Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Queer Summer Reading Twitter Chats

Laina and Luci's Queer Summer Reading Club banner

During Queer Summer Reading Club, we will obviously be having things that you can join in on whether you have a twitter account or not. However, if you do, one of the super fun things we'll be doing is having several twitter chats including ones with special author guests of honour! If you don't have twitter, you might want to considering signing up just for this. It's going to be pretty epic.



General Chat: July 7th - 9pm UTC / 2 pm PDT / 5pm EDT
To find your time, click here.

Come introduce yourself, share ideas for books you'd like to read for our challenges or just this summer, and meet other club members!

RoAnna Sylver Chat: July 14th - 10pm UTC / 2pm PDT / 6pm EDT
To find your time, click here.

Meet RoAnna Sylver, author of CHAMELEON MOON and STAKE SAUCE and incredibly nice person!

Austin Chant Chat: July 21st - 7pm UTC / 11am PDT / 3pm EDT
To find your time, click here.

Join us for a chat with the lovely Austin Chant, author of COFFEE BOY and PETER DARLING.

The second general chat: July 28th - 9pm UTC / 2pm PDT / 5pm EDT
To find your time, click here.

Update us on your progress, tell us about your summer, and just hang out for a while!

Lizzie Colt/L. J. Hamlin Chat: August 4th - 6pm UTC / 10am PDT / 1pm EDT
To find your time, click here.

Chat with Lizzie Colt aka L. J. Hamlin, author of FERRETING OUT THE TRUTH, THE DUSTY HAT BAR, PAINT A STORY ON YOUR SKIN, and more, and an overall complete sweetheart!

Cal Spivey chat: August 11th - 12am UTC / 4pm PDT / 8pm EDT
To find your time, click here.

Chat with Cal Spivey (aka C. M. Spivey), amazing author of THE TRAITOR'S TUNNEL and the upcoming THE LONGING AND THE LACK.

Michelle Kan chat: August 18th - 10pm UTC / 3pm PDT / 6pm EDT
To find your time, click here.

Join us for a chat with Michelle Kan, the absolutely aromazing author of NO MORE HEROES.

Kathryn Ormsbee chat: August 25th - 7pm UTC / 12pm PDT / 3pm EDT
To find your time, click here.

Our last author chat will be with the wonderful Kathryn Ormsbee, author of TASH HEARTS TOLSTOY and the upcoming THE GREAT UNKNOWABLE END.

Wrap Up Chat: August 31st - 11pm UTC / 4pm PDT / 7pm EDT
To find your time, click here.

This is our last chat! Tell us about how you did, talk about the previous chats, whatever. Luci will probably fall asleep halfway through this one.

If you have any questions, leave a comment, email us at queersummereading@gmail.com, or tweet any of our accounts.

Peace and popsicles (because it's summer!),
Laina (with a whole lot of help from Luci)

Monday, June 19, 2017

Things I've Read Recently (50)

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. Wow, I've done 50 of these.

Accidents of Nature by Harriet McBryde Johnson

Published: May 2nd, 2006 by Henry Holt and Company.
Genre: Historical YA.
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 229 plus an about the author.
Part of a series? No.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Seventeen-year-old Jean has cerebral palsy and gets around in a wheelchair, but she's always believed she's just the same as everyone else. She goes to normal school and has normal friends. She's never really known another disabled person before she arrives at Camp Courage. But there Jean meets Sara, who welcomes her to 'Crip Camp' and nicknames her Spazzo. Sara has radical theories about how people fit into society. She's full of rage and revolution against pitying insults and the lack of respect for people with disabilities.

As Jean joins a community unlike any she has ever imagined, she comes to question her old beliefs and look at the world in a new light. The camp session is only ten days long, but that may be all it takes to change a life forever.

Thoughts: First of all can I just say how much I like this cover? It reminds me of the black notebooks you used to write in with gel pens. Remember those? Very nostalgic, which I think really fits the book considering it's set in 1970, which I didn't go in expecting. I've talked before about generally not being fond of books set in the 90s because I think it's often unnecessary, but the historical context here is absolutely necessary. I consider myself fairly socially aware, but there's a lot in here that I had no clue about. Did you know it was against the law for people with epilepsy to get married in 1970?

This is very obviously a book written from experience and there's an almost brutal honesty to it. Johnson didn't shy away from talk of bodily functions, discrimination, or really any uncomfortable situation, and there are a lot of them. The author never talks down to the audience, either, or sanitizes things to prevent the reader's discomfort. With the historical context of the time period adding discussions of social structures from capitalism to communism, segregation... it's incredibly mature.

Sara's character especially seems to reflect the author's views. I read a few of the author's articles, and I just really, really wish she had been able to write more. This was so interesting as a historical novel, but I think the author could have written such interesting contemporary books too.

Rain Is Not My Indian Name by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Published: June 19th, 2001 by HarperCollins
Genre: Contemporary... upper MG to lower YA, in my opinion.
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 135 plus an author's note.
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): It's been six months since her best friend died, and up until now Rain has succeeded in shutting herself off from the world. But when controversy arises around her aunt Georgia's Indian Camp in their mostly white midwestern community, Rain decides to face the outside world again—at least through the lens of her camera.

Hired by her town newspaper to photograph the campers, Rain soon finds that she has to decide how involved she wants to become in Indian Camp. Does she want to keep a professional distance from the intertribal community she belongs to? And just how willing is she to connect with the campers after her great loss?

Thoughts: I won't lie - when the first line of the book is about a magazine being an ad for "makeup, clothes, and bulimia", I'm not exactly pleased. First of all, this is a pretty young YA. Rain is only going into ninth grade in the fall (it's summer in the book), and it's borderline upper MG. The main audience for this is pretty young, and this is done so casually. It seems incredibly unnecessary and it adds nothing.

I don't know. I think the representation of Rain in this is excellant. It's nuanced and complicated and obviously written from experience. Honestly I wish the book had been longer because even though it's good, it almost feels rushed at times? It's not a very long book at all, and there's a lot going on in it. There's like six subplots and I don't really think any of them have enough time to really be developed or given emotional depth.

Also I didn't like the weird girl hate that doesn't really have time to be resolved/slut shaming moments at all. You two were in eighth grade! Nobody "stole" anyone's boyfriend! This is such a weird plot. Maybe it's just because it's already sixteen years old. There's tape recorders and Meat Loaf and Fabio references. But there's just not enough... depth, I guess. Even the grief of her best friend's death felt kind of shallow. Maybe because I just read Far From You and the grief in that is so visceral. I don't know. I just wanted more from the story, I guess.

This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

Published: June 19th, 2012 by St. Martin's Press
Genre: YA Horror
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 322 plus some acknowledgements and stuff.
Part of a series? There's a 1.5 novella sequel.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): It's the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won't stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self. To Sloane Price, that doesn't sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she's failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up.

As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she's forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live. But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group's fate is determined less and less by what's happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside. When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?

Thoughts: Well, I liked most of this book. I think the voice is incredibly accurate for someone who's depressed - removed, shut down. Not to get too personal, but it is reflective of my own experiences. There's not as much action as I would expect, honestly, and a lot of the book is about the monotony of the situation.

I actually kind of preferred that - to be honest, I'm kind of a wimp and the climax of the book was pretty intense for me. Horror's not really my thing. But I could see other people not being into it, because, well... for like 85% of the book, there's very little that actually happens.

And I kind of hated the ending. It is very, very unresolved. And not like a few loose threads dangling - this is the kind of unresolved where the protagonist is in exactly the same place they were at the beginning and I don't even understand why there was a book, really. It's so incredibly frustrating and if you don't like open endings, you'll probably be just as frustrated as I am.

Trigger warnings for: Suicidal thoughts, depression, violence and gore you'd expect in a typical zombie setting, and parental abuse.

Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood by Varsha Bajaj

Published: Originally published January 1st, 2014, my edition was released March 1st, 2015 by Albert Whitman Company
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 249 plus acknowledgements and what not.
Part of a series? I do not believe so.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from the back of the book, but here's the goodreads link): All Abby really wants is to meet her father. It's not that she's ungrateful for what she has - nice mom, adorable grandparents, great friends - but she feels like something's missing. But she'd never tell anyone that.

Abby's about to find out that her dad lives a very different life in a very different country. From Bollywood movie premieres to the colorful and sometimes gritty streets of Mumbai, she is about to experience it all, for better or worse. This is what happens when all your wishes come true... Is Abby ready for the truth?

Thoughts: Aw, well. This is pretty sweet. I actually thought this was going to be YA and was a little surprised by the fact that it was middle grade. This has some fatphobia, like when a woman is described as "comfortably plump but not overweight", and sometimes the voice is a little over the top, maybe trying a bit too hard to be cool and hip. (I am obviously not cool and hip, going by the fact that I use the expression "cool and hip").

I also am not personally a giant fan of stories about kids dealing with estranged fathers - as someone who grew up with one who wanted very little to do with me, they don't always ring true to me. While the book is obviously own-voices with the racial rep, the author says in the acknowledgements that the parental situation is not her experience, and I kind of felt that reading it. This is... actually this is really similar to "What a Girl Wants" plot-wise. And both of those are a little... wish fulfillment. But the funny thing is, I'm not sure if it's actually wish fulfillment for the kids who don't have relationships with their fathers or other people who think it's impossible to be happy with one parent.

I realize this is kind of a weird thing to bring up, but thinking about myself at the age this is aimed at... I might have enjoyed this, but I also might have been a little annoyed because that was never something I wanted. But my experience isn't everyone's experience, so your mileage might vary. And I don't think it's harmful or anything, and I still had fun reading it.

For the most part, I really liked this. It's very sweet, and Abby's experience of going to Mumbai for the first time is a great way to showcase it, and the book is honest about the not so nice things like the poverty while still being age appropriate or only for shock value. Abby also has an anaphalactic allergy, which I don't see in books a lot, but isn't really a big part of the book and is somewhat minimized. Cool addition, though. This one overall isn't my absolute favourite, but it was a fun read and I enjoyed it. It's cute.

Also, there's a mention of one of her friends wearing, "her favorite outfit, neon leggings and an oversized T-shirt with a swirly pattern". I find it absolutely hilarious that descriptions of clothing in 2014 could be straight out of 90s books. It's just sweet and funny.

Okay, I think that's everything!

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Saturday, June 17, 2017

QSR: Guest Post Sign-Up



I am not the most prolific blogger. I think we've all realized this by now. And I don't want to be the only person talking about things this summer! So I'm opening up the blog to guest bloggers for July and August!

I would love to have things like, your favourite 5-10 books on a queer theme, posts about POC queer characters, posts about queer YA from actual real teens, posts about representation in adult books (that's seriously not my area of expertise), or really anything you can think of that's about queer books!

Fill out the google form to sign-up to do a guest post!



Peace and popsicles,

Laina

Friday, June 16, 2017

QUEER SUMMER READING

Welcome to the first annual Laina and Luci's Queer Summer Reading Club! Or Queer Summer Reading, for short.



Queer Summer Reading is based on the summer reading programs of my youth that my library ran! QSR is not a traditional book club, in the sense that we will not be assigning specific books, but it's more fun to say you're in a club, right?

We do challenge you though! We are challenging you to read four queer books this summer. Two in July and two in August. We're also going to have mini-challenges. In July, your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to read one book that has representation that you identify with, and one book with representation of queerness different than yours. (If you're not queer, then just read two you don't identify with!) In August, we challenge you to read one queer book in a genre or format you read a lot of, and a genre or format you don't read a lot of.

We're also going to be having twitter chats, twitter chats with special guest authors, giveaways, special blog posts, and who knows what else! We're also partnering with @QueerEnough at one point for a fun surprise or two I'm planning.

QUESTIONS YOU MIGHT HAVE:

Q. Do I have to be queer to join?

A. Nope! The queer books are the focus, although we love #ownvoices authors!

Q. What book do I have to read?

A. Anything you want! As long as it's queer, it counts. (Just like us!)

Q. Do I have to read a book? / I don't know if I have the time/spoons to read anything.

A. That's okay too! We want to challenge you, but you can be part of Queer Summer Reading if you just want to enter the giveaways or read the author interviews. The challenges are bonus, and just for fun.

Q. When does it start?

A. Queer Summer Reading is going to run from July 1st to August 31st. Over the next week or two, more information with details will be posted. (We're still narrowing some stuff down!)

Q. I love that banner! It's so gorgeous. Can I have one?

A. Once all our designs are finalized, we will be posting them so you can use them wherever you want! We'll have several things available.

Q. When are all these things happening?

A. We're still figuring that out, but there will be schedules for the major events like chats available soon!

Q. Help! What do I read?

A. Well, anything you want! We will definitely be posting what we plan on reading, though, and hopefully some blog posts that can help you get ideas.

Q. What else can I do besides just read books?

A. You can do whatever you want! Want to host a queer giveaway on your blog? You can use one of our graphics and we'll boost it! Want to write a blog post about queer books? We'll boost that! Just wanna say we're neat? We'll boost that! And also thanks, we think you're neat too! We'll be doing a lot on Twitter, but we'll also have a post with link list where you can add your posts and things!

Also, if you want to write a post and don't have a blog to write it on, send me an email! I'd love to host some guest bloggers on here.

If you're a queer author and you'd like to be our guest in a twitter chat, hit us up! Luci will be handling most of that part, but we still have a few spots open!

Q. Where I can find out more?

A. First of all, here! All my posts will be under the "queer summer reading" label, so you can click that at the bottom of the post. you'll find more (once they're posted). You can also follow me on twitter @lainasparetime, follow Lucia at @justluciace, and follow Queer Summer Reading @queer_reads. We'll be using the hashtags #queersummerreading for general stuff and #queersummerchat for our chats! You can also email us at queersummerreading@gmail.com if you don't have Twitter.

Q. I have something else to ask!

A. Leave it in the comments, or send it to one of the twitter handles, the email address above, or even my email address! We'd love to hear from you.

Laina Has an Excited!!

Peace and popsicles,
Laina

Monday, June 12, 2017

YA Review: The Upside of Unrequited

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

Published: April 11th, 2017 by Balzer & Bray
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 336 plus an author's note.
Part of a series? It's technically a companion to Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, but you don't have to read that to read this one. I didn't!
Got via: The library, but I really want a copy to own now.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love—she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

Review: I was so nervous to read this because I was scared that I wasn't going to like it. I'm fat. Like visibly fat, no straight sized clothes, no one would ever call me "chubby" fat. Books with fat characters are few and far between, and good ones are even more rare. So many books about fatness are all about weight loss and dieting, and I think we get by now that I don't like that, to put it incredibly mildly.

This is not that. This is not remotely that. This is a story about a fat girl being fat and happy and amazing. It is a balm for my cynical, tired soul. It's so beautiful and I'm so glad I read it.

Plot Talk: This is one of those plots that sounds really bad when you describe it, but is perfect for the book. It's set in summer, which I love, and there aren't really big dramatics or anything like that. It's so much more about character growth and relationships. And that's just right.

Characters: Molly is fat, Jewish, and has anxiety that she takes medication for. Her experiences as so incredibly relateable. Her voice is probably my favourite thing ever. It's very modern, and I really enjoyed that. She has experiences and feelings and fears that are unique to the experience of someone fat. Relateable to others still, yes, absolutely, uniquely a fat experience. I read this, and I see so much of myself as a teen in Molly.

I also adored the supporting cast. It's so diverse, including tons of queer characters, and characters of colour, and more Jewish characters, and I loved how supportive the supporting cast was. Almost all of Molly's friends and family love Molly just the way she is, and there's no concern trolling or "health" worries besides for one character who is very much called out as being wrong. It's so wonderful to see a book where characters aren't fatphobic and it's not okay to be like that.

And the characters in general are one of the strongest elements of the book, along with their relationships. A lot of the book is about how Molly and Cassie are learning how their relationship as sisters will grow and change as they get older and experience new things, and it's imperfect and hard and I adored it.

PG-13 stuff: It's an older YA, and includes some older elements. Some swearing if you care about that, some underage drinking that is handled incredibly well without being overly moralizing, some really good talk about sex and what it means to different characters, that kind of thing. There is some fatphobia, obviously, but it's pretty standard for, you know, being fat. Nothing I found upsetting personally.

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: I'm going to address a thing - this is a book where a fat girl get a boyfriend and at the same time/somewhat because of that, gets more confident with herself. People have said things about this, and I think some people who have been saying things shouldn't be talking about them, for several reasons. One, if that's a conversation that should happen, thin people do not get a vote. Two, every single issue Molly has is not magically cured by getting a boyfriend. She's just happy for a few days. Fat girls are allowed to be happy. I almost guarantee you that the world will not stop being fatphobic because one girl got a boyfriend. Also, realizing that people find you attractive and everyone doesn't think your body is horrible, is actually a confidence booster. That is a thing.

Three, there are not enough fat books in YA to make this a trend (the adult romance genre is a different story). If you are a thin ally, and you really truly care about this trope being problematic, demand more books with fat characters. This book cannot be literally everything. And, four, fat girls are allowed to want romance and there absolutely are not depictions of romantic media with fat girls being loved and desired. People are allowed to want to read that. How many love triangles and romances are there with thin girls getting confident when they get a boyfriend? When it's the same number, then we'll talk, okay? And I'm acearo. I don't really want romantic relationships at all, but I still understood exactly how Molly felt (minus the frequent crushes - I never really did that).

If it's not your thing, okay, whatever. Strokes and folks and all. But let's be realistic here instead of acting like we're swimming in books like this.

Now my actual complaints instead of just anger at people on the internet - this won't represent everyone. It can't, obviously, but Molly does represent a group that gets a little more in general, though obviously not a lot. While her size is never given, the context clues kind of hint that she's a smaller fat girl. I think people who are like, size 28 and up, might feel left out by this.

Molly is also straight, cisgender, and allo, and she identifies as white (I point this out in this way because she says it, and I know some Jewish people don't so much? So, her words, not mine). Her representation obviously can't represent everyone, but it's also true that small fat white cis allo straight girls get more representation than other people who aren't those things.

Again, solution to this? More fat books.

I also wish there had been an asexual character, honestly. There's like everything else, and to be fair, asexuality is brought up once, but it's still kind of a bummer. Also, an aromantic character would have balanced things out a lot with a fairly romance-heavy plot. And it would have been nice if Molly wasn't a fat unicorn - this is something I want more of in books, more than just one fat character. It would be good for her, too.

Cover comments: Um. I don't actually love this cover, or honestly like it much. This trend of mostly word covers is not my favourite. It just doesn't work for me. I'm very much alone in this, though, I realize. I just feel like so many of them look so similar. Case in point:


But I'm sure other people like them, or they wouldn't be so popular. It's just one of those things that bugs me.

Conclusion: I got a little angry there (whoops) but I really do adore this book. I loved how creative and crafty Molly was, and how relateable the entire book was, and how many problematic things are called out using that language. I want so many more books like this with amazing fat characters doing all kinds of amazing things. I'm giving this one four and a half roses despite it not being perfect because I felt it so strongly, and I want to support it because I want more books like this.



Other notes:

- Seriously, happy queer adults are amazing. Also, an adult married bisexual character who is still labelled bisexual.

- Cassie and Molly are both Sagittariuses like me :D

- I honestly do not want to give this back to the library. I'm a little sad.

- Books that mention chub rub. Why are there not more of these??

- Molly's mom nurses in this, and the book is really cool about that. I thought it was neat. It's nice to see YA talking about breasts in non-sexual or body-issue ways.

Okay, I could keep going, but that's probably quite enough.

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Monday, June 5, 2017

Things I've Read Recently (49): An Accidental Theme

I couldn't not do it guys! 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. Sometimes things have a theme because I'm a dork!

Lumberjanes Volume 5: Band Together by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh, Brook Allen, Carolyn Nowak, and Marta Laiho

Published: December 13th, 2016 by Boom Box (ON MY BIRTHDAY)
Genre: YA Comic
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: Goodreads says 112.
Part of a series? This contains Lumberjanes 17-20
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): The Lumberjanes meet rock n' roll mermaids!

Excited for the annual Bandicoot Bacchanal, Ripley recruits her friends to help her get ready for the dance. But before the Lumberjanes know it, something mysterious begins to bubble to the surface of the lake near camp! Will the Lumberjanes be able to bring peace to the lake in time for the Bacchanal?

Thoughts: This was so good. I've got kind of a giant mermaid thing, and this was really fun for indulging that since I tend to avoid reading things that are about what I'm writing because... well, like the same reason I don't read reviews before writing them. My creative processes are really weird.

(Also, randomly, I have two other books about bands and I think another one coming eventually/soon. Weird trend. I almost put them all in one post.)

Besides the mermaids oh my god I am April mermaids are awesome, I just enjoyed this so, so much. This particular set of issues is a bit of a break from the other plot things that have been going on that are more intense, and it's nice to have something a little lighter. While being a little lighter in tone, it doesn't hesitate or flinch away from some serious topics. There's an on-going plot about your friends having flaws and how to accept those flaws without allowing them to hurt you. It's also about learning how to work with your personality and how to transform what could be flaws into strengths.

The message about forgiveness is beautiful, too. And I absolutely adored the issue about the girls first coming to camp and you get to see their families and learn a little bit more about them. It's so adorable and awesome.

The only other thing I'll say is after the first issue, the artist changes and I'm not in love with this style. It's a little more humourous and goes off-model more than usual. It works in this arc because this arc isn't as serious, but it's not my preference or my favourite.

Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

Published: November 11th, 2010 by Dial Books
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 338 plus an author's note and acknowledgements.
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): The Challenge: Piper has one month to get the rock band Dumb a paying gig.

The Deal: If she does it, Piper will become the band's manager and get her share of the profits.

The Catch: How can Piper possibly manage one egomaniacal pretty boy, one talentless piece of eye candy, one crush, one silent rocker, and one angry girl? And how can she do it when she's deaf?

Piper can't hear Dumb's music, but with growing self-confidence, a budding romance, and a new understanding of the decision her family made to buy a cochlear implant for her deaf baby sister, she discovers her own inner rock star and what it truly means to be a flavor of Dumb.

Thoughts: I'm not actually that big of a rock person despite what this weird trend of books I'm reading says, but this was interesting. I think overall I have slightly mixed feelings on this one, but pretty positive feelings generally. Let's address this first - this is not an ownvoices book, and if that's a dealbreaker for you, I understand. I'll try and find reviews when I feel better, but for now, here's my opinion and take it for what it is. Honestly, I don't think it rings as authentic as it could have, although the author does probably the best job he could in the situation. I don't think it gets into "Deaf/HoH 101" but there are times where it doesn't ring as true as it could have.

And I think this is true of other things in the book as well, which is one reason why I bring it up. The book is pretty good with its main female characters, but others are constantly reduced to "wannabe supermodels" and treated pretty superficially. When compared to the parts of the book solely about music, these parts are still good, but I at least could tell that it was not the author's experience. I applaud the author for writing outside his comfort zone, though.

Now, things I wasn't real fond of at all. There are no queer people in this book. Like. You have six teenaged main characters and not one of them is even a little bit queer? I don't think I believe you. I also think the book is kind of fatphobic. Apparently calling your mother fat is a giant insult. *eye roll* There are like no really positive fat characters that aren't described in rude, othering ways.

It has also become pretty dated fast. Imagine doing online promotion and using MySpace and not Twitter, let alone any other social network. Everything is pretty much done on MySpace. It's more amusing than anything, but it shows how fast using real social media can date your book.

So, over all, not bad, but I didn't love it. I appreciate the inclusion of several characters of colour and a Deaf MC, but there were a good handful of things that didn't sit right with me. I also wonder how the theme of Piper stating she's not actually disabled would feel to people who don't agree with that distinction. I'm going to leave the job of recommending based on others up to others, but I knock a star or two off for the complete lack of queer people and the fatphobia.

Review from someone else here!

Oh, side note of a thing that amused me. A character dyes their hair Atomic Pink at one point. This is a real hair dye colour. It's actually the base of the purple hair dye I use. I dyed my hair over three months ago and people are asking me when I dyed it pink because it's faded from an incredibly dark purple to an incredibly vibrant pink. YOU WILL NEVER RID YOUR HAIR OF ATOMIC PINK. That just amused me

My Year of Epic Rock by Andrea Pyros

Published: September 2nd, 2014 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 195 plus a smoothie recipe, an author's note and acknowledgements.
Part of a series? I wish! I'd like to read more.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): If Life Was Like a Song

Nina Simmons’ song would be “You Can’t Always Eat What You Want.” (Peanut allergies, ugh). But that’s okay, because as her best friend Brianna always said, “We’re All in This Together.”

Until the first day of the seventh grade, when Brianna dumps her to be BFFs with the popular new girl. Left all alone, Nina is forced to socialize with “her own kind”–banished to the peanut-free table with the other allergy outcasts. As a joke, she tells her new pals they should form a rock band called EpiPens. (Get it?) Apparently, allergy sufferers don’t understand sarcasm, because the next thing Nina knows she’s the lead drummer.

Now Nina has to decide: adopt a picture-perfect pop personality to fit in with Bri and her new BFF or embrace her inner rocker and the spotlight. Well..

Call Me a Rock Star, Maybe.

Thoughts: Well now this was really cute. It's a short, quick read and not too deep, but it's a lot of fun and a nice light read that's a bit fluffy but doesn't erase the realities of a pretty serious situation. I honestly think this is great for the age range. It was still a lot of fun for me as an adult, but it reminds me so much of books I read as a kid. It's just sweet and fun and not too heavy.

The author has a child with allergies and I think reading it as an adult it does come across more as written from that experience than from someone's personal experience (but I could be wrong here). In a YA that would probably bother a little more, but in MG I think it's fine. In this especially, it allows for a little more opportunity to show a parent's perspective that a child in this age range might not know, like how scary it is for a parent. The book keeps a really good balance, though, in not allowing the story to ever become all about how Nina's parents feel or their experience, and also letting her share funny and "normal" moments with them that aren't just about allergies.

I also really liked the whole friendship plot. It's a good message. All in all, I like the story in this one, and I think everything is handled well. It's mostly white with only a couple characters of colour, and suepr duper straight, and no disabilities besides allergies are mentioned which I think is a bit of a missed opportunity. I also wish there had been some fat characters, but I can say there wasn't any body shaming or fat jokes. I finished with positive feelings and I think this is a sweet, fun middle grade book. Cute cover, too. I like that the girl on the cover actually looks twelve.

This Song is (Not) for You by Laura Nowlin

Published: January 1st, 2016 by Sourcebooks
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 230 plus acknowledgments
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Bandmate, best friend or boyfriend? For Ramona, one choice could mean losing them all.

Ramona and Sam are best friends. She fell for him the moment they met, but their friendship is just too important for her to mess up. Sam loves Ramona, but he would never expect her to feel the same way--she's too quirky and cool for someone like him. Together, they have a band, and put all of their feelings for each other into music.

Then Ramona and Sam meet Tom. He's their band's missing piece, and before Ramona knows it, she's falling for him. But she hasn't fallen out of love with Sam either.

How can she be true to her feelings without breaking up the band?

Thoughts: I've got mixed feelings on this one. Let's address the elephant in the room first, I guess - I ordered this for my free space for book bingo because I heard it had an asexual character. And that rep is... not so amazing. The asexual character is Tom. He is never labelled asexual. The closest the book gets is mentions "sites about other people like me". His asexuality is linked solely to him not wanting to have sex, and lacking, in his words, "sexual desire". While I liked that he stated that he wasn't straight, at one point he says, "I don't have a sexuality." This... kind of sucks. I have a sexuality. Asexual is a sexuality.

If you're going to make a character asexual, label them. So few people know what asexuality is. There is absolutely no reason you shouldn't label your ace characters, especially when you're writing for teens. Also if you're going to write an asexual character, maybe include a little nuance about the difference between sexual attraction and sexual desire. This is not very nuanced. There's also absolutely no mention of aromanticism at all, and "just friends" is used, which is arophobic. It isn't deconstructed or addressed, either.

Honestly, I'm kind of at "an attempt was made". I like the character, but the representation leaves me wanting more. I hate that there's no asexual label, I'm not fond of the way it's represented without nuance, and I would be wary to recommend this to my aro friends because this could hurt them. Trigger warnings for the arophobic language, and also for acephobia from Tom's ex-girlfriend, by the way.

Now, the rest of the stuff in the book - I think it's great there was polyam rep. That's not my thing (romance in general is not my thing, lol) so I can't speak to how it's done, but I think in general they are adorable and I liked that there was no real jealousy or slutshaming towards Ramona or other grossness. I think we should do more of this in YA. I would wonder, though, that it might have similar problems to the ace rep - it's not labelled ever. If you're polyam and you've read this, tell me what you thought.

There are also like no other queer characters besides Tom (who's, again, not labelled as such) and this is a super-de-duper white book. Ramona has dyslexia, but there's no other disability rep, and to be honest it doesn't really come up often. And there are like no fat characters at all. So intersectionality is not good. There's a bit of ableism, as well, some girl hate, and a crack about strippers that I thought was highly unnecessary.

Half my notes are me calling this book some variety of hipster, and the characters really are. I wouldn't exactly call Ramona a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but she has some of those traits, and everyone is just super... hipster. It's not bad, but I spent most of the book feeling incredibly old. Mostly the book is cute. I was sitting there calling them adorable and just wanting them to be a happy little triad forever. But I hate that the ace rep wasn't labelled, and that kind of ruins the book for me. I'm honestly wondering if people who don't know what asexuality is would even understand that the character is, and if I have to ask that, I think it fails as ace rep.

I loved seeing a polyamorous relationship in YA, and the book being a little weird and hipster didn't throw me off, but the ace rep just disappointed me. I don't think I could recommend this one, at least not as an ace book.

Well, disappointing end to this post!

What have you guys been reading lately?

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Thursday, June 1, 2017

May Reading Challenges Check-In

Holy cow it's May. Can I refuse to believe this? Can I especially refuse to believe I'm scheduling blog posts for June already?

So, June and July's themes are Sexuality and Gender Identitity and for that I chose:

Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson

Published: May 17th, 2016 by Chronicle Books
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 287
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Gena (short for Genevieve) and Finn (short for Stephanie) have little in common. Book-smart Gena is preparing to leave her posh boarding school for college; down-to-earth Finn is a twenty-something struggling to make ends meet in the big city. Gena’s romantic life is a series of reluctant one-night-stands; Finn is making a go of it with long-term boyfriend Charlie.

But they share a passion for Up Below, a buddy cop TV show with a cult fan following. Gena is a darling of the fangirl scene, keeping a popular blog and writing fan fiction. Finn’s online life is a secret, even from Charlie. The pair spark an unlikely online friendship that deepens quickly (so quickly it scares them both), and as their individual “real” lives begin to fall apart, they increasingly seek shelter online, and with each other.

The part where I talk: This was different than I expected, but not in a bad way. I liked it.

And my bingo books were:

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

Published: May 12th, 2015 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA Fantasy
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 388 plus a glossary and some other stuff I don't care about.
Part of a series? Yes, this is the first book of at least a trilogy.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad's dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph's reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she'd imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It's an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid's life as retribution for the many lives he's stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

The part where I talk: I... did not like this one. At all. Blog post to come.

Mare's War by Tanita S. Davis

Published: First published in 2009, my edition was released January 25th, 2011 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA History/YA Contemporary
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 343 plus the acknowledgements and about the author.
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library, what else is new.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Meet Mare, a World War II veteran and a grandmother like no other. She was once a willful teenager who escaped her less than perfect life in the deep South and lied about her age to join the African American Battalion of the Women's Army Corps. Now she is driving her granddaughters—two willful teenagers in their own rite—on a cross-country road trip. The girls are initially skeptical of Mare's flippy wigs and stilletos, but they soon find themselves entranced by the story she has to tell, and readers will be too.

Told in alternating chapters, half of which follow Mare through her experiences as a WAC and half of which follow Mare and her granddaughters on the road in the present day, this novel introduces readers to a larger-than-life character and a fascinating chapter in African American history.

The part where I talk: I really liked this. Blog post to come.

It Ain't So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas

Published: July 1st, 2016 by Houghton Mifflin
Genre: Historical MG
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 370 plus an author's note and acknowledgements
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Zomorod (Cindy) Yousefzadeh is the new kid on the block . . . for the fourth time. California’s Newport Beach is her family’s latest perch, and she’s determined to shuck her brainy loner persona and start afresh with a new Brady Bunch name—Cindy.

It’s the late 1970s, and fitting in becomes more difficult as Iran makes U.S. headlines with protests, revolution, and finally the taking of American hostages. Even mood rings and puka shell necklaces can't distract Cindy from the anti-Iran sentiments that creep way too close to home.

The part where I talk: I also really liked this! I continue to say "blog post to come" and have no idea when that will actually be. I don't understand time at all.

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

Published: April 11th, 2017 by Balzer & Bray
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 336 plus an author's note.
Part of a series? It's technically a companion to Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, but you don't have to read that to read this one. I didn't!
Got via: The library, but I really want a copy now.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love—she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

The part where I talk: I'm gonna write a review of this! Probably that'll be posted in June? I'm not sure.

The Land of Forgotten Girls by Erin Entrada Kelly

Published: March 1st, 2016 by Greenwillow Books
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 299 in my copy
Part of a series? No, but I wish.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Soledad has always been able to escape into the stories she creates. Just like her mother always could. And Soledad has needed that escape more than ever in the five years since her mother and sister died and her father moved Sol and her youngest sister from the Philippines to Louisiana. Then he left, and all Sol and Ming have now is their evil stepmother, Vea.

Sol has protected Ming all this time, but then Ming begins to believe that Auntie Jove—their mythical, world-traveling aunt—is really going to come rescue them. Have Sol’s stories done more harm than good? Can she protect Ming from this impossible hope?

The part where I talk: This made me cry so hard. Blog post to come.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Published: September 29th, 2015 by Henry Holt and Company
Genre: YA Fantasy
Binding: A very heavy hardcover
Page Count: 462 plus
Part of a series? This is the first of the Six of Crows duology, which itself is a sequel series to the Grisha trilogy. You don't have to read the Grisha trilogy to read this. I didn't, and I was cool, and the general consensus of my informal twitter poll was people agreeing it was cool.
Got via: The library.
Amazon and there's a free Kindle sample / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he'll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:

Break into the notorious Ice Court
(a military stronghold that has never been breached)

Retrieve a hostage
(who could unleash magical havoc on the world)

Survive long enough to collect his reward
(and spend it)

Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done - and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable - if they don't kill each other first.

The part where I talk: I don't think I loved this as much as everyone else does (dear God my goodreads statuses never get so much attention) but I enjoyed it. Will talk about it soon.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Published: February 28th, 2017 by Brazer and Bray/HarperTeen
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 444 plus acknowledgements
Part of a series? No.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

The part where I talk: I read 444 pages in three hours. I cried a bunch and now my head hurts and I kinda seriously loved this book. More words will come, 'cause I have feels.

Okay, and here's my bingo card!


I finally actually got a bingo! I did pretty good this month.

I won't have time to proof-read this tomorrow, and it's 5am, so apologies if there are typoes in this post. Thanks for reading anyways.

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Monday, May 29, 2017

YA Review: Star-Crossed Series

Every now and then I like to do a review of a series when I have all of the books. It's fun - or at least it is for me.

Aries Rising by Bonnie Hearn Hill

Published: March 2nd, 2010 by Running Press Teens
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 278 plus some bonus stuff
Part of a series? Yes, this is the first of three in the Star-Crossed series.
Got via: The library.
AmazonIndiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Logan McRae is your average high school sophomore, trying her best juggle the chaos of friends, guys, school, and parents. So when she finds a magical book called Fearless Astrology, all she wants is to change her sucky life.

In order to get into the summer camp of her dreams, Logan needs the recommendation of her irritable English teacher Mr. Franklin. She also has her eye on Nathan, the hottest guy in class. And when the Gears, a group of unknown students, start causing trouble in school and out, she decides to identify them using her new found knowledge of astrology.

Her Goals: to impress Mr. Franklin, get a date with Nathan, and keep her column in the school newspaper.

Review: We're not off to a great start. I definitely did not love this. It's okay, but there were a lot of things that irked me to no end. The biggest thing to me is how very immature the book and its characters were. I would have bought the book more if the characters had been in the twelve to fourteen age range because they do act very, very young, and the voice is pretty young as well. At one point Logan and her friends use a dressform in costume to be a fake her and that is just - weird.

There's also a lot of mean girl/girl hate stuff that I wasn't a fan of. It seemed very unnecessary. And of course, there were very few characters who weren't white, one token less than able-bodied character who showed up for all of two seconds, no real fat characters, and absolutely nothing for character who weren't cis, allo, and straight. There was a point where I thought the book was going to surprise me by having a character turn out to be queer, but they went super predictable instead, and to be honest, I felt a little queerbaited. The book goes so far as to, when romance is brought up, call it "boy/girl stuff" as though those are the only options. I also thought the texting was incredibly unrealistic, even for 2010.

I want to say this was like a fun, fluffy read but it had a few too many frustrating moments. Let's hope the next books are better.

Taurus Eyes by Bonnie Hearn Hill

Published: May 4th, 2010 by Running Press Teens
Genre: Contemporary YA with some paranormal elements
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 265 plus some bonus material
Part of a series? This is the second Star-Crossed book. Obviously. It's not like I'm going to read them out of order :P
Got via: The library.
AmazonIndiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Logan McRae is spending her summer at the camp of her dream, thanks to her discovery of a special book called Fearless Astrology. Far away from home and her friends, she now finds herself faced with a new set of challenges.

In order to secure a coveted writing spot in the camp's anthology, Logan must impress her instructor, Henry Jaffa, a renowned journalist and one of Logan's heroes. She feels confident that she will shine with her brilliant astrological piece about Sun signs, but Jaffa throws a wrench in her carefully wrought plans when he switches everyone's topics.

Now Logan has to compete with camp cutie, Jeremy, who is much more interested in their shared topic about the ghost of an obscure dead singer. Logan has only the stars to guide her as she tries to win the respect of her idol, write a stellar essay, and capture the heart of her newfound crush.

Review: I'm still not a giant fan of this series. This one does feel slightly less shallow, but it still fell into a lot of the same traps as the first book. Logan's lack of motivation and independance really annoyed me this time around. So much of the plot isn't because of something she wants, but because of something the boy she likes wants. Also, book summary/back of the book? She's 90 minutes from home. People where I live go further than that to go grocery shopping. And she goes home for the weekend. And her friends come up to visit her. Honestly, I wish she had been further away because if she'd had to stand on her own two feet more.

The girl hate was super strong in this one, too. Literally on the second page it was obvious who Logan's rival was going to be. Two pages to designate a girl to hate, who Logan literally declared her "enemy". And half of the reason that Logan seemed to hate her was that she had boobs. So many of the comments about her are body shaming and gross.

On the plus side, while there are still no queer people, no disabled people, no fat people, there were a couple more POC in this one. Minor characters, but they were there.

Also the girl on this cover is in, like, all the things.

Gemini Night by Bonnie Hearn Hill

Published: October 12th, 2010 by Running Press Teens
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 229 plus bonus material
Part of a series? It's the final book in the trilogy.
Got via: It was sent to me for review consideration in November of 2010.*
Amazon / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Starting her junior year, Logan McRae is excited about her internship at "CRUSH" magazine. But she is not so excited about her new boyfriend Jeremy's travel abroad in Ireland. Logan's in over her head trying to balance school, love, and friends, while trying to solve an astrological mystery--the fate of a Gemini is "star-crossed."

Will Logan find out who is in danger before the "CRUSH" Halloween costume party? Can she prove to the publisher she deserves her own astrology column? And will her relationship with Jeremy survive the distance? Only time will tell as Logan continues to reach for the stars

Review: Oddly, I think I liked this one best. The setting of celebrities and a fashion magazine and all that stuff fits the more fluffy tone of the book way more than other things. Even with the drama/somewhat series mystery at the end, it seemed to fit better. It reminded me more of that book I read a while ago... Killer Cruise. I actually wish this had been more like that, and embraced the fluff a little more.

I honestly wish I had liked this more, because it had a lot of potentional. It's an interesting premise. But it frustrated me too much. There's just as much girl hate in this, and again, it's incredibly white, not queer, and basically not diverse at all.

Series wrap-up: The thing is, these are not overwhelmingly terrible books. They aren't. A few years ago, I probably would have thought they were really cute. But they are very much a product of their times, and I don't much like that time in books. The constant girl hate and slut shaming gets so old, the celebrity references kind of date it, and the complete lack of any form of diversity whatsoever besides a few token attempts is exhausting. They are so average that I was very frustrated, and the times when the books seemed unrealistic or not the best researched, only added to the frustration.

Last to address the astrology stuff - I know that some people believe very fiercely in astrology, and all the more power to them. But the way it's handled in the book did not really work for me. Logan reads two books about astrology and is suddenly an astrology expert, to the point of solving mysteries and it being considered that she would get an astrology column in a magazine. Every single person fits their astrological stuff so well that Logan can guess peoples' Star signs upon meeting them and she's always right. It is incredibly improbable.

Astrology in the book is almost borderline treated like magical - unless people are freaking out and treating it like Logan has started doing drugs. I think in real life people would treat it more like a strange hobby, not in the extreme ways they do in the book. I find it very odd. And there was a little too much of it. I started skimming heavily towards the end.

I think there is definitely an audience for this book. I just do not think I am that audience. How young the voice seemed compared to the actual age of the characters didn't work to me, and it did a lot of things I didn't love. I could break it down and give ratings to each of the books, and one might squeak out a little higher, but on average? I think two roses sums things up well enough.



*Yup. That is in fact six and half years ago. Avoid depression if you can, kids, I don't recommend it. Despite the fact that it's been a ridiculously long time, I still want to review things I agreed to, even if it's just a matter of personal pride. I gave away a couple that were sent to be unsolicited that I had no interest in, and I've dnf'ed a couple I just couldn't get into, but darn it I want to at least try so I feel better.

Other notes:

- Making toast makes you a foodie now? Is it supposed to be a joke when her dad says Logan inherited his "foodie genes" when she puts peanut butter on toast?

- Fun fact, since they live in California and the age of consent is eighteen, if any of them have sex, a bunch of these relationships are technically illegal. I did not have enough suspension of belief from enjoying these to ignore that I knew that.

- The first book accidentally implied a student/teacher relationship twice and I got so grossed out.

- There were some typoes, and I'm not sure if it's because I wasn't enjoying the books very much that I noticed them more, or if there were just more? One particularly bad example from the second book.


- Seriously, these covers confuse me so much. WHO are these girls? I literally have no idea. It's like random stock photos.

- Okay, I know 2010 was a while ago, but it was not impossible to find a record player then, was it?? In California. Near San Francisco. I THINK EVEN IN 2010 YOU COULD HAVE FOUND A HIPSTER WITH A RECORD PLAYER. Also they never actually played it so.

I think that's everything. I'm sorry this wasn't more positive!

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Monday, May 22, 2017

Things I've Read Recently (48)

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.

Two Girls Staring At the Ceiling by Lucy Frank

Published: August 5th, 2014 by Schwartz and Wade which I think is a division of Random House
Genre: YA Contemporary/Poetry
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 257 plus acknowledgements
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library
Amazon / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): This novel-in-verse—at once literary and emotionally gripping—follows the unfolding friendship between two very different teenage girls who share a hospital room and an illness.

Chess, the narrator, is sick, but with what exactly, she isn’t sure. And to make matters worse, she must share a hospital room with Shannon, her polar opposite. Where Chess is polite, Shannon is rude. Where Chess tolerates pain silently, Shannon screams bloody murder. Where Chess seems to be getting slowly better, Shannon seems to be getting worse. How these teenagers become friends, helping each other come to terms with their illness, makes for a dramatic and deeply moving read.

Thoughts: I quite enjoyed this! I don't read a lot of poetry or books in verse, but every time I do, I always think I should read more. This has a very unique format, too, where a line down the centre of the page represents the hospital curtain. It sounds super confusing to explain but it works very well when you actually get to reading it. And it works so well for the conversations.

And I had absolutely no problem connecting to the characters, which is a real strength considering novels in verse are shorter and quicker to read than novels not in verse, and over half the book is dialogue, probably.

I can't speak for how accurate the chronic illness depiction is, but it felt heartfelt and while I was looking around, I found the author's website and it turns out this is in fact an ownvoices book, so that's a good sign. And I kinda liked that the book didn't turn into Crohn's 101. Chess doesn't have all the answers about her illness, and she's just trying to deal with learning about her diagnosis. I mean, we obviously need books about the living with it part, too, but I think this format of verse where it's so immediate and in the moment works very well for a character who's just being diagnosed.

All in all, this was a solid read. I really enjoyed the format and think it would definitely appeal to selective readers since it's so unique.

I wish I had remembered to take a picture of the jacket, though. The back cover basically mirrors the front, depicting both Chess and Shannon with the title going down the spine between them, like the hospital curtain. It's so clever and well designed.

(And yes, the picture is wider than all the others on this post - my normal dimensions made it look funny since it's a wide picture, and I didn't want to squish it.)

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

Published: It was first published in 2010, but this edition is from Scholastic in 2012
Genre: Historical MG
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 216 plus acknowledgements
Part of a series? Yes, there are three of these with the most recent coming out in 2015.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Eleven-year-old Delphine has it together. Even though her mother, Cecile, abandoned her and her younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, seven years ago. Even though her father and Big Ma will send them from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to stay with Cecile for the summer. And even though Delphine will have to take care of her sisters, as usual, and learn the truth about the missing pieces of the past.

When the girls arrive in Oakland in the summer of 1968, Cecile wants nothing to do with them. She makes them eat Chinese takeout dinners, forbids them to enter her kitchen, and never explains the strange visitors with Afros and black berets who knock on her door. Rather than spend time with them, Cecile sends Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern to a summer camp sponsored by a revolutionary group, the Black Panthers, where the girls get a radical new education.

Thoughts: There are four award medal things on this cover. There's almost more awards than cover! It well deserved them all and more. I'm so glad I read this one. I have a note saying that this would also be a great classroom book and I really do think that's true. The book is set in a part of history that I know I as a white kid didn't learn about in school, aimed at a young audience in a way that is honest and stark while still being approachable for it's young readers.

It's not very often that the acknowledgements play into a review, but I want to quote them. Rita Williams-Garcia says:
"I wanted to write this story for those children who witnessed and were part of necessary changes. Yes. There were children."
I think that is as true today as in 1968, if not even more so. Kids like that deserve books like this. They deserve books that show how incredible they are, and how important they are to the history they're making. They deserve books that don't sugarcoat things.

It's not a very common book that can manage the blance of the type of historical events that happen in the book while also allowing its young characters to have silly and joyful moments. It shows that even though they are doing such important things, they are still allowed to be children and sometimes just play and have fun with their friends. And I don't think I've ever read a Scholastic middle grade book where illegal abortion is mentioned, albiet not by name, but the implication is definitely there and it's not really that subtle. The book is ballsy.

It's also very, very sweet when it needs to be. I know I would have loved this as a kid. Delphine reminds me a bit of Dicey Tillerman, and I loved those books as a kid. She's got the weight of the world on her shoulders, and her voice is wonderful. I really, really want to read the sequels and will likely be ordering them soon. Such a good, important book.

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

Published: May 3rd, 2016 by Flatiron Books
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 273 plus two author's notes and acknowledgements.
Part of a series? Standalone.
Got via: The library. I really should read some books I bought just so I can type something different here once in a while.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school in Lambertville, Tennessee. Like any other girl, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. There’s a reason why she transferred schools for her senior year, and why she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

And then she meets Grant Everett. Grant is unlike anyone she’s ever met—open, honest, kind—and Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself…including her past. But she’s terrified that once she tells Grant the truth, he won't be able to see past it.

Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that she used to be Andrew.

Thoughts: So, normally when I review books I don't read other reviews. That's just how I do things. But in this case, I feel that would be irresponsible. Also, I don't actually think my review matters that much. I want to give my platform and my support to this book, and that's why I'm choosing to do a review of sorts at all, but there are a lot of people out there whose voices matter more. So what we're going to do here is I'm going to link to a bunch of ownvoices reviews (giant thanks to this blog post for giving me a starting point) and we're all going to read them together, okay?

Review by Emma at Pop Culture Catchall. Review by Casey Plett at Plenitude Magazine (shout out to a fellow Voigt fan!). Review at Queer Lit on My Mind. Review by Shenwei at Reading (As)(I)an (Am)erican. Review by Alaina Kailyn (I like your name) and Heather Miller Cover at On Wednesdays. Twitter thread from Shelly because I'm still angry... and now I'm getting into weird corners of the internet searching now. Feel free to send me links - I'd love to add more!

So, having linked to those, and since I'm cis, I'm probably not gonna talk about the trans rep. I know I have in the past, but I prefer only to do it when I can't find ownvoices reviews, and mostly just because I don't want people to read books on my recommendation and get hurt because of me. So let's talk about the other stuff I enjoyed, okay? Because this is such a sweet book, and I really did like it a lot. It's a very well-balanced book, I feel, in how there are very serious parts, but there's also a lot of adorable, dorky sweet moments and a lot of really funny humour.

Amanda is so sweet. I just wanted to give her giant squishy hugs and make her safe and happy. I loved what a giant nerd she was. She's an incredibly sweet character and I just really, really enjoyed this story. It's beautiful, and I hope it paves the way for the dozens of other books with amazing, nuanced, diverse trans rep that deserve to follow it.

This review is terrible, sorry. I just really liked this book.

The Life and Opinions of Amy Finawitz

Published: August 3rd, 2010 by Roaring Brook Press
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: I don't want to get up and check right now.
Part of a series? Nope, standalone
Got via: The library of course.
Amazon / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Amy Finawitz’s best friend Callie has moved away to the heartland, leaving Amy to cope with eighth grade all alone. So now, while Callie is going for hayrides with boys named Bucky, Amy is stuck eating Chinese food at a table for one, hanging out with geeky girls who knit, and crushing on hottie, John Leibler, all by herself. But then Amy finds a friend in Miss Sophia, the little old lady who lives down the hall. Miss Sophia introduces Amy to a Hasidic boy named Beryl. Beryl is no John Leibler, but perhaps he understands Amy and her problems better than she realizes?

Told in wry emails and brilliant little one-act plays, this laughout-loud debut novel offers quirky characters, a whimsical tour around New York City, and an appealing story about what it means to be a good friend.

Thoughts: For the most part, this is a cute story with an interesting format. It had a couple of issues I'll address, but it's mostly sweet and funny. I'll admit it took me a couple chapters to remember that email existed and Amy was getting replies we didn't get to read from Callie in a short time, not sending things through the mail. This was despite the time and date stamps. This is entirely my own fault for forgetting what century it was.

There's a lot of humour, and the setting is very vibrant. Amy is most definitely a New Yorker, and it plays an important role in the book. Amy spends a lot of time learning about New York history, specifically related to the school assignment the plot revolves around, and that is incredibly interesting. I also liked the kind of subplot/message about going out of your comfort zone and making new friends. And I really enjoyed reading about Amy's Judiasm, and how she compared her experience to other peoples'.

There were like two things I didn't like though. One was smaller, but like the obsession of her mother with dieting and eating low-carb and how she forced that on her family, and also replied to her daughter expressing body confidence issues basically with, "Excercise." I'll admit I'm a little more sensitive to these things than most, but it left a bad taste in my mouth. There's not really any fat characters who aren't, like, old ladies, either.

I also think this book is unrealistically white amongst the main characters (it's New York, come on) and not queer friendly at all. Amy describes some of her brother's friends as "gender benders" and it's not used in a kind way. Her brother is also constantly described as a "bum" for dropping out of college - the entire book is very unfriendly to the idea that college isn't for everyone - and there's a really weird crossdressing running "joke". At one point Amy's parents go to see her brother's play, and due to someone getting sick, her brother plays a female character, including costuming. Her parents yell at him, an adult actor, in public, for doing this. The narrative basically says it's okay, though, because her brother's not actually a crossdresser. This is repeated a lot. There are jokes about drag. A lot.

It's not funny honestly. And since this is a young YA, this is aimed at a younger audience. Amy is in eighth grade. That's a very impressionable age. It is seven years old already, but I found that very distasteful in an otherwise sweet book. I'm left with mixed feelings in the end.

And I think that's everything. That is four, right? *counts* Yeah, we're good.

So what have you guys been reading lately? It's a long weekend in Canada, so I've hopefully just bought a bunch of books at garage sales.

Happy Victoria Day!

Peace and cookies,
Laina