulling her classmate's boingy curls during recess. Even worse, her crush rejects her in front of everyone. Beezus says Ramona needs to quit being a pest, but how can she stop if she never was trying to be one in the first place?

Thoughts: I loved Ramona as a kid, although I don't think I read this exact one. This edition has updated illustrations, which are larger and more detailed. That was a pretty big adjustment, and kind of justifies keeping the other copies to compare in my mind (it doesn't take much justification, though, honestly), but I do think they make the book appeal more to today's young audience. They also have a lot of personality, are much more modern, and are very cute.

The books have aged well. Beyond a few slightly dated things (rubber boots over oxford shoes, jeans with only one hip pocket), they're good. There's still enough to appeal to kids today, and like my praise with Junie, many of the things Ramona fears or worries about are very true of kids. Ramona has a ton of personality, and she's really an individual. While this one will obviously be going back to the library (possibly to my Storytime kid who will be starting kindergarten in the fall!), my copies will be returning to my bookshelves.

Judy Moody Goes to College by Megan McDonald

Published: First published in 2008, my edition was released probably around 2010 by Scholastic
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 131 plus a glossary.
Part of a series? Yes, this is the 8th book of 11 in the Judy Moody series, plus there's two companion series, Judy and Stink, and just the Stink series, plus a bunch of companion/side books and stuff related to the movie.
Got via: I think I bought this and a later book in this post at a sale at a school near here during a town-wide yard sale. They both have cards in the back, which is pretty much only done at schools now.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Judy Moody is in a mood. Not a good mood. And definitely NOT a math mood. The substitute teacher in Class 3T thinks Judy's math skills need improving. So Judy has to start meeting with a math tutor. Does this mean flash cards? Does this mean baby games? Does this mean school on weekends?

But when Judy meets her tutor — a sick-awesome college student with an uber-funky sense of style — and gets a glimpse of college life, Judy's bad math-i-tude turns into a radical glad-i-tude. Pretty soon, Judy's not only acing her math class; she's owning it. Time to say good-bye to Judy Moody, old skool third-grader, and say hello to Miss College! Small-tall upside-down backward non-fat capp with extra whip, anyone?

Thoughts: This series is pretty much past my time as a kid reader. (I was a really advanced reader.) I think I may have read one or two before now, but I'm not sure. I do kinda like the movie, though. It's kind of terrible and adorable, and I enjoy that. While there are references and context in this book that would make more sense had I read previous books, I think they can be read as standalones fairly easily.

Judy fits pretty well with Ramona and Junie B. Jones, although she's a bit older than either of them, as are the audience her books aim at. This book also has a lot of lingo and slang, although it's largely made-up to be unique to the world of the book, which is something that can be challenging for kids to read. I do think, though, that this kind of book would appeal to a lot of young readers. Judy's near hero-worship of her college-student math tutor is adorable, and I really liked the focus on making math seem awesome, especially using girls to do so.

This one isn't my favourite, but I'll be keeping it for the good points.

Sideways Stories From Wayside School by Louis Sachar

Published: Originally published in 1978, this edition was released in 2003 by HarperTrophy
Genre: I guess MG Fantasy?
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 124 plus a listing of some other books
Part of a series? Yes, there are three books of Wayside stories, plus some companion books like the arithmetic books.
Got via: I think I bought it at the same school sale as the Judy Moody book.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): There'd been a terrible mistake. Wayside School was supposed to be built with thirty classrooms all next to each other in a row. Instead, they built the classrooms one on top of the other ... thirty stories tall! (The builder said he was very sorry.)

That may be why all kinds of funny things happen at Wayside School ... especially on the thirtieth floor. You'll meet Mrs. Gorf, the meanest teacher of all, terrible Todd, who always getss sent home early, and John who can read only upside down - along with all the other kids in the crazy mixed-up school that came out sideways. But you'll never guess the truth about Sammy, the new kid ... or what's inside for Wayside School on Halloween!

Thoughts: If you're not familiar with Wayside, these are books of short stories. This book has 30, and the others probably do, too, for the 30 storeys of Wayside School. They're very silly, ridiculous stories, and they can be a lot of fun. They're very popular, and I can see why. I do caution that there's a mention of some animal violence in one of the stories in this one that very sensitive readers may find disturbing, and I really don't like the fat jokes regarding the three Erics. If I recommended this one to a kid, I'd make sure to talk about the jokes and how they're rather mean-spirited, but with that in mind, I probably will still keep this one, because I like these books, just not that part, and honestly, middle grade/YA was horrid to fat kids in this time period... and can still be... and I've seen way worse. Cautiously recommended.

Now, onto another collection of short stories that are pretty different!

Haunted Schools by Allan Zullo

Published: January 1st, 1996 by Scholastic
Genre: MG Horror (you know, for a loose definition of horror)
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 128
Part of a series? Yeah, there are a lot of these "Haunted So-and-So's" books, like Haunted Teachers, Haunted Baby-Sitters, Haunted Animals, etc.
Got via: I think a yard sale, or something like that. Maybe from a book order way back when I was actually in school, but I'm just not sure at this point.
AmazonIndiebound / AbeBooks

Summary (from goodreads): Brynn is haunted by the moans of a burning man. Laurie attends her high school graduation, eleven years after her death. A young man who died in a steam explosion haunts and kisses girls at an academy. These and other true spooky stories make up this collection from the "True Ghost Stories" series.

Thoughts: Well, first of all, excuse the not amazing cover photo. I'm working with what I can find here, and the pickings were a little scarce. I actually do like this cover, though. I like the creepy apple, and the colours are very vibrant.

If you don't know what these are, there's collections of short stories to a specific theme. I own a couple, I believe. This particular one is obviously ghost/haunting themed, but I think I own a UFO one, too. They claim to be true stories, but I think the closest to true they are is that they're sort of urban legend type stories. Someone probably told them, I mean. Or maybe I'm just cynical. (Although frankly the dialogue is somewhat unrealistic at times, and how would one guy know all these conversations people had anyways?)

Anyways, they do have a lot of atmosphere, so kids who like scary stuff will enjoy how easily it is to freak themselves out. The stories aren't too creepy, so nobody should have awful nightmares or anything. Nobody is really hurt, and there's no gore or whatnot. They're kind of that middle ground for kids who want to read something scary things, but don't want to be too scared. I also think short stories can be great for reluctant readers, as you can skip stories you're not interested in, and there's a lot less commitment than with a longer novel. With this being a pretty slim volume as well, it will be keeping its spot on my shelf for the time being, for future kids in my care mostly. They're kind of silly, but they have definite appeal for the right audience.

Okay, hopefully you enjoyed this really old post! Thanks for reading!

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Monday, September 4, 2017

MG Review: Patina

Patina by Jason Reynolds

Published: August 29th, 2017 by Antheneum Books for Young Readers/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, which are Simon and Schuster imprints.
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: ARC
Page Count: 192
Part of a series? This is the second book in the Track series, but it's not like a direct sequel with the same narrator. I know there'll be at least one more released in 2018 and I'm betting there will be a fourth one. I wanted to read it without reading Ghost to see if how it worked, and I think it works just fine as a standalone. I really do want to read more of the series though!
Got via: It was sent to me for review consideration.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Patina, or Patty, runs like a flash. She runs for many reasons—to escape the taunts from the kids at the fancy-schmancy new school she’s been sent to since she and her little sister had to stop living with their mom.

She runs from the reason WHY she’s not able to live with her “real” mom any more: her mom has The Sugar, and Patty is terrified that the disease that took her mom’s legs will one day take her away forever. So Patty’s also running for her mom, who can’t. But can you ever really run away from any of this?

As the stress builds up, it’s building up a pretty bad attitude as well. Coach won’t tolerate bad attitude. No day, no way. And now he wants Patty to run relay…where you have to depend on other people? How’s she going to do THAT?

Review: I really liked this. It's such a good middle grade book. The art of building an amazing middle grade book is different than building a great young adult book, and this nails it. This is one of those books I just think about kids reading and know that it'll mean so much to them. The voice in this is absolutely amazing, there are so many amazing characters, and I enjoyed it so much. I had a couple small issues, but overall nothing major and I'm super excited about everyone else getting to read this one.

Plot Talk: This is pretty slice of life, and it does slice of life very well. The plot is basically Patty training for her next track meet after coming in second at the last one. It's not just about winning, though, obviously, as it's also about bonding with her teammates, and learning that her races aren't just about whether or not she wins. It's one of those plots that sounds like nothing when I say it because I'm terrible at describing plot, but it's very, very satisfying to read.

Characters: I swear, I'm going to make that list one day of girl characters who have the weight of the world (and their siblings) on their shoulders. Soledad Madrid, Dicey Tillerman, Delphine Gaither... I really like this type of character, and Patty is a great addition to my growing list. Seriously I'm gonna write a blog post or something one day. And one thing I especially liked about that is while she's very close to her sister, with her sister definitely looking to her for guidance, and Patty taking on some responsibilities that are a little more adult, she's not expected to actually be an adult. When things get really bad, the adults in her life step in and say, no, this isn't okay.

Those adult characters were really awesome. I really loved how much of the book took the time to flesh out how important the adults in Patty's life are, in the various roles they play. You know how sometimes in MG you get an adult character who's very much a "character" and they kind of take over the book? The adults in this book feel like people, and they're in the book to support the young characters, not to be the center of the splotlight.

One thing I thought was absolutely wonderful was how many women and girls are in this book. A lot of the book is about Patty's relationships with other female characters, be it girls at school, the girls on her track team, or the women in her family. It's something that's almost subtle, honestly, but it's really neat to see, especially from a male author.

PG-13 stuff: There's some talk of death, as Patty lost her father a few years ago and thinks about that while also worrying about her mom. Her aunt and sister are also in a car accident at one point, and her aunt is injured. I also think some of the diabetes stuff could be upsetting - I'll go more into that next.

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: My biggest complaint is that there's not enough disctinction between "not managing your already existing diabetes is a bad thing" and "eating a lot of sugar can make you diabetic" and I think especially in a middle grade book that separation is incredibly important. The book basically says that after Patty's dad died, her mom started eating a lot, and then diabetes came and took her legs.

Eating a lot of sugar doesn't cause diabetes. This is a myth and a dangerous one. While Patty's mother's weight is never mentioned, this is a myth that especially hurts fat people especially because of the idea that a) all fat people are diabetic/will be diabetic, b) diabetes is something you did to yourself c) of course you're fat because you ate a lot of sugary stuff and d) diabetes is essentially a punishment for being fat/eating.

I'm going to link to one two three sources including a couple that actually say some things that I don't completely agree with because, you know, fairness or something, and also link to a couple posts I encourage you to read after those. One about fatness and diabetes, and one about poverty's link to diabetes. I'm linking to a blog instead of directly to the sources talked about as I want you to think about these things in relation to the people commenting, you know? Also I don't want to go through every comment and link, but there's a lot of good stuff being said.

I just really wish this had been handled a little better because I loved the rest of the book so much, and I also wonder how kids with diabetes will see that? Are they going to blame themselves for having a disease? Diabetes is very genetic also, and it's very all or nothing about getting it. There's no balanced talk about managing diabetes instead of it just being this thing to be afraid of. I think the reason this bugs me so much is that it's not nuanced. Patty's mother having Type I diabetes, say, and not managing it well in her grief could honestly have been a great subversion of this. And other than the book lacking queer people beyond a mention of some people having two moms and not really having fat people, this is literally my only complaint.

Everything else being so amazing really just made that stand out. (There was also a thing that made me wonder how much medical research had been done? Patty's aunt would probably not be eating right before going for a planned surgery with general anesthetic. You generally can't eat before surgery. ARC obviously, so things are subject to change, but I noticed it.)

Cover comments: I quite like the cover. It's simple without erasing what Patty looks like (because obviously that's so, so important). Since Ghost's cover is yellow, I'm kinda hoping the next one is red so that it keeps going as a rainbow... because I'm a dork and rainbow spines would be neat.

Conclusion: Seriously it looks like my entire review is complaint now, but honestly, I really, really liked this. There is so much depth and nuance to almost everything besides the diabetes representation and I think kids are going to love it. Something that was really interesting is that this isn't as heavy of a book as it could be. There's not a big tragic Newberry death or something. It's all about Patty and her growth. I highly recommend this one. Four out of five roses - half a star taken off solely for the diabetes thing.



Other notes:

- I'm writing this before it's out and I cannot find a single review from a black reviewer. Almost every single review I can find is from white people. I'm trying to give it away on twitter to an ownvoices reviewer! We'll see how that goes.

- But if you know any reviews from ownvoices reviewers, please let me know! I'll add links to them.

Okay, that's it for now!

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Friday, September 1, 2017

Reading Challenges Check In: August

This year I decided to do Diversity Bingo 2017, and the 2017 Diverse Reads Book Challenge. I'm also obviously doing Queer Summer Reading. Each month, that challenge has a mini theme, and August's theme was Non Western Setting. I decided to read:

Listen, Slowly by Thanhhà Lại

Published: February 17th, 2015 by HarperCollins
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 260 plus a bunch of extras
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): A California girl born and raised, Mai can't wait to spend her vacation at the beach. Instead, though, she has to travel to Vietnam with her grandmother, who is going back to find out what really happened to her husband during the Vietnam War. Mai's parents think this trip will be a great opportunity for their out-of-touch daughter to learn more about her culture.

But to Mai, those are their roots, not her own. Vietnam is hot, smelly, and the last place she wants to be. Besides barely speaking the language, she doesn't know the geography, the local customs, or even her distant relatives. To survive her trip, Mai must find a balance between her two completely different worlds.

The part where I talk: This was lovely.

For Bingo, I read:

Want by Cindy Pon

Published: June 13th, 2017 by Simon Pulse
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 323 plus acknowledgements and an about the author.
Part of a series? No, standalone. Which is kinda neat, really.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits that protect them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother, who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost.

With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the lives of the wealthy in hopes of destroying the international Jin Corporation from within. Jin Corp not only manufactures the special suits the rich rely on, but they may also be manufacturing the pollution that makes them necessary.

Yet the deeper Zhou delves into this new world of excess and wealth, the more muddled his plans become. And against his better judgment, Zhou finds himself falling for Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO. Can Zhou save his city without compromising who he is or destroying his own heart?

The part where I talk: This is actually a non-Western setting, too, as it's set in (futuristic) Taiwan.

The Traitor's Tunnel by C. M. Spivey

Published: June 2017
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Binding: E-book
Part of a series? It's a prequel to From Under the Mountain, which is the first book in the Trident Chronicles series.
Got via: I bought it.
Amazon

Summary (from goodreads): Witch-blooded robber Bridget has made a reputation for herself in the capital city, but she's not interested in the attention of the Thieves' Guild--and she's not bothered by the rumors of urchin kidnappings, either. With winter coming, she's looking out for herself and no one else.

Until she picks the wrong pocket, and recognizes her estranged brother Teddy.

Young craftsman Theodor arrives in the capital ready to take the final step toward his dream career as Lord Engineer of Arido. His apprenticeship with a renowned city engineer comes with new rules and challenges, but it's worth it for the exposure to the Imperial Council.

While spying on her brother, Bridget overhears a secret meeting that reveals a cruel plot. After more than a decade apart, Theodor and Bridget must reunite to stop a traitor whose plan threatens not only their city, but the whole empire.

The part where I talk: This was cool. I don't read a lot of fantasy, but this was well-done.

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Published: May 30th, 2017 by Simon Pulse
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 380 pages
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

The part where I talk: I think maybe this one got hyped up a little too much for me, but it was still fun.

And for QSR I read:

The One Hundred Nights of Hero

Published: September 1st, 2016 by Jonathan Cape
Genre: Fantasy Adult Graphic Novel
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: Goodreads say 224 and the pages aren't numbered so, that.
Part of a series? This can be read either as a standalone or as a follow-up to the author's previous book, The Encyclopedia of Early Earth.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): From the author who brought you The Encyclopedia of Early Earth comes another Epic Tale of Derring-Do. Prepare to be dazzled once more by the overwhelming power of stories and see Love prevail in the face of Terrible Adversity! You will read of betrayal, loyalty, madness, bad husbands, lovers both faithful and unfaithful, wise old crones, moons who come out of the sky, musical instruments that won't stay quiet, friends and brothers and fathers and mothers and above all, many, many sisters.

The part where I talk: I actually already have the blog post with this in it scheduled and forgot to put it here. Apparently I can't count to four.

Queer, There, and Everywhere by Sarah Prager

Published: May 23rd, 2017 by HarperCollins
Genre: Non-Fiction
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 256 plus acknowledgements. The entries about people stop at 215 and the rest is a glossary and biblography.
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): World history has been made by countless lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals—and you’ve never heard of many of them.

Queer author and activist Sarah Prager delves deep into the lives of 23 people who fought, created, and loved on their own terms. From high-profile figures like Abraham Lincoln and Eleanor Roosevelt to the trailblazing gender-ambiguous Queen of Sweden and a bisexual blues singer who didn’t make it into your history books, these astonishing true stories uncover a rich queer heritage that encompasses every culture, in every era.

By turns hilarious and inspiring, the beautifully illustrated Queer, There, and Everywhere is for anyone who wants the real story of the queer rights movement.

The part where I talk: I enjoyed this, but it's definitely not perfect. Blog post to come.

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie

Published: February 8th, 2016 by Flux
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 273 plus the acknowledgements and about the author
Part of a series? This is the first in the Abyss Surrounds Us series with the second book released April 2017.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): For Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business. She’s been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the genetically-engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas’s first solo mission and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas’s dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water.

There’s no time to mourn. Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup, make sure he imprints on her ship, and, when the time comes, teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea.

The part where I talk: I liked this more than I thought I would! Sci-fi like this isn't really my thing, but this is really good.

Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace

Published: January 26th, 2016 by Katherine Tegan Books. The paperback comes out Septeber 5th, 2017
Genre: YA Paranormal
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 358 plus acknowledgements and such.
Part of a series? I WISH.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Breezy remembers leaving the party: the warm, wet grass under her feet, her cheek still stinging from a slap to her face. But when she wakes up, scared and pulling dirt from her mouth, a year has passed and she can’t explain how.

Nor can she explain the man lying at her grave, dead from her touch, or why her heartbeat comes and goes. She doesn’t remember who killed her or why. All she knows is that she’s somehow conscious—and not only that, she’s able to sense who around her is hiding a murderous past.

Haunted by happy memories from her life, Breezy sets out to find answers in the gritty, threatening world to which she now belongs—where killers hide in plain sight, and a sinister cult is hunting for strange creatures like her. What she discovers is at once empowering, redemptive, and dangerous.

The part where I talk: Wow, okay, I loved this. I'm not going to ramble too much here, but wow. This was awesome.

So, my bingo card looks like this now:


And my QSR T-shirt looks like this:


LOOK AT MY MAGESTIC QUEER MOOSE.

Just as a note, I may not have that many books next month. I'm waiting on a few that are pretty new/not out yet, and my library is kind of slow. We'll see! I'm super close anyways, so I'm not that worried.

How did you guys do this month?

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Thursday, August 31, 2017

QSR: Wrap-Up Chat Reminder

Hey Scouts!

It's the last day of Queer Summer Reading!! I'm so sad it's over, but I really loved doing it.

And to finish things up, you guys know what time it is.

It's time for our last twitter chat!

Tell us how you did with the challenges, talk about previous chats, whatever you want. Say goodbye to summer with us! Join us at 11pm UTC / 4pm PDT / 7pm EDT, or see your time here, for this last one!

Peace and popsicles,
Laina

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

QSR Guest Post: Reading as a Queer Teen

Well, August is almost over, but QSR isn't quite yet!! Our giveaway is still open and we still have a couple more things this week before we're done, finishing up with our final twitter chat on Thursday.

One of those things is this awesome guest post from Kav! Everyone say hi to them!



I’m a nonbinary, biromantic, asexual teen. Basically, I’m as queer as it gets. Growing up, I never really saw that in media, but now, being an active member of the diverse book community, I always know when there’s a new queer release and jump on it immediately. To be honest, that’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Reading queer books, and diverse books in general, has improved my reading life so much that I actually cannot read non-diverse books usually. Reading queerly has not only given me the opportunity to see myself represented, but it has given me the opportunity to learn about others.

On my social media and YouTube channel, I talk a lot about how representation has helped me, how it has made me less alone and more normal. While all of that is true and is important to talk about, I believe it’s also important to discuss how representation has helped me understand others. By seeing stories of people unlike myself, I gain a better understanding of the challenges and triumphs they experience - often in relation to their culture, gender, religion, romantic/sexual orientation, and more. I particularly enjoy reading #OwnVoices - a story written by an author who shares the same identity as the main character - stories of people unlike me because those give me the opportunity to see a personal account of that person’s life. Now, I could choose to read the history books written by privileged people who have no understanding of that person’s life and omits queer history completely, or I could read the underrated YA novels that are both enjoyable and educational and some of the most important pieces of media I’ve consumed.

For example, over the summer, I read Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali, a story about a hijabi Muslim teen who was sexually assaulted. I can relate to zero of those elements, but that book has become one of my favorite books of all-time because of how it taught me about a culture and experience that I’ve never experienced. Now, that wasn’t a queer example, so let’s take another book - We Are Okay by Nina LaCour. We Are Okay is a story that deals heavily with themes of grief and loss and shows a past f/f relationship with blurred lines and no real labels. Again, I cannot relate to those experiences. I have experienced grief in my life, but never of that magnitude. I have never been in a f/f relationship and have never been in a relationship with lines as blurred as that one. Reading We Are Okay gave me the opportunity to see someone else’s story and understand their experiences.

Seeing yourself represented is so important and a privilege no one can take for granted, but so is reading someone else’s story.

Kav is a 15 year old nonbinary, biromatic, asexual, South Indian teen who loves media, books, and social justice. They are frequently active on Twitter and YouTube talking about a combination of book-related and social justice-related topics.


Thanks so much for your post, Kav! We're so glad to have you posting here.

Leave them a nice comment Scouts, okay?

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Monday, August 28, 2017

Things I've Read Recently (55)

If you're new around here, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or just didn't want to do a full post about for whatever reason.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Published: March 10th, 2015 by Dial Books
Genre: MG Graphic Novel
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 240
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Twelve-year-old Astrid has always done everything with her best friend Nicole. So when Astrid signs up for roller derby camp, she assumes Nicole will too. But Nicole signs up for dance camp with a new friend instead, and so begins the toughest summer of Astrid's life. There are bumps and bruises as Astrid learns who she is without Nicole...and what it takes to be a strong, tough roller girl.

Thoughts: I don't think I've ever read a book about roller derby before, and especially not a middle grade one. While this has its faults, I thought it was really cute and it was a fun book to read at the beginning of summer.

There are basically two problems I had. One is that it lacks some diversity in its main cast, especially some body diversity/disability diversity. There's no fat characters like at all, and also no queer characters (but there is a part where a character teases Astrid by calling a friend her girlfriend). And the second is, the story that isn't the roller derby parts, has been done a lot before. I've read a couple of these "why did my childhood friend and I stop being friends" recently and I don't think the message about how friendships can change as you get older is a bad one, just not a unique one. And when you read three books in one year with the same subplot, you kinda notice.

But the roller derby angle is unique, and really fun. I learned some stuff I didn't know, and how few male characters are actually in this book is kind of refreshing. It's all about the girls. Astrid's relationship with her mom is also really sweet, and nice to see. They don't always get along perfectly, but you can see how much they both love each other, and it's nice to see such a reasonable parent in a middle grade novel. Overall, I think this could have done a tiny bit better with its inclusiveness, but it's a fun book anyways.

(Although, nitpick time. Pro-tip to authors? You can totally save most colourful hair dyes if you don't use the whole bottle. There's no chemical reaction going on. That's not a thing that they say not to do in the instructions.)

Under Threat by Robin Stevenson

Published: January 1st, 2016 by Orca Book Publishers
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 129 plus the about the author and whatnot.
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Franny is close to her parents, adores her horse and is head over heels in love with her girlfriend, Leah. But Franny's parents are abortion providers at the local hospital, and an anonymous stranger is prepared to do whatever it takes to stop them. A stranger who phones at all hours. Who knows where they live. Who knows Franny's name.

When Leah's older brother, Jake, refers to her parents as baby killers, Franny starts to wonder if perhaps the threats aren't coming from a stranger at all. If she tells the police about her suspicions, she could lose her girlfriend. But if she doesn't--and if she's right--she could lose her parents.

Thoughts: Okay, let's get something out of the way first - this is short. It's supposed to be. That's the point. Orca books mainly publishes what are sometimes referred to as "hi-lo" books, or high interest low reading level books. That means books with more mature subject matter and low reading levels/simpler vocabulary. These are designed for selective readers, teens who struggle with reading, people learning English as a Second Language, readers with learning disorders, etc. This isn't actually easy, and it takes a lot of skill to do it well. This article discusses 3rd to 5th graders, but it's a good place to start reading. This one, too, explains how much work it takes to write one of these well. If you're going to complain this is short, or that the plot is too simple, realize that this book might not be meant for you, and also you are missing the point completely.

Okay, now let's talk about the actual book. I really liked it. First over, I'm never going to be over seeing YA use the word queer positively. And the relationship between Leah and Franny is an established one, which I haven't seen very much before in YA. They're also, frankly, adorable. Like, Franny calling Leah a dork? That is so freaking cute.

Everything in the book is also handled so respectfully. And I adored that it was unapologetically pro-abortion. Despite everything that happens with Franny's parents, and how scary that is, Franny's opinion that people have a right to choose what they want to do with their bodies and their pregnancies never wavers. The only thing I wish is that the book had stated that not only women can get pregnant/need abortions.

All in all, I was so impressed by this. Queer girls, a really cute romance, frank discussion of anti-abortionists and abortion rights, what it was like to be a doctor before abortion was legal, really supportive parents, and some decent tension in the plot. I very much recommend this one.

Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye

Published: First published in 1997, this edition was released June 1st, 1999 by Simon Pulse
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 272
Part of a series? No
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): The day after Liyana got her first real kiss, her life changed forever. Not because of the kiss, but because it was the day her father announced that the family was moving from St. Louis all the way to Palestine. Though her father grew up there, Liyana knows very little about her family's Arab heritage. Her grandmother and the rest of her relatives who live in the West Bank are strangers, and speak a language she can't understand. It isn't until she meets Omer that her homesickness fades. But Omer is Jewish, and their friendship is silently forbidden in this land. How can they make their families understand? And how can Liyana ever learn to call this place home?

Thoughts: Something that's been really interesting about doing Diversity Book Bingo is that I've been reading way more newly released books this year than the last couple years. So it's kind of interesting that this is quite a bit older than anything I've read for bingo. This almost would fit more in one of the posts I do of old books!

This does read more like a book from 1997, but considering it's a full twenty years old, it's not as dated as it could be. The emotions of moving to a new place are pretty universal, although modern young readers would probably notice that there aren't a lot of references to email or cell phones - in fact, the Abbouds don't even have a landline for several months when they first arrive in Jerusalem, and Liyana at one point is said to not like computers and only wanting to learn how to type.

The voice is a touch dated, being a bit more of a removed third person, and there's a bit of fatphobia and ableism, but overall the feelings of moving to a new place are pretty universal, and it was definitely an interesting book. Check it out if you want. I think it's worth a read.

Thin Slices of Anxiety by Catherine Lapage

Published: This edition was released April 19th, 2016 by Chronicle Books, but it was originally published in French in 2014 by Editions Somme Toute.
Genre: Adult graphic novel, I think.
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 104
Part of a series? Not that I know of.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Not to worry, a book on anxiety is finally here! A clever antidote to everyday angst, this illustrated book captures universal truths and comforting revelations about being human. Artist Catherine Lepage uses her wry humor to help us see that "thinly sliced and illustrated, emotions are much easier to digest."

Thoughts: This is interesting. I'm not really sure how I feel about it, though. It's definitely a short, quick read. I didn't even have time to take any notes. I don't know. There were times where I was like, sold, I completely understand these anxiety feels, but also I'm not sure if there was really time to get a deep connection.

The art was neat, though, and I guess that it's kind of the point that it's not supposed to be that deep. It was different from what I usually read, so that was neat. Lots of thinky thoughts on this one, and I don't think I really have a conclusion. There's probably a metaphor or something there.

Okay, well, I think that's everything! What an unusual round up of books this time

What have you guys been reading?

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Friday, August 25, 2017

QSR: Kathryn Ormsbee Chat Reminder

Hey Scouts!

Wow, I can't believe QSR is almost over!! But before it is, it's still everybody's favourite day of the week!

Tune in for a chat with Kathryn Ormsbee, author of Tash Hearts Tolstoy, at 7pm UTC / 12pm PDT / 3pm EDT, or find your time here.

Peace and popsicles,
Laina

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

QSR Interview: Chelsea M. Cameron

I should do way more interviews. This is a lot less work for me than my normal blog posts!

Please give a warm welcome to Chelsea!

Q. Tell us a little about your books!

Oh, wow that’s a loaded question. Haha. I feel like I try to write romance that’s just a little bit quirky. A little bit (or sometimes a lot) nerdy. Romance that is both intense and funny at the same time. Even my most serious books have dick jokes in them. I can’t seem to help myself. And I write the books I want to read. When I wanted sweet f/f romance, I wrote it. When I wanted an office romance where SHE was the boss and he was the employee, I wrote it. This strategy has paid off so far, so I think I’ll stick to it.

Q. What made you write the stories you did? What do they mean to you?

Like I said above, I write the stories I want to read. Usually my books start of as a question “what if I wrote about…” and go from there. Especially with my queer work, I’ve tried to think about people are asking for more of, and run that parallel to what I want to write. So many of my friends/readers were wanting a fluffy f/f romance that didn’t center around trauma about coming out, and it just so happened that I wanted to read that too, so I wrote it. It was the BEST writing experience I’ve ever had. I loved it. I cried while writing. It was amazing. I’ve had so many wonderful and intense experiences writing books and sometimes I look back and read them and realize that I was working through some of my own struggles without even realizing it. Especially in my m/f books. There are SO many queer undertones and I had no idea.

Q. What are some of your favourite things to read in queer books?

Queer romances are my jam. I love stories that don’t center on the trauma of being queer, and instead have other conflict just like every other relationship has at some point. I love queer flirting. Seriously, banter is the BEST. I love reading about queer friendship groups. I love baby queers just figuring themselves out. I love messy queers who maybe don’t know what they’re doing, but they do their best. I love people who are problematic and human and real.

Q. Got any fun summer reading plans?

I am so hopelessly behind on my Goodreads goal this year, it’s humiliating. But right now my TBR is filled with delicious queer book goodness. Some books that are at the top: Chameleon Moon, Misfits, Knit one, Girl Two, Labyrinth Lost, Every Heart is a Doorway, Ramona Blue, The Melody of You and Me, A Darkly Beating Heart, Coffee Boy, the list goes on. But I'm determined to make my way through as many queer books as possible this summer.

Q. Tell us one of your favourite experiences with someone who’s read your book.

One of my favorites happened at my first book signing in Orlando. A girl rushed up to my table and told me how much she loved my book, My Favorite Mistake. She said that she’d been so engrossed reading it that she’d been ignoring her boyfriend and he got mad because he said he had something to ask her. Finally, she put the book down and he got down on one knee and proposed! She showed me the ring and it was so cute.

Q. I want queer vampires to become a thing in 2020. What is a thing you would love to see in queer books in the future?

YES, I’M ON TEAM QUEER VAMPIRES. Totally. I love the idea of taking all the “tired” tropes from romance and just making them queer: enemies to lovers, marriage of convenience, co-workers, all that. I also want, with all my heart, a f/f multi-book fantasy series with rich world-building and a huge cast of queer characters. I want that more than ANYTHING.

Q. What’s your favourite recent queer read? What queer book are you looking forward to?

I recently read An Unnatural Vice by K. J. Charles and it was LOVELY. Seriously, her books are great. I’m eagerly anticipating the third book in that series because reading the description, I think one of the leads is going to be genderqueer! I’m DYING for Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore. Seriously. I would do evil things for an ARC of that book. When the Moon was Ours is one of my favourite books ever.

Q. What’s something you always want to say in interviews but no one ever asks?

Huh. You’d think that having a degree in journalism, I would have thought of this before. Oh, maybe what’s one book that you’ve learned the most from?

Q. Favourite summer drink?

I love a good pina colada, but my real go-to is a good half-and-half (half lemonade, half iced tea).

Q. Favourite frozen summer treat?

A. Ice cream! I love cookie dough, vanilla with butterscotch, and Lobster Tracks. It’s too cold to eat ice cream any other time, so I go wild during the summer. I also don’t turn down a nice freeze pop. The kind that comes in a huge bag and all those neon colors.

Chelsea M. Cameron is a New York Times/USA Today Best Selling author from Maine. She's a red velvet cake enthusiast, obsessive tea drinker, vegetarian, former cheerleader and world's worst video gamer. When not writing, she enjoys watching infomercials, singing in the car, tweeting (this one time, she was tweeted by Neil Gaiman) and playing fetch with her cat, Sassenach. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Maine, Orono that she promptly abandoned to write about the people in her own head. More often than not, these people turn out to be just as weird as she is.

Find her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Patreon.

Thanks for the interview, Chelsea!

Peace and popsicles,
Laina

Monday, August 21, 2017

YA Review: Tash Hearts Tolstoy

Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee

Published: June 6th, 2017 by Simon and Schuster
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 367 plus acknowledgements
Part of a series? I wish!
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): After a shout-out from one of the Internet’s superstar vloggers, Natasha “Tash” Zelenka finds herself and her obscure, amateur web series, Unhappy Families, thrust into the limelight: She’s gone viral.

Her show is a modern adaptation of Anna Karenina—written by Tash’s literary love Count Lev Nikolayevich “Leo” Tolstoy. Tash is a fan of the forty thousand new subscribers, their gushing tweets, and flashy Tumblr GIFs. Not so much the pressure to deliver the best web series ever.

And when Unhappy Families is nominated for a Golden Tuba award, Tash’s cyber-flirtation with Thom Causer, a fellow award nominee, suddenly has the potential to become something IRL—if she can figure out how to tell said crush that she’s romantic asexual.

Tash wants to enjoy her newfound fame, but will she lose her friends in her rise to the top? What would Tolstoy do?

Review: Not going to lie, I was super nervous about this. Ace rep is... not so great, sometimes. A lot of the time, it doesn't exist, or it's kind of terrible. So I get nervous ('cause if you didn't know, I'm ace). It kind of worked out, though, that this didn't show up until July 28th so I didn't have time to put it off if I wanted to get it read in July. And luckily I really liked this! The premise of a book based around characters running a webseries is really interesting and not something that I've actually ran into in a book before.

Really neat premise, good characters, some really cool discussions about relationships and the different ways that people connect, a voice I absolutely loved, and a depiction of asexuality that doesn't make all the choices I perhaps would make, but still does a ton of things I liked and isn't anything I personally would say is harmful, More just a different experience than mine. And there is a wide world of experiences out there, not just mine, so that doesn't mean bad, just different.

Plot Talk: The "stuff happening" plot covers Unhealthy Families, Tash and her best friend Jack's webseries, being boosted by a vlogger with a much larger following causing them to have a big uptick in popularity, the ending of the series, and it being nominated for a web award. The "emotional/character stuff" plot involves some family drama, Tash figuring out some stuff about herself, figuring out some stuff about her relationships with others, and a little bit of romance.

I describe things badly! But I was a fan of the plot, and I think everything works together very well. I was never bored and I think the balance is great.

Characters: I'm actually going to mess around with my normal pattern and talk about Tash probably last. Because why not.

Tash's family in this is a really strong element, and I really like how it's worked into the book. Her relationship with her older sister specially reflects a lot of the other growth Tash does in the book. I thought having a family that was mixed-faith, with their dad being Christian, Tash and their mom being Buddhist, and her sister being an athiest, was really neat and different.

The group of friends Tash has is also really cool - I liked that she sort of had different levels of friendship. It's neat to see a book where the main character has a couple very close friends, and a larger group of more casual friends, and they still all like each other and all that, but it's a different type of relationship. One of the themes in the book is about knowing people and understanding why they are the way they are, and I think that's a cool aspect when it's all together.

Now, for Tash. I adore Tash's voice. Something interesting I think about challenging myself to consciously read more diversely this year (besides enjoying way more of the books I read) is that I'm reading a lot of books that are more recent, and I find I really enjoy these sort of more "modern" voices, for lack of a better term. Books that mention Twitter or Snapchat, and some current events, and that sort of thing. I think, while it could date it a tiny bit at some point, it does make it really relateable and interesting. I love her obsession with Tolstoy, I love her drive, and I love that she's super a teenager - she doesn't have everything figured out and she's still kind of learning who she is. She seems perfectly young and like a really authentic teenager.

So, I think we'll use that to lead into talking about the ace rep. There might be some slightly spoilers, because I really want to talk about this. So. Tash is heteromantic asexual. Thankfully, that's not a spoiler. It's said in the summary, including the dust jacket flap, which. That's kind of amazing. Anybody who picks this up at the bookstore or library because of the cool cover or whatever is going to read the word "asexual" on the flap. It's not hidden from the reader. That's... I'm so glad that the publisher did that.

The book almost takes it as a given that you know for the first part, I think, with Tash kind of hinting at things at first without using the label, like saying she's not a fan of kissing, talking about not liking some kinds of flirting (which was really neat to see, honestly), some tension about certain things with her friends, until about a hundred pages in when she uses her label, heteromantic ace, and talks a lot about her process of realizing that. There's a lot of detail given to this and I think a lot of care. It isn't just a label said and done, and I liked that while the entire book isn't wrapped up in it, it's a significant part of the book and Tash's character arc.

That is honestly something I really liked. Tash is not confused, and in fact states that very, very clearly (thank you), but she talks about the process of realizing you're ace, and it is so, so relateable. I think a lot of people are really going to see themselves in that. I think something that's really great is Tash is a year and change past that first part, so it's not all about that, but it recognizes that "coming out", is a process that can happen in degrees and you might not even do it with everyone you know, even your family. I also thought it was a nice touch to have Tash not explain things very well the first time she tried to come out, and that her friends don't blame her, but they are a little confused and want to know more because they care about her and they want her to be comfortable. The importance of communication is stressed a lot and that is awesome.

...okay, I've just rambled for four paragraphs. I should move on... but I'll probably add a little more later in another section because I do have a couple more things to say.

Oh, but I will say here - the romance was cool. I was kind of hoping at first that things wouldn't go the direction they did just because I think that would have been a cool subversion, but it's a well done romance that I do think is important, as the conversations about it work against some stereotypes, and portray that it can be a positive experience, which is important to show. Romance for alloromantic or demi/greyromantic (etc) asexual people can be a scary, confusing thing, and lead to a lot of self-blame and guilt (which is something Tash talks about!) and I know people would definitely see themselves in this. That is neat, in my book.

PG-13 stuff: Basically what you'd think. It's pretty standard for contemporary YA. Very, very light on the underage drinking which is neat, a little bit of cursing, and some good conversations about sex (no on-screen scenes though). TWs for pregnancy, and some aphobia. Mind you, it is all countered by the narrative, and it's about things that Tash has dealt with, or deals with in the book, not things that the book says that I'm pointing out as aphobia as a reader.

Specifically, there's a mention of someone at her school's GSA saying "A is for Ally" which made me want to trip a fictional character into a mud puddle, a lot of talk about certain stereotypes, and that very familiar "you're too young to know you're asexual", "you're just afraid of sex", "the internet made you think this you're not really asexual" stuff that, like. It's very true to life and I personally think the inclusion of these things in the book help to show what people go through. It was kind of cathartic to read, honestly.

I do not think that there was anything arophobic, but tbh I was kind of really excited reading it and I might have missed things. But nothing stood out as hurtful to me personally. I might check with other aros, but it doesn't really talk about aromanticism, and the book is good about talking only about how Tash feels, not about others. And it definitely points out that Tash is heteromantic and asexual, and doesn't roll it all together. Both labels are important.

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: The book does do a thing I'm not very fond of overall where lack of interest in sex (Tash is somewhat sex-repulsed/very much not interested) is conflated with not feeling (or seldom feeling) sexual attraction, which is the definition of asexuality I use for myself and in general. However. This is an ownvoices book. I read an interview with the author, and between that and... the book... it's kind of obvious that this is somewhat reflective of the author's experience. I'm not exactly going to sit here and say someone's experience is wrong.

That would be pretty freaking awful.

So what I will say is, this experience is an experience that is a little more common in the more "mainstream" ace books I've read, whereas, say, a sex-positive asexual experience (someone who doesn't feel sexual attraction but still likes sex) isn't as represented in these "mainstream" books. (I'm not well versed in indie ace rep.) But considering that's a grand total of three whole books it's not like the well is exhausted. I think I said something similar in my EHAD review, but this doesn't mean that this is a bad book. It means we need way, way more ace rep. And aro rep!

Am I making sense here? I hope so.

Oh, and it does hit that one pet peeve of mine, where it says that asexuality is a lack of a sexuality, or the character has no sexuality or orientation. Asexuality is an orientation! An awesome one!

Other things... there's a tiny bit of cissexism and like nothing for trans rep. One character has a pretty severe allergy which is neat, but there's not much for disabilty rep otherwise, and it's pretty white, although not entirely. There are other queer characters, though, which I appreciate. Nothing much for fat rep, either. Could have done better in other areas diversity wise, let's just say.

Cover comments: It's definitely weird, but it grows on you. It's very different from a lot of other things out there, and I appreciate that.

Conclusion: Oh my god how long is this review. Too long, probably. I'm not checking the word count. Nobody tell me, please. And I feel like I went for on a really long time about the negatives, but please keep in mind that's just because I want to be very thorough here. I really, really did like this. I'm on the aromantic spectrum, but it's still an incredibly relateable book for me, and I am incredibly grateful and glad that I enjoyed it as much as I did. It's so nice to see a character actually use labels, and have good, respectful, heartful representation. I think this would be great for teens, and I'm really glad to have read it.

And again, the premise is just really neat. I enjoy webseries, and it was really fun to read about someone making one. I'd totally watch Unhealthy Families if it was a real thing. I'm knocking a half rose off for lacking some diversity in other areas, but overall, I really enjoyed this, and I'm glad it stood up to my expectations and I wasn't disappointed. Four out of five roses.



Other notes:

- It's funny that two out of the three ace books I've read this year have a female friend named Jack in them.

- I am shocked I got this review done for August. No joke. I didn't think I would.

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Friday, August 18, 2017

QSR: Michelle Kan Chat Reminder

Hey Scouts!

What are you up to today? Because it's everybody's favourite day of the week.

It's Twitter Chat time! And today's special guest is Michelle Kan!! Join us 10pm UTC / 3pm PDT / 6pm EDT or find your time here.

See you there!

Peace and popsicles,
Laina

Thursday, August 17, 2017

QSR Guest Post: Sex Repulsed Aces in Fiction

Hey Scouts! Please welcome Tabitha to the blog! This is a post I think you guys are going to find really interesting. I know I do!

Growing up, I never saw anyone like me in fiction—a sex-repulsed asexual person. This left me basically thinking I was the only person on the planet who hated the thought of ever having sex. So it’s amazing to now get to read about characters who actually have similar feelings to mine; it means so much to finally see myself reflected in stories. Here are a few sex-repulsed/averse ace characters who have especially resonated with me (all of whose names, coincidentally, start with “N”):

Nevian from City of Strife by Claudie Arseneault

When I started this book, I knew there were several ace characters, but it was still a pleasant surprise to discover that Nevian was a sex-repulsed ace almost as soon as he was introduced: “Nevian didn’t know who she was trying to impress with that. Not him, he hoped. He had no interest in these things—not with her, and not with anyone. The thought had always made him recoil a little.” I appreciate that his specific orientation is made so clear—he doesn’t just lack interest in sex, but actually has an aversion toward it.

And then this later encounter made me smile:
Nevian jumped back as if the door had burned him. Why was the High Priest naked in the middle of the day? Then he heard a woman’s stifled giggles, and Varden hushed her. The door snapped shut and they shuffled inside. Nevian would never understand that kind of desire—he had never even experienced attraction and doubted he one day would—and physical proximity unnerved him. He waited, wishing people were more reasonable about this whole sex thing. Because, really? The middle of the day?
Having been regularly forced to overhear my former neighbors doing certain… things… at random times like 10AM or noon, I am completely with Nevian here. I haven’t seen many characters who are uncomfortable with being aware of others’ sexual activity (although Nadin is another one—see below!), but that is my experience, and it was exciting to find a character who shares it.

Nadin from Fourth World by Lyssa Chiavari

Like Nevian, Nadin is also disconcerted at witnessing others’ sexual desire on display:
The man said something I couldn’t hear and pulled the woman close. She giggled and draped herself around him, her hands snaking up under the tight fabric of his shirt. I grimaced and pulled the hood of my cloak further over my face.
[…] “They were just being affectionate,” [Isaak] said.
“You mean that didn’t”—I paused, struggling to find the right word—“bother you?”
“No. Honestly, it’s the first time since I've been here that I've seen anyone act human.”
I glared at him. “How is that what makes someone human?”
Sex scenes in movies = me covering my eyes and asking when it’ll be over. You’re not the only one it bothers, Nadin! (And yay for her calling out the idea that sex makes us human!)

Later, her boyfriend initiates a passionate kiss for the first time, which completely freaks her out. When she expresses her discomfort, he gets upset:
He pushed away from me, getting to his feet. “I’m sorry, Nadin,” he said, his voice impossibly small. “I thought… I thought you loved me, too.”
I jumped up after him. “I do love you!” I protested.
“Then why don’t you—” I flinched, and he lowered his volume. “Why don’t you want me?”
When society equates love with sex, and when even other aces often emphasize that asexual people can still have sex to please their partners, it’s powerful to me to see a character who isn’t able to just go along with sexual activity for their partner’s sake—not that there’s anything wrong with choosing to do that, if it is indeed a choice, but I wouldn’t be able to make myself, and I relate to Nadin because she can’t either.

Niavin from Sinners by Eka Waterfield

I fortunately don’t relate to Niavin’s experiences too much, as he’s been through a lot worse than I have because of his sexuality, but I certainly understand his feelings:
He could never desire anyone and yet he simply had to. He was the last of his House, and it depended on him to survive. Children were rare among the sidhe; the union needed to be a formal marriage blessed by the Queen, and even then it would take countless nights, countless decades of copulation. Niavin would have to endure that. His aunts and uncles and nephews had fallen to war and duels and other misfortunes, and the House had to go on.
I felt so alone growing up because the adults around me talked as if everyone got married and had children someday—it was just inevitable, just what people did. But Niavin, like me, knows that making babies is not for him (and fortunately, he gets out of getting married). I also really appreciate that by the end of the book, he knows there’s nothing wrong with that: “He did not need the flesh of another to be happy, that much was for damn sure.”

Trigger warnings for these books:
  • City of Strife trigger warnings
  • I don’t know of an official list of trigger/content warnings for Fourth World, but the second scene I quoted contains a description of a non-consensual kiss. Nadin also grapples with feelings of brokenness after that encounter.
  • Sinners trigger warnings
Tabitha is an ace vegan feminist who loves thinking and talking about representation in media. One of her short stories with an ace main character has appeared in Vitality magazine. You can find Tabitha on Twitter @tabithawrites and on Wordpress at tjoconnell.wordpress.com.

Thanks for joining us, Tabitha!!

Peace and popsicles,
Laina

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

QSR: Giveaway!!



Hey everyone! Who likes giveaways?

(If you don’t, this post probably isn’t for you :P)

I’m giving away a queer book for up to 15€ from Book Depository and a sticker from Queer Enough :)

You have to be 13 or older if you want to enter, and you need your parents’ permission if you’re a minor. Only entries submitted through Rafflecopter will be counted. The book has to be queer, and own voices books would be great. Book Depository and Queer Enough have to ship to you.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Good luck and happy reading!

xoxo
Lucia

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

QSR: Jasmine Gower Interview

Hi everyone! We have Jasmine Gower over for an author interview today :D

Q. Tell us a little about your books!

I’ve got two books coming up that I’m very excited about. First is my fantasy romance novella, A Study of Fiber and Demons, which is being published by Less Than Three Press in ebook and paperback on August 9, 2017. It’s a polyamorous enemies-to-lovers story about a group of bitter academics who have spent their whole careers sabotaging each other and find themselves assigned to work together on the same research project studying demon magic.

I also have Moonshine coming in February 2018 from Angry Robot, also in ebook and paperback. Moonshine is set in a fantasy 20s-esque world during a magic prohibition and focuses on Daisy Dell, a young flapper and secret mage who gets a job working in an office for a shady boss.

Q. What made you write the stories you did? What do they mean to you?

I actually went into Fiber and Demons with a specific set of things I wanted to incorporate into the story: a female asexual character, a rivals-to-lovers storyline, and polyamory. I think the main character, Alim, was also inspired by my disappointment in another series I read that featured a queer-coded Arab character that never committed to making his queerness explicit, although I wasn’t really consciously thinking about that when I started writing Fiber and Demons.

Moonshine was more directly informed by things going on in my own life. I had just gotten my first Real Job out of college and was finding that I didn’t really understand the purpose of the work that I was being asked to do, which got me thinking about a character who has similar misgivings about her workplace that turns out to be a front for an illegal magical moonshining operation. (My job just turned out to be generic exploitative capitalists getting me to train my own replacements so they could underpay them even more than they underpaid me. Not quite as fun.) But that was where Daisy’s story in Moonshine came from. Her boss, Andre, has his own storyline that was inspired by my experiences as an aromantic reader looking to see more non-romantic intimate relationships explored and celebrated in fiction.

Q. What are some of your favourite things to read in queer books?

I’m pretty excited for any queer content in books, provided that it doesn’t involve queer people needlessly suffering Because Queer. Some things in particular that I’d really like to see more of, though, are non-binary characters who are human (not aliens, not shapeshifters, etc.), characters that don’t require dedicated romance subplots to establish their orientations (whether it’s because the character is ace/aro or just a gay, bi, or pan person who happens to be single the whole book), and more intersex characters in general.

Q. Got any fun summer reading plans?

I’ve been trying out my local library’s ebook lending for the very first time, which has so far involved getting started on Daniel José Older’s Bone Street Rumba series, so I’m hoping to get all caught up on that. I’m also reading Keith Yatsuhashi’s Kojiki, which I’ve been dying to read since I saw the cover for its sequel, Kokoro. (Kojiki and Kokoro are both published by Angry Robot, and they had just revealed the cover for the second when I started getting into talks with them about publishing Moonshine, and seeing Kokoro's beautiful cover got me really excited to work with Angry Robot for my own book.)

Other than that, I’m really in the mood for some epic high fantasy, but I’ve got so much editing to do this summer that I don’t have a lot of room to add more to my reading list.

Q. Tell us one of your favourite experiences with someone who’s read your book.

My romantic heroes in A Study of Fiber and Demons are not exactly… heroic. They are quite terrible and rude, in fact. After one of my friends finished reading it, the first thing she said to me (in sheer delight) was, “These are the worst characters you’ve ever written.” Interestingly, my editor had a similar reaction. I guess the new rage in romance is embittered middle-aged academics.

Q. I want queer vampires to become a thing in 2020. What is a thing you would love to see in queer books in the future?

I’ll second the call for queer vampires. My favorite series of all time is a vampire-hunting high fantasy, but the queerness of the characters is pretty aggressively subtextual, and that series ended two years ago, anyway. There’s such an extensive (and honestly kind of ugly) history of vampirism as a symbol of queerness, and the advent of Twilight kind of reassigned vampires to heteronormativity just as they were starting to be culturally regarded as sympathetic. I think we’re long overdue to reclaim vampire symbolism, and thankfully I think the vampire oversaturation caused by Twilight and its imitators is starting to wear off and publishers are becoming more open to vampire stories again.

Q. What queer book are you looking forward to?

I’ve been kind of drifting away from YA lately, but I’m pretty excited for the upcoming Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller. I’m a sucker for thief-slash-assassin archetypes, as well as genderfluid characters. Admittedly, that second category is one I see a lot less of in fantasy.

Q. What’s something you always want to say in interviews but no one ever asks?

In 2014 I was in a documentary called Gaming In Color, which is about queer gamers. They interviewed me at the premiere GaymerX convention while I was in full cosplay as Anders from Dragon Age II.

Q. Favourite summer drink?

My favorite cocktail is a Honey Jack Lemonade (lemonade with honey whiskey), which is really a summer-specific kind of drink. But I’m also partial to just regular lemonade.

Q. Favourite frozen summer treat?

I’m an Oregonian, so of course I’m partial to Tillamook Dairy’s marionberry pie ice cream.

Jasmine Gower is from Portland, Oregon, where she studied English literature at Portland State University. Jasmine was drawn toward writing years before amidst a childhood of fantasy novels and 90s video games and has a passion for exploring themes of gender, sexuality, and disability through the conventions of speculative fiction and fantasy worldbuilding. Find her at jasminegower.com, on Twitter @Jas_Gower, and on tumblr as jasgower.tumblr.com.

Thank you so much for joining us!

xoxo

Lucia